by Jerry Vigil
EQ-ing Voice Tracks - "Reduce Tape Hiss"
Since "The Voice & the EQ" is this month's feature article, this is a good opportunity to elaborate a bit more on EQ-ing voice tracks. The article describes an exercise to help train the ear. In this exercise, you are told to record voice tracks to 2-track without using any EQ. The exercise suggests that EQ be set while music is being mixed under the voice. For the sake of the exercise, this is fine. This will help you learn what frequencies you will most likely cut or boost on a particular voice. However, in actual production, applying high end boost while recording the voice track can help reduce tape hiss in your final mix.
Let's say you're taking a voice track that will be sent to multi-track later. If you know you will add high boost to the voice track on the final mix, adding part or all of the boost now is best. The reason being, when you boost EQ on the mike, you're only boosting the high frequencies of the voice being recorded. If you boost the highs during a final mix, you're not only boosting the high frequencies of the voice, but you're also boosting those frequencies that are part of the tape hiss.
The basic rule to follow is: Apply the desired high end boost when the audio is being recorded for the first time. If you get a cassette of actualities recorded on the street that need to be edited and used for a spot or promo, EQ them as you transfer them from cassette to reel; this will be the first time you record them.
Cart Labeling: "Programming Stop Sets"
Terry Slane (Prod. Director, WIRK-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida) writes: ...Regarding your article about "Cart Labeling" in the April issue...I'm still amazed at the number of programmers who stack their spots as you have listed...i.e. "cold voice" first in set, then voice-over-music, then jingle, then promo. At WIRK, we consider "voice only" spots to be tune outs for the most part, so we run them last. Our goal is to stage the stopset so the best spot always goes first...usually an agency jingle spot. By airing best spots first, tune out is reduced. In addition, if the promotion is a ballbuster, we generally run our promo spot ahead of paid spots, so we can get our station licks in before the "automatic" tune out of a stopset. I realize this violates many programmer's concepts...but we try to sell WIRK first, then sell the beer...
Buy this man a beer!!! The theory behind cold voice spots first and jingle spots last has something to do with the nearly two decade old idea that this progression in a stopset provided a better overall flow. ("Flow" is a word you don't hear much any-more outside of the plumbing industry.) However, there is still an argument for this theory: If you have a cold voice spot in a stopset, you're going to have to play it sooner or later. The burning question is, will the listener tune out if the cold voice spot is the first spot in the stopset or the last? If the listener loved the song you just played, they might not be so anxious to tune out on that first, cold voice spot; but if they hear two commercials, regardless of the fact that they have music behind them or singers singing the pitch, then hear a third spot that is cold voice, dull, and boring, aren't they more likely to tune out? And who cares if they tune out on the first spot or the last spot except the client?
The bottom line is that any stopset is a tune out. The idea of playing the promo first and jingle spots next is the best to come along in quite a while. Why not start the promo on the fade of the record without a backsell? That way the listener isn't given the usual backsell that is the signal to an impending stopset! The song fades, a super produced promo airs, the station is identified in the promo, then Michael Jackson sings about Pepsi. Before the listener knows it, you're in the middle of your stopset! Then, if they tune out on that last cold (dry) voice spot, at least your station and its bigger clients have had their messages received!
Let's get some more input on this. We'd like to hear your point of view on this perpetual question!
Concert Spots: "Effects to Get That 'Concert' Sound"
The "average" concert spot probably has several cuts of music by the performer(s) nicely edited together for the bed. The voice is then added with or without special effects. Here are a couple of things you can do to add more of a "concert" sound to the music bed of the spot.
Since most of the music used to produce a concert spot is taken from albums recorded in a studio, there are no "live" effects on the music. Even an album of a live performance lacks the acoustic characteristics found by the concert goer in the average seat (almost anywhere but on the floor in the center) because live recordings are done using a mix from the console and those mikes are on the stage, not in the upper balcony. More specifically, "live" recordings don't have the echo bouncing off the walls or the natural reverb of the hall as heard by the concert goer. If you add the delay (of the music echoing back to you) and reverb to the studio version of a song, you can come very close to creating the effects of a concert hall.
If you don't have delay, see the other tip on this page for one way to get it. Let's assume you're producing this spot on a 4-track machine and you have the stereo bed ready and on tracks 1 and 2. The delay effect heard in the average seat of a concert hall can be achieved by adding about a 60ms delay to one of the channels of the music. Playing the bed back with the delay doesn't quite give you the effect you're looking for yet. Now add reverb to both channels. You need a lot of reverb here. Use a decay time around 3 seconds and a mix around 20% wet to 80% dry. Play with these settings to get the sound that best suits you and the music being used.
At this point you have a mix of music that should resemble the sound of a concert hall as heard from someone standing near an exit or in an upper balcony. This perspective of the music is good for a concert spot while announcer copy is being read. For extra effect, when the announcer stops talking, you can bypass the delay and go to straight studio version of the recording leaving the reverb where it is. This little trick is best used with this next and last item.
Throughout the entire spot, mix in the sound of a concert crowd. During portions of the spot where the announcer is talking, reduce the level of the crowd. Bring it back up in segments of the spot where just the music is playing. An extra boost of the crowd at appropriate times in the music (right after a key lyric for instance) will imitate an actual crowd's response to one of their favorite songs.
These effects work best on up-tempo contemporary music. A problem that arises with this much activity in just the bed of a concert spot is the level of the crowd vs. the music. To make it all a little easier, run the entire mix through a compressor and crank it up to around 8 to 12 db of gain reduction. Play with all the settings and suggestions in this tip. Nothing here is written to be the "rule".
If you have a 2-track with the option to switch output from the playback to the record head (sel-sync, sel-rep, or sync mode), you may be able to use the machine for achieving stereo delay effects. If you want to split a voice track, for instance, so one channel is delayed, simply select the sync mode for the other channel. The higher the tape speed, the shorter the delay will be. Use the vari-speed to lengthen or shorten the delay.
For the concert spot mentioned on this page, the delay sounds best with the machine running at 30ips, if you're lucky enough to have a 2-track with this high speed. Otherwise, for the spot, simple "tape echo" at 15ips will work. Just record the bed to 2-track at 15ips and bring up the playback just enough to hear that first echo. Once you've mixed the bed to 2-track and added the delay or echo that sounds best to you, you can then transfer the bed back to your multi-track and begin adding copy and other effects.