Producer's VU - September 1996

producers-vu-logo-2by Craig Rogers

You don't want this to become common knowledge, but admit it: sometimes your best work is done in the biggest time crunch. This month, Producer's VU spotlights a perfect example. When hockey hero Wayne Gretzky announced he was going to play for the St. Louis Blues, it was B-I-G news in St. Louis (and a sad day in LA). The morning after Gretzky's press conference, KSHE Creative/Production Director Ed Brown arrived as usual at 9 a.m.. His PD was waiting with a warm, fuzzy greeting: "We need to get something on the air right away with Gretzky." The morning show producer had tape of the press conference. The PD handed Ed a copy of the Wayne's World soundtrack and pointed him toward the studio. An hour later, a promo with KSHE welcoming Wayne to St. Louis was on the air. And in June of this year, it won a first place award from the Missouri Broadcaster's Association! Check out Ed's award-winning work on The RAP Cassette and follow him through the production process here.

Ed said since this was such a quick turnaround, "There was no real flair to the writing, which is usually one of the stronger parts of our promos." In this case, a lot of writing wasn't necessary. He already had on hand a number of drop-ins from the movie Wayne's World. Between the soundtrack CD, the drop-ins and the press conference material, the promo was beginning to write itself.

Here's what Ed is working with in the KSHE studios: Harrison Pro 7 console (14 channel, 4 buss, 3 band EQ), Studer A810 reel decks (2), Korg SoundLink 8-track DAW, ITC Series 99 cart deck, Technics SL-P1300 CD player, TASCAM 122 cassette deck, Sony DAT Walkman, Sony MDS B-3 MiniDisc recorder, AKAI hi-fi VCR with Hitachi 13" monitor, RE-27 mikes (2), AKG 414B mike, Realistic 3A6 close field monitors, JBL 4312 control monitors, H3000B Ultra Harmonizer, Aphex Compellor Limiter, Rane MPE14 programmable EQ, Yamaha REV-7, Ensoniq EPS sampling keyboard.

Even though he's got the Korg, Ed first lays down his voice tracks to 1/4" tape. The reason goes back to advice given to him by a colleague long ago: "You cannot be both the engineer and the talent." Recording to tape first allows him to concentrate on the talent end so he gets the best read possible. Ed chooses to use the analog tape instead of MD or DAT for several reasons. Mainly, he likes the sound of his voice better coming from analog tape than from digital. It's also easier for him to cue, and there are occasions when he'll play with the pitch control, something he can't do with MD or DAT.

Ed uses the RE-27 working about 4 inches back. He says the RE-27 adds more presence with his voice than the 414 does. He records without compression and may use one of several curves he has preset on the console's EQ depending on the condition of his voice.

When he loads the voice tracks into the Korg he then puts on his engineer's hat (sfx: train whistle) and adds the processing and effects he wants. For this promo, he routed his voice track through the Compellor, then the EQ with a slight bump around 2.5kHz, 4kHz and 6kHz, then through the REV 7 using a modification of chorus effect #12 "Chorus B." Coming out of the REV 7, the voice is in stereo, so he records it onto tracks 1 and 2 of the Korg. Ed's standard procedure is to use tracks 1-4 for voice and 5-8 for music and effects.

The movie sound bites and press conference audio are mono and were recorded in the order used to tracks 3 and 4. He uses no effects or processing on the movie drops. Ed says they've already been through so much processing, there's no need to add more. If a drop-in is too dull sounding, he may use the Korg's on-board EQ to roll off below 800 Hz by 12 dB.

Ed then edits his announcer v/o and the drop-ins into the order he wants. Ed said, "We really wanted it to sound like KSHE was welcoming Wayne Gretzky to St. Louis." To that end, one of the pieces from the press conference was Gretzky saying what great fans the people of Los Angeles were. Ed put that quote into a different context and made it seem Wayne was referring to St. Louis fans!

Music was recorded to 7 and 8. He then begins editing the music to fit the voice tracks. However, the timing isn't carved in stone. If he needs to slide a voice track to allow a music hook to come up, he will. In one instance, he swapped two drop-ins to better fit the window in the music bed.

Ed likes promos to end cleanly. The tag line ("Nice promo, Wayne") came from a promotional trailer the movie studio had supplied for a KSHE promotion. Ed foresaw a use for the drop and had it in his archival reels. It had its own music sting, so it provided the perfect way to round out the Wayne's World theme.

When it comes to the mix, the Korg really makes life easy. Ed can automate his mix so that all levels, fades and pans are exactly the same every time he plays back the piece. Above each fader is a "read" button and a "write" button. With the "write" button enabled, the Korg records all his fader moves. With the "read" button enabled, the Korg plays back the track with the fader moves exactly as Ed did them.

Having mono effects on two tracks becomes important if that sound is to be panned. If it's on two tracks with one panned hard left and the other hard right, the pan is as simple as changing the level of a fader. Since the Korg memorizes his fader moves, the pan is duplicated every time. If Ed has to do a pan with a mono sound on only one track, he has to adjust the pan control in the software every few frames. Adjust, advance, adjust, advance.... Obviously, working with the faders is much quicker.

Ed first records his fader moves on the announcer voice tracks. He sets the Korg's faders so that each part plays back at 100% on the board VUs. Then he does the same with the movie drop-ins on tracks 3 and 4. He always starts with the voice tracks because that is the most important part, and his experience has been that that gives him the best results.

Then with tracks 1 through 4 playing back, Ed records the fader moves for the music tracks, ducking the music under voices and bringing it back up strong for lyrics. When that's finished, he can fine tune any spots where the levels may be off slightly. He simply has to find a spot where the level needs adjusting, enable the "write" feature, and reset the fader to the proper spot. His fader moves become part of the production. (Note that these fader moves are only taking place in the software; the faders on the surface of the Korg don't actually move during playback). If when he's finished, he finds the overall level is too hot, he just pulls down the master output level of the Korg.

Just before his final mixdown, Ed may switch over to his main monitors for the first time to check the mix at higher volume. Then, on final mixdown to cart for air, Ed runs the full mix through the Compellor for level control and adds a touch of plate reverb with the REV 7. It's not so much that the listener says, "Hey, there's reverb on there," but it does help give a sense of unity to all the disparate elements.

Check out Ed's work on The Cassette, especially if you're in the New York area. After all, Wayne's world now revolves around the Rangers. Hey, ready-made promo!

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