Let's Do Some Production!

by Gary Moore, 
X100, San Francisco
 

Before you begin, get everything out; all your sound effects and all your production libraries. Have everything readily available so if you need something, you won't have to pull yourself away to go get it. Be Prepared!

Your production room is your haven, your home away from home, and your working environment plays an important role in your attitude, so spruce it up.

If you need help from engineering, don't pester them to get things done. Offer your help in a project they are involved with, in exchange for a favor that will put a smile on your face. You should take a considerable amount of interest in the technical side of your studio. If you have a malfunction, the person to call is the engineer, and you know as well as I do that they are often fixing things for other people or at the transmitter. Instead of wasting valuable time searching for help, know how your studio works so you can properly fix and maintain it yourself.

On with the promo: When it comes to a winner promo, you often won't have great sound bites to work with. As a Production Director and primary promo producer, it's up to you to produce a promo that sounds better than the actual contest did. We once did a promotion called "Hot Cars" in which callers qualified for their choice of 1 of 3 cars; a Porsche 944, a BMW 325I, and a 300ZX Turbo. The day came when we drew the winner and it happened to be a 13 year old girl whose response was less than usable for any promo. I was stuck without work parts and the Program Director wanted a promo on the air the same day. What in the world could one do to save a disastrous image promo? Two words: Good copy. When it comes to any promo, spot, or liner card, your best offense is good copy. Your writing skills can and usually will be the dominating factor of a great spot or promo.

The name of the game in production is versatility. The more ideas, tricks, and methods you explore, the more variety you will have. Don't just throw some music behind a voice track. Mix it up. Include a music transition or two within a 60 second spot. A good way to learn more techniques is to listen. Try this: choose one day per week in which you call a designated radio station. Make it a respectable station, one you'd like to work for. Call and ask for the Production Director. Tell him who you are and why you are calling. In most cases, any Production Director will take priority in talking with another Production Director. Be cordial, tell him or her where you work, and explain that you are interested in hearing some promos that were produced at their station. You'll find that they will be more than happy to respond with a tape. When you receive it, reply with a thank you letter or a phone call.

Another way of increasing your knowledge of production is by seeing. If you get the chance, see every production room you can. Meet people, pay a visit to their station, and talk. Ask questions and take in everything you can. Keep in mind, if you're in production, you're in for the long haul. I was a jock and Production Director for a few years before I got off the air and started producing full time. I really don't think I want to go back on the air for this reason: Being a jock and Production Director is like having 2 full¬time jobs. It's difficult to do both simultaneously and put forth an equal output. Find out what you do best, focus on it, tear it up, and you'll win.

It is vastly important to be in constant communication with your Program Director, the promotions department, and the sales staff. Anytime anyone has a promo idea, take it. You don't necessarily have to use it right away, and sometimes you won't use it at all. Keep it anyway and start a file for scripts and ideas. One file for the ones you use and another file for the ones you haven't used. There will come a time when your creativity is lacking, for one reason or another, and that file of ideas you've saved could pull you out of the quicksand. Everything involved with promos should be saved; voice tracks, effects, sounders, stagers, punctuators, and music. When you use a music bed for any reason, log it with the spot or promo for easy retrieval. There's been countless times when I have used a certain piece of music, put it away without logging it, and had the client or sales person want the same music for next week's spot. Sure, you'll find it, but you will have wasted valuable time looking for it.

Everyone has their own system. Use the one that best fits your work place. The following is a system I learned at a Gavin seminar from the biggest instrument of my Karma, "The OCEA". If any of this works for you, great. If none of it works, just put it in that file marked "Production Ideas". Sooner or later you'll refer to it and find something that does work. It all boils down to BASICS:

(B)efore you write or produce anything, ask yourself, "What do I want? What am I trying to say?"
(A)ccent your copy. Highlighting. Punctuation.
(S)imple. Keep it Simple
(I)magination. Use it!
(C)asting: Pick the right tool for the job. Be Creative. Think about it.
(S)ubstitute: There is NO substitution for perfection!

Let's do some production! Network with others, and our slogan can be, "While the others are talkin'....we're talkin'!!!

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