Posts Tagged ‘voiceover studio’

Studio Upgrade

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dVoiceBox mixerMy studio is  built around my medium format 32 channel Soundcraft Ghost mixing desk.  It is almost certainly the case that if I was starting out now I would not have a desk like this but 18 years ago when I bought it new I was recording a lot of production library and TV music.

Back then I was running lots of hardware samplers, sound modules and synths and I needed to be able to mix them all at the same time. At first the studio had them all hard wired in. These days if I do music projects it’s all done “in the box” – in the computer using Logic so I wouldn’t really need 32 channels.

Nevertheless I have no plans to get rid of this desk – it’s great for tracking sessions – I love the pre-amps on voices and recently I’ve also been loving them for drums.  There is also the other thing that when a client comes in to record for the first time – they walk in the door and instantly what they see visually says “professional recording studio” – it puts their mind at ease.

Studio mixer fadersBecause I don’t plan to get rid of the Ghost I had to decide what to do recently when the rack mounted power supply for it appeared to be on the way out: it was buzzing very ominously.  I went onto ebay to look for a replacement as I know they come up from time to time.

While searching Soundcraft Ghost power supplies I found the studio systems website – run by Tim Jones.
I discovered that Tim is an analogue mixing desk guru who refurbishes and repairs all kinds of wonderful analogue conoles.  But even better than that as far as I was concerned – Tim builds replacement power supplies for analogue desks under the Blue Dog Power Supply brand name.

Tim told me that he’d built lots of power supplies for Ghosts.  I decided it would be better to have brand new power unit rather then buy a secondhand Soundcraft unit which might be ageing (and buzzing) like my existing one.
Blue Dog Power 03
I ordered a Blue Dog power supply and it arrived within a few days,  I put it in the rack yesterday, connected it up and fired up the Ghost. Tim claims his power supplies give a much lower noise floor on the mix buss.
I’d seen lots of people reporting this too but wondered how a new power supply could make such a  difference.  All I can say – it does! The noise floor is loads lower.

So far I’m very happy with the Blue Dog – Tim was very helpful and answered all my questions, the unit came quickly and it works just the way I want – Thanks Tim!

Blue Dog Power 02You can find out more about Tim Jones on his website or Facebook page

Chris Radley

dVoice Box Studio

 

Mic Blog 02

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It is only relatively recently that I’ve started to get really interested in microphones. Not just the sound of them but how they look too. I think this post says quite a lot about me and microphones.  It was reported this week that Bradley Wiggins is making a cameo appearance in the long running radio 4 soap The Archers.

I discovered the story when I saw a photo on the BBC website.

I suspect many people would be drawn to the image of the famous Olympic gold medalist, maybe wondering when the side burns had morphed into a full beard.  But such thoughts were not for me – my first thought was “What kind of mic is that that they’re using there?”  I think it’s becoming an obsession.

Anyway I was particularly struck by this microphone as it was one I’d never seen before.

I’ve listened to the Archers off and on over the years and often wondered about the practical aspects of recording it but it’s only really recently that I’ve begun to wonder about the mics they use.

Further research threw up a photo by Edward Moss taken on a recent tour of The Archers’ studio in Birmingham that clearly reveals the actual mic to be an AKG C426 B.

It has been designed for stereo recordings and is a neat solution for coincident recordings where normally you’d put up 2 mics at a fixed point in either X/Y or Mid/Side configurations. It’s basically 2 mics in 1 and they both rotate in relation to each other so you can get the optimum angle for the recording – between 0 and 270 degrees. Each mic has a LED on it so you can see the angle of each at a glance.

I discovered that the C426B is an update on the original AKG C24 which also used the 2 mics in one set up and years ago was highly regarded by many studio engineers.

I gleaned from various forums that the C426 B is apparently great for drum overheads, piano, choirs, strings – and as we know the BBC deem it suitable for radio drama recording.

Sadly I’ll almost certainly not get to road test one. Firstly they are no longer in production and secondly they cost (and I could only find a US price) around 3000 dollars secondhand.

They look great though – really eye catchingly different – it would be great to put one up in the studio just to get the “what the hell is THAT!” reactions.

More than the appearance though I like the neatness and relative compactness of this solution to X/Y and mid/side recording.

 
Chris Radley – dVoiceBox

Audio production – The Beatles are Coming

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Dvoicebox was asked by Atlantic Publishing to help with some audio production for the DVD documentary that accompanies the book “The Beatles are Coming”.

The DVD uses archive footage to tell the story of Beatlemania “from The Cavern to Candlestick Park” – it’s during the years when the Beatles still played live with their Vox AC 30 amplifiers continually drowned out by the screams of their fans.

Frances Hill from Atlantic Publishing had sourced a large number of archive clips from the Getty Foundation. They included TV interviews, film of live events and footage from contemporary newsreels.  Most had been very rarely seen before.

The clips were from a wide variety of initial sources and recorded on a range of audio devices of varying quality. It was my job to clean up and enhance the worst sounding recordings and standardise the levels and overall sound as much as possible across the whole project.

It was a fascinating job and, as one who was too young for Beatlemania, gave me more of an insight into how it was that the Beatles became so phenomenally famous in the early 60’s.

There were also some great examples of how not to do interviews – conducted by some shockingly complacent, patronising and inane TV interviewers. I suppose they represented the stuffy establishment view at the time – No wonder the down to earth and funny young Beatles were like a breath of fresh air to young people just escaping the austerity of the 1950s.

The clips were cut together into an hour long documentary. I recorded the voiceover from a script written by Tim Hill. It was then produced as a DVD to accompany a book containing hundreds of photos from the Beatlemania era which has just been made available.

“The Beatles are Coming” book and DVD is currently exclusively available for just under a tenner from W H Smith.

The Beatles are coming was produced by Atlantic Publishing

 

 

 

Recording Poetry and Music

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DvoiceBox has been invited once again to record the Love in Leamington event on the evening of Feb 12th 2014.  Once again the venue is in among the books in Leamington’s Library and we’ll be providing the PA for the event as well as recording it all for subsequent radio broadcast and podcasts.

Here’s the poster

Poster for Love in Leamington 2013

DvoiceBox recorded the first Love in Leamington in 2013. A CD of that event is to be made available by the Warwickshire Library Service.
Love in Leamington takes place in a space in the middle of the Leamington Library itself (with the book shelves wheeled to one side). Acoustically its quite a dry space and that helps with recording – although on the night the musicians felt it made their performance feel a bit “flat”.

Last year there were a variety of musical ensembles (choirs, bands and solo performers) performing music inspired by Julie Boden‘s poetry. It was quite a challenge to know what mics to use and where to place them – especially as some performers couldn’t decide until the last moment whether they were going to perform on the stairs in the Library or not. This year the recording and PA is a bit simpler from a technical perspective with just the one band – a trio, an MC and a 7 poets performing.

Should be fun – I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

ISDN radio session

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I’ve just been providing ISDN radio interview services for Markettiers4DC.  Children’s writer and illustrator Alex T Smith was in the dVoiceBox booth where he was joined by Melanie Goodchild, spokesperson for toy manufacturer Chad Valley.

They were lined up for a dozen radio interviews to talk about new research commissioned by Chad Valley that looked at the time of peak creativity in your life – plus the things that make adults reluctant to read or play with their children.  Apparently peak imaginative creativity is at around age 4!  Also adults are often reluctant to play with children, or even read stories complete with silly voices, because they feel self conscious or worry that they aren’t “doing it right”.

It was an interesting, varied and enjoyable session – with the usual chops and changes – one radio station pulled out at the last minute, another station took the interview live on-air but the presenter sounded woefully under prepared, while others were well prepared, asked good questions and got great interaction with the guests.

This kind of ISDN  radio session often gives me a slight pang of nostalgia – in all my years of working as a radio presenter I did loads of ISDN interviews. Many times in the past I was like the presenters I heard in this session – checking levels, struggling with the weird echo effect you get on ISDN lines, explaining about the pre-recorded or live nature of the interview, asking the questions. Now I find it’s interesting to be at the other end of that process.

However, unlike when I was the radio interviewer, these days I certainly have much more of an appreciation of how hard it is for the interviewees: constantly answering the same questions in each interview while trying to make it sound like they’re saying it for the first time. Both Alex and Melanie did a great job.

New Mixing Console

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We’ve just taken delivery of a new mixing desk at dVoiceBox.  It’s not to replace our Soundcraft Ghost, which continues to do great service in the control room but is for our voice booth.  It’s a 16 Channel Allen and Health Mix Wizard 4 and we’ll be using it for self-op ISDN voiceover sessions in the booth. It will also be available for self-op recording sessions in the booth too.

In addition the new console will also be replacing our trusty but ancient Soundcraft Spirit Folio desk for dmusic PA duties or for event recording activities like the Love in Leamington poet and multi-performer event we recorded earlier this year.

There’s quite a lot to desks to choose from in the 12-16 channel mixer market and it’s fair to say that Allen and Heath aren’t the cheapest manufacturer for this size of desk. However what swung it for me was the superior build quality plus the overall spec for the WZ4 which includes on board effects.

In common with other Allen and Heath desks the MW4 features an individual circuit board dedicated to each channel and bolted to the main panel where others have one single circuit board for the whole desk – mounted parallel to the main panel.  I wanted a good quality desk that would be at home in the studio while rugged enough for live situations and the WZ4 seemed to fit the bill.

It’s installed in our booth and has already been successfully used for a couple of self op recording sessions. We’ve also road tested it with the dmusic PA at a recent Firedaze gig near Leamington. It proved to be easy to use with a clear board layout, long throw faders, plenty of gain on the channels, effective EQ, nice on-board reverb/fxs and enough auxes to feed rather more monitor mixes then we have monitors for!

Looks like it could be quite a dependable workhorse.

AT4033 Shockmount repair revelation

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What do you do when the elastic breaks on the shockmount of an AT4033 microphone?
That was question that formed in my mind this week when, at the end of a studio session, I discovered that the elastic in one of my AT shockmounts was rather “slack”. Closer inspection revealed that it had broken on one place and was worn and about to break in another.
I’ve used this shockmount for many years as it’s the one that came with my very first AT4033 – right back when I first started getting into voiceover work.
I quickly discovered on a variety of on-line forums that other AT users where quite rude about the AT shockmount and the elastic – but in all the years I’ve had mine (more than 15) it’s never broken before.
Which is why I didn’t know what to do.

The particular shock mount in question is the AT8441 that came with the original AT4033 (it’s got 4 “legs” that stick up and down) – the current mic is the AT4033a and the current shockmount is the AT8449 (which has a metal “O” rather than the “legs”) – it looks different overall but the elasticated middle part of the mechanism that holds the mic is the same.
The trouble is a new shock mount is more than £70.

So I wondered about a DIY approach. There’s loads of ideas on different forums about how you could go to the pharmacy and get some scrunci hair ties, or maybe you could get quite fine elasticated cord from a ship’s supplier’s, or the rubber bands out of certain vacuum cleaners. Others suggest buying some document binders and somehow using the elasticated cords that hold them closed.

Many, many intriguing ideas…. and I was entertaining at least some of them because I was scared of the price or a new shockmount – and all because the elastic on my current one was gone.

In the end I did what I probably should have done in the first place and went onto the Audio Technica website – in fact I’d done a search on-line using “How do I repair my AT mic shockmount?” and found just the page. Not only was there a sequence of photos showing me how to re-thread the elastic but it also linked to the page on their webstore where I could buy the elastic.

In the end I fixed my AT4033 shockmount for less than a tenner and they sent the parts within 2 days. It took some time researching on the internet to sort it but it was worth the effort.

One tip though – if you do have to do this yourself – make sure you’ve got scissors handy to trim the cord because it frays every time you push it through a hole in the mount. If you don’t trim it then you can’t get it through the next hole!

 
Chris Radley
dVoiceBox Studio

New look website

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The dVoiceBox studio has been in existence for a few years. As I’ve explained on the “about” page the studio specialises in spoken word projects. This is because the studio is ideal for this kind of work. I started off recording bands but the set up isn’t very good for bands and in Leamington there are loads of other studios that are far better set up for band recording.

I’ve been a voiceover artist for much longer than I’ve run my studio and I know from first hand experience that although all studios offer to record voiceovers some are rather better at it than others. Voice work is an extra service that other most other studios offer, in addition to their main work which is recording music.

At dVoiceBox we only do voiceover, vocalist and spoken word projects – voices are what we focus on.

I recently decided that the studio website needed to be updated – it had served pretty well but what had looked great a few years ago was starting to look tired. I also wanted to have a website that performed better in SEO which these days seems to mean using a platform like Word Press. In addition my analytics were showing that more and more people were searching on mobile devices – so I wanted a site that worked well for those people too.

I’ve recently worked with web designer Duncan Arrow on a project to set up a fans only website for the band Firedaze so he seemed the logical person to bring in on the project.  He’d recently created his own WP theme which we’d used on the Firedaze project now he was keen to hone it’s functionality further. I briefed him on the look of the site – which I wanted to echo my main Chris Radley Voice Over site – and so he created the structure and the look and I wrote the content.

It’s still work in progress – but these day’s all websites are – For example I’ve still got to upload some audio examples of clients’ work and, up until just now, I still needed to write a first post for this blog. So now I’ve got that box ticked.

I hope to write regularly here. I’d found on my Voice Over blog that I was sometimes getting into the more technical aspects of the best mics to use and reviewing new equipment. A studio blog seems a more logical place for that kind of content.

Plus I hope to add some info and advice to help people starting out in the world of Voiceover.

 

Chris Radley
dVoiceBox