Thursday, 11 December 2014

BBC Introducing in partnership with AMP: Live performance from The Scruff, 10/12/14

Today was the first studio-based multi-camera production that we have undertaken as part of our new partnership with BBC Introducing.

Students from BA (Hons) Audio & Music Production, supported by tutor Dan Peters, captured the sound and their mixes will go to air on the BBC this weekend. The BBC have sent out this tweet: Recording @TheScruff_ at @bucksnewuni for #BBCIntroducing this Saturday night at 8pm on @BBC3CR
Students who specialize in sports and live events production within BA (Hons) Film & TV Production, supported by tutor Gary Emmins, filmed both the live music performances as well as an interview with the band that was conducted by BBC Introducing presenter Gareth Lloyd.
This is what The Scruff had to say about their day:
“The students were great, totally professional. We were made very welcome and the whole operation was slick on every level. It’s been a pleasure to work with the students from Bucks New University.”

The videos will be presented on the BBC Introducing YouTube pages as from this weekend.

New Music Rehearsal Space at Bucks

It’s great to see work on the new Music Rehearsal space finishing this week, and the results look pretty impressive!  You can take a virtual tour of the space too at 

The room was commissioned to support students on the  Music Performance Management Degree in the Dept of Music & Live Events Management.  Kitted out with a brand new  Yamaha Drum Kit, Fender and Ampeg Amps, Mackie PA and Shure Microphones, it should be the perfect space to practice.  Whilst module and course related bookings will take priority,  we’re keen for other Music & Events Management and Audio & Music Production students to make use of any empty slots too.   Bookings will start in the new year and will be handled by Media Resources.  We’ll let you know more about the bookings process and how it’ll work in January , just as soon as all the core course bookings are loaded up

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

AMP involved in new partnership with BBC Introducing

On Wednesday December 3rd, guests from BBC Introducing will be on-site to launch a new partnership with the department of Production. The partnership will see AMP students capture and post-produce sound which will ultimately be promoted via the BBC Introducing YouTube site.

When asked about how the partnership with the BBC came about, Steve Partridge (head of department for Production) said: 

"We have been filming live music performances for a few years now and have gained a reputation for doing this pretty well. Colleagues from the BBC noted this during a visit a year or so ago and as a result agreed to my proposal that we might partner with them to support their remit from government to promote new music"

Steve continued,  
"The music [captured during multi-camera shoots] will be broadcast via BBC 3 Counties on the Saturday, and the video output will be promoted via the BBC Introducing YouTube site. 
This is increasingly a collaborative project that will engage all three course areas within the Department. The multi-camera crews comprise Film & TV Production students, the audio crews who manage live sound and post-production/mixing are Audio & Music Production students. And the aspiration for when we have installed our new Vizrt VR solution (likely to happen around Christmas), which is of great interest to our partners at the BBC, is that we will soon be able to offer the option of filming a band in a full VR set that has been created by animation students as a full 3D render that will then run in real time via the green screen studio facility."

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Trip to The X Factor

On Thursday the 13th of November, a group of third year students (myself included) took a trip to Fountain Studios in Wembley, to the set of The X Factor. Dan Peters, our live sound lecturer had managed to organize the visit as he had previously toured with sound engineer Ben Milton, and now Ben mixes monitors for the show.

First of all we were taken for a tour of the TV studio. As we walked around, we were given an explanation of how everything works, the procedures that are followed and the equipment that is used for such a massive show. As you can imagine, the equipment used is of the highest caliber and is very impressive. One thing about the studio its self that stood out was how small it looked in person compared to on TV.

Mixing monitors for the show came across a mammoth task as it’s not a case of just sending sound to stage. Traditionally a monitor engineer would be in charge of the foldback, making sure the band can hear each other/what they want to hear to enable them to pull off the gig at an optimum level. A lot of the time this can involve a fair amount of diplomacy which has it’s own problems. The X Factor is broadcast live (roughly 9 million viewers a week) so the monitor engineer has additional tasks to do. As well as providing the foldback for the different contestants/backing bands, the job also includes making sure everybody can hear each other, e.g. the contestants can hear the judges and visa versa, the producers of the show can be heard by basically everyone and as well as the performers, dealing with the presenters, to name a few.


For monitoring purposes, the show uses a mix of 14 stereo in ear monitor mixes and a large number of monitors on stage.  The main console for mixing monitors is the DIGICo SD7, however they also use a small SD8 for guest bands that come in to play on the show e.g. One Direction, this means that an external engineer won’t interfere with how the show is mixed. The smaller SD8 is also used to mix The Xtra Factor straight after.

We were also taken up to the gallery to see what is used to mix the sound for broadcast. This is where we met Robert Edwards, the sound supervisor for the show. This means he is in charge of what is heard on TV. He explained to us a little about his role. The backing tracks are received on the Friday morning and are mixed on an in0house protools rig. They are then bounced to stems for the live engineers to mix for the contestants. The desk used for mixing to broadcast is a Calrec Apollo Console that can handle 1000+ inputs and Robert splits the desk into different layers to suit the layout of the show.


All in all it was a really good trip that gave an interesting insight into real world live sound and broadcast sound. It was particularly positive to hear that Ben went to University and did a degree in an area of sound before he began working in the live sound industry, with a variety of jobs. This experience will also be useful with what we do at University as even more comparisons can be made to what we learn and what we do as this runs parallel with industry practices.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Release The Bats - Live Music Recording

People say sound isn’t something you just hear, it’s something you feel. I certainly felt the sound, blasting out at around 110 dB for an assigned OB task; a video recorded live session of the band “Release the Bats”. Sounds simple, right? Jam a couple of microphones into an amplifier, throw a microphone at the singer and whatever microphone shaped objects are left get carelessly positioned around the drums. “Give it a raw feeling”. It doesn’t work like that, especially when you’re being assessed, and want to get the best sound opposed to doing the mother of all botch jobs. Before the actual day, preparations were made between myself and my peers, technical riders and stage plots were designed (on behalf of the band whom made communication a difficult process) and contingencies were prepared in the event of problems. The first problem we came across was the concept of an OB. In other words, we were being assessed on something we’d never done, and hadn’t used the equipment (a nice shiny Midas Pro2 digital desk) in over half a year.

Needless to say, I was worried about complete catastrophic failure on our part. When the ball got rolling, and we started setting up, nerves were eased. That was, until we encountered a problem with sending a direct link from the desk, upstairs to the recording studios. Using even more technology, known as Focusrite RedNet, we attempted to send all the audio directly to the studios without processing it on the desk. It’s another thing that we’ve never done before, and encountered a problem almost instantaneously, no sound. This is bad, but we quickly found the missing link that was causing the whole issue, a good old trusty router. Who would have thought of it? Certainly not us, that’s for sure.

This is all before the band has arrived, in typical punk fashion, they arrived little over an hour late, and this is where the show began, things started to become real, and everyone had to put their professionally first. Lines had been checked, and it was all about getting the best damned sound with the given environment, until we realised that the monitors weren’t plugged in. It was a bit funny that the band weren’t getting any vocals through their monitors. Without further ado, they were plugged in, line checked, and appropriate monitor feeds were sent as requested. Simples.

Not only did we have to record the sound for the OB, sending a premix to the PT Recorder (which records all the sound and the video together), we had 48 hours to do a studio rough mix, with a 48 hour turnaround. Mixing the drums wasn’t so much of a problem, sampling the drums to compliment the recorded drums assisted the mix, it’s the vocals that caused the greatest issue. Tune? Dynamic control? Vocal technique? It’s like he not only ignored the conventional singing technique, but done the exact opposite. Performance value was great, but recording quality was a difficult thing to work with in the studio. There was no amount of compression that could save the vocals, so the dynamics had to be ridden manually to ensure equal levels overall. That at least stopped it poking in and out of the mix, the tune and melody was the second and bigger problem. Autotune was out of the question, using Melodyne, a pitch correction to gently shape the vocalist’s tune was also impossible (due to bleed and sharing microphones), so what do you do when you can’t make it sound better? A lightbulb moment, make it sound worse. Adding grit and distortion to the vocals made the tune somewhat irrelevant, as a matter of fact the imperfect tune complimented a rawer mix.

Overall, the entire production was challenging, but successful. It’s taught us all how to work together, collaborate with video students, liase (or attempt to liase) with bands, and informed us how important getting a decent sound right off the bat (haha, get it? Release the Bats? Okay, I’ll stop). There was certainly room for improvement, but it wasn’t a failure either. I’d quite happily do an OB under similar circumstances, with the newfound knowledge of the technical understanding within Outside Broadcasts, and from which, can only improve the end result and product.

Monday, 20 October 2014

AMP Graduate Interview: Freyja Lawson

Q) What is your job title and where do you work?
I'm currently working for Britannia Row Productions (BRP). There are two parts to my job...
I'm employed day-to-day in BRP HQ in Twickenham, where I basically work with a team to service, prep., build and de-prep. all the equipment we own for shows, tours and corporate events.
I am also a Crew member, meaning BRP employ me to work on the events that they provide sound re-enforcement for. There are a few different roles on these events (depending on the nature of the job) and so as a crew member you have to have a skill set wide enough to take you from one end of the multicore to the other.
I'm focusing on becoming a System Engineer so I normally get put on a gig as a System Tech to help the (more senior) Engineer. Most of the crew we employ are freelance engineers who work for several different companies/bands etc. and I too am aiming to gain the valuable knowledge and experience needed to join them.

Q) When did you start working there?
A) I started at BRP in November 2012 & have been there ever since!

Q) In a typical day, what do you do?
A) Day to day in the warehouse it can be anything from rigging inspection to looming cables! Because we are a relatively large PA hire company, we can provide anything from speakers to microphones and everything in between. Our warehouse is split up into several different departments; Analogue, Digital, Cables, Speakers (& Rigging), Amps and Maintenance and as part of my job I have to get to know the ins and outs of every area including all the equipment. This means testing, maintaining and building takes up most of my day in the warehouse. Along with that I am also a rigging inspector for all the kit that we send out with our PA systems. I am also one of the people responsible for PAT testing our electronic equipment and repairing any faulty items.

I also worked for some time in our operations department where I was an assistant to our Operations Manager. This job involved retrieving quotes for the hire of equipment and transport for tours, assigning equipment to jobs and liaising with the warehouse staff and crew to ensure all prep was completed on time and all the kit fitted in the trucks!

On a gig, as a System Tech, my job is pretty much anything that needs doing! Firstly unloading the trucks (normally a 45 ft. arctic, or 2 or 3!) and loading it into the venue. Depending on the nature of the gig, there may be limitations as to when we can start to set up certain things but for the most part, the cables are normally run first. These will be the multicores from FOH to stage. There are normally at least 2 or 3 depending on the kind of consoles that are being used. We also run a returns multi for the drive system where we control the PA and amps from. The amps are also set up early on. Again, depending on the type of gig and how many amps you have, the set up may vary. Sometimes they are flown with the PA, sometimes they are built in huge racks called MeatRacks and sometimes they are in really awkward positions away from the stage or on a balcony. Their favourite place (and ours!) to be, is on either side of the stage, on the ground. From then on, it is my job to help get the PA in the air (if its being flown) or ground stacked. I'm also responsible for setting up side fills, lip fills and delays. I have to rig the speakers with the appropriate hardware (rigging, angle straps, ratchets, inclinometers etc.!) and ensure that they are in the optimum position to cover the venue sufficiently. The angles and positioning are worked out by the Engineer who uses specific software to plot the room and design the system around it.
Once speakers are in place it is time to cable up and patch the amps so that the correct signal goes to the correct parts of the PA (sub to subs etc!) Then we "pink" the system to make sure we have everything present and correct. We may also have to time align the system if its a larger venue and especially if we have delay hangs. Once the Engineer is happy, he/she will normally play a few tracks of songs they know the frequency range of very well and walk the room to make sure all areas are covered and no phasing is occurring. Once we are happy with the PA and the amps, it is time to make sure the rest of the crew are ok and help out with any remaining tasks. This whole process can take many hours and this is all before the main act arrives for their load in. Once they headliners are in, they usually soundcheck for at least an hour by which time the support/s will be ready for their soundcheck/s too. This takes us up to opening time and straight into the gig itself. Once the main event is over we then have to pack down and load out all the equipment and get it back on the truck/s!
Q) How did you get the job?
A) I was offered the opportunity through a lecturer at BUCKS to volunteer as an audio assistant for the 2012 Olympics. I went for an interview and was asked to cover the gymnastics at the O2 arena where I worked with some BRP crew. After graduating I was looking to pursue a career in live audio and decided to take a chance and contact BRP once the Olympics were over. The next day I got a call from the HR manager asking if I wanted to go in for a few days and I have been there ever since!

Q) What are the best bits of what you do?
A) There are loads of awesome things about this job. The obvious stuff like being backstage all the time and meeting lots of amazing artists is fantastic and I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it! But, there is nothing like going to work everyday with your best friends…sounds really lame I know but the live industry, especially my company, is like one big family and everyone knows everyone. Being on a tour with a brilliant crew and making an incredible show happen is the best feeling in the world. That and all the free stuff!!

Q) What are the worst bits?
A) We work VERY unsociable hours. This is not a typical 9-5 job and you have to be prepared to work seriously hard if you want to make it out there. Sometimes it is also a very high-pressure environment, especially when dealing with high-profile clients. Also, touring means long periods of time away from home, friends and family.

Q) What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the same line of work?
A) Keep at it and don't give up. This industry is incredibly tough and you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty and earn respect. Don't expect just to waltz up to a console on your first day and be thrown out on tour as a FOH engineer just like that. No matter what your background, you will start at the very bottom just like everyone else did. Listen to everyone you work with and take advice from the ones who have made this their career. Also, be nice to everyone!!! There is nothing worse than Engineers/Techs who are rude to venue staff/local crew/anyone they think is below them. At the end of the day, people aren't paying for tickets to see you!

Q) Anything else you’d like to add?
A) I think I could go on about this forever!! I guess, you get out of this what you put into it. There are no shortcuts and you never stop learning.