Tips & Techniques - April 1990

Milk That Movie Premier!

Larry Wayne of KGOT/FM sends us a few tips from Anchorage, Alaska, where they warm up their promos using hundreds of listeners to shout their call letters.

At KGOT, we do an average of two movie premiers each month. This is when the station gives the tickets away on the air, making the first showing of the film free to listeners. Before each movie starts, we have several air personalities on hand to hand out freebies like station buttons, stickers ("Hit Strips"), and premiums that the movie company may have supplied us. It's generally a time for us to be "up close and personal" with our listeners. We'll walk the aisles, shake hands, and thank them for coming.

So, here sits hundreds of the station's biggest fans. We often take advantage of that by bringing with us a recorder with stereo mics pointed at the crowd. Then, we lead them in whatever cheers that might be appropriate for the time. At the end of the movie, we have 600 of our closest friends yelling our call letters at the same time. Once, during Christmas vacation, we did a sick promotion involving Santa and his reindeer, called "Wheel of Reindeer." (Spin the wheel and if it stops on your favorite reindeer, you win $101; if it lands on any other reindeer besides the one the caller picked, you win a reindeer sausage pizza.) We set it up to sound like "Wheel of Fortune" and this is where the "studio audience" came in -- 600 people screamed "Wheel of Reindeer!" Each time we played the game, we started out with this announcer sounding guy saying "...and now, it's time to play..," followed by our cast of hundreds. It sounded great!

8-Track Production: Track Assignment

Here's another tip from Dave Oliwa, who now plays with the toys at CBS's Q102 in Dallas. This time, he lays down a few tips on keeping track of your tracks.

When your studio is a multi-track, you go about the days business building promos and commercials by section. That is, your production usually starts with a music track and a voice track or a music track and SFX track followed by a voice track. A change of music or an additional voice track requires more tracks. If the music and SFX are to be in stereo, and you use two voice tracks -- one track per sentence or idea -- you're already up to 8 tracks! If the production has a lot of sound effects, you may even find yourself using the two tracks that were dedicated to stereo SFX for two mono SFX tracks. (The old adage that says "eight tracks is never enough" shows its ugly head on a regular basis.) One way to deal with all of these elements is to organize your approach to laying the tracks down.

I start with music on tracks 3 and 4 (with 3 panned left and 4 panned right) because the inside tracks of the tape are physically on the center of the tape. Tracks 1 and 8 are on the edges of the tape and subject to some dropout, especially on signals that have complicated waveforms like music, and especially on reels of tape that have been around for a while. Voice tracks go down on 1 and 2, panned center. Stereo or mono SFX go on 7 and 8. That leaves 5 and 6 for the second stereo music cue-in, panned like 3 and 4. This way, the first music bed is always on 3 and 4, the second on 5 and 6, the third on 3 and 4, the fourth on 5 and 6, and so on. Punch-in between SFX on 7 and 8 and always keep them on 7 and 8. And of course, voice tracks flip back and forth on 1 and 2.

If you dedicate certain elements to certain tracks and always do this, track assignment on the console then becomes a snap. The mic, mics, or wildtracks from your best takes on reel go to tracks 1 and 2. Both mic channels and wildtrack reel can remain assigned to both tracks 1 and 2 forever. When you don't want anything recorded on track 1, for instance, you simply set that track to SAFE on the recorder. The CD player, or whatever you're using to play music beds, are assigned to tracks 3, 4, 5, and 6. If your SFX come from the same source, go ahead and assign the source to tracks 7 and 8, as well; if not, as would be in the case of a sampler or synth as your SFX source, use 7 and 8 on that source alone. When the next day rolls around, you won't have to reset the assign switches and the pan pots for your next spot or promo.

Now, you're ready to rock. Begin with clean 8-track tape and all tracks in the SAFE mode. Let's say your production starts with a music bed coming from your CD player. Your CD player is assigned to tracks 3 through 8. You only want it on tracks 3 and 4, so those tracks on the recorder are set to RECORD READY. When done, set those tracks back to SAFE. Repeat this process for all your tracks.

Time for the mixdown. Picture eight faders before you. Voice tracks are recorded, one at a time, on the two channels to your left. Music beds, in stereo, can bounce between two sets of two faders, right next to each other in the center. SFX always show up to your right. If you just got your brand new 8-track, adopting this method of track assignment or a similar one gets you off to a good start.

Another good habit to consider when recording tracks is recording them at the same level you will want them to be set at in the final mix. If you have SFX that will vary in level going to the same track or tracks, adjust that level while recording the SFX as opposed to trying to ride levels on the SFX tracks during mixdown. Keep your record levels for voice tracks consistent to avoid having to ride gain on them as well. If you've laid all your tracks down with a proper level, you'll find yourself never having to watch levels or make adjustments during the mixdown. If done right, you'll be able to set your mix levels, all eight faders, with a ruler. Bam! Two free hands for pan, sends, EQ, special effects, coffee, or typing the cart label. [See Dave's tip on setting levels in the February 1990 issue of RAP.]

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