Don Lane Hoffpauir - Red/Lane Productions: Oschner Clinic "New Locations"

producers-vu-logo-2by Craig Rogers

Next time you're near a bulletin board, take one of the stick pins from it and push it back into the board. What do you hear? Not much, eh? Now imagine trying to use that sound as the central theme in a commercial. That challenge faced Don Lane Hoffpauir of Red/Lane Productions when he was producing this month's spotlighted commercial. You can read here about producing the spot, then hear it on The Cassette.

The Oschner Clinics around Baton Rouge, LA were using print ads that showed a map with stick pins at each of their locations around the metro. They also wanted to use the push pin idea in the radio campaign. But where exactly does one find the sound of a push pin being pressed into a bulletin board? It's not in any of your leading sound effect libraries (or any of your trailing ones either). Don says, "We tried sticking a pin into a map, but it sounds like nothing." He played with parts of 20 different effects, including the "fwip" of Spiderman's web shooter, before finding something appropriate.

Before pinning down Don's solution, here's a look at his set up. He works with SAW+ and Sound Forge 4.0a, both running on a Pentium 150 with Digital Audio Lab's CardD Plus. He uses the SAW+ for most of the actual production of the spot and the Sound Forge for manipulating recorded elements when needed. For storage, he uses an Iomega Jaz removable drive. He runs through a Tascam 2516 mixing console and masters to a Sony DTC-A7 DAT deck direct from SAW+ using the CardDPlus digital I/Os. Also in the studio are an ART DRX-2100 SE for compression, reverb, noise gating; ART Tube MP on the Electrovoice RE-2000 mic (used on this spot for the game show host and "straight Announcer" vo) and an Electrovoice RE-20 mic (used for all other voices). Most impressive was that Don sent this spot on CD, burnt by a Hewlett-Packard 4020i Sure Store CD writer and labeled with the Neato CD labeling system.

What finally worked for the stick pin effect was the last half-second of raking leaves. He loaded the sound effect, several seconds long, into the Sound Forge because he anticipated having to manipulate the effect using various effects available in Sound Forge. It turned out he didn't have to do any heavy processing, just some editing. He trimmed off all but the last half second of the effect. He also used the "maximize" feature of Sound Forge. This allows him to set an absolute peak level. Maximize then brings the audio up to that level without peaking above it. After editing and maximizing, the sound was transferred to SAW+. Sound Forge saves files in .wav format. SAW+ can import .wav files, so there is no loss in this transfer.

Three voice talents provide the six different characters. Don is the game show host and straight announcer. Jeff English, who also wrote the spot, plays both male callers. Don's wife is both female callers. The voice tracks were recorded individually since there was no chance to get everyone together at once. Don records voice tracks straight into SAW+ at 44.1k sampling rate. He adds a light reverb from the DRX-2100. He has modified program 71, a plate reverb, with 1 second of decay, 80% diffusion and a 10% reverb level.

When assembling the spot, all caller voices are placed on the same track in SAW+. Don has a customized telephone EQ setting he has saved in SAW+ that he applies to this track. This EQ curve cuts the highs at 15kHz, the lows at 820 Hz and boosts the mids +3dB at 4kHz. Don pointed out that in SAW+ the EQ is done in real time, non-destructively, as the file plays. It's just like applying EQ to a track through your board. Everything that plays on that channel gets EQ'd. It isn't necessary to have the processing done, then saved to a new sound file.

The opening bit of music comes from the Mix music library. Don wanted something that sounded as if it were just trailing out, like the end of a game show theme as the show returns from a break. The buzzer for the wrong answers comes from Don's personal sfx library. He's had it so long he can't really recall its origin, but thinks it was his dryer at home recorded to 1/4" analog. The phone pickup is from the Sound Ideas Series 1000. Don edited out the middle to make it quicker.

The winner's bell is another effect that Don recorded himself years ago. It's the bell from an old hotel. It's only a couple seconds long, so in this spot it was looped to make it longer.

Also looped was the winner's screams of joy. Don's wife only got about 3 to 4 seconds of good cheering before running out of steam. Don simply copied the file twice on the same track to give him a loop of his winner that extended under the host's lines.

The pan crashes when the winner falls off her chair are also filtered using the same phone EQ patch in SAW+. The effect is on a different track than the voices, but SAW+ allows him to apply the same EQ to more than one track.

The music under the tail is the end of a bed from the Network Brainstorm series.

Altogether, Don uses 7 tracks in this production. In SAW+ however, each track can be stereo or mono, so it doesn't take two tracks for a stereo sound. Only two stereo tracks are used, one for the music beds and one for crowd fx. All others are mono. Don's track assignments stack up like this: Track 1-Open and close music; Track 2-Game show host and announcer; Track 3-Sfx: tack, phone pickup, buzzer and bell; Track 4-Callers; Track 5-Female winner; Track 6-Crowd applause; Track 7-Pan crash sfx.

Don assembled the spot in order, opening music, then announcer, then sfx, the next announcer piece, right on down the line.

When it comes to the mixdown, Don plays back all tracks. If an element needs a level adjustment, he clicks in the window to open a fader window and makes the adjustment. SAW+ will remember all these adjustments and repeat them on playback. It essentially gives him an automated mix when he masters the spot.

He uses a light compression ratio of 2:1 during mixdown. The spot is mastered to DAT with a digital transfer from SAW+, then transferred to reel for distribution to the stations getting the buy.

Next month, Producer's VU takes a roller coaster ride with Jym Geraci of B103.7 in Richmond, VA. Til then, keep those meters jumping.