Here at the Conservatory, the shipping department is always busy. Boxes abound everywhere, left and right, and currently my office is so full I can barely find a spot to set my laptop to type this up. But today, we got a special delivery. Or rather, some special deliveries.
Based upon the 1925 literary work by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is an interesting commentary on the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous. The tale followed Nick Carraway in his travels seeking a true purpose in existence, and his interactions with Jay Gatsby prove that there is more to life than being rich and decadent. Relaunched in 2013, The Great Gatsby was reworked into a modern film, and lived up to its name by grossing over $100M in its first month at the box offices.
The soundtrack, as can any soundtrack to a film, provided an important and interesting perspective on the classic tale. Produced by Jay-Z, of the coincidentally ironic Roc-A-Fella Records (a cheeky tie-in to the Rockefeller dynasty) the album spared no expense, including many famous modern artists from Jack White of the White Stripes, to Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Ray, Gotye and of course, Beyonce.
To add to the ostentatiousness of the entire production, Third Man Records, which is Jack White’s record label, decided to release what can only be considered the most avante garde, flamboyant display of aural production in modern history. They decided to do a small run of 100 gold and platinum metallic discs, which you would of course only want to play on your diamond encrusted turntables. Supposedly this is the first time ever that vinyl records have been given this treatment, and at $250 for the set, I’d hope that they sound as good as they look!
The double disc special edition contains 17 total tracks, and will be housed in a custom laser-cut wooden jacket with riveted aluminum spines. Monday saw the release of the standard, 180 gram version that us peasants can afford, and is only merely gold foil stamped. Looking at the special edition version, you can tell a lot of time was spent in the design and planning of the package – they even decided to include cotton gloves to preserve the luster and quality of the discs while being handled, although a note included in the package states “While these records are absolutely playable on most turntables, if you are concerned about the life of your set, we do not recommend heavy rotation”!
These discs are already burning up eBay, with the first set I found at a current price of $550!
I have also come across information that one of our CRAS Grads, Warren Babson, actually contributed some work to this album too! After graduating from the Conservatory in 2008 with a 4.0 GPA, Warren has done quite a bit of work, getting Assistant Engineer and Engineering credits on albums by Estelle, Justin Bieber, Gucci Mane, and Musiq Soulchild. He was also present in some of the engineering for the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. For The Great Gatsby, Warren mixed “Where The Wind Blows”, by Coco O. of Quadron! Congratulations Warren!
Recently, chief editor of Recording Magazine Lorenz Rychner came out and visited the Conservatory. CRAS has had a relationship with Recording Magazine for a while, but this was the first time that Lorenz was actually able to come to see the campus in person. Recording Magazine is a phenomenal publication that covers all the ins and outs of recording, from techniques to gear, interviews and much more. We are proud to say that we offer complimentary issues of Recording Magazine to all of our current students, and the entire box of magazines that we got this last week have already flown off the shelves!
Lorenz got the full treatment of what we offer between both the Tempe and the Gilbert campuses, and he seemed to be quite pleased with what he saw! Here is a little clip of what he had to say in this current month’s publication:
“But beyond just that need for speedy mastering of one particular piece of production software, where do you go to learn the entire kit and kaboodle of audio production, not just for records, but audio for all kinds of end-uses, from games to television to movies to you-name-it, including the business end of it?
If you’re new to audio production, learning it all on your own, while not entirely impossible, won’t be quick or productive at first/ If you don’t have the time to wait around for it to happen, and you are serious enough to invest in your audio future, then a school can make it happen for you.
As one who used to teach in just such a school before taking on this magazine gig, I was delighted to visit CRAS in the Phoenix, Arizona area, a school that takes its stated mission seriously. The school has been around for just about as long as this magazine has been published, and it now operates out of two separate but interlinked campuses. Their curriculum impressed me mightily – 30 weeks of classes, structured in a ten-tier system of three weeks per “cycle”, with 24/7 access to the facilities outside class time. That’s a lot of opportunities to put into practice what the class time offered!
But here’s the kicker: Each student gets placed in a 12-week internship after school ends, with real-life companies and studios and organizations, selected according to the student’s personal aptitudes for the best match. Recording labels and commercial studios may be dwindling, but audio is not, so it’s good to see that youngsters are being prepared for the present and future in segments of the industry where their skills will be needed.”
The Conservatory is one of the few schools that has a massive focus on analog sound gear. 6 of our 8 full studios incorporate analog consoles from Neotek, API and SSL, as well as 24-track analog tape recorders from Otari and Studer. While this provides a lot of on-board signal processing capabilities, you can’t forget our outboard gear racks.
Connectable via bantam jack or TT patch bays, each studio has an array of outboard gear, and most notably we have a large collection of HARMAN Lexicon processors. We have four Lexicon MX400 units, two PCM92 processors, and some classic PCM80 and PCM70s.
Before students get too immersed in the digital recording realm, they get hands on experience working with these units. Our curriculum fully revolves around understanding the way the audio signal chain flows, from the mic, through cables and eventually out to the speakers. By getting this fundamental signal flow knowledge in class, and being able to practice it hands on outside of class, students can build an incredible knowledge base that works great for studio recording, live sound and so much more!
The MX400 is a four input, four output reverb and effects processor. It has a powerful processor hiding behind and very intuitive and user friendly interface that allows for maximum efficiency with the least amount of time wasted.
The PCM92 is a sleek, single rack unit that has Lexicon’s Room algorithm, which can create pristine and realistic aural “spaces”, whether they are halls, rooms, stages or infinite space. Coming with 1200 factory presets, and up to 96kHz sample rate, this is an amazing unit.
The PCM80 is a reverb and delay unit that has been a mainstay in both the studio and live sound venues. Nearly every concert that I go to, I see at least one of these in the gear rack. Simple, quick and easy to use, this is a great piece of technology to learn on!
“Our students get exposed to Lexicon early on,” said Tony Nunes, audio recording and production instructor at CRAS. “They start by learning basic chops and how to integrate outboard gear into the total recording setup. Our focus is very much hands-on, and we want students to be familiar with Lexicon as it’s what they’ll be running into in professional record production studios.”
Recently CRAS hosted Shure’s wireless mic seminar in our huge 6,000 square foot live sound room. Shure microphones are a mainstay of the audio industry, and it’s no surprised we have quite a large collection of Shure mics, from SM57s and 58s to KSM32s and SM7Bs.
Pictured: Instructor Pete Bish, Adolfo Acevedo, Administrator Kirt Hamm, Instructor Keith Morris
As a thank you gift, Shure representative Adolfo Acevedo presented us with some incredible new gear! We now have our hands on the KSM313 dual-voice microphone, as well as the SRH 840 and 940 headphones.
The KSM313 is a dual-voice ribbon microphone. One side of the KSM313 provides a brighter character that shines on your vocals, while the other side offers a rich, full sound that’s ideal for your amplified instruments. The ribbon in this mic is made out of Roswellite material, which is capable of withstanding up to 146dB SPL! The list price on this mic is $1295, and while it appears to be out of stock at SweetWater.com, you should be able to find one soon.
The SRH840 and SRH940 are high quality, professional grade headphones that are incredibly comfortable and provide great performance. Thanks Shure!
Here is a cool page that Murat Ayfer developed that allows you to use your computer keyboard to play sounds out of a web browser. You can also go through and modify various aspects of the waveform, including timbre, time, frequency, duration, envelope and pitch bends. This is a neat and fairly intuitive way to get into understanding how synthesizers can be used, and how you can make your own sounds. There is also a visual display as to how the virtual “strings” would resonate as the sound is being generated. You can also look up presets that other users have made to help you get more of an idea of what is going on.
*Note – currently this page only works through Google Chrome or Safari web browsers. He is working on adding support for other browsers, such as Firefox.
Timbre, (the texture of sound; the thing that makes you distinguish between a guitar and a saxaphone) is our perception of the particular overtonic content of a sound.
This means that a single note you hear has several frequencies playing at once. The loudest frequency is referred to as the note you hear. For example, 110Hz is an A. The other, quieter multiples of the root are its overtones. 220Hz, 330Hz, etc. would be overtones of A.
Tonehack lets you pick these frequencies yourself, and using your cursor, draw how these frequencies change over time.
Post production, which is the process of adding sound effects, music and dialogue to a movie, is an incredibly fun job duty. Most of the audio you hear in a movie was recorded and synced to the video after the initial video was recorded. While some of the originally recorded elements may still exist in the final product, there is an incredible amount of time put into the re-recording process. Sometimes the location that they are recording the video footage may not have the best audio presence, or a line was skipped, or the sound effects needed better processing to give the desired effect.
So in these cases post production engineers spend time doing ADR and foley to maximize the quality of the aural experience. During the filming process of Iron Man 3, the sound team got a couple neat field trips – one to a firing range and one to a Toys R Us store.
“The most important sound of the movie is going to be the sound of the suit because it’s Iron Man,” says supervising sound editor Mark Stoeckinger, a three-time Oscar nominee for Face/Off, Star Trek, and Unstoppable. “Metal is usually harsh and grates on people’s nerves, but the fact is, there’s a lot of it in Iron Man, so you’ve got to find a way to make that interesting. So we just recorded a lot of various metal objects and mic’d them in certain ways, filtered and processed those recordings so they weren’t just bright and edgy, and used all sorts of plug-ins to help make a lot of different notes like a musical instrument.”
“Our first foray into that,” he admits, “was going into a Toys ‘R’ Us late at night when nobody was paying attention and recording some of them on the display wall, just to get an idea of what we wanted. Some of those sounds were more for the leg sounds — the legs of Iron Patriot. You just record a whole palette of that, like, ‘Ah, I think that will be good for that.’ ‘Yeah, that might be good for this.’ There was a lot of trial and error.”
OK, maybe they aren’t the lost tracks. However, the album Stadium Arcadium, which was the Pepper’s 9th studio album, originally recorded more than what you may have heard. Released in May 2006, the album was critically acclaimed as being the Pepper’s best album, hitting the #1 spot in countless countries across the globe. Selling in excess of 5 million albums worldwide, this is certainly an amazing record. However, not all of their recorded material landed on the album itself. In fact, there are nine tunes that didn’t make the cut.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Nashville chapter of AES have officially declared May 12th through the 18th “Nashville Audio Engineer Week”. Audio has been one of the primary components in building and developing “Music City”, and this week will a festival of celebrations, clinics and other events.
The 14th and the 15th will see the 4th Annual Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo, featuring presentations, clinics and exhibitions of pro sound gear. Kristian Bush, from the supergroup Sugarland will be giving a keynote speech to kick off the expo. Some of the events scheduled are inexpensive mic shootouts, mastering for iTunes, composing sound and post production for small screens, pre-fab acoustics and miking live instruments.
The 16th and 17th will host the AudioMasters Benefit Golf Tournament, which is a yearly fund-raising benefit for the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund. There will have two great days of golf at the beautiful Harpeth Hills Municipal Golf Course in Nashville, TN. Thursday May 16th is the ‘Live Sound Day’, and features engineering friends in the Live Sound industry. Friday May 17th is ‘Studio Day’, and focuses on the Recording Studio community. Both days will include a 4-person best ball tournament, breakfast and open driving range, and awards receptions following the golf.
Born August 29, 1959, Chris Hadfield may be one of the most influential explorers of all time. Taking over the ISS (International Space Station) space station on March 13 of this year, Chris has done an incredible job becoming what should be the primary candidate of the future of International Ambassadors. He has had constant communication with Earth during his time abroad, and has used his time not only to communicate with his advisors and safety team, but has also answered numerous physic and aeronautic questions posed to him. For example, check out this video posed to him, regarding what happens when you ring out a wet towel in space. I know it sounds very elementary, but seriously check it out! If intergalactic physics bore you, I don’t know what I can do to make you interested in something:
Tomorrow, a la May 13th, Commander Chris Hadfield will be finishing his tour and returning to Earth. Tonight however, he paid his final due by recording and producing a music video of his version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Originally released in 1969, “Space Oddity” the song was written as an allusion to the blockbuster movie “2001: A Space Oddysey”. Bowie’s version has become a classic in music history, as had it reached #15 on Billboard’s charts and was Bowie’s first major hit song.
As an incredible tribute, one which should go down in history, Commander Chris Hadfield posted his rendition of the song from space, with Earth in the background. Definitely check out this history making moment! Never before has anyone produced a song or music video from outside of the Earthen atmosphere, and this version lives up to all expectations!