Producer's VU - April 1997

John Nixon/KLSY, Seattle - "You Will Believe in Angels"

producers-vu-logo-2by Craig Rogers

When a station uses "Classy" as its on-air handle, there are certain standards to be upheld. But every prod god has the desire to break loose, to get a bit nuts, just plain crank that mother UP! Just ask John Nixon, the Production Director at KLSY/Seattle or "Classy 92.5."

KLSY is an AC station and John says, "Most of our stuff is fairly low key. You have to subdue your temptation to grab for the lasers and bomb blasts and instead reach for the wind chimes and tinkly sounds. This is one where I got to journey a bit deeper into the world of louder noises." It's also a good example of how to cram a bunch of obligations into a sixty second promo. He had to mention the fireworks show, dance, kids play zone, and party. Listen to John's work on The Cassette, and then read here about how he produced it.

First, the background. The Blue Angels, after appearing in Seattle every year for many years, had been banished by the FAA three years ago. After things were smoothed over with the Feds, there was a lot of excitement for their return. John wanted to get that excitement into the promo.

John has been using the PC version of the Session 8 DAW for three years. He uses the optional R1 remote controller with it. That gives him physical faders to work with instead of having to control faders on screen with a mouse.

Other gear includes a Sony JH-600 board with built-in patch bay, a couple of 2-tracks, cassette deck, Panasonic SV-3700 DAT, Technics SL-P1200 CD, turntable, BE Phase Trak 90 cart machine, Valley People 440 and Aphex Compellor for processing, Lexicon PCM-70 effects, AKG-414 Microphone, and Fostex near field monitors. Libraries are from FirstCom, Digifects, and Network Sound effects. Final product is sent literally across town, to an Audio Vault Digital Storage system. The actual AudioVault system is located across town at sister station KWJZ. John uses a software application called PC Anywhere to control it from KLSY.

John records all voices to DAT first. With the DAT, he can start the tape and let it roll until he gets the read he likes. Doing that with the Session 8 would eat up acres of hard disk space.

For the opening, ("This summer when you...") John recorded Dan Murphy, a KLSY announcer. John has a standard way of miking people that he's been using for years. He runs the mic through two channels. The first is clean. The second goes through the Valley People 440. John combines the two channels at about a 5:3 ratio of clean to processed. John says it gives "a fatter, bigger sound to the voices while retaining a clean, natural quality." When he gets the two channels balanced correctly, he groups them and runs the group so that it peaks at 100%.

Usually John would apply some EQ to that group. "My frequencies are based on the human voice range. We have 3-channel EQ. I have the lows set at 150Hz, the midrange at 4kHz and the highs at 8kHz, all with a wide Q. Then I adjust my settings based on the frequency graph of the particular microphone that I'm using. Our main production mike is a great one. It's an AKG C-12, the tube microphone. It's flat until about 2kHz when it drops under the 'flat line' and stays under the line until past 8kHz. So that's the area that I boost in order to bring the microphone 'up to flat'." In this instance, however, he EQ'd to achieve a telephone effect.

Once John got Dan recorded, he ran that track through the Lexicon PCM-70 using an echo flange with a tiny bit of chorusing thrown in as he recorded the DAT tracks to the Session 8. This gives him the first half of the first line.

John put that portion of Dan's v/o on track 1. He recorded the remainder of the v/o onto tracks 3 and 4. He panned the two channels into full stereo, then slid one channel of that pair just a hair forward of the other one. The result is a sort of "double tracking" effect that gives the sound an added dimension.

The main voice track is Jim Dai from the KLSY staff. John says, "Jim is a dream to work with. He has a voice that we all wish we had, and he does most of his tracks perfectly in one take. In fact, he sounds so good that I have to fight my tendency to over EQ and compress him. It's almost hard to make him sound not processed, because he sounds that way just walking around."

To achieve the flanging effect on the second portion of Jim's v/o, John uses the same technique he used with Dan above. He copies the original voice track to the track below. He then nudges the copy forward just a few milliseconds to get the flanging effect. John also uses this technique on the sound effects in this piece. He says this helps spread the effects in the background and leaves the voice anchored to the center of the stereo picture.

For the jet fly-bys, John knew he wanted each jet to sound slightly different. He searched his fx library for every decent fly-by he could find. He patched the CD player through a pair of EQ-able channel lines, panned them into stereo, and gave each channel settings of about 13kHz for the highs, 8kHz for the mids and 50Hz for the lows, keeping the Qs wide. To decide how much of each setting to put in, he did them one at a time, starting with the highs and filling in last with the lows. He recorded the effect into the Session 8 with the EQ, then copied the sound onto two more tracks. He again nudged the copy to spread out the effect.

He then bounced these four tracks to two tracks to have a stereo pair for "Jet #1." Further down on tracks 3 through 6, he repeated the process with other jet fx for Jets 2, 3 and 4. All the bounces are done internally in the Session 8. He then moved these stereo pairs to their proper positions, alternating from 3/4 to 5/6. The result sounds great, especially at extra high volume!

For the rest of the sound effects, John found fireworks, a jungle-native ceremony from an old vinyl library for the party, a concert crowd, and kids playing for the "kid zone." Here again, he did the double tracking tweak to each of these effects to give them dimension and help separate them from the voice track.

As far as music goes, John likes to get all the voice and effects working together first, then find music that complements the overall sound he's trying to create. The music bed here is a "heroic" sounding bed from the FirstCom library to deliver that "Blue Angels feeling." John likes to have promo beds end cold. He'll edit the beds to fit the promo length.

The R-1 controller, with its physical faders, makes the mix easy to do in real time. John does some submixing before doing the final mix. He bounces all the voices onto one stereo pair, the effects onto another, the music onto a third pair. He then bounces these six tracks down to tracks 7 and 8 for a final stereo mix he can send to the AudioVault.

Now if you haven't already, pop in The Cassette and listen closely to this classy production work.