by Jerry Vigil
"Tails Out". If you dub a lot of agency spots, "tails out" usually means nothing more to you than an inconvenience. Your carts are ready for the dub, the tape is threaded, and then you discover that someone has put the tape on the reel backwards. Now you have to remove both reels, switch them, and rewind the tape to get to the beginning. Believe it or not, there are two good reasons why tape is loaded onto a reel "tails out".
The first, and most obvious reason, is to speed up the process of making several dubs of a spot to reel. Say you're making 10 dubs to reel. To end up with 10 reels with the spot "heads out", you would record the spot onto a reel of tape 10 times. After the 10th dub you would cut the tape and begin rewinding each dub onto a 5" reel one at a time, cutting the tape between each dub, and putting another reel on the machine each time. The faster way to make these dubs is to use the empty 5" reel as the take-up reel. You simply thread up the machine, make the dub, and cut the tape. The dub is on the 5" reel "tails out" and you're ready for the next dub. You remove the steps of rewinding the dubs onto the reels. When making a large number of dubs, this is a time saver.
The other reason tape is loaded onto reels "tails out", is to avoid print through. Print through is the transfer of the audio from one layer of the tape to the next. This results in an echo when the tape is played back. The print through isn't actually avoided by storing the tape tails out, but the resulting echo is post-echo instead of pre-echo. Post-echo is less noticeable than pre-echo because it is heard after the audio begins. Print through is most noticeable on dry voice recordings. If you have some voice tracks from, let's say, a famous studio guest, this would be a good occasion to store them tails out.
Another way to avoid print through, or at least decrease it, is to use thick tape. You probably use 1.5 mil tape anyway. This is ideal for reducing print through. Try to avoid using thinner tape. If you normally use thinner tape, say 1 mil, you might consider purchasing 1.5 mil tape from now on. It's also easier to work with, especially when editing.
Heat increases print through. Store tapes in a cool place and don't leave tape on a hot machine for a great length of time. If you're storing something for several years, it doesn't hurt to take the reel out every 6 months or so and fast forward then rewind it. This helps to decrease the amount of print through that increases as the storage time increases.
If you make dubs for both your AM and FM stations, here is a tip to help save time and insure good dubs. Assuming you have two record decks, you would make your AM and FM dubs at the same time. Rather than play them back after the dub is made, to check them out, listen to them in cue as you record. If you only make one dub at a time you probably do this already. If you make 2 dubs at a time and put both machines in cue, you'll notice a phasing effect coming from the cue speaker. This is the effect you get when the playback signals are identical. When you begin the dub, put both machines in cue. If you get the phasing effect throughout the dub you can rest assured the signals on both carts are identical. You have 2 good dubs. If your machines can meter both record and playback levels, put them in playback and watch the levels. If they look good and you have the phasing effect in cue, there is a 99.9% chance you have perfect dubs. There's no need to listen back to see if they were dubbed properly.
Music Beds - Using Them as a "Signature"
Promo production is often the most important part of the Production Director's position. Promo production is also one of the most time consuming aspects of the job. A great deal of time is spent finding just the right music for a promo, whether it be from a production library or the intro to a cut on an album. Many programmers prefer a different piece of music for each promo that airs. This supposedly gives the promo a fresh, new sound. It keeps it from sounding like the last promo you produced, and it keeps you busy looking for new music to work with.
Other programmers have another point of view regarding the music used under promos. Some prefer to use the same music under a series of promos for one particular promotion. There is much to be said for this way of thinking.
Let's begin by stating up front that using the same music for a series of promos reduces the time spent putting the promos together, however, there may be more to gain by doing this than just time. Take one of your station's continuous promotions for example. Let's say you do the "XYZ Cash Giveaway" every fall. Using the same music for all the promos every fall may sound redundant to some, but if you analyze the marketing principles in use, maintaining a familiar piece of music for all related promos can be a huge positive.
A promo is simply a commercial for your radio station. Like any commercial, the more you hear it, or hear the jingle or music, the greater the retention. Major advertisers find a great piece of music and stick to it for years before considering a new sound. Why can't this same approach be used for promos?
If you have special weekend promotions every weekend, find a music bed or just a sounder of some kind to use with every weekend promo you cut. After a while, whenever the listener hears this music or the sounder, the listener will know that this must be an announcement for XYZ's weekend contest or promotion.
If you're giving away a car, find a piece of music to use for all the promos cut during the promotion. If you give another car away next year, use the same music. It doesn't have to be a full piece of music. Maybe the "logo" is the sound of a car starting, honking the horn, and speeding away, and underneath the sound effects is a 10 second synthesizer effect from one of your production libraries. Use this little piece of production in all your promos for car giveaways. If you use it to open all your car giveaway promos, you can follow it with any piece of music and still give the listener that identifying signature that says, "XYZ is giving away another car".
The same approach can be used for commercial production as well. Assign certain cuts from your production library to certain clients. Whenever they come back for another schedule, use the same music. For the same reasons as given above, the client, in most cases, will prefer to have "his own music" for the commercials that run on your station. After all, the larger clients who can afford to have their own jingles and music produced elsewhere, give you those jingles and music beds to use on all their spots. What you offer that smaller client is his own piece of music for his spots without the cost of getting it written and produced at a recording studio.
Of course, many spots and promos will call for a particular type of music that won't be useable again. Consider using the same music for those regular clients and ongoing promotions. After all, consistency is part of the programming game. If you're not already producing spots and promos this way, give it some thought and discuss it with your Program Director and anyone else involved. It could make for a better way of promoting your station and, at the same time, save you some precious time.