MidSide what now?

MSSLOGOBLACK

Well well well what do we have here? A new name? A new logo? What is all this then? For my team and I’s major project this trimester we have decided to advance on our previous experience in live studio recordings. We aim to do this by creating a marketable product that produces high quality studio sessions of local Brisbane bands (for now!). We settled on the name MidSide Sessions after much indecisiveness and the use of hilarious indie name generators.



“MidSide Sessions brings local Brisbane musical talent into the limelight and onto the worldwide stage by capturing live performance in high quality music videos.”

There a few reasons why we see this project as a good opportunity for us and the performers.

  • There’s a current lack of this sort of product in Brisbane so there’s a definite market for it.
  • It is a potential business opportunity
  • Opportunity to showcase local talent and support local musicians
  • It would look awesome as a portfolio piece
  • Opportunity to expand network with local musicians for future business opportunities.
  • Gain good reputation as sound engineers amongst local music scene.

The plan for this project is to record a handful of bands differing in style, who will perform a live set of 3-4 songs. We are hoping to achieve a live feel with these recordings, and show a true representation of the artist and their music. In the end our main goal is to send our recorded live studio sessions from great muso’s to lovers of music. To accomplish this we will be filming and editing the sessions ourselves to later be published on all forms of social media and our website.

Website

Facebook

Youtube

Aim



For reference audiotree.tv covers pretty much exactly what we want to do. For now a few aspects of our production are lacking. We have a small live room which is quite restrictive, the lighting in said live room is possessed and we have to position performers accordingly. We have been unable to find a dedicated filmographer for this project so we are limited in our choice of cameras and as such the quality is not as high as our previous live session with RedBop. Down the line it would be great to have free cameras roaming in the performance as the static 2 camera set up we have as of now is quite stagnant to watch. The video editing is definitely the biggest time consumer of this project and will have to be managed to ensure there is no backlog of sessions to complete.


We have 5 bands set to record with us over the next few weeks, stay tuned for updates.

MSSLOGOONLYBLACK

What the hell was that?

SURROUND SOUND UPDATE

I finally managed to wrangle some time in the surround studio to have a crack at mixing in surround sound. Initially I had some troubles with studio I/O’s being a little skew iff (the LFE fader was routed to left surround) but after a reset of the computer I was good to go. I took the time to give a quick look to the calibration of the system as well. The rear speakers had been moved a little but with a mic cable I was able to re-position them correctly according to ITU standards. This was to ensure I had a clear and accurate representation of my mix by minimizing phase issues between the speakers.

ITU speaker placement

To begin with I set up my routing and began panning things to the rear. I took the advice of my peers and tried to make the ominous sounds more prominent and jarring, I achieved this by keeping them mainly towards the front of the mix with the occasional creature appearing in the rears. I bumped a lot of the ambience tracks to the rear speakers as well to fill in the surrounds. I employed the use of the 20/40 ‘room’ to greatly increase the immersiveness of the entire track. I kept the human sounds centered in the front of the mix to keep the feeling of forward movement. The original setting was that you are in a forest with some sort of creature chasing you. With the addition of the rear speakers the forest ambience is much more obvious.

Overall surround mixing was a great experience and I feel prepared to mix in surround again.



 

 

Hello again my fellow audio aficionados! This week in the blogosphere (I think that’s a thing) I am going to explore the intricacies of how sound can affect our emotions. More specifically, fear. I was tasked with creating a horror soundscape to exemplify how sound can drastically affect what we feel.

This started with the watching of the film The Conjuring. I took notes whilst watching the film (good excuse to not watch the scary stuff) and it gave me a good foothold in what sounds needed to be achieved. Notes can be found here. After the film we were asked to describe the sound. These were the words that were used.

Tense, demonic, dissonant, intimate, confronting, dynamic, abrasive, alive, unsettling, sporadic, alluring, haunting, impactful, exaggerated

The goal is to create a soundscape that is at least 2 minutes long and fits at least 10 of these descriptors. Tell me if you think I have achieved this.

To start off I didn’t want a whole bunch of random noise or events happening. A scene needed to be set. This was a little tricky considering there is no visual component to this task. My original idea was to go for classic scary. Haunted house, creaky doors and a big bad evil guy. I recorded some creak sounds of my old chair to inspire some creative juices but it didn’t eventuate into anything tangible. Here are some samples of the chair though.

Creaky creaky.

I needed another scene. I fiddled with a few things, recording sounds, reversing my squeaky chair sounds but nothing was working. So I decided to change my approach and look for some good eerie synthesized sounds. I was looking through some Massive presets when I found one that simulated a bird in the wild. A simple tweet sound. That gave me the idea for the basis of my soundscape. Outdoors, peaceful, sudden change, getting chased by a scary thing.

I experimented with a few synths in Massive to get the basic ambience of my scene. The birds, a rustle of leaves and a droning synth set me up pretty good. The way I recorded the synth was live onto a track playing it by feel and using the pitch and modulation wheels to increase the tension where I felt it was natural.

I used other synthesized sounds to create risers to again build up tension. It really is the key word here. Tension. Usually in the form of some kind of noise generation rather than a musical sound. It feels more oppressive and really drives home the unnaturalness of the setting. Speaking of oppressive I used a signal generator to create a harshness in the rises. It is annoying.

Whoosh.

Another tension building aspect I incorporated was the use of breathing. I created three different speed breathing patterns and alternated them in and out depending on the place within the soundscape. Big scary thing happening equals faster breathing equals more tension. Tension.

Finally the key element. The ooga booga if you will. The big scary. I started off by recording my own voice performing this strange clicking sound from the back of my throat. I drew much of my inspiration from the Clickers in The Last of Us video game. Here is an example of the original vocals.

Nice and dry.

It’s a little unnerving maybe, but it needed something extra. Through the use of time stretching, reversing, splicing, pitch shifting, distortion and reverb I was able to create some very menacing sounds. Here is an example of the pitch shifted vocal track and distorted vocal track.

Get low get low.
A little bit crunchy.

The soundscape ends with the protagonist getting eaten. Well it sounds like that anyway. Here is a layered sample with all of the effects described above.

The whole kit and caboodle.

I was very heavy handed with automation with this project. I felt I needed a lot of control on where the creature sounds fit into the scene and by using automation on the reverb level and dry level I could create any blend that I wanted and tried to use this to my advantage to again increase the tension. Tension.

I think I could spend some more time recording some beast sounds to add a little more character to the antagonist. It seems a little blurry to me at times in regards to what is happening and where. Adding some low end footstep sounds could be a great addition as well. All in all I think I have achieved what the brief asked for and eagerly look forward to upmixing to surround sound.

Check it out at your own risk!

BOooooOooOoOOoooOOOoOooOoOooOoOooOOooOOOooooOOooOo

I don’t have permission to be on this Feel’s trip.

Well hello again blog, fancy meeting you here. Today I am going to have a gander at how the technical processes that go into the production of music can have an influence over the aesthetic outcome of the final product. For our class project we will be working on a project titled Cave. Cave is interested in creating a heavy industrial sound but also with aid of electronic elements. With this in mind I have chosen to look at a track that isn’t quite in the same vein but shares some similarities. This song is titled Naked Body by the band Fun Machine.



Fun Machine are a “warehouse pop” band from Canberra Australia and have been making music as a group since 2009. The band use a variety of sounds to achieve a strong lively alt-pop force to be reckoned with.

I feel this song relates to the style that Cave are trying to create in a few ways. It has the big driving kick drum, has a little bit of electronic elements, distorted female vocals and finally to put it simply, it is freaking loud.

This is all well and good but “how do the technical processes affect the aesthetic outcome of the final product” I hear you asking. Well let’s try a little experiment. What does the song make you feel? If we can determine what the song is trying to evoke in us emotionally we can perhaps swing it around and reverse engineer the aesthetic to determine the technical processes. Here is what the song evokes in me.

Power
Action
Dance
Lose restraint
Party
Anticipation
Release
Messy

Now that we have deduced what the song is intending to do to us emotionally we can swing it around. For example the use of the solid kick drum repeating throughout gives us an easy guide to dance to or the eclectic mix when all of the elements come up after the chorus really builds the power of the song. If either of these things were not decided upon during the production process the song would have suffered for it and it wouldn’t be this driving dancing epic that is currently is.

The second song I will be examining will be Lu Bu’s theme from the game Dynasty Warriors 4.



Dynasty Warriors is a hack’n’slash game series spanning almost 2 decades and is currently developed by Koei Tecmo. It loosely follows the story “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” where the player controls one of the many different characters available. The track was composed by Sasaki Masayoshi who is more commonly known by his moniker, MASA.

The song features strong drums, meaty rhythm guitar/bass and wickedly upfront electric guitar solos. It also employs the use of  some sampled drums. Altogether the song is very clean with the guitar skills of MASA taking the forefront of the track.

I have a personal connection with this song due to the fact that I played this game as part of my childhood. The feelings that this song evokes in me will differ compared to someone who has not played the game. Here is what the song evokes in me.

Powerful
Relentless
Destruction
Destiny
Might
Death
Fear(Oh no, Bugger me, Where is he?, Oh crap he is coming at me, Run away!, SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!)

For the uninitiated, Lu Bu is the most powerful and difficult character to defeat in Dynasty Warriors. When this song begins to play during the game you know that Lu Bu is around and is about to serve you your own head. By deciding to give this character their own theme it sets a precedent that whenever this theme is heard it will instill the emotion of dread into the player. The prominence of the guitar and the solos performed confer a link between the solidarity of Lu Bu and his vast strength.

Interestingly this is also the theme for the game (only Dynasty Warriors 4) but it employs the use of some extra instrumentation.



By using musical elements of Chinese origin as well as the traditional rock instrumentation the tone of the song shifts a little, it is more wondrous and adventurous, also setting the scene for the game (China).

Here is a fun look at how Lu bu’s theme has progressed throughout the many incarnations of the game.



The technical requirements of both of these tracks differs quite a bit. If we look at the first track, Naked Body, it is really just intending for you to dance your heart out. This requires a catchy tune and driving beat which the song employs to great effect. Whereas Lu Bu’s theme is a testament to the characters power. It needs something that instills greatness into the player and uses driving riffs and insane shows of technical guitar prowess to prove its point. The technical processes used in these tracks are in coherence with the demand of the aesthetic and help to bolster their places within their medium.

Cheers,

Alex

LO5

Tres Commas. I mean Mixes.

Totally Not Nick Tart

The first song I mixed was one that my whole class helped record with the aid of Guy Cooper. There is no official title but the artist is Nick Tart. The song fits into an old rock genre or dad rock if you will and it was the characteristics of this genre that influenced how I mixed the song.

Driving guitars and big drums with a strong vocal are all things that would make this song come to life. I started with the drums. These needed to be big and punchy, to achieve this effect I compressed and limited the individual drums to raise their overall volume within the mix. Once I had this down pat I moved over to the guitar. Now this was interesting as we recorded through a DI and the guitarist had already applied a lot of effects and processing to create his desired tone. Nothing much was done in this regard, a little compression and eq’ing out the copious lows really made room for the bass guitar. The bass was recorded with both a DI and a mic on the cab. The DI tone was really not that great but it added a little thickness to the bass, so by combining a mixture of both the mic’d cab and the DI signal a healthy tone was achieved.

Lastly I tackled the vocals. I created 2 different vocal compilations and processed them differently. The ‘main’ vocal was left relatively clean with only a little eq and dynamics touch ups. The second vocal however I compressed heavily and used a distortion plugin to add a little grungy flavour. With the use of automation I could bring the level of the distorted vocal into the mix when it felt right. This was usually at the end of phrases. I also automated the reverb to accentuate this effect.

Overall I think the song fits well into its genre and the mixing techniques used help to solidify its dad rock roots.

Totally not Nick Tart

The Hizon Project

The second song that I mixed was one that I recorded with the help of Ricardo and Jackson. The artist is Joey Hizon and again I do not have a track name. The song is predominantly folk acoustic singer songwriter sort of stuff, mainly due to the nature of it being one guitar and him singing.

The soft airy vocals and intimate guitar really bring out the emotion of the genre and it was with this in mind I approached the mixing from a softer angle. To begin we recorded it live with Joey singing and playing guitar, full knowing this would offer a little less room to move when it came to mixing. This was the correct decision however as the take was great and the emotion was real.

I duplicated the vocal microphone and shifted it ever so slightly to add a delayed effect, almost like a double track. I applied slightly different EQ’s to both of these tracks to add a little variety within the vocal. The guitar was full sounding to begin with, if a little muddy in the lower mid range. With the use of eq and an aural exciter I was able to create a crisp bright guitar sound that fits well with the voice.

The big ticket here was the use of reverb. I haven’t decided if I went a little overboard with it yet or not. I like it and I feel it fits the theme of the song so it might only need a little tweaking. I created two different reverbs. One was for the vocal alone and the other was for both guitar and vocals. I used the vocal only reverb to accentuate the voice when the guitar was lower in the mix and the other reverb to tie the two elements together in the same space. Again I used automation of the reverb to create a flow within the song and add emphasis to phrases that would benefit from it.

I know for a fact that the artist is a religious man. I believe this knowledge influenced me to make the track almost a little gospel sounding. I don’t think this detracts from the overall sound but I wonder if I would mix it differently not knowing this.

Joey Hizon

Redbop

I should really start getting the names of these tracks. The final song for this mixdown breakdown (wicked) is performed by the jazz band Redbop, and naturally I don’t know the name of the track. The song is a jazz song, rich on dynamics and solos, with a bright lead trumpet. If there was anything that needed to be done with this track, it was to make the trumpet the star of the show.

This song was fairly mixed when it got into my hands. The recording process was treated as a mixing session so everything sat in the mix fairly well to begin with. There were only a few level changes and some panning to even everything out. My biggest struggle would have been the drum kit. It was a tiny little cute thing and the bass drum didn’t have a sound hole so the kick was barely there. I decided against spending the time to get a booming kick sound that would overpower the rest of the elements and figured this soft kick would suite the style of music. I’d like to think I made the correct decision.

The trumpet was recorded beautifully. With the use of two microphones and a room mic there was plenty to choose from to get a sweet sounding blend. I used very little EQ on the trumpet and no compression. It was just a stellar instrument recorded well. It mixed itself.

The keyboard required little effort to sit in the mix. With some reverb and slight EQ it was good to go.

The bass was perhaps the most fickle of the instruments in this mix. It was picked up poorly by the room mics and the spot mic picked up a lot of the kick sound. With some EQ and compression it was sitting nicely.

A big part of this mix was getting the instruments to sound together whilst still maintaining the individual clarity of each element. This was accomplished by using a very nice warm plate reverb and setting it for each individual element until it reached the desired effect. This glued the performance together wonderfully.

The song was recorded live and I felt that I needed to capture this essence. With this in mind I tried to do as little as I could with compression and eq and I think the final result speaks for itself.

Redbop

Cheers,

Alex

LO Coverage
LO4

Redbop Live at SAE!

One of the major projects I and my peers endeavoured to create was a live set of a band using the recording studios available at SAE. Thankfully Sarah was in contact with a band that was keen as mustard to get in the studio and record. By using connections from our other project we were able to get the expertise of Julian McHutchinson to come and film the set for us. The session plan is available below.

Session Plan

We had the band arrive a few hours after we had the studio booked to allow us time to have everything prepared for when they would actually get there. When the band arrived we positioned them in regards to the blumlein pair microphone array so there was an even spread of the elements. More time could have been spent here but overall the sound was pretty great

Due to this being a “live” set we endeavoured to have the sound going into the computer be as mixed as possible and using the outboard gear where appropriate so we would have to do as little as possible after the fact, to keep true to the ‘live’ feel. This however didn’t end up working quite as planned. We had some issues with the reverb unit, we didn’t send enough signal or have the right I/O settings or something, so essentially it applied no reverb to the signal, instead just recorded straight through the unit with no effect. Another issue we had was with the headphone sends for the artists. It was going fine until about halfway through the set there was an issue with the sound lacking a lot of lows and having a harsh high end. We found that some strange EQ was being applied to the headphones, changing this to a pre fader send solved our issues. The final issue I had with the recording is that we ran a little cool into Pro Tools. It was simple enough to boost the signal during the mixing phase but was still an oversight in my mind and I would try and get more into the box from the recording phase.

Due to the fact that we “mixed” the band going into the computer there was very little that had to be done during the mixing stage. The biggest issue was reverb as the outboard unit failed on us. I applied reverb sparingly to the overall mix and more specifically the keyboard, as it was DI’d into the desk there was no processing at all. A little bit of panning, EQ and dynamics processing to glue it all together and we were cooking. The most mixing that had to be done was with the talking in between songs, to get those to a decent level for the video. Next time I would have a dedicated talkback mic for the performers.

This was a great experience for me and finally I felt like I knew what I was doing and belonged in the studio recording a band. Getting to use the Neve console like this was amazing. I would definitely be interested in doing this again. Maybe start a series.

The final edit of the video is being rendered as I type, I will hopefully be able to add to this post later tonight. In the meantime here is a silly behind the scenes video to hold you over.


And here is a track that was recorded after the film student left.

Song Number 5

Here is the final video of the session!



Cheers,
Alex

Karma Suits Ya

For one of my major projects this trimester I teamed up with Ayden and Ricardo to record sound for a short film titled “Karma Suits Ya”. The film follows a few characters throughout their day at the office. The main character Dave finally works up the courage to ask out another employee, Debbie. He is “assisted” by his workmate Jason. The film is a comedy and was shot over two days at SAE Brisbane. This was our first foray into the world of film sound and it was an interesting experience.

Here is the session plan for the recording.

Session Plan

The days were long and only a little arduous. We had only a short time to familiarise ourselves with the gear as we had not had the time to practice prior to the film. Ironically some of the best takes were the first ones when we were still getting the hang of the gear. There was a lot of downtime whilst the other students were preparing the set and directing the actors. It was in these moments we took the time to really get to know the equipment.

As the day progressed we became more confident in our use of the equipment and in doing so I think we became a little lax in our quality control. This was remedied in the mixing stage but it was unnecessary if we had paid more attention at the recording stage.  

Most issues we faced were fixed promptly. Early on day we had a noise issue with the boom mic. By switching from the mixer driven phantom power, to a battery we solved this issue. There were quite a few little adjustments to lapels throughout the day as well, this was to be expected. Perhaps our biggest issue was just our technique with the boom. During mixing the boom was really quite shit and I feel like we didnt try hard enough to get in really close with it during the recording stage. If I were to do another film I would interact with the director of photography a little more to find out how much leeway there is for the boom operator.

Recording went well. We had done our job and we were happy. Next thing to do was mix the audio to the film and add foley effects. We were quite comfortable at creating foley assets this deep into the trimester. The recordings though did a good job of capturing the surroundings so there were only a few things that needed to be added.

The biggest struggle throughout this project was data management. The film student who was in charge of editing was willy nilly with his sessions. I ended up with at least 100GB of unnecessary sessions due to his shoddy file management. After we (myself) got the session working we were drastically behind schedule. Our studio time was running out so we decided to split our forces. Half went to another studio to edit and the other stayed to do foley work. This would have been perfect except the other studio couldn’t handle opening any of the plugins that were required to repair the audio in our session. In the end I took the session home and edited it myself as I have the required plugins that were needed for the edit. With the use of EQ and noise reduction plugins I was able to create a decent product. With some feedback from my peers I was able to quickly reexamine the session and fix any glaring issues.

I would work on another film. I would like there to be more professionalism in it next time though. I understand it’s a student endeavour and everyone is learning but common courtesy is a real winner in my eyes. Regardless! Here is the final product, please give it a watch and don’t share it around as it is only for educational purposes. The polished product is still in the works, but this serves as an example of the audio.



Cheers,

Alex

Not these guys again.

Early on in week 7 Ricardo was contacted again by the masterminds behind WTF Radio. They had sent us a request to compile and edit foley for their pilot episode of the show. The total time of the segments equalled approximately 32 minutes. We were stoked! A whole buttload more foley work to do, hell yeah! Then we found out the deadline was in 2 days. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise but it still stung. We hurriedly wrote up a session plan and booked the studio. Session plan is below.

Session Plan

We had essentially one and a half days to complete the work. We decided to focus our efforts towards the larger skits as they would obviously be the bigger audience attention grabbers. The session went decently well and shockingly fast. If I can remember correctly we had the studio booked from 2pm until 10pm, it was a long evening. At around 7:30pm Ricardo had to leave or risk missing the last bus home, this is when Aaron and I turned our attention to the shorter clips that just the two of us could complete. We wrapped up the session with about 70% of the audio recorded and endeavoured to finish the rest the following morning.

With a fresh outlook and a little sleep we entered the studio Thursday morning. With the four of us (Ric, Sarah, Aaron and myself) all together the final sounds were completed quite quickly.

If there was a greater time frame I think we could have really fleshed out the sound for these scenes, but considering the shitty time frame we did have I think the final products are at least a passable standard (some more so than others).

We created a multitude of sounds for this project. From simple footsteps to garage doors opening and even a magical teleporting sound. Please give the final products a listen below. All sounds beside dialogue were created by us.

Google Drive Link

Cheers,

Alex