In this essay I’ll be explaining the key conventions in audio and post production – I’ll go into detail about how sound is recorded, how to effectively record sounds, and legal terms on audio production.
Types of Studio
Depending on the style of audio you want to create, there are two types of recording studio to choose from. The first is called a project studio – these are small, used for recording smaller projects, tests and demos. If the person would like to create something that sounds homemade, this type of studio would be suitable. For example, many modern punk and indie bands use these kinds of studios to record their albums, e.g. PUP and Moose Blood.
Features of a Control Room – Project Studio
The layout of a project studio is split into two sections – the control room and the live room. In the control room, there are six core features – the first is acoustic panelling. Acoustic panels are objects that are mounted to the walls of a studio in calculated areas in order to absorb or diffuse unwanted sound, such as reverberation. They are often made out of foam, or other absorbent fabrics.
In addition to this, control rooms will need computers with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) installed on them. They are software or devices that can produce, edit, adjust or record a large variety of audio. DAW’s are what turns audio from ideas and/or a collection of recordings to a layered, professional and good quality product. They can be used for a range of functions such as music, radio, podcasts, multi media platforms and TV. The majority to all musicians will use DAW software today, from punk artists like Green Day to Pop artists like Katy Perry. There are a large number of different DAW’s, such as Reaper and Steinberg Cubase.
Another feature of control rooms is the audio interface. These hardware are designed to improve the sound capabilities of devices such as computers. When you plug an audio interface into your computer the audio will then be able to transmit louder and clearer than originally. For example they can be used in production in order to hear the true quality of your product, or to play professionally such as at a gigs.
Acoustic Sound Proofed Walls
The control room will also need acoustic sound proofed walls. By using the same type of materials used in the acoustic panels on walls, ceilings and floors, you can reduce the amount of noise leakage created by the audio you create. This way, you can avoid disturbing the neighbours!
Live Room – Wooden Flooring, Acoustic Insulation, Stage Box
For the live room in a project studio you’ll need three things, wood flooring, acoustic insulation, and a stage box for cables into an audio interface. The purpose of wood flooring in the live room is that it absorbs any unwanted noise, but keeps the pleasant remaining tone. Acoustic insulation is also another material needed in order to sound proof and improve the quality of sound within a studio. The last core thing your live room in a project studio needs is a stage box, which is a device used to connect cables to other multiple devices, such as the audio interface.
The professional recording studio is similar to the project studio, however they are far more upgraded. In a professional recording studio, there could be a a control room (for the producers and engineers), a live room (for the artist/spokesperson), an isolation booth, and vocal booth . An isolation booth is a room within the recording studio that an artist, such as a drummer, can use in order to reduce extra unwanted noise, often whilst another person is recording in the live room simultaneously. The materials used, such as drywall, help to airtight the room so that extra noise that would be unpleasant or cancel out other parts of the audio can’t escape. That way all features of the recording can be heard in equal balance. An example of a recording studio that uses an isolation booth is Real World Studios in Bath, a very popular studio that has worked with many artists such as Sia and Coldplay.
The vocal booth is very similar to the isolation booth – however the main differences are firstly that they are solely used to record vocals rather than drums and other instruments, and secondly to cancel out noise coming from other areas that would disturb the recording.
Extra Equipment of a Professional Studio
A variety of the same equipment in a professional studio will be the same as within a project studio. They will be equipped with a DAW, stage box, and audio interface. However there are likely to be a few more additions. One of these would be plates – these are sheets of metal that hang in a box, so that the reverberation of the sound made echoes through them giving a pleasant tone. In Abbey Road studios, they have a famed plate room. Another is there will be specific jacks for cables – a XLR with a 3.5 mm size. In addition to this, there will be plug ins to improve sound effects, and outboard effects to aid signal.
Formats for Recording and Playback
There are two main forms of playback and recording format. On of these is WAVE, also known as .wav. This is an uncompressed format, meaning it is the purest form of audio and the least untrue. Because of this they are the most common form of playback format, and the industry standard for putting to CD. The file size are large, but as the digital age moves forward this problem is becoming smaller. The other form of playback/recording formats are Lossy formats, such as MP3. It was created by Alfred Mayer in 1993. He discovered that audio files contained unnecessary and unheard frequencies that could be taken out to reduce file size, however this reduced the quality of the audio at a 128/kb/s compression rate.
The ISDN is the Integrated Services Digital Network. It began in 1988, and it was an improved communication network from the regular telephone line service known as analogue. The ISDN allowed for clearer audio to be given and received, and it offered more methods of transferring information such as through voice, video and data. To transfer data you would use a telefax machine – this was a service used by officials by phoning a specific number, sending a printed document through a machine which was then deciphered by the telefax machine on the other end, and printed again.
Profanity, Blasphemy and Delay Lines
Profanity and blasphemy are forms of offensive language that can be considered as obscenity if used in the wrong place. Profanity refers to swearing inappropriately, such as using f bombs in a PG film. Blasphemy means to insult a religious practise. If such content is aired, such as on radio station, the show can be taken off the air or delayed. In 2006, Radio 1’s presenters Chris Moyles and Scott Mills swore on multiple occasions during their shows, and OFCOM threatened to take regulatory action.
Radio stations will have a device purposefully for this, known as a delay line. A well used delay line within the industry of radio is the Eventide BD 600. As you can see, there is a PANIC button which lets WAV files be played back whilst the delay is rebuilding. You can also adjust and customise how long you would like to delay for using the DUMP button – up to a full 80 seconds!
Effects are changes made to audio, used to manipulate the way sound is heard. For example, you may want to add in extra bass effects for a more urban beat or amp up the treble for a classic effect. You can do this in many forms of software, such as DAWs. An example of an effect you may want to add in is reverb. Reverb is when sound continues to travel and be heard even after the sound has already been emitted, like an echo. You could use this to be more dramatic. In addition to this, another example of an effect that could be used is compression – this is where the dynamic and force of the sound is reduced to be less sharp. You can use these effects in production, and also after.
Post Production and Production Stages
There are four key stages to audio production – planning, recording, mixing and mastering. Planning is where scheduling for certain elements for the project are sorted. For example, you might want to plan which studio you will record at, what equipment you will bring, where and when you’ll mix it, when it will be completed by, etc. By being organised and planning how you will conduct the project the more likely the project will be successful.
Recording is where the actual project production begins. This is where you create the material you wish to produce and save it. You could record it all in one go, for instance a band, or record each element individually, such as two singers. For example in Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, there is a back and forth which would have been recorded separately.
Mixing is the editing element of the production. This is the stage where levels may be adjusted, compression or reverb added etc. It is the stage where a production goes from a collection of recordings to a final piece.
Mastering is where a project is finalised, also known as bounced. It will be converted to a WAV file, though equipment that is high quality ensuring the quality of end product and that it is fit for commercial use.
Roles Within Studio Audio Production
There are five core roles within studio audio production. One of these is the audio engineer. They are in charge of technical aspects of the recording process. They will record it, be in charge of the technical functions in the studio, and adjust the sound as it’s being recorded e.g. auto-tune. This role is important because without the engineer the recording could be faulty and not produced effectively.
In addition to this, there is the producer. The producer is essentially the director of the production – they will guide and instruct the engineer and artist on what they should change, what they should continue with, etc. This role is important because it ensures the project turns out clear and good quality.
The third role is the studio assistant. This role is where a person assists the engineer, doing what they ask and setting up equipment such as leads, microphones, stands etc. The role is important because without the assistant the other roles such as the producer and engineer would have to oversee, this which would be time consuming and less efficient for the project.
The fourth role is the mixer/editor, this role is where a person takes the recording and edits and mixes it, adding layers and sound effects until it sounds perfect for commercial distribution. This role is important because without the mixer, the project will sound unfinished and less professional.
The last key role within studio audio production is the booker/studio manager. This person oversees the business and booking of the studio, arranging and scheduling for people to use the studio and making sure no bookings overlap. This role is important because without the manager the arrangement wouldn’t be efficient and people may end up confused.
In order to protect and have the rights to your musical composition or other form of audio, you will need to copyright it. Copyright is a law that gives you the right to have say in what others do with your work – they are only allowed to copy it, or elements of it, with your full permission. It means that nobody can copy your work without being sued, giving you the protection that your work can’t be copied without the other person undergoing consequences. For example, Vanilla Ice copied the beat from Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ for his track ‘Ice Ice Baby’. He was sued heavily, and made no profit from the song.
The right to play music in public comes under a section of the copyright law, known as performing rights. In order to perform someone’s song publicly and also live (instead of playing the track) you will need to gain the permission of either the copyright holder/artist or a collective rights company, such as BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, etc. That way you can perform someone else’s music legally without being sued.
Music licensing is where you have to obtain a license in order to play someone else’s recorded music – if you are a radio station, you will have to gain permission from each artist or license company to play the songs on air. This is why you hear the same cycle of songs if you continually listen to one station – those songs are the ones the station can afford to gain the license from. All businesses will have to do this – from shops, to radio, to TV, etc.
A contract is a written agreement between two parties, used for business deals. It details what the two parties will fulfil, deadlines, health and safety, and anything else that is essential for both parties to agree on.You would need one for many kinds of deals – for example, an actor would sign a contract with a film company to say that they agree to work with them, and might agree to play the part for more than one film/show. In terms of music, contracts would be made between musician and record label, musician and distribution companies such as Spotify, YouTube, etc.
PUP Wikipedia Date used: 7/2/18
Moose Blood Wikipedia Date used: 7/2/18
Acoustic Panelling Explained Date used: 7/2/18
Studio Monitor Wikipedia Date used: 7/2/18
DAW Wikipedia Date used: 7/2/18
DAW Google Search – Examples Date used: 7/2/18
Audio Interface Explained Date used: 7/2/18
Stage Box for Audio Interface Explained Date used: 7/2/18
Recording Studio – Isolation Booth Wikipedia Date used: 8/2/18
How to Build a Soundproofed Home Studio Date used: 8/2/18
How to Build an Isolation Booth Date used: 8/2/18
Real World Studio Wikipedia Date used: 8/2/18
Vocal Booths Explained and How to Design Date used: 8/2/18
Plates explained Date used: 9/2/18
IDSN simple Wikipedia Date used 9/2/18
Eventide BD600 explained Date used: 9/2/18
Profanity vs blasphemy explained Date used: 9/2/18
BBC1 presenters threatened by OFCOM Date used: 9/2/18
Audio engineer explained Date used: 9/2/18
Copyright explained Date used: 9/2/18
Performing rights explained wikipedia Date used: 9/2/18
PPL explained Date used: 9/2/18
Music licensing wikipedia 9/2/18