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Sound Advice

Noise Reduction & Ambience Restoration For Location Recordings By Frank Lockwood

August 19th, 2012

Famed Mastering Engineer Bob Ohlsson once said that all signal processing is a trade-off between sonic degradation and a perceived improvement in sound quality. Nowhere is this truer than with the many noise reduction and audio repair software packages that have developed over the last decade-and-a-half. The first time you remove hiss, air, handling noise, or camera whir from a recording, it’s like the sun comes out and clarity and goodness rules the land. There is, however, that pesky trade-off to consider.

All broadband noise reduction processes, regardless of developer, work on the principle of dividing the audio spectrum up into many individual frequency bands, each with its own level detection and gating process. The system is “trained” by sampling some unwanted noise and the frequency response trace created mirrors its spectral balance, in turn becoming the threshold for each band’s gate. When program level exceeds the threshold, it passes through unhindered but when it drops to, or below, the threshold, the band’s volume drops by a user-set amount. In well-designed software the transition from gated to un-gated audio and back again is all but imperceptible. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Just A Phase – Part 1 By Robert DiVito

August 19th, 2012

In our stereophonic world, phase and mono compatibility have become less of an ongoing concern as people are finding fewer reasons to check for it. There was a time when broadcast demanded it. Now, with most TVs being stereo and laptops sporting dual speakers, why worry about your mix sounding great in mono? Well there are still many good reasons to check for it, and some suggest your stereo mixes will benefit. Many places where mono mixes are still relevant include:
• Large FOH systems playing back pre-recorded material in mono.
• Radio stations broadcasting over the FM and AM bands.
• Spaced overhead speakers in malls playing back in either mono or stereo.
• Consumer stereo systems wired out of phase. (It happens a lot!) Read the rest of this entry »

Wireless Microphone System Frequency Coordination & Planning Primer BY Colin Bernard

June 19th, 2012

When I was first approached to write this article, I must admit my mind did reflect back to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. During this time, sound designers of mainstream theatre musicals had just started using 24-channel systems that I, as the supplier, was ultimately responsible and on the hook for if they experienced RF interference.That was considered a lot of wireless channels in those days; however, we did have the luxury of a lot more of the RF spectrum being available, utilizing the VHF band and then migrating to the UHF 470-698 MHz and 698-806 MHz bands.

The next challenge with which I was involved was in 1993 – a major 32-channel musical which toured 20 US and Canadian cities including Broadway in New York and then ventured to Asia. During that era, this production would not have been possible without large chunks of TV “white space” being unoccupied. Several North American productions touring with 48-channel systems were next to depart our shores. They were crazy times, with some systems moving every six weeks! Read the rest of this entry »

An Assistant Engineer’s POV Part 1: Etiquette & Preparation By Jeff Crake

October 19th, 2011

This piece is written from the point-of-view of an assistant engineer to discuss what’s needed to make a recording session go smoothly, whether it’s a month long, big-name session or a simple voiceover for a corporate client.

First and foremost is etiquette. One of the most important parts of a session is how you act, especially when it comes to dealing with artists. You can easily throw off the vibe of a whole session with what you say, so remember to keep your thoughts to yourself unless your opinion is invited. This also goes for communicating with the engineer and/or producer; you need to have a grasp on boundaries, and if it’s not your session, then it’s not your call.

With time, you should learn to be one step ahead, especially with outside engineers. Get to know their favourite microphones, what gear they usually use, and what they take in their coffee. These little things go a long way and give a great impression, which might lead you to being hired for another big session. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle Of The Knob Twiddlers: Perfectionism vs. Soulful Music, Part 2 By Dave Clark

October 19th, 2011

Now, ask yourself: how many times have you pitch corrected, quantized, cut, pasted, used a sound replacer on the drums, applied sample after sample, and time stretched tracks to try to make a tune stand up with today’s so-called industry standard? Do you notice the symmetry that occurs from this kind of work? Do you hear it in the work of others? Does it leave you with a less-than-satisfied feeling when the main hook of a tune is a micro sound bite meant to be an ear worm that drags you in like so much fast food, but doesn’t deliver much beyond that? How flat is top ten radio these days? Music that has been “turd-polished” is usually dead on arrival no matter how many times the hype men on the airwaves read the script and no matter who pushes it into movies and television, no matter how much money it garners.

Do you notice when a band has a superlative track that makes you feel so good that you want to listen for the whole three minutes and then again? Sure you do, and you know why, too. That music has soul. It doesn’t matter if the track moves a little or if the singer pushes the pitch envelope some or if the riff isn’t cookie cutter perfect every time. In fact, the subtle imperfections in the track often go unnoticed by the listeners as the connection between them and the band they are discovering is created and cemented by the joy of the experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Manufactured Errors By Steve Svensson

August 19th, 2011

I figure I must be a masochist. Here I sit at 9:49 p.m. in the executive boardroom of a corporate giant attempting to complete the programming and integration of their AV systems. Why am I still here? Was the full day of church sound system set-up not enough? I guess not.

I should be finished the touch panel programming, but I am still here because a manufacturer has managed to reverse Tx and Rx in a RS-232 connection. How do I know this? Because I assumed that somewhere within the control system programming, the videoconference set-up, the Cat 5 extender system, and all the wires that glue all this together, we, the integrators, have made a mistake. So I painstakingly check everything. In true Holmesian fashion, I have eliminated all the other (im)possibilities for this failure, and that which remains no matter how improbable must be the answer.

So with some, but not a lot of skepticism, I wrangle the 9-pin null modem adapter from the bottom of my laptop case and insert it into the signal chain. Success! Touch panel now controls PTZ camera through a pile of gear, and I am not really all that surprised to arrive at this conclusion. Read the rest of this entry »


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