Soldering 101 with Cory P!

Cable Spaghetti 300x187 Soldering 101 with Cory P!Cables, cables everywhere! Technology always has at least one cable that needs to be plugged into something somewhere, and the higher quality, more technical the gear gets,  the more cables that come along with it. Whether it’s a guitar cable, power cable, ethernet, BNC or who knows what else, cables are just an accepted part of technology, love it or hate it.

The worst thing is when you have a cable go bad. Especially with how expensive many of these cables are, it is incredibly frustrating when a cable starts shorting out – or even worse – stops working altogether.

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To start off, what does our standard audio cable consist of? There are generally two types – balanced and unbalanced. An unbalanced cable typically will have two conducting wires that allow electronic voltage to pass, are generally less than 20 feet long, and are prone to interference from radio and magnetic signals. A balanced cable is an unbalanced cable with an extra conductor – a shield – that intercepts EMI/RFI and acts as a grounding wire. These cables generally can be longer and allow for a better quality signal.

The wire inside a cable is typically copper, which is very conductive, wrapped in an insulator – rubber or plastic that does not conduct electricity. The idea is to transport electromotive force from one end of the cable to the other uninterrupted. In order to have this wire actually connect to our devices, we will need some sort of connector. While this isn’t necessary, it certainly has advantages, such as interconnectivity, strain relief, and ease of setup/tear down. The connector is designed to plug into a port on each piece of gear we want to connect. Inside the connector is where we find the individual wires of the cable connected to “pins”, which will make our actual connection inside the port we plug the cable into.

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In audio, generally we have a TS (unbalanced), TRS (balanced), or XLR (balanced) cable. Of course there are many others, but those are some of the more common ones we use. TS cables are typically used with guitars and basses, TRS are used often to interconnect speakers, and XLR is most commonly found as a mic cable.

In many cases we may come across a non-working cable. It is entirely possible to fix a faulty cable, and that can certainly save you a ton of money. An essential tool in any aspiring musician or audio engineer’s kit is a fundamental set of soldering skills. Soldering is an incredibly useful skill that a surprising amount of people don’t possess, and it’s really not much harder than trying to hot glue something together!

Soldering with Cory P 300x179 Soldering 101 with Cory P!In this series of videos, we have CRAS instructor Cory P! talking us through basic soldering. This is a skill that is taught at the Conservatory as part of our Live Sound curriculum for good reason. The cost of buying a new guitar cable, for example, is much higher than the pennies it would cost to break out your iron and a spool of solder and fix the broken leads. Not to mention the hassle of having to go to the inevitable Guitar Center…

Here, Cory demonstrates how to solder a brand new XLR connector onto a mic cable. Repairing XLR cables is a great, simple way to show your worth to a new studio manager as well!

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By simply taking the two conductors, and the shield wire found inside a standard mic cable, we begin by trimming them to an equivalent length. Once our wires are trimmed neatly, we can strip back any of the extra insulation found on the outside of the wire, exposing the copper leads inside. The idea is to make a clean connection between the copper wire and the metal pins in the XLR connector. Using solder as a binding agent, we can make a very strong bond between these two components, allowing our electronic voltage to properly travel down the cable.

In most cases, when a cable starts going bad, it is likely that one of the wires or joints has broken off of its associated pin in the connector, so just resoldering those components together is a quick, easy fix.

There are many other uses for soldering outside of just fixing or creating custom audio cables. Anything from building a computer, a sound module, modding a microphone, building a guitar amp, or even fixing/upgrading an old video game system as we will see in this next part, as Cory adds a component to his old Atari to get better quality audio and video.

In part two of our Soldering tutorial, Cory P goes over some of the additional benefits of having soldering skills. Here, he demonstrates how adding an additional circuit to a classic Atari video game system can allow us to have higher fidelity video and audio. The mod also allows the old system, which traditionally only uses an RF Adapter to connect to a television, to output using a more standardized component system found on most newer TV sets.

Another point that Cory touches on is the quality of a solder joint. There can be from time to time what are known as “cold solder joints”, where the solder was not heated and placed properly. This can cause a poor, intermittent connection. In many old devices, these cold solder joints are the cause of many problems, and can be easily fixed. By reheating the cold joints, it can more accurately disperse the solder and flux to make a more solid connection. If that doesn’t work, using a device such as a “solder sucker” can be beneficial in completely removing old solder, allowing you to make a completely fresh connection.

Keep those irons warm!

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5 Things I Learned About Being On Tour From The Front-of-House Audio Engineer For Paramore.

There’s something energizing about seeing an entire concert being assembled from load in to sound check — especially if you are there to watch and learn as a student.

A handful of CRAS students got the opportunity to observe this process for the Monumental Tour with Paramore and Fall Out Boy at the Ak-chin Pavilion with special guests New Politics.  I’ve learned this tour has been a long awaited tour for fans of both Paramore and Fall Out Boy.

Students were given the opportunity to see and learn from the Front of House engineer for Paramore, Eddie Mapp, a CRAS graduate.  They got to see the process of an entire show being loaded in and set up for the upcoming evening’s performance.

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Paramore on Monument Tour

#1-SETTING THE STAGE

Whether you’ve been to a concert or worked backstage at one, nothing is cooler than seeing the end result of a hard day’s work.  One of the things our students learned about load in and set up is that it’s a very well oiled machine.  Every person and piece of gear has it place.

Semi trucks are unloaded, the entire contents of the lighting, stage set, instruments and sound gear are loaded in (or onto the stage) and set up within a small amount of time.  Our student learned that most days, unlike today, this process normally takes 1 hour and 40 minutes from start to finish.

CRAS students were able to see Paramore and Fall Out Boy’s entire stage and lighting set up and sound checks for both.

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Stage set up for Paramore and Fall Out Boy

#2-NOTHING EVER GOES AS PLANNED

Set up today took a bit longer than the crew would have liked.  During this stop on the tour, there were issues with the PA system.  Eddie explained to the students that sometimes venues have weight restrictions that require for the PA system to be changed to accommodate the requirements.  Not only did they have issues with their system being too heavy, the stage was not as in depth as most they have played on so the entire system was not able to be set up as planned. Thus, creating a change in the stage set for the band. But this crew adapted quickly to adjust the system to get it up and running so that the audio crew could get started.

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#3-DIFFERENT CITY, DIFFERENT VENUE, BEING ABLE TO ADAPT IS KEY

Even though the tour is starting to wind down for the summer, no day on the tour has been the same for Eddie.  Students were able to learn about how important it is to adapt the venue you are in and how important your tools, such as SMAART are in being able to make this mix for the fans, just as great as the night before.  Not only did the students get to observe the set up of front of house, but they got to question Eddie and FOB’s FOH engineer on venues and consoles.  After Paramore’s sound check, the students were able to approach the console and ask Eddie questions one on one.

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#4-THERE ARE MANY JOBS TO FILL ON A TOUR.

Who knew that there at times up to 20 people on a single tour, just as support staff for Paramore and Fall Out Boy.

As we met people during the set up for the evening’s performance, we learned of many different jobs that people held on the tour.  Riggers for lighting and set design, stage hands, production assistants, guitar and bass technicians, monitor engineers, production managers, lighting designers, tour managers, personal assistants, fitness trainers and last but certainly not least, front of house engineers.

All of these roles are important to the keep the tour going in a manageable fashion.  Understanding your role on tour and contributing your part not only makes the tour better, but also can lead to networking opportunities for yourself.  As a CRAS student, you learn how key networking can be to further your career.  Many of the people on a crew are able to find work on another tour by doing a great job and networking with people they meet on tour.

This is a great place to see the necessary skills that are needed for jobs in the audio industry. www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-4014.00

#5-MIXING FOR A LIVE SHOW IS LIKE PAINTING ON A CANVAS.

Eddie explained to our students, how every show is like a white empty canvas and that each night while mixing for a live show he gets to paint that canvas for the crowd. I think this is the  one thing our students could relate to with the day’s experience is that mixing audio is a passion.  In order to make audio engineering a career you have to find the passion in it and the art it allows you to bring to life.

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Eddie running Sound check

Being able to spend the day with Eddie was a humbling experience for myself and the students.  His laid back vibe allowed the students to feel comfortable with asking questions ranging from his console set up, his sound check run through to the style of mixing he does for certain types of genres he mixes for.  I have a feeling with the time he spent with us, he ignited the passion in some of the students who were fortunate for the opportunity to be there.

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Students at FOH

Are you ready to start painting on your canvas?  Apply here to get started!
www.audiorecordingschool.com/applynow

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CRAS is PARAMOUNT at PotLuckCon this year

This year, CRAS participated in many aspects of the PotLuckCon, hosted by Sweetwater in Tucson, Arizona.  CRAS hosted a demonstration room, Wired For Sound with Focusrite.  Brock, one of our great instructors at CRAS was on hand to demonstrate the capabilities of Focusrite’s RedNet audio interface and how it can work in cooperation with many audio sources being passed over network systems, even sending signals out to our Mobile Broadcast Unit.

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CRAS Mobile Broadcast Unit – Studer Console

Our very own technician, Jeff Harris was a moderator for a panel on Bass Response and Subwoofers.  The Director of Student Services, Greg Stefus participated on a panel about Interns and Studios: The Role and the Reason.

 We had a booth on the exhibit floor for people to learn more about CRAS.  It was great to see the students and graduates stop and visit with our Director of Admissions.  We also had instructors and our Tempe Campus Director, Mike Jones, in attendance working the exhibit floor creating opportunities with manufacturers for potential internship opportunities and future gear purchases for our campus.

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CRAS Students on Exhibit Floor

Graduates could be seen walking around the event, participating as exhibitors and even speaking on panels. Darrell Thorpe, a ’97 graduate of the Conservatory speak on a panel about Freelance Mixing.  Alex Otto, a ’99 graduate, spoke on a panel about Bass Response and Subwoofers and also held a DIY workshop on Bass Trap and Gobo Building.

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CRAS Grads and Instructors

Fred Aldous took part in the final panel on Saturday with Craig Schumacher.  Fred has been instrumental in assisting CRAS with the content creation of our Broadcast curriculum.

But my title was “CRAS being paramount this year,” how so you ask?

Not only did we have a lot of involvement with panels and workshops, we brought our Mobile Broadcast Unit (trailer) to record the main panels and provide audio feeds for demonstrations and archive the event.  CRAS was paramount with our students being immersed in a large part of the behind the scenes of PotLuckCon.  Students could be seen:

  1. Running cables on the day before the event
  2. Operating cameras for the main panels
  3. Shooting behind-the-scene footage
  4. Assisting with the Casita Crawl Friday night
  5. Tear down of the cables/equipment after the event.

It was great to see how they were able to put a part of their audio and broadcast knowledge into a real world scenario.

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CRAS Students as Location Recorders

CRAS was excited that this year we had the highest student count in attendance history.  We saw over 90 students attending the event on Saturday.  Many sitting in on the great panels, attending the workshops and exhibit floor to meet with manufacturers, and begin to establish their network of industry professionals.  With PotLuckCon being such a more intimate industry event, the students were able to really meet people without the rushed feeling most conferences bring.

We enjoyed being such a huge part of this year’s PotLuckCon, it was full of great information and great people.

For more information about the PotLuck Conference, visit www.potluckconference.com.

Check out this one of videos from this years PotLuckCon.

Intro of the set up of PotLuckCon 2014 using Focusrite’s RedNet and Dante

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Dialogue Editor Brian Armstrong Answers Questions About New Show Bates Motel

CRAS Grad Brian Armstrong 300x200 Dialogue Editor Brian Armstrong Answers Questions About New Show Bates Motel

 

Pictured: CRAS Post Production Instructor Jeff Thomas (left) with Brian Armstrong (right)

At our most recent Grad Panel and subsequent Open House, CRAS grad Brian Armstrong stopped by to give our current student body some enlightening tips and stories about his time spent in the audio industry. One of his accolades was working as a dialogue editor for the A&E show Bates Motel.

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The television channel A&E has recently launched a critically acclaimed show entitled Bates Motel. Based off the classic horror movie Psycho, this show takes a look at the more formative years of Norman Bates. CRAS Grad Brian Armstrong, sound and dialogue editor, was kind enough to host an open forum on reddit.com and answer as many questions as he could about his role in the show.

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If you weren’t doing audio work for television/film, what would your dream job be? Audio related or not.

I really love my job. I am working on getting some credits to work my way up the ladder to supervise movies/television shows as well as produce them.

What inspired you to become a sound editor?

Music, oddly enough.

When I was in college, my roommate had a guitar and I had never played an instrument before in my life. Whenever he was gone, I would pick it up and mess around with it. It inspired me to listen to a bunch of different types of music and that’s when I decided I wanted to do something in that world. I went to The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences after college and learned the “brains on” approach to making music. They had a Post Production class that felt a bit like an afterthought, but it got me very interested in the movies and TV world. I did an internship in Burbank at a post production facility doing a bunch of reality TV shows and promos for big movies. Eventually I decided to pursue bigger projects and haven’t looked back since.

I do not like a lot of TV shows, and I have never seen or heard of your show. I typically watch shows like Bob’s Burgers, That 70s show, and a couple of crime shows like Criminal Minds. Why should I or someone like me watch your show? If I shouldn’t even watch it then who is your target audience?

I think Bates Motel is pretty unique in that it’s a modern twist on a very classic story. As I typed that, I guess its not SO unique of an idea, but given the fact that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is such a cult classic, making a “prequel” to it that takes place in today’s society (albeit a small town) is pretty ballsy. When I think of Psycho, I immediately am in another place and time. Admittedly, it took a leap of faith on my part to accept what the creators are doing, but it pays off.

I can’t speak directly on behalf of A&E as to their target audience, but Norman Bates is an awkward 17 year old high school student struggling with fitting in, making friends, and dealing with his controlling mom. I’d venture to say the target audience is definitely a younger (early 20s – mid 30s) crowd. Having said that, its not ignoring the “older” folks who perhaps saw and loved Psycho when it first came out.

Thanks for your answer. I will give episode 1 season 1 a shot this weekend. I’ve been trying to think of sound-related questions and realized I know absolutely nothing so here goes: How much work do you put in per episode? What takes up most of your time? Do you sometimes have to get actors to come back in to record they part again? Also how do you manage to make it sound like they are at that one location in the episode and not in a noiseless studio?

Awesome questions for someone who doesn’t know anything!

I have five days to edit the dialogue for a 42 minute episode. YouTube and FaceBook take up most of my time.

Yes, actors do come in and re-record some of their lines. Its called ADR. Reasons for this could vary. A line might be added to clarify a plot point. The performance might not be as good as the director or editor want it to be. There could be an sound on the track that there’s no way for me to remove (cell phone interference, planes flying over head, cars passing, etc.)

Once I do my “magic” on the show, I hand it off to the re-recording mixers to do the final work on balancing all the elements of the show (sound effects, dialogue, and music). The dialogue mixer is the guy who finesses the ADR and EQ’s and adds reverb to it so it sounds like its not recorded on a sound stage.

I’m an audio engineer interested in getting into this kind of editing work. I’ve always done music, but I’ve also worked with licensing music for film and TV, which is what sparked my interest in post production audio for film or TV. What advice would you have for someone like me?

Music editors have a great gig. I went to school to learn live sound but quickly realized that wasn’t my scene and interned at a post production facility in Burbank. The first step, I would say is to just familiarize yourself with all the different aspects of post production audio and finding someone/somewhere that will let you get your hands on some stuff and just go for it. There’s a lot of debate about whether you should focus on one thing or be open to any opportunities that come up. I think you should do both. Be open to opportunities but promote yourself as one thing you are really good at. For example, I promote myself as a dialogue editor, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to be a music editor or a sound effects editor if the right show came along.

Good luck and maybe we’ll share a stage someday!

BatesMotelWorkstation1 300x225 Dialogue Editor Brian Armstrong Answers Questions About New Show Bates Motel

I noticed from your workstation photo that you like the equal gain crossfade, as opposed to the equal power. Any particular reason? I tend to lean towards equal power.

First of all… how did you notice that from looking at my Pro Tools session?

Secondly, my crossfades are actually all equal power when they’re used within a region. If its within a region and I use equal gain, I hear a dip in the fill I can’t hear when I use equal power.

For fades in and fade outs, I create a long enough fill to fade out with any type of fade (as long as its straight). Its just sort of how I adapted to dialogue. I’ve found that seeing fades that aren’t a straight line makes some mixers a little nervous.

Bottom line, if it sounds good, it is good.

That’s interesting what you mentioned about using equal gain/straight line fades, and some mixers getting nervous about non-linear ones. Obviously, equal power is almost always the way to go within a region. But for ins and outs, that actually kind of makes sense, if the mixer is planning on riding each line in and out a bit. Easier to anticipate the linear fades.

I’ve never had the opportunity to watch a seasoned re-recording mixer working with dialogue in its early stages, so I’m pretty curious about that aspect. From my own perspective, I’ve noticed that if I use equal power fades, hidden under “mods”, I don’t have to ride each and every line’s in and out point. 

Truth be told, I don’t know the fundamental difference between equal power and equal gain fades. All I know is what I hear. And yes, I think you’re right… it’s a mixer seeing something out of his/her control that makes him/her nervous.

Equal power retains the relative volume of the fade in and out clips, if you’re fading clips with different sound characteristics. Equal gain prevents the selection from summing and overloading, if your clips have the same relative volume. Source: just got a Pro Tools cert, working on my post production certs and chops now. There’s also a “none” setting, which keeps the fades independent of each other.

bluwave 1 300x214 Dialogue Editor Brian Armstrong Answers Questions About New Show Bates Motel

Hey there. I’m a SFX and music editor from Vancouver, BC. I was wondering what mix stage your show mixes at, how many days do they get to mix, and is there a predub? You say you get 5 days to cut, is that the same amount the other editors get? Are you freelance or affiliated with a certain studio or company?

Bates Motel mixes on Stage B at Bluwave on the Universal lot. FX mixer Alan Decker and dialogue mixer Nello Torri are the driving forces behind the mix. I believe the other editors get five days as well (there’s only one other). Its a two day mix and no, there is no predub.

I am a contract hire (IATSE Local 700), so I guess that’s freelance. I don’t really know what to call it. I’m working for Atomic Sound right now on Bates.

I’m studying post sound in Vancouver right now and graduate in a few months. Is it necessary to be in the union to work on shows in LA?

It is necessary if you want to work on union shows. The first two or three years I made a living doing non-union work (mostly reality) but I’ve loved being a part of the Local 700. Met some really cool people and worked on some really cool projects.

The great thing about the union is you can technically be “on the roster” once you have met the requirements and then pay your initiation dues once you land your first union gig.

Here’s the union website for more information: www.editorsguild.com.

I see you’re using Izotope Decrackler. Are you using it to clean up some lavs or what? I don’t end up using Decrackle so much as Declicker and Denoiser.

The setting I have on the Decrackler is GREAT for removing mouth noises and certain types of clicks and pops. Its really a tool I’ve grown probably too reliant upon. Its always open (along with reverse and my color palette)

Honestly, I haven’t played around much with Declicker. Denoiser I don’t mess with because the dialogue mixer I’m working with likes to do all that. I get his hesitation. A lot of times dialogue editors will use it too heavy handed and end up with a phasey track. The only time I’ll ever use Denoiser (on this show anyway) is to identify a specific frequency that is persistent in the whole take and can be seamlessly removed.

I do post for a lot of independent stuff, and as such, I do everything in the sound process – from dialogue edit to mix and everything in between. Because of that, I can’t say that I actually know where the dialogue editor job ends. I’d love to understand as I would like to be able to get hired for these kinds of jobs and not scrounge around independently. When you say you’ll use Denoise to identify a frequency, does that mean you’re just doing it to find out if it is removable and you don’t need to tag that region for ADR? Or are you actually going through and EQ’ing the dialogue as you go? If so, are you putting a channel strip plugin in, or are you doing it in Audiosuite? 

I’m very familiar with the world of “independent” work. I started in a small post production facility that did it all and in very unrealistic turn around times. Your questions target the exact problems I’m still overcoming working with mixers.

I’ll answer the Denoiser question first. Sometimes when I’m working on dialogue I’ll hear a constant tone. If it’s a VERY specific frequency, I’ll either bring up an Audiosuite EQ for the ol’ sweep and pull. If that’s not successful, I’ll bring in the Denoiser, let it “learn” an empty section of the region and it will show me what the exact frequency bell looks like. Then I’ll bring the EQ back and get rid of it that way. However, if it’s more of a hum or a broader frequency tone, I’ll leave it alone and let the mixer deal with it. Sounds mean, but that’s their job and that’s what they do best. What sounds good to me in my headphones will NOT sound the same on a stage with big speakers.

The line between mixer and editor is constantly moving with each new show I’m on. The best way to be a valuable dialogue editor is to first recognize that your job is simply to prepare your tracks for the mixer. Secondly, the communication HAS to be alive and well between you and the mixer as to what he or she wants and doesn’t want. They can be very specific so its good to make sure their expectations are crystal clear. You also want to be on the stage for the first mix, even if it means doing so on your own time. The BEST way to learn is to watch your tracks get manipulated on the stage. I guarantee you’ll more in one day on the stage with Kevin O’Connell or Nello Torri than you will in ten years working on your own.

NEVER use a channel strip plug in if you’re just editing. 10 times out of 10 the mixer will just import your tracks into a template they’ve created and are comfortable with. I ALWAYS use Audiosuite for destructive edits, and I ALWAYS make a copy before applying the effect and put it in the x tracks. I never leave mixers unable to undo anything I’ve done. Its way too egocentric for me to think I’ve solved all the problems on my own. Haha.

What show on TV currently does a very bad job at what you do?

I wouldn’t want to rat out anyone I might end up working with in the future, so I’ll openly admit to answering a completely different question while escaping yours. icon smile Dialogue Editor Brian Armstrong Answers Questions About New Show Bates Motel

If there’s one aspect of post production I really dislike its group ADR. Group ADR is basically getting a bunch of people in the recording studio and making them yell things specific to a scene. If its a bar scene, they’ll say things like, “yeah, I’ll take a beer” or “Over here, man!” and try and tie lines to specific actions people in the background are doing.

The show that the group stands out the most on, TO ME, is Boardwalk Empire. Quite often I will laugh my ass off at the things those actors come up with. Its no one’s fault. Group ADR is a very necessary evil… it just sometimes stands out to me way more than it probably should in that show specifically.

I just realized that pretty much every single reality show that involves talking head interviews is pretty bad when it comes to dialogue editing. They don’t have multiple takes to work with and (ideally) its non-scripted so editors have to work with what they have. Next time you watch a show with talking head interviews, listen ANYTIME they cut away from the person talking. I guarantee the reason they cut away is because they’re changing what the person originally said in one way or another.

 

 

Come back for part two of this AMA tomorrow!

 

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Grad Panel!

Tonight, CRAS is happy to bring back 4 of our graduates who are actively employed in the audio industry to share their stories with current CRAS students. All of these individuals have gone through the program and have risen to success.  The panel includes:
In anticipation for this event, I put together a quick recap from our last stellar CRAS grad panel!
Andrew Monheim - Manley Labs
Eric Rennaker - Bedrock LA
Brian Stubblefield - Jelly Beans Audio
William Anspach - EastWest Studios
In preparation for this panel tonight, I wanted to share some of the outstanding questions and answers that we got on the last Grad panel we did earlier this year.
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Grad Panel Recap

Becky Fimbres: Was the internship what you expected?

Eric Rennaker: In my situation, I interned at Westlake. I kind of had this idea in my mind that it was very intimidating because when you’re doing your research, you look for where you want to go, you look through the artists that have worked there, the records that have been made there, and so I was quite intimidated by just the list of amazing artists, and records, and producers, and engineers. It was everything that I expected it to be, just in the way of there being a very high level of work ethic and expectations from you. There’s no half-assing anything, you either give it everything you’ve got or nothing at all. I expected the studio manager to be pretty intimidating, and he was very intimidating person. But you know, you get to know him. It’s kind of one of those things where you’re new to a studio, and you do feel intimidated, but then you realize “OK, these are people who have been in pretty much the same exact position that I have at some point in their life.” You start to build your relationships with them, and start to network with them. That’s really one of the biggest parts about your internship, it’s just getting to know people, making connections with people, because that’s how things actually get done.

Jeremy Hinskton: Mine was really easy actually. 4th Street is a really chill studio, it’s not like Westlake or some of the bigger studios like that, so… It’s really cool, because here [CRAS] they teach you that when you get out, you’re nothing, you know what I mean? You’re just going to make coffee and clean everything. At 4th Street you did make coffee and clean everything, but you got to be a part of sessions. Every session that was there, [you were] setting up mics and doing patching if you got in good with the engineer, whoever was running it. So my experience interning was a lot different than that, it wasn’t intimidating at all. The only thing that was intimidating was not knowing something because you are fresh out of school. But other than that, the people were very chill, it was a very easy work place so it was nice to get a lot of hands on stuff going on there. Except it’s freelance, so you don’t get paid for anything, there’s no runner, so you gotta work, work hard, and work long.

Andrew Wuepper: I would say that the most important thing about when you get out there to intern is to keep an open mind. When you get there, you’re literally nothing, like you’re invisible. But the way I approached it was to always be the best at whatever job I was required to do. When you get there, in your mind you have this goal that you want to be the best possible engineer that you can ever be. But when you get your internship, you have to be the best floor mopper, the best phone answerer…the jobs there aren’t necessarily glamorous, but you have to approach it like you are going to be the best that ever did this. Like, if I was called upon to clean one of the lounges, when I walked in there I would be like “this is going to be the cleanest lounge in the entire city of Los Angeles.” And you do that. Sometimes it can get frustrating because you feel like it’s completely unnoticed, like nobody pats you on the back, nobody says “hey, great job on the lounge.” But it doesn’t go unnoticed. So, to persevere and realize, and keep in the back of your mind, that even though you’re putting in all this time that seems like nobody’s noticing it, somebody is noticing it. And one day, just out of the blue, all of the sudden, someone’s going to be like “Hey, you. You cleaned that lounge six months ago, it was the best lounge I’ve ever seen. Get in here, get on this session, work with this guy.” And you’ll be like, oh shit…you’ll be thrown off by it. But that’s kind of how it works, or that’s how it worked for me. When I got my opportunity, I never in a million years was expecting to wake up and get that opportunity. I was thinking it was going to be a year from then, two years from then. But all of a sudden it just pops up. You never know what’s going to happen.

Everything that you do, every way that you conduct yourself within the studio and the professional environment, you have to be the best that you could possibly be. The best food runner, the best everything, and that’s going to carry over to when you move up the ranks. You become the best assistant, to the best engineer. All those things. There’s a reason why this system has been built this way over decades. It’s because that’s the way that it has always worked. That’s how you find the people that can do it.

Jeremy: That’s also what’s expected of you. Everybody above you already knows because they’ve done it.

Maggie O’Brien: I think that even if you’re not the best, you’ve got to be the most enthusiastic.

Andrew: Yeah, you’ve got to think you’re the best.

Maggie: You’re going to do the shittiest things you can ever think of, but if you’re like “God, this is the best thing that I’ve ever done”, that also shines through. There’s going to be things too, that you’re probably not qualified for, not comfortable doing. But yeah, it’s like, I’m all in, I’m willing to do this. The skill set, absolutely that’s important, but you can’t forget about attitude either.

Andrew: You have to walk into a room acting like I was always taught…I was always taught as I was coming up that if you walk into a control room, act like you are supposed to be in there. You throw people off when you act all uncomfortable. Even if you’re not supposed to be there, you carry yourself like a professional, even if it’s your first day on the job, and people will notice that, and respect that.

Becky Fimbres: I want to piggy-back on something that Andrew said earlier about A-list versus B-list studios. If you work hard and you get into these A-list studios and you mess up that one time, it could be over for you instantly. You have to face that reality. In a smaller one, sometimes maybe you get that extra little “OK, you messed it up. Just don’t do it again,” kind of pat on the shoulder, but we’ll be watching you. You have to take all of these things into consideration when you’re thinking about big studio versus small studio, and again it’s about educated, researched decisions.

Andrew: The research, to even pile on top of that too…The homework never stops, even after you’ve picked your internship. When you get to a studio, do research on who works there on a regular basis. What producers, what artists? When you’re there for a month or two, or three months, four months, you start to see that most studios are a revolving door of the same clients. A lot of clients like to stay close to home. So figure out everything you possibly can about everybody who works there. What temperature they like their coffee, what chinese food restaurant they like to eat at. If they’ve fired people for stupid stuff in the past. Anything you can do to give yourself an advantage. You’re competing with everyone else in the city, and like he said, Los Angeles is a very competitive market. You have lots of kids out there and lots of people all gunning for a small amount of jobs. So whatever you can do to give yourself an advantage over any of them is what you need to do.

Becky: How important is networking?

Eric: Extremely.

Andrew: It’s everything. Resumes don’t mean anything.

Eric: Networking…one of the most interesting things about working in music, one of the interesting things I’ve found out the most is that I get more clients based off of my friendships with them than any other thing. You come to the realization that nobody wants to spend twelve hours in a room with somebody they wouldn’t want to go get a beer with. I wouldn’t want to hire somebody that I don’t want to hang out with. It’s a comfort level, you’ve got to understand. A lot of the artists there, that’s their creativity. They are paying a lot of money to work in a studio and be creative and just let their ideas flow out, and they can’t do that if they don’t like the person they’re working with. Even then, the networking thing…Speaking of LA, LA is an entertainment town. Even if it’s somebody in film. I meet people in parties and it’s like, “Oh I do film, but I have a friend who is a musician. He’s looking at making a record.” Boom. Client. Shoot, sitting in a Starbucks…I got one of my best gigs sitting in a Starbucks. I overheard a conversation from the table next to me and the guy was bitching about these mixes that this other engineer did. All I did was finish my coffee, and I walked up to him while he was still on the phone and I put my business card in front of him. And he called me two weeks later and it was a month [long] gig. So it’s like the weirdest things. Even when you’re out at a bar, you’re still working because you never know who you’re going to run into. You never know who you’re going to meet. Networking is everything.

Jeremy: Like Andrew said, resumes really don’t matter. They don’t really, you know? When you go through this school and everything and get all the certs…There’s a ton of certs that you can get. I did the same thing, I was like “I’m gonna get every one of these certs and I’m gonna be bad-ass.” I did all that. But when you get out there it doesn’t really matter what certs you have. It’s good because it helps you get through these programs and start to learn these programs. When you get out there, no one cares that you have a piece of paper, they want to see what you can do. So it doesn’t really matter. If you can do it, good, keep on it. If you don’t use it, you lose it. I remember I was doing a session with my boss, it was a small thing. You know, I was Tier 5 Pro Tools and everything like that. So I get out there and I’m doing the session, and I wasn’t working on Pro Tools for a long time, like a year and a half. And I’m sitting there doing this, and I’m like “How do you make a marker?” And I had to ask my boss how to make a marker. In Pro Tools. A Grammy winning…I felt like an idiot. But then again, when you don’t use it, you lose it. So keep on it. Don’t think that just because you have these certs and these pieces of paper that you’re ahead of the game, because there’s a bunch of people that are better than you still. Be humble.

Eric: Also adding to that, you never stop educating yourself. Never. If there’s a new program that comes out, you learn it. If there’s a new plug-in, you learn it. If there’s a new pre-amp, different EQ design, whatever. Learn it. It’s just another tool, you know? I keep asking people…does anyone here know Ableton? [three people raise their hands] Ooh, that’s depressing. Yeah, learn it. I can’t tell you how many artists come in with Ableton. It’s ridiculous.

Andrew: And to me, that’s one of the funnest things about this gig. The technology moves so quickly. The tools are remade and better tools are made. You can never stop learning. I work with guys who have been doing this thirty years and they still learn something every day. Every mix I do I learn something that I didn’t know the mix before. Every song you get is a new challenge. It’s a new approach. That’s the best thing about this. You have a regular job, you go and sit in front of a computer and do whatever, you do the same thing every day, but that’s not the case with this gig. It’s always changing. The sound of music is always changing. Who would have thought that EDM would be on Top 40 radio two years ago? Three years from now, what’s music going to sound like? We don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. But you always have to keep yourself sharp with the tools. These days, with how accessible Pro Tools and these programs are, with your laptop and everything, there really isn’t an excuse. Getting back to what he said about staying sharp…you don’t have an excuse to not be sharp. You may intern for 10 hours a day, and you can go home and sleep for five hours, or you can spend three hours on Pro Tools and sleep two hours. Your competition is going to sleep for two hours. So you gotta do the same, or sleep for one hour.

Crowd Question: What’s your internship nightmare story and what did you do to resolve or fix that situation?

Callie Thurman: I didn’t have an internship nightmare, but I had a few runner nightmares. I’m originally from Texas, and when I came here this was the biggest city that I’d ever been in. I’m from west Texas, and then I moved to LA. I’m not used to parking garages, I’m not used to paying for parking, I’m not used to four story malls in the middle of Hollywood, so… I had to go on a run for our ADR stage. They had ordered pizza. It’s in this mall. First of all, it took me forever to figure out how to get into the mall and park and find where the pizza is. Next thing I know, I’m getting the pizza and I don’t remember where I parked. So I have the client’s food, whatever actors were in the studio, and the ADR mixer’s food who is veryparticular about his lunches. And there I am, lost in this four story mall, just no idea of where my car is. So I’m on the brink, I’m already starting to tear up a little bit, freaking out. I think they were trying to call me, people at work thought I had gotten into a wreck. They started to get worried because the clock was ticking. Finally I find my car and then I go to get out of the parking garage, and they go “Alright, that will be $2.50.” No money. And then instant tears. Just crying, “Oh no, I’ve messed this up!” But the poor lady at the parking meter felt sorry for me and let me go. I finally get back and the food’s cold, everybody thought I was in a wreck, I felt terrible. Luckily for me, they were all very nice but you know, it was just the big city and I wasn’t used to it. And I had to learn the hard way to be prepared. Google whatever you need to to figure out where you’re going. The quickest, fastest possible way and remember where you park your car.

Eric: I saw a guy get fired over a piece of cheese. He forgot to get American cheese on a sandwich. The producer opens up the sandwich and said “where my motha-f***in’ cheese at?! Get out of here.” Never saw that guy again. A slice of cheese.

Becky Fimbres: Don’t they call that pre-production? Planning? Horror stories are great, but I want you guys to share your “this is why I do this” moment. Like that one moment in time where you’re like, “You know what, this is worth it all.”

Eric: The best session of my life. Well I got called to assist a session, and the manager told me who it was. Basically I was assisting a session that Quincy Jones was producing. It was Herbie Hancock playing piano, Nathan East playing bass, Vinnie Colaiuta playing drums, and Paul Jackson Jr playing guitar. If you don’t know who any of those musicians are, they are basically the A-list of the A-list session players – of all time. To me that was the most amazing experience of my life. Right from the first note…you know, the engineer, he was 75 years old. He had done Frank Sinatra records. And it was Quincy Jones producing. From the first note it was nothing but perfection. To me, that is what I love seeing. Great musicians, great engineers, great studio, great gear, great music. It can’t get any better.

Jeremy: Yeah, I would definitely agree with her. Seeing your name roll up on TV or something like that. I’ve had a couple of those that was really cool. You take a screenshot or you gotta download it online. I guess probably my favorite moment, man I’ve had a bunch. I’ve worked with a lot of people. It’s crazy, but my favorite one would have to be the 12/12/12 concert that we did in New York last year for Hurricane Sandy. So Roger Waters is out on stage jamming, and I’m finishing up setting up the Rolling Stones, they’re coming up next. I’m getting everything patched up and once I’m done with their drums and everything I have about another 15 or 20 minutes before the stage turns and it’s the Stones. So I’m done, and they’re playing “Brick in the Wall”, you know, we don’t need no, education. And I’m sitting there jamming watching the screen with Roger right behind me. I’m jamming out, playing the air guitar and stuff. Adam Sandler is standing next to me, and he is playing the air drums, and we are both just singing we don’t need no education, banging our heads. That’s surreal. You set up the Stones, Roger Waters is there and you’re jamming with Adam Sandler. I don’t know where to go from there. That’s nuts! I thought Metallica was that, but it wasn’t. That’s nuts, Roger Waters. Never would have thought, like he said, sitting there like you guys. I never would have thought in my whole life that I would be able to tell Paul McCartney “hey, play your bass. I gotta make sure my truck has got it.” I mean, how often do you get to tell Paul McCartney what to do? Then he gave me the set list, and signed it.

Crowd Question: I just had a question about interning and being a new hire. I know the basics of it, like you guys are going through the whole better to be invisible kind of stuff. But from experience, do you know of any interns who had a wow factor? Like, I knew you were going to be good because of this, or I saw this in you that I didn’t see in someone else.

Maggie: That kid that pulled out a notebook was a stud in his interview. Then he knew our entire product line. He did stuff before I had even thought to ask for it. You have to make yourself a commodity. So many people are willing to intern, look at how many people are in this room. You’re all going to be an intern. But what’s going to make you stand out from everybody else? You need to find your niche and capitalize on it. And you need to find out who you are working for and what they are into. That’s the best advice. You have to people watch. Even to play on the invisibility factor, you’ll get curveballs. I worked at a private studio and when the engineer interviewed me, he was like listen, the artist is really artsy. He doesn’t like a lot of people, so when you meet him don’t talk to him. Just be invisible, be a fly on the wall. I pulled up into the driveway, and dude was sitting outside. They guy gives me a huge hug and I’m like I’m not supposed to talk to you! He invites me in for tea in his study and he’s showing me all his artwork and stuff. You just have to be ready for those things. Be quiet, but also pay attention and know when it’s OK to talk to those people. But I’d really say find your niche. If you can find out something that your boss loves and you can do that without them realizing it, or find out what they hate and never do that.

Andrew: That’s what I was going to say. Anticipating people’s needs. I had an assistant one time, and when I came in I asked for some coffee from Starbucks. I dunno, some iced Americano or something. And every day after that when I came in, that coffee was sitting by my Pro Tools rig. I mean, some of the days I didn’t want it, but the fact that he remembered that and it was just there…Just being able to see what people want, what they like, without having to ask them. Just knowing. That’s definitely a wow factor, those are the types of things that get you noticed. When I showed up and I saw the coffee, I was like oh shit! I didn’t ask for this but the fact that someone went out of their way to get it for me. That is the type of thing that makes me go and ask the receptionist who got this for me? Because they are the shit. Especially when you work with engineers who were interns, because they see interns doing things like that, and they think that was something that I would have done as an intern. That makes me notice that intern for sure. Then once you’re on the radar, then I start watching them all the time. So anticipating people’s needs is a good way to get people’s attention as an intern, without being all up in their face. You don’t have to get their attention all flashy like. You get to be behind the scenes and get their attention by anticipating their needs.

 

We are always happy to bring our grads back and learn from them! Tonight should be great!

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Celebrate your 4th of July with Free Plugins!

Nothing is better than letting freedom ring through your mixes! Just like outboard gear, you can never have too many audio tools in your gig bag. Here’s a nice compilation of some of the better free plugins that are available for common platforms.

Audio Damage:

Their Rough Ryder compressor gives a great 70s, warm, yet crunchy sound to your mix. It seems to work the best on low frequency instruments, like toms, kick drums and bass guitar.

Rough Ryder

 

Bomb Factory:

Bomb Factory has a series of plugins that we use on a very regular basis here at the Conservatory. I especially like the BF76 plugin, which is a compressor in the style of a UA-1176 vintage limiting amplifier. Their other plugins are pretty useful all around tools.

Bomb Factory Studio Essentials Plugins!

Blue Cat Audio:

Blue Cat has a great series of plugins that work for an array of software on both Mac and PC platforms. There is a set of effects, such as a flanger, phaser and chorus, as well as some well designed EQs and an analyzer.

Blue Cat Plugin Pack!

Big Blue Lounge:

While this isn’t a plugin for use directly in a DAW, it is an incredibly useful tool for calculation of digital data storage, frequency generating, discovering the tempo of a song, and more. This plugin works as a widget and to my knowledge is only available on the Mac platform.

Big Blue Lounge!

Brainworx:

This hi/lo-pass filter works really well. Using their “Anti-Crush” technology, these filters take out high and low frequencies without a lot of the common problems related to aliasing and the Nyquist frequency, giving you a clean, processed signal.

bx_cleansweep

Flux:

They have a wide array of plugins, but since we’re focusing on free stuff let me say – their stereo tools are a great tool to have. Providing individual controls over left and right pan, as well as input gain and a phase inverter, you can even see what’s going with their vector scope display.

Flux Stereo Tools

FXpansion:

You can never have too many compressors. This compressor, modeled after classic analog circuitry provides great processing, emulating the warm sound found on many classic console bus compressors.

DCAM FreeComp

IK Multimedia:

Here are two demo/lite plugins to enhance your creativity. Sampletank provides an amazing collection of triggerable samples. 3 configurable engines can play back up to 16 channels of samples at a time. Amplitube sets fire to your audio by emulating classic amplifier heads and pedals.

Sampletank

Amplitube

Massey:

Taking after the Sylvia Massey reputation for acoustic quality, there is an array of Massey plugins. Some are free, plenty have trial versions to pique your curiosity. Delay, compression, mastering, EQ and more can all be found in here.

Massey Plugins

Native Instruments:

I really like the Native Instruments brand. Their interfaces are top notch, and if you make music in the box, you simply cannot go wrong with their Komplete set of plugins. However, if you haven’t got the money to pay for that bundle, or if you aren’t familiar with their stuff, you should check out the following free options!

Kontakt Sampler

Reaktor Sound Module

Guitar Rig 5 Sound Processor

SPL:

SPL is offering their Free Ranger EQ to give you a taste of the quality and effort they put into all their plugin designs. They strive to match analog quality processing.

SPL Free Ranger

Tune It:

Staying in tune is a must! There are usually a plethora of tuners at any studio, but batteries go bad, disappear, and are expensive, so why not have a free plugin that you can use to constantly keep your artists in tune?

TuneIT!

Tokyo Dawn:

Proximity is a module that allows you to simulate distance and depth of a sound using various psychoacoustic algorithms. Tweaking this just right can give you a great 3D acoustic image and provide depth to your instruments.

Proximity

Valhalla:

I absolutely love echoes and delay, so I like to have a large arsenal of options to choose from. The FreqEcho is an interesting plugin that combines frequency shifting with great reverberating delay to give a great atmospher.

FreqEcho

 

What free plugins do you have in your arsenal? Let us know!

share save 171 16 Celebrate your 4th of July with Free Plugins!

Grad Spotlight and Nashville’s Studio A

There’s been a lot of talk lately about RCA’s Studio A in Nashville being sold! Here’s a quick info update from Ben Folds:

Here’s an update on the status of the possible sale of historic RCA Studio A:

My office just received a phone call from a Brentwood TN-based development firm. Bravo Development is the firm that was planning to purchase the land and the building that houses the studio. Mr. Reynolds informed us that his firm will only buy the property if his engineering and architectural team can figure out a way to feasibly re-develop the property while protecting and preserving the studio for future generations to enjoy. He went on to say that if it’s not feasible for him and his team to do so, he would not move forward on the purchase.

 

All I can say is that this speaks volumes about the character of Mr. Reynolds and demonstrates an appreciation and respect for our city’s great music heritage.

 

Thank you Mr. Reynolds..

 

I look forward to learning more about the studio’s ultimate fate, and will pass along any further information I receive.”

One of our grads, Sorrel Brigman, had the opportunity to work with Ben Folds since she’s graduated from CRAS!


SorrelBrigman Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Graduating from the Conservatory in 2009, Sorrel Brigman has gone on to do great things! After leaving CRAS, she moved out to Nashville, TN, and did a ton of internship work, including working at the famous Blackbird Studios. She got to work along side all sorts of incredible talent, including Steve Marcantonio, who has credits working with artists from Jewel to Vince Gill, Taylor Swift to Carrie Underwood and so many more.

SorrelSteveMarcantonio 255x300 Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Recently, Sorrel made it in the cover story piece for Mix Magazine this month. She has been working at RCA Studio A, also known as Ben’s Studio. Ben of Ben Folds Five now owns the place and has put it to good use. The studio has quite a bit of history, originally being known as RCA Victor Nashville Sound Studios. Built by Chet Atkins, the facility had a ton of major names swing through over the years. Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, and even Dolly Parton, who recorded “Jolene” there.

SorrelBrigmanMixBenFolds Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

In 2011, they upgraded the studio console to a classic API 3232. When Ben Folds first moved into the studio, he primarily used it on his own, but in the past 5 years they have been bringing in other clients – Kellie Pickler, Willie Nelson, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Alejandro Sans.

I caught up with Sorrel a little bit, and this is what she had to say:

“I’ve been at Ben’s Studio for three years this month. I started as an intern but have been an assistant here for almost 2.5 years. In addition to assistant engineering, I’ve lately also been doing some assistant managing for the studio as well. The room is amazing and the studio manager, Sharon Corbitt-House, brings in some amazing clients. I have had the privilege of working with Ben Folds Five (naturally), Alan Parsons, Kelly Pickler, Willie Nelson, Jerrod Neimann and Elizabeth Cook, just to name a few. It has been quite an amazing ride.

Some of my common intern tasks at both my internships (Ben’s and Blackbird) included session setup and tear down, being a runner (to go get supplies for the studio and meals for clients and staff) and lots of cleaning. It’s not to say that my supervisors were behind me forcing me to clean stuff, but taking care of the studio is a labor of love.

And there are plenty of uncommon tasks as an intern. At my first internship, the owner of the studio loved Dr. Pepper and the ice from Sonic (I mean, who doesn’t, really?) We had a Sonic ice maker at the studio, but the owner did not have one at his house. It was not entirely unusual to take two cups full of Sonic Ice and a cold 6-pack of DP to the owner’s house at night, leave them outside the gate. Only certain interns were trusted with this task because the owner was insistent that the buzzer not be buzzed (and thus disturb his family that was sleeping). I did that run a few times.

Another time as an assistant, I was covering for an assistant friend at a different studio. After the session as we (the intern and I) were tearing down, the client used the bathroom. He flushed the urinal and walked off. We walked by the lobby and heard a gushing sound. The urinal was stuck in flush mode and water was pouring out everywhere. We managed to get the water to stop, but clean up was a challenge. The intern was new and didn’t know where things were stored. I didn’t normally work there, so I didn’t know where things were stored either. The only mop we could find was rusted together (yes, rusted). We ended up cleaning up a small lake of pee water with paper towels and no gloves. It happens.

I have gotten a few album credits. That’s pretty exciting. You can check out my allmusic pages (one under Sorrel LaVigne, one under Sorrel Brigman).”

Sorrel LaVigne’s Credits at AllMusic.com

Sorrel Brigman’s Credits at AllMusic.com

Congratulations on doing an amazing job! I remember having you as a student and I knew you were destined for great things!

share save 171 16 Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Mic Raffle Winners!

Blue Snowball USB Mic 300x244 Mic Raffle Winners!

Microphones are one of the most important parts of the recording signal chain, and are the very first block in audio recording signal flow! Often times the quality of a studio is judged based upon the contents of their mic locker. There is a decent Sennheiser dynamic mic that is included with the laptop recording package that every student who goes through CRAS gets, but we also provide various other opportunities to increase student’s mic collections. From time to time, we do a small condenser mic build, where students purchase a kit that includes all of the individual parts of a condenser mic, and then sit through a clinic to actually solder and build the mics themselves.

CRAS Condenser Mic Build 300x232 Mic Raffle Winners!

We are currently also running the Audio Technica Mic Challenge, in which participating students book and run a recording session where they use only Audio Technica mics. The idea is to demonstrate the versatility of the variety of Audio Technica microphones that the Conservatory has. Last year we had a student, DeCarlos Waller win this contest, and earned himself a brand new Audio Technica AT 4040 large diaphragm condenser microphone! You can read up about that one one of our previous blog articles here.

 Mic Raffle Winners!

We also have a great relationship with Blue Microphones. We’ve had a number of CRAS grads go to work in various areas with Blue Mic, including the production and design teams. Recently our AES team put together a raffle to give away a Bluebird mic to the grand prize winner, with a Blue Snowball USB mic as the runner-up prize.

Bluebird Mic Mic Raffle Winners!

The CRAS AES Bluebird raffle concluded last Thursday at the end of an amazing Synthesizer clinic, hosted by CRAS instructor Scott Murray. Orlando Green-Bush, an 11th cycle CRAS student, won the Bluebird and it was well deserved. Orlando is an older student and is a great role model to the younger generation students. He’s proved his worth and maturity level every time we’ve conversed with him. In addition, he only purchased one ticket for the win! So awesome!

CRAS Raffle Orlando Bush Green Bluebird1 300x179 Mic Raffle Winners!

Orlando Green-Bush, center, surrounded by the CRAS AES team

Mario Perez won the Snowball USB microphone. He was ecstatic over the deal because this is the mic that drew him in to the raffle in the first place. He told me he has multiple uses for it and was very appreciative upon delivery. All smiles and congrats from his class.
CRAS Raffle Mario Perez Snowball1 300x179 Mic Raffle Winners!
Mario Perez, seated just left of center with classmates
The Blue Snowball is a very unique mic – it was one of the first professional quality USB microphones. By providing USB connectivity, users can plug the mic directly into their computer, or even an iPad, and record without having to use any other wiring or conversion devices. Pretty sweet!

share save 171 16 Mic Raffle Winners!

Pro Tools Track Management

CRAS ProTools 300x300 Pro Tools Track Management

CRAS was the first audio recording school to ever certify in the digital audio workstation known as Pro Tools. There are many DAWs out there, and everyone has their favorite, but Pro Tools has been one of the industry standard apps for a long time now. For this reason, we like to focus on training our future audio engineers in all the ways Pro Tools works, and how you can make Pro Tools work for you!

When it comes down to it, Pro Tools is basically a digital multi-track recording program. Throughout audio recording history, having the ability to multi-track has allowed us to increase the quality of our recording projects immensely. While the music we listen to is – for the most part – just a final two track mix (or in some cases a 5.1 surround mix), getting a full band with various instrumentation recorded takes time, patience, and a lot of recording space to get it done right.

Beatles in the Studio listening to tapes 300x186 Pro Tools Track Management

The Beatles typically used a four track recorder in the 60s, when they first started making records. This allowed one track for the vocals, one for the guitar, one for the bass, and one for the drums. Through some audio wizardry, and bouncing tracks together, they were able to layer instruments to get a fuller sound coming out of the speakers for the final product. Over the years audio engineers and technicians have worked on expanding the capabilities that we have by allowing us to have more tracks – in some cases more tracks than you could possibly use! For example, Butch Vig would use anywhere from 16-20 tracks just for vocals when he worked with Garbage, and would have sometimes up to 60-70 tracks for just percussion! That’s crazy!

shirley manson scream 300x165 Pro Tools Track Management

These kinds of crazy high track counts would have been hard to do before the advent of digital workstations. While it was possible to bounce tracks down and sum mixes together, that takes a lot of time and a lot of skill, and in many cases if you don’t get it right the first time you get to start all over from the beginning! Most  2″ tape machines, like the ones we use here at the Conservatory, offer 24 tracks of recording, so to get crazy high track counts, knowing how to use Pro Tools is definitely a great advantage.

In this first video in our series of Pro Tools tutorials, instructor Phil Nichols goes over the importance of Track Grouping. Grouping tracks together makes a lot of operations easier, such as performing fades, volume changes, solo or mute groups, and creating visual distinctions to allow us to easily see what set of instruments we are working with. 

Another great feature of grouping tracks is the ability to show and hide track groups. This allows you to focus on only the tracks that you need to work with. So, if you have a massive session with 60 or more tracks for example, instead of having to scroll back and forth across the screen, you can simply hide all the tracks you aren’t actively working on and save yourself some time and headaches. Not only can you display one group at a time, or hide one group at a time, but through the use of modifier keys – such as Control and Shift – you can show or hide multiple groups as well!

Showing and hiding groups on its own is a pretty neat feature, but the whole idea of hiding unnecessary tracks is so we can maximize the use of space we have available on the screen. Using focus keys, or keyboard quick key alternates, we can change the size of the remaining viewable tracks, but now we are talking about stringing sets of commands together. It is possible to combine these commands into a more simplified package! This is where memory locations can come into a great use. For the most part, memory locations are used to store a particular time in the timeline of the session, but there are other properties that can be stored within these memory presets. As a matter of fact, memory locations don’t even need to store a time location at all!


Finally, this last option is to use what are known as VCA faders in Pro Tools. This feature is only available in Pro Tools HD systems, or Pro Tools Native systems with the complete Production Tool Kit. VCA itself stands for Voltage Controlled Amplifier, and is a throwback to analog consoles. Some consoles that are commonly found in recording studios, such as our SSL 4000 series, also feature this VCA style automation, where you can have one VCA “master” that controls whatever other tracks you would like to have in the group.

This differs from the other, first style of grouping that we talked about. With the standard track group, each member of the group can act as a master, and all the other tracks in the group will move with it together. However, with a VCA master, only the master controls all the members of the group. This allows the operator to easily change one member of the group without affecting all the others.

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The Smell of Fresh Studio

The audio world is ever evolving, and CRAS is no stranger to that idea. Always looking to expand, upgrade and improve, we refuse to be left behind. Among the changes we’ve made expanding to the school, Monday marks a new dawn on the beginning of a new pair of studios.

CRAS SSL Delivery 300x200 The Smell of Fresh Studio

SSL, or Solid State Logic, have been building amazing consoles for decades now and have developed a great reputation in the music industry. There are hundreds of studios throughout the world that use SSL equipment every single day, and we are happy to say we are one of the few educators in the world that teach comprehensive audio recording and production education using SSL consoles. Our flagship Studio A at each campus use SSL 4000+ series consoles, which demonstrate classic analog circuitry and rich, warm sounds.

Tony SSL AWS Control Room 300x169 The Smell of Fresh Studio

We are excited to offer education on two brand new SSL consoles – the SSL AWS series! We have built two brand new control rooms, with two isolation booths and a live studio specifically around these boards. Running two AWS 948 boards, which are connected to two full Pro Tools HDX playback systems, we will be able to give a much higher level education to aspiring audio engineers.

AWS with Gear Rack at CRAS 169x300 The Smell of Fresh Studio

These new facilities will provide more opportunities for students who are wanting to learn the recording arts to practice and hone their skills on a wider variety of gear. This will also allow them to focus on specific areas of the music industry – post production, music production, audio recording, overdubbing, mixing and even mastering! These new rooms are absolutely amazing quality and a fresh facelift to our buildings.

Studio F Gear Rack 169x300 The Smell of Fresh Studio

Each control room will have a 24 in, 24 out capability with full patch bays allowing interconnectivity with numerous bits of outboard gear like Manley compressors, Distressors, Empirical Labs FrEQs and all kinds of other goodies.

Tony at SSL AWS Studio F CRAS 300x169 The Smell of Fresh Studio

We had a visit a couple weeks ago from the SSL Broadcast truck, and that was very interesting to see for a couple reasons. It was great to know that we have the same vision for the direction of the audio industry. They brought out their truck to our Gilbert location, and I was able to take a tour of it and see how it contrasted and compared to our own broadcast audio truck that we recently have been finishing up. It’s great to know that our school is sharing the same vision with such an iconic company as SSL and even better to know that we are able to fill our studios with a ton of their gear!

Check out our build progress time lapse video!

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