A Quiet Place II Post Mortem

I had the opportunity to work on a sound replacement exercise for the A Quiet Place 2 trailer & the whole idea was to make my interpretation of the movie through the use of dialogue, foley & sound effects. I also had to look at the audience perspective if they are to watch the trailer and be satisfied & that I found to very absolutely challenging.

The first step I took was muting the audio and just sit looking at the screen whilst the video played and started to imagine what type of sounds that would likely integrate for each scene without being over ambitious. I remember the saying less is more. I then categorised each section by priority making dialogue as first. The dialogue is probably the most important section in this trailer and so the placement of each dialogue I made sure is in sync with the video. There is nothing that is annoying as watching a video which is not in time with the dialogue. I spend more time almost 2 weeks and a half just working on dialogue & surely it has been challenging. Some of it needed some change of pitch to fit in the scene, especially the boy sounded like a minor from the files that had been provided for us. The boy’s voice is more like a young man in his puberty stage as his voice is breaking.

The challenge with dialogue also was the frequency levels and the dynamics that seem to change for example the woman being in the car and she being in the iron tunnel. High to mid frequencies in the vehicle and then the frequency changes once she is in the tunnel. I received some feedback on dropping her frequency range as it was high pitched. I managed to do the man’s voice to fit in the tunnel frequency and the feedback I received was that its a bit drowned with low frequency therefore need to work on it a little bit.

The next step I took was working on the foley which was a lot of work but very interesting with Roy, Clement, Ron and Jo right in the Neve studio. We created things like trip wire, fire, bottles & trolley bangs that would help me in creating tension within the sections of the trailer. I had quite a huge challenge as soon as I received the files a few days later was that the recordings had not been named and so it was a stress to start renaming each audio track. I was time consuming but I figured out that if I had not done it would frustrate me. File management is very important and so the renaming helped on locating and accessing files ensuring an easy workflow. Some of the foley I got it from free sound.org website just to beef up the particular sounds.

After all the foley was recorded I then started placing my dialogue in place and to be in sync with the video. There is nothing worse than watching a trailer or movie with dialogue coming late or earlier than the visual or see them not matching. Within the that process I added my fades why because it is much easier for me to remember than trying to figure out later as the workload increases and played a lot more with the clip gain as it gave me more control over my tracks. I did find clip gain to be more useful other than using automation reason being that I needed much control to know how to balance the music, effects and the dialogue. I cleaned up the dialogue using a 7 band EQ to get rid of low frequencies in the female dialogue and make it nice and tight. The male vocal was rather a challenge to make it match with the tunnel environment.

The next step was to add in sound effects and some Atmos building up on creating intensity. The first scene is the radio and the car moving towards the town. I added car passing effect and car horns from the foley and the most interesting of all was the part were the bus charges towards the female character’s car. I made it by having a huge plane with about 60Hz engine layered with a drill machine with about 2k achieving the rumbling and high pitched sound which I think worked well. Another interesting sound I found interesting was the monster sound crawling from the roof. How I achieved it was using an sm58 microphone making a grow from my mouth and recorded it then then rubbed the microphone and recorded that sound. I layered both sounds then time stretched them in Pro tools. It is my first time to create such as sound and that gave me confidence to do more. Another sound I liked was the bottle trap. How I achieved it was using the the foley of bottles and cans that we had recorded the n layered it with a bang sound from the trolley bang from foley. The trolley bang I put about 60 Hz frequency to give a boom and the bottles a of 1k then added a plate reverb.

After all the editing and mixing was done I knew I had a huge task and that is mastering. The first presentation I totally would say did not impress me at all whilst we were in the S6. Hearing everyone’s work so nice and loud and having mine so low really challenged me. Therefore I went back to the drawing board and the word which Guy Gray kept mentioning was make it loud. It was tough for me as I use headphones as I do not have studio monitors yet. So what I decided to do was to use the volume section on my laptop and lowered it to below half then used the limiter to increase the loudness meanwhile watching how the luffs are behaving so I can achieve the -14. I unliked the threshold and the ceiling and kept adjusting the release. So it became more of an experiment as time was not on my side. I would say pressure made me to work that way and to my surprise yes the final product was pretty loud and I was happy with it.

Overall this was an exciting but nervous wrecking assessment. I do appreciate the fact that it was only a trailer and if it was a full movie that would be crazy. I have learnt a lot from this exercise on how to manage files, workflow and creativity. I hope to improve my skills by collaborating with other disciplines and put in the creativity.

Alex Mills studio recording session

We had the privilege of recording Alex Mills, an artist born and raised in Barbados then relocated to Australia. Alex is a guitarist, singer & has recorded a couple of songs in USA. The plan was to record one of his written songs in the Avid S6 studio & that was exciting as I had no idea that we could record in this particular studio.

One of the major highlights was getting to know the artist (Alex Mills) his workflow, writing songs skills and his journey through the musical experience. Most of his music is inspired by life experiences and in particular the song recorded for the day was about his upbringing. Alex had a demo stems prerecorded that we used as a guide. Part of our preproduction plan was to have a listen to the demo version before Alex came in the studio.

The S6 is a digital console that requires patching when wanting use outboard gear just like any other studio. The difference being the patching is done digitally changing channels on the stage box. The Avalon preamps I found them to be very interesting as they really boost the levels of microphones bringing out beautiful characters. Avalon preamps are Australian made and they do cost quite a couple of dollars and they are worth the price. The choice of microphones used are the Shure sm7B and Royer 121 for the main vocals, AKG C414 for guitar. The plan for mid-side microphone setup did not go as planned as the channels on the multicore/stage box did not respond. Therefore we suspended the idea. A lesson I learnt there was that it is very important to check before which we did and thought that microphones were faulty. We intended to use the Royer 121 and the Neumann K184 pencil microphones for the mid-side.

One may ask why use the shure sm7b dynamic microphone and a Royer 121 Ribbon microphone at the same time. The reason is that the sm7b is built to capture smooth, warm vocals that connect the speaker to the listener according to the manufacturer .(Shure , 2020). Alex Mills voice is a smooth voice which does work well with this type of microphone. On the other hand the Royer 121 is a Ribbon microphone and offers an exceptional midrange detail, low self noise and excellent transient response. 9 recording hacks, 2020). According to Guy Gray, blending these to two microphones together cause phase cancellations but you do it slightly and it can bring a nice feel in the mix.

Another highlight was recording a well organised artist makes a whole lot more difference. We spend more time recording & adding during the recording which made the project a smooth sail just because Alex is a well organised artist well practised and works very professional with the producer. He is also an exciting, funny guy who makes the whole session pretty much relaxed. The relationship between Alex & Guy Gray proved that they work relationship is professional and they know each other’s workflows and know when to stop the recording. It shows that they have been working together for a while now.

A Quiet Place (Sound replacement)

A perfect footage and excellent camera work can lose power when there is no sound accompanying it. I have come across a couple of films that I lost my tastebuds just because of bad sound.

The first project for this class is sound replacement for a horror film trailer “A Quiet Place 2”, which is a 2020 movie and yet to be released. The trailer has some interesting aspects both loud and quiet. The challenge here now is to redo the sound on the trailer.

On 24/02/2020 had the Neve studio booked to do sound replacement exercise by recording the sounds that would compliment the trailer. We booked 2 condenser microphones the Rode NT2 and Rode shotgun for recording our sounds. Roy, Clement, Jo and Ron brought in some stuff from home to so that we create sounds from. I would say this was an exciting exercise but yet critical particularly on brainstorming and selecting the equipment to create sounds that would make sense and compliment the video.

We all do have different workflows, the one thing I discovered was that during our recording the recorded clips were not named. I do prefer having track named so it it makes easy to manage files and identifying. Sound design is pretty heavy when it comes to looking for sounds that are not named properly. Interestingly the trailer is just 2 minutes of play but the amount of work required is pretty much a lot. Meaning to say if I was to do sound design for a full movie then that is pretty intense. Attention to detail is very important on recording foley. Things like gain structure play a major role when recording and sound levels must be excellent to avoid clipping. Guy Gray always insists that a good recording helps with easy mixing and mastering.

The most interesting recording to me was the crackling of dry leaves to imitate fire crackles for a particular scene. We used a Rode NTG2 shotgun mic but at a distance of a meter. With the same leaves we also created corn filed leaves rustling for another scene and this time we loosened the leaves to imitate the wind rushing the dry corn leaves.

All this experience gave me a new lease of life on my desire to be a sound designer. The more I practise and create sounds the better I become in this field. I have learnt that brainstorming is an essential tool towards creating foley.

Cross, M. (2013). Audio post production for film and television(J. Feist, Ed.). Boston: Berklee Press.

Franinović, K., & Serafin, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sonic interaction design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Arrival 2016 (Case Study)

This case study will explore the trailer of the 2016 science fiction movie Arrival, derived from a short story by Ted Chiang called “Story of Your Life” which won a Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon award. Eric Heisserer was the screen written who adopted and made significant changes to the script and this contributed to the amazing sounds used in the film.

The opening scene has a mother and daughter laughing and playing outside and a piano is heard playing on the background. These are subtle notes heard at 0.00-0.09 accompanied by a narrative which were used to set the mood. It was a perfect serene atmos only to be interrupted by the sounds of a fire bell also similar to the school bell ringing simultaneously with a siren at 0.06-0.08 with frequency probably about 520Hz and fast jets following with around 3-6kHz at 0.09-0.11. These events blended in so well with the narrative which had a great build up in a matter of seconds, we went from calmness to expectation. “There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.” The words ‘arrived’ are accompanied by jets flying overhead and the main character looks up as they fly past. As for the use of the siren and bell, there’s no doubt in our minds that the viewers will anticipate an emergency. ” If a siren and a bell are for alerts, where is the danger? Is there a war about to take place? Who or what are the humans fighting?”

During the World War II, sirens were designed to warn city dwellers of air raids and later used to warn of nuclear attack and natural destructive weather conditions such as tornados. The other scene that works well with this anxiety build up is the use of sounds from a helicopter and audible internal communications via headsets at 0.22-0.30. We assimilate these sounds to the army who use both the helicopters and communication sets.

Another scene that has a simultaneous use of sounds is at 0.11-0.15 where there is a prolonged ‘dong’ sound made by a prolonged low piano key/ note and the introduction of a the news on the radio. These worked well because the piano did not distort the radio content which was loud and clear. That low key note and a radio playing in the background create suspense as they introduce a scene of a woman, one second resting in bed and the next second she is at the door being asked by an intelligence officer to pack her bags to go on a mission. They follow through by adding radio communication, we hear the helicopter and actors in it. The directors reduce the helicopter noise to allow the audience to hear the radio communication where the Intelligence officer acknowledges Dr Banks as the countries finest communication expert as he brings her to speed. I must say the sounds used are very real sounding and it made me feel that I was present in that scene.

Between the 0.30-0.42 is a high pitched violin embedded sombre music created with bag pipes. Bag pipes as seen in most war movies, were used either to lead people to war, or at funerals and they carry a strong sense of pride, bravery and honour. The message paints a clear picture to the audience, ‘prepare for war or battle, we are fighting for something’. The mood created is evident when someone is whisked away in a medevac, either dead or injured that raised concern and Dr Banks wanted to know who it was. When she poses the question, it only reinforces the fact that it is indeed a was and people can be injured or lives lost which happens commonly in war zones. This only heightens the anticipation of what is the war about, will it be a blood bath, what will the opposition look like, who will win this war and so on.

We are stuck with the company of the bagpipes interchanging with an automated warped playing a lower octave which is sustained. We see the oval or dome shaped object and to increase and capture the audience attention, the bagpipes grow louder and the introduction of an Australian Digederoo which creates the lower tone was created in the background. In the movie, you can hear some very real sounds in this scene of wind, earthquakes and even ice cubes coming out of the refrigerator. The scene is shot from a sky point or cloud level and it gets the audience involved and feel as though they are at the very place at that very moment. This creates a certain fear or sense of doom associated with to e.g cold or ghastly winds and earthquakes. The ice cube effect just adds to the cold atmosphere. The intelligence offer is heard once again via radio communication this time inside the face masks giving instruction on how this mysterious dome shaped object works. You can hear breath sounds and its just so real that with a great surround system we can feel the actors anxiety and almost imagine what they are thinking. This goes on until 1.00 when the dome shaped objects door opens and Dr Banks and her team ascend into the long dark path with a bright light at the end.

A chirping bird is noted at 1.06 and I wondered what the relevance was. This was an old safety measure used in the mining industry where caged canaries were carried into the mines know as ‘canary in the coal mine,’ and was to determine whether there were any potent gases. If the bird was still chirping that meant they were safe. The canary was more sensitive to poison and would die before enough gas would build up to kill a human. Now this was important because later on in the movie, when Dr. Banks was having a nightmare, the bird is reintroduced. Why? Because the audience have been preconditioned that this bird determines what is safe, or sign of life, we get to meet the Hectapod in her dream. This helps the audience begin to interpret the scene that the bird means the Hectapod is safe.

Dr Banks knows the birds representation at this scene therefore when she sees it chirping away, she knows there is no sign or sense of danger. As Dr Banks and her team are facing a white sterile environment, Dr banks runs out of patience and decides to remove her safety gear. Her colleagues are worried and are heard trying to caution her via radio comm in their masks. This conflict of interest only hypes the audience because it feels like a war between light and darkness or good and evil. It begs the question is there danger lurking or simple what is going to happen. In this uncertain moment, Dr Banks raises her hand towards the glass where the creature is expected to be and at 1.18 a sudden drum kick with a low frequency of about 80Hz layered with another slam. This grabs the audience attention and while still in that moment we hear a whale like sound at 1.19 followed immediately by a door slamming sound at 1.20 when the Alien decides to respond to Dr Banks greeting. In these three seconds the sound effects used sequentially have definitely makes an impact to the audience because these are heart stopping moments due to the surprise elements of uncertainty. This was intense as we didn’t know whether the alien would respond to Dr Banks hand gesture, would it be in a calm or wild manner, what did this creature look like?

The intensity peaks halfway through the trailer when at 1.23 a mixture of sounds come together intermittently to create an adrenaline rush as they all try to get your attention. The picture and sound are impeccable as they bring us to the movies reality. The use of TV news reporting in the background, incorporated with a loud drum kick followed by music created from violins, and what sounds like an elephant trumpeting at six seconds intervals (1.24, 1.30, 1.36) and then at 1.52, 1.57, 2.03, 2.05, 2.08 well arranged. The music intensity is maintained between 1.27-2.12 and this keeps us the engaged and entertained at the same time.

Dr Banks decides she has to go back in the dome and at 2.11 is a drum kick as the dome door shuts, abrupt music cuts off and then a prolonged horn or digiderood low key sound. This definitely kicks in the anxiety because so much just happened in 5 seconds leaving us anticipating what comes next. Then at 2.16 is another drum kick and a high pitched piano during an explosion. The high pitched key is heard again at 2.18, 2.19 and 2.20 which in turn create a clock ticking feeling and we can’t help but feel that time is of essence.

These definitely trigger impulse responses in the movie leaving us wanting more. It ends on a high by having the jets sound, maintaining the prolonged low key note and the elephant trumpeting/ or trumpet noise at the very end. The sound choices used are raw and real and the the intensity and pressure buildup definitely increase here and the suspense has made us movie ready.

The movie is undoubtedly about communication both verbal and nonverbal. We have the humans who have a common language but still do not understand each other resulting in a conflict of interest and ideas. On the other hand we have the Aliens vs humans trying to undertand each other. Choice of alien inspiration was good as they used the tentacles inspired but the Octopus- tentacles. The Octopus as we know is a very intelligent and graceful animal and we have seen it release itself from a locked jar and it moves swiftly. It has a strong presence and only attacks when attacked. This helped the movie to influence the viewer to believe the Alien is not here to harm but is a friendly and non intimidating. The sound used for the Aliens was to express how massive it was.

The octopus also used blasts of ink that looked like abstract, inky stains that looked like coffee stains on paper, to form a language that Dr Banks had to decipher and develop a response back to complete the two way communication. We couldn’t help but help the actress in our minds to workout what each syllable meant.

Arrival has a lot of striking elements of sound design used to just keep audience emotions connected and engaged until the end. They are organic, and natural that kept us intrigued and a lot of suspense especially when the music was getting louder.. I did expert more action coming from it but as of today I really have learnt and appreciated how sound design played a major role in the film.

References

Essays, UK. (November 2018). Effects of Trailers in Film Campaigns. Retrieved from https://www.ukdiss.com/examples/film-audience-trailers.php?vref=1

A sound effect. (November 2016) Creating The Poetic Sci-Fi Sound Of ‘Arrival. Retrieved from https://www.asoundeffect.com/arrival-sound/

Gibbs, T. (2007). The fundamentals of sonic art & sound design (Ava academia). Lausanne: AVA Academia.

Whittington, W. (2007). Sound design & science fiction (1st ed.) [1st ed.]. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (2007). Retrieved February 26, 2020, from INSERT-MISSING-DATABASE-NAME.

 

1 Hour Mix Challenge

There is a saying which goes “challenges are great opportunities for success”. Today I did get challenged to a one hour mix challenge. I saw this as an opportunity to improve my abilities as a mix engineer. I did as best I could within that timeframe as practising for industry standard achievement. With all honesty the final product at the end was pretty much worse than I expected.

What I did first was to try and balance the music by critically listening to what was more important and that was main vocalist. Remember there is no reference track to get the idea from. The vocals did fit nicely in the mix and had the backing vocals well balance without overriding the main vocal. I also thought the reverb did sound nice on the headphone but come to the speakers it was like a wake up call on me. There was just too much wet reverb.

16 years old teenager girl, nerd and geek, trying to assemble the PC desktop computer but seems like she don’t understand how to do it.

Time management surely is of great importance. Because of lack of it I did not spent it well on mixing drums. Instead I spent more time on adding compression which at the end was the biggest downfall the the Kick drum was over overcompressed. The lesson learnt was that, compression is not always the answer to everything. I could have left the drums uncompressed Im sure the could have sounded much better.

I do need to spent a little bit of time on EQ just to sweep either high frequencies or low depending with the need. This could have solved a couple of things like low end on acoustic guitar and lead guitar. The bass guitar sounded good but would have reduce a bit of the low end to balance well with the kick. I do need to learn bit more on EQing guitars a little bit more to just get clean sound. Once thing I did not put across my mind was that what I was trying to achieve would go to a mastering engineer. With kind of mixing I had done, the client would not have been amused as the mastering engineer would tell him or her to go back to the mix engineer to redo. I will endeavour to practise more these one hour mix at least on a daily basis if I really need to up skill my levels.

The one hour mix definitely is a great learning tool for me as it challenged me to think about what is most important to overall effect the mix, which is a skill which is a must have for a mix engineer. I need to prove myself that I can raise the standard to meet the criteria for the industry. It is essential to be challenged by such circumstances as I would become a better mix engineer now and in future.

Mastering

Second week of the trimester and today we looked at the subject of mastering. What is Mastering ? Mastering most often refers to the final stage in the production of multiple audio programs— typically, a group of songs or pieces of music. (Savage, 2014)

Mastering also to my understanding is a final mix after the mix process which makes the mix louder according to Guy Gray, raising output level ranges to 0.3dB 0dB.A mastering engineer also has the right to send back the the mix process on the grounds that the mix was heavily compressed and there is no room to work with. At first i felt that it would be harsh but then I did understand that his or her role is compromised if the mix is not right. The work of a Mastering engineer is o boost the quality of the recording. Critical listening skills are of paramount importance at this stage, spending time analysing a track and understanding the genre, how it was recorded and mixed and finding if there are any issues that need to be fixed prior. These are critical points of mastering to begin with.

The next part of mastering after analysis we may also take into consideration what the client wants. Things like too much bottom-end and sub bass can be too much on top end. It is common for a mix to have a little too much of one or the other. Either it can be fixed during mastering process or may be returned back to the mixing stage, depending on the financial constrain for the client. Honestly Before I thought mastering was as good as mixing but actually it is not. Yes during the mix process we use compression and EQ, it is different to mastering despite using compression and EQ too. Here is the difference which Guy explained, the mix engineer uses EQ to create spaces so that each instrument or elements can each shine on the respective regions or for creative purposes. A mastering engineer uses the EQ to balance or make loud the spectrum, adding a bit more presence to the track. Though Savage suggests “Why Mixing and Mastering Can No Longer Be Separated.” There, you will learn how the tools for producing loudness have impacted what used to be the separation between mixing and mastering ( Savage, 2014 )

The same approach goes on to compression. The mix engineers may use an extreme parameter to a kick, guitar or vocal to result a punch or suck out the life of the track while the mastering engineer will subtle the move working on compression range around 1.5-3:1 ratio catching all the high peaks/transients with 1-2 dB of gain reduction. A limiter is then applied to make the track louder just like a commercial release depending on how you set the ceiling and threshold. The limiter draws back extra peaks or transients before it smashes the maximum ceiling.

Beyond that, it may be helpful to adjust the frequency balance of some songs so that they all sound relatively similar. For example, one song may sound like it has more bottom end than another. Taken individually this may not be a problem— both songs sound great— but when they are played one right after the other, one song may suffer in contrast to the other. So, the mastering engineer will adjust the low frequencies of one of the songs (more on the song that has less low end, or less on the song that has more— or a little bit of each). It isn’t that either song really needed the adjustment if it were playing on its own, but when it’s sitting with the other songs it fits better with the adjustment. All elements of the sound: level, frequency balance, dynamic range, ambience, and effects are considered in the mastering process ( Savage 2014 )

There is more to do with mastering, once I get into the practise of it I will surely come with another blog and talk more with hands on experience about the mastering process.

Savage, Steve. Mixing and Mastering in the Box : The Guide to Making Great Mixes and Final Masters on Your Computer, Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2014.

Smithers, B. (2010). Mixing in pro tools : Skill pack (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Course Technology.

Izhaki, R., & Izhaki, R. (2017). Mixing audio : Concepts, practices, and tools (Third ed.) [Third edition.]. London: Taylor and Francis.

Studio 3 Week 1

A new season and a new trimester for Studio 3 for me and very much looking forward to it a bit nervous and unsure. Last trimester had a fair bit of its challenges but I managed to get through it pretty well. I feel that this time there is more that I must do as requirement to produce a lot more content upon building an industry standard portfolio. The pressure is on to deliver.

There are 2 projects for this trimester and one is the trailer The Quiet Place 2. Upon watching the trailer I did feel that it had some very intense moments. Now the idea is to reproduce the forley and that i believe is heaps of work to do. A lot of creative ideas must be explored to bring this to play. As for the second project I have the idea of creating a 3 minute musical video that has the theme for multiculturalism. At first I thought of discrimination but I felt its better promoting multiculturalism that will eventually overcome discrimination. I do think there is much project management that is expected and required to keep the project intact in order to produce the deliverables.

S6 class tutorial (Calibrating studio monitors)

I have taken steps to upgrade my workflow by creating a website which is also linked to my not for profit organisation that promotes Gospels music from young adults to youths. My website will help to promote my portfolio and I believe it is more like a resume. I will add up links to other social media platforms such as facebook, Youtube, Spotify,Linkedin, Instagram as an ongoing promotion and awareness. Designing a website has been my weakest subject last trimester but this time I decided to take up the challenge. I am hoping to build my home studio despite the financial challenge. This will help me create more content at my own space and time.

On the second tutorial session I had the opportunity to learn about the S6 studio which is built around the Avid with Pro tools compatible control surface. It does look like a very expensive machine with very interesting looks. There is a 5.1 dolby system with a couple of monitor speakers. The main lesson for the day was calibration and placement of studio monitors. I realised that it is a critical activity to do so I can get the best experience in the listening environment. Using pink noise from a noise generator in Pro tools it will help measuring the sound pressure level and there is need to have headphones or earplugs to protect the ears.Learning about the SPL (sound pressure level) was enlightening once again measuring from the mix position or sweet spot. Positioning the SPL meter with the microphone pointed at the center and each monitor is independently to ensure that all monitors are are set to the same acoustic level and will ensure that the stereo mixes are balanced and will translate well across. Depending with the room 85dB may be loud enough but also may be too loud for a small room and be worked around 75 dB. A subwoofer may range from 80 dB but to my understanding if the full range monitors are 79dB then the subwoofer maybe reduced by -3 dB.

So much to learn and I look forward to it. Determination is my first chapter of the book of excellence.

Side Project (Foolish Ole Me) breakdown

Artist: Maroon 5
Album: Won’t Go Home Without You
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop
Recorded: 2006

A side project for Roy that we recorded with aesthetics from 2000 pop genre era called Foolish ‘Ole Me making reference to Won’t Go Home by Maroon 5, released in 2007.

I played drums, mix & recording engineer roles and keyboards as my contribution to the project. Getting the right gain structure for the drum microphones, guitar mics and DIs I would say it was excellent. The microphone choices and positioning was a reflection of the research we had carried out alongside decisions made on the day to offer us the flexibility and closest tonal quality for the targeted sound. The aesthetics of the song in contrast to the reference track was not that bad only the vocals were rather not pop like sounding. Recording Pop songs requires a lot of attention on tonality on the vocal itself. Using melodyne to tune the vocal pitch did a bit of magic so as to sound similar to the vocals on the reference track.

The lyric content of the reference track seem to be about the singer’s desire and love trying to impress for the one he loves and so the recorded song shares the same sentiments making it a mellow dirven song.

As for the drums I think it was best if I had tuned the drum well and select a better snare drum and also a bottom microphone to have better balance when mixing. The microphone techniques we used were alright but we learnt that its best to always do our research well before we make an attempt to record. Therefore we had to spend a little more time on drum EQ to get those bright snappy sounds that would balance well with kick drum.

The bass guitar on the reference track sounded warm in texture and to get that same feel in the song and so to get that medium low-frequency range we set 2 microphones track with Sennheiser MD421 and Shure B52A on the Roland amp and Di box track. Blending them together in the mix gave out that warmth colour.

As for the keyboard I used onboard sounds on my Korg PA588, acoustic piano sound and Church organ. Very little EQ was done on the keys just to brighten it up.

The project was fun considering that it was just the 2 of us doing it. I would say playing together and recording would have probably spiced up the project more. Playing drums over a recorded guitar was alright but if we played like a team same time there definitely would be big difference. It was a great experience working with Roy and it was such an encouraging trimester for me.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nUqc1SkFpKkeU_9Behx2YNPsZnayy8bb

Mix Breakdown (Give)

For the LO3 I will focus on 3 different techniques that are reverb, vocal EQ and compression.

Artist: Earth, Wind & Fire
Album: September
Released: 1978
Nominations: CMT Music Award for CMT Performance of the Year
Genres: Disco, R&B/Soul

On 26th of November we recorded vocals for the song “Give” and our aim was to to get the 70s aesthetic mix sound to suit the genre. The reference track was September by Earth,Wind,Fire. The track has elements of funk, jazzy, blues harmonic characteristics and a combination of brass sax section, piano, bass and drums. The beauty of the track is that all instruments give each other some breathing space which I find very creative and sweet to listen to. The use of automation made it very easy for the instruments to give each other some breathing space allowing the performance to be exciting for the ears. Several instruments blended well and some clashed and therefore those that clashed I made sure there had some automation set on them.

We used the Audio technica AT2020 in my home studio as all studios at uni were booked out and so I had to do my research in order to achieve our goal.
The recording went pretty smooth and easy and we did a couple of tracks and we discussed the sound that we wanted to replicate. It’s all about doubling vocals to get a precise attack of the verse and chorus and with some reverb with compression on the vocals. The compression helped to bring down the dynamic parts that are higher than the others so that we have all dynamics be the same. With critical listening to the acapella version of the the reference track I was able to make judgement of the amount of reverb that could have been added with a bit of delay in the vocal. I then pulled out a couple of different methods together to add during mixing. I had to choose the best take of the main vocal then duplicated it into into 2 and group 2 and separate the 3rd one which I would add compression. As for the vocalist it is her first time to record so there was a bit of fear in her but with encouragement she did her best. Most definitely vocals need to be on point and there is much need of professionalism required. I mean amateurs do well when they find a mentor, but if I need to take these projects seriously its best I engage with professional singers who will give me what I want during recordings.

The chorus had some harmonies in it and I panned them close to make stereo image just to add excitement in the record. Added a bit of delay and reverb in the harmonies making reference to the reference track which has lots of reverb in it. Listening back to the reference track made me think that it needs to be a large reverbs larger than plate reverb. So I chose the Church reverb which has a longer tail and reduced it to 50%. The verse on the reference track is quite rockin and the chorus is much smoother which is similar to the recorded track and the contrast of the two does give the song a lift with added reverb and a different EQ.

The reference track has a couple of guitars that have been overdubbed and panned whether far wide right or left which I found to be very exciting and rejuvenating therefore I intended to have the same kind of feel and had the guitarist come in by my house to add more guitars then added EQ, reverb and compression then panning the some left but living the rhythm guitar on the centre of the mix to give a balance in the song. When mixing we then discovered that the rhythm guitars were all over the place and they were not complimenting each other. Therefore we decided to stick to the one rhythm guitar that holds the rhythm section. The aesthetics of the track I would say the guitars and brass were recorded with high quality microphones of that era and the dynamics and frequency content are high enough with low ends with more emphasis on the mids.

If only we had taken time to listen to the reference track before jumping into recording we would probably would have a better take. However this I take as learning in progress as I try to emulate production techniques used in the reference track. Most definitely high end microphones were used in the reference track but just to get my knowledge skills and trying to come up with similar techniques has increased my understanding and how to demonstrate.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oYskDg3_XSD2CTDBCUUzRjpCizMu3WZY

Mix breakdown (Wabaraka) Instrumental

Artist: Oliver Mtukudzi
Album: Tuku Music
Title: Ndima ndapedza
Released: 1999

I chose to use this song as reference to the instrumental that we recorded with the bend. The track conveys a mood of energy and dance as the music is invigorating with a solid bassline that has a pure relationship with the kick drum. It has a soca afro fusion feel which is quite upbeat.

The mission was to replicate the energy level and dance mood into our song with the same soca afrofusion style which again upbeat. Using the production methodology during mixing with the feedback we received from Stephane, we made sure we align the bass intime with the snare drum. Whenever we finished aligning we would put crossfades to ensure the continuation of the bass and kick without a glitch. It was quite a tedious job but I would say it was better than using elastic audio or beat detective. I mean we did use them but they would mess the audio up and so at time shortcut is not the easy way. Despite being time consuming we managed to get it right.

Tuning the drums was quite a challenge for the drummer on the recording day. one of the toms had missing items that made it impossible to tune it and therefore we had to leave it. We had two snares and he tuned both then chose one to work with although they were not sounding the best. He made the best out of those drum anyhow and what was important was the vibe in the live room that was alive and fun. I do feel that such a vibe allowed the drum to be nice and solid. less EQ was done and we spent more time working with compressors as we had spill from other mics. Not that spill is a bad thing but we just wanted a solid outcome just like how the drums sound on the reference track.

WIth all these elements in mind and the vision of what we wanted on our final product to sound, I do feel that we a reasonable outcome. It may not fully stand up to the commercial standards but at least it carries the aesthetics we were aiming for. I do believe that the more time we spend listening to reference material we will get the essence right. Working together during recording, editing and mixing made our work between Roy and I awesome. We worked as a team and we managed to do majority of our tasks within the stipulated time frame. As a whole, this project was fun and had opportunities for learning through experiments. It has been a great exercise to complete and shows the skills needed to be creative and the ever evolving audio industry.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=13KRuioW7hyNb82VqmXi9FhhU8_wYTx5q