US Intern, Neal Stein

During the month of February we have the pleasure of Neal Stein’s company. Neal is a student of audio and music at Minnesota State University, Moorhead and is with us to complete his internship credit as is required by his course. Neal’s duties include mentoring student projects, assistance during seminars and workshops along with the transfer of skills and knowledge.

Neal’s specialism is music production after spending time playing guitar in rock and metal bands – his chief interest is tracking. He says: ‘My main working philosophy revolves around getting a good sound at the source. I also believe in the importance of maintaining a good atmosphere for musicians to stay inspired while tracking. The studio can freak out even seasoned performers since things can sound so different compared to playing on a stage’. Neal has also recorded jazz projects and plays 5 string banjo in a folk group.

Neal seems to be enjoying the relative warmth of 0˚C Lincoln after the recent -25˚C of Fargo. Hopefully it will be a lot warmer when he welcomes the arrival of a group level 3 Audio Production students to Moorhead in March.

You can hear Neal’s work here: Soundcloud.

Working With Binaural: Bringer

This post was submitted by level 3 Audio Production student Matt North.

For the first of two audio projects required on the 3rd year of Audio Production, Luke Pickering and I decided to experiment with binaural audio.  What started out as an idea of producing a 5.1 surround sound mix for an animation rapidly developed into writing and producing our own short horror film, which focussed on the binaural soundtrack to induce fear upon the audience.

The main premise for our film is completely unique and takes the form of three short films, each representative of the three character’s first-person perspectives.  We wrote a script based on this idea so that in order to fully understand the entire storyline of the film, all three films need to be viewed at once.  The films are to be exhibited across three screens at the Degree Show, allowing three audience members to experience a character’s involvement in the film and then conversing with the other audience members afterwards to understand what happened in their film.

Luke was aware of an abandoned RAF building on the outskirts of Lincoln, which we visited in an attempt to draw up ideas for the storyline of our film.  The place itself was extremely desolate and had a strong sense of isolation from the city; in other words, it was very creepy.

With our experience in radio drama script writing from the 2nd year, we wrote a script based upon the graffiti within the building and created the fictional storyline of three art fanatics searching for the early work of a popular graffiti artist, Thomas F. Bringer.  We wanted to come up with an original and non-clichéd idea and felt that that we could portray the feeling of horror by manipulating the binaural soundtrack.

Following the guidance of such website as, a blog on binaural audio, we invested £190 into some in-ear binaural microphones from the USA.  On location, we set our actors up with a digital camera gaffa taped to a sports headband around their head and placed the binaural mics into their ears.  The mics were extremely sensitive and we had to do some rigorous testing to ensure that we would record the best possible signal and not have the gain set too high.

For such scenes as Dan’s attack, we really wanted to play upon the binaural aspect and thought of many ways in which we could inject both realism and fear into the soundtrack.  Upon reflection, the sound of the tape being wrapped around Dan’s head really is horrifying.  We had no problems with the audio upon location until we reviewed that particular scene, when we realised that the gain was incorrectly set to accommodate the screaming and this resulted in heavy clipping.  We both decided that despite it sounding terrible, it actually added to the sense of horror we were trying to convey.

We recorded some binaural Foley on location, such as the coughing up of blood in Dan’s film and also some bangs from the main room that are evident in Ed’s and placed them within the original recorded audio.  Due to them being on location, we didn’t have to worry about matching the reverbs to the room and they slotted into the soundtrack smoothly.  As we wanted everything the audience heard in the film to be binaural, we completed some post-production Foley with the binaural mics as well.  These were then manipulated to add to the sound of Dan’s attack and death, as well as Lisa’s panic attack to give off an extra sense of realism.

After the soundtrack was ready we researched into EQ mapping, which we discovered was necessary to add an extra realism to the films.  This involved playing white noise in the Sound Theatre into the binaural microphones and then using O-Zone’s EQ matching plug-in to read the frequency response of the mics.  This was then inverted to bring the frequency spectrum to a flat level, therefore replicating human hearing as much as possible.  This was essential learning in the use of binaural.

Whilst the majority of binaural experimentation has been through the use of dummy-heads, we attempted with BRINGER to create a realistic and professional binaural soundtrack on a small budget using in-ear binaural mics.  This process has ultimately taught us a lot about recording binaurally and I would recommend anyone to attempt and experiment with the advantages that binaural can bring to a production.

Audio Production Is For Girls!

Picture – three of the seven young women studying Audio Production; Alex, Lilly and Galani.

BA (Hons) Audio Production is in its third year, meaning we now have students at all three levels. Of these, we have a small but growing number of young women: three at level two (of twenty seven students) and four at level one (of thirty one students). However, we still have relatively few female applicants. I talked to Jasia, Galani and Alex to find out why, in a field that has traditionally attracted many more males than females, they were compelled to buck the trend and study Audio Production.

Galani: “I knew I wanted to be in a sound-related job from being in secondary school, when I first picked up guitar lessons. I had this youthful perception of being a “rockstar” musician. However, as I got older, my interest grew into the technical aspects of production. I started to research more into sound engineering and knew from then on that this is what I wanted to do for my career. When I came to university, I was pleased that the course opened up new areas such as film, television and radio too, and I fell in love with sound for visual media!”

Alex: “I think girls get put off of doing audio because of the theoretical and technological side of sound and the practices that come with it – they assume it’s a subject for boys. But for me that is the interesting part, learning the ins and outs of everything. Sound as a whole interests me and is something I want to keep learning about and make into my career.”

Jasia: “From an early age I have listened to radio and there is still a lack of women presenters which has driven me to my ambition of becoming a radio presenter. Audio Production is a great course to widen knowledge and gain experience for future jobs in the industry.”

As the women here verify, there are many aspects to audio production and the reasons for choosing to study on the course are as wide-ranging. Audio Production has its technical aspects, of course. However, there is no reason for it to suffer from the same challenges of gender stereotyping as subjects like engineering, chemistry and computer science despite the very unhelpful images of bikini-clad models holding synthesizers that still appear in today’s music technology magazines.

The challenge then is ours: to find ways to communicate to female applicants that this is not a ‘boys with toys’ course but a rich and creative learning environment involving the many aspects of audio production. I hope this blog post goes some way towards that.

Link – Julie Allinson from the University of York describes her gender stereotype work at University of Lincoln’s DevXS