by Craig Rogers
Jack Cone of Star 94 in Atlanta, GA has a pretty sweet studio. It includes a DSE-7000, Panasonic SV-3700 DAT and Telos Zephyr for receiving v/o tracks via ISDN. With all that digital stuff, it's surprising that this month's spotlight from Jack is a bit "retro." Consider that the music came from vinyl, not CD. He Foley'd most of his sound effects instead of relying on stock from a production library. And he assembled it on his analog 8-track instead of on the DSE! Proving that it's more the producer than the equipment, Jack's efforts were recognized in the Golden Microphone awards earlier this year where the promo was a national finalist. Check out the promo on The Cassette and read right here about how he put it together.
In addition to the DSE, DAT and Telos, Jack's studio is outfitted with two MTR-10 Otari reels, a Pacific Recorders ADX console, Otari MX-70 8-track reel, Yamaha SPX-90 effects unit, Tascam 125 MKII cassette deck, Marantz dual-cassette deck, Denon 950F CD players, Orban 424A compressor, Howe Tech Phase Chaser (in-line with one of the two track Otari's) and in the microphone locker are a Neumann U-87, AKG 414, AudioTechnica 1825, AKG C1000, and a Shure 55SH.
Jack's technique is to record most parts of the promo to 1/4-inch tape, then assemble the promo once all the pieces have been acquired. This is due in part to the availability of talent. The two female talents are office staff. When they were available, he recorded their portion to tape.
The announcer is John Pleisse. Jack receives Pleisse's tracks via the Telos Zephyr. He records these directly into the DSE. He then records the takes he wants for the promo to a reel for archiving and to later transfer to the MX-70.
Jack assembled the promo on the Otari. This way, he is able to apply independent EQ to each track of his MX-70.
The female voices were recorded through the U-87 using the PR&E console's on-board processing and a reverb/noise gate program from the SPX-90 (Program 16 modified with the delay at 6.3 ms, highpass at 56Hz, lowpass at 8kHz, trigger level at 38, hold at 28ms, release 260ms, reverb time 1.7 sec). He recorded these voices with the reverb included, something he usually doesn't do. He made an exception this time because he wanted to hear the effect with the voice talent. Since he was working with amateur voice talent he wanted to make sure the reverb worked with the read before he let them return to their real jobs.
The female voice tracks were then dubbed to track 3 of the MX-70. Pleisse goes to track 4. When recording Pleisse to the MX-70, he adds just a touch of reverb (6%) using the SPX-90 program modification listed above. The voices then bounce between 3 and 4. There are two spots where Pleisse is filtered. Jack ran those tracks through program 30 of his SPX-90 with high pass set to 1k, mid freq at 3.6k, mid gain +8dB, mid Q at 1.2, high frequency at 1k, high gain +3db, high Q at 1.0, low pass at 5.6k, delay off.
All effects in this production are mono. Jack recorded them himself, with the exception of the crowd cheering at the open. The cheers came from a Kenny Loggins live album. Jack's advice when recording your own effects is to remove all dynamics controllers and effects from the mic chain. Get to tape as cleanly as possible. For example, the sound effect of the remote falling to the floor is Jack dropping a cart. He Foley'd the effect live as he recorded his voice track. He was working well back from the mic. This is an instance where minimal processing pays off. Jack said, "If you're not squashed to the limit, you can move away from the mic and room dynamics can come into play and give spatial information to the listener". He recorded this track directly to the 8-track. The sound of Spandex being stretched to the limit is simply a balloon being stretched. It was recorded to 1/4-inch and played back at the slowest vari-speed.
The music is the only thing in stereo. Jack recorded three different cuts from vinyl to 1/4" tape to avoid slip cueing the records. Part of the reason the music sounds so good coming from vinyl is that Jack takes very good care of the discs. He's the only one who uses them.
All the changes in music beds are not cross fades from tracks to tracks, but are punch-ins on the same two tracks. Jack said that there is a second to a second and a half cross fade during a punch-in that helps blend the two beds. He also plans the punch-in to occur at a point under the v/o that will be inconspicuous, i.e. the middle of a sentence instead of the end. These are masterful punch-ins. Just see if you can identify the three different beds as you listen to the cut on The Cassette.
The baseball organ tracks couldn't be more authentic. The organist is Carolyn Jones, who plays the organ at (the land of the free and) the home of the Braves, Fulton County Stadium! Jack recorded these in the Star 94 studios in '91 when the Braves were on a hot streak. Carolyn brought her portable keyboard and Jack recorded her on DAT.
The PR&E console has a "two-mix output." All eight tracks of the MX-70 are fed through this two-mix, so it serves as a stereo output. The output of the two-mix is automatically routed to the 424A. On the final mixdown, Jack uses the 424A as a "lazy man's throttle" to keep levels in check. Attack is set at 2, the release is set as quickly as possible and the release curve is set to exponential to keep compression smooth.
This is an exceptionally clean piece, especially when you consider it involves two generations of analog. Jack has these tips for keeping things clean: Don't bulk erase your reel. Instead, run it through the tape deck in record to clean it up. You'll avoid that "woomp, woomp, woomp" that comes from a hand held bulk eraser. Use noise gates on mics to eliminate noise from computer fans and A/C and on tape to reduce hiss prior to the start of audio. Store all your tapes tails out, wound at playback speed to minimize print through.
Good advice and a great promo! Check out Jack's work on The Cassette. Next month, WJMK/Chicago's Bob Lawson.