Film composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders wanted to create a studio that was as unique as their scores. The studio is perched on 20 acres in Malibu with spectacular views of the ocean and mountains. The two-story, 4800 square foot structure houses the main stage, capable of recording up to 40 players, two large ISO rooms and control room. Upstairs is Marco’s composing studio plus lots of amenities.

This image, the logo of Pianella Studios, was carved into a piece of wood taken from the actual village of Pianella by Marco’s cousins Edoardo and Paolo Savoia. Pianella is no longer inhabited, but is a 20 minute walk from the town of Fornero which is located in the Valle Strona, near Lago d’Orta in the north-western province of Novara in Italy.

Here is the village of Pianella as it stands today. No longer inhabited, but a short walk from the town of Fornero. Marco’s grandfather was born here in 1886. (Photo taken by local wood artisan Doriano Piana.)

The Vastrona is a valley that follows a river up into the mountains and the towns that border the river are all woodworking, specializing in everything from wooden pinocchios to custom designs for high end clientele.  Edoardo and Paolo live in Fornero and have been carrying on this long lived tradition as passed on from their parents and grandparents and are well known in the local area for their amazing work (as you can see here!)

John Kurlander and architect Gary Williamson developed the facility with a few key elements in mind. Because of the beautiful location, it was critical that every room have inspiring views and the main stage was to have the feel and acoustic quality of classic European studios and churches. John also wanted the control room to be configured as a dubbing theater versus the typical control room. The 7.1 Meyer Acheron monitors are behind a woven screen with a 40 input D Command worksurface.

Kurlander brought in Jay Kaufman and Associates to handle all of the isolation and acoustics needs of the facility. The facility has been designed to exceed NC15 even during high winds or rain. The main stage with it’s 28 foot vaulted ceilings and 2.3 second RT60 produces a beautifully warm yet detailed sound-field. The control room has a very even reverberate field and translates perfectly to the dubbing theater.


  • 4800 sq ft studio on 20 acres
  • Main stage: 28 ft ceiling, 34 musicians
  • Soloist’s isolation booth: 4 musicians
  • Piano booth: 2 musicians + Steinway B Grand
  • Choral balcony: 12 singers
  • 7.1 Theatrical surround monitoring – Meyer Sound
  • 12 ft Woven projection screen
  • Mic Preamps: Millennia Media, Brent Averill, Avalon, Helios/Raindirk
  • Microphones: Neumann, Sennheiser, AEA, Coles, Royer, Bing Carbon, Placid Audio, Sanken
  • Protools HD4, 40 Fader Avid D-Command
  • Digital Performer
  • Ocean view guest house