Tips & Techniques - February 1989

L+R =  "Music's Too Loud"

by Jerry Vigil

You are often asked to play a commercial you've produced down the phone line to the client. You've probably had the client respond by saying everything is fine except the music seems a little too loud. You've been mixing commercials for years, and now this client knows mixing better than you, right? You're both right.

Most studios with a patch to send audio down a phone line use the L+R mono mix of the console. If you send a mono mix of a spot with stereo music down the phone line, the music will actually gain level in the mono mix while the voice track level will remain the same. The reason is a little difficult to understand, so we'll try to explain in non-technical terms.

In a stereo situation you have a left, a right, and an imaginary "center" channel. Your ears use the "center" channel to mix with. When you apply a voice track equally to both left and right channels, it appears in the "center" channel. Now, add stereo music with horns in the left channel only and a guitar in the right channel only. Everything else in the music is in the "center" channel because it is being applied equally to both left and right channels, giving you a good mix of voice to music in the "center" channel.

When you combine the left and right channels, the horns and the guitar, that were not part of the "center" channel before, now become part of the "center" channel. Together they increase the level of music "energy" in the "center" channel, thus giving you a mono mix of too much music.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this. If you're playing a spot to a client you feel might be the type to complain about the music, tell him beforehand that the music will be louder than it actually is because he's hearing a mono mix of the spot. Tell him not to worry, the music won't be as loud on the radio since your station is in stereo. Any more technical than that and you'll bore the client.

If you can, just play the left or right channel of the spot to the client. If the spot has no special stereo effects in it, a simple voice over music spot will sound just fine over the phone. Patching the console left or right channel into the phone will do the job. If you don't have a choice, as far as your phone patch goes, a good pair of headsets will send a decent signal over the phone if you just cup one of the earpads over the mouthpiece of the phone.

Dubs to Cart: "In & Out of Phase"

from Bill Reitler
KWIZ,Orange County, California

It's important to be sure that what you are loading to cart is in phase. If your board has a phase reversal button and other people use the studio, sooner or later someone will mistakenly push it in, leaving a signal 180 degrees out of phase. Unless you have carefully scrutinized your board (often tough to do when 10 spots await you first thing in the morning) or are listening in mono, you might not notice. If the cart makes its way into the control room, your station is stereo, and the studio monitor is stereo, the jock might also be unsuspecting until a listener listening in mono complains about how weird the spot on the air sounds! (Better hope the caller isn't the sponsor!!)

To prevent the aforementioned scenario, simply get in the habit of monitoring anything you're carting in audition or cue while you are recording. Monitor, at least for a few seconds, in mono. Pay particular attention to voice tracks, which are usually center channel and thus first to go in a phase reversal. If everything sounds OK, you can rest easy (until the next crisis). 
Good phase integrity is also dependent on proper record head azimuth alignment. If your record cart machine sets this automatically, ask your engineer to check, from time to time, that it is doing so properly. If you must do this manually, be sure you are doing so properly. Otherwise, your audio quality will be muddy and not crisp. Happy carting!!!

Co-op Promo: "Make Some Brownie Points"

by Jerry Vigil

You've been hounding the sales staff all week long to get their copy in. You've been a little less that patient in dealing with them. Maybe you slipped and said something tacky to the Sales Manager. Here's a tip for a promo that's sure to get him back on your side.

Co-op advertising, as you probably know, is a great sales tool. The rep goes to a client that distributes the "XYZ" brand of stereo systems and explains how "XYZ" will pay for 50%, 60%, maybe 100% of the advertising costs for the client if the client will mention "XYZ" a certain number of times in the ad. Sometimes "XYZ" will provide the copy with blanks to fill in with the distributor's name and address a few times. Joe Blow's Stereo Shop gets on the air using XYZ's money.

There is a great promo flying around that promotes co-op advertising. The copy is what makes it. The real estate industry has added a new phrase to everyday language: "Other Peoples Money" or "OPM". The opening line of the promo is something to the effect of: "How would you like to advertise your business using other people's money?" Take it from there and make it sound like another commercial. Don't make references to your station until the end of the promo. De-emphasize the word "co-op" in the copy and try to use the phrase "other peoples money" at least 2 or 3 times. Don't necessarily explain how co-op advertising works, just tease the idea that Mr. Businessman can advertise on radio using someone else's money. It then finishes up by saying something like, "If you want to learn more about how you can advertise on radio using other peoples money, call the (your station call letters) Co-op Advertising Hotline now." The number, of course, is the number to your sales office.

Surprise your Sales Manager. When you have a little spare time (ha ha), take the opening line above and use your imagination to write up a spot promoting co-op advertising. Produce it and give it to your Sales Manager. When he calls you up praising you for your creativity and thanking you for your interest in sales, tell him you'd be glad to talk to him about it over lunch, then ask him where he's taking you.

Rent a Vocoder!

by Jerry Vigil

The unusual effect of a vocoder is still finding its way into jingles and other heavily produced station ID material. The fact that most vocoders provide only that single effect and cost around $1000, keeps it from becoming a prevalent piece of out-board gear in radio stations. 
Its unique effect on the voice makes for great ID's and sweepers. The extremely electronic sound generates excellent contest elements for promotions that include a "Cash Computer", a computerized black jack dealer, or any other elements that need a "computer voice".

If you're in a good size market with a few recording studios, give them a call and ask if they have a vocoder. If they do, it's well worth a 1 hour fee to send a mike through the vocoder, roll a tape, and lay down 100 or so lines you can use in the future. Do your call letters in every way your station uses them. Do every liner you can think of that you're using on the air. Throw in some commonly used lines like, "another winner in minutes" or "the winning's easy". Store the tape and go to it from time to time to pull out what you need.

If your station produces jingles at a local studio, the fact that you're a client may give you enough clout to actually rent the vocoder for a couple of days and set it up in your studio. Since the vocoder is not used very often, they might be willing to rent it out to you. Then you can have as much time on it as you want without having to buy studio time elsewhere. 
Check with local music stores. A good store will have a vocoder. Some of them may rent equipment or might be able to tell you who would. 

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