Tips & Techniques - August 1990

by Jerry Vigil

Digital Track Time - It's Different than Tape Time

In the kingdom of RAM based or hard disk based digital multi-track recorders, "track time" becomes the equivalent of "how much tape" you have to work with; but there is a difference between track time and tape time. When a manufacturer of a 4-track digital recorder, for example, lists four minutes of track time on the specs page, this is not the same thing as having four minutes of tape on a 4-track tape recorder. It means you have four tracks with one minute of tape on each track. Or, it can mean you have two tracks with two minutes of tape on each track. Let's look at the AKG DSE-7000 we checked out this month. With only one 16 meg memory card (which gives 4.4 minutes of track time), you have a maximum of eight tracks with a maximum of just over thirty seconds of recording time per track. The twisted trick this plays on our analog brains is that one of these thirty second tracks does not necessarily consume all thirty seconds of recording time simply because the entire production is thirty seconds in length.

For the sake of numbers, let's say we have a 4-track digital recorder with four minutes of track time. We're going to record a sixty second stereo music bed to tracks one and two, a voice track to track three, and a five second sound effect to track four. The sixty second music bed will use up two minutes of track time because it needs all sixty seconds of two tracks to record both channels of the stereo signal. The voice track, being a mono signal, only needs one track, but it too, takes up a full sixty seconds of track time. Your total track time used is now three minutes. Finally, you have this five second sound effect in the middle of the spot. If you go to the beginning of the spot and hit play and record, then wait thirty seconds before you input the sound effect, then wait another twenty-five seconds before you stop recording, you WILL use up sixty seconds of track time. For all the machine knows, that silence may be part of the sound you are recording. However, if you start recording just before you input the sound effect, then stop recording as soon as the sound effect ends, you will have only used up five or so seconds of "track time," leaving fifty-five seconds left over for other material.

Welcome to memory management, something we analog prodo heads only had to worry about during extended Friday night happy hours. Memory management is no difficult task. It's just a matter of keeping an eye on how much memory you have and how wisely you're using it. Systems, such as the DSE-7000, help you with this by providing counters or gauges to indicate "recording time left." The DSE even lets you make copies of a sound on a track to use on other tracks, but it doesn't use any more memory in doing so. It just refers to that one section of memory when it's time to play the sound again. With hard disk systems, you deal with "disk space" which still boils down to the number of bytes available to record to. Fortunately, for those of us with tight budgets, hard disk "recording time" is less expen¬sive, and that's one big reason why hard disk systems are more affordable. 

H3000 Tip - The Sound of Summer Heat?

How many times have you had to produce something -- a summer pool party promo, a spot for an air conditioner company, etc. -- and it was requested that you use "the sound of scorching heat?" (You know, that's like the sound of eyes blinking.) Probably the most common sound effect used to shove this image into the theatre of the mind (along with the word "hot" or "heat" in the first copy line) is the sound of an egg frying, or bacon frying. Next time you need this effect (most popular in the south this time of year), try this little added touch with Eventide's Ultra-Harmonizer, assuming of course that you have one.

The H3000B has a program in it called "Cyclons." Dig out your sound effect of frying food and send it through this program. Find the MIX parameter and set it to 100%. Locate the TONE parameter and set it to zero. Now, select the RESONATE parameter and, while your "egg is frying," move the RESONATE value back and forth from zero to 100 at a rate that will complete a full cycle about every two to three seconds. (Experienced programmers can probably patch the internal LFO to this parameter to do this automatically.)

The result adds a "buzzing" sound to the "splatter" of the frying effect. Don't ask why, but this buzzing seems to add to the image in the mind of heat caused by the sun's radiation. The TONE parameter can be adjusted to vary the pitch of the buzzing to suit your ears. The MIX may need to be cut back, depending upon the level of your input. The above settings are merely starting points. Also, the mix of the two elements sounds better if there are a lot of highs in the "frying" sound effect. Give it a shot and tell us what you think. Maybe our "theatre" of the mind should be closed for renovation. Any other suggestions for this often asked for sound are welcome, and the same goes for the sound of blinking eyes. 

Shorten The Copy Without Editing It

It's a spot for a car dealer. The client wrote the copy and there are sixty cars mentioned, each with a description of everything from the twenty-four fog lights on the front bumper to the suck-proof chrome trailer hitch on the back. Oh, and there's the price for each one also, right down to the penny. You've raced through the copy as fast as you can read, but it's just a little over sixty seconds. If there is absolutely nothing you can edit from the script, the next best thing is to edit your breaths out of the voice track, but that takes time. An even better result can be achieved by bouncing between two tracks on a multi-track or even a 2-track. Read as much as you can (in complete sentences) until you need a breath. Stop the tape, switch tracks, and go at it again and again until you're through. A slight overlap of words will shave even more time off the total and a :65+ script can easily be shortened to :60 or less. ♦

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