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Sound Advice

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 »

The Battle Of The Knob Twiddlers: Perfectionism vs. Soulful Music, Part 1 By Dave Clark

August 19th, 2011

Soul-stirring lyrics, catchy melodies, sensual grooves, unforgettable riffs, and the transference of unbridled energy from artists at their best makes the music that you and I love.

What a joy it is to listen to music and get uplifted and swept away by the hypnotic waves emanating from the souls of the musicians who so dearly wanted to record where they were at in their time in history. So many of these courageous artists recorded with a sense of immediacy, confidence, and strength based on heartfelt stories and truckloads of hard work.

This is as true now as it was when music was first scratched onto wax cylinders. Listen to the Louis Armstrong Hot Five recordings and he sounds like he invented the trumpet and time traveled back from the future just to let folks know what could be done with the thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Attitude Is Everything By Karl Winkler

June 19th, 2011

After working in the pro audio industry for more than 20 years, there’s one thing that has really stuck when it comes to the people. First and foremost, those who have truly “made it” and don’t feel that they have to prove anything are very nice, humble, and interested in passing on the inside details of the craft. On the flip side, it seems that those who have a chip on their shoulder are the ones who come across as arrogant. One of the things distinguishing one from the other is someone who blames their equipment for things going wrong. Sound is bad? Blame the speakers or the microphones. Maybe such-and-such processor “sucks.” Got a buzz in the audio? Blame the house power.

The real truth is that the gear is usually fine – the issue is often the operator. House power is a mess? Did you advance the venue and inquire? The ability to solve problems and still present a good product is part skill, part personality. Can you keep cool under pressure? Maybe this is part personality, but nothing helps keep you cool better than a good knowledge of the fundamentals and how to apply them in various situations.

So what is the formula for a Buddha-like calm in the face of impending disaster? For starters, we all need to get our heads around the basic math and science behind what we do. It is shortsighted to think that we only have such-and-such a job – system tech, monitor engineer, FOH… All of these jobs are inter-related and we all need to understand sound systems as a whole.

As an example, monitor engineers need to know quite a bit about wireless mics these days. It is far easier to throw up our hands and blame “black magic” for the interference than it is to hit the books, seminars, and manuals in order to learn the principles behind this complex subject.

Let’s remember just a few of the greats from our industry that we’ve recently lost, including Bruce Jackson, Albert Leccese, and Roger Nichols. Each of these giants contributed to live and recorded sound. Each invented new technology or new ways of thinking and working. Yet each was approachable, humble, and interested in teaching the next generation. They knew their craft as well as it could be known and didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. What our industry needs is more people like them.

[i]Karl Winkler is Director of Business Development at Lectrosonics Inc. He also plays viola in The Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been involved in pro audio for the past 20 years.[/i]


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