BBC radiophonic Workshop: Tape Loops & Tape Replay Setups

Elizabeth Parker and Paddy Kingsland from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1979 demonstrate the use of tape loops and tape-replay setups. We hear Elizabeth Parker’s “bubble music” and Paddy Kingsland on the electric guitar with twin Studer tape recorders.

This excerpt is from the BBC documentary The New Sound of Music produced in 1979.

Tape Loops BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Paddy Kingsland demonstrates twin Studer recorders in a delay-replay setup that some might refer to as “Frippertronics’ – named after Robert Fripp I believe. Fripp may have used twin Revox machines in a similar way for some of his compositions. It is an interesting setup, possibly described in some Workshop writings from the 1960s.

BBC radiophonic workshop The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, one of the sound effects units of the BBC,
was created in 1958 to produce effects and new music for radio.

It was closed in March 1998, although much of its  traditional work had already been outsourced by 1995.

The original Radiophonic Workshop was  based in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios
in Delaware Road, London.

 

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We have more on the Radiophonic workshop elsewhere in this blog –
e.g.
free-thinking-bbc-radiophonic-workshop/

doctor-who-how-norfolk-man-created-dalek-and-tardis-sounds/

 

 

The techniques initially used by the Radiophonic Workshop were closely related to those used in musique concrète; new sounds for programs were created by using recordings of everyday sounds such as voices, bells or gravel as raw material for “radiophonic” manipulations. In these manipulations, audio tape could be played back at different speeds (altering a sound’s pitch), reversed, cut and joined, or processed using reverb or equalisation. The most famous of the Workshop’s creations using ‘radiophonic’ techniques include the Doctor Who theme music, which Delia Derbyshire created using a plucked string, 12 oscillators and a lot of tape manipulation; and the sound of the TARDIS (the Doctor’s time machine) materialising and dematerialising, which was created by Brian Hodgson running his keys along the rusty bass strings of a broken piano, with the recording slowed down to make an even lower sound.

Much of the equipment used by the Workshop in the earlier years of its operation in the late 1950s was semi-professional and was passed down from other departments, though two giant professional tape-recorders (which appeared to lose all sound above 10 kHz) made an early centrepiece. Reverberation was obtained using an echo chamber, a basement room with bare painted walls empty except for loudspeakers and microphones. Due to the considerable technical challenges faced by the Workshop and BBC traditions, staff initially worked in pairs with one person assigned to the technical aspects of the work and the other to the artistic direction.
[source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Radiophonic_Workshop]

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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.

The SOUND OF CAPITAL

THE SOUND OF CAPITAL

BBC new Drama Capital is edited by an ex-colleague of mine Philip Kloss and the Dialogue editor is by co-incidence the man who designed our Sound Effect Software we use here at LSFM.
This recent article is a fascinating insight into some of the sound post challenges.

To create an authentic soundscape for BBC drama Capital, dubbing mixer Howard Bargroff took a trip to the part of south London in which it is set,
writes George Bevir [from an article first published in Broadcast Online]

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CREDITS

TX 9pm, Wednesdays, from 24 November, BBC1
Length 3 x 60 minutes
Dubbing mixer/ FX editor Howard Bargroff
Foley editor Stuart Bagshaw
Dialogue editor Peter Gates (two episodes); Michele Woods (one episode)
ADR supervisor Kallis Shamaris
FX editor Mike Wabro (one episode)
Picture post Technicolor
Director Euros Lyn
Writer John Lanchester

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Lesley Sharp (Mary)

Stepping out of the studio to capture authentic audio is not always without peril, no matter how inconspicuous the individual or discreet the recording device. A few years ago, dubbing mixer Howard Bargroff needed some crowd noise for a rap album he was working on but a trip to a pub at closing time to record the sound of a pack of people nearly resulted in him being “lynched” by the suspicious boozers.

“You have to be careful you don’t look like a psychopath, but people can still be suspicious,” he says.

Fortunately for Bargroff, his trip to Clapham to capture the sounds of south London for BBC drama Capital passed by with little more than a few sideways glances.

The three-parter, which is based on John Lanchester’s novel, is a portrait of a road in Clapham that is transformed by rising property prices and then rocked by an anonymous hate campaign. Bargroff ’s brief was to give London a presence so that the city becomes a character in its own right and “leaks” in to every scene.

 

“It’s a contemporary piece about the gentrification of London, so I went to south London and made a bunch of recordings,” says Bargroff. “As I moved around Clapham, I saw microcosms of the plot – people interacting with builders, posh mums coming out of buildings, and so on. It was as though the book was coming alive and I was recording it.”

Bargroff says his recordings, made using a Zoom H5, became the “sonic backbone” of the series, comprising around 50% of the background sound.

“We used lots of bridging sounds, such as sirens, between cuts. At first I thought the recordings were a luxury, but they soon became a necessity; those recordings of Clapham High Street, of a park, of close and distant traffic, planes passing overhead and sirens became themes throughout the episodes. It helped to create the feeling that in London you are never more than a few streets away from a busy high street.”

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Exiting London
Bargroff, who worked at De Lane Lea, Future Post, Videosonics and Pepper before going freelance, waved goodbye to the city a couple of years ago when he moved from Battery Studios in Willesden to a studio attached to his home in Woburn Sands. Since then, through his company Sonorous, he has mixed both series of Broadchurch (ITV) and From There To Here (BBC1) from home, and as a freelancer completed the pre-mix for Fortitude (Sky Atlantic) and Luther (BBC1) in his home studio.

Bargroff ’s standard approach for an hour of drama is to spend three days premixing at home, followed by two client-attended days at a dry-hire facility in London. That means he needs to keep his home set-up as up-to-date as possible so that it is compatible with other facilities (see box) and he can quickly pick up where he left off. For Capital, he completed the final mix with director Euros Lyn at the “excellent” Hackenbacker, which also provided the ADR and Foley.

 

“Dru Masters created a fantastic score and delivered it quite early so I had time to weave it and the music treatments in. That meant when I turned up with Euros at Hackenbacker on the first day, we could play the whole episode, so we had quite a lot of review time. I like the three-day premix because it means you can turn up with something cohesive. I try to protect that 3:2 approach; most jobs fit that template and clients are usually happy to accommodate it.”

CAPITAL KEY KIT

Bargroff’s home studio is equipped with Avid Pro Tools HDX2, an Icon D-Command 16-fader desk and PMC twotwo active monitors. Plug-ins are “industry standard”, including Audio Ease Altiverb, Waves WNS, iZotope RX, ReVibe and Speakerphone.

Icon-D-Command-16-fader-des_360

Projects are transferred between facilities using portable drives, with Cronosynch software to synchronise work completed at home with a transfer drive and a local drive in a dry-hire facility. “I keep the transfer drive synched to both ends so at any point during the job I have a mirror of the media in two locations, which is great for back-up. At the end of the job, everything is backed up to a Raid system for archiving.”

Bargroff also uses the Soundminer librarian program for managing his library of work. “It can scan multiple terabytes in a few hours and give you complete breakdown, or you can do a keyword search. All my libraries are well organised, but without that software I wouldn’t be able to find a thing.”

(The copyright to this content lies with Broadcast Online and is reproduced here under educational licence)
Original article is here http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/techfacils/capital-bbc1/5097498.article

Guest Lecture – Danny Roberts 2! – A&R Decca Records

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Blog post by L2 Audio Production student James Woodliffe.

This week Danny Roberts gave a talk to myself and my course peers about his career, day to day roles and the music industry from the perspective of a record label.

Danny is an A&R representative for Decca Records who are a subsidiary of Universal records. He discussed about the two types of A&R, artists past and present, the impact of major labels and his connection with them. It was interesting to hear Danny talk openly about his day to day runnings with the label he works for and his colleagues. It was also interesting to hear his opinion of major/indie record labels from an inside point of view and it was refreshing to hear a talk from an A&R representative who clearly has a love for music. I felt that Danny really understood his business and although money is a crucial factor it isn’t the be all and end all of his job.

Personally, I found his talk very interesting and it confirmed some of my thoughts about the music industry previously to the lecture. It also taught me new concepts and ideas that are currently present within the industry, such as how he sees potential within an artist and what stages he goes through before signing them. Overall it was very enjoyable.

Addendum:
Danny’s recent signing Aurora has just been selected as the artist for the John Lewis TV ad campaign 2015

Guest Lecture – Neil Collymore – Dubbing Mixer

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Blog post by level 2 Audio Production student Daniel Marnie.
Photograph by Chris Hainstock.

My fellow Audio Production students and I, recently received a guest lecture from BAFTA and RTS nominated Dubbing Mixer and Sound Designer Neil Collymore. Neil’s credits include the critically acclaimed TV series Spooks, as well as Hustle, Law & Order UK, and the films Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Billy Elliot, and Chicken Run.

During his lecture Neil talked us through his workflow when beginning a project, using his own Pro Tools sessions from an episode of Spooks and a promo for the E4 TV channel. As he worked though the project file he would outline the sort of state a project might turn up in, and showed how he’d get the best out any situation. He was at all times open to questions, of which there were several!

He spoke at some length about some of the restrictions TV faces compared to film; discussing how the new loudness format (R128) provides a little more technical freedom over its predecessor (PPM6). It is hoped that this new format could help combat the high audio levels that companies request in their ads in order to stand out from the competition. Neil also stressed that the projects he works on are not his, and that the Director always has the final say in any decision.

Neil gave us a fascinating insight into his work, and closed the lecture off with an excellent Q&A session in which we learned about his time as a freelancer, his working preferences and workflow, as well as the kinds of costs involved with sound work.

Guest Lecture – Lol Hammond – Music Supervisor

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Lol Hammond visited Lincoln to talk to 3rd year Audio Production students about his role at Vertigo Films as a Music Supervisor. In this highly entertaining talk, Lol drew on his experiences on working on films such as Bronson, Monsters and It’s All Gone Pete Tong to give a fascinating insight into how he works with film directors, editors and composers in order to create a soundtrack to help bring a film to life.

He explained to students how the choice of songs and score can be critical to the success of a film, particularly when trying to create the right feel/vibe or drive the narrative along. Mediation and translation of ideas between the director and composer is a crucial aspect of Lol’s role, as is keeping up with day-to-day administrative tasks and negotiating fees with artists, publishers and record companies.

This was a hugely enjoyable and informative talk, which gave students a much clearer understanding of the role of the Music Supervisor.

Adrian Bell – Feature Film and TV sound recordist

ADRIAN BELL

We get all the best visitors to Lincoln School of Film and Media.

This is Adrian Bell, a Film and TV recordist, just back from filming the new DaVinci Code film ‘Inferno’ directed by Ron Howard.
Check out his CV at www.adrianbell.net  He won a BAFTA for best sound in 2014 for Dancing on the Edge
adrian bell

He’s in town to be interviewed by BBC Radio Lincs tomorrow about the feature film ‘Everest’ he worked on earlier in 2014 Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, and yes I tool the oportunity of giving him a tour and collared him to come back and talk to students some time soon. He’s on BBC Lincolnshire sometime after 11.00am tomorrow

Adrian lives in London but is originally from Lincolnshire. He has a wealth of experience and is keen to come and contribute to the Audio Production course content if he can.

here’s a short photo slideshow