by Andy Capp
Hello, I'm Andy C., and I'm a tweak-o-holic. (Audience, "Hello, Andy.")
It all began innocently enough, re-cutting a promo because the music was a little too soft when it hit the air, re-voicing a spot because my inflection went haywire at the end of a sentence. Then the studio went up at home. I intended to fund it by producing jingles and a sweeper or two, but months later, when my wife wondered where all the "big bucks" were, I was still pushing buttons and pounding on keys, trying to get the sound "just right."
That's when the pusher came into my life, disguised as the audio guy from our sister TV station. He had a new "toy" he thought I might want to use once in a while -- a digital workstation. "Once in a while...." Ha! I was slumming around the TV station's audio booth all the time, desperate to get my fix of "fixing" every little problem, real or imagined, on every piece of production I did. Volume on my voice a bit hot? Music need to come in sooner? Does it need a croak SFX rather than a burp? Hey, any excuse to do a tweak...and the workstation made it so easy!
I was out of control, tweaking one, two, sometimes five times a day! Worse yet, I was looking for a way for the radio station to satisfy my habit.
Lies Addicts Tell: Lie number one: "A digital workstation will speed up production." I knew this was an out and out fib. While it is true that workstations, once mastered, do speed up the pesky details of production, it is also true that the ability to tweak to perfection can actually add to the time required to finish a project.
Lie number two: "All the production in-house will improve with a workstation." Not so much a lie as wishful thinking. Let's face it; no matter how sexy you make production, some jocks are always going to think of it as a necessary evil. These jocks will always hack through production to get it over with. These jocks will never succumb to tweak-o-holism.
Lie number three: "The world's going digital; we're being left behind!" True and false. There's no question that digital is hot and getting hotter (and cheaper) by the minute, and those who wish to be "cutting edge" (and have the bucks) seem to be heading that way. The other side of the cassette, however, is that many producers are clinging to their analog machines, calling them faster and "warmer sounding." This isn't wrong; it's just their choice (and a darned good one, if they're already doing incredible work with what they have.) Plus, many stations just don't have the capital available to up-grade...or so they say.
The People Who Buy Into The Lies: Either my lies were convincing, or the boss just got tired of hearing my addict babbling because we now have a digital workstation at the station, a Session 8XL. I spend my days (and more evenings than my family would like) tweaking spots and promos to a state as close to what I hear in my head as my limited talents will allow. And thanks to the workstation, I'm mixing in more sound elements to each project, simply because they're easier to add, manipulate, or subtract as I see fit. (Gee, wish I would have came up with that line sooner. It would have made lie number four.)
The Final Confession: So, I stand before you, an admitted tweak-o-holic -- and happy that I am! (Audience: "Gasp!") In fact, I'm here to corrupt more of you. It doesn't take pretty computer graphics. It doesn't take a zillion tracks. All it takes is an uncomfort zone, a feeling that a production project can always be improved, a desire to do something new and unique. There are limits, of course. The need to attack new projects will force you to end a tweaking session and say "enough is enough." Plus, not all projects require this kind of scrutiny; i.e., if you're re-voicing agency tags because "your interpretation was a little off," you may have gone too far!
Refusing to be content can drive you to new levels of creativity, but it does eat up time. For instance, my eight year old daughter spent an evening with me at the station last week. I was pulling out all the stops on the workstation, showing off my new toy. On the way home I asked Shower what she thought about my new workstation. Without hesitation she said, "Well, Dad, it takes you twice as long to do stuff now."
Darned know-it-all kids!