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Skywalker Sound Press Release

Skywalker Sound Pioneers Use of

High Speed, High Resolution Digital Audio/Video KVM


Skywalker Sound is one of the largest, most versatile full-service post-production facilities in the world. It is housed within the 155,000 square foot Technical Building at Skywalker Ranch about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. There are six feature film dubbing stages, a 300 seat screening room, a scoring stage (capable of recording a 130 piece orchestra), 10 newly-remodeled sound design/editing suites and 36 digital sound editing rooms (which can be configured for sound or picture editing), an impressive Foley/ADR stage, and complete audio and video transfer services. It lays claim to a world-class scoring stage and the breathtaking Stag Theater.


Skywalker Sound has become a part of virtually all our lives. Chances are they have made you jump, scream, cry or laugh a multitude of times. Skywalker Sound's extensive credits include feature and television films, IMAX and state-of-the-art amusement park rides. So whether you are sinking with the Titanic, adventuring with Indiana Jones, saving Private Ryan, or fighting the Clone Wars with Anakin Skywalker, the Skywalker Sound crew engrosses you like no other. To accomplish this, they need to stay on the forefront of technology. This is further evidenced by their pioneering usage of the High Definition (HD) KVM DVI Draco Tera matrix switch from IHSE, the first HD KVM solution to support Digital Audio and mix both CATx and fiber optic connections between source and target.


OOBAXS (pronounced Out-of-Band Access) was a key integrator that identified Skywalker’s need for flexibility and brought in several manufacturers’ technologies. IHSE was the first to come up with changes quickly after suggestions were made. “They showed the right potential to begin with when I first demonstrated the new products and engineering models,” said Alan Frank, technology strategist and founder of Skywalker’s reseller OOBAXS.   “OOBAXS is all about working with vendors like IHSE that go the extra mile. They have enabled us to be a better partner with Skywalker and other leading broadcast facilities.”


“Sound Editors and Mixers need to be able to see the highest picture quality of the film possible when doing their work,” said Steve Morris, director of engineering at Skywalker Sound. “The KVM system needs to be transparent from the computer to the display.”


“We are a post production facility, with approximately 100 audio workstations. In this particular application we have 48 systems and 48 users. On a typical day, 2 – 6 people are working in each Dub Stage and are using the IHSE Draco to access any number of these stations that reside in one central machine room,” added Morris. “Editors and Mixers can easily switch between multiple workstations from their location on the Stage. This is a total replacement of the previous analog system that was installed roughly 8 years ago. The IHSE Tera system gives a much higher resolution and higher picture quality to the artists using the system.”


Skywalker Sound purchased the IHSE Tera 160 to replace an older VGA-Based analog matrix switch that had reached its limits in both size, support of HIDs, and resolution. Skywalker was able to improve display clarity and resolution and change to a DVI signal transport (Digital Video Interface) while increasing speed and reducing HID Latency. With the implementation of Digital Audio, Skywalker was able to simplify the system design while still achieving the same functionality.


The Draco TERA solution, with the new configuration capabilities, features, and DVI support allowed for the inclusion of projectors for immediate access to content. On a moment’s notice Skywalker can display content or tools on anything connected to the HD-KVM Matrix.


“Using the system since July 2011, the higher quality audio and video helps the sound effects editors, dialog, and music editors do their work with finer detail,” said Dusty Jermier, sound engineer at Skywalker Sound. “The quality of the picture went from analog RGB on long twisted pair cabling @1600 x 1200 (which was a little fuzzy by today's standards) to a high quality digital picture resolution of 1920 x 1200.”


When you are working on the next big blockbuster, every detail needs to be accounted for. This focus and quest for perfection is a major reason Skywalker Sound Artist’s have won 18 Academy Awards along with numerous nominations, including 2012 nominations in both the Mix and Editorial categories, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and War Horse.


Skywalker Sound was also able to utilize their existing copper wire (4 UTP CAT5e and better) for this transition which saved a significant amount of time, effort, and expense that would typically be required for recabling. “We were able to use our existing copper so it was easier to upgrade our older system to the new system smoothly,” added Jermier “Another reason was configuration, we change the name of our workstations on a daily basis as projects change and ease of configuration changes was very important to us.”


“We were able to work with IHSE and asked for significant design changes. IHSE customized many features for us,” added Morris. “That flexibility was a large part why we went with them. They were able to meet the specifications that we required for our application."


Post-production tasks can be time consuming and draining on resources and typically depend on individual hardware and locations. “OOBAXS searched for almost four years to find a solution to meet the changing needs of Skywalker, their growth, and the demand for migration from analog to digital display technologies,” added Frank. “In bringing various solutions to Skywalker, it wasn’t until I was presented with IHSE‘s newer DVI technology that we felt it could take us through to the future while supporting additional features and making the change cost-effective.”


Skywalker Sounds plans to expand the Draco system as more workstations are added to the facility.