Guest Lecture – Lucy Johnstone – Sound Editor

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Blog post by L3 AP student Sam Jenkins.

Lucy Johnstone graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2008 with a degree in Classical Music. She started as a runner at Envy Post Production and progressed to become Audio Assistant Manager. After a few years in the machine room, Lucy was promoted to Tracklayer, whilst also running voice-over sessions and providing fully mixed Sound Design for television.

Lucy’s presentation was targeted towards Post Production Sound for Factual TV. She began the talk by explicitly informing us that the presentation we were about to observe was focused on what had worked for Lucy personally, conveying her own experiences and practice in the industry. She stated that this could be completely different to other specialists within the same profession.

Lucy focused on the main Post-Production Sound categories of dialogue (and voice-overs), atmos and Foley+SFX. When overseeing a VO session, she suggested that 30% of work is what you know, but 70% is how you are. This meant that although the engineer could be an expert with Pro Tools and their DAW, those who have greater personal skills will be those who are hired. This is something I am aiming to improve when working professionally on set. I hope to improve my personal, professional and communication skills while working with the client, giving me greater experience for the real world.

When dealing with atmos and SFX, especially when on a tight timescale, Lucy suggested a couple of tips to help speed up our process. The first is acknowledging that we do not have time to add every single sound effect, so prioritize the most important. Also, there may not be time to Foley everything, if at all, so either invest or go out and record sound effects, such as footsteps and create a library. Secondly, if we do use our own libraries, try to add variation: do not use the same two footsteps throughout, or 10 seconds of the same crowd noise. Ask the offline editor for handles but use effects such as time stretch or pitch shift to alter the sounds slightly, which stops the sound becoming repetitive and predictable. And ALWAYS keep a copy of the original tracks underneath, in case the editor wants to use them or something goes wrong. It will be very useful to use this method of prioritisation when working on Cognition.

Finally, Lucy offered some real world job advice with regards to this industry. Firstly, she stated that work experience is essential and will help a long way to persuading a company to employ you. Secondly, within this role expect to be making drinks on a low wage as a runner for a while, getting your foot in the door with a company – just because we have a degree does not mean we should just land a high-end job, we still have to work for it! Next, that an in-house role would likely be the best route for graduates, as freelance work requires knowing enough, having enough (good) credits, and knowing enough people – contacts. This brought the presentation succinctly to an end, where Lucy suggested using Twitter, LinkedIn and emails to network on a 1-to-1 basis, if approaching a large group of people and introducing yourself is not one of your strengths.

I was very impressed with the presentation and learned most about just how different the real world is, compared to university work. For example, being given only one day to complete a Factual TV soundtrack, ensuring you network with enough people to build up contacts, and the importance of speed and competence once you have a job. I also picked up useful skills such as prioritizing jobs (dialogue/foley/sfx/atmos) and the importance of personal, communication skills.

Finally, I am pleased that guest lecturers, such as Lucy, are working in the real world right now, as they give us much advice and direction, and tell us how it is right now, rather than what it was like ‘in their day’.

Springwatching

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Audio Production students Rob Wynne and Dan Marnie spent the day with the Springwatch crew at the invitation of University of Lincoln Visiting Professor Chris Packham for a behind the scenes look at one of the BBC’s most popular programmes.

Students from the School of Film and Media watched the masses of activity around the build-up to the live broadcast and were shown around the site and technical facilities by Media Production graduate Jack Johnston who edits the show.

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Earlier in the year Rob and Dan along with fellow Audio Production student Sam Jenkins recorded Chris Packham’s voice-over in the University’s sound theatre for the Woodland Trust’s tree charter animation.

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Graduate Stories – Alistair Pritchard

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Blog post by 2014 Alumnus Alistair Pritchard.

Once I left University I went straight out on tour with Darlia & Dolomite Minor as Stage Manage/Guitar Tech. During that time the management company was able to put me out with Noel Gallagher on a couple of shows shadowing their techs who got me involved on a few roles during the shows.

Dolomite Minor then went on tour with support shows to Eagles Of Death Metal, the Tour Manager asked if I wanted to join the crew as Drum Tech, I ended up doing some bass as well and went from there. We were out for 2 months across Europe, it’s been my favourite tour to date. Looking after Josh Homme for the shows was a great experience and the money wasn’t bad either! They didn’t ask me to return to the crew for the US run stating that it was cheaper to replace the previous Production Manager with a US based member which is understandable. It’s becoming much harder than ever before for UK roadies to work in the US.

In-between tours I’ve been working for a construction firm as a labourer whilst doing training for a site foreman job role in domestic housing. I turned down a full-time position though as I love touring and working on the road. The day after I returned from the EODM tour I was offered a job with Kiko Bun (BBC Radio 1xtra artist) and have been busy working for a few other artists (Lapsley, Rat Boy, Rejjie Snow, Andy Gangadeen of Chase & Status, Nothing But Thieves).

Early in 2016 I went back to Rock n Roll with Highly Suspect on a UK arena tour which was fun. Shortly after I had my first dry spell of the industry where label (XL Recordings) cut the budget of a tech on Lapsley’s US run even after my visa was approved, frustratingly.

The Summer is looking busy as I’m out covering for a friend who works for UB40 and he’s asked if I can do Fun Lovin Criminals which is going to be awesome. Kiko Bun is also picking back up thankfully. I was put forward for Busted as Guitar Tech but unfortunately did not get the gig (My older/wiser friend got one of the positions!).

I’ve also started a band of my own, we’re a Dark Rock, Gothic influenced act going by the name of The Devil In Faust. My old Audio Production mucker Ben Perrett plays bass and a childhood friend of mine is on drums. We just completed a short UK run of shows and flew to Denmark in May to record our next EP. We’re still independent and are just enjoying making art at this moment in time. I’d love to tour more with the band but funding is an issue right now.

Guest Lecture – Mark Hills – Sound Engineer

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Blog post by L3 Audio Production students Jack Webber.

This week we were fortunate enough to receive a guest Lecture from Mark Hills, a Lincoln University Media Production Graduate and sound engineer in a highly reputable audio post-production house in Soho, London called Soho Square Studios. Soho Square studios are a Dolby approved studio and focus on audio post production for Advertisement, animations, feature films, and voice recordings for games.

Mark began the lecture talking a bit about his background and how he got to where he is now. He explained how similarly to most sound designers he fell in love with electronic music at an early age. He took media at A-Levels and then became a Lincoln University Media Production Undergraduate in 2007.
I won’t go too much in to detail about his background as he has personally blogged about it, this can be found here.

Mark then talked about the challenges of getting into this industry and working in a studio like Soho Square Studios. He explained the importance of ‘running’ and how although we have (will have) a degree, we will still be expected to start from the bottom as runners. He explained how it’s better to go for a running job at a smaller studio with around 10-15 people, as the opportunity to grow, learn and promotion is higher. Whereas the larger companies, you could find yourself being a runner for many years and not get anywhere.

He also gave us some advice for our CVs. He said that the studio aren’t always that interested in how many student films you’ve worked on, what they want to know is, if you have a degree; and have some real work experience. What he meant by that is customer focused work experience e.g. working in a pub. The studio likes this as it shows you can deal with, and work well with clients.

The Lecture gave a great insight to what it’s like working in an industry we are all passionate about, but also gave us all a bit of a reality check in regards to the amount of work it takes to get to his position. This was a slightly different approach than most guest lectures give, however I felt like it was good for us to get a bit of a reality check to push us more to where we want to go.

The day after this lecture myself and another AP student, Matt Jones went to London and visited Soho Square Studios to interview Mark and his manager Tom Mackewn for research in our R&D case study module. We arrived at the Studio and saw Mark in action finishing up a session, where we were quite impressed by the speed of his Pro tools skills. He then gave us a tour of some of the studio rooms and showed us some of his previous work.

When we interviewed Mark, we asked questions about his role as sound engineer and what he does day-to-day etc. I was interested to find out how the working hours were 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, as most creative industries involve working unsociable hours. He told us that they don’t have ‘official lunch breaks’ and work around their daily schedules to fit in lunch, and also about some of the perks of the job – he said how he loved being able to do a hobby for a job and that you get to work with some amazing high status people.

Guest Lecture – Dan Shepherd – Radio Producer

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Blog post by L3 Audio Production student Gareth Bailey.

Dan Shepherd is primarily a radio producer and provider of training and teaching for people working in radio. He runs Far Shoreline Productions.

This guest lecture had Dan showing us examples of some of his more notable radio features, and giving us some insight into the production of these.

The first was an audio ‘feature documentary’ of an Australian train journey, recorded on numerous tapes in the pre-digital era for the BBC. He made the point that certain sounds on the journey were evocative, and capturing these enables the producer to build the world of the experience for the listeners…Interviews with train passengers both tell a story and evoke a sense of place, which is critical to documentary of this type, as well as a sense of the journey itself. This is so important that some of the sounds used were taken from the library at the expense of authenticity, as it wasn’t always possible to collect the audio to a sufficient standard for later use.

This sense of place is particularly relevant to our film project this term as we’ve been consciously trying to collect as much ‘authentic’ foley sound from our sets, but these have often been unusable due to external factors like traffic noise necessitating their recreation which, in turn, has sometimes led to a better ‘fit’ with the picture than the authentic sound would have achieved. This is different from radio, where sound is all, but the idea of communicating a sense of place is similar.

For Dan, the key differentiating factor with features is their enabling of depth and scope of approach. A ‘good feature will always be greater than the sum of its parts’ – a travelogue becomes more than that by telling a story and capturing the experience of others. Where news and current affairs programs condense data, feature documentaries allow the exploration of different dimensions of creativity around an idea.

Dan’s discussion of a second program on ‘cut-ups’, created for Radio 4, touched upon the importance of making your feature for a specific audience. This particular show featured a presenter working in an explanatory role as the Radio 4 audience were likely being introduced to the idea of the mash-up for the first time. For Dan, the question became how to make the subject relevant and interesting for a Radio 4 audience and this along with the prescribed format conventions when working for the BBC narrowed the focus of the show as it was edited.

Guest Lecture – Suddi Raval – Game Sound

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Blog post by L3 Audio Production student Barney Oram

Today we were lucky enough to hear from Suddi Raval, a legendary acid house producer and a game sound designer/composer, working currently as the audio manager at the Warner Bros. game studio, TT games (responsible largely for the ever popular LEGO games).

Audio manager is essentially the highest audio position in the games industry – the audio manager works with the upper echelons of the game development studio to create a fully cohesive and well delivered soundtrack. The audio manager is involved with both creating audio for the project (Suddi talked about how he generally likes to work in VO, both recording voiceover for the project and using audio content from an existing IP, usually a film), as well as managing the sound designers that the studio employ. Suddi mentioned the studio employ 7 full time sound designers, as well as up to 2 more on contracts. This is a comparatively large number of designers – even considering TT Fusion is technically a AAA studio, with many AAA titles having 2-5 sound designers at most. Suddi did however mention that the number rises all the time.

I was so engaged with what Suddi was saying (and had a million questions popping into my head) I didn’t make any notes on the actual content of the lecture, so this post is mainly key points. However, I found myself nodding in agreement and hearing so much affirmation in what Suddi was saying in relation to my own work and journey into the industry. I’d contacted Suddi about a month before the lecture, and had asked him a few questions and sent him my showreel. He very generously called me out by name and commented on my work, offering me feedback and advice as well as answering a lot of questions that I posed to him after the talk.

There were a few things Suddi mentioned that I want to draw attention to – as they relate in many ways to my project.

He spoke about FMOD, Wwise, and some of the games engines i’d demonstrated ability in on my reel: he talked about how TT use their own proprietary sound engine for implementation, that they generally taught junior sound designers as they join the organisation. He said however, that learning middleware like FMOD and Wwise was important, both for understanding the implementation process and to show that you’ve taken the time to actually learn something for your work. This is helpful and important for me, as I plan to use FMOD to implement my sounds into the game for my project. As I already have some experience using it independently, spending time using it in a game engine would be hugely beneficial.

I also asked him about junior sound designer positions, and the fact they are rarely advertised. I also later asked about the best route into in-house work, to which his response covers both questions – essentially, through work experience. Suddi said that a number of the people working at TT now came in through work experience: they’d proved themselves to be committed and easy to work with during the few weeks that they’d work at the studio, and they’d been asked to join the team full time. I think that work experience is something I should really look into further.

I’ll probably remember a lot of other things that stood out to me from the lecture, but i’ll leave this post at that. A fantastic opportunity to speak personally with someone high up in the audio world of the games industry, I learned a lot and found much of my ideas and preparations confirmed as being on the right track.

Clem Loves….. Radio

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Blog post by L2 AP student Clementine Cousins.

On Monday 11th January, along with some of my fellow students, I went on a trip to visit and look around Absolute Radio, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. As soon as we made our way off of the coach, we walked over to Absolute Radio. We were greeted in reception and were shown upstairs to a room for a talk with Chris, Eloise and Kevin. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about how they first started out in the industry and the different job roles they had before coming to Absolute Radio.

Afterwards, we were split into two groups and given a tour around the building. It was amazing seeing all of the studios. We firstly looked around the Absolute and Planet Rock studios, and then the Magic studios followed by the Kiss studios.

Next we walked over to BBC Broadcasting House where we were greeted in reception and shown to a room, with a lovely view, to have a listen and a chat with Rhys Hughes. Afterwards we were then shown around the BBC Radio 1 studios and saw Scott Mills and Chris Stark presenting live, which was an amazing and memorable experience. We were then shown around the BBC Radio 1Xtra studios.

I thoroughly enjoyed every second of looking around; I learnt lots of valuable information that will help me whilst at University and for my future career.

Guest Lecture – Katia Isakoff 2015

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Blog post by level 3 Audio Production student Charlotte Mellor.

Katia Isakoff is a singer, songwriter, music producer (Add N To (X) for Mute Records), mixer (John Foxx) and sound designer who came to talk to us mainly about her new and upcoming project ‘Women Produce Music’. Although WPM is Katia’s latest project, she’s also worked on a huge scale of other things such as the co-founding of the West London studio UNIT20 with producer Steve D’Agostino in the mid-90s, lending vocals to composer and musician Barry Adamson, and doing various guitar performances which have featured in a Stephen Spielberg TV series. She also co-authored a conference paper with Richard Burgess (Women in Music Production: Education, Representation and Practice) delivered at the ARP conference.

Katia began the lecture by introducing women produce music as this was her main topic of conversation. Women Produce Music, although possibly misleading by name, isn’t a feminist works only project. Katia stated quite early on in her lecture that a high percentage of producers involved with the project are men, and over 50% of the WPM Twitter followers are in fact male too. Katia continued to explain how WPM involves academia as well as the industry, and the project aims to provide the support for music producers.

To establish WPM Katia talked about how they presented findings gathered from a ‘women as music producers’ research project, to various organisations around the UK. She also talked about the importance of building a social media presence before the launch of WPM to initially spark and establish interest from female and male music producers, and anyone else interested in music – the main platforms being Twitter and Facebook.

Katia spoke a bit about the state of the media and its cultural attitudes to female music producers in the music industry, and how the media tend to raise questions such as “so what’s it like to be a woman in such a male dominated industry?”. She also talked about how the media tended to focus on asking women’s opinions on the inequality of the industry, rather than focus on their talents – the main reasons why they’re at these panels etc in the first place. So she made it clear in the lecture that she’s happy to get controversial about those issues when raised.

On a personal level I found this lecture to be very inspiring due to the fact that Katia’s achieved so much in so many different parts of the industry. She comes across as a very strong and determined female, which is something I personally love to see and hear about, given that a lot of the industry is very male dominated. Also, the fact that she’s been involved in such a vast variety of projects over her career gives me confidence that possibilities within the industry don’t feel so limited.

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