Posts Tagged ‘recording’

So its been a while since my last post, but there is a reason. I’m working on something big… real big… hopefully it will be up by the end of the year. But for now, some sound design info/mini tut.

Sound design is quite simple when you think about it, in a lot of ways its just recording the sound you’re looking for, then cleaning up the recording and using it, but sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for… like when you need the sound of a dragon, or a giant vegetable monster (encountered both of these in the same project… lolwut) so what do you do? The answer is much simpler than you think.

‘When you don’t have creatures, be the creature…’ – Geoff Garnett (Wabi Sabi Sound – Dead Space 2, Dante’s Inferno, Left 4 Dead 2)

So start by setting up a mic for yourself, press record, and just go nuts. Make the most messed up creature sounds you can, but whatever you do, don’t hold back, you have to really go over the top. (If you’re too embarrassed, find a shameless friend.)

Now when you listen back you’ll probably think ‘omfg… am I retarded?’ and this is ok. Now, the optimum plug-ins for mixing are Pitch Shifter (for a lower monster sound), and possibly some light distortion (if you want a higher monster sound,) the obviously EQ, Compression, Noise Gate, the standards.

Low monsters: Pitch shift down as low as you dare, create a new track, C&P the recording onto the second track (preferably just slightly offset, like Beatles style double tracking) and put this one at a slightly different pitch (I like 3 semitones higher), you may do this as many times as you like, however once you start getting too high in pitch it won’t work as well. But feel free to add as many tracks as you like, even add in some different samples, this can make your monster sound really intense (but be careful not to make it just sound like 2 monsters), apply some EQ, probably to cut out a little of the bass you’ve most likely created that is now dominating your speaker system, compress to make the monster really loud and in your face, and noise gate out any of the noise floor if you need.

High monsters: This process is very similar to the first, only instead of pitch shifting down, you might pitch shift up a little, or maybe still down, just a lot less. Apply some light overdrive distortion to get your monster sounding less human and more screwed up. There are other plugins you can experiment with, like the harmonic exciter (this can give some wild monster sounds.) But the biggest thing is finding a good pitch, and (if needed) some light distortion if the monster still sounds like someone going (arahfarahrahrara!!!!)

That is my short tutorial on monster sounds,

Thanks for reading.

I know you’re not supposed to master your own tracks but we were working on a budget, so instead I just too a 2 week break from doing anything and came back to master with fresh ears. I purchased a copy of Ozone 5 just for the occasion and I must say, it was DEFINITELY worth it, and as I use it more and become more familiar with it I will try put up a basic tutorial for it at some stage.

As for the EP

First was the linear EQ, as you can see I rolled off the bass a little, and gave some broad presence at 2k, this really helped bring the track out and really make some impression on you.

Next was the harmonic exciter, now these things are tempting to just push up and up and up cause they sound so cool and exciting (lol wonder why) but don’t over do it, you can ruin the effect of the song and the rest of your mix work. As you can see I’ve tried to keep mine relatively minimal with a bit more in the mid and highs were its most effective.

I didn’t do too much with the dynamics and compression apart from the mids, but this was a light deep compressor to bring out some of the clarity and harmonics a little more.

Next is the most noticeable part of mastering, the loudness maximising, I wanted a really full track, but I didn’t want it to just blare in your face so I went for a quite smooth heavy maximiser, and some MBIT+ dither to spread the noise evenly.

I did quite a bit of experimenting with the stereo spread and converting in and out of mono, switching phase, ect, to make sure any spreading I did didn’t cause and phase cancelling, I found some really awesome settings, but many of them didn’t work at all in mono which meant they were best to avoid, or at least tweak, in the end these are the settings I went with.

finally the post EQ, all this work had given really great spread, clarified highs but the bass became a little over powering, so I pulled that down a little and gave a tiny bit more low mids and tiny bit less high mids.

So that was my process for mastering ‘Fairly Natural’ the first serious release by my good friend and the very talented Sam Luff, please check him out and comment on my recording, mixing and mastering with your ideas, advice, questions and opinions as I’d love to hear them.

A friend of mine organised to record the bass exam of another friend, he had some really awesome originals, a jazzy pirates of the Caribbeany thing, a very Dream Theater like one and some others, all awesome songs.

Anyway the mix:

Most of it was just tweaking EQs and gains to get levels right and keep from masking, but I experimented a bit with stereo imaging using a stereo spreader with the keys, guitar and sax (keys center with a massive spread, guitar and sax with smaller ones but panned to the left and right a little) this gave an incredible stereo image. The keys sat really wide throughout the mix and the sax and guitar sat in areas slightly left and right of center. I highly recommend experimenting with spreading to give a sound a wider sense of space in its position, especially when you don’t have many instruments.

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted, but there is a reason for this. I took a trip up to Queensland last week to visit my friend, the very talented and future famous Sam Luff. I’d been planning this trip for a while and we decided we would take the opportunity to record, produce and release his first proper EP. His music page can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/samluffmusic I highly recommend you give his music a listen, especially if you’re into acoustic singer/songwriter style stuff, hes really very talented.

The recording session was a brilliant bit of fun, and he had a great setup to use, combined with some mics I brought up, we had all we needed.

The Booth: first we did some DIY acoustics treatment using some karate mats and a mattress that looked like acoustic foam. We first set it up on the floor for the sitting down instruments (ie. guitar, guitar amp) than moved it up to a table for vox. The room sound was kind of dead already, but this did a great job of catching all the direct reflections.
The Acoustic guitar: a simple spaced pair setup. Took some fiddling to get the mics in a good in phase position but we finally got there. Used my matched pair of Peluso CEMC6s, brilliant mics, they sound absolutely brilliant.

The electric guitar: For the guitar amp I put an SM57 right in the center then a CEMC6 back and too the right a bit, this mic was later panned to the right, this gave the guitar a brilliant image and position in the mix.

Voxs/Acoustic Lead: Both the acoustic lead and vox parts were recorded with my AKG perception 820. Great mic and relatively cheap for what it is. Vocals and guitars came out clear as day, and nice and dead.

And finally, double bass: This was also just done with the AKG, great smooth low frequencies.

All in all we finished up with some great dry tracks, there was a little bit of MIDI use for a backgrounded kick drum and a glockenspiel.

Stay tuned for the mix report!

This is just a quick tip I remembered whilst doing some live sound today that I thought I’d put on here.

If you’re in a live situation where you have to change between different bands/setups quickly, remember, a mic is a mic. This sounds silly but when you’re in a rush don’t worry too much about finding the right mic, if you chuck pretty much any mic on anything it will work. There are of course exceptions if you’re using large diaphragm condensers or ribbon mics or anything too sensitive (in which case just don’t put it on anything too loud) but if you’re using mics like those I would assume you know very well what you’re doing and time probably isn’t an issue. But for people who aren’t as clued up or trying to find ways to speed up changeovers, should you need to a kick drum mic will work on vocals, a piano mic will work on a guitar amp (this one I used today in fact) and the result will still give a useable result.

Tonight I went to go see a Russian pianist performing a complete recital of Chopin. It was absolutely brilliant, his technique was incredible and all the pieces were extraordinary. As much as I would love to discuss piano technique and performance characteristics of tonight, instead I’m going to talk about my thoughts on it in relation to composing, particularly for film. It’s often common practice to just use a high quality MIDI plugin to emulate the strings, and provided you write good enough music, this will do divinely. But whilst listening to this performer I thought about how no matter what you do with a machine, it’s doubted the result will be as moving as a real performance, obviously recordings generally still aren’t as powerful as a live performance, but still more powerful than MIDI. However, recording an entire orchestra for a film score is a very long, difficult and stressful process, as I know from talking to a friend of mine who worked on the recording and composed some of the music for a new Hollywood zombie movie called ‘Christmas With The Dead.’ And still wasn’t overly happy with the result. But then you have the great film scores of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Jurassic Park, and many more written by John Williams and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, these are easily some of the most notable film sound tracks and the reason for this is both the score and the incredible sound of the recording/talent of the orchestra. This is the most extreme of the best, however, the music for Pirates of the Caribbean, another epic film score that is very notable and gripping, was recorded with a group of musicians later given the name The Hollywood Studio Symphony, over the course of 4 days.

All the orchestral music I compose, I compose with MIDI, but the one piece I have had performed was only performed by the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra, and even with my best synthestrated scored, that performance will always be more memorable. Which means if a youth orchestra can capture the emotion of a piece well enough to surpass a MIDI recording, that means the main struggle lies in the recording, which is no big surprise. People generally don’t get much experience recording orchestras, its so complicated and time consuming you’d have to be crazy to want to, but as John Williams has showed us, with the right stuff, the hard way is definitely worth it.

So today I hung around after a music history exam to do help a friend do all the sound/roadie work for the performance exams, he certainly manages to do a lot of different things at once.

1. The Setup

First we had to get in contact with whoever was performing and asked them what was on stage and what would be miked. We set up 3-4 mics for the first couple of exams even though we knew we probably wouldn’t need them, it was a just in case. Most of the exams just required lugging gear on and off, and some slight monitoring on the piano (which was normally the only thing miked). However, some exams wanted more miked, the most intense being a guy singing/playing piano or playing a leslie organ (alternated between songs), a small choir, a lead vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. The organ, all the vocals (choir of six had 1 mic between 2) and the piano (bass but was muted as it didn’t need any reinforcing) were miked. Everything had 58s on it except the piano which had a dynamic mic I can’t recall on it. 2 foldback wedges were run out the front daisy chained, also. This set up (including the instruments) had to be completed in a little over 30 min. This was the biggest challenge and the reason for not using more interesting mics/setup.

I found during this that the most important part of the speedy setup is to try and neaten mic cables as you’re running them, rather than afterward and ALWAYS try to work from left to right. Because without time to do a labelling system, and without an incredible memory, this will be your saviour. Keep gaffa tape with you if you can, so that you don’t have to go find it when you want to tape something, and you can do some of the taping while you go.

Also, without a sound check or any way for the performers to let you know if theres anything they want in their foldback there isn’t much you can do other than guess, but there are some things you can listen for that may help. If a singer seems to be a little pitchy, especially if they are a singer who is normally very good, chances are it’s because they can’t hear themselves. With all other instruments (and also singers as well), listen to hear how tight the timing is. If they fall behind then catch themselves back up a few times (or push ahead and pull back) then they probably can’t hear either. Drummers in particular have a tendency to push tempo when they can’t hear, however if they aren’t particularly brilliant drummers they may just not really be listening.

As for the actual mixing of this gig, it was mostly level riding, boosts for solos, a little EQ to tidy it up, nothing too fancy, a little bit of reverb as well, all on a basic yamaha mixer.

2. The audio CD and DVD of performance

While all this is going on, a spaced pair of matched cardioid condensers are set up on a high pole in the middle of the audience (everything run neatly so that it only takes up the space of one chair) to record the whole thing, running to the stage multicore and back to a separate digital mixer with a reverb effect on it to enhance the room a little. This signal is then sent to a Tascam CD Burner and a HD video camera running to a DVD burner. This CD and DVD is burnt/ripped/copied/backedup in numerous ways for numerous people and for the Cons achieves.

That’s a little for one person to do for almost 12 hours a day 6 days a week during exam week.