Wednesday, July 29, 2009
AUSTIN AND BEN ONE-ONE ON SOUND
Austin Keyes FTC is the day to day practical manuscript of Country Radio Programming. The whys and How To’s if you will. We all agree that one of the key reasons people listen to Country Radio is the sound of the music and how that sound make us feel. So if Audio Quality ranks high on the got-to-have list, why is it that we come to the production studio with so little training? How many on your air/production staff have ever been sent to a workshop or class on audio post/production? Any hands up? In the past mentoring was the way people were trained and groomed to fill the ranks of our business, but that sort of took a major crap, since consolidation of budgets and staff. But Radio people are resourceful and being connected can be the solution to some of our ills. We can help each other. And so we’ve invited our colleague and friend of Full Throttle Country, Ben Blankenship to lend a hand. Ben is the production director for a 4-station Saga cluster in Jonesboro, AR. He is very knowledgeable about all things related to audio production and Imaging Radio and has years of experience behind the mic and as a producer. Ben: This will be a multi-part series about processing your Audio Tracks for Imaging and Commercials in a radio production room setting, using your DAW of choice. My choice for editing has always been Pro Tools. Many use Adobe, Cubase, and others. Today I’m starting with, what I think is, the most important step to processing your vocal tracks…EQ. All though I use Pro Tools, the general ideas in this article can be easily used on any DAW as most have a “Paragraphic EQ”. That’s a mix of Parametric and Graphic. That allows you to choose the Frequency and the Boost/Cut settings as well. I started basing my techniques on the sounds of the Agency ads coming into the stations. Most of these ads were and are regional or national, and for the better part are held to a very high (pro level) sound standard. So I figured they were the bar to shoot for in everyday production. I’ve noticed over the years that the sound of many locally produced imaging and commercials tends to be the same. Go for the Bass and eat that Microphone!!! Most seem to forget that your station probably uses some sort of Optimod, Prism, or other processor for the final “to the air” sound of the station. Many times this final processing incorporates a lot of bass and pulls the mid-range down a bit. Thus, when we produce with too much bass it makes the vocals sound lost in the mix. As well, most people crank that bass up in their cars and what not. Many producers think they need that bass on the front end to enhance the sound, to make it bigger and more powerful.It’s too much compensation. First, when you work the mic in the production room it needs to be a bit “off axis”. We all use front address mics and side address mics. I know that many producers are stuck with RE-20s…and they sound great on air. Trust me, they can sound just as Pro as the national stuff if you use them right. Get a Pop filter instead of a foam windscreen and…Don’t eat the mic. Instead place it about 4-6 inches away and above, pointing down toward you. This alone takes much of the bass proximity effect off the sound, as well as controlling “P” popping. Most mics can sound much more pro when using this technique. Once the main track is recorded you can either process the “region” at once or add the EQ in real time to the track’s plug-ins. It’s really simple. The idea is to take out any “p” popping and make it sound real, not “from the studio”, but “there” with the listener. Here’s the breakdown (nuts and bolts)… Simply boost the high end just a bit to add crispness in the 7000hz range, then lift the Mids in the 1500hz range, and finally drop the bass in the 120khz range (as shown in the photo of the Pro Tools basic Plug In. The bass drop is not from the lowest end, but the “low-Mid” end. Playing with these settings can really give you that pro sound when accompanied by Off Axis working of the mic. This can be applied to Commercials and Imaging. I work with 3 different Voice Guys on a weekly basis and each requires different settings. Two of our VO Imaging guys come in pretty much ready to go or “plug and play” in the EQ department. One though, uses a cheaper mic and processor and it shows. Love his voice, hate having to re-mix everything he sends me. BUT, it must be done to un-muddy him and make him cut through. And that’s the whole point to your imaging sound…Cut through. If not, then the words get lost and the message never makes it to the ears. The very first thing I do with their raw tracks is to EQ them as a region, or process them completely before even editing them at all. Play with your EQ, you won’t go blind or get hairy palms, but you may just find that magic sound that makes you and your station stand out and sound very PRO! Any station, no matter the market size can sound like the Imaging and Commercials were produced in LA or NY. It takes patients and eventually making presets for yourself, but the outcome is really worth it. NOW…Break out that EQ Plug In and get to experimenting. You’ll get addicted. Once you find the settings for certain voices, save them to your presets and save time. Austin: You can hear examples of Ben’s VO work, using the Off Axis mic technique (even on big Automotive ads), at www.benvoice.com or benblankenship.blogspot.com. Reach out to Ben with any questions you may have, or simply Comment on this article. Future articles will deal with compression/limiting and Mastering techniques.