Producer's VU - January 1999

Don Elliot – KFI/Los Angeles: “Confessional Promo”

producers-vu-logo-2By Craig Rogers

Confession is good for the soul. So this month, Don Elliot of KFI/Los Angeles takes us into the sanctuary of his studio to shed some light on this month’s featured production, a promo for KFI’s “Handel in the Morning” show. Read here about how Don put the piece together and then hear the promo on The Cassette.

Don produced this on Sonic Solutions 5.1. With plenty of tracks, he decided to give every element its own track. This allowed him to move the timing of an element without affecting something later on the track. Twenty-four tracks were used.

Don says, “I tried to make this as visual as I could.” That being the case, and since Don lives in the movie capital of the world, let’s take you through the promo scene by scene as if we were describing a movie.

The promo opens with a medium shot of a city street with our main character, The Penitent, walking toward a church. The listener walks right along with him. The foundation for this scene is a city street ambience. To this, Don added the Doppler horn effect, the footsteps on concrete, and the distant sound of an organ coming from a church. At the end of the scene, we hear a couple of footsteps leading up to the church door. All these effects come from the Sound Ideas library.

We cut to a medium close-up as the church door is opened and the organ music swells up. The swell in the organ music is a simple change in gain level. The footsteps switch from a dusty concrete to a wooden surface. These were recorded into the Sonics with the reverb from an Alesis Mini-verb.

The listener follows The Penitent as he walks down the aisle of the church. In the background, monks chant. This is Don chanting, “You can’t always get what you want.” He says, “That’s a little wink at the funeral scene from The Big Chill.” To make the monk effect, he fed his voice through the Gregorian Chant program of his Harmonizer, then recorded that to his Tascam DA-88. The Gregorian Chant program takes a single input and pitch shifts it both up and down. The output sounds like the chant of a trio of monks. Reverb was added through the Mini-verb as the monks’ voice track was transferred to the Spectral.

We cut to a shot of the confessional interior as the door is opened. The Penitent steps in and is directed to kneel by the priest as the screen slides open. The confessional door effect came from the Elektra library. Don Foley’d the screen by sliding two carts across the top of a large wooden spool of cable the engineers had lying around. He mic’d this with a stereo pair of Sennheiser shotguns.

Up to this point in the promo, there has been no spoken word (other than the monks). Don wanted to draw the listener into the promo before they realized what it was. All voices were recorded separately onto the DA-88, then edited together in the Spectral. Reverb was added as the tracks were transferred into the Spectral.

Tim Kelly plays the priest. He was mic’d with a Shure SM5B. Don voices The Penitent. He was mic’d with a Sennheiser 416 sent through a Urei LA3A compressor.

The chanting ends as The Penitent gets close to confessing his “sin.” This heightens the drama and draws the listener in. Don says, “The idea is that the monks are overhearing this, so they move in closer to hear what’s going on.” The organ begins to play again as The Penitent continues with his confession. When the confession is complete, the scene cuts to the monks chanting the slogan for the “Handel in the Morning” show.

The promo then quick-fades to a wide shot of the sanctuary as a nun guides the congregation in a litany of the “saints.” (The names of the “saints” recited by the nun are the KFI on-air hosts.) Stella Marroquin, a secretary at the station, plays the nun. The congregational response, however, is the real thing, taken from a series of recordings Don did of actual church services. Listen closely and you can hear the change in ambience as the congregation responds. You’ll also hear the real-life priest saying, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

The monks return to give the station slogan as KFI signature voice Mark Denis delivers the frequency and call letters. Don says Mark has a big voice so he has him back off the mic just a bit to prevent muddying up the low end.

When editing, Don decided on the placement of each element by listening to the promo a bit at a time. He set a marker in real time wherever he wanted a sound to begin, end, or change. For example, as he listened to the first scene, he dropped a marker to indicate where the organ music would become louder. He then went back to that marker and made the appropriate gain adjustments. The Spectral will automate the gain adjustments. Don says this is the only way he could make the jump from analog to digital and still allow his work to have “a free-form feel instead of a paint-by-numbers feel.”

When all the elements and level adjustments were in place, it was time for mixdown. Don ran the full mix through the Aphex Aural Exciter and added some EQ: +2 dB at 12kHz and +2dB at 2500Hz.

Now, light a candle and give a listen to Don’s promo on The Cassette. You can reach Don at KFI at (213) 427-7236.

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