Working in the creative industries really exposes you to many different jobs and applications where just one person can apply their skills. In the past 13 weeks, I’ve had the chance to work on many different exciting projects which range from easy tasks to challenges that I haven’t faced before. Balancing these external projects, and keeping on task with what was required for assessment wasn’t easy as I was choosing between prioritising real-life work in the audio industry to assessments that stay internal – not outward-facing.
Class Act Productions' production of Shrek Jr. was the first major production that I worked on during these 13 weeks. Eight shows over two weekends to a fantastically-sized audience each time. With 16 microphones to work with, and a digital desk that I had not worked with before. One of these performances was filmed, and I worked with videographers to deliver a mix of recordings taken straight from the desk, and automated on the S6 console. Using the S6 was a lot faster than any other musical I had mixed – a huge difference compared to use a trackpad and the multi-tool in Pro Tools.
A few weeks later, I found myself in the position of microphone technician, in Playback Productions’ production of Grease Jr. at the Richmond Theatrette. Being responsible backstage and handling mic swaps was something I haven’t had to do for a long time, and I was glad to have a chance to do it again. I was responsible for putting on 10 microphones of which 18 characters had been mic’d up.
I had the pleasure of working as on-set sound-recordist on the web-series, Grimdustries. This was a completely new experience for me, and I had no idea what to expect. While there are still microphones involved, all of the recording had become portable. Not relying on mains power has an impact on workflow, batteries needed to be changed regularly, wind needed to be accounted for, costumes would interfere with the audio. It was a refreshing change from working in a studio to working in different filming locations where visuals were the priority.
I spent more time than my own allocated post-production time to work on perfecting the sound design of Grimdustries, in particular – episode three. Bianca Molini and I had been allocated head of audio for this production and we worked closely together and with producer David Dunn to perfect the soundtrack.
My former high school this year put on a production of The Little Mermaid Jr. and asked me to run audio. Again, there were 16 wireless microphones on the cast and I was in charge of managing of the audio aspects. Working with analogue gear proved to be more difficult than I remember, and I had no DSP, and had to rely on outboard processing for any compressors, reverbs, and FOH EQ. I oversaw the placement of microphones on the cast and ensured optimal audio quality throughout the performances.
Once again, I was asked to record the Gippsland Symphony Orchestra. While I am still using the same method of a decca-tree microphone position, I still believe that I capture good quality audio from where I am positioned. Unfortunately, this time around, my recording was plagued with problems. All beginning from an electrical buzz that was present when the microphones were placed near the wall. This was unavoidable, as the positioning of the microphones was intentional to be out of the way of both the orchestra and the audience – which brings me to problem number two – because of the readjusted microphone positions and the large crowd that attended, there were a number of unwanted sounds of audience members, and the worst part – a small child was hitting the microphone and its stand throughout the performance.
Into the Woods was the next and final musical that I would be working on. This is Class Act Productions’ flagship show of 2017 – the most ambitious show they have done with me on board with audio. Hiring microphones from Outlook Communications, and having their expertise as part of this production really highlighted a separate way of approaching sound reinforcement for musicals.
On top of these larger projects, I was involved in a number of smaller projects. I took on several mastering tasks, ranging from electronic to indie tracks. Personally, I found mastering these external projects a lot easier than I thought it would. Each client said they were satisfied with how their masters sounded. I would still like more practice in the dark art of mastering, however, from what I know, the quality of my productions has increased and can compete with the rest of my music library.
The biggest lesson that I learnt in these past weeks is that I cannot limit myself to just one aspect of the industry and that I need to expand my horizons to include all types of audio work, including film and location recording, in addition to musicals and studio production. The industry is not dying, there are many opportunities out there if you’re looking for them. It makes sense more than ever that in order to succeed, creative industry professionals must be actively searching for freelance projects to work on. We are essentially creating our own jobs.
Post-production has always been a grey-area of knowledge for me, however, in recent times, I find that I quite enjoy the idea of working on sound for picture, as it’s a break from constant music production and mixing. I’ve found that dialogue mixing can be quite similar to mixing for musicals. Being involved in the production of such projects benefits me as well, as I can ensure that the quality of the audio is of a high standard and suitable for mixing. It makes post-production easier as less work is required to repair any problems during production, as these would have already been identified and solved. This essential step is key to ensuring that despite the duration of footage, a high-quality product can be produced with a short turnaround time.
Sacrificing audio quality is the last thing I would do – however, given short time frames to complete a significant amount of work can be unrealistic – utilising all the time I have available to work on a project is a high priority. I spent two full days on top of the days I was allocated, dedicated to perfecting the audio for Grimdustries. The delivery was later than I would have wanted, however, I am more satisfied with the quality than if it were to be uploaded one or two hours earlier. More than anything, I would like to take it slowly and increase the quality beyond expectations.
Working with ever-advancing technologies is an essential in the production of high-quality media. Always being on top of the latest technology is a must to keep up with the changing way of music and post production. A huge advantage to post-production workflow is the Avid S6 console making automating and managing many tracks within a session a breeze. The chance to meticulously change the tiniest detail in volume automation as many times as you want overall produces higher quality content than a live real-time mix. The power of DSP is only growing, we can already achieve very large sessions, and our reliance on plugins for signal processing is only expanding as tools become more powerful in the pursuit of perfect audio quality.
There are many elements that culminate into creating a convincing soundtrack, not knowing the limits of creative control prevents production value going above and beyond of what’s expected, and with such a short turnaround time for these productions, it was difficult to ensure absolute perfection of every single sound element. Given more time, even just one week more, the difference would be extraordinary, as the audio crew wouldn’t overlook minor details, and meticulously examine every detail.
A major issue with working on these projects is the vast number of engineers who are required to be working on them while keeping audio quality consistent throughout each of the episodes. For a smaller scale production like the web series in question, a smaller team dedicated to each project would be managed easier. One person needs to sit at the controls, and roles must be assigned to occupy everyone’s time. This usually results with my at the controls and keeping other team members focused on the task at hand, completing what’s expected promptly.
Working closely with one of the producers from Grimdustries has allowed the audio to excel in the design and effect of audio assets. Complex scenes with special visual and audio effects have increased in production value due to this close relationship. This direct link allows progress to be made quicker and feedback given immediately. This is the only way – without a detailed spot list – that the soundtrack can be as the creators have intended. It was difficult enough sourcing effects to place within each session with consultation from multiple authorities.
More than ever, layers have become a large part in creating a cinematic soundtrack, layers upon layers of different sounds, combining to create an unbelievable effect continues to be a significant portion of the creative design that audio engineers work on. In my own practice, I have expanded my own collection of samples from around Melbourne. Having these resources ready to go speeds up production process as these assets can be searched and imported, rather than found and recorded.
Finally, another consideration that again, becomes relevant throughout audio production – is appropriateness. Placing music and dialogue at the right levels can make or break a production. It can just be a matter of two or three dB that can separate amateur from professional audio quality. Keeping these levels consistent with each – and with other productions can be the deciding factor of whether a viewer will continue to watch, or click away. We cannot rely purely on our ears and meters as we go along, visually analysing the waveform compared to similar products is a sure-fire way of ensuring consistency and conforming to with industry standards.
Recording to tape was an experience like no other. An extra step in the signal path may not seem like the hugest task to cater for. But those who worked on the patch bay from each of the inputs from the recording space, through a preamp and through the tape machine into Pro Tools – a substantial challenge was faced in ensuring that signal reaches the correct points at every stage of patching. This was no easy task.
Working in a challenging and unfamiliar environment, even the most professional engineers can struggle. Having to learn a new process and put it into practice immediately - with an external client attending applies a lot of pressure on each member of a group. Unfortunately, to ensure professionalism in this scenario, some engineers may have to resort to faking out their clients. However, I believe remaining calm in this situation is the easiest way to power through difficult circumstances – keeping calm under pressure is a quality people look for. Many artists will have an understanding of the troubles gone through to enable the equipment in a foreign environment (which may not work properly) to function as intended, so it’s best to not get overly-stressed.
As more complicated acts are scheduled to record in a space, there are equally complex legal and business considerations to be aware of. To prevent expensive studio time going to waste, and acts taking advantage of engineers, contracts need to be drawn up between the parties involved to ensure that the outcomes of the project meet everyone’s expectations and that each party agrees to a common vision or goal. This can come in handy in situations when monetary gain is involved. For example, the rights to sell, and percentages that each party receives. Running a studio cannot exist purely on someone recording their friend’s band. Providing a service in a studio is no different than a contractor fixing a roof. There is a task set that both parties involved agree is fair, and money is exchanged in return for the service. Introducing legalities into what should be a casual environment can jeopardise relationships between clients and engineers based on trust issues and royalty.
Despite only performing one song for this project, Trampoline Death Machine provide a five-minute expression with multiple tempo and time signature changes throughout, with alternative elements such as harmonica and flute driving the track. With such a complex work of art, it was difficult to give advice on how to coach the act, especially given that the familiarity of the work was less than ideal to give producer advice, and coach the musicians through each additional take. Creative technical decisions were ultimately left to us, and as a result, our artist had a backseat in quite a large amount of post-production work in the mixing stage.
Working with tape as a medium provided a refresher on the different types of metering typically seen on audio equipment. Working with VU meters isn’t something I’m comfortable with as optimal levels for different instruments can average levels can be hard to judge. With a complicated signal flow path, maintaining appropriate gain stages was a challenge I haven’t worried about for a while. A mystery in recording signal directly through the tape machine, and playback of the tape arose where some channels had different levels passing through DA convertors between tracking and dumping of takes – one of the several mysteries that came with using an external studio. The best part of this was the ‘glue’ that just brought each of the recorded elements together without corrective compression or EQ applied.
A limitation of using a 24-channel tape machine, and something that isn’t a problem nowadays with DAWs, is having enough channels to record elements. A modern track can include upwards of 100 tracks. To achieve this with tape would mean having to commit to certain elements to free up channels on the machine. Only made more challenging with non-functioning channels on the tape machine. I believe that we have it much easier than anyone who has recorded music in a studio like this, and I am incredibly grateful to live in the age of digital audio workstations – the ability to create the most incredible mix all within a computer with digital signal processing.
This signal flow made it difficult to achieve a desirable mix, as tracking took longer than expected, reducing the time available for mixing. Minimal compression and EQ made its way into the mix on the day – a lot less processing that I would typically use in a session. The beauty of having a digital dump of the tape – being able to mix at any time in Pro Tools. In fact, Nick has been working closely with Trampoline Death Machine to achieve an in-the-box mix that will satisfy the client.
Despite the many challenges that had to be overcome, the day was a success, recording an unfamiliar band in an unfamiliar environment was an eye-opener for how this business functions in the real world. Entering a new place with different equipment (including Pro Tools 9) that doesn’t function 100% smoothly is what a professional audio engineer can expect. There is no studio, bar or hall that will have all equipment functional at all times – it’s just part of being an engineer. Something that I’ve simply had to accept.
Well done to Nick Elliott for coordinating this project incredibly well, despite the many interruptions to our workflow including not one, but two session plans. The late-night Skype session was worth to ensure our time in the studio was used effectively.
I will admit, the ‘Song Exploder’ project was a difficult concept to grasp for me. Despite having four weeks for pre-production and having others to inspire my own project, I struggled to find a clear direction to take. There are many songs that I admire, and countless production styles and techniques that I wish to emulate. As I reflect back on this project, I cannot help myself from imagining different scenarios with different song and producer choices. In the end, choosing Tony Buchen, the producer for Sydney-based artist Jessica Cerro PKA ‘Montaigne’ posed me with challenges that I would not have faced had I chosen a different producer. I simply admired the work of Buchen and Cerro to not emulate the style exhibited on Cerro’s album ‘Glorious Heights’.
There was little information about the way Buchen produces his work and eventually I had resorted to imitating elements present in the Montaigne song ‘I Am Behind You’ by ear. The only resources available essentially presented the fact that Buchen enjoyed using “vintage analogue gear [due to] all the warmth it brings” (Buchen, n.d.)
The fusion of electronic and acoustic elements was a challenge I wanted to conquer, including the addition of 80s style elements. These small effects were more challenging than initially thought to source and use, and as a result, many of these sounds that complement ‘I Am Behind You’ are missing from my own mix. They would have been icing on the cake if they were included. My lack of knowledge in electronic music production was my weakness during the project, and by prioritising becoming a full-fledged engineer on my own by not relying on others, it became quite difficult to accomplish what I am presenting. However, with what I have learnt recently about electronic music production and applying it to this project, I am happy with the result.
There are many songs that I would have liked to cover, and in hindsight, there are many more appropriate songs that I should I worked on, in the end, choosing Adele’s ‘Hello’ was more challenging than initially thought; particularly for my vocalist. This relates to another weakness that I have previously spoken about – not having a sound knowledge about vocalists. If allowed more time – I would have like to re-record with another vocalist, or find a more suitable time when the vocalist I had was for the performance that this track demands. Advancing on recent knowledge, I have been incorporating more layers of audio into my work, with each addition creating a fuller and richer mix. There are many virtual instrument tracks; several synth parts with varying attributes, and three basslines working together to create the sound that I want, rather than relying on just one that takes care of an entire frequency range.
Recording drums was relatively simple, again, with no information about how my producer records drums, it was up to experimentation with microphones and mixing to achieve the sound Buchen features in multiple songs. The simple beat that only alternated between verses and choruses was easy for a drummer to play, and was easy to edit. The use of overdubbed hi-hats simplified this process further by separating the rest of the drum kit from almost constant 16th notes. What proved challenging was incorporating what can be a dynamic instrument into an over-compressed mix with introducing distortion.
Perhaps the only downside is that with this freedom of expression, it becomes difficult to know when to stop working on this project, and deciding when the work is to be finished. Conversely, I felt limited by this project – if it were up to me, I would continue to work on this project, adding more layers of instruments, and perfecting each part. In saying that, having a time limit on how much can go into one project definitely assists me in controlling the limits of creativity. For me, it’s about working with others to give feedback and criticism of work for improvement to avoid the dangers of too much freedom in music creation. Peer review is important to me and I’m glad to have had different sets of ears identify any problems and provide feedback for improvement.
Having a certain style can certainly define how a producer is perceived to others. Using much of the same techniques throughout a variety of different content with inspirations from other producers, and special attributes unique to each producer are what differentiate the producer of Montaigne to the producer of Adele. I’ve recently discovered that several tracks that I enjoy listening to share a common producer.
Despite studying mastering before approaching this project, it seems that I am not able to replicate how ‘I Am Behind You’ was mixed and mastered, I can only get so close with the resources that I have available to me, however, the differences aren’t too far apart between my reference and my own version. The track was one that I had analysed along with a handful of other tracks which I identified as being ‘over-mastered’. In any attempt to reach this same level of compression and limiting for my own track resulted in the use of many approaches including multiple instances of Maxim to push the mix to its limits. Eventually, I have resorted to utilising iZotope’s Ozone to squeeze the mix far beyond what most mastering engineers would deem appropriate. The resulting mix lacks dynamic range, and has a high average volume level, as close as I can get to Montaigne’s track. This hasn’t come without compromise, I’ve had to rethink the way I mix each element to eliminate large peaks that usually stand out. In addition to intense mix bus compression, each instrument has its dynamics stripped. I have never used so many compressors on a vocal track before, however, all of this compression was required to achieve the mix that I desired to emulate – I must admit that it was an interesting challenge, and break from the way I have mixed music in the past.
What let down my production was a lack of musical knowledge and resources to allow myself to reach the sound I was after easier. In fact, this I nearly released this track with wrong notes being played in each progression.
Ultimately, the more I work on this project, the more imperfections that I hear, and the more that I want to improve upon myself. With so many elements that contribute to the mix, it’s difficult to find a perfect place for each one to be sitting at any given time.
Have a listen to what I've accomplished and let me know your thoughts.
Buchen, T. (n.d.). Tony Buchen. Retrieved July 2017, from Tony Buchen: http://tonybuchen.com
Other Sources I found useful:
Enmore Audio. (n.d.). Buchen's Favourite Mics of All Time (so far) - Enmore Audio. Retrieved July 2017, from Enmore AUdio: http://enmoreaudio.com/tony-buchens-favourite-mics-of-all-time-so-far/
Sneaky. (n.d.). Tony Buchen Has The World's Best Job - Sneaky. Retrieved July 2017, from Sneaky: http://www.sneakymag.com/music/tony-buchen-has-the-worlds-best-job/
While mastering music may not be as time consuming as other stages of production – i.e. planning, recording and mixing, there’s a high skill set required to successfully conform to industry standards and create great sounding mixes that are able to compete with other tracks, having similar levels across songs that consumers have access to prevents sudden bursts of volume from having music on shuffle, with acoustic music transitioning to heavy metal. Having an ear for the intricate details within a client’s mix is key to establishing the steps required for a successful master without compromising the creative aspects of the mix provided.
Quick-fix services such as ‘LANDR’ attempt to offer the work of an audio professional for a considerably smaller fee – yielding results as good as their algorithms can offer. iZotope’s Ozone series offers powerful tools for polishing and preparing media for release. The danger with this is that anyone can choose a preset that ‘sounds good’ without careful consideration about the sonics and dynamics that contribute to a mastering engineer’s role in the production process. A computer algorithm can only get so good, ultimately, it’s up to trained ears to detect the discrepancies within a mix and ensure a program is ready for release.
It’s likely that you’ll hear people say that music sounds better when it’s louder, so as a result, mastering engineers pursue to make their music sound louder. More than ever, engineers are pushing their peak and RMS levels closer than ever to the 0dBFS ceiling. Often a shameful attempt to compete with other music. The industry is calling more than ever for our music to be louder, which can ultimately lead to its downfall – all music will begin to sound the same if every engineer conforms to music that is perceived at the maximum volume that a digital file can handle. It’s a completely unnatural sound and this concept is something we should be moving away from.
What can be interesting about mastering is that some tracks that are provided by clients are ready for release - less some compression and limiting to bring the levels up to industry standard. Could this mean that clients who have polished mixes get less value for money than a client who provides a mix that requires more work? Despite this, it may be necessary to carefully analyse any processing to identify any differences introduced as a result of mastering processes.
I decided to have a look and analyse the waveforms of music from my own collection, which stretches over many genres. Many tracks had average RMS levels with some dynamic range within the song – however, I’ve found that other tracks lose all dynamic range altogether. It makes sense now why those particular songs aren’t the easiest to listen to – a wall of sound constantly blasting my ears isn’t as enjoyable as something that varies in dynamic range. It’s likely the reason I’ve recently begun appreciating classical music.
‘Chandelier’ by Sia surprisingly was the most ‘sausage-y’ of the tracks that I analysed, with the meters barely moving throughout most of the song. The only times the meters weren’t all the way up were only during half the verses and the outro. The majority of the song meters at -4/-5LUFS.
What’s really odd about my analysis of all these songs is that even a track you’d expect to be louder – such as Paramore’s ‘Misery Business’ wasn’t pushed to the limits of digital audio, and remains a song that I would enjoy listening to. ‘Bangarang’ by Skrillex had more movement throughout the loudest parts of the song than ‘Chandelier’ – and given the genre differences between the two, you’d expect different results.
Appropriateness comes into play in the process of mastering music – there are guidelines for the dynamic range that your track should feature as a result of mastering. Obviously, you wouldn’t master heavy metal music to have the same dynamic range as classical. The crest factor of most music will vary – but it’s best to aim for these ballparks to ensure your music sounds appropriately loud:
• -8LUFS for heavier rock and electronic music, designed to be loud
• -10LUFS or rock and indie music – with louder and softer parts within tracks
• -12LUFS for acoustic with fewer elements to fill the mix
These values are strictly a guide, and music can often breach these typical levels just to sound louder than their competing tracks, whether it be on the radio, on a phone or professional monitors.
Coming from a live sound background, I’ve always found mastering such a difficult concept to get my head around. Achieving an even spread of frequencies while trying to emphasise specific elements has always proved to be a challenge for me. As I started working on larger projects with a more complex PA setup this was highlighted further, as in a live situation, it’s more suitable to have bass that rocks the room with the kick drum thumping you in the chest and the bass felt through the floor. Having a strong bassline in a recorded track can have negative consequences – with more energy being dedicated to the bass frequencies, less room is left for mids and highs. It’s a fine balance between strong and overpowering. Interestingly, with digital signal processing, it’s possible to trick the brain into hearing more bass by adding more of the harmonic frequencies of the bassline. Waves MaxxBass can successfully provide more bass with making a track’s frequency spectrum appear bass heavy. The competitive industry is forcing engineers like myself to think outside to the box to ensure their music will be heard loudly – without giving listeners sore ears after just two songs.
Mastering has always been a grey area in my audio knowledge. It has forced me to reconsider the way I approach a mix, and the final steps before release – including how I use compression and EQ. Practicing mastering is all I can do now to improve where I have previously lacked and help to bring what I work on par with the rest of my iTunes library.
Ultimately, mastering engineers cannot cultivate every song to sound similar in loudness – otherwise, there would be no difference between every single track that exists. To move forward, we need to first take a step back, end the loudness wars, master music in a way that is appropriate – essentially find the sweet spot for that particular track. Having dynamic range is not at all a concept to avoid.
Reflecting on past work is always a journey down memory lane. There are so many things that I learnt this trimester, and it’s hard to summarise it all in a blog post. It’s not easy to self-reflect on a whole trimester of work and what I believe I did well might not be considered so by others. So, if my peers are reading this, please let me know where I’ve gone wrong to improve my practice in the future!
Starting the trimester in the Neve studio creating ‘Distant Friend’ was personally one of my favourite activities. To be involved a load more on the producing side was a key contributor to my enjoyment of the intensive. Especially when it came time to record vocals. Taking charge in the direction of the song felt good, and I believe at the time, it was a product that I was proud of – that was until I heard the future versions that went above and beyond with production, and my hat goes off to groups from weeks 5-8 and 9-12 for further expanding on the same basis of music and lyrics.
It was during these first four weeks that I realised that it takes a lot more than just drums, bass, guitars, keys and vocals to fill the frequency spectrum. It requires special effects, synth parts, percussive instruments (shakers and tambourines), variation in levels, and more creative reverb and delays to create a piece of music. However, it’s finding a balance of having all those elements incorporated whilst keeping the track easy to listen to.
Putting thought into these details during recording certainly makes mixing a lot easier. Even the simplest things can change the way a song sounds. In the future, I wouldn’t mind having the chance to produce music to my own personal tastes, and have creative control over the direction of the recording process again.
I legitimately enjoyed live sound. I always have, and it’s likely I always will, and it was a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to how larger PA systems work and has changed the way I approach live sound for work – including using ‘Everybody Here Wants You’ as a soundcheck track. I’m incredibly grateful to have a lecturer that has had so much experience in the field, and a true passion for live sound. I enjoyed each moment in the four classes while learning about the Avid VENUE system and each separate component of the setup at SAE Melbourne. But live sound is bigger than just the technical skills involved. There was a lot of organisation involved to ensure that things ran smoothly in the days leading up to our group’s live event. It really kept me on my toes, and reminded me why such a large team is required to coordinate an event. But I enjoyed it, and it’s something that I would like to do in the future – taking on a responsibility like that was something only a select few step up towards. The results speak for themselves, those who attended had a fantastic time, and I believe it has been my best work this trimester.
I will admit I wasn’t the keenest person in the world to be completing post-production. But that’s how we all feel knowing we’re about to be thrown into a subject we know nothing about. But within my first class, my attitude towards sound for film shifted. It was obvious to others that I wasn’t quite sure about how to approach replacing all sounds for a film clip, Ant even stopped me several times to ask if I was okay after apparently looking a bit lost and confused about working with video. The idea that advanced productions require more layers than any normal person would imagine was reinforced. Who would ever know that six layers of atmosphere could work together so well? It was enjoyable to hear many different layers of audio interacting with each other to present a narrative through hearing, and lead to me working harder to create the best possible product with what we had. While post-production isn’t a sector of the industry I would look to pursue, it has provided an industry insight towards how I can approach the audio component of it.
It was great to work with a different group of people that I would normally be collaborating with, and I thank Nic, Pete, Maj, Henry and David for being a fantastic group to work with.
Our group’s podcast, ‘The Venue Menu’ was a major project for me, with a lot of hours put in to make the final product the best it was. All the effort was worth it in the end. I’m proud of the amount of time and effort that I put into the project. I would happily be a part of another podcast project in the future (including a continuation of The Venue Menu). However, I would love to organise a group better and distribute the workload evenly between my peers and myself. In this instance, I believe my responsibilities were expanded into areas of the podcast that others were assigned to, I understood the circumstances that my peers were faced with, and I was happy to take responsibility of tasks that I wasn't necessarily assigned to. I enjoyed working on something different in Pro Tools, despite the challenges of a long-format project which required many hours of editing and processing to produce something I would be happy to have my name on, beginning with the recording of interviews – all the way to the seventh revision before release. Once more, thanks to Bianca, Brendan, Ben and Wayde for having me as part of a brilliant team.
Amongst the three intensives and the podcast project, I managed to squeeze in other audio related work. In April, I was employed by my high school as a theatre technician for the Moe Dance Eisteddfod. This required me to operate light and sound desks, in addition to the initial setup of audio equipment required. This experience was more than just supervising two desks. It required proactive and meticulous checking of all equipment, and ensuring correct operation. Further to that, any problems were successfully identified and solved resulting in a seamless experience for the Moe Dance Eisteddfod committee, dancers, and audience members.
Furthermore, I once again had the opportunity to record the Gippsland Symphony Orchestra, directed by my former high school teacher, David Williams. It was a major step up in production quality, from the microphones and preamps to the way I mixed it. This time around, I set myself a tighter deadline to work on the recordings, and delivered a ‘great recording’. I look forward to recording his orchestra in the coming years.
Finally, I had the pleasure of mixing the stems of Hey Mammoth with Hannah Glass which has met a quality I am completely satisfied with, and I’m sure the artists will enjoy. It was a small challenge mixing down 13 songs complete with automation and extensive signal processing, however, I’m happy with what I managed to accomplish within the timeframe I allowed myself. I’m pushing myself towards mixing tracks faster while simultaneously increasing the quality of work.
My career plans have always been a mixed bag amongst the various facets of the audio industry. I have enjoyed all the different areas that I’ve worked on to this date. Including live music, theatre productions, recording and microphone technician roles. I don’t want to specifically tie myself down to one niche of the audio industry, and I’ve mentioned this before – I aspire to be a jack of all trades, master of one. I’m still uncertain of the path my career will venture towards in the coming months and years, however, this unit has given me the foundations of three major areas in audio, paving the way for future expansion as a freelance engineer.
This trimester has been a lot of work, I’ve learnt so much along the way, and I’ve done my best to produce the best products, from Distant Friend, to Hey Mammoth x Hannah Glass, to Terminator, all while working on The Venue Menu. I’ve certainly enjoyed the amount of time and dedication towards these projects and makes my final two trimesters at SAE even more exciting to begin.
After four sessions in the D-Command studio, our group’s ‘Terminator’ project is finally complete. It’s incredible to look back to when we had dialogue on its own, and compare to what we have now; a finished piece with layers upon layers of foley and effects to create a convincing soundalike of the original film clip. With all the elements that have come together, I believe an ordinary person would struggle to discern the differences from the original.
I’ve loved learning new things, and applying them to a project. It’s the little things that make using Pro Tools and control surfaces a little less daunting for me. Little technical tips that I will continue to use in the future, and new ideas for creativity in future work. I can see why professionals use large control surfaces in their work – having a large tactile surface to work on is a lot more interesting than just using a keyboard and trackpad. Creating sounds in a foley studio has been an eye-opening experience, however, it seems the resources are too limited here, and SAE could benefit from an expanded space for more complex sound fabrication. Too many of the sounds that we used in our final product have come from sample libraries – which almost feels like cheating to me. Isn’t the point meant to be recreating as many sounds as possible from scratch? Why haven’t we learnt how to create complex sounds seen on screen in a studio designed to create sound for film?
Each of these intensives should focus a bit more on the technical skills, and ensure each student has a sound (pun intended) understanding of the key concepts that are required in the industry. While we may learn from experience, how are we expected to know what we’re doing when students are only taught the foundations of what we should know?
This trimester has been a lot of work – but in a good way. I’ve enjoyed focusing on three very different areas of the audio industry and learning the differences and similarities between each of them. Personally, I believe that four weeks simply isn’t enough to cover the content that each intensive could potentially offer, especially in a group situation. I would have liked to see smaller group sizes studying each intensive for a longer period. Being rushed is no way to learn a new concept.
The Venue Menu has come together brilliantly, and again, seeing the progression from nothing, into a full twenty-minute podcast has been fantastic to reflect on. Including the ups and downs of production (those damn pelican cases!). Bianca, Brendan, Ben, Wayde and I are looking forward to having you listen to it. Stay tuned…