The topic this week is Studio Recording and we will explore the following focus areas:
MUSIC | STAGED PRODUCTIONS | STEREO MIKING | MULTITRACK RECORDING
FOCUS AREAS IN DEPTH
OVERVIEW SPECIFICS EXPLORE
MUSIC - With the advent of Digital Audio Workstations (DAW), producing music has changed greatly in recent years, but recording techniques have generally remained consistent. Music productions combine two basic principles of both acoustic and electric recording.
Close Miking - Microphones are placed near the sound source, instrument or voice. The goal with close miking is to capture direct sound with as little reflections as possible. This allows for clear reproduction of the sound in the mix.
Distant Miking - Mic techniques that are added as support to closely miked sources in the mix. These distant or room mics mainly capture reflected sound. Distant miking creates spatial presence which is critical to symphonic, jazz, and other recordings where acoustic groups play in the same room together at the same time. Distant mic technique usually involves some type of stereo array or a special application like the famous Decca Tree method.
Direct Input - DI for short is the process of taking the output of an electronic instrument and recording that as a source. This process does not utilize microphones, as the signal is taken directly from the instrument into the recording device. This technique is another way to provide support for instruments like guitars where the DI track is mixed with the track(s) from the close mic(s) on the instrument and/or an amplifier creating a unique sound in the final product.
STAGED PRODUCTIONS - Can be anything from simple single anchor tv or radio newscasts to large stage productions with live sound effects mixed with voice actors and live music. Staged productions can be live or recorded for final assembly in post production. Staged productions have an emphasis on clear dialogue to communicate with the listening audience.
Broadcast News - Relies on pristine dialogue to disseminate information clearly and concisely to the audience. Although most of the pressure may be on the announcer to annunciate and deliver material perfectly under pressure, engineers must also make proper mic selection to technically deliver content. While radio relies on large vocal studio mics, TV studios utilize high-end lavalier mics to be close to anchors without distracting viewers with bulky news desk clutter.
Edited Content - TV shows and commercials rely on post-production techniques for final delivery of content. On-set dialogue is recorded, but many times gets replaced later with Automated Dialogue Replacement. Sound effects are usually mixed in during post production, while music is almost always a post-production element.
Radio Dramas - Prior to video and television, audiences gathered around the radio to hear stories unfold. In recent years, podcasting has created a resurgence in this type of storytelling. Relying on the philosophy of “theater of the mind,” these audio dramas set a stage for various recording and mixing techniques to capture and present engaging stories.
PBS NewsHour - Inside Garrison Keillor's 'A Prairie Home Companion':
OVERVIEW SPECIFICS HISTORY DEMO EXPLORE
STEREO MIKING - Employs techniques that utilize two microphones placed in specific pattern arrays to capture sound in a way that allows for directional characteristics to be present during playback from two discrete channels. Many standard techniques can be implemented to capture a variety of spatial images of the sound. Portable recorders have also adopted built-in stereo mics arranged in common arrays to capture a stereo image without the need of a contained studio environment or extra equipment.
Basic Stereo Microphone Arrangements:
X-Y - Specifically related to the crossing 90° angle in which the mics are aligned. This common method creates a relatively narrow, but balanced image by comparison. Also usually mono compatible.
ORTF - Developed by French Radio and Television engineers, this array is also based on two cardioid mics in a similar fashion to X-Y, but instead of the crossing nature, they point away from each other at 110° with capsules spaced at 7 inches apart. This also has a very balanced stereo image but is perceived as slightly more “open” and wider than X-Y.
Spaced Pair - Usually refers to two omnidirectional mics set a specific distance from each other with the center point relative to the performance. The stereo image is based on the distance between mics. This method usually compliments large groups or orchestras in grand performance spaces.
From Abbey Road on YouTube: A film made by EMI engineer Alan Blumlein, the inventor of stereo sound, to demonstrate his creation. Alan lodged the patent for what he called 'binaural' sound in 1931, in a paper which patented stereo records, stereo films and also surround sound. He and his colleagues made a series of experimental recordings and films to demonstrate the technology. Much of the technology pioneered by Alan is still in use at Abbey Road Studios today.
This demonstration from Sonic Scoop covers the use of X-Y and ORTF stereo micing drums, but is easily applied to any stereo application.
MULTITRACK RECORDING – A technique originally developed by Les Paul and Ampex to record multiple performers at the same time on their own discrete channel. The process started by using multiple mono tape recorders connected together and over time has evolved from two-track stereo recorders to four and eight track units and up to 24 channel tape and dedicated hard disk recorders. With most professional DAW software, the multitrack environment has expanded even further with near endless channel configurations limited only by hardware processing power.
Musician and Inventor Les Paul speaks with the Audio Engineering Society about the creation of multitrack recorders.
Les Paul and Mary Ford demonstrate their innovative recording techniques of the time with multitrack tape on Alistair Cooke's TV program "Omnibus" (10/23/1953). From the Les Paul Foundation.
Geoff Emerick, the legendary Beatles engineer discusses the process of creating some of the greatest moments in pop music history.