Panning Fun - From Center Channel to Left & Right

by Jerry Vigil

Joel Cash, of Y96 in New Orleans, called and reminded us of this neat little trick. The idea is to have a voice track start in the center channel, then gradually separate to left and right channels only. There are a few ways to do this. Here are a couple.

Realize first that when something appears in the center channel, it is because the signal is identical in both the left and right channels. There is no real center channel. Now, if you add a slight delay to either the left or the right channel, the signal leaves the imaginary center channel and both left and right channels become distinguishable from each other. You can also cause the signal to leave the center channel if you change the pitch of one channel slightly. When you have a mono source, such as a voice track, and you pan it to both left and right channels, you'll get the center channel effect. When you alter the output to one of the channels, the audio appears to come more from the left and right channels and not the center channel.

Most multi-effect processors offer a delay program that will take a mono input, such as a mic, add a delay to it, then send the delayed signal to one output of the unit and the un-delayed signal to the other output. Some processors will have two delays that can be set, one for the left channel output and the other for the right channel output. Sending a mic into one of these "stereo" delay programs will give the mono voice track that left/right separation. Hitting the bypass switch will place the audio back in the center channel. This is OK if you just want to quickly jump from a left/right separation to center channel, but the effect is a little more interesting when the shift from center to left and right channels is done gradually.

In a processor that offers two delays (left and right channels) from a mono input, you can easily make the gradual shift from center channel to left and right with the mix or balance functions. Set your delays to get the separation you want. It is best to have only one delay in use. Now, set the mix to 100% dry or 100% direct. (On some processors, a full dry output might be achieved by setting the balance function to zero. Consult your manuals for the whereabouts and functions of your direct/effect mix.) This will place the audio in the center channel. Gradually adjust the mix from 100% direct signal to 100% effects signal and you'll get the desired effect.

A way to get this effect without the use of an effects processor is to use the sel-sync switch on your 2-track. You'll need a console set-up that has your 2-track coming up on separate mono faders with pan controls. Record the voice track onto the 2-track. Now, set the mode of one channel on the 2-track machine to the sel-sync mode. Let's say we've done this with the left channel. This sets a delay on the right channel because audio is being played back from the left channel before that of the right channel. Now, pan the left and right channels of the 2-track to center channel. As you play back the voice track, start panning the left channel to the left and the right channel to the right. The difference between this method and the previous one is that the delay will be heard in the center channel before you start panning, but it will still be in the center channel until you start to pan. Running the 2-track at 15ips will give a shorter and better delay for this effect. If you have a vari-speed control on your 2-track, you can use it to control the amount of delay to an extent, but you have to make that adjustment while you're recording the voice track.

Sound Effect Fun - Putting Your Effects Processor to Work

by Jerry Vigil

Next time you have some play time, grab your sound effects library and send random effects through your pitch shifter. There is an unlimited number of new sounds you can get simply by changing the pitch either up or down. The result tends to make natural sounding effects sound very unnatural. In this day when the "laser zap" is as passe' as tape echo, unnatural sounds might be just the sound you're looking for to grab attention or to set off a line in a promo.

Don't limit yourself to just changing pitch. Send sounds through a delay and crank up the feedback or add reverse reverb. Play with the EQ or play the sound backwards before sending it into your processor. While you're having all this fun, roll a tape. When playtime is over, review the tape and pull off sounds you like. Log them and save them for future use.