How To Fool A Dirty Tomcat

from Bill Towery, Production Director, WCKG-FM, Chicago, IL

After years of deceiving ITC cart machines in need of cleaning with the standard "cart bottom only" insertion trick, I ran into a horse of a different color when I came to work for Cox at then WAGO (G106), Chicago, in March of '84. Throughout the facility, they'd put new Pacific Recorders "Tomcat" cart machines into service. Since their tops are mostly obscured by a formidable trio of spring-loaded steel holders and a solid plate, and their brains include optical phenomena, the old open-air cleaner cart became obsolete instantly, and cleaning the pinch roller became a job for the crew of Fantastic Voyage.

By retrieving a bad cart, removing the defective tape and peeling off only the base plastic in front of and to the left of the roller hole, my problem was solved. Not only did this hideous contraption fool the machine into raising the puck, but duped it well enough for me to remove the cleaner cart entirely during operation. The only Tomcat protest was a blinking "Cart Fail" light.

It's a system I'm still using nearly eight years later at the same station (now WCKG), with the same cart machines and the same cleaner cart...and hopefully, one that you can use today or some-where down the road.

VHS Mastering & SPX-90 Tip

David Witz, Creative Services Director at WYXR-FM in Philadelphia writes with a couple of tips to share.

...Regarding your "storage and archiving" article [Designing a Master Reel System, September '91 RAP], we're using a Mitsubishi U52 VHS HiFi video recorder, wired to record and playback through the console. This machine has programmable index points, no random fishing as with the older VHS machines -- very cool, sounds great, runs cheap.

Last year, you ran a tip of mine about how to simulate "3-D" audio using pan pots and multiple processors. Since moving to WYXR, I've finally gotten my hands on an SPX-90. The same effect can be had very simply, like this:

"3-D Splitter" Begin with Pitch Change C, Program #23
L FINE: +8
L DELAY: 0.1ms
R FINE: -8
R DELAY: 2.1ms

By sending your voice track through the SPX-90 and dropping the direct input, your center channel vanishes, leaving an exaggerated stereo spread -- very effective on stereo car radios, and mono compatible, too!

Inexpensive Footswitches

Al Peterson of WLAD/WDAQ in Danbury, CT offers this tip for budget conscious producers/musicians in need of a footswitch.

Feel just a little insulted paying out fifteen bucks or more for a footswitch or sustain pedal for a synth? My Roland D-50 takes two such pedals for Sustain and Program Change. That's thirty-plus dollars! Instead, I'm using a pair of refrigerator door light buttons mounted in a little metal box. They're durable enough for constant use and about a third the price. Plus, they are "normally closed" switches which is what my Roland (and most other synths) likes to see.

If it's tough finding those, car door light buttons are fairly cheap and can take a real pounding. Either way, you're saving bucks which can better be used for other studio supplies.

Top 10 Recording Session Tips

from Peter Harry, Production Engineer, Gold 104, Melbourne, Australia

1. BEFORE you even begin your next recording, educate your copywriter to layout the script in a reader-friendly way -- new sentence on a new line, prices in numeric form, etc..

2. Pre-planning should occur BEFORE the talent arrives -the director should know what he/she wants.

3. ONE person should take control of the session. Several conflicting directors only confuse the talent.

4. Always allow the talent to fully read the script BEFORE briefing them. Then explain your directions.

5. If script changes have to be made (don't they always?), allow the talent to do so in their own handwriting for obvious reasons.

6. Explore the different interpretations of the script.

7. Once the talent hits on the read you require, TELL THEM so they can focus on other aspects.

8. Be POSITIVE when directing. Tell them how they might do it better rather than what they're doing wrong.

9. When re-doing a line, ask them to give you several versions in a row. This way they will give different versions.

10. Sit back and listen to the read from another angle, apart from delivery. Is the concept working? Are the characters suitable/believable?