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Sound Advice

Session Communication by Rick Andersen

During a studio recording session, it is professional to keep the lines of communication open between the artist, producer, engineer, and assistant engineer.

Most consoles have a provision for “talk back,” a microphone built into the console that allows the producer/engineer to communicate with the artist via headphones. Also, you should have a (T/B – talk back) microphone set up on the studio floor, so the producer, engineer and assistant can listen to the artist’s feedback.

A T/B mic on the studio floor should only be monitored while your tape machine is stopped, otherwise your audio will be clouded with ambience. A neat trick is to set up an Automatic Talk Back system. In the monitor section of the assigned T/B mic, you insert a noise gate set to ducking mode with SMPTE timecode feeding the “key input” of the unit. Press play on your tape machine and the ducker sees a signal (timecode recorded or generated), and reduces the volume of the T/B mic. When you stop the machine, the timecode stops running and opens up the ducker. The T/B mic is now turned on.

If you prefer heavy effects on vocals, guitars, etc., while tracking/overdubbing, use the above concept, but now insert across the console sends. Using timecode as the trigger source, your vocals can be monitored with or without effects depending on the transport control. Keeping the ducker in mind, various techniques can be applied across different configurations.

One final piece of advice – know when to work and know when to play.

Engineer/producer Rick Andersen is the Director of Audio Post at Omega Pictures International.

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