MidSide Sessions. A Journey.

Over the last 3 months Ric, Sarah and have embarked on a musical discovery. Here is a list of the things we have done.


  • Recorded and filmed 4 separate artists/groups performing covers and original compositions.
  • Recorded 18 songs totaling 92 minutes of audio and 36GB of ProTools Sessions.
  • Filmed and edited 18 live song performances totaling 92 minutes and 155GB of video files.
  • Interacted with 8 industry professionals from Brisbane.
  • Released a website/portfolio.
  • Created a Facebook page that now has 151 likes, and approx 1300 people reached on content posts.
  • Created a YouTube Channel to publish our content.

Our benchmark for this project as I have stated earlier is the website Audiotree. From the get go we knew this was a bloody high bar to aim for but I think what we have produced is a good start. We started off a bit shaky with a few workflow concerns and planning issues that we sorted out as promptly as we could. From there the most obvious thing lacking comparing our product to Audiotree is the visual component. The use of dynamic movement and much smoother editing really gives across the live feel that is missing from our sessions. I feel we embraced the idea of using the sound of the room to our advantage, using some risky mic choices for some of the sessions turned out much better than what could have been. I think we have a varying in loudness from one artist to the next and we should endeavour to have a more standardised mastering chain.

Speaking of mastering, we decided to use simple mastering for the sake of keeping the live sessions flowing. Our chain consisted of an EQ to control the the upper and lower edges of the audio spectrum, going into a very soft compressor just to soften any really harsh peaks before going into a multiband brickwall limiter. For the acoustic sets like Not A Lemur the multiband limiter acted as a de-esser as well. The idea was to have a set and forget mentality about it. Now this is not the way to go about a studio production but in this instance it was to ensure that all of the songs felt that they were in the same room being played consecutively and we achieved that.

With more practice we can achieve something that rivals Audiotree, I firmly believe that. I am going to be studying a bit about film in the new year and with that hope to gain a deeper understanding on how film works and how it can be employed to achieve what we want. I would eventually like to have the sessions run as one complete shot as that would instantly bring the level of credibility up in so far as being live recordings. To do this we will need new camera equipment which is way down the end of the line.

We intend to keep this project going after our term at university is completed and as such are looking for ways to accomplish this. It will most likely be a long and expensive road, but it will sure as fuck be fun.

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Cheers,

Alex

 

Sound Design for Creatures Collide

Howdy y’all I got some fun stuff for you today. I created some assets for a game. The game involved various animals in an arena battling for food and The brief tasked us with creating some sounds such as stomach grumbles for the animals and entrance sounds when they enter the arena.

We were given only a few days to come up with the assets with very little guidance or even imagery to base our sounds off. We did our best and I think the products we achieved suit the production.

Here are some examples of stomach grumbles and forest ambience.

Examples

To have some fun with this I used a lot of time stretching of recorded elements. I would record myself making a strange sound and then stretch it to match a larger or smaller creature.

To give a comical idea of what I mean take this sound for example.

Angry Barking Man

From this sound I stretched the original recording using Varispeed time stretching in Pro Tools to achieve this.

‘Bear’ Entrance Effect

Through simply stretching the waveform I have created a new asset that serves an entirely different purpose. From here I decided to clean up the sound a little using some EQ and the Waves X-Noise plugin.

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Here is the cleaned up (slightly, still wanted it to be bear-like) bear entrance sound.

Cleaned ‘Bear’ Entrance Effect

Through using these techniques and plugins I have created a larger base that I can create and draw my content from. This will help my productions in the future as I can think of new and varying ways to implement older recordings for use in a new project.

MidSide Sessions: Not A Lemur

The last band (for now) that we recorded for MidSide Sessions is a lovely duo who go by the name of Not A Lemur.

“Rhythmic guitar, ukulele and sweet melodies carried by angelic vocals – Not a Lemur offers a unique brand of progressive folk/alternative rock.

Residing in Brisbane, Australia, Rubi Matthews (vocals & ukulele) and Dom Smith (guitar & bass) formed Not a Lemur in mid-2013 as a busking project after writing and performing together in various bands since 2011. They met at JMC Academy in 2010 where they studied Popular Music and Performance and began writing and performing original music together.”

You can check out more about Not A Lemur at their website and on Facebook.

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SESSION TIMELINE:

Recording Session, Monday 6th of November:

12:00 pm – Enter Neve, begin setting up Pro Tools session according to specifications. Hire all necessary studio equipment
12:30 pm – Set up mics and stage plot.
1:00 pm – Not a Lemur to arrive and set up.
1:30 pm – Setup cameras/lighting.
2:00 pm – Have session, microphones and cameras all ready for recording.
2:15 pm to 3:15 pm – Audio and video recording
3:20 pm – Any other recordings needed to be recorded by this time, begin tearing down session.
3:45 pm – Musicians pack down
4:00 pm – Pack down all gear. Back up Pro Tools session to external hard drive. Transfer all camera footage from SD cards to external hard drives
4:30 pm Exit Neve studio, returning everything to its original state.

PROJECT CONTINGENCIES:

Studio unavailable, postpone or if necessary use alternative studio.
Microphone choice not the best, switch to alternative.
Microphone not available for use, switch to alternative.
Ensure musicians have backup instruments
Desired sound is not achieved, change microphone placement or try different material/approach.
Faulty equipment, inform supervisors and find replacement.

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Holy bajeez was it nice to get away from jazz music. Don’t get me wrong jazz was fun and challenging but variety is the spice of life. This session struck a very good balance between challenge and our actual ability. We used three cameras with one of them being manned. Two of the shots were very similar so we kept it to the better one, and the dynamic camera when it came to be edited. We learned that we shouldn’t overload our plates with too much at one time and this was the perfect session in that regard. The decorating of the studio took less time (the band even brought in their own decorations) than previously, the cameras were set up much quicker as well. This led to probably the smoothest session of the lot.

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Sarah knows Dom and Rubi personally and had told us in advance that Rubi had in the past gotten caught up with herself when performing. With this in mind we kept the atmosphere very jovial and welcoming. It almost broke when it came to introducing the first song which took a couple of attempts to get right but with encouragement and patience we prevailed at keeping Rubi settled and quite frankly we got a great performance. This was the first group that really took the ‘live’ feeling that we wanted to give to the session and I think that our approach with the performers really helped achieve this.

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In general I feel that Ric, Sarah and I work very well as a team in this environment. Ric and Sarah are ridiculously good at the personal side of things, interacting with the performers and settling any nerves or worries that may arise. Mechanically and technically is where I think I pull my weight in the team dynamic. As a whole we have departmentalized our teamwork in a way that puts us each at our strengths whilst also encouraging each other to better ourselves in aspects that we may be lacking in.

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Enough sentimentality, check out Not A Lemurs’ 3 song set here.

MidSide Sessions: Brad McCarthy

For our third participants in MidSide Sessions we were delighted to host the Brad McCarthy Trio.

Now unfortunately Brad doesn’t really have an online presence so I’ll just say that he is a wicked good saxophone player who with the backing of his band can smash out classic jazz standards and then straight up change into his own fresh inspired tracks. I get out of breath just watching this guy play saxophone, I don’t know how he does it.

You can contact Brad via FaceBook but as it is his personal page I will not link it here.


SESSION TIMELINE:

Recording Session, Saturday the 14th of November:
2:00 pm – Enter Neve, begin setting up Pro Tools session according to specifications. Hire all necessary studio equipment
2:30 pm – Band members arrive and set up. Set up mics and stage plot
3:00 pm – Setup cameras/lighting.
4:00 pm – Have session, microphones and cameras ready for recording.
4:15 pm to 7pm – Audio and video recording
6:15 pm – Any other recordings needed to be recorded by this time, begin tearing down session.
6:30 pm – Musicians pack down
7:00 pm – Pack down all gear. Back up Pro Tools session to external hard drive. Transfer all camera footage from SD cards to external hard drives
8:00 pm Exit Neve studio, returning everything to its original state.

PROJECT CONTINGENCIES:
Studio unavailable, postpone or if necessary use alternative studio.
Microphone choice not the best, switch to alternative.
Microphone not available for use, switch to alternative.
Ensure musicians have backup instruments
Desired sound is not achieved, change microphone placement or try different material/approach.
Faulty equipment, inform supervisors and find replacement.

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The feedback we had received was to improve the visual aspect of the videos. The first thing we did was ‘decorate’ the studio to make it feel less like a sterile studio environment. We brought things from home (well Sarah did, I don’t own squat) like rugs and lamps to help liven up the boring room. We even nicked a pot plant from the atrium. This took us much longer than we anticipated but were still on time by the time the band arrived.

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Break time at MidSide Sessions.

This was our first time using an expanded camera set up and I think we stretched ourselves too thin. We had one static camera (which didn’t record audio again, forgot to check through the hubbub of the session) as a general room camera. A second static camera pointing towards the bassist that went out of focus at some point. The final two cameras were operated by us and a lot of the footage was unusable due to the shakiness or being out of focus. I think we dumped too much on our plate for this session and we paid for it with a subpar product. We spent so much time worrying about cameras the audio suffered a little, myself overlooking simple signal flow issues within ProTools that led to some not so perfect recordings.

Overall the final product was less than perfect but I am still impressed with what we managed to put out. Check out the whole session here.

MidSide Sessions: Jake Bristow

Introducing Jake fucking Bristow. After how smoothly the Charlotte Mclean session went Jake was more than keen to give recording with us a chance, so we booked him in.

“Jake is a versatile Brisbane based pianist, organist and vocalist. He holds a Bachelor in Jazz Performance (piano) from The Jazz Music Institute (JMI) and a Certificate in Music Studies (jazz voice) from the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music. Jake studied extensively with extraordinary jazz pianist Steve Russell whilst attending JMI.”


“Although still a young emerging jazz musician, Jake has shared the stage with many jazz legends: Craig Scott (SYD), Brendan Clarke (SYD), David Theak (SYD), Bruce Woodward, Jamie Clark, Helen Russell, Dave Sanders and Paul Hudson to name a few.”


“He performs in a variety of styles and has performed at venues such as: The Tivoli (supporting aria award winner Larry Carlton), The Brisbane Jazz Club, JMI live, Jazz Up Stairs, The Brisbane convention centre, Brisbane State Library, Brisbane Fringe Festival, Cloudland, Star City Casino (SYD), Twin Towns Resort and various Brisbane venues that have music on a regular basis.”

You can learn more and contact Jake via his website:  http://www.jakebristowjazz.com/

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SESSION PLAN:

SESSION TIMELINE:

Recording Session, Tuesday 10th of November

4:00 pm – Enter Neve, begin setting up Pro Tools session according to specifications. Hire all necessary studio equipment

4:30 pm – Jake to arrive and set up. Set up mics and stage plot

4:40 pm – Setup cameras/lighting.

5:00 pm – Have session, microphones and cameras ready for recording. Sort headphone mix.

5:20 pm to 6:20pm – Audio and video recording

6:30 pm – Any other recordings needed to be recorded by this time, begin tearing down session.

6:40 pm – Jake to pack down

7:00 pm – Pack down all gear. Back up Pro Tools session to external hard drive. Transfer all camera footage from SD cards to external hard drives

8:00 pm Exit Neve studio, returning everything to its original state.


PROJECT CONTINGENCIES:

Studio unavailable, postpone or if necessary use alternative studio.

Microphone choice not the best, switch to alternative.

Microphone not available for use, switch to alternative.

Ensure musicians have backup instruments

Desired sound is not achieved, change microphone placement or try different material/approach.

Faulty equipment, inform supervisors and find replacement.

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Perhaps a little obvious but this session was much simpler than the Charlotte Mclean session. Having only to record keys and vocals was a lot less strenuous than an entire ensemble in that tiny live room.

We decided to play a little with using small diaphragm condensers as room microphones, we had plenty of extra inputs we figured why not. The DPA 4011a’s are fantastic microphones. We set them up in XY above and pointing towards Jake. It really added an openness to his vocals that was severely lacking. This brings into question the feel of the tracks as well. All of them are slow soft ballads and to emphasize this and really make the songs drip with emotion, we used very long and wet reverbs and applied ‘dark’ EQ. The fact that there are only 2 sounds sources in these tracks there is quite lot of room left over in the mix. By using this production technique of applying a heavy reverb we have affected the performance and changed its perception emotionally. By using EQ that emphasized the lower mid’s of Jake’s vocal range we have again changed the performance to better reflect the emotion he wishes to be portrayed in the songs.

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Everything went fairly well on the night with only a couple re-takes of the songs and most issues being with cameras or the headphone mix. We recorded a total of 5 songs but in the end released only 4. This was a mutual conclusion between us and Jake as the song that was not included did not fit the feel of the set and he himself felt it could have been performed better. Maybe next time? The filming was a little bit of a letdown to me. We only used 2 cameras with one pointing towards him in general and the other at his hands on the keyboard. Due to the songs being slow and ballad-y, lacking any obvious solos, it detracted from the experience when we swapped to the keys camera. So the whole session is shot on one static camera which is not most interesting. The more I use the video editing software the more confident I get with using techniques like zooming but due to time constraints we kept it simple. Also to note that the keyboard camera did not record any audio. My assumption would be that audio recording was disabled in the camera settings. So that was another defining reason we did not use the other camera.
Aside from that everything went well. Without further ado here is the entire Jake Bristow MidSide Session.

MidSide Sessions: Charlotte Mclean

Welcome to the first MidSide Sessions Session… Maybe we should have thought the name out a little more. Oh well. Charlotte Mclean was the first one up to bat for MidSide Sessions.

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You can contact Charlotte via her website.

“Charlotte Mclean is emerging as one of Australia’s most captivating and original young jazz vocalists. A recent graduate of Jazz Music Institute, Charlotte’s exemplary skills as an improviser allow her to put a fresh spin on classic jazz repertoire, and her original tunes have garnered critical and popular acclaim. Possessed of a velvety-smooth voice, she produces her own addictive style that has already seen her perform with artists such as Hugh Jackman, James Sherlock, Toby Wren, John Hoffman, Steve Russell, Paul Hudson, and Bruce Woodward to name a few.”



SESSION PLAN

SESSION TIMELINE

Recording Session, Tuesday 3th of November:

3:00 pm – Enter Neve, begin setting up Pro Tools session according to specifications. Hire all necessary studio equipment

3:30 pm – Band members arrive and set up. Set up mics and stage plot

4:00 pm – Setup cameras/lighting.

5:00 pm – Have session, microphones and cameras ready for recording.

5:15 pm to 7pm – Audio and video recording

7:15 pm – Any other recordings needed to be recorded by this time, begin tearing down session.

7:30 pm – Musicians pack down

8:00 pm – Pack down all gear. Back up Pro Tools session to external hard drive. Transfer all camera footage from SD cards to external hard drives

9:00 pm – Exit Neve studio, returning everything to its original state.

PROJECT CONTINGENCIES:

Studio unavailable, postpone or if necessary use alternative studio.

Microphone choice not the best, switch to alternative.

Microphone not available for use, switch to alternative.

Ensure musicians have backup instruments

Desired sound is not achieved, change microphone placement or try different material/approach.

Faulty equipment, inform supervisors and find replacement.

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The session went well. There were a couple of hiccups here and there but overall it went smoothly. Of the hiccups that did occur the mo  st frustrating one was not audio related. Due to lack of a film student we were restricted in our usage of the cameras. We were only allowed to use the Canon 600D kits. Unbeknownst to us (as audio students) the cameras have a file recording limit of 4GB. This means that when the video file gets to 4GB the camera stops filming and mockingly flashes that it has stopped recording. Because of this we had to stop and start recording in between songs. This ruined the flow of the set for me lessening the live feel of the set. We had no choice but to film this way and hopefully in the future we can work out a solution.

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As with every session I have had in the Neve studio the headphone mix decided to play tricks on us by having a different mix in the live room than what was showing in the control room. Thankfully the musicians were extremely skilled and were non-demanding of the headphone mix.

By being prepared for the rest of the session we had plenty of time to sort out the headphone kerfuffle. We had the Pro Tools sessions prepared before the fact and had our input lists drawn up as well. A stage plot helped us prepare microphones before musicians showed up.

For our second attempt at recording a live session it went a lot smoother than it could have.

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Contracts and all that.

This blog will be a little short and sweet. To further the legitimacy of our ‘business’ we have drafted a couple of contracts that serve different purposes.


“Contracts and agreements between people are made to ensure that the correct work is delivered and reimbursed appropriately and accurate credit is given where due. It’s important these contracts are fair and represent the agreed upon work accurately.”


Of the 2 contracts there is a group work contract and an artist release form. The group work contract is just for us at MidSide Sessions to ensure that we as individuals uphold our aspects of the project to their usual standards. The other form is for the artists enabling us to use their performance on our website along with any promotional photos, videos and sound files related to the project.

Another thing to keep in mind is the time constraints and budget for a project. For this we have also created an invoice for customers which details products and their costs. A mock-up has been included for an example.

Here are the links.

Group Work Contract

Artist Release

Invoice Mock Up