Steve Stone, WXDX/Pittsburgh, “Double X Weekend”
by Craig Rogers
This month we take a Producer’s VU inside the studio of Steve Stone from WXDX/Pittsburgh. Steve walks us through the production of a promo for a “Double X Weekend.” As you’ll hear, Steve loves to rummage through both the on-air library and the Music Director’s castoffs for material. You’ll hear this fast paced promo with lots of music changes on The Cassette. Read here about the details of the production.
There are two voices in this promo. The character voice is a character named “Steve Stevens” done by a WXDX part-timer. Stevens makes semi-regular appearances on WXDX, including in promos. The main v/o is Steve Stone. He says he would have had his regular v/o guy, Jude Corbett cut the tracks, but this promo came down last minute, so Steve did the v/o himself. He records all voices directly into ProTools using a Neumann U87A microphone routed through his PR&E console.
Steve’s workstation is a 16-track ProTools 4.0. He has a standard template that he uses as the basic building block for his promos. It’s set up with five mono tracks for voice. Two of these have effects assigned to them. One is filtered; another has filter and a delay. Most of the main v/o uses the filtered track. The line “Friday after Howard Stern” uses both the filter and delay. The character voice track has no effects. He also has six pairs of stereo tracks for music and effects.
Steve has a submaster set up for all the vocal tracks and another submaster for music and effects. This allows him to easily control the balance between voice and bed. The voice submaster is run through a US Waves Audiotrack plug in for processing. He has gradually tweaked the preset over the last year, so he can’t recall all the settings. But he has dialed in some EQ and compression to suit his ear. He also uses the built in noise gate. Steve says, “It’s like having an outboard mike processor, but it’s inside the computer.”
Right at the start, Steve is using three of his mono tracks. One filtered track is for Steve’s v/o. A normal track is for the Steve Stevens character. A third track with EQ is used to clean up the hiss on the Simpson’s drop-in. He edited the drop to rearrange the phrases so that it fit the context of the promo. He used the ProTools fade envelopes to blend the edits.
A trick Steve used is processing a voice track twice on one of the filtered tracks. He records it in once, then plays it back while recording it back onto the effected track. On the second pass, he adds some additional EQ to give the track a hollow sound. Having been compressed on both passes, the v/o has some punch and the hollow sound makes it distinctive.
Also at the open, Steve is using two of his stereo pairs. On one pair is the opening sounder. It’s from an A/V Deli disk, Signals. On the second is the campy music cut. This is from a CD with a great title, “Music for TV Dinners.”
The music tracks “stairstep” down and up from stereo pair to stereo pair. Steve says he seldom uses more than three stereo pairs. Since he can adjust the volume of any piece on a track and not affect the volume of other pieces on that track, he can have several music pieces, each recorded at different levels on the same track.
After the separator, Steve switches to an Alice in Chains cut. Then to make the transition to the next cut he used a drum roll from REM’s “Orange Crush.” Next, he recorded in Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” He spaced the guitar chords to separate the next set of Steve Stevens v/o phrases. Under each Steve Stevens phrase, he cut to more “TV Dinners” music. The static burst that separates the next bed Steve recorded from his FM tuner.
After the Green Day section is a piece of Live’s “All Over You.” It’s cut cold by a tape rewind effect Steve did himself.
The “Double X Weekend” yell is some office staff along with a group of X interns looking to improve their grade.
The next separator is from the AV Deli disk. Steve used the ProTools automated panning to rapidly bounce the effect from side to side. Next music cut is Foo Fighters “Monkey Wrench.” Punctuating the phrase is a 1kHz tone. Steve sliced it up to make it stutter. The sustained guitar chord that ends the piece is one Steve got from a long forgotten promo CD.
The final product is dubbed to cart for air. For longer running imaging material, Steve will dub to MiniDisc.
Steve says he believes it’s not the system you’re working on, it’s who’s working the system. When you’re working your system, try some of these “Stone Tips” to come up with some fresh music: take a good beat track, loop it for a rhythm bed, then find a good isolated guitar riff or keyboard chord and build your own music! Pan the various elements of your custom music left and right to broaden the spectrum and increase the impact. Play music backwards or vari-speed it up or down.
Now plug in The Cassette and check out Steve’s work. If you’d like to reach Steve, e-mail
Next month, Producer’s VU checks in with Johnny George who’s imaging three stations in Indianapolis.