Jym Geraci, WMXB/Richmond, VA "Busch Gardens-Alpengeist"
by Craig Rogers
Would there be any argument that we are in an era of unprecedented change in the way we do our jobs? The transition from analog to digital in the production room (and in other areas) is at least as significant as was the transition from all-live commercials to the era of transcriptions and magnetic tape.
This month, Producer's VU catches up with someone right in the middle of the analog/digital transition. Jym Geraci of WMXB/Richmond, VA is working in the analog domain, with digital waiting for him just around the corner. Check out Jym's promo on The Cassette for the Busch Gardens Alpengeist roller coaster and read right here about the tricks and techniques he tucked into it.
Jym is working with an Otari MX5050 4-track which he hopes will be history by the time you're reading this. His board is a 12 channel, 8-buss Wheatstone SP-5. It has built-in EQ and 8 sends and returns. Also in the studio are an Otari MX5050 2-track, Technics CD players, EV RE-27 mic, Symetrix 523 mic processor, Eventide Harmonizer, and Yamaha REV7 reverb unit.
The production starts in Jym's head as he's writing the script. Since he's working with only four tracks, he does a lot of pre-planning to make the most of them. He keys in on phrases that might need EQ or effects, such as the pitch shift on "the Alpengeist," the pitch shift and delay on the word "drop," or the roller coaster fx he'll use.
Station voice for WMXB is John Pleisse. Jym has high praise for Pleisse. "He is the best station voice I have ever worked with. He appeals to everybody and his voice cuts right through." Jym receives Pleisse's voice on 7 1/2 ips reel.
He records Pleisse's voice to the 4-track first, adding a touch of boost at 2kHz. He leaves gaps where he wants to insert sound effects, or an accent of some sort. If he discovers as the production goes along, that he has mis-timed a gap, he says he can transfer the voice track to his Studer reel-to-reel running at 30 ips, make the edits, and dump the edited track back to the 4-track. That wasn't necessary with this promo.
On the phrase, "the Alpengeist," Jym wanted Pleisse's voice lower. "Satan's voice," he calls it. He ran this phrase through a pitch shift from the Harmonizer shifted down .841:1. When Jym wanted a doubling effect on the word "drop" he fed the Pleisse tape through the "Doppler Flange" program from the Harmonizer with 352ms delay and the same pitch shift as above.
With straight voice on Track 1 and effected voice on Track 2, Jym's left with two tracks for music. So he can get the transitions he wants between music beds, he mono's the music so he can alternate music beds and transitional fx between tracks. The music beds end up on 4, with the separator on 3. Jym says, "I sacrifice the stereo music for the sake of a better sounding production."
Getting the music to mono isn't as easy as you might think. Due to the way his board is configured, he first has to dub the music from CD to 1/4" tape at 15 ips. He has to use the stereo buss send of the CD player pot to send the signal to his reel-to-reel. (This stereo buss doesn't feed the 4-track). He can pan these sends to center, thus recording a mono mix of the music to reel. He can then dub this reel to the appropriate track of the 4-track. Before transferring back to the 4-track, he edits the beds to length so that each ends cold. Then, to compensate for some of the generational loss, Jym boosts the highs a bit as he plays back from the 2-track.
Jym describes his philosophy on when he changes music beds: "Every time you start describing something new, there should be a change." He also picked uptempo dance beds while talking about the coaster. When the copy switched to referring to the station, he chose a bed closer to the adult alternative sound of the station. Two of the bed changes are separated by a burst of white noise. This and the music beds are from Speed Trax from Chateau Brazil. The opening drone is from the FirstCom Edge Effects library.
The music beds are all punched in. Jym listens to the voice track, monitoring the record head via the SEL-REP switch to keep his punch ins tight. Recording his music to reel first provides another benefit here; he can cue the reel more tightly than he can cue a CD.
The Alpengeist, as you will hear, is a b-i-g roller coaster, so there weren't any stock sfx Jym could use that would do it justice. So he built his own Alpengeist with three different coaster effects. They are from the Sound Ideas library. Jym assembled these on the 4-track at a point past his promo. It was then transferred to the 2-track so he could then dub it back in at the appropriate spot in the promo. During the transfer to the 2-track, he fed the combination through the Large Hall reverb on the REV7, with a 2.6 second decay. This was then transferred to track 3 on the 4-track. Even though it's on a single track, you'll notice one spot where the effect pans left to right. Jym panned the track manually as he was mixing it down to cart.
During the mixdown, he sends the voice tracks through the Large Hall reverb on the REV7 with the same 2.6 second decay. This helps to add a stereo presence to a mono production. He will also add a slight EQ boost at about 2kHz to the music beds.
If you've got any questions or comments for Jym after you check out his work on The Cassette, call him at (804) 560-1037.
Next month, Producer's VU is gonna make you sweat when Bill Schultz of WKTU/New York talks about his custom production of the C & C Music Factory hit.