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.

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