Timmy Knowles

The home of the Australian recording artist, singer/songwriter and actor

The official website of Australian recording artist, singer/songwriter and actor, Timmy Knowles.

Find news, audio, and video along with tour dates and booking information.

 

FLM110: Narrative

With film narrative in mind, I’d like to discuss a sequence from a film called Red State (Smith, 2011). The film follows three small-town friends who arrange a sexual encounter with an unknown female via the internet. The meeting turns out to be trap, and the boys are taken hostage by a violent and fanatical religious group, similar to the Westboro Baptist Church in North America ("Westboro Baptist Church Home Page", 2018). The group, known as Five Points, not only share similarities with Westboro, but their journey throughout the film, which ends in a deadly battle with the authorities, is almost identical to the 1993 Branch Davidians incident in Waco, Texas (Killelea, 2018). It is important to note, that even the title gives us clear information about the intent of the filmmaker. Red State is the name given to states in the US that vote predominantly for the Republican party. The more conservative, right-wing political party (Kastan, 2018).

Video courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLdTA6cpTeA

The sequence I want to discuss occurs just after the boys have been drugged and we, the audience, get our first glimpse inside the walls of the Five Points compound. At this stage, we have been fed plenty of information about Five Points, thanks to an earlier scene when a high school teacher is openly discussing the group with her class. This happens during a conversation about the first amendment, the part of the American constitution that protects free-speech (Rossum & Tarr, 2016). This is noteworthy, because in the last frame of this scene, a student responds to the teacher’s question, “What is our second amendment?”, to which he joyfully responds, “We get guns!”. Although this is seems like a simple line, the filmmakers are using narrative to alert us to a much deeper layer. The script is signalling to us that we are likely to see a conflict with these two principles. Free speech, and the right to bare arms, both of which are considered high priority to the Republican party. It suggests we are about to see how these ideas, in the wrong hands, can be very dangerous indeed.

 Image taken from Red State (2011)

Image taken from Red State (2011)

The sequence I am looking at opens with one of the kidnap victims trapped in a moving cage. He is disorientated and restrictively confined. The cage is covered by a cloth, so he is unaware who is with him or where they are. This sense of claustrophobia and disorder is shared with us by the use of extreme close-ups and POV shots of inside the cage. Slowly, we start to hear the distant sound of a church procession singing a hymn. Finally, we see the leader of the group, Abin Cooper, delivering his sermon from the stage at the front of his makeshift church. He delivers a sermon about the evils of modern society and homosexuality, as his adoring followers listen with loving gazes. Throughout this whole scene, our caged protagonist is left locked up at the front of the room, in full view of the children and other followers.

 Image taken from Red State (2011)

Image taken from Red State (2011)

Although the sermon is what we see, much more is being told to us through the use of film form. The filmmaker chooses to only show the leader from below. He is always framed as if we are looking up to him. The followers are either neutrally framed, looking up, or we see them from the leaders perspective from above. Furthermore, in the majority of shots concentrating on the leader, he shares the frame with one or more crosses. The combination of this framing and the angle of the shot is telling us that in the minds of these people, Abin Cooper is Jesus Christ, and the followers are his adoring disciples. The fact that the kidnap victim is kept in a cage and zapped with an electric prodder is a clear sign that the group considers him an animal, or a beast, as he is constantly referred to as the reincarnation of Satan. As the sermon continues, and becomes more and more offensive and crazed, so does the framing and cinematography. The frame closes in on Adin, and switched to handheld, giving us the impression of his insanity. The angles we see him from are so wrapped and steep at times that it becomes quite dizzying and sickening if one concentrates on it too long. 

I think over all, this scene is telling us how these people really see themselves. It’s breaking the notion that they are just maniacs, and showing them as people who truly believe they are doing the right thing. The narrative is warning us what can happen if we go to far in protecting and executing our rights, even if we believe we are justified to do so.


References

Kastan, D. (2018). Red state, blue state: How colors took sides in politics. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/red-state-blue-state-how-colors-took-sides-in-politics-93541

Killelea, E. (2018). David Koresh, Waco Cult Showdown Ends in Disaster in 1993 – Rolling Stone. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/flashback-waco-cult-showdown-ends-in-disaster-124074/

Rossum, R., & Tarr, G. (2016). American constitutional law (10th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, K. (2011). Red State [Film]. Hollywood,LA: The Harvey Boys.

Westboro Baptist Church Home Page. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.godhatesfags.com

FLM110: Film Form

On the topic of film form, which is the combination of editing, cinematography, lighting/colour, mise-en-scène and sound in film (Eisenstein, 1957). I would like to briefly discuss and analyse the opening sequence to City Of God (Meirelles & Lund, 2002).

Video courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcUOO4Itgmw

In terms of editing, the film makers wasted no time in introducing us the chaotic, dangerous and unpredictable world of the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970’s (Perlman, 2011). We open on a large blade being sharpened. The edits, along with the sound are as sharp as the knife itself. The filmmakers have used rhythmic editing here, jumping quickly between extreme close-ups of the blade, then flashing to blackness (Dijk, 1985). It is as if we are experiencing life through the eyes of the chickens we soon find out are being killed and prepared for food. As these quick, flashing edits abruptly continue, we start to hear the sound of distinctly South American music. The music, like the jump cuts, is fast paced, chaotic, disorientating. I get the feeling that the initial stages of this sequence are meant to give the audience the feeling of being awoken from unconsciousness. We have been asleep, now they are going to wake us up. All of a sudden, we are hit with the title graphic. We hear the sound of an explosive camera shutter, and a quick, blue image appears of a boy holding a camera to his face. As the title appears, so does the silhouette of a barred window in front of our protagonist. This seems to show two things sub-textually; one, that this character is looking at his world from the outside. He is a voyeur, more than a participant. Secondly, I believe this is telling us that we are seeing the world through his eyes, as we, the audience, surely are voyeuristic in our participation. 

Video courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QujbbyEUXjo

The dominating colour through this portion of the film is blue. The quick, abrupt shots of the band playing, the chickens, even once we begin the chase through the favela, everything has a pale-blue tinge to it. It’s hard to guess what the filmmakers meant by this, but it is clear in terms of lighting and colour, that this was certainly intentional. It’s cold, sickly, and a bit unsettling. Perhaps it is there to add to our feeling of unfamiliarity and potential danger. Certainly seeing the guns in this blue light makes them seem somewhat more intimidating, cold, and real.

 Image courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/Beyond+the+Box+Office/articles/niSV2setFnG/20+Things+Didn+t+Know+City+God

Image courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/Beyond+the+Box+Office/articles/niSV2setFnG/20+Things+Didn+t+Know+City+God

When introducing the chicken chase, the film starts to alter the rhythm of the edits for the first time. We experience brief moments where frames are held longer, to give us a sense feeling of safety and release, before the chaos starts once again. We also see this when we parallel cut from the chase to the boy with the camera and his friend. These frames are longer, wider, giving us our first proper glimpse of the world. It gives you the feeling that these characters are in the real world, while the chase is some other crazy place. It instantly raises our interest in the boy with the camera. The first shot of them is very long, both temporally and spatially, as they walk down the stairs and through the street. The cinematography here is also static and smooth, compared to the handheld, angled shots of the chicken chase. It presents us with a perfect balance and shows us that in this place, quiet, peaceful people live side-by-side with manic, dangerous ones. 

 Image courtesy of https://www.mylittleadventure.com/best-things/rio-de-janeiro/tours/rio-de-janeiro-city-tour-and-christ-the-redeemer-tickets-HojaqQndeu

Image courtesy of https://www.mylittleadventure.com/best-things/rio-de-janeiro/tours/rio-de-janeiro-city-tour-and-christ-the-redeemer-tickets-HojaqQndeu

In conclusion, I believe that the filmmakers have used all the elements of film form to let their audience know that they have arrived somewhere new, different. That we have arrived disorientated, confused and scared, and that we are right to be so. It also tells us that at anytime we feel safe and comfortable in this world, danger and chaos is happening just around the corner, and it’s only a matter of time before we run straight into it. 


References

Dijk, T. (1985). Discourse and Communication. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Eisenstein, S. (1957). Film form. New York, NY: Meridian Books.

Meirelles, F., & Lund, K. (2002). City Of God [Film]. Brazil: O2 Filmes, VideoFilmes.

Perlman, J. (2011). Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford University Press.


AUP230: Tape Project and Wrap-Up

This post will be a general wrap-up of the past 13 weeks, and also a brief reflection on the recording to tape session I attended last Thursday. As I attended the last of the recording sessions, we sadly didn’t get to actually record anything to tape, as this portion of the session was already complete, but I still had a great time and learnt a lot. Since it wasn’t quite enough to fill my 1000 word target though, I thought I’d also reflect on the period overall, as it was definitely a biggin’.

 https://www.buzzfeed.com/kaelintully/tbh-listening-2-freddie-mercury-sing-is-better-than-coffee

https://www.buzzfeed.com/kaelintully/tbh-listening-2-freddie-mercury-sing-is-better-than-coffee

The best thing about Thursday for me was getting to see Soundpark Studios ("Soundpark Studios", n.d.). It is an incredible studio and has great spirit, character and energy. It was amazing to get my hands on some rare vintage microphones too, like the old Neumann’s and RCA’s they have, and although we didn’t necessarily get to use many of them during my time slot, just being around them was a buzz ("Neumann Berlin", n.d.). The other thing I appreciated was getting to watch Dave Turner  work. He is a practitioner I greatly admire and it was awesome to get the opportunity to be a fly on the wall. I took in everything he did, from physical gear choices to artist communication. It was really valuable and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I was there until the very end, and the results Dave got before bouncing the tracks was unbelievable. Considering I watched him mix each track for only a couple of minutes each, the end result was fantastic. Even though I wasn’t there during the initial tracking to tape, Dave filled us in on how he managed the task, having the players perform without headphones or a click with all the amps in the room, just baffled and at low volume. It felt great to be in the room while such great product was being made. Dave was working with an artist called Red Spencer, who produces this really cool, laid-back, 60’s style rock music ("Redspencer", n.d.). It’s very summery, cool, and easy to listen to. I thought the songwriting and performances where sensational and really enjoyed watching the band work. It was nice to make some new contacts too, as I’d love to be able to collaborate further in the future in some aspect. For me personally, it has been a while since I’ve been in a real studio, with real artists, making real art. My job playing music corporately and on television means I sometimes loose track of why I wanted to do any of this in the first place, and being back in that environment, however briefly, really sparked my inner flame again. I’m really glad I went.

There’s so much to reflect on from the last 13 weeks. This, by far, has been the most work, learning and growing I have done during my time at SAE. I went above and beyond my own expectations and delivered work I’m really proud of. However, I don’t believe I necessarily got it done in the safest or most productive way. The level of stress I was under at certain times was down-right dangerous and I made myself pretty sick. I was extremely successful in most of the soft skills we are asked to look at; my time management, team work, flexibility, ability to learn from criticism, communication, problem solving and work ethic were all exemplary, and I feel I managed to become even more competent in these by the end. I do feel, however, that the other transferable skills suffered a bit of a set back ("Transferable Skills, 2018). My ability to maintain a positive attitude, self confidence and to work well under pressure all met their match with the work load this time. Particularly during the last few weeks, when I was working on my first freelance post-production project and finishing off all of my other projects, the level of stress I was under affected my ability to be masterful in these skills quite a bit ("What is Post Production?", 2012). In reflection, I see now that it was a sort of domino effect. I got busy, which meant my routine was out of phase, which meant I stopped eating and sleeping properly, which meant my ability to handle the busy-ness was lessened, which piled on the stress. At times I was extremely negative about myself and my work, and wanted to give up. During these moments my self confidence was at nil, and that meant the quality of my work suffered greatly. After submission, I revised all of the projects I completed, and all needed more work. I was able to instantly see and hear where things needed attention after a week or two away from it, and that was a great lesson in its self. I believe that had I handled the stress and not become overwhelmed, I would not have needed to fix most of the issues I missed the first time.

 http://uwanutrition.com/health-effects-stress/

http://uwanutrition.com/health-effects-stress/

It will take a fair bit more reflection time for me to really figure out how everything went down for me, but there are some things that are clear right now. I think a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I don’t like having things looming over me. This means I want to get everything completed as soon as I can so its not just sitting there starring at me. This can be a great asset in terms of time management when there’s one or two things to get done, but when you have several major projects on the go, the ability to leave some things for later is crucial, because trying to do them all simultaneously will mean they all suffer in quality. Ironically, learning to not do things may be the thing that helps me get things done. I need to learn to breath and plan and execute slowly and precisely, rather than just holding my breathe and blindly jumping head first into everything, and then chastising myself when I’m unable to complete things perfectly. I am my own worst enemy, and although I can be sure the work and effort I put in this period was an incredible feat, I am also fully aware that I could learn to handle such scope in a more kind, safe and healthy manor. Especially considering what is coming up next.


References

Neumann Berlin. Retrieved from https://en-de.neumann.com

Redspencer. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/redspencer

Soundpark Studios. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/soundparkstudios/

Transferable Skills. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/transferable-skills.html

What is Post Production?. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.rocketjump.com/channels/post-production-what-is-it

AUP230: Freelancer

Today I will be reflecting on three freelance projects I have completed over the last 13 weeks. I have actually been involved in several others, but these three are the most notable of the lot, and the ones I have officially submitted.

 https://www.pcmag.com/article/344266/5-platforms-for-finding-and-managing-freelancers

https://www.pcmag.com/article/344266/5-platforms-for-finding-and-managing-freelancers

Before I discuss each individual project, I want to reflect on some overall factors from this period. Firstly, I am really proud of my time management. I took on a lot of work and was successful in meeting all deadlines, even those that changed and shortened along the way. This wasn’t necessarily without consequence; it was at times extremely stressful, and my physical and mental health definitely suffered because of it. I lost weight, hair, and am now the proud owner of lactic acid buildup in my jaw due to clenching and teeth grinding. Now, I could have put in less effort and care to avoid such drastic stress levels, but that’s just not in my nature. I wanted to complete all my work, as per usual, to the highest possible standard, especially considering these were real life freelancer projects. The fact that these projects were other people’s pride and joys, who had employed and trusted in me to work on them, made me feel an even greater sense of responsibility and duty than usual. In the end, after all of the moments of feeling defeated and failed, I am extremely proud of my accomplishments and the work I have completed for my clients. I have received high praise and thanks from the people who hired me to do this work, which is incredible, but most of all I am happy with what I have accomplished, which is a near miracle. On top of being proud of my time management skills, I feel I also handled the work with the strictest professionalism. Even when I felt as though I was drowning and ready to quit, I tried to never show the clients that was the case. I stuck to the agreed conditions, met up when required, and kept everyone in the loop the whole time, even when things were going wrong. There were moments during one of the projects were I may have shown the client I was suffering, which I regret, but having said that I was up front and honest with them about why and I think that was appreciated. I will endeavour to get even better at this in the future, but considering the amount of suffering I experienced completing this work, I think I did a very good job of keeping a brave face around my creative partners. One of the three projects took considerably more work than the other two, though all were great learning opportunities and presented their own challenges. I will save the best until last, and start with the two smaller projects; the recording of a live cabaret show, and the engineering of a new Australian podcast (Watson, n.d.).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRe6y85KJ5Y

Love Bites is a cabaret show written and performed by Melbourne singer and actress Fiona Scarlett ("Fiona Scarlett is an Actor, Extra and Model based in Victoria, Australia", 2018). Fi contacted me a few months ago to ask for some advice on recording her show. She needed the recording so she could make a trailer to send to various outlets in the hope of gaining some finical aid to take the show national. I offered my services to her and told her I would help her both record the audio and also edit the footage together afterwards. As it turned out, when I arrived at the venue on the day, I realised she would also need me to run the sound for the whole show. This meant I had to very quickly familiarise myself with the venue’s old and usual sound system setup, figure out a way to route the signal through Pro Tools and the FOH P.A. system, and monitor both at the same time throughout the whole show. This was not easy at all, and I had to rely on many aspects of the learning I have acquired over the last year and a half. This was an example of having to keep cool and concentrate under pressure, and I pulled it off successfully. I had to problem solve, think quick and change course all while making sure the performer was happy and confident in my ability.

 http://www.westendmagazine.com/abc-podcast-competition/

http://www.westendmagazine.com/abc-podcast-competition/

The new podcast I engineered was a job opportunity put forward by Dave Turner, who had a colleague called Cat in need of an engineer for an project she was producing. I put my hand up, and was successful in being chosen after several phone conversations with Cat, where I gave advice and consultation on everything from equipment, formatting and even copyright law (Walker, 2012). On the night, I setup a comfortable, professional environment in the large Audient rec space, made sure everyone was happy, and conducted a stress-free recording session. My client was extremely happy, and I have since been hired as the program’s ongoing engineer.

 A still shot from the first draft of The Next Train To Newcastle

A still shot from the first draft of The Next Train To Newcastle

Then there was the big job, the one that I have been working on in one way or another for the past 6 months, The Next Train To Newcastle. I was hired to do sound design on this short film many months ago, and it all finally came to head in the last three weeks (Sampson, 2014). After months of planning and meetings with the film’s producer and director, the locked off edit finally came to me on August 6, leaving me just over a week and a half to complete the job. I learned so much about myself and the craft getting this done. I pushed myself to the absolute edge of my ability and gave it everything I have. I used methods I have never used before, and had to think in new and abstract ways to reach certain outcomes. In the end, my clients were extremely impressed and appreciative of the mix I delivered, and I, after seeing it played on the big screen at exhibition, breathed a sigh of relief as I felt for the first time pride and contentment in hearing my work played out loud. This job nearly killed me, but the lessons I learned and experienced have changed me for the better as a practitioner and person. The mistakes I made have been noted along with the successes, and I can’t wait to further hone my skills on the next film, which is a nice surprise considering how many times I officially ‘quit’ during this job.


References

Fiona Scarlett is an Actor, Extra and Model based in Victoria, Australia. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.starnow.com.au/fionascarlett

Sampson, R. (2014). What is a short film?. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/sampsonrachael1190/what-is-a-short-film-40477239

Walker, J. (2012). Copyright law in Australia - 9 facts you should know - Intellectual Property - Australia. Retrieved from http://www.mondaq.com/australia/x/180154/Copyright/Copyright+law+in+Australia+9+facts+you+should+know

Watson, S. How Podcasting Works. Retrieved from https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/podcasting.htm

AUP230: Mastering

Mastering has always been a bit of a mystery to me, as I’m sure it is to many, maybe even some Mastering engineers themselves (Flint, 2005). I’ve had several tracks mastered over the years, and I have had almost 50/50 results in terms of hearing an improvement, or either hearing none or worse. I was curious to find out how we were going to be able to get our heads around such a nuanced art form in such a small space of time, but I can safely say I now have a much better understanding and appreciation of the craft. 

 https://flypaper.soundfly.com/produce/mastering-decoding-the-what-and-why-of-it-all/

https://flypaper.soundfly.com/produce/mastering-decoding-the-what-and-why-of-it-all/

Initially, I found my lack of understanding was even worse than expected. When we did our first session with Dave, he simply asked us what we think music mastering actually is, and I realised quickly I had very little idea. I knew it had to do with making a track louder, making an album consistent, and a little to do with EQ, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Doing those early couple of sessions with Dave and then Tom, where we went over a brief history of mastering and how much it has changed over the years and throughout the many format changes of the music industry, I found it all becoming much clearer. I loved learning about the changes from vinyl mastering to tape, tap to CD, the loudness wars, and finally about where we are, in this new digital age of streaming (Deruty, 2011).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcKDMBuGodU

My favourite thing about the process is the broadness of the strokes. What I mean is, I find mixing to be incredibly microscopic and surgical, and I sometimes feel we can get easily lost going in that deep. Whereas with mastering, you’re able to sit back and view the track as a whole, which gives you a very different vantage point (McDonald, 2018). Learning to break the track into different compartments, like mid-sides for instance, was a whole new experience for me. Tom did a great job of explaining the process of mid-side processing to us, and although I was thankful that he taught us the long way to do it, by splitting the signal and bussing it to auxiliary channels and then inverting phase, I think we were all wrapped to know that the ability to do this much easier was built in to most mastering outboard gear and plugins (Skivington, 2017). I already had some experience with certain iZoptope plugins from my post-production work, like Insight and the Rx effects, but I had never used the one I ended up relying on the most, Ozone (White, 2016). Ozone is amazing! I enjoyed being able to control everything from the one place; splitting the mid-sides with the click of a button, control of dynamic compression, stereo spread, exciters and even vintage tape distortion. Getting to test out the outboard EQ, compressor and limiters in the mastering suite was amazing, but due to studio availability, I mastered my final track in-the-box, which meant Ozone was invaluable. The track I decided to master at the end was one I had engineered, produced and mixed myself for the aforementioned Song Exploder project, Just Do It.

 https://www.digedo.com/manufacturing/mastering/

https://www.digedo.com/manufacturing/mastering/

I started with the most important part of the mastering process; I listened to the track. I noticed two things immediately. The low end was boomy and muddy, and the high-mids were too poke-y. It was an interesting thing to realise. I had mixed the track myself, and listened to it a thousand times, yet the minute I bounced it and imported into my mastering session, I heard it as if it was the first time. The first thing I did was set the sample rate from 48kHz to 92kHz, in an effort to hopefully hear it with some more clarity, and I set the bit-depth to 32-bit-float. I started by opening my old staple favourite, the EQ-7 plugin, and scooping out a few problem areas with fairly thinly Q’d notch filters. I found I also had to pull the gain down, as I had mixed it quite hot and the export was already hitting -14LUFS when I pulled up Insight (Shepherd, 2013). Then I got into Ozone. I started by boosting around 3dB at120Hz and the same around 10kHz. This just gave the top and bottom end a little life, but I still needed to tighten the boomy bass guitar sound I was hearing. I used dynamic compression for this. I targeted around 20Hz-100Hz and manipulated the parameters until the area was tightened up and sitting a little further back in the mix. This was the same way I attacked the poke-y high mids, where the vocals were being too harsh at around 2kHz-4kHz. Once I had tightened these centre/mono areas up with compression, I went through and did the same to the sides. I scooped everything below 200Hz out of the sides, as this space was only occupied by guitars, symbols and some wet effects. Then I used the Ozone exciters to add some balance across the spectrum, the imager to spread the sides a little wider, and topped it all off by running it though the vintage tape emulator. I then added a bus compressor to the signal path, and glued everything together as seamlessly as possible, and a limiter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FP11Q9atIs

There are a couple of really big lessons I learnt throughout this module. The first being a much better understanding of how compression works. During mixing, I only really get a chance to hear compression working on individual instruments. This was a chance to do it broadly, and to really hear the effects. I noticed the most easily affected section while bus compressing was the symbols. Finding the sweet spot between gluing the elements together, and not ruining the sound of the symbols was pain staking and very delicate. Which leads me to the other big lesson; just how gentle and nuanced the mastering process is. I likened it to old ‘Wack-A-Mole’ game. Every time I made a tiny change to affect one area, I’d notice a whole other area had been negatively affected simultaneously. I was amazed to see how the tiniest of changes in something like the ratio aspect of the bus compressor could turn out such drastically different results. It was a true lesson in critical listening. I really enjoyed sharpening my teeth in this way, and I feel that my experience with mastering will definitely make me a much better mixer.


References

Deruty, E. (2011). 'Dynamic Range' & The Loudness War. Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/dynamic-range-loudness-war

Flint, T. (2005). Mastering: How The Pros Do It... Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mastering-how-pros-do-it

McDonald, H. (2018). Mixing and Mastering: What Are They in Recording?. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-difference-between-mixing-and-mastering-2460689

Shepherd, I. (2013). LUFS, dBFS, RMS... WTF ?!? How to read the new loudness meters. Retrieved from http://productionadvice.co.uk/lufs-dbfs-rms/

Skivington, K. (2017). Essential Equipment for Any Mastering Studio. Retrieved from https://music.tutsplus.com/tutorials/essential-equipment-for-a-mastering-studio--cms-29266

White, P. (2016). iZotope Ozone 7. Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/izotope-ozone-7

AUP230: The Song Exploder

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to fit everything I have to say about the last four weeks into a thousand words, but I’ll do my best. The song exploder project has been the largest, most ambitious effort I have attempted during my degree so far, and I have learnt more about myself as a practitioner and the art of engineering in the last four weeks than in almost my entire two years of study to date. It has been a emotional rollercoaster and I have poured my blood, sweat and tears into it. If I had written this blog two days ago, before yesterday’s ten-hour mixing session, I would have had nothing but positive things to say about my experience. Sadly, yesterday’s mixing session was an unhappy ending for me, and has tarnished how I feel about myself, my skills and the process. In fact, after submitting the mix, I felt like an absolute failure and like I had wasted $50,000 on a degree I am never going to be good enough to use. On reflection today, I’m feeling less pessimistic, but I am still ashamed and embarrassed with the mix I have submitted. Sadly, it was the best I could do given the circumstances, but I definitely feel I have let myself and Dave Turner down. I’ll get more into this further on, but for now I want to go back to the beginning, and a happier time when I was just tracking instruments and pre-tape processing like a big boy.

 https://www.soundonsound.com/people/secrets-mix-engineers-mike-crossey

https://www.soundonsound.com/people/secrets-mix-engineers-mike-crossey

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjvZZyJzXPU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjvZZyJzXPU

So, as we all know, I chose to base my project on producer and mix engineer Mike Crossey (n.d.), and a track called Chocolate (Healy, Daniel, Hann & MacDonald, 2013). Fortunately, there was plenty of information to be found on his process online, but none was more helpful a resource than an online article from Sound On Sound, where Paul Tingen interviewed Crossey on the recording of that very song (Tingen, 2013). I was able to find precise information on everything from microphone choices, to signal chains, to outboard equipment and even reference tracks. This was all really helpful and gave me a lot to aim for. With Dave’s help, I was able to execute my recording sessions in almost the exact fashion as Crossey did, obviously within the bounds of available equipment. I feel good about the research and planning that I did during this part of the journey. I pushed myself to go even further than usual in terms of acquiring information and being flexible in making a plan. I was proactive in booking my artists, recording my demo and pitching the initial idea, and I started the recording process well ahead of the game. I was careful to make contingency plans, and in most cases had to use them, and in the end had very few issues along the way. I was brave with my choices and execution, and did almost everything differently to how I would normally do so. I took chances, made destructive decisions and aimed very high. I couldn’t have done any of this without the invaluable guidance of Dave Turner, and I’m forever grateful for his time and attention at every step.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHk5SWVO4p8

If I can only mention a few of the outcomes from the project I would have to say that the use of outboard gear and the use of pre-tape processing are the most noteworthy. Until now, doing any processing on the way into Pro Tools has been a big no-no for me. I have not had nearly enough confidence in myself or my ears to do it, and have always relied on fixing it at a later, safer stage. This was not an option this time, and was certainly not how Crossey recorded his track. So, I not only used inserted EQ and compressors, but I also used a huge array of outboard gear, patching intricate signal flows from one piece of gear to another. By the time I had finished tracking, I was so confident with it that I knew I would never go without it again. This is a special occasion for me because for a long time I have watched other engineers doing this and I always knew it was a milestone I wanted to get to. I’m glad I’m there now. On top of this, another milestone I was looking forward to reaching was a better understanding of compression. Compression is still a little bit of a mysterious beast for me, but I have come leaps and bounds in my understanding during this time as a result of being bolder and braver than before.

 https://www.attackmagazine.com/reviews/the-best/top-20-best-hardware-compressors-ever-made/

https://www.attackmagazine.com/reviews/the-best/top-20-best-hardware-compressors-ever-made/

The mixing session, as mentioned earlier, was not such a joyous occasion for me sadly. By the time I got in to the mastering suite to mix, I had a PT session with over 150 tracks on it, and only a vague plan of what I was going to do. I felt completely over whelmed and was sonically lost almost immediately. I was mixing by eye, and adding things purely because I thought it was what Dave would do, without actually listening. I got so lost that after 8 hours of mixing I listened to my track and it was a complete mess. I didn’t know where to even start to fix it. I went and found Trinski, who was thankfully still on campus, and he came and had a listen. It was immediately clear that I had way overcooked the track when Trinksi went through and pretty much bypassed all of my processing. I hadn’t EQ’d things properly, or at all in some cases, and missed some fundamental tasks that I should have picked up on. I had completely over complicated my session, and most of the plugins and side chaining I had added was completely inaudible in the mix when removed and put back in. Most importantly, I hadn’t once gone back to my reference track. This was a massive error, because just how far I had gone off track became instantly clear once I finally returned to it. However, ignoring the reference track was second to a much bigger problem I am now aware of, and that was attempting a mixing session with no plan. I had not considered the stereo field, the frequency range, the feel! I just sat down and expected to smash it out in a few hours. This was detrimental, and something I know for a fact Mike Crossey would’ve been across. The more I got lost, the more useless I felt, the more useless I felt, the further lost I got. I got some great help from Trinski, but by that stage I was in my ninth hour of mixing. My ears were shot, I was heavily fatigued and defeated, and in reality I would’ve had to go right back to the start to have saved it. It was too late.

 https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-1975s-matt-healy-on-number-one-records-and-becoming-the-biggest-band-in-the-world-10481

https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-1975s-matt-healy-on-number-one-records-and-becoming-the-biggest-band-in-the-world-10481

I fully intend to mix my track again properly for myself. I worked so hard and so long on it that I cannot possible walk away from it now. I am incredibly proud of what I accomplished up until yesterday, and I am doing everything I can to not be too hard on myself for the end product. This was way bigger than anything I have done before, and I need to remember that perfection is not nearly as important as lessons learnt. I am still gathering my thoughts and feelings on yesterday, but what I have figured out so far is all being put down as a good chance to learn, and I will use the experience to better myself and my process.


References

Healy, M., Daniel, G., Hann, A., & MacDonald, R. (2013). Chocolate. London, UK: Interscope.

Mike Crossey. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Crossey

Tingen, P. (2013). Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Mike Crossey. Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/people/secrets-mix-engineers-mike-crossey

AUP230: Advanced Post Production

Today’s post will be a reflection of the work I have completed over the last four weeks as part of my advanced post production training (Wyatt & Amyes, 2005). My team and I were tasked with the job of completing a real world post production audio assignment, from the initial transfer of the locked off visuals, to the delivery of a completed mix (Orlowski, 2015). We chose to work on a short film by writer/directer Max Gundy called Junk Male. I personally was keen to work on this particular piece for two main reasons; one was that I hadn’t had much experience with film, as my previous post production work has consisted largely of documentary and advertising projects, the second being that Junk Male has a unique style in that there is not much dialogue, which meant a greater opportunity for sound design and to be a bit more creative with attempts to enhance the narrative. The team consisted of myself, Elysha Halstead, Tabatha Crawley and Joel Davies, all of whom are practitioners I have worked with in the past and greatly admire and respect. Having said that, it is no secret that I am not a fan of group work on jobs such as this, as I find it can slow things down drastically and complicate already difficult tasks, especially in the mixing and final stages, and also I am a perfectionist and do not like relinquishing control, so I knew I would have to work around my preferences on this occasion.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 4.24.06 pm.png
Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 4.24.38 pm.png
 Junk Male. Images courtesy of Max Gundy

Junk Male. Images courtesy of Max Gundy

We started with a spotting session. Already, just four weeks later, I feel as though I have learnt so much that I will conduct my spot sessions very differently in the future. It’s hard, but there is so much else to concentrate on during those initial viewings. I was either distracted by checking the sync sound (Orlowski, 2015), the production audio prepared and synced to the images before delivery to us, or distracted by the feel or emotion of the piece, or one hundred other things other than spotting. This is all important to consider, but I have learnt now that all of these considerations should be made at an intentional and appropriate time, rather than trying to do it all at once. The deadline and time constraints did play largely on my mind, but I would have saved a lot of time further along had I taken the time to just breath and give these initial stages the attention and care they deserve.

It was great to be able to use and expand on some of the techniques and skills we picked up during previous post production jobs and our earlier sessions with Tristan Meredith ("Tristan Meredith", n.d.). I feel as though I really sharpened my critical listening during this process especially ("Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening", 2014). I had to learn to hear so much at once, and to discern between different elements so quickly, much quicker than with music. Getting to learn the AVID S6 console was also incredibly helpful ("AES 2013: Avid S6", 2013), but not nearly as helpful or eye opening as working in the new lecture theatre setup with the 8-track D-command (Audiotechnology.com.au, 2005). This allowed us to hear and feel things you just can’t do in the smaller studios. It made me realise some mistakes I was consistently making and not catching before. For example, I found I was not being careful enough with my atmos sounds (Chattopadhyay, 2017), assuming that because the are incidental and at such a low volume, that I would not need to give them the same TLC as the spot effects and dialogue. The new D-command sorted that out right away. It bought the tiniest of mishaps to the surface, sometimes costing me minutes of time searching for the offending pop, blow or rustle. Another skill that I was able to sharpen during this process, was working with 5:1 surround sound (Holman, 2014). I hadn’t done any mixing in surround up until this point, and it was always something that confused and scared me a little. Now, I will never look back. I’m addicted to what it can add, the feeling it provides, and the control it gives us as designers. It is a tool I look forward to working more with and perfecting more in the future.

 D-Command 8. Image courtesy of https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HDXAny-DC8--avid-console-trade-in-upgrade-from-any-console-to-8-channel-icon-d-command

D-Command 8. Image courtesy of https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HDXAny-DC8--avid-console-trade-in-upgrade-from-any-console-to-8-channel-icon-d-command

    Avid S6 console. Image courtesy of https://audiosex.pro/threads/avid-s6-console.9029/

 

Avid S6 console. Image courtesy of https://audiosex.pro/threads/avid-s6-console.9029/

Above all else, there are two major lessons I learnt completing this job that will stay with me for the rest of my career. Firstly, I learnt to pay attention to perspective. I have tended, so far, to consider visuals and sounds as two seperate components of the same thing, but I found I was over looking them as a single entity. I’ve now learnt to include my eyes in my critical listening process, because when it comes to film, the ears can not ignore what the eyes are seeing, and if there is any inconsistency at all, the audience will spot it straight away. Secondly, I learnt to trust my ears. Far too often I have relied on metering and plugins to gauge the quality of my levelling. Tristan has stressed to us the importance of trusting our ears, he always says, “You all know how movies sound”, and he’s right. It just took some trust and a little patience. I’m feeling much more relaxed about believing my ears now.

 Image courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5IUWJY9b0Q

Image courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5IUWJY9b0Q

There is one aspect of my process that I would especially like to improve quite a bit on, and that is speed. I watched this film so many times I could not even possibly count, and every time I watched it, including the last time, I noticed more and more issues I wanted to fix. I would like to be able to do this without having to view it over and over again. I’m sure it will come with time and practice, but for now I feel it’s something I really need to work on. Being a perfectionist is all well and good, but not if it means going over budget or missing deadlines.

 Image courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/instance/38167746/woah-watch-out-we-got-a-badass-over-here-watch-out-we-got-a-perfectionist-over-here

Image courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/instance/38167746/woah-watch-out-we-got-a-badass-over-here-watch-out-we-got-a-perfectionist-over-here

References

AES 2013: Avid S6. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/news/aes-2013-avid-s6

Chattopadhyay, B. (2017). Reconstructing atmospheres: Ambient sound in film and media production. Communication And The Public, 2(4), 352-364. doi: 10.1177/2057047317742171

Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/news/critical-listening-vs-analytical-listening

Digidesign D-Command. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp/index.php/digidesign-d-command/

Holman, T. (2014). Surround Sound (2nd ed.). MA: CRC Press.

Orlowski, M. (2015). What Is Audio Post Production. Retrieved from http://www.mpse.org/what-is-audio-post-production

Tristan Meredith. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1881048/

Wyatt, H., & Amyes, T. (2005). Audio post production for television and film. Amsterdam: Focal Press.

 

AUS220 Week 12: Now, Mix It

We're close baby, so, so close. One more week left of this unbelievable trimester. My head hasn't stopped spinning for 12 weeks now, and I'm not sure what state I will be in once it's done, but I am incredibly proud of where I am at this point in time. I must say that my time management has been exceptional this trimester. I have attempted some very advantageous projects and freelance work over the weeks and at this week 12 mark, it's looking like I might actually get it all in. This week was a bit of mad one, once again. Our CIU interdisciplinary projects were due to be uploaded by midnight Friday, I had a SIXTEEN HOUR drum tracking session with a band, and of course, we mixed our Backstreet Boys inspired demo project with Wilko for our final intensive. 

IMG_2036.jpg

For all the work my beloved Group 6 has done throughout these many projects, I feel like we fell apart for the first time during this session. I could put it down to stress, distraction or just plain fatigue, but for whatever reason, we didn't quite live up to our usual standard while mixing this track. We were slow, disorganised, reluctant, divided, and sloppy. Maybe not hugely so, but by our usual high standards it was certainly noticeable. Having said that, we got the job done, and the result is pretty respectable. Others, including members of my group, have heard the track and given it high praise, but for my ears, and the quality level I like to aim for, I must say I wasn't totally proud. I saw the session falling apart while it was happening, and I just didn't feel it was down to me to save it. I'm constantly struggling with my team work and my awareness of my large, loud personality, so I thought I would sit back and see how it played out this time. Once again, I must put my friend and co-worker Elysha Halstead up on the highest of pedestals. This incredible young woman puts silence to anyone that doubts a female's place in the audio industry. She takes charge, is across every aspect, speaks her mind in a diplomatic but strong way, and gives a shit as if her life depends on every detail. She is my professional hero. I'm in ore of her work ethic, her bravery and her mind. I never thought I'd be learning managerial tactics from a girl 10 years my junior, but I bloody well do every day.

At the end of a very long day, in a very small room, with a very big group, we called it a day. We spent most of the day running the vocals through outboard gear and levelling. It was good to see how some of those elements work but to be honest we were so rushed I don't feel as though I had a chance to learn very much. I'll talk further about it in my final AUS220 blog next week, but I don't know that the self-management style of the intensives is very well suited to the demo project. But we got a product out of it, we learnt a lot about the Neve and the process of recording on it, and we followed our projection to a pretty high standard. As I said, if I was looking at the process and end product from someone else's point of view I would probably say it was very good, but for me, I would have liked a better outcome. It was the end of a long and stressful trimester, we were a group of 10 in a room built for 3, and I think the fatigue and stress just got the best of us. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zxw2b1cfSA&lc=z222cvhb2wnhfb3ol04t1aokgcnzq1vo1oa4ikscxrc0bk0h00410

So this my final CIU interdisciplinary project. It's a short, satirical film called Mediate This, looking at the ongoing debate about video game violence and its affects on society and those who consume them. I won't say too much about it here because I will be writing a lot more for my final reflection report, but I wanted to post it her because I am extremely proud of it. I know that the path here for me was rocky, leaving my initial group and going solo with only a couple of weeks to complete it, but I am really happy and astonished at the amount and quality of work I was able to get done. It was the first time I had tried something this scale, and I really didn't know whether it would even be possible. I uploaded this at 11:30pm on Friday, 20 minutes before the cut-off, and I felt so proud. It has been online for a few days now and has already started racking up views and comments, which is of course the whole point. 

 https://agileleanlife.com/push-yourself/

https://agileleanlife.com/push-yourself/

A great thing that has been happening this trimester is the constant opportunity to push our selves to the absolute limits of our ability and really find out what we are made of. After the first three trimesters, I must admit I was in danger of becoming complacent. I was getting consistently goods grades, and finding the work easier and easier. I was starting to take it all a bit for granted, but I can safely say that this trimester and especially the last few weeks has kicked that idea straight out of my head.

I am also really proud of the freelance work I have been getting done. The hard rock band I am producing at the moment that I mentioned last week came in for some drum tracking in the Neve on Friday. We arrived at 8:30am and I turned the lights off in the control room at 12:10am. That's over sixteen hours. I recording complete drum takes for five progressive, hard rock tracks. It was a heavy session for all involved, and I was running on about 2 hours sleep, but we got it all in the can. Again, working under those kinds of circumstances really pushed me out of my comfort zone, exposed any weak spots, and forced me to dig deep to get it done. That's how I want my professional life to be always. I'm far too arrogant to learn or grow in a calm, relaxed environment. I'm the kind of person that needs screaming, fire, heat, and pure evil barreling down on me to make me wake up and pay attention. This week has completely depleted my adrenaline, gained me some grey hairs, and run me completely out of clean underpants, by my god was it fun. 

AUS220 Week 11: C-I-You-Know-That's-Due-Next-Week-Right?

Okay, so I may have mentioned stress and obligations in earlier posts. Well I take it all back. This time right now, right here, is as stressful and hectic as it gets. With just two weeks left of the trimester, the heat is up full ball. We have to have our demo project ready for mixing by next Thursday, we have to absolutely be putting the finishing touches on our podcasts, and I just decided to leave my CIU group and fly solo, meaning I have about 12 days to conceive, write, plan, film, edit, and design my CIU Interdisciplinary project. Now that's a full plate.

IMG_1808.jpg

We spend our second to last intensive in the Neve this week tracking vocals for our track. We started by lining up a range of different microphone's and discussing different recording techniques and processes with Wilko. I have fortunately had a fair amount of experience with this in my career, but not so much from the production side of the glass. It was great to hear Wilko's process and learn a bit about listening to a performer's voice from various angles, assessing their unique timbre and tone. We started with Joel, who is a trained opera singer, and tried him out on all the mics. It was great to critically listen to each mic and how it responded to Joel's sound, although I do feel we maybe spent too long on this and it cost us later in the day. Then, myself and Aldi laid down some takes. As we are emulating the boyband sound of the 1990's, it was important that we had several different voices to play with.. It makes the track sound much fuller and more interesting. This is especially true when considering how vastly different our singing styles are. Joel with his opera, Aldi with his wonderful accent, and me as a pop/rock singer. We got some great results, but we did run out of time and I would have liked to spend more time on the performances and nailing certain parts, like harmonies for instance. But my confidence and speed on the Neve is really good now and I'm comfortable to say I know my way around it pretty well. I'm also still recording some freelance work on it so I'm getting plenty of hours of practice. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8sp3wfisLw&t=148s

Our podcast about the last 40 years of Melbourne's music scene is coming along really great. We've gone a little over the 20 minute mark but our research and content is so thorough that it really was hard to cut it back any more. We have worked great as a team and divided up different jobs and responsibilities well. As of week 11, we are completely tracked and edited and ready for mixing. We have a studio booked on Monday of week 12 for us all to sit around and mix the project together. I think Teebo will be wrapped with our end product. We really went to town on the research side of things, so our narrative is very strong. We have also been totally blessed with the amount of archive audio we have been able to source; really clear, authentic audio that suits our story perfectly. All the audio we have used throughout the podcast is authentic and really from the time and place that it sits with in the dialogue. We set out to make a radio documentary style podcast and we have totally nailed it. It sounds as though it wouldn't be out of place on BBC Radio 4 or ABC Radio. I'm very proud of it. I poured a lot of myself into this as I do with all my work and when it turns out just right it is very satisfying. There's of course things I would do differently next time, but I've learnt those lessons, and isn't that the point after all?

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 5.03.05 pm.png

This is a still shot of my friend and fellow actor Stavros Psoras from the film I am making for my CIU interdisciplinary project. The film is entiltled Mediate This, and looks at the numerous and ongoing debates surrounding the effects of violent video games on society. I had initially conceived and written a script and projection for a short film about mainstream culture, but I forfeited that project due to difficulties I had working with certain members of my group. This was a regrettable decision and not one I made lightly, but was certainly for the best for me, creatively and emotionally. However, it did mean requesting permission to do the project on my own, permission that came through a mere two weeks before the deadline. So, It meant I had to first think up another idea for this assessment. Once I had heard the lecture and dialectical inquiry on mediated violence, I thought this would be an interesting idea to explore. I then scripted, for the second time, a short, satirical film, this time surrounding this new topic. As time was tight, I immediately storyboarded the film, and enlisted the help of a photographer friend, and a couple actors who I knew would be free at short notice. Then I had to source the equipment. As audio students are unable to hire film equipment from SAE, I had to hire the lights etc. externally. This was quite costly but I take huge pride in my work and was not going to do this project half-assed just because of time or money. I still ran into plenty of problems, including rewriting the script the morning of the shoot due to an actor dropping out, but I got it in the can. I did all of the location audio recording myself, whilst simultaneously directing and acting in the piece too. It was a big learning curve and a stressful day but I got it done. I am yet to complete the post production aspect of editing and sound design, but the visuals look great. I was able to capture good performances, and due to the high level of planning, it was a fairly smooth and enjoyable experience. I will have to work very quickly in post production to have it done by next Friday, but I am confident I will get it done. It will be the most incredible achievement if I do, as I have never done anything on this scale before, let alone in under two weeks. For however dissapointed I am in how my first group attempt worked out, I will be very proud if I pull this off. 

AUS220 Week 10: Drums, Drums, Drums

Another jam packed week as SAE, and the heat is certainly turning up as we approach week 11. This week was about podcasting, freelancing and A LOT of recording sessions. Since this time last week, I have accumulated over 30 hours of studio time. Along with recording the voice over narration for our podcast, we tracked guitars and piano for our Advanced Studio project, and I also tracked a massive drum session in the Neve for a freelance job I'm doing currently on, recording a 5-track EP for a Melbourne based hard rock group. So it's safe to say I'm feeling pretty fit in the producer department, but there's still a long way to go. On Saturday I tracked drums for the freelance job, and then on Thursday we tracked drums for our Demo project. It's been a week of drums, drums, drums.

On Saturday, I had actually booked the band I am recording into the large Audient studio, purely because it was what I was most comfortable with at the time. I spent a lot of the lead up to that session researching drum miking techniques, EQ processing tips, and generally drum recording information to make sure I was as ready as possible for the day. I arrived well prepared for the session, but as always, I still had to be ready to think on my feet. My good mate and fellow student Sam thankfully agreed to assist me on day too, without which I would've been in big trouble. One thing I hadn't factored in to my planning was that the tech desk will only lend us certain mics for certain studios, and the mics I wanted where only allowed when using the Neve studio, specifically the U87, the Royer 121s, and the KM184s. I wanted those mics badly, so although at that stage we had only had one lesson on it, Sam and I decided to jump in the deep end and try our luck on the Neve. I'm really glad we did. We of course hit a few speed bumps during the day, but we managed fairly seamlessly to navigate the desk and the studio and we got through it in pretty good shape. It was a huge help for us, because even though the sessions with Wilko are great and informative, there's so much to learn that you really need to just get in there and feel your way round first hand. I'm feeling very confident on the Neve console now that I've done that session. We ended up using 16 mics on the kit, and got a full, even sound. I'm not super happy with results, but that is more to do with the kit itself and some of the performance. I was so preoccupied managing the desk and studio that I dropped the ball on managing the artist. Normally I would spend a lot more time concentrating on the player and performance but I had a full plate that day. In reflection, I learnt a lot during this session and going forward I'm feeling much more sturdy and strong. 

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IMG_9083.JPG

This drum tracking session was perfect practice for our Thursday intensive with Wilko. Our newest member, Cody, was kind enough to rope in his younger brother Lochie, who is an amazing drummer with an amazing kit to lay down some bangs on our Max Martin inspired Demo project. The day was really successful, but again, as always, there were some hiccups and bumps in the road. Working in the Neve studio with such a big group can get really stressful and hot. There's so many of us all trying to divvy up the work in such a small space that it takes a lot of effort to remain focused and calm. We managed to get a really impressive session done, and the end result from our drummer was really nice. We did struggle with certain drum sounds and miking techniques early on though. We were getting a lot trouble from the floor tom and high hats especially, but after some microphone replacing and mic placement changes we got there in the end. It was nice to see people like the amazing Elysha, who sometimes keeps quiet when everyone is talking at each other, take a stand and make some really strong, confident, and successful decisions. Sometimes the stress makes people shine and I saw that Lysh works really well under pressure, much better than myself. Speaking of my hero Elysha, her and I along with electric guitar legend Pat spent a massive day on Monday in the Neve working on the composition and guitar tracks for the same song. 

Elysha and I arrived early Monday morning and setup the Neve console and Pro Tools for the session. We then got stuck straight into finishing off the composition for our track. We kept it really simple and generic in terms of chord progression and key to match the style of our reference tracks. Once we were happy with our composition, I laid down the whole track with midi pianos so that Pat would have something solid to play along to. Once Patty arrived, we got started on setting up his rig.  He bought in his beautiful Japanese Fender Stratocaster and an awesome old tube amp. Along with his pedal board and creativity, the sound he came up with was so fantastic. We miked up his amp with an M88 in front, and a 57 stuck actually inside the amp from the back. The sound was GREAT! Then the real magic happened. After laying down some padding and familiarising himself with the song structure, Patty laid down an awesome lead guitar line and solo. There was only one thing wrong with what we got down, and that was that the song was starting to sound too good. That is to say, too cool. It was loosing the cheese-y boyband feel we were planning on. But once Pat was done and I recorded some acoustic guitar parts, we started getting our sound back. It was so nice to have gotten so much done on that Monday session, and to be able to play it all back to the rest of the group once we came together on Thursday. Everyone loved what we had done, and it gave us a super clear direction to go in with the drum tracking that day. It really is starting to sound fantastic! I cannot wait to hear the finished product once it's done. I think it will be something really special. 

 

AUS220 Week 9: Music Demo Intensive

This week we started our Music Demo Intensive. We are being tutored by the amazing David Wilko, who gave us a jam packed info session today and got us up and running with our song. My head is still spinning from the amount of information we were exposed to, but it was so great to finally be getting our hands on the Neve console; something we have been really wanting to get onto for a while now. It was great to get started and I really enjoyed Wilko's teaching style, the rundown we received and the whole project is all really great and exciting. We're stoked to be doing this assignment and I think, once again, we well deliver a great product. In true Group 6 style, we have shot for the stars and are attempting to achieve something that goes above and beyond the expectations of the rubric, but I reckon we may have this one in the bag.

 http://mcsmrampage.com/2015/03/opinion-being-an-overachiever/

http://mcsmrampage.com/2015/03/opinion-being-an-overachiever/

We arrived today with our song choice, a list of references a mile long, and plenty of ideas for production. The brief is for us to answer the following: How can we take a demo of a song and turn it into a complete product? Imagining we are a pro team who have received a rough song from an artist saying; “I'm a songwriter new to the industry and I need a production team to be able to produce and develop my song from this rough raw demo into a finished product releasable product". We decided on the song Distant Friend, half because no one else from our year had tried it yet, and also because the pop, cheese-y type lyrics were well suited to our plan for production, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Max Martin boyband era of the 1990's. So, amongst the piles of references we had, this was the one we finally looked to.

This is no doubt an unusual choice in terms of an SAE assessment, and that's kind of why we wanted to do it. We noticed lots of other students were aiming to make 'cool' music that they themselves would listen to, whereas we wanted to do something fun, that would feel like a real-world, money making job. Students are ignorant and doomed to poverty when they deny the fact that eventually they will have to make things that don't appeal to them personally. We thought this would be fun, silly, difficult, and give us a great chance to sharpen our production skills. We also looked at other Max Martin artists like Brittany Spears and N'Sync, and also some late 80's magic like Phil Colin's No Jacket Required and Foreigner. We eventually decided on something more of a ballad to suit our track, with layered vocal harmonies, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, and a mix of drums and midi beats. It's only the first day of this intensive and we already have our arrangement done and a start on recording the piano. We also have booked some more hours in the Neve on our own time to further practise the desk and to get some more recording done before our next proper session. It's looking like it's going to be a great experience, and I can't wait to get back to it. But having said all that, today wasn't just about laying the foundations for the track, today was also about meeting our newest group member: The Neve Genesys.

 https://www.gearslutz.com/board/product-alerts-older-than-2-months/148907-ams-neve-genesys-3.html

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/product-alerts-older-than-2-months/148907-ams-neve-genesys-3.html

 https://www.proaudiodesign.com/products/ams-neve-genesys-g64

https://www.proaudiodesign.com/products/ams-neve-genesys-g64

I personally have been waiting since day one to get my hands on this bad boy. I've heard so much about Neve and their consoles since studying audio and I really hated that I hadn't got my chance to play on one yet. Wilko did a great job of giving us the rundown on the desk today, but it was bloody overwhelming. It's such a complicated desk compared to what we've worked on in the past. There's so many layers, like on a digital console, but without the kind of user friendly work flow. So many buttons, settings, variations, and signal flow directions to follow and it certainly doesn't help that most of the important buttons have had their labels worn off with age. I did my best to take notes and keep up, but it's clearly going to take a lot more practice to master this machine. It was a lot to take in. We started by looking over the console and it's many buttons and paths, then we hired a whole bunch of microphones and worked on signal flow and getting levels to meter. It was great because we hadn't used most of the microphones we hired out, and Wilko spent time asking us questions and telling us about them and their characteristics and possible uses. Its the first time we've done a lot of that since Trimester 1 and 2, so it was great to dust the cobwebs off and test our memories. Once we had signal coming in, we went through getting it into Pro Tools, back to the monitors, and all of the onboard processing. We even had time to send the signal to some of the outboard processing gear, the LA2A and the 1176, which was awesome because I haven't gotten to work with them too much yet. It was nice to have a recap and Wilko gave us some cool insight into how they worked and when to use them. After lunch, we got on to arranging our song and starting to lay down the piano. It's early days but I'm super excited about what we have planned. By now, I know our team and I have no doubt we will squeeze the most out of this opportunity. Look out for the cheesiest, funnest, most 90's version of this song you'll ever hear. 

 http://www.cheesycharlies.com/CharliesMenu.html

http://www.cheesycharlies.com/CharliesMenu.html

AUS220 Week 8: Intensive Two, Through

To begin, I must apologise for the delay in uploading this week's post. The reason for my lateness is that I have needed time to gather my thoughts and feelings on the events of week 8. It was a very stressful and tiring week, and I gave a lot emotionally, physically and mentally, and have been swinging between thoughts and opinions on how I feel about it all. I did not want to write anything until I had some clarity on my own thoughts, and although I am still hazy, I feel ready now. I didn't want any fatigue or emotions to cause things to come out in this that would be considered unfair or unprofessional. Please excuse my tardiness.

This week was the final Thursday of our live sound intensive and the culminating live gig. We were, above all else, asked to produce an event that, as Teebo put it; looks like a gig, sounds like a gig, and smells like a gig! Well, there is no doubt in my mind that we delivered that and then some. I will start with the positives, and then discuss some things I feel were not worthy of the talent and work that went into the planning and execution of the night. Firstly, the place looked great! We pulled out all the stops. We had professional lighting, smoke machines, fairy lights, props, staging, multi level seating, and the sweetest addition of all, a room full of punters. We brought the stage out towards the centre of the soundstage, both to aid the sound of the poorly designed room, and also to decrease the size of it, helping it seem fuller than it may have been. It worked on both counts. We borrowed furniture from all over the campus; couches, bean-bags, tables and chairs. We did this because we knew from research that we had done at the other gigs that people were leaving after having to stand for too long. We positioned the bar and food tables to the far, back side of the room to keep it from causing distraction from the stage, and also to encourage people to fully enter the room. This was also to keep the doorway clear so that Jack, our designated doorman, was able to check and greet people as they entered and left the room. I am incredibly happy with how it looked. We all chipped in and it was by far the best I've seen it look so far. I feel like we set a great vibe, a nice feel, and made our attendees very comfortable and relaxed. Secondly, we executed the service side of the night expertly. We had the assistance of the wonderful Susan, who looking gorgeous as ever, volunteered her time, experience, and RSA to serve alcohol to our guests all night long. Not only that, she monitored people's level of intoxication, ID'd younger looking people, and controlled the levels of product at all times. We all owe her a huge dept, and I am forever grateful for what she did for us. We had over $250 worth of ice cold beer for our guests, and over $20 of chips and snacks, all of which lasted the entirety of our 3-act show. People were wrapped to be able to sip beer, eat snacks, and comfortably lounge in our space listening to our great performers. There was a really nice feeling in the room all night. Towards the end of the second act's set, Susan warned me, as asked, that the beer levels were at a certain point, and we decided to close the bar until the final performance. This was to stop anyone leaving before the main act, which had happened on other nights once the alcohol dried up. It worked a treat. Susan politely informed the punters that the bar had temporarily closed in order to leave enough for later, and everybody was understanding and cooperative. It was a great idea and worked perfectly, costing us no audience members at all. Finally, the main objective for me starting out was to make sure we filled the room, and kept it filled all night. That objective was met. We planned with great care how we would promote the night, delivering on our marketing promises, and maintain the crowd size throughout, and we got there. By doors opening at 5:30pm, we already had a cue outside the soundstage of audience members keen to get inside. Basically no-one left before the final song of the final set. What was great to see, especially in terms of having the gig 'peer-reviewed', was that most of the attendees were not SAE students or staff at all. In fact, I'd say our audience was approximately 85-90% non-SAE affiliated. In order to get a perfect mark this trimester, we are required to have our work reviewed by our peers, and considering we had an audience made up of nearly 60% music industry practitioners from outside of SAE, I'd say we ticked that box. So, if I were to say that at the beginning of this all, I set out to make the best looking gig I could, that attracted a full crowd that came and stayed all night, then I accomplished my goal ten fold. But there was something else that took a back seat to my concerns of crowd size and aesthetics. Something fairly important in the process of putting on a live gig; the sound. 

 http://www.barfblog.com/2016/03/from-the-duh-files-dont-hide-produce-on-your-yacht-when-visiting-nz/duh-2/

http://www.barfblog.com/2016/03/from-the-duh-files-dont-hide-produce-on-your-yacht-when-visiting-nz/duh-2/

We were told quite clearly at the beginning of this intensive that we were able to, and would be wise to, nominate more than one person to learn the FOH console, so we have no one to blame but ourselves for the fact that we put one of our team members in the most stressful, deep-ended of situations, without anyone else there with the proper know-how to help him in his time of need. Aldi did a fantastic job running the FOH system that night. Even with English being his second language, the fact that he had had only three lessons on the console, and the high stress of a time-poor, late-running sound check, he did a great job! He kept his calm, took the punches and still delivered. But there were times where the stress levels were very high. Confusion kicked in, frustration and nerves were abound. I felt very helpless. I wanted so badly to be able to assist Aldi on the desk, to be able to solve certain issues or guide certain changes, and I simply couldn't. I had stepped aside in the beginning to let others do their thing, as I thought was the point of the group work we are doing, and I concentrated my energy on other aspects, as mentioned above. I know now that I still should've at least had a handle on that side of things, so it wasn't all left to one member of the group if things went wrong. That isn't to say that the sound wasn't great, it was! Aldi got the mix sounding fantastic, without even getting a chance to soundcheck two of the three acts at all! I still don't quite understand how we ran out of time. We were so far ahead all day, and then all of a sudden we were rushing. There is really very little I can reflect on this point, as I seriously do not know what went wrong. I went out to get our liquor, and when I got back we were in trouble. I don't think it was the only fault, but perhaps I, as someone in the group with a lot of years of live music experience, should've not left and been there for the entirety of the soundcheck, but I can't be sure. As I've said, this didn't effect what our audience heard, as Aldi did a smashing job of mixing live on the fly, but what did suffer was the monitor mix that the acts were hearing. We should've had a lot more time to spend getting the monitor mix right,  but we didn't. All of the acts were affected by this, and its something I have had a really hard time coming to terms with. As a working musician, I know exactly how difficult, stressful, uncomfortable and uninspiring it is to try to perform your craft in front of a live audience when you cannot hear yourself properly or are feeling like your sound is off. I feel really bad that acts that we asked to come and play did not enjoy the experience as much as they could've, and I feel like I could've and should've done more to be able to fix it. But, once the snowball of lateness had started rolling, there was nothing I could do. It is hugely regretful to me that the monitor mix was not to a high standard, and it upsets me a lot. I am a firm believer that the most important mix in the room is the one the artist hears, and the fact that a show I was a part of did not deliver on this makes me feel sick. I have a learnt a big lesson from this, and only wish I could turn back time to do it all again. 

 https://toledofirstbaptist.com/sermons/moving-forward-2/

https://toledofirstbaptist.com/sermons/moving-forward-2/

All in all, I am very happy with the event we put on, and I am completely blown away by the amount of effort and hard work that my group and I put into this. We poured our blood, sweat, time and money into this gig and am so proud of us for it. It was very stressful, maybe too stressful, and I can't say I enjoyed the whole process, but the moments during the show that I got to stand back and take it in, in the space we had set, filled with happy audience members, I was elated with what we had accomplished. If I accept that the point of this was to learn, then I cannot possibly walk away from it disappointed at all. 

AUS220 Week 7: Study Week (Yeah right!)

Week seven was our designated study week, and as always, there was very little time to study. But that's okay, my plan this trimester was to spend enough time planning everything so that when it came to the pointy end of the it, like now, that the actioning of all of my projects would be seamless and easy. I find my self right now at the tipping point, where the preparation meets the action, and I won't lie, it's a scary place. Have I prepped everything enough? Am I ready? Are the plans good enough? Will I fail? Well, I suspect I won't fail in my grading, (*knocks wood*) but the doesn't mean I won't fail by my own standards. I'm not sure which one I like less. This week consisted of our KPI meetings with Tim, our final full live sound intensive before next week's gig, and also a lot of work for me outside of uni. As is the nature of working in the creative industries, work comes and goes out of the blue and follows no schedule or rules whatsoever. This was definitely the case for me this week. A week that started with one gig on Saturday playing at a wedding in St Kilda, and by 5pm Monday I had booked two more music gigs, two acting gigs, and some modelling work. I proudly managed to make this work with my uni hours almost seamlessly, and then on Thursday morning I received news that one of the acting jobs had moved last minute to that afternoon, meaning I would miss the second half of my last live music intensive with Tim. Fortunately the group was able to take notes and fill me in somewhat, but I was still disappointed to miss out on being there and getting to complete the full band mix we had started. Sadly, this is the nature of the industry and sometimes sacrifices need to be made in order to pay rent. Rent, the ultimate artist's nemesis. 

 Poster design by Patrick Fielding

Poster design by Patrick Fielding

So, its seems that we are as ready as we can be at this point for our live show on Thursday. There's still a few administrative things we need to accomplish over the next two days, but the bands are booked, the event is advertised, and we are (fingers crossed) prepared academically to run the night with out any issues. Having said that, if there's one thing I've learnt, it's to not be so presumptuous as to assume there will be no issues, but rather to face them calmly and strategically, and to go through the steps we have been taught to identify and correct any problems. I do feel as a group we will be fine, but under the stress, noise and low light of the live performance environment, anything is possible. Our production plan has us bumping in at 10AM on the day, so we will have time on our side, but I don't want us to loose our concentration. It will be what Tim calls an LSD, a long slow day, one where we can be precise and deliberate. As we have learnt, any live show, however calm and smooth it may unfold, does so due to many hours of preplanning, hard work and effort on behalf of all the crew, from the managers to the roadies. My biggest concern still is knowing how to EQ an empty room for a performance in a full one. This is something that will take time and experience to master I know, but is something that weighs on my mind. What I have enjoyed most is noticing how improved my ability to control my own sound when I gig has become. In three weeks I have improved ten fold! I was already fairly good before, mainly thanks to many years of trial and error, whereas now I'm thinking critically about the space I'm in, the music I'm playing, and the equipment I'm using. It's nice to be able to implement my lessons so quickly and to see results straight away.

 https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/live/live-sound-showcase-the-weeknd

https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/live/live-sound-showcase-the-weeknd

Aside from our live sound assessment, work is also in full steam for the podcast and also the freelance work I am doing, including the special projects group I am a part of at SAE. The podcast script has been written and it looks great. The narrative flows nicely and is concise and sensical. I think the story we are telling is interesting and engaging. I wrote the script, which was relatively easy due to the great research my team mates and I did before hand. We split up the task, each covering our own area of research, and I think that worked out really well. We are getting a few interviews done this week and then we are straight into the edit and mix stages. I look forward to hearing it completed. If it's even close to as good as I hear it in my head, we will be very proud I'm sure. I'm having a little more trouble on the CIU front. I'm finding it very difficult and frustrating working with people in other disciplines, as communication seems to be a lot more of an issue. I am trying very hard to ignore my instincts to just take control and get it done because I know that the whole point of group work is to sort these sorts of issues out, but it's difficult when I feel like the product is being threatened by people who don't care or who aren't up for it. Anyway, this is something I know I must navigate and I will, I'm just not quite as beaming with confidence with this one as I am with others at this stage. 

 https://www.musiccitiesconvention.com

https://www.musiccitiesconvention.com

On Tuesday of week 8, Tim has organised for Bonnie Dalton from the Music Cities Convention to come and talk to us about the event, and Tim mentioned she may even be looking for some interns. I'm aiming for one of these spots, as I was going to buy tickets anyway, and what better way than to attend than as a worker! I'll be able to network, talk shop, and soak in the event in its entirety so much more efficiently if I'm a part of it. I've got some questions for her already, but I'm really looking forward to hearing what she has to say. I was already interested in the convention, but since researching and writing our podcast, I now have a whole new level of appreciation for what it means, and what it took, for the convention to come to Melbourne. This is the first city outside of the US and Europe to win the bid to host, and that is something I really want to be a part of. I can feel something special happening with this city musically, moreso than ever before, and it's bloody exciting!

AUS220 Week 6: Live Music Intensive

So, we have commenced our Live Music Intensive, and although it's been a crazy whirlwind so far, it's so great to finally have the chance to soak in the wisdom of the big Teebo. It's overwhelming to know we have only four weeks to organise this gig, especially considering we are all very results driven, and really want this show to push the boundaries and impress. In true Group 6 style, we have bitten off way more than we can chew and are aiming for more than expected, but why else bother, right? That's our method, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing better than ever before. 

Live-Music-Image.jpg

Our first intensive started with Teebo breaking down the process for us through the eyes of the live engineer. We looked at and discussed a wide variety of live music situations, paying special attention to the PA and stage rigging side of things. It was amazing to realise that for all of my years playing and watching live music, I've really never paid enough attention to the amount of work that goes into making it all come together. In fact, in my teens I was a nightshift cleaner at Rod Laver arena, and was present for many, many setup and pack-downs of major acts and performances. It's funny to think all these years later I'm now learning just how impressive all that was and is! Tim gave us some really great insight into the process, and I was able to put my new knowledge to the test relatively soon afterwards.

Screen-Shot-2017-05-10-at-12.30.39-AM.png

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to be offered a ticket to see Ed Sheeran playing the last of the Melbourne shows for his current world tour at Etihad Stadium. Although I am not a huge fan of his latest album, Divide, it is still one of those shows that is worth going to see and to be a part of. The Australia and New Zealand leg of his tour has smashed ticket sales records, and I read that 1 in every 23 people will see him during this tour. How could I not be a part of that! After getting settled in the general admission area of the stadium, just as the amazing Missy Higgins was starting up, I found myself being very distracted by the setup, the stage, and the PA. I was ticking items of the list; a motor there, speaker there, crowd fill there! It was amazing. After one session with Tim, I was already able to pick out how everything was being rigged up. It was great. It especially felt good when I was able to announce to my cousin and her friends that if we moved 3-4 meters to our right, the sound would improve, and when it did, I looked very clever indeed. Now, I must say, overall the sound was bloody awful. A mixture of an inappropriate venue, a loop pedal, and tens of thousands of screaming, young girls. I know from first hand experience that getting the EQ, Delay, and levels right with a loop pedal can be a nightmare, and clearly the bigger the event, the more it is so. Never the less, it was great to see a major show in a major venue so soon after learning all about it. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36UYDZE5kYM

Above is a live video of Chester Brix, the headline act for our upcoming gig. We're really happy to have the guys on board and are looking forward to what should be a great show. We have so far to go in terms of planning, but we are all invested and taking our roles very seriously. We have now had two intensives with Teebo on the soundstage. There's a hell of a lot to take in, but I feel like I am getting it. I have the advantage of working with live sound for many years, but this is obviously a much bigger scale, not to mention the fact that I'm normally the one performing, which leaves me at a disadvantage. But I also think my experience will come in very handy, not just with the technical side of things, but will likely make my relationship with the artists more easy and calming. I've been on the performer side of bad sound and bad engineering and it is not a happy time. Artist's want to feel as though they are in the best hands possible, and I will remember this on the night. I think that we will have a great show, however daunting the task may feel right now. I have complete faith in my group's ability and drive and have no doubt we will pull it out the bag. As much as I say it has been scary and a lot to take in, it's been so great to learn the new equipment and processes. There's so much about live sound that is different and even contrary to the studio environment. Some of the things we have learnt to do as instinct over the last year and a half have to be rethought or even ignored in the live environment. EQ, compression, mic placing and so many other things must be treated differently. It's incredible to learn a whole new subsection of our discipline. Already, after two classes with Tim, I know more about speakers, amplifiers and staging than I have known in a lifetime of live performances. This, as I've mentioned before, is information I've been chomping at the bit to get my head around since starting at SAE, not only because it directly affects what I do for a living, but also because it is such an important part of the industry as a whole. Aside from the fact that he is reading this, I feel very honoured to be learning from someone who has the years and experience in the industry that Tim Dalton has. We are wise in our concentration of his teachings. 

IMG_8836.JPG

So, between my CIU assignment, my podcast, my freelance work, and my position in the SAE special projects group, I just hope my over worked brain is soaking in all that I am learning in my new intensive, because it's bloody usable stuff!

AUS220 Week 5: The Steve James Plea

I'm here to write about legendary British producer/engineer Steve James, in the hope that I will be selected as one of the ten students from Tim Dalton's AUS220 class to visit Steve during his upcoming drum tracking session at Melbourne's soon to be lost Sing Sing Studios. Well, with fingers crossed, here is why I need to be there. 

IMG_3140.jpg

So, why do I need the opportunity to see the one and only Steve James commanding the desk? To share the studio with an industry icon? To witness a legend at work? Well, that's actually pretty easy. The answer is this...

The opening drum role and mellow, warm guitar line that follows, was the soundtrack to my early days studying music. I studied every song on this album with the most precise attention. Every note, sound, flavour. I took it all in, over and over again. It seeped into my soul and moulded my playing, writing and preferences permanently. This whole album, produced and engineered by Steve in 1991-92, was constantly on play in my childhood home, and to this day I use it as a source of inspiration for its instrumentation, songwriting, and of course, production. The decisions made by Steve and the band on this album are simply perfection. Smooth, punchy, moving. I think for all the work that Steve James has done since being in Australia, the products he produced with boys from The Screaming Jets are up there as the most stunning. But, if being responsible for one of my favourite bands of all time, soundtracking songs of my childhood, and gaining legendary industry status isn't enough of a reason for me to beg for a shot at this opportunity, then perhaps the fact that the man has recorded, on several occasions, the band responsible for my favourite song of all time. The one and only Forever Now by Cold Chisel. My favourite rock song ever, EVER!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhnp3td-UHU

Steve worked with Cold Chisel on live recordings in 2005 for Warner Music on Ringside, and also in 2001 on In the Round. In 1998, he worked on some of their album tracks for Mushroom Records' Last Wave of Summer. Now, add this to the fact that he has also leant his ear to Mental As Anything (1989), Paul Young (1995), Skunkhour (1999), The Superjesus (2000-03), You Am I (2002), and many, many others, and you have yourself a man responsible for some of the greatest Australian music ever released. Since moving down under in the mid-to-late 80's, Steve James has become synonymous with Australian rock royalty. There is no doubt that he has earned his spot amongst the finest this country has to offer, but in 2000 he took home the ARIA award for Producer of the Year, just incase there was any doubt at all. For Australia, he has been a practitioner of high demand and quality for over three decades now, but it's not only Australian history that Steve has left his musical mark on. Not by a long shot. In fact, you could say that before leaving his motherland, England, he managed to play his part in the production of one of the most recognisable and celebrated pieces of music to ever come out of the UK, and a part of comedy history that has truly stood the test of time.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep9Vzb6R_58

Now, I could bang on for another ten blogs about Steve's accomplishments and credentials, but this is all well known. The question here is why I need this opportunity, and there is a deeper reason than him simply producing some of the greatest music of all time, and me feeling like I've earned it. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am struggling a lot this trimester with the direction I feel I should take my career in. I've had the opportunity over the last four weeks to sink my teeth into the world of post-production and I have fallen in love it, but I haven't fallen out of love with my first mistress, music. I know all the facts and figures about the decline of the recording studio, the rise of DIY producing, and album sales plummeting, but the spark has not gone out. I still have that burning desire to make incredible music, and to be behind some big hits. But it is fading. The older I get the more I feel like I need stability, surety, and, to be honest, a job! I have done fairly well as a music practitioner so far, but it's all been a gamble, and I constantly question myself and my decisions. Should I have married that girl/stayed in that country/taken that job? All the chances at normality that I've had, and ignored, over the years hang over me permanently. Although this may seem like hyperbole, it is true, and also truly why I feel like this opportunity is important for me to be a part of. I'm not suggesting an afternoon watching Steve James work will be some magical answer for all of my life's questions, but it may help clear up the one about my career. At the very least, it will level the playing field with all of my recent exposure to post-production. I feel like I'm forgetting why I ever wanted to do this, and I think that seeing a true legend of the craft doing his thing may just dust off my passion, or perhaps not, but either way I will have some further clarity in my life-direction conundrum. 

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If all of the above hasn't convinced you that I am desperate to get on the list, then maybe I should mention that I also hope to ask Steve if he'd be interested in allowing me to interview him over the phone for the podcast I am currently writing on the Melbourne music industry. So, it's not only a matter of childhood admiration and adulthood angst, but also academic determination, and who could resist getting behind that? 

AUS220 Week 4: Intensive One, Done

This week, out of all so far, has definitely been the silliest. So much to do, so much to see, so much to break. I honestly don't know where to start. I have learnt a lot of lessons this week, and have started to realise just how truly 'in the deep-end' I am with all of this. But somehow, it is with a smile I look back at week four. The most negative aspect of the week, was the loss of my computer, AKA my universe. Due to my incredibly full schedule, I have been out of the house for close to 15 hours everyday, which means I have to be prepared for all sorts of events and tasks, which means my liquid lunch and computer share the same bag. This ended in disaster on Wednesday when my top of the line MacBook Pro met my entire chocolate-milk protein shake. My beloved computer is in binary heaven now, and it could not be a worse time, both finically and in terms of workload, but I am an adaptable person, and I will survive this most tragic of times. That's the bad news, now for the good! 

new_laptop_featured.jpg

The fourth week was one of beginnings and endings. I started some freelance producer/engineer projects I have picked up, I ended my post-production intensive project, I had the first meeting for the Special Projects group I have been assigned to, and I saw my first gigs in the sound stage at SAE. In fact, I saw a lot of gigs this week, taking on Captain Dalton's words of wisdom regarding 'lovers of music' who do not see any live shows. On Wednesday, after an eight hour recording session tracking guitars in the large Audient, and attending the first of the two live production intensive gigs (more on this in a moment), I headed to The Corner Hotel to see a new young artist from Norway called Sigrid. She has not had a lot, if any, radio exposure here in Australia, compared to the extensive exposure in Europe and the UK. Nevertheless, she sold out her Melbourne and Brisbane shows in no time, and most of the audience knew all of her material and lyrics. Needless to say, she will be huge here once the cat is out of the bag. Sigrid's very familiar, but extremely well executed Scandinavian electro-pop sound is addictive and fun, and her voice is something else altogether. Unbelievable range, grit, sweetness, soul. To top it off, she has the cutest, girl-next-door attitude, bouncing around the stage with her long pony tail flicking back and forth. This was a fun show, but all the fun and joy didn't hide the precision executed by Sigrid and her crew. Seriously good musicians, seriously good songs. I was there both as a fan, but also, as always, as an industry professional on a reconnaissance mission, and I was blown away. If I ever need to organise a perfectly orchestrated electro-pop party, I know exactly where I'll get my inspiration from. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIriwVhRPVA

The other notable gigs I saw this week were Wednesday and Thursday nights in the sound stage at SAE, where my fellow classmates completed their live sound intensive by putting on a live show. I was really proud of both groups. I thought they executed the evenings really well, chose great acts, created a cool, comfortable environment, and of course, supplied free beers. Both nights, and all the acts were great. But as always, although I was there to see some live music and support my mates, it was also a good opportunity to do some more reconnaissance, knowing full well that my group is up next to complete the same task. It was great to see what the others decided to do, and to see the nights unfold. I was able to get a taste for what I thought worked and maybe could've worked better, to become familiar with the space, and to start to plan out with my group what we might like to do when it is our turn. We have had a few rough discussions, but I'm really looking forward to sinking our teeth into it next week. Live sound is such a huge part of my life and career. I deal with it on a weekly basis in all sorts of situations, so I'm really looking forward to getting to work with Teebo, who has more than enough wisdom and experience on the subject to share. I can't wait! It is long overdue for me. 

But for all the spender these shows bought me, it was the ending of another intensive that really had an impact on me. After many hours under the watch of Tristan, and many, many hours of time out side of class, my group and I finally pressed FINISH on our post-production project. It was a lot of work, and we definitely bit off more than we should've been able to chew, but we learnt a lot about the process and each other, and got, as I suspected, a fantastic result. Our version has it's own identity and energy, but certainly stands up to the original. I am very proud of what we achieved. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. We had to employ all of the skills and techniques I've mentioned in previous posts, and a lot of it we did blindly, by trial and error, and by thinking out side of the box. Tristan expressed his approval to us, and that meant a lot coming from him. He was aware of how hard we worked, and how much we wanted it to come up good. I also feel like I made some good tracks with my ability to work in a group, even though my group is incredibly talented and easy to get on with, I just felt a shift in myself and my own place within the group. It was a good thing, because I have often struggled internally in the past with this, so it was nice to feel an improvement. As for whether or not I want to pursue a career in post production or not, the answer is most definitely a yes, but that doesn't mean I'm sure I only want to do that. I'm actually feeling a lot of stress about narrowing down on one area of the discipline. I love music production, I love post, I love management, I love engineering. I'm having trouble deciding where to direct my attention most. I'm probably too old for questions like that to bother me, but I guess I've always had a jack-all-trades mindset, and now that I feel I should knuckle down on one, I'm nervous about which to dedicate my time to. I guess I don't trust my own decision making, and I'm worried I'll stuff it all up to be honest. Something I will have to work on.

Anyway, all that aside, here it is! The group six sound design version of Powered Toastman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voO-Ui6YkIU&feature=youtu.be

And for comparison, here's the original again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32cvFb7Fqok&feature=youtu.be

So, a tiring and trying week for sure, but that's the game, and I'm playing it. I am going to take on everything I have learnt this week, and make sure that I implement all of the new information going forward. So, a big thank you to Tristan for his guidance and caring, a big well done to the live sound guys for their efforts, and a big, massive, sloppy, work-appropriate kiss for my team mates for their support, talent, and hard work. One down, two to go!

AUS220 Week 3: The Green Light

A couple of weeks ago I answered the question addressing how I felt about the amount of work we are expected to manage this trimester, and I said overwhelmed. Well, that certainly got put to the test this week, and overwhelming is a dramatic understatement. However, love is in the labour and having achieved the things I did this week, even with the amount of work it took, I am feeling very satisfied and fulfilled. Tuesday saw two presentations made, one being the dialectical inquiry and the other being the pitch for my Music Victoria podcast. Both took a vast amount of time, effort, coordination, teamwork, concentration, sacrifice and little sleep, but I am proud of what I and my groups achieved. I don't mind working hard, so long as I feel it has been to some end. The feedback from my educational captain this trimester (Hi Teebo!) was very positive and made me feel as though we had hit the mark, which is a good feeling after putting in the hours. Of course, this week has been full of many other jobs too, including group discussions about the upcoming interdisciplinary creative project, organising freelance work I am planning, and also further out-of-class recording sessions with my post-production teammates! But certainly, if I am to reflect on anything this week, I must do so by talking about my presentations.

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I've spent a lot of time with Mr Darwin over the last couple of weeks. Trent, Elisha and I signed up to research, discuss and critically reflect on the idea of Aesthetics. It was the first week of the dialectical inquiries, which added a little more pressure, not only because we were setting the bar, but also just because there was generally a lot happening at the time. But I'm glad we did it. I personally put my hand up for Aesthetics because I felt like I had either a general idea or a fully formed opinion on all the other topics, yet Aesthetics, I had no idea what so ever. I had, of course, heard the term before, even using it numerous times myself, and yet when I saw the topic was an option I realised I had no real idea about it as a theory of philosophy, science or culture. So, I thought it was a perfect topic to get my head around, and now, it's safe to say I'm truly obsessed, not to mention the fact that I am annoying the hell out of anyone in earshot with all of my facts and theories on the matter. Once the three of us had read the online lecture, we realised just how big a topic we had taken on. We also noticed that there were many conflicting ideas on the matter, from some very smart people. This led us to the idea of presenting a lecture, where we all discussed and dissected a different angle to the argument. We were careful to discuss theories without bias. We wanted it to be factual and educational, not just us shouting about our opinions. We did make a critical argument as required, but we were careful to not muddy the concepts discussed throughout with it. We decided that the best (and most interesting) three angles for us to come at it with were the Darwinist/Humanist theory, the mathematical and naturist theory, and then finally, to show how it relates to us as audio professionals. I, to my glee, got to take on the Humanist/Darwinist theory.

Funnily enough, once I started my research, I realised that I'd already spent some time with Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex in the past. In trimester one, I wrote an essay on the evolutionary purposes of musicality, where I addressed the idea of music being innate, and things like our predisposition for rhythm being a result of our mother's heartbeat. So I knew I'd enjoy sinking my teeth back into this text. For this assessment, I was researching the evolutionary explanation for beauty. From animals like the peacock, that evolved to attract a female with their giant, bright coloured plumage, even though it drastically went against the idea of survival and natural selection, to the earliest homo-sapiens making artistic arrowhead tools, purely to impress the opposite sex. I learnt far too much to go into it all here, but needless to say, I am hooked on the theory and cannot stop talking and thinking about. A man who spent much of his career pondering this idea was Denis Dutton. His 2010 Ted Talk, which he made just months before he passed away, was truly informative, intriguing and controversial. Being that the question of aesthetics falls into that sticky, grey place between philosophy and science, there are a lot of people with very persuasive, contradictory and passionate arguments on the matter. I must admit though, as a scientifically minded person, I see a lot of sense in the idea of beauty being innate. When it comes to art, I haven't made my mind up one hundred percent yet, but not knowing is nice too. It means I have to continue thinking about, and how it relates to the work I create. Anyway, I could really talk about it all day, but I did the talking it was meant for on Tuesday, and I feel that all the hard work and preparation that myself, Trent and Elysha put in was well worth it. We learnt a lot, enjoyed our planning sessions, and sweated up until the very last minute. It wasn't an easy task, but we got it done and to a standard that we are all proud of. Tim Dalton's comments back to us were very positive and constructive, and that was definitely the icing on a sleepless, stressful, mind-bending cake.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjdKarDXSpg

Then, that same afternoon, myself and my podcast team, consisting of Trent and Elysha again, and also Susan and Tabatha, presented our pitch for our Music Victoria podcast, We Didn't Start The Fire. With our group name, The Pod Squad, and a thoroughly planned out pitch, we hit the floor to present. Somewhere in amongst the endless, sleepless nights of aesthetics and Darwin and birds and apes and homo sapiens, I managed to put together an audio/visual trailer for our idea. This was not only as a way to leave an impression, as any good pitch should, but also to give a flavour of the style and production quality we would be aiming for with our show. As we received a glowing green light, it was clearly worth the time. I'm really proud and excited about our idea, taking a look at the last forty years of the music industry in Melbourne, asking who and what shaped the current international music city I am proud to be a part of. I wasn't too interested in doing something overly contemporary, as I felt like everyone else would probably attack the project from that angle, so when this idea came to mind I was really hyped. I think it's genuinely a great idea for a podcast, and we have all already agreed to take on this job with the goal of making a professional product at the end, one that goes beyond the bounds of a university assessment, and one that can be put out as a real, concrete show that people will listen to. We are not considering this a university assignment at all, but a proper, real-world gig. I think we will have an incredible product at the end of this, and can't wait to see how the process unfolds. We have a great team, a great narrative, and all the knowledge we need to make this thing good enough to compete with the big names. I can't wait to get it done!

Although we aren't quite finished yet, our post-production project is starting to take its final shape. We have done a really great job. We still have to mix it all and record some more little bits of Foley, but it's well on its way. Compared to the original I think it holds up. We have honoured the style of the time and genre of the original, but we have made our own creative decisions on plenty of things also. If there were any changes we could make, I would say maybe we could spend more time creating bigger, bolder sound effects, but given the time and venue restrictions, that's not something I am overly concernced about, as we have manged to get everything we needed regardless.


How are the skills that you are learning in your specific intensive transferable into other areas of audio/music production?

Out of all the skills I am learning in my post-production intensive, the one that is by far the most transferable to other areas of audio is the pre-planning and careful consideration needed to make the job not only quicker, but much easier, and with much better results. I'm always aware that planning ahead is important, but looking back I think there have been many times that I've gone into projects with an 'arty' and 'creative' outlook that I'll 'let it all happen naturally and organically'. Now, due to the immense amount of preparation required to complete a post-production job, I see that it not only makes everything smoother and more precise, but it makes the job easier, more relaxed and therefore more enjoyable and freeing. I will certainly be implementing this more in the future. 

AUS220 Week 2: Sound Recording Masterclass

This week started with an intensive within an intensive as we were joined by Nick, a working sound recordist, who took us through a day on set through the eyes of the sound department. We got hands-on experience with all of the film department sound recording equipment, with Nick taking us through the setup, use, and pack down of each piece. It was invaluable information, and equipment and know-how we have not yet been exposed to. Not only did Nick give us technical advice, he took the time to give us in-depth tips and tools to making it in the industry. 

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For me personally, and I'm sure the others too, I was so eager to pick Nick's brain on this topic. It was great to finally see how it all happens on the set. First, we set up all the equipment. We had shotgun mics with boom poles, radio lapel mics, a film camera and of course the field recording units. We got to unpack it all, insert batteries and memory cards, check settings, sync everything up and get it all levelling. It was a lot of fun and we were all grateful for the information. Once we had everything set up, Nick took us through the intricacies of the field recorder, the unit that all microphone signals are sent to be recorded via XLR ports. We hooked up the boom mics directly and then learned how to sync up the transmitters and receivers for the radio mics. We went through all the possible settings and parameters on the recording unit, including the EQ, phase inverters, phantom power settings and level monitoring. Nick also gave us really helpful fact sheets on the equipment so we could further study in our own time. Then, we went through operating the booms. This involved a lot more than one might expect, so it was a real eye-opener. We then mock recorded a few takes as if we were really on set. We took turns at the different roles like camera operator, sound recorders, director and slate holder. It was a great way to fully immerse our selves and see the process truly. I think the one thing that really hit home for me was how much responsibility is on the shoulders of the sound person, pun not intended. The importance of concentration, preparation and professionalism were made really clear to me. The thought of making a mistake and missing a great performance or moment that can't be recreated is scary, but also speaks volumes to the respect that must be paid to the craft. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO3N_PRIgX0

After lunch, it was back into the studio to start on Foley. Arguably the most fun part of the process, we were really looking forward to this, but at the same time nervous about just how we were going to make the sounds accurately come to life. We split up and hit the halls of SAE to acquire anything and everything we could. The only requirement was that it made a sound. Our first effort was recreating the sound of old-timey typewriter keys. We tried an old phone, both the dials and the hangup receiver, which didn't quite hit the mark for us. We then tried several other random objects until Tristan suggested trying a pair of tongs we had found. Jack was in the booth, trying multiple hand positions, ring positions and velocities until we all agreed we had found 'the sound'. It was interesting to see how crucial out-of-the-box thinking is to recording Foley. Sure, there is the skill needed to perform, edit and mix the sound in time with the picture, but the real skill lies in being able to think laterally about objects and noises and to see a potential for similarities between completely separate things. Tristan gave us some great guidance with this, especially reminding us to think of the sounds in terms of qualities, not so much literally. Does it sound hard, heavy or fast? Is it sharp, thin or fluid? These questions start your mind on the right track to come up with the solutions needed. It was nice to see us a group being able to come up with some truly accurate sounds with the limited amount of objects we had. We made a good start during this session, but we have a long way to go.

sound-desk-1200x900-.jpg

During the session, Elysha, Sam and I left the others in the Tascam studio and set up the D-Command console to clean up the vocal takes we had from our previous meeting. We top and tailed all the clips, sorted out any clip gain issues, and perfectly lined up all the clips to fit the frames of the film. This was fiddly and intricate work, but important and good to know it is done. We also did some effects editing to create some high pitched phone gargle necessary for one of the scenes. It was great to get some more time on the D-Command. It's a brand new toy for us, so getting our head around it took some time, but Tristan was there to point us in the right direction. 

I think the phrase sound is bigger than music is never truer than it is in relation to film. It is amazing how little the general public knows about the work that goes into creating sounds for film, but you can guarantee everyone would notice the minute it was taken away. The aid of sound to the story is undeniable. The information relayed through sound is so important, sometimes even more than the images themselves. Think about what you can know from hearing different types of footsteps (heavy, slow, loud), or even wind and waves. We, as people, can make very accurate assumptions about the immediate future from what we hear, and any storyteller in any discipline would be a fool not to exploit it fully.


How do you feel about all of the different projects that you have to manage between now and the end of the trimester?

In a word, overwhelmed. But excited too. There's not a single project that I'm not looking forward to sinking my teeth into, and although it is a lot of work and will take a lot of my time and effort, I know that at the end I'll be a better practitioner for it. So sure, it's a big workload, and is definitely intensive, but I'm certainly not complaining. 

AUS220 Week 1: Post-production

To say I was over the moon to find out my group and I would be studying post-production for our first intensive would be a massive understatement. It would also so be seriously amiss if I didn't take a moment to say how lucky I am to have landed in a group with the students I have. Elysha, Joel, Sam, Christelle, Jack, and Pat are all artists I admire, respect and look up to. I am honoured to be sharing this part of the journey together. But back to the point in...

I've always been fascinated with the art of creating audio for film. As someone who is happily obsessed with sound and sound quality, I've always been amazed at just how much effort, attention and skill goes into creating the worlds in these moving pictures. Not only the undeniable importance of the score, without which almost all character and story arch would be completely lost on most audience members, but also the intricate details of footsteps, clothes rustling and pencil writing, etc. For me, even just the process of concentrating my attention on these elements is like meditation. I adore the precision. I adore the specificity. I adore it all. But for all my adoration, I, until very recently, was practically fully unaware of how any of it comes to be. As you can see in the blog posts below, I got my first taste of the process during the AUD210 Jingles assessment, which was where my true love for post-production started to blossom. Using Foley and sound effects sourced from various sites online and music that I composed and performed myself, I recreated the sound for a film trailer and two television advertising shorts. To see this work, click here. I really enjoyed creating this work, but it was simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of my interest. So, as I said, I was wrapped to find out I would be getting another shot at it straight off the bat this year. To top it off, not only did I land a great topic to study with an awesome group of artists, I then met the man who would be leading us through this intensive, and in a phrase, what a bloody legend!

 Warning: Shameless (and slightly creepy) attempt at teacher flattery 

Warning: Shameless (and slightly creepy) attempt at teacher flattery 

Tristan quickly drew us all in with his passion and energy, and got us all on board with his clear love and respect for the work he does, and does well. Like other lectures at SAE, it makes a big difference to be taught by someone who has hands-on experience in the field, and as a working post-production artist, it's a box that he definitely ticks.

After a while of getting to know each other and talking about the craft, we quickly dived into selected our footage for the intensive. We were asked to choose a short clip or trailer from a film or television show and to recreate all audio for it. Unlike my previous assessment, this time we have to create all the sound from scratch, as opposed to sourcing pre-recorded materials online. This is a really great thing for us because it exposes us to the maximum amount of angles of the job. We get to experience first hand the process of creating sound for film, from the early spotting sessions to the dialogue replacement (or ADR) and Foley and effects creation to mixing and editing the final project. But first, we had to choose the visuals, and we picked an absolute winner. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32cvFb7Fqok&feature=youtu.be

This clip is so perfect as far as I'm concerned for many reasons, first of which is that it is one of my childhood favourites. I used to love this show, and especially this character, so I was secretly hoping as we scrolled through the options that the group would land on this one. Aside from that though, it is also incredibly diverse in terms of what is needed sound wise. Being an animation, the bounds of reality can, and certainly have been stretched, meaning this clip contains a massive amount of random and varied actions. There is, amongst many other things, a flying man, a plane crash, a TNT explosion, a car accident, and of course, a toaster. It means that over the next few weeks we will most definitely have our work cut out for us, but what a great way to get the most out of the opportunity, and to make this intensive truly... intensive. 

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Once we had a clip, it was time for a spotting session. We got to use the D-Command for this, which was great because none of us had ever used it before. We didn't get to wrap our heads around too much yet, but it was good to get a start. We all sat around studying our clip, noting down everything we heard. I recorded down all the dialogue, while the others looked after music and everything else. Once we had all of that marked down, we jumped straight into recording the dialogue. I've actually done quite a bit of work as a voice artist through my career as an actor, but it was great to see the process from the other side. Not to mention the fact that, although I jumped in to record the voice of Powdered Toastman, it was awesome and fun to see the other guys getting in the booth to do some characters too. We had a lot of laughs doing the voice-over work, and we managed to get some great results. What we didn't get done on day one, we all met up for an out of class recording session in the Tascam studio a couple of days later to finish off the vocals. This was so we could make sure that we hit the ground running in our next class with Tristan. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing what we create together, and I have no doubt it will be high-quality work that we are all very proud of. Watch this space!


What genres or styles of music are most unfamiliar to me, and what production techniques could be learned from investigating these styles?

Like post-production, I also got my first taste of electronic music last trimester with Nick Wilson's class. This is by far the genre I most unfamiliar with, and it is one that I am now really keen to get my head around. The production techniques I'm thinking will be the biggest help will be Ableton Live and synthesis. These are both things I am fairly unfamiliar with so far, but I have bought the DAW and am actively trying to learn as much as I can about the history and current statis of the world of sythesis, so here's hoping.