In-demand producer/engineer uses his home studio to stay productive and safe during the health crisis
Kent Hooper is an acclaimed and highly in-demand producer/engineer with credits spanning pop, rock, country, CCM, gospel and more – highlights of his resume include projects with Amy Grant, Carly Simon, Bill Withers, The London Symphony Orchestra, Charlie Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth, CeCe Winans, Jim Brickman, Zach Williams, Hillsong Worship, Michael W. Smith and many more. Now based in Nashville, he has seen his work evolve in recent years, and in terms of both remote recording and working out of his home studio The House of BIG, he has turned more and more to tools from Focusrite to streamline his workflow. These components, along with the Dante® infrastructure employed at his studio, allow him to toggle between multiple DAWs, work throughout his home, and set up quickly for remote recording / live video shoot gigs. During quarantine from the COVID-19 health crisis, Hooper is working exclusively from home, and the intelligent ways his home facility is wired up allow him to stay productive while also keeping family time a priority.
“After 23 years in Nashville, I find myself doing everything from capturing audio for live video shoots to mixing, recording and producing orchestral sessions. To keep making a living in this industry, you have to wear a lot of different hats," Hooper remarks. “I'm lucky to do what I love every day. When it came time to build this home studio, I knew I wanted to do it right – we had a studio design firm come in and design the studio first, and the rest of the house was designed around it. We wired it up with Cat-6, which runs throughout the house too."
Hooper is a relatively recent adopter of Dante. He notes, “My first exposure to Dante was a few years ago, when I was doing work with a college in Riverside, California, and the technical director of the college was praising the format. I kept it in the back of my mind as something that could be useful for me one day, and then more recently I was talking shop with Rob Burrell, another Nashville producer who's a good friend of mine, and he showed me how flexible the Focusrite Red 16Line 64-In / 64-Out Thunderbolt™ 3 and Pro Tools | HD™ compatible audio interface can be. I started to think of ways that this could increase my productivity and creativity – what if I wanted to record drums in our house's main room with 14-foot ceilings? Cat-6 runs to the house, so it was very possible. Red 16Line got me thinking in terms of Dante and got me in that world, and I haven't looked back. I recently added another room to the studio, and rather than run multipair back to my control room, I just ran a single Cat6 cable – much cheaper and easier than dealing with soldering standard audio cabling."
Early on, Hooper borrowed a Red 16Line to test-drive it. “The first thing I noticed was that the converters were stellar – I wasn't expecting to hear a big difference, but it was significant. They are just so much sweeter sounding than what I had used before, and the mid range is softer. I was hooked, so I bought my own." Around that time, he began getting more and more gigs to do live on-location recording in studios and soundstages for video shoots, usually with elaborate setups of rented gear. “It wasn't long before I realized that if I used my Red 16Line with Thunderbolt at these shoots, I could simplify my setup immensely. I could also be set up in a fraction of the time. I then purchased two RedNet MP8R eight-channel mic pre and A/D converters and use them alongside the Red 16Line for these jobs. It's a dream setup, and it's very portable. I can fit it all in one travel rack and bring it with me on a plane, for instance."
The quarantine has temporarily postponed those sorts of on-location gigs, but his Focusrite gear is seeing more and more use at home these days. “When I'm in the studio, the Red 16Line is my Pro Tools HDX interface, and it also works great for Logic, which is what I tend to use for arranging. I can use it throughout the house. Additionally, I have a RedNet AM2 stereo audio monitoring unit, and this has become essential for bouncing mixes. Mix work these days for the major labels requires a lot of bouncing of stems, multi-tracks and different versions of mixes, and once you have your elements properly dialed in, it's not a challenging process, but it is time consuming. With the AM2, I can be anywhere in the house bouncing mixes, not glued to my chair in the studio. As we adapt to the strange situation of the health crisis and our new work environment, these tools have allowed me to focus on both work and family."