What do the American Music Awards and CRAS Grads have in common?

CRAS Graduates have received credit working with many of the Artists nominated for this years AMA’s.

The American Music Awards (AMA) are this weekend!  It’s really great to see the accolades CRAS graduates have achieved with the artists that have been nominated for this years AMA’s.

CRAS AMA GRADS 2014

Grad Spotlight : Ian Shedd

Grad Spotlight: Ian Shedd

IanShedd

Recently I had a chance to talk with our grad Ian Shedd and congratulate him on his 50th credit as a sound editor. You can check out all of his credits on his personal IMDB page here! While a lot of our grads go out to work at recording studios and live sound venues, we do have a considerable amount of grads work in the film, TV and post production industry, and that is where Ian spends most of his time.

When did you attend the Conservatory?

Ian Shedd: May – Dec 2010

What is your current job title?

IS: Supervising Dialogue Editor

What industry do you work in?

IS: Post Production/Broadcasting

Where did you complete your internship?

IS: Monkeyland Audio (and I still work there!)

During your internship, what was your most memorable horror story?

IS: I had backed up the mix of a TV pilot we worked on but didn’t double-check that the transfer was successful. A year later when we needed to restore the backup, we discovered that the files were corrupt and could not be restored. Since I didn’t double check the backup, we lost nearly all the of the mix work we put in to the pilot.

How did you end up in your current position?

IS: As an intern, I was expecting to learn sound design and effects editing. However when I learned that Monkeyland was looking for dialog editors, I made it my mission to prioritize learning that. I had little idea of what dialogue editing was at first — let alone if I’d like it — but since I was more likely to get hired for an open position than a closed one, I gunned for it.

The owner then gave me a couple reels from already-completed projects to work on. Dialogue editing proved to be way over my head so after a few tries I gave up on it to edit foley instead. After a few months of experience doing that I felt ready to try dialogue editing again. I think the first big film I worked on as a dialogue editor was Piranha 3DD. By then I had been in LA for just under a year.

Piranha 3DD Ian Shedd

Have you ever found yourself in star struck or in an unreal moment?

IS: While I was an intern I met George Takei. He just walked right up to me, shook my hand, and said “Hi, I’m George Takei”. The next time I saw him I was still nervous and accidentally called him “George” instead of “Mr. Takei”. I kind of remember him sort of scowling at me after I called him by his first name. That was my last interaction with him. Oops!

George Takei Oh My Do you have any words of wisdom for new or current students?

IS: Love what you do. Remember that every achievement and every failure is a learning opportunity. And you’re solely responsible for your own success.

Are there any tips or workflows that made your internship or job easier?

IS: Back when I was 19, the manager from the first job I ever had gave me simple but effective advice that I use to this day: ‘get good, then fast’.

There’s a lot of pressure as an intern to get menial tasks (making / getting coffee, taking out the trash, etc) done quickly, which is fine for those things. However when it comes to editing or recording, essentially the continuation of the CRAS education, it’s important to learn and practice thoroughly with less value placed on how long it takes. Speed comes naturally in time and with experience.

Learning quick-keys and keyboard shortcuts is a great example. Not all of them are entirely intuitive, and doing things like looking them up on the internet or hitting the wrong key by accident all the time can waste a lot of time. But over time they become second nature and when mastered will more than make up for time ‘wasted’ during the learning process.

A specific example I use is recalling memory locations to change which tracks show in the edit window of Pro Tools. Setting memory locations with specific tracks shown and the rest hidden, then recalling them with “period – memory location_number – period” (all on the numpad) makes switching the view between banks of tracks a breeze. I have a memory location to look at dialogue tracks, another to look at ADR tracks, and a third to look at all tracks.

Another similar example is recalling window configurations. Using “period – asterisk – period” (also on the numpad), I can quickly call up multiple AudioSuite plugins at once. Plugin parameters are saved to each configuration, so an EQ can be set up to be all narrow notch filters on one configuration, and the default on another other. No more diving into the plugin’s menu looking for those favorite presets!

What is the one thing that sticks with you the most from your time at CRAS?

IS: Playing with the SSL and other consoles I think was the most fun. As an editor in post, I don’t do a whole lot of fader-work, and if I do it’s with a Command-8. Getting to spend time with the big beasts at school is something I’ll always remember.

Were there any instructors who you felt stood out or imparted some wisdom that stuck with you?

IS: I don’t think I could pick one. I think just the general enthusiasm and constant interest in the work rubbed off on me. Also the attitude of being flexible and always ready to work taught to me by the intern coordinators went a long way towards helping me succeed.

What can you tell us about the body of work you are currently working on?

IS: I recently began work on my 50th Film / TV show. It’s been a busy 3 years since I moved to LA after graduating!

At Monkeyland, we typically work on feature-length films and documentaries. We work on a few TV shows and student thesis films a year as well.

A majority of what I do is dialogue editing, which is cleaning, cutting, and smoothing the audio captured on set. Many of the feature-length projects also require what we call a “dialog assembly”, which involves conforming the raw .wav files from the entire shoot to the picture cut.

During the process you were involved in, what did you find to be interesting or revealing that you wanted to share?

IS: I think how fragile the movie-making process is pretty eye-opening. Most of the movies we work on are hoping to just get in to the festival circuits like Sundance and SXSW. Even in the final stages of the sound process nearly all of these projects don’t have distribution deals in place. It can take months or years after the final mix before movies see the light of day.

 

Thanks for sharing all that with us Ian! It’s great to hear a student of ours have as much success as you have! Keep making us proud!

Check out this link to see the specifics on what we teach regarding post production, sound design, and all the other fields we focus on!

Pro Tools Quick Tip: Time Aligning Tracks!

Sound or audio is, by very definition, the changing of atmospheric pressure perceived over time. This also ties into a term known as “phase”. Phase can be described as the time relationship between multiple waveforms, measured by the difference between periods of compression and rarefaction. In our latest Pro Tools Quick Tip, CRAS instructor Phil Nichols shows us how we can use the power of digital audio workstations (DAWs) to time align tracks after they have been recorded. This can provide a fuller, cleaner sounding final product.

Check out this video embedded here, or watch it in full resolution along with our other videos on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/crasaudio!

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at time aligning tracks inside of Pro Tools. Whenever you have multiple mics on the same source, such as multiple mics on a guitar, or maybe you have a bass DI and a mic on the bass amp… If you have close mics, distant mics… In this situation you have a potential for negative phase interaction. Phase interaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in some situations, the way that multiple mics can react, especially if there is a time arrival difference between these, it can result in frequency cancellations that are not musically pleasing.

Now ideally, this would be addressed in the recording process when mics are placed. However, in many cases a mix engineer may have no involvement in the recording process. One engineer may record, and then pass that off to another engineer for mixing. In that case, the mix engineer may find that attention to these types of details – mic placement and phase – may not have been thoroughly checked. That results in the mix engineer dealing with what some could call “mistakes” that were made earlier. The phase relationship between things such as the bass DI, the bass amp, close mic, and distant mic, can be adjusted to improve the musical or preferred sound quality. In this session, we are going to look at a bass DI and a bass amp recording.

Now in reality, if you were recording a bass DI and a bass amp, the bass DI signal would technically arrive to the recorder first. With the mic on the bass amp, there is a distance between the speaker and the microphone, and that produces a time delay when compared to the direct connection provided through the DI box. So when trying to adjust the relationship between these two tracks, the bass amp should be shifted to match the bass DI position.

In this session with the bass DI and the bass amp, we will zoom in on these to tracks. At first glance, it may look great, like they are in the same place. But you want to zoom in really close. Even zooming in a little bit closer it may look alright, but as you zoom in even closer you can start to see some discrepancies.

Pro Tools time aligning tracks

 

Zooming in even closer to the waveform at the sample level, you can really see how these interact. For example, on the bass DI, you can see that the peak of the waveform lines up with the trough of the waveform directly below it, on the bass amp track. The corresponding peak is actually to the right, or slightly later in time. That’s caused by the distance between the speaker in the bass amp and the microphone that was used to record it. Ideally, those peaks should be in the same position. And theoretically, that would provide the most complimentary musical sound, but that is strictly personal preference. So to time align these, we would need to shift the bass amp closer to the bass DI. One way, of course, is by using the grabber tool and dragging the audio clip, but I want to look at a different way.

Sync points in Pro Tools allow users to quickly slide or align clips. Now in this case, since I want the bass amp to be adjusted or moved, what I’m going to do is find the beginning of the peak, or the rise. Create a sync point there by pressing Command + ,  (comma). Of course, these are the quick keys you would use for the Mac OS. At the bottom of the track, a small green triangle denotes the sync point. This point is what we would want to align with the corresponding point in the bass DI. So I’d find the same zero crossing (the point in which the waveform crosses the centerline from the trough to the peak) on the bass DI.

Now, we need to move the sync point from the bass DI over to the cursor position of the bass DI. To do this, to move the sync point of the bass amp to the current cursor position on the bass DI, hold Control and Shift while grabbing the bass amp clip. That will immediately shift the sync point of the bass amp clip over to the cursor position of the bass DI clip. You can also create different playlists to compare the two later.

Pro Tools time aligning 2

 

By having multiple playlist, you can quickly toggle between the edits and listen to the sonic difference. Soloing both the original bass DI and the bass amp tracks, you can listen to the initially recorded sound, and then switch playlists to listen to the time aligned version and pick which you prefer.

Pro Tools Time Alignment 3

 

CRAS Phil Nichols Time Align Session

 

There is an obvious sonic difference. Which one sounds better depends on who’s calling the shots. It really has to be taken into context. Listen to it with the other tracks that are in the session, and choose the one that is most complimentary. But even soloing the two tracks, there is a distinct difference between the sound of the unaligned bass amp and DI tracks, versus the aligned. Personally, I find the low frequencies to be more complimentary when they are aligned.  But that’s your call to make in your own unique situation. As you can see, it’s worth checking into. If you get a song to mix that you did not record, or even if you did record it, zoom in to check to see if there is the potential for negative phase interaction.

Spend some time, trust your ears, definitely use your ears…don’t just rely on the visuals

Happy hunting!

Check out more of our tutorial videos on our CRAS YouTube channel here or feel free to look into everything else we offer in our comprehensive curriculum.

How To Be Successful In The Audio Industry – Part 6

6

Our final “How To Be Successful In The Audio Industry” Top Ten List is from Greg and Rachel of our very own Internship Department.  Resumes, relocation, interviews, interning, finding jobs and keeping in touch with grads are just a few things that our intern coordinators deal with on the daily. So if anyone is going to have great tips on how to be a successful intern, these are those people!

Soldering 101 with Cory P!

Cable_SpaghettiCables, 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.

BrokenCable

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.

Types-of-cables

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_PIn 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!

XLR-Connector-Internals

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!