Francesco Donadel Campbell is an Italian professional audio & video mastering engineer. He's been active since 2004 and has always been very passionate about anything related to digital video, audio and headphones. Francesco also runs a website dedicated to these passions and has a lot of fun on Instagram, with information and reviews about mastering, headphones, and associated gear.
Here's our talk with Francesco:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
The works I am most proud of are the HD video remastering of three Japanese anime TV series from the seventies that are very very well-known here in Italy. I’m talking about Ufo Robo Grendizer, The Great Mazinger and Kotetsu Jeeg. I’ve had also the pleasure of restoring the movie 900 by Bernardo Bertolucci and the first 4 seasons of a TV series called The Octopus (La Piovra in Italy). About music I’m very proud of the work I’ve done with my business partner Raffaele Rossi on the new record by Nouteka Collective and many tracks for a record label called Houph.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
My main role is to supervise and control that everything sounds and looks best! I’m an audio & video mastering engineer with 17 years of experience. I’m a quality control freak so I control and finalize every project from the best source available, be it audio or video. I always try to be committed to excellence.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
I started when I was 8 years old. My father is an audiophile and he introduced me to the good way of listening to music. I had access to brands such as Klipsch, Audio Research, Teac, Magneplanar etc. I started listening to disco music and rock and never stopped. Now I’m more into EDM and house music.
I’m particularly fond of remixes and mashups.
Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
I’ve been influenced by the music collection of my father and by the advent of the CD in 1982.
I’ve never liked the sound of vinyl. So digital audio has always played a big role in my life.
My musical heroes are U2, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails and Daft Punk.
My favorite mastering engineers are Bob Ludwig, Bob Katz and Bernie Grundman.
I’ve read almost all the books about audio mastering available today.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
A moment of frustration occurred when I had to restore the Octopus TV series (La Piovra) and I was informed that all the original 16 mm film masters were lost. I had to work from the standard definition analog 1-inch video tapes used for the TV broadcast way back in 1983. I had to use 2 different restoration hardware machines and painstakingly removed frame by frame all the film stains and roll changes. I also had to stretch and adjust the audio in some sequences. Now for sure I would use a dedicated software and especially our proprietary video restoration algorithms.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
My favorite tools are the Audeze LCD-X and my custom made balanced dual mono headphone amplifier. I also use a lot of software from Acustica Audio because I totally work in the box without any analog audio hardware or outboard. For video editing I choose Premiere Pro and Final cut.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
My only advice is to deeply believe in what you want to do and above all never be afraid to experiment or try an unconventional approach. Learning and studying is fundamental but also the will to try and experiment is fundamental too.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I’ve been working with headphones for the last 20 years. I use them everyday for mastering music, TV series, movies, trailers etc. They are an invaluable tool and now with the technology available today people can be comfortable with their use in studio or in professional audio environments.
Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?
People and colleagues have always looked at me with suspicion or at least laughed at me when they knew that I work exclusively with headphones. I never gave it too much importance because my customers are happy and many colleagues today ask me for advice on headphones and headphone amps. The thing I'm most proud of is the fact that in so many years no one has ever complained about anything I recommended them to buy. Whether it was a headphone or a headphone amplifier.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
Audeze are for me among the best headphones today money can buy. My favorite model is the LCD-X which I use every day in my studio for audio mastering duties with my custom made dual mono balanced amp and my DAC, the Pro iDSD by iFi Audio. I think that the LCD-X are really great headphones. They allow me to do things that would require a very expensive pair of speakers in a well-treated room. To me they are absolutely the closest thing to the sound of a very high-quality full range speaker. If many people, especially audio engineers, were skeptical before now, many are reconsidering their opinion after trying an Audeze headphone and they have included the LCD-X as another high-quality reference monitor in their own studios. New DSP technology is becoming available with the advent of Sienna by Acustica Audio, so those who use headphones in the professional audio world will see some good changes coming. I think we're going to see some great things this year as far as the professional audio headphone universe is concerned.