Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Location Sound Engineer Ben Nimkin Depends On Countryman
Credits include "Live From New York," HBO’s documentary "The Diplomat" and ESPN’s ’30 for 30’ documentary about pro golfer John Daly.
For location sound engineer Ben Nimkin, there is frequently precious little time to outfit the talent with a microphone capable of faithfully capturing the audio quality necessary for documentary film production.
To minimize the challenges of this process, Nimkin relies extensively on his collection of lavalier microphones from Menlo Park, CA-based Countryman Associates.
After completing graduate school for documentary filmmaking, Nimkin began his career as a freelance editor and occasional shooter.
He quickly took an interest in the audio aspects of production, however, and has been working in location sound for the majority of his career.
His credits include the documentary Live From New York, which chronicles the 40-year-history of the popular NBC TV show, and HBO’s critically acclaimed documentary The Diplomat, which tells the remarkable story of the life and legacy of ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose singular career spans fifty years of American foreign policy from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
Nimkin recently took delivery of a customized Countryman B6 omnidirectional lavalier microphone, which augments his arsenal of four stock B6 microphones in addition to his Countryman B3 and EMW lavalier microphones. His discussed his fondness for Countryman products.
“I started using Countryman products in grad school about six years ago,” Nimkin recalls. “We used the company’s EMW omnidirectional lavaliers and I loved working with them. This led me to the B3 Omnidirectional lavs along with the B6, which has since become my ‘go-to’ microphone for much of my work. In all cases, I use my Countryman mics with Lectrosonics SMQV and Wisycom MTP40S wireless systems and, together, they make a great setup.”
Recently, Nimkin has been working on ESPN’s ’30 for 30’ documentary about pro golfer John Daly, which is being produced by V2 Film & Design. The project looks at Daly’s life and his impact on the game.
According to Nimkin, “Daly is a very interesting and amazing character, but he does whatever he wants and, in order to follow him, the crew must be very flexible and move quickly. That means I need to mic him up quickly—sometimes while he’s on the move.” In order to address these challenges, Nimkin consulted with Countryman’s engineering staff and arranged for a customized B6 lavalier that offered him additional flexibility.
“As is often the case with documentaries,” Nimkin explained, “I need to mic people who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the invasive procedure of being wired up for sound. As such, I needed a mic that I could place on someone quickly and efficiently and that could just as easily be adjusted. This led me to ask Countryman’s engineering team if they would modify a B6 with a small length of flexible wire shrink-tubed near the capsule. This change enables the top inch of the mic to be bent into almost any shape and stay that way.”
“One reason why the B6 is so great for narrative work,” he continued, “is that its small size makes it easier to hide. But its small size has an additional benefit—there is less surface area and, therefore, less chance for the microphone to rub and make clothing noise. My customized B6 has the added benefit in that I can push it through a tie knot easily, bend it around a button hole, or shape it under the brim of a hat without excess tape; and I can do it all faster and with greater assurance that it will sound great. I have even bent it into a little spring shape to help isolate the capsule on a particularly noisy outfit.”
Nimkin shared a common exchange between himself and his subjects when they are first wired for sound, “The conversation I often have when miking someone for the first time starts with me saying, ‘Hi, I’m Ben and I’m the sound engineer on this shoot. Have you ever been wired up before?’ The talent frequently responds with something akin to, ‘No I haven’t. Wow! Is that the microphone?’ while pointing to the B6. My response, ‘Small isn’t it? It’s super tiny, so you won’t feel a thing.’ The talent typically gestures to the mic and says something along the lines of, ‘Amazing!’”
When your livelihood depends on the ability to quickly and accurately capture audio on location, the necessity for quality customer support services is crucial. Here too, Nimkin regards Countryman’s support among the industry’s best, “I’ve never had anything go wrong with any of my Countryman products. I was so impressed with the response from Chris Countryman when I suggested a design modification to the B6. He was enthusiastic and eager to try it out. It is this ease of creating a dialogue that enables us to improve our equipment and improve our craft.”
Before turning his attention to an upcoming project, Nimkin offered these parting thoughts, “Countryman mics have been my primary lavalier mics for years. I have used others, but I really love how they sound, how they are designed, and how well they handle the abuse of the day-to-day grind of production.”
Miner Family Winery Stage features al-Class line arrays, h-Class subwoofers, side-fills and stage monitors with V Series system engines for amplification.
BottleRock Festival in Napa Valley welcomed over 100,000 fans and more than 70 acts featured Robert Plant, Snoop Dogg, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Public Enemy, No Doubt and Imagine Dragons performing on five different stages.
One of those stages - the Miner Family Winery Stage - featured an exclusive lineup of VUE Audiotechnik products including al-Class line arrays for mains, h-Class subwoofers, side-fills and stage monitors, and V Series system engines for amplification.
The immense undertaking of complete technical production for BottleRock from staging to sound to video & lighting was provided by Delicate Productions, with Jason Alt, president of Delicate Productions, and George Edwards, GM of San Francisco facility of Delicate Productions at the reigns.
Fans of acts performing on the Miner Family Winery Stage - which included Los Lobos, AER, Xavier Rudd, Napa Crossroads featuring David Pack, Grizfolk and Lettuce - were treated to VUE’s al-Class line array systems paired with VUE’s V Series systems engines for amplification and networked DSP.
Each side of the main PA was outfitted with ten al-8 high output line array cabinets hung over four al-4 subcompact line array cabinets used for front- and down-fill. Additional front-fill was provided by four stacks of two al-4s arrayed along the stagelip. The al-8 employs dual 8-inch woofers, four 4-inch Kevlar/Neodymium mid-frequency drivers and dual 1-inch high-frequency compression drivers, while the al-4s each house dual 4-inch Kevlar/Neodymium woofers and one HF compression driver. The high-frequency elements for both models utilize VUE’s proprietary Truextent beryllium driver technology, which reduces mechanical breakup while improving linearity and high-frequency extension.
Audio engineers manning the desk for acts on the Miner Family Winery Stage were impressed with the results.
Tib Csabai has been mixing front-of-house for 15 years, the last year and a half for alt-rock act Grizfolk. “Given this band and my personal taste,” Csabai says, “I want what’s coming out of the PA system to be about as flat and representative as what’s coming from the console. Good coverage is important too, but a neutral-sounding PA is key. If I want it to rock a little harder, have more edge, or have it be smoother when I’m mixing jazz, I like to be able to control that.”
“The guys in Grizfolk do a lot of harmonies so the vocal range needs to be on top,” continues Csabai. “I didn’t have any issues getting the vocals up on top of the band. Two areas where PA systems tend to be trouble for me are the high-mid area (2 to 4 kHz tends to be kind of stabby), and then there’s usually some funny business going on in the low-mids, which doesn’t sound right. I found myself not having to make corrections to those areas on the VUE PA because it was so smooth. I’ll definitely be happy to see this PA again.”
“I mixed on the VUE system tonight and it sounded great,” agrees Mark Allsbaugh, front of house engineer, Lettuce. “I loved it. The VUE system was nice, clean, and rich. I had a good experience mixing the show and I look forward to the next time I can mix on a VUE system.”
As Deanne Franklin, front of house engineer for Napa Crossroads at the festival, with an impressive list of bands she’s mixed since 1982 (Tom Waits, David Byrne, Sonic Youth & The Breeders), reveals, “It’s really important to have a PA that’s powerful, meaty, yet clear everywhere, without mud. My first impression of the VUE al-Series was the clarity. Sometimes that clarity can be almost unforgiving. I’ve only mixed on this system once but I felt that it was more forgiving, that it had more ‘meat’ to it. The midrange sounds really sweet. I enjoyed mixing on it and I would mix on it again.”
Sebastian Poux, a freelance engineer supplied by Delicate Productions, was systems and front of house engineer for the Miner Stage. “The angles are easily moved once the cabinets are rigged together, the system actually rigged pretty fast.” he observes. “I am very sensitive to high frequencies. I like a well-tuned PA right out of the box, a PA that is very round at the edges - and I can hear that out of the VUE al-Class.”
The combination of twenty al-8s and eight al-4s elements in the main hangs, another eight al-4s on the stage lip for front fills, twelve powered hs-28 Dual 18-inch ACM subwoofers arrayed on the ground in front of the stage, and VUE V6 and V4 System Engines boasting a 96 kHz sample rate, 64-bit digital processing and ultra-premium converters provided the PA system with plenty of headroom. “The first thing I noticed,” explains Aaron Gittleman front of house engineer, AER, “was the full dynamic range and power. I had my master fader at half and actually even my sub-masters too. Usually when I walk into a festival situation I have to push, push and push those faders but with the VUE system here, I had all I needed. I actually ended up backing faders down. It was awesome.”
VUE Audiotechnik gear was also used for the stage monitor system, which included four h-12N high definition systems as side-fills stacked atop of a single hs-28 subwoofer and a dozen hm-212 high output stage monitors. The drum riser had two hs-25 subwoofers with a single hm-212 on top for additional drum fill. Adam Deitch, drummer for Lettuce and Break Science, found the hm-212 to be “crispy clear with just the right amount of thump. It felt like a record on stage. I had a great night.” Chris Bargie, monitor engineer for Lettuce adds, “The monitors sounded really great, and the guys were very happy and if the guys are happy, I am happy.”
Following a successful sold-out weekend, BottleRock Festival announced that a limited quantity of tickets is already on sale for next year.
Readers often send me their music to comment on, and while I’d love to get to everything, sometimes that’s just not possible.
That said, there are a number of traits that I notice among these songs that I thought was worth a mention, since they encapsulate many of the problems that I hear.
Before you send me a link to something to listen to, make sure that your song doesn’t have any of these common problems first and save us both some time.
1. No groove.
Every song has to have a pulse and it has to be made obvious so the listener can feel it.
Every kind and genre of music has it. If it’s not there, nothing else counts.
Sometimes I hear songs where the groove just isn’t there because of poor playing, or it’s not made obvious in the mix.
2. Bad drum tracks.
I don’t mean the sound, but the actual playing. A number of times this year so far people have sent me their “masters” or CDs that have such horrible playing that the only person that’s ever going to like it is their mothers.
What do I mean by bad playing? Rushed or slow drum fills, uneven tempo that’s way too noticeable, floppy uneven kick and/or snare hits won’t cut it.
The problem is that most musicians who’ve never worked on a real record project before are just not critical enough and let too much go that should have been re-recorded, fixed or edited. Your basic track is the most important thing you’ll record next to the vocal. Make it as perfect as you can before you move on.
3. Tracks out of the pocket.
This means that a part doesn’t groove against the rest of the track. The number of songs I get with vocals that rush, or the bass being out of the pocket against the drums, or another instrument that way too early or too late is really a shame. Usually the songs I get have their owners more worried about the sound than the playing, but great playing beats great sound any day.
4. Out of tune.
Tuners are cheap. Use one. There’s no excuse in this day and age.
5. Bad recording.
The real key to a great sound is a great player first, then a great instrument, although a great sounding instrument can make a mediocre player sound a lot better. Get those two first and everything else will take care of itself.
6. Bad mixing.
Mixing is so much more than balancing instruments and adding effects. It’s finding the groove and building around it, then finding the most interesting element and emphasizing it.
Here’s the bottom line. There’s a reason why pros exist. Spend the extra money to work with one, at least for one project. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.
Oh and by the way. If you’re going to ask that I critique your song, send me a link that I can stream (even YouTube is OK). DO NOT send me a file. There’s a legal issue involved and it fills up my hard drive and takes time to download. I can’t promise that I’ll listen, but I will try.
Also understand that sometimes there’s just not much to say about a mix. You made some decisions that reflected your creative taste. They’re not right or wrong, but they’re probably different from the way others might’ve made them. They’re not right or wrong either. Some questions just don’t have an answer.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website. You can read and comment on the original article here.
The AX32 provides a variety of digital interfaces such as ProTools HD, MADI, AES and Dante IP audio.
The AX32 AD/DA converter and digital router interface from Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) has been certified by the Music Engineering and Technology Alliance (METAlliance).
METAlliance founding member Frank Filipetti remarked, “Great A to D conversion is one of the hardest things in audio to do right.”
“For nearly fifteen years my tried and true converters have served me well, and never once during that time have I yearned for the latest innovations. That is until now. The DAD AX32 converters are my new benchmark for DAD conversion. If you love digital, you’ll love the DAD’s. If you love analog…you’ll love the DAD’s.”
Fellow METAlliance co-founder Chuck Ainlay added, “With Hi Res Audio on the rise as a consumer format, never has there been a time when converter performance that faithfully captures what I hear in the studio been more important. The DAD converters simply are the most accurate sounding converters I’ve ever heard.”
“We are greatly honored that our new AX32 has been recognized and certified by the METAlliance,” said sales director Mikael Vest.
“Everyone at DAD worked hard to develop the AX32, and to have it certified by the METAlliance validates our efforts. This honor is especially important to us because it comes from such a dedicated group whose mission of ensuring highest-quality audio coincides with our goals as well.”
DAD’s new AX32 AD/DA converter and digital router interface is an ideal choice as a front-end or digital format converter for recording or mastering applications where up to 48 channels of analog inputs or outputs are needed. The AX32 provides a variety of digital interfaces such as ProTools HD, MADI, AES and Dante IP audio.
A microphone pre-amp option is also available. The AX32 provides a versatile digital interface structure, and audio interfacing via IP L3 Ethernet.
L.A. Opera Premieres The Ghosts of Versailles With Lectrosonics
Soundmirror’s Grammy Award-winning team takes 24 channels of Lectrosonics wireless to the Music Center campus in Los Angeles.
Classical music recording and production company Soundmirror took the new Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless bodypack LT transmitters straight from the production line to the stage earlier this year to capture L.A. Opera’s West Coast premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles.
Soundmirror utilized 13 of the new L Series Large Bandwidth transmitters in combination with 11 Lectrosonics SMQV transmitters and 4 six-channel Venue receivers for a total of 24 channels of wireless to record composer John Corigliano’s opera, which was being fully staged in the U.S. for the first time in two decades.
“We got the first 13 LTs ever straight off the production line,” confirmed John Newton, who founded Soundmirror in Boston, MA in 1972 to provide digital recording services to the major record labels.
Newton had no concerns about putting the first production models straight into service, he said: “We have used Lectrosonics products so much over the years that we know that the reliability and ease of use is there. Sound Mirror is known for being an innovator, and our clients want the very best. Lectrosonics equipment sounds good and is of the quality that we require.”
Soundmirror’s veteran Grammy Award-winning team capturing the production at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, part of the four-venue Music Center campus in downtown Los Angeles, included producer Blanton Alspaugh, recording engineer Mark Donahue and Massachusetts-based independent wireless specialist David Williams.
Operating out of a temporary control room at the venue, the team recorded three of the six performances of The Ghosts of Versailles, which was being produced in repertory with The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, the two classic “Figaro” operas that inspired it.
The 24 channels of Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless were paired with DPA 4071 lavalier microphones, positioned at each performer’s wigline.
“The 24 wireless got paired up with another 30-something Schoeps mics in the orchestra pit, and 15 or so mics on the stage and buried in the set,” reported Donahue.
A total of 80 tracks passed through Merging Technologies Horus interfaces to a SmartAV Tango control surface then into redundant Merging Pyramix DAWs, with a laptop for back-up, recording at 192 kHz.
“My job, when I’m mixing, is to mix the wireless,” said Donahue. “I have my 24 wireless mics and I have eight channels of VCAs if I have to rebalance the orchestra. I don’t pan the wireless mics—they all go into the center and support the zone mics to add a little bit of dialogue clarity. As Blanton is listening for audio quality issues and marking the score he’s also giving me on/off cues when people leave the scene and come back.”
The ability of the new LT to tune to as many as 3,072 selectable frequencies across a 75 MHz range—three standard Lectrosonics blocks—allowed Williams to successfully navigate the hostile RF environment in downtown L.A. “It was really nice to have the LT,” said Williams, who initially planned to evenly distribute the 24 channels across three Lectrosonics blocks before discovering that there was no space available in block 23. That necessitated squeezing 10 channels into block 22, he said. “The SMQVs are locked into a block, but the LTs have that three-block range,” which enabled them to be tuned to fit into the available frequency spectrum.
“Lectrosonics’ sound quality has always been superior, the reliability has been great and the cost is reasonable,” adds Donahue. “They were also the first to wade into the digital hybrid market, which gave us more channels with greater fidelity. You factor in all those things, and how many channels you need, and Lectrosonics really does rise to the top.”
Soundmirror’s orchestral, solo; opera and chamber recordings have received over 80 Grammy Award nominations, with the company’s staff collectively winning 25 Grammys. John Newton has won seven Grammy Awards, Blanton Alspaugh is a four-time Grammy Award-winner, including one for Producer of the Year, Classical in 2012, and Mark Donahue has five Grammy Awards to his credit.
High Kirk Presbyterian Church Installs Allen & Heath GLD Consoles
Church in Ballymena, Ireland purchases GLD-112 desks for front of house and recording plus an AR2412 and two AR84 IO expanders.
High Kirk Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ireland, recently installed Allen & Heath GLD digital consoles as part of a major refurbishment project.
The Church purchased two GLD-112 desks – one for live sound and one for recording – plus, an AR2412 and two AR84 IO expanders.
The two desks were fitted with M-Dante network cards, providing simple to use multitrack recording capabilities.
The Church needed to satisfy a variety of operators with the choice of console. Some only use the desk one or two times a month, while others are professional sound engineers.
“During the demo, the more we looked at it, the more we realized how perfect the GLD was for our requirements – a single solution which totally eliminated our need for outboard equipment. Furthermore, all of our operators have their own preferred “layout” but with 28 faders and 4 layers, it turns out that everyone can have the desk arranged to suit their personal preferences.” says head of sound, Brian Adams
The capacity to easily reconfigure the desk could lead to confusion, so to avoid this, one of the early agreements the team reached was how they would use the channel LCD displays.
“When it came to our purchasing decision, the LCD displays were one of the most important features of the desk. With multiple operators, and the need for different fader layouts, the last thing we wanted was a dependence on rolls of camera tape and Sharpies. Not only do the channel names change as we switch layers but we use the colour coding to great effect.”
The technical team was impressed that only a single Cat5e cable was required in the route to the front of house position.
“During the refurbishment, we had to relocate to another part of the church for a few weeks – you can imagine how difficult this would have been with our old copper multis. With the GLD, we screwed a few hooks into the ceiling and ran in a couple of temporary Cat5e cables and were up and running within minutes.”
Apart from regular Sunday services, High Kirk is used as a venue for worship events, many of which are aimed at a young audience, and which are technically more challenging. In the past this often meant abandoning the “house” PA system and bringing in an alternative one. Much to the delight of the in-house tech team, that has become a thing of the past.
Matt Gresham, aka Logistics, is now mixing and mastering on PMC twotwo.6 monitors.
Hospital Records artist Matt Gresham (also known as Logistics) has bought a pair of PMC twotwo.6 nearfield monitors for his own studio.
The new loudspeakers have been used for all of the mixing and mastering Gresham has done over the last few months in preparation for a new Logistics album.
“I’ve been working mainly from home for a while now, apart from vinyl mastering which I still have done externally,” explains Gresham from his Cambridge studio. “The twotwos have been a real pleasure to work on since I got them.”
Gresham sought out the PMCs after a few months of dissatisfaction with the mixes he was making on his previous nearfields, and a mastering session with Stuart Hawkes at Metropolis where he realized what his mix sounded like on a pair of PMC’s BB5 XBD-As.
He began to look into using some PMCs that were a more suitable size for his small studio, and auditioned a pair of twotwo.6s. “I just remember being blown away by the clarity and the detail,” he comments. “The crazy thing was the lack of distortion and their transparency.
“A lot of people use flattering speakers in the studio. That’s great for getting some excitement going while you’re writing, but if you’re mixing as you build a track, which is how I prefer to do it, you could find that you can’t get your final mixes the way you want them to sound. Now I know that I’m getting a true picture of a track as I build it, and I find things just slot into the mix easier as I’m going along.”
“With the old monitors, I would often do a mix, leave it, come back to it, and find myself endlessly tweaking. That’s happening less and less with these; it’s a lot more fun to make music, and when I reference on other systems or when DJing, I’m happy with what I’m producing here. I also find that I’m able to work really long hours on them as well, and that my ears don’t get fatigued in the way that they would with the old monitors.”
Aside from the forthcoming solo album, Gresham is currently collaborating separately with Hugh Hardy and Maduk, working with his brother Dan on another of their joint NuLogic releases, and also with his other brother Nick (of Other Echoes), all the while continuing to remix artists such as Etherwood and Andreya Triana.
Gresham is also working with other vocalists for his own album, and unlike previous vocal recording sessions, all the work so far has been done in his studio.
“We discussed using the vocals as demos and re-recording them at a bigger studio, but in the end what we captured here sounds great, and has been another really enjoyable experience with the PMCs,” he explains. “When you’ve got a vocalist in, you really want to know that the take you’ve got is going to be the one that you end up using… the detail in these speakers is fantastic for that.”
Gresham adds that recording on his new PMC’s has been really enjoyable.
“Within the first two weeks, I wrote the most absurdly loud track, which came out sounding so huge - and I hadn’t even really tried to do that.” he says. “It still has all the frequencies — you know, in the past, I might thin some of that out while building a track, so that there’s still room in the spectrum for a big bass. But I didn’t need to use any heavy EQ with the PMCs. And the track has still got that clarity. Right from that point, I had confidence in them.”
Michael Bishop Uses Royer Microphones To Win 10th Grammy
Recognized for his work on Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem, Symphony No. 4, The Lark Ascending; using Royer SF-24 and SF-2 microphones.
Recording engineer and producer Michael Bishop won his 10th GRAMMY in the category Best Engineered Album, Classical; a project recorded with ribbon microphones from Royer Labs.
The award was issued to him at the 57th annual award show for his engineering, mixing, and mastering work on the ASO Media release Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem, Symphony No. 4, The Lark Ascending, which features Robert Spano, Norman Mackenzie, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
Shortly after on March 4th, he could be found in Dallas, TX engineering the Cancer Blows benefit concert recording for PBS at the Morton F. Meyerson Symphony Center.
In each case, the microphones that contributed to Bishop’s success on these two projects were drawn from the catalog of Burbank, CA-based Royer Labs.
As the co-founding member and recording engineer / producer for Five/Four Productions of Shaker Heights, OH, Bishop’s resume resembles a Who’s Who of music and entertainment.
Bishop’s recording credits include projects with Dizzy Gillespie, Wild Cherry, Hiromi Uehara, the Stanley Clarke Trio, Bonnie Raitt, The James Gang, Manhattan Transfer, Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, plus Franz Welzer-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra to name but a few. Michael has also recorded major film soundtracks including the MGM musical The Fantasticks and the Oscar-winning film Reds.
Presently, Bishop’s Royer Labs microphone arsenal includes an SF-24 Stereo Active Ribbon microphone, four SF-2 Mono Ribbon microphones, an SF-12 Stereo Ribbon mic, an R-122V Vacuum Tube Ribbon mic, four R-121 Mono Ribbon mics, and four R-101 Mono Ribbon microphones.
“For the Vaughn Williams project with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, I used the Royer SF-24 as the main surround pickup of the orchestra and four SF-2s on the chorus,” Bishop explains.
“For the Cancer Blows project,” he continues, “I deployed an SF-24 as the main orchestra surround pickup while the SF-12 was used for the orchestra’s wind section as well as the overall big band pickup. I used the SF-2 for drum kit, the orchestra bass section, as well as the upright bass of the rhythm section. The R-122V was used as the primary downstage solo microphone while the R-121s were used as additional downstage solo mics and for the big band trumpet section. I also used the R-101 on the big band trumpet section.”
“I’ve used the SF-24 stereo ribbon mic as the main surround orchestra pickup on most of my orchestral recording sessions,” Bishop reports, “including the two recordings that had consecutively won the “Best Surround Album” GRAMMY. Accurate imaging, the ability to beautifully capture the ‘space’ around the orchestra, an un-colored sound, and perfect integration into the overall mix are among the attributes I can point to as to why I always rely on the SF-24 on my sessions. I also incorporate the pickup of the SF-24 to a degree into the stereo mix to add extra size and depth to the overall stereo image of the orchestra.”
The Royer SF-2 is another of Bishop’s favorites. “The SF2s have been the perfect chorus pickup microphone for me, especially when working with the challenging stage acoustics of the Atlanta Symphony Hall, where the physical layout of the orchestra and chorus can be quite difficult from a miking perspective,” he reports.
“With careful placement of the SF-2 ribbon mics, I can effectively use the natural -90dB null points of the mics to minimize the leakage of the percussion and brass instruments into the chorus microphones, yet maintain a proper distance with the chorus pickup. The SF-2s also interact far better than condenser mics would with the challenge presented by a strong soprano and alto section. A strong soprano section is capable of producing intermodulation distortion in the air around them. This is a natural phenomenon that can present some difficulty to condenser microphones, but a good ribbon microphone easily handles such a signal without adding any edginess to the sound.”
With the high profile projects characteristic of Bishop’s work, quality customer and technical support is crucial. Here too, he gives Royer Labs high marks, “The customer / technical support team at Royer Labs has been a lifeline for me in my work. I’ve been able to depend upon their assistance at a moment’s notice and they’ve always come through. I’ve found the Royer team to be among the best in the biz.”
Before turning his attention back to the business of the day, Bishop offered these final thoughts, “I’m fortunate to have a good set of tools available to me in my work and the Royer mics are there every time. The Royer ribbon mics play an absolutely essential role in all of my sessions. When I think of the sound I want to present, the Royer mics are a key ingredient.”
Producer Matty Amendola Chooses TELEFUNKEN For New Katie Lee Record (Video)
Studio owner assembles a collection of respectable microphones and Grammy-winning studio players for latest project.
Producer, songwriter and studio owner Matty Amendola assembled a diverse collection of TELEFUNKEN microphones for the debut album from Katie Lee.
“The AK-47 tube mic and the M80 dynamic were the only vocal mics on the record,” commented Amendola.
“I used the DD5 drum package on my kit, and I also used the AK-47 as a room mic for drums and piano, and on acoustic guitars.”
Besides handling all of the production, co-writing, and core instrumentation, Amendola brought in Grammy Award-winning engineer Butch Jones to assist in the mixing of the album; special guest Jody Porter (Fountains of Wayne) to bring some power pop guitar; and Grammy Award-winning producer/singer Mark Hudson, for his classic, lush background vocals on the ballad “Same Mistakes.”
“Every day, I learned something new from Matty,” says Katie Lee. “He knows how to challenge me and push me to go where I didn’t even think I could go with a song. We’re a great team—I’m very lucky.”
Additionally, Amendola brought in Vinnie Zummo (session player/Joe Jackson Band) and longtime friend and well-known Brooklyn musician, Andy Attanasio (Slim Kings). Amendola says, “It’s a true testament to Katie Lee’s talent and potential for these legends to want to work with an unknown artist on a debut album.”
Available now on 825 Records, “Don’t Go Away” features eight tracks written and recorded with producer Matty Amendola.
Manhattan’s YASI Piano Salon Retrofitted With Yamaha And NEXO
The 4,000 square-foot YASI Piano Salon features a performance venue housing concert-ready pianos, Yamaha digital consoles and NEXO loudspeakers.
Established in 1987 in New York City, Yamaha Artist Services (YASI) provides a wide range of professional services exclusively for performing artists, concert venues, performing arts organizations and educational institutions.
In 2005, it relocated to the heart of midtown Manhattan, to a historical landmarked 1925 building that originally served as Aeolian Hall, the headquarters of the Aeolian Piano Company.
Occupying over 4,000 square feet, the YASI Piano Salon features an elegant performance venue housing a large selection of concert-ready premium pianos.
In 2005, the Piano Salon installed a Yamaha Active Field Control system (AFC), a state-of-the art acoustically adaptable sound environment.
The sound processing technology of AFC can optimize room acoustics to suit the size of a performance, from solo to ensemble, and can recreate authentic acoustic simulations of other performing arts venues.
This past June, the Yamaha Professional Audio Division commercial audio team upgraded the YASI AFC system replacing 12 ceiling loudspeakers with the new VXC8 loudspeakers, replacing the 10 wall loudspeakers with VXS8 loudspeakers, and adding four VX10S subwoofers.
The new loudspeakers are all part of the Commercial Installation Solutions (CIS) group of products. AFC electronics were replaced and the original AFC1 system was upgraded with AFC3 processors (a special build with two FIR cards each). The team added a Ri8-D remote input mic pre-amp, CIS XMV amplifiers (Dante version), and several VXC4 ceiling speakers to the guest holding area for pre-show music or for events that may be played out in the main salon area to be heard.
The Yamaha commercial audio team also installed a new PA system consisting of three NEXO PS8 loudspeakers and an LS400 subwoofer powered by one NXAMP4X1 with NXDT104 Dante controller card. A Yamaha MTX5-D processor was installed to facilitate integration of the PA system with the AFC loudspeakers. The MTX5-D processor has two Shure ULX-D mic channels and inputs from the YASI 5.1 video system as well as tie lines from the NUAGE Advanced Production DAW studio currently under construction. ATK installed an AMX control system that allows the AFC operator to easily select different application configurations.
“Simple applications might involve just the wireless mics and computer video and audio inputs to wall panels,” states Joe Rimstidt, AFC systems applications engineer.
“The signals can be routed to the main PA or to the ceiling speakers of the AFC system. There can also be a background music mode where music is played through all of the AFC speakers for receptions in the piano salon and again, a mic may be used for announcements during certain events.”
Rimstidt said that for more complex shows, Yamaha installed a QL1 digital console with Rio1608-D stage box to allow for more inputs which can be sent to the main NEXO PA for events on the “stage” end of the room, or a pair of Yamaha DSR12 self-powered speakers can be used for events in other areas of the room. There are also setups to allow YASI to easily demo the Remote Live applications with the renowned Disklavier Player Piano in addition to hosting a variety of events in the facility.
“Yamaha Artist Services New York is delighted to be able to partner with our colleagues at the Yamaha Professional Audio Division to provide state-of-the-art audio and acoustic enhancements to our beautiful Piano Salon located in the heart of midtown Manhattan,” states Bonnie Barrett, director, Yamaha Artist Services.
“The upgraded Active Field Control system, together with our new PA system and NUAGE Advanced Production Studio will enable us to provide a suite of services to Yamaha Artists that is simply unparalleled in the music industry. Only at Yamaha could the latest audio technologies be harnessed and seamlessly integrated into high-profile acoustic environment sought after by the most discriminating performing artists in the world.”
The YASI conference room located on a separate floor of the building was equipped with a similar CIS system including an MTX5-D processor and VXC4 ceiling speakers, and VXS10 sub.
For more information on the Yamaha AFC system, QL digital console, NEXO and Yamaha speakers, as well as CIS products, visit Yamaha’s website.
Film Music Composer Kurt Oldman Uses Audient’s ASP510 On 6 Ways To Die
An interview with the composer about the project and his use of the ASP510 during production.
Audient recently interviewed film composer Kurt Oldman about his latest project and his use of the ASP510.
With Vinnie Jones’ 6 Ways To Die out on general release in the USA this coming weekend, Audient caught up with the film’s music composer, Kurt Oldman to chat about the studio he’s building in his garden and whether you can score an action adventure with an accordion and a washboard (the jury’s still out on that one). First up though, we asked him if he was pleased with the outcome of this latest high-octane project.
“6 Ways To Die was my first collaboration with Director Nadeem Soumah, although we have crossed paths on other projects. Although we had a somewhat condensed schedule it was a blast working on it. Nadeem was very much open to any of my crazy ideas. His only requirement was to add a south American flavour for a certain character of the film.”
“Of course the ASP510 was used. It’s still my centre piece in the studio and is now also controlling the dialogue and SFX reference tracks through the guide channel.”
What is your process when scoring films? How do you get into the right mind-set to work on a film project?
“When I first started out I always began with scoring to picture right of the bat. These days I spend more time creating suites of materials and themes independent from the picture. I think that frees you up from potential restrictions a picture might present. You just feel more free to come up with things you might otherwise dismiss.”
“From there I play it to the director and/or producers to see what they respond to. Some directors need to see music to the picture for them to make sense of it, but most get an emotional reaction and go, “Yeah that’s a really great idea,” or “No, I hate that expressionistic crap!” Either way, you start focussing less on the picture and more on the music.”
What are the main challenges when approaching composition?
“For me the main focus really is to find the right score for the film and to get the tone right. If the tone isn’t right there is this void between the film and the audience; you’re not drawn in, you’re more of an observer. Of course if the emotion isn’t there in the music, no audience in the world will buy it.”
“You can’t ignore audience expectations of course. A big action adventure can’t really be scored with an accordion and washboard…. or can it? That’s why I love to always come back to doing indie films. There is so much more space for experimentation.”
We’re really glad to hear that the Audient 8-channel mic pre ASP880 is the latest addition to your set-up. What was the motivation behind your purchase? Are there any features that impressed you in particular?
“I was replacing one of my old tube preamps that has become a favourite in my studio. I had the conversation a while ago with Simon [Blackwood, Audient owner] to try it out. That was a good opportunity.”
“I didn’t know what to expect. I used it the first time on an pickup session for an animation project where we recorded ‘Bluegrass Punk Rock’ and used it on a six string banjo, a mandolin that we mic’ed in stereo and added a direct signal through the pickup with the ASP880. I was amazed about the clarity and definition of the microphone preamps. It was a real surprise to hear the tracks come alive. We had the same instrument setup days earlier with our existing preamps and the ASP880 was the clear winner for me.”
You’ve been doing a lot more composing for films recently, how will you use the ASP880 for this?
“I have a pair of stereo microphones setup at all times when writing, just in case something pops up. The ASP880 will take care of that set-up. Also, I was blown away with the DI inputs the ASP880 offers. I have several dedicated DI systems because I don’t amp guitars anymore for workflow reasons. I have solid state and tube preamps for that purpose. I recorded a baritone and a regular electrical with the ASP880 and think I won’t use anything else from here on. It sounded fantastic.”
We understand you’re building a new studio in your garden. Tell us more about that…
“We bought a new place in LA late December with enough space to build my workspace from scratch instead of trying to convert an existing structure. It’s been a challenge to get my head around everything that needs to be taken into consideration, but I had a lot of help from friends who have gone through the same thing. I’m borrowing a lot of ideas from them. I really didn’t want a stereotypical studio space. I wanted an oversize creative writing room with a sound ‘character’ - more of a dubbing stage than anything else.”
“Tyler Bates was a great help and influence in coming up with creative ideas on how to make it just that. I also have a ‘bulkhead’ phobia, so the air conditioning design had to be addressed in another creative way from an architectural point of view. Gustavo Borner from Igloo Music in Burbank was great showing me his design philosophy.”
What is coming up next for you?
“Right now I’m wrapping up another action film: a very unique and interesting one. Something that hasn’t really been done before. I have a drama scheduled for later in the year and will be starting on a video game in a couple days.”
With the knowledge that you have of the industry now, what advice would you give your 20 year-old self?
Did you manage to find the time since we were last in touch to get down to that ballet that you were writing? What are your plans for that?
“I can’t believe you remember that! Unfortunately my crazy scoring schedule took over completely this year and I haven’t worked on it since we worked on Guardians [of The Galaxy]. However, my wife Sandra was helping me out when I started on the story outline and character treatment. When I got too busy I just said: ‘Do with it what you want!’”
“She has since turned “Cecilia” into an amazing novel and a screenplay adaption from it. I read the first chapter the other day. It’s amazing. She’s shopping it to publishers right now. I’m so glad she just went ahead and did it. It’s such a fantastical world filled with characters you just can’t get enough of.”
The 6 Ways To Die soundtrack will be available on iTunes very soon, and we look forward to seeing Cecilia in print/on our screens in the not too distant future. Perhaps it’ll need a composer with some crazy ideas for the score…??
Review: Les Paul Studio Reference Monitors From Gibson
Out of the box, my first impression of the new Les Paul Reference Monitors from Gibson was that I didn’t even care what they sounded like. They’re absolutely gorgeous. My room received an instant aesthetic upgrade just by having them in there.
The active (bi-amped), 2-way line offers 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch carbon woofer options, each joined by a 1-inch carbon-coated titanium tweeter in a front-ported, bass-reflex enclosure. The rear panel includes high- and low-frequency trim controls for tailoring, both with settings of -4 dB, -2 dB, -1 dB, 0, +1 dB, +2 dB, and +4 dB.
Input is made with either an unbalanced RCA connection or through a balanced multi-connector that accepts XLR or TRS connections. The rear panel also offers a button for engaging or defeating standby mode, along with the power cord and switch.
As noted, it’s the enclosures themselves that make a strong first impression, with iconic archtop styling with carved flame-maple front. Finish choices include high-gloss nitrocellulose cherry, cherry burst, and tobacco burst.
Once powered up, the lighted Gibson logo on the front was just one more impressive styling aspect. The front panels had my approval before they even received signal. True Les Paul-flavored eye candy.
For my evaluation, I was provided with a set of 4-inch and 8-inch monitors. The design is straightforward and user friendly, a nice complement to the beautiful appearance.
My first test came in unpacking and setting up the 4-inch models. The units came double boxed, well padded and wrapped in their own cloth bag to protect the finish. They were joined by a user manual that I actually read through.
I set them up in my small studio and wasn’t sure if it would be a fair test, considering that my “lie detectors” are still in play. (A pair of vintage Pioneer HPM-100 reference monitors are still my first choice for critical listening.)
My first impression was that the 4-inch models reminded me of Yamaha NS-10m monitors, known for being mid-heavy but also for demanding tight mixes. The old rule was that if your mix sounded good on NS-10m monitors, it would translate well to almost anything.
The 4-inch version of the Les Pauls are definitely mid heavy and darker sounding than I expected from a smaller control room monitor. Anticipating a thinner tone, I found that instead they produced much more low-mid and bottom than might be assumed from boxes this size. Some adjustment to the EQ on the rear panel brightened up the top end and tamed the lows, providing a balanced tone.
The specs state a maximum SPL of 109 dB, which I doubted at first. But it’s there. Plenty of level and, honestly, they sounded much cleaner with the volume all the way up and levels controlled from the system instead of the rear panel.
From there I moved on to the big boys. And I do mean big—the 8-inch models (18.6 x 12 x 13.8 inches each) are much larger than the 4-inch models (10.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches each).
There’s a substantial difference in power, too. The little guys max out at 109 dB with a combined 103 watts while the big guys claim 118 dB at a total of 247 watts between the two internal amplifiers. The extra power shows up with gusto. I felt the presence in my room immediately.
As expected, they carry quite a bit more low end than the 4-inch models, much thicker in the lower frequencies. Like the smaller models, they delivered better performance with the internal amplifiers all the way up or close to it.
I had to remind myself that, in spite of the size, these are still near field monitors. Both models utilize the same 1-inch HF driver, which doesn’t seem suited to distances of more than a few feet away to attain a balanced and clean top end. However, keeping them within arms reach supplied a nice blend of highs and lows.
With virtually distortion-free performance, I see the Les Paul Reference Monitors being a solid addition to many modestly sized mixing environments. Specific size should be determined based primarily on the amount of low frequency material being mixed.
For a small studio wanting to make an impression (and/or for a collector of all things Les Paul), these limited edition loudspeakers are worth consideration. They’re available from Gibson pro audio dealers, with published pricing ranging from $599 (4-inch) to $999 (8-inch).
Metric Halo Converters Chosen For SongCraft Presents (Video)
Singer/songwriter program uses ULN-8 and ULN-2 interfaces and a 3-hour challenge to create original songs.
SongCraft Presents partners Ben Arthur, Mike Crehore, Al Houghton, Matthew Hendershot, and Rob Reinhart work with an established singer-songwriter to compose and record a song in the span of just three short hours.
That time constraint often inspires the artist in collaboration with Ben Arthur – an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right – to create something fresh and unencumbered.
Matthew Hendershot captures the entire process, using Metric Halo ULN-8 and ULN-2 interfaces, which is later edited to highlight the occasional frustration and frequent magic of the creative process under pressure.
The recordings find outlets on the Internet and on Acoustic Café, a weekly two-hour radio program hosted by Rob Reinhart that reaches nearly three million listeners on over ninety stations around the country and on Voice of America.
Although sometimes recorded at Houghton’s Dubway Studios in New York City, most SongCraft Presents sessions take place on location, using front porches or living rooms as makeshift studios. For those sessions, co-producers and engineers Crehore and Houghton rely on the Metric Halo interfaces, which handle all of the microphone pre-amplification, conversion, and front-end processing for the sessions.
“Ben is a fantastic singer-songwriter, and he has an amazing knack for inspiring other artists to not only write something great, but to finish something great,” said Crehore. “
That’s obviously very important for SongCraft Presents. Ben and the artist usually start with the lyric, get that right, and then build the song to serve the lyric. While they’re writing, Al and I are working on the fly to get a sound that will complement the song. If it’s a band, such as a recent session we did with Britain’s Turin Brakes, we want to make a recording that will be consistent with that band’s established sound. If it’s a solo artist, such as Ben Ottewell (from Gomez), we’re trying to get as intimate and honest a sound as we can.”
Several years ago, Crehore and Arthur were both in need of a good interface for their home studios. Since they were starting SongCraft Presents around the same time, the pair killed two birds with one stone (or perhaps they killed one large bird with two small stones?) by each purchasing a Metric Halo ULN-2. Thus, each partner would have two boutique preamps and converters for their home use that could be combined (via Metric Halo’s free MIO Console software control) to give them four preamps and converters for SongCraft Presents sessions. And during the back and forth of collaboration it helps to have identical systems.
“I’ve been in this business long enough to remember when analog tape was the only option available,” Crehore said. “Over the years, I’ve heard the advance of digital technology and have worked with all of the latest-generation converters and preamps from all the well-known manufacturers. Things have gotten a lot better, and most of the options out there these days qualify as ‘good.’ But in my opinion, Metric Halo’s sound is at the top of the heap. It’s simply beautiful, and I can hear details I can’t hear with other converters. In addition, Metric Halo’s headroom on the front end is a pleasure to work with.”
After working with the ULN-2 for a while, Crehore lusted after more channels and eventually bought Metric Halo’s flagship ULN-8, which incorporates eight channels of the company’s latest-generation preamp, conversion, and DSP technology.
He continued, “the other critical virtue of Metric Halo’s converters that make them ideal for SongCraft Presents is their rock-solid reliability. I can set things up at home and store my setup for instant recall from the front panel. And of course, the whole concept of SongCraft Presents – that everything happens inside of three hours – depends on the flawless performance of all our gear on the record end. The Metric Halo converters never disappoint. Moreover, in a pinch I can always record with the Metric Halo record software, which is also completely stable and reliable.”
Citing his early years, when decisions once committed to tape could never be undone, Crehore likes to get his sound correct in the moment and then commit that sound in the recording. All Metric Halo interfaces incorporate optional “character” modeling software that subtly imbues a signal with different signal path tonalities.
Crehore’s favorite is “Soft Sat,” which does an impressive job of modeling the soft saturation characteristics of ‘60s and ‘70s vintage recording gear. Crehore commits Soft Sat to every track that he records for SongCraft Presents, and he also commits front-end equalization and compression made available in MIO Console’s DSP (which use the same algorithms that have made Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in the go-to favorite of many Grammy-winning mix engineers). Indeed, after mixing down each SongCraft Presents session, Crehore again runs it through the ULN-8 unit utilizing its Soft Sat character, then printing back to Pro Tools.
Although he now has all the channels he needs for SongCraft Presents, Crehore is again lusting after more Metric Halo channels. “With one more ULN-8, I’d be able to take my band, “the balboans,” up to my buddy’s cottage in upstate New York for tracking sessions,” he said, adding, with a smile in his voice, “I think I’m ready.”
API 1608 Console Of Choice For Fall Out Boy Guitarist Joe Trohman
Tracking for new album “American Beauty/American Psycho” done at “The Rat Cave," Trohman's personal studio.
As a member of the band Fall Out Boy, Joe Trohman saw the release of their sixth album, “American Beauty/American Psycho”, debut at number 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Unlike the band’s previous albums, much of this record was cut on Trohman’s personal API 1608 console, purchased last year through salesman Jeff Leibovich at API dealer Vintage King.
As the record made its ascent, Trohman took time out of the usual promotional frenzy to handle a family emergency.
Then, just as the band kicked off its international concert tour May 3rd, Trohman once again found himself headed home, this time to undergo emergency back surgery.
He now finally gets to rejoin his bandmates and (hopefully) enjoy an entirely uneventful rest of the tour as they celebrate another album gone platinum.
If all goes to plan, he will be on the road through October as the band brings new hits and old favorites to fans world-wide.
The tracking for “American Beauty/American Psycho” was done at “The Rat Cave”—which is what Trohman calls his new home studio, based in Los Angeles. It’s the perfect place for Trohman to apply his skill-set to Fall Out Boy projects, but it’s also where he also puts time into his heavy metal band The Damned Things and “other projects no one cares about except me.”
It’s exactly this humility, coming from a man with hundreds of thousands of followers on a variety of social media sites that is so appealing about Trohman. He talks about his music and reveals his knowledge about audio gear with a kind of natural warmth and passion that makes it easy to see why he selected an API console in the first place.
The first Fall Out Boy album was released in 2003, which is also when Trohman says he first became familiar with the API brand.
“I remember when I was 17 or 18, working on the first proper Fall Out Boy record, using the API 550b. Great for shaping guitar and bass.” Familiarity with the API sound later led him to consider the 1608 after deciding to create a studio in his L.A. home.
“Originally, I wanted to have a few EQ’s, limiters/compressors, and maybe eight mic pres. However, I felt I was only going halfway and that I could get a little more out of a console. Every time I looked at consoles, it kept coming back to the 1608.”
In the end, Trohman loaded his 1608 with twelve 550As and four 560s. “Having those at my disposal in line with 16 killer mic pres is a dream come true,” he states, adding, “The 500 processors and mic pres are amazing. Everything sounds incredible tracked through the console, and the EQs take everything to the next level. No matter how incredible plugins sound, great analog gear still sounds the most three-dimensional to me.”
Typical of a working studio, productivity is every bit as important as sonic integrity. “I love the aesthetic, as most of us do. My work flow has sped up. Everything happens faster and it’s way easier for me to dial what I want when I’m actually turning knobs, versus running it in the box entirely.” Trohman also notes that he’s “pleased with how easy it is to integrate my DAW with the 1608. I like having a hybrid of in and out of the box going on, so it’s nice that it was very easy to achieve that.”
When asked what he’s been working on with his console, he says 90% of studio time still goes towards Fall Out Boy, but alongside work with The Damned Things and the Danish band New Politics, Trohman also does some work for television spots.
“I’m very happy that I own this console. It has completely changed my workflow and the quality of what I make” he says. But there’s one thing that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon, and that’s Trohman’s tendency towards unpredictability, and keeping things under wraps until the very last moment. “I have a few bands making their way through soon”, he teases. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise though.”
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