In for the kill
Up close and personal with the Killing Eve sound crew
Live depends on us “It’s the most reliable and easy to use console on the market. And it sounds great!” Horst Hartmann - Monitor Engineer, P!NK
Perfecting The Art of Live Sound #43032 - PM Horst Hartmann strip ad.indd 1
P3 JULY/AUGUST 2019 www.psneurope.com • Twitter.com/PSNEurope • Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope • Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble email@example.com • +44 (0)203 871 7371 Staff Writer: Fiona Hope McDowall firstname.lastname@example.org • +44 (0)798 3168221
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t feels like an eternity since I last sat down to write one of these, and now I find myself writing two on the same day (you’ll find another inside the accompanying PSNLive). As is custom for PSNEurope at this time of year, our July and August issues are bound together to make a bumper, expanded edition. So, if it feels like it’s been a while since you last picked up a copy of the mag, well, that’s why. In producing this July/August special, we’ve been burrowing into every nook and cranny of the industry to bring you a comprehensive update on what’s been happening throughout the business over the past two months. From the latest tech trends affecting theatre sound and the most high tech audio installations, through to the biggest challenges facing the evergrowing festival sector and the increasing production values in broadcast sound. As you’ll see on p6, one of the most enlightening (and concerning) conversations I’ve had over the last couple of months was with UK Music CEO Michael Dugher who, in updating us on the status of the UK’s live music industry, highlighted the stark contrast that continues to exist between the live music
business as a whole and the grassroots circuit. While the country’s festivals and large scale gigs contribute around £1 billion to the economy every year, attracting music tourists from across the globe, the number of grassroots venues has dropped by around 35 per cent over the past 10 years. A worrying sign for all, as without those small spaces, the festivals and tours that pass through this country and provide such lucrative opportunities for much of the pro audio community will simply cease to exist. Elsewhere, as you’ll have gleaned from our cover this month, we have gained some equally fascinating insights into the rapidly accelerating complexities of TV sound. I was fortunate enough to speak with four of the key members of the sound crew on the brilliant BBC series Killing Eve about their working processes on the show, as well as how TV productions on the whole are beginning to resemble those of high budget Hollywood blockbusters. For now, normal order resumes and work begins on our September issue, in which we’ll bring you an exclusive interview on Focsurite’s high profile ADAM Audio acquisition (news of the deal broke as we were going to press). See you next month. n
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
the dialogue noise suppressor that anyone can use CINEMA AUDIO SOCIETY
location studio live
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In this issue... People P6
Michael Dugher The UK Music CEO updates us on the current state of the nation’s live music sector
P23 The future of live sound We hear from some of the brightest young audio professionals about their experiences in live sound and the challenges they face
P13 IMMERSIVE THEATRE AN IN-DEPTH REPORT ON THE EVOLUTION OF SOUND ON STAGE
Report P27 Roskilde 2019 An in-depth look at the unique relationship between the iconic Danish festival and America’s Meyer Sound P31 AIF Paul Reed, head of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) tells us about the UK’s indie events market
Interviews P46 Nina Hartstone The Oscar-winning sound production editor tells us about her career to date and her experience working on Bohemian Rhapsody
P33 KILLING EVE WE HEAR FROM THE SOUND CREW BEHIND THE HIT TV SERIES
P54 Julia Shapiro The US artist tells us about producing for the first time on her debut solo album Perfect Version
P52 5G UPDATE KEVIN HILTON ON THE IMPACT OF 5G ON THE AUDIO INDUSTRY
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'Things are on the up and up' Since taking over as CEO of UK Music in 2017, Michael Dugher has been tirelessly campaigning for better protection of the country’s grassroot music venues and banging the drum for the huge contribution live music makes to the UK economy. Daniel Gumble paid him a visit at UK Music's London HQ for an update on its progress in 2019…
t’s been a little over two years since former Labour MP Michael Dugher took the helm of music industry trade association UK Music, and approximately 12 months since PSNEurope sat down with him to mull over the state of the nation’s live music sector. From the moment he was appointed CEO, taking over from the outgoing Jo Dipple (now SVP public affairs at Live Nation Entertainment), his mission statement was clear: to protect and nurture grassroots music venues up and down the country, and to ensure that the UK’s thriving live music sector continues to flourish. Key to succeeding on this front is his ability to communicate the message that, while the UK’s live music business is booming, its grassroots venues have been taking a walloping for the past decade. And if serious measures aren’t taken to protect them, the ripple effect could destroy the excellent work being done across the sector as a whole. To contextualise the stark contrast between the grassroots scene and the rest of the live music market, let’s take a look at some enlightening figures. A 2017 UK Music report found that live music contributes around £1 billion in GVA to the UK economy, generates exports of £80 million and employs 28,659 people. On top of that, live music GVA has grown by 50 per cent since 2012, while three of the top four most popular music arenas in the world are in the UK. However, it also revealed that 35 per cent of the UK’s grassroots venues have closed during the past decade, in most cases due to severe hikes in business rates (the 2017 revaluation has
amounted to a 31 per cent increase in payable business rates at grassroots music venues with rateable values growing by 25 per cent). Another key factor in the plight of so many grassroots venues is – or, rather, was – nonsensical planning regulations which dictated that should a developer decide to build new residential properties in close proximity to a live music venue, the onus would be on the pre-existing venue to foot the (often devastatingly expensive) bill for any sound-proofing or volume control measures deemed necessary. This issue has thankfully been remedied by the introduction of the Agent Of Change bill that passed through government last year, which was spearheaded by UK Music, among other prominent voices from across the music industry. “Things are on the up and up,” Dugher tells PSNEurope as we settle in for our conversation at UK Music’s London HQ. “[Live music] is an incredibly fast growing part of the music industry; there’s been a 50 per cent increase in its contribution to the economy since 2012 and that fits with what we’re seeing anecdotally. Not only are the big festivals going from strength to strength but also the new ones that seem to be popping up every five minutes in towns and cities. “The thing that concerns me, and has done for the past 12 months, is the pressures and challenges still being faced by grassroots venues; they are the engine room for the entire music industry, so that’s something we’ve continued to campaign very hard on. Last year, we won important victories in terms of changing the
planning laws; we went to see the Chancellor recently with a proposal to enable small, grassroots music venues to get rebates on business rates, because the business rate hikes – some in three digit percentages – are really crippling grassroots venues. The government’s official guidance says that grassroots music venues are not similar in nature to pubs and clubs, which is complete nonsense, and if they just made that tiny adjustment to the guidance it would offer some of the most hard-pressed venues a lifeline.” In addition to Dugher’s vocal, often outspoken stance on grassroots venues, he is keen to highlight the importance of UK Music’s research and data in putting a compelling case to those in power, that more needs to be done to preserve the longevity of the UK’s successful live music sector. He explains: “Many people in parliament go to lots of gigs and support grassroots venues, but equally, there are many who may not have been to a small venue for a while, so we need to constantly be making the case to policy makers about the real plight facing such venues and to give them a balanced picture – to show we are doing well but also to tell them what they need to do if they want to protect the industry, nurture it and see it grow in the future. “Approximately 35 per cent of grassroots venues have closed over the past decade. In the old days you would get occasional closures but you’d see new ones opening up, so there was a churn. If you look at the early tours for bands like Oasis, or more recently for
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there, where they have had many venue closures. We’re taking the success we’ve had in London and looking at what lessons can be learnt for the rest of the country, and that’s been a huge amount of work for UK Music over the past 12 months, but it will really bear fruit in the long-term.” As the clock winds down on our interview, conversation lurches inevitably to Brexit and the potentially catastrophic shockwaves a ‘no deal’ exit could send through the industry. “Our relationship with the European Union is mission critical – to have the ability to get European musicians to come and play in our venues and festivals and also for UK acts to go and tour parts of the EU without the cost bureaucracy that would make touring unviable for so many artists,” he warns. “Our biggest concern is a 'no
musicians like Ed Sheeran, and then reveal just how many of those venues have since closed, that is key. Every musician needs somewhere to start, to learn their craft and build their audience. All of them will talk with great passion about certain venues where they made their starts. Every act headlining the biggest festivals in the world this summer will have that story and be able to reference a time when they were playing to a small number of people. We have to protect that if we want to have such headliners in the future.” As for the impact being made by the introduction of Agent Of Change last year, Dugher believes it could take some time before it fully reveals itself, although he is quietly confident that it is already making a difference. “I sincerely believe it will make a difference in the long-term,” he says. “However, we have had issues since Agent Of Change was introduced with venues facing the threat of closure, and some have closed. Our first position, along with the Music Venues Trust, is always to say, 'If this is a planning issue, there has been a change in the law, and you’ve got to make sure that local authorities are reminded of that; that those protections we campaigned so hard for are actually being enacted at a local level'. The fact I’m not hearing about lots of closures to do with planning is a good indication, though. Frankly, it’s also not just about the small venues. I was chatting to a really big promoter recently who said it’s also been a big problem for huge venues." A key development in the complexion of London’s live music scene since Dugher’s arrival at UK Music was
the appointment of the capital’s first ever Night Czar in the form of performer, writer, promoter and venue manager Amy Lamé. Selected by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Lamé’s role over the past two and a half years has been to help boost the city’s night time economy, protect its venues and generally improve the state of London's nightlife. According to Dugher, her appointment is not only paying dividends, but also paving the way for similar work to be done across the country. “I think she’s done a brilliant job,” he states. “We’ve seen huge differences, like the Tube running through the night [on the weekend]. What we’ve tried to do over the past two years is roll out that agenda to other parts of the country. "We’ve gone from a couple of years ago having only the London Mayor to having city region mayors in a number of areas across the country, and we’ve been working closely with them to set up music boards to do precisely what we’ve done in London. And that is to get everyone around a table to support the night time economy, support the music industry and support venues. We’ve set up a music board in Sheffield city region, in Liverpool city region and we did a report for Greater Manchester, where one of the recommendations is setting up a music board. So that’s something we’d like to see in even more parts of the country. “In the last year, we’ve helped Bristol set up what it calls a night time economy advisory panel,” he continues. “We launched that with them and it’s very much about music being part of the night time economy
deal' Brexit. In truth, there is no such thing as a 'no deal', because if we do crash out then we have to put a visa regime in place to deal with touring musicians. That will involve the UK coming to an arrangement with the EU and other member states, but throwing ourselves off a cliff, which is what a 'no deal' Brexit would be. It would be disastrous for the UK. “There has been a practical problem as well in that it has hoovered up everybody’s energy and focus,” he adds. “We’ve been frustrated in recent months, especially in the run up to the end of March, where the vast majority of DCMS officials were all working on nothing other than Brexit. That means that all of our other really important work, whether that’s on rehearsal spaces or music in education, is just a lower priority and it grinds the system to a halt. “Our national story at the moment is really dismal. I think the rest of the world looks at the UK and thinks we’ve had a collective nervous breakdown. We’ve got to find, as a country, the glue that holds us together, the things that make the country strong. And I think our arts and culture are part of that story. In terms of our soft power, the fact that Britain punches far above its weight as a genuine global leader in music ought to be a good part of our national story.” As we prepare to part ways, Dugher is keen to leave us on a more positive note; a rallying call that outlines the real, practical impact UK Music can have on the live music business. He concludes: “One of the announcements we welcomed recently was from the Arts Council England to bring in ring fenced funding to protect grassroots music venues. It was something we’ve been campaigning on for a long time. I think this change is further evidence of the positive difference UK Music can make, and I hope that the funding will make a real difference. But these things don’t happen by accident, so the industry has to support UK Music if it wants to deliver the kinds of changes the industry needs.” n
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Movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio industry...
Audinate makes Aidan Williams new CEO as Lee Ellison steps down Audinate, developer of the professional AV industry Dante audio over IP networking solution, has announced that Aidan Williams, the current company’s CTO and cofounder, will succeed Lee Ellison as CEO. Ellison has informed the company of his intention to retire from his role as CEO on September 13, 2019, after the release of the company’s 2019 full year financial results. Commenting on the transition, Ellison said: “I am comforted by my decision to enter retirement, believing the time is right to hand the leadership over to Aidan.
Aidan, and the rest of our experienced executive leadership team, have built a close working relationship over many years, and I am confident that Audinate will continue to thrive under his leadership.” Speaking of his appointment to the role of CEOElect, Williams stated: “I look forward to building on the successes that occurred under Lee’s leadership. Having been closely involved in the technology and strategy of the business to date, I see my role as leading the team to unlock the value embedded in transforming the global AV industry through networking and software.”
I SEE MY ROLE AS LEADING THE TEAM TO UNLOCK THE VALUE EMBEDDED IN TRANSFORMING THE GLOBAL AV INDUSTRY THROUGH NETWORKING AND SOFTWARE AIDAN WILLIAMS
Yamaha makes Glenn Booth
Community makes Todd
named CTO of Adam
director of marketing,
Stevens regional sales
manager North America
Andreas Modschiedler was named chief technology officer of the Adam Hall Group at the beginning of June. In the newly created management position, his role is to strengthen the executive board and be responsible for IT and research and development (R&D). Since working as head of IT and digital from December 2016, Modschiedler has led the IT department and the digitalisation of in-house business processes. In his new role as CTO, Modschiedler will be devoting more time to this area. Alexander Pietschmann, CEO of the Adam Hall Group, commented on the new appointment: "With Modschiedler as CTO, we will take the structural and operational steps crucial to moving forward with our global digital transformation.”
Glenn Booth has joined Yamaha Corporation of America as director of marketing, pro audio, reporting to Alan Macpherson, VP, Integrated Marketing Group. As director, Booth is tasked with leading the professional audio marketing team while advancing the Yamaha, NEXO and Steinberg brands in North America. Booth earned his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has been named a Certified Product Manager (CPM) by the Association of Product Managers and Product Marketers (AIPMM) and a Certified Audio Engineer by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). He previously worked at Dimetis. Commenting on his new role, Booth said: “I have been a happy Yamaha customer myself for decades and I am very excited for the challenge ahead.”
Community Professional Loudspeakers has aappointed Todd Stevens as regional sales manage in North America. With 20 years of pro audio experience, Stevens has held sales and marketing roles with Guitar Center, Waves Audio and Manley Laboratories. He joins Community from Mavric, where Community was one of the key brands he represented. Stevens commented on his new role: “Continuing to refine my role as a sales manager with a technical twist will require newfound diligence. We must have a great product that works, obviously, but we also need incredible support pre- and post-sale. Community proved to me that the people make the difference; now I get to I become that valuable resource and not just a sales or product guy alone."
The X factor
Described by the company as ‘perfect for any rental company or loudspeaker manufacturer’, the launch of Powersoft’s X4L amplifier earlier in 2019 was heralded as one of the Italian firm’s most significant releases in years. We spoke to Klas Dalbjörn, Powersoft product manager, to find out why he though it was time to ‘claim back the title for the industry’s most powerful amplifier’…
owersoft’s X4L power amplifier, unveiled at the start of 2019, has been built to drive modern high SPL woofers that require high voltage in order to deliver their full potential. It was designed to provide up to 300 V (peak) to the loudspeakers, as the company’s product manager, Klas Dalbjörn, explained at the time of the launch: “In our research activity, and during interactions with producers of loudspeaker components, it has become clear to us that this is the next logical step for the powering of these sound solutions.” The product is able to deliver the same or more power per loudspeaker while driving more cabinets in parallel when compared to other amplifiers, which can save users both money and truck space on portable applications. It also has five output connectors to allow connection without adapters for many expected configurations, such as channels one and two driving a cardioid sub solution, while channels three and four drive some two-way front fills in parallel. To find out more, we caught up once again with Dalbjörn for a chat about the product and its potential within the market… How long was the X4L in development? We’re always working on new concepts, products and solutions, and in the last couple of years, we have put a lot of emphasis on our fixed installation range of amplifier platforms for all kinds of applications. The brand was built on constant innovation and an unrivalled power to size ratio, so we decided it was time to claim back the title for the industry’s most powerful amplifier. Talk us through the R&D process: We have been quite active in the last decade, talking to designers of woofers about how the performance of the system can be improved. As an example, this has led to the availability of woofers that work with our IPALMOD. We have also participated in activities within the AES to try to move towards a new way to define the SPL capabilities of a system. In our analysis of what creates the limits for the performance of many modern loudspeakers, it is not the available average power of the amplifier, at least not if it is a design like ours where the reactive energy coming back from the loudspeaker
Klas Dalbjörn and right, the X4L
company needs to drive in a typical event. Driving less demanding loudspeakers on some channels allows even more SPL for the low frequency or subwoofer channels. While an HF driver might not need high voltage nor power, it does provide headroom for the more power and voltage hungry channels. So, good examples of the latter are two channels driving subwoofers and two channels for two-way front fills, or four channels driving a line array with LF1, LF2, MF and HF. is efficiently reused. In practice, this means that a four ohm loudspeaker only consumes half the average power compared to a resistive dummy load when the same music or music like noise is played. In the end the limitation is on the available peak voltage. So, the X4L development began with analysing how much more voltage could make sense and how to best make this available for the most demanding high SPL loudspeakers on the market. We felt that our X Series is already well-established and that extending it with a new high voltage model would make perfect sense. A 300V peak has been a request in the past for subwoofers from some of our OEMs and we interacted with some loudspeaker driver manufacturers as well to ensure that they agreed that this was a good target. Taking it much further would probably not make sense, as one would then run into limitations regarding the available average power from a single phase outlet. We feel that this is a perfect combination of peak and average capacity. What type of applications will the product be most suited to? In fixed installs, as well as for rental companies, the X4L can be an ideal, compatible extension of our existing X series. The X4L can be used solely for driving subwoofers as well as other cabinets that a rental
What are the key areas of opportunity for Powersoft with the X4L? We think this is a perfect solution for any rental company and loudspeaker manufacturer that is serious about providing a good clean sound for high SPL applications. So, we hope to see it embraced by our partners and get established in clubs as well as rental systems targeting tours and large events. What has the reaction to the product been? Many were impressed with the specs. There is some education to be done, so that users can understand the possibilities that the X4L offers, but we know that it will be rapidly adopted as it get more exposed in the field. An amplifier that is capable of tracking the signal is typically better for the health of the loudspeaker than one that cannot cope and starts to limit, as such limiting might result in a DC offset of the cone. Therefore, a more powerful amplifier is generally safer for the loudspeaker as long as it is used with the properly designed presets, of course. We already had our first outing of the X4L last month in APAC for a date in the Jason Mraz’ Good Vibes tour. Local rental stagers Singesen and Chan Lee Prosound teamed up to be the first technical providers in the world to use the X4L. The X4L helped to drive the subwoofers down to 2.7 ohms, which is quite impressive. n
NOISES OFF Phil Ward listens to all of the theatrical prompts listed in the immersive audio script to find out how the latest technological advancements in sound are shaping the sector...
Astro Spatial Audio/ Martin Audio Sound Adventures for Kabuki Theatre
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etting any sound reinforcement into theatre didn’t happen overnight. Ask Greg Clarke, Mick Potter, Bobby Aitken… now part of the creative team but not without years of lobbying on the part of The Association of Sound Designers and the pioneering example of Martin Levan, who took theatreland by the cables and plugged it in. Immersive audio has been part of that curve for longer than you’d think, but its armoury has new weapons. Implementing them correctly is going to be no easier, and from LA to Japan there are various strategies underway to continue the struggle. “There is a practical consideration to the speed and convenience with which you can do it,” admits sound designer Sebastian Frost, whose design for Sting’s The Last Ship using d&b audiotechnik’s Soundscape platform in 2018 won so many hearts and minds without them, in most cases, knowing why. “It’s about having the confidence that you can have a system installed to your specifications in the time available, which sometimes has budget implications. But it’s been easy to persuade people to approach the idea openly. Usually producers are keen to find new ways to interact with an audience and to get them to respond to the show.” Frost is perfectly happy to use Soundscape’s DS100 Signal Engine with other loudspeakers in a brandagnostic way, supporting the notion that more progress will be made the less proprietary the approach – and the greater the flexibility on hand. Jamie Gosney is audio system designer at Stage Electrics, the UK- and Dubai-based installer, systems integrator and reseller specialising in a wide range of theatrical equipment and services. He has his own approach. “Even if other loudspeaker manufacturers don’t go down the immersive route, providers can turn to solutions like TiMax and Astro Spatial Audio and still use those brands,” he says. “I’m working closely with Out Board at the moment, a company that’s been doing this a long time without calling it immersive audio. Although it is a bit of a buzzword, I don’t think it’s going away. Mixing engineers love it, because it’s easy. They’re not fighting to squeeze everything into a stereo mix with EQ, dynamics and reverb. It’s more a question of how quickly people will buy into it. “I’ve changed my tactics. I’ve been involved in the new sound system at the Linbury Theatre in the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and when we were tendering I knew we needed an edge, and suggested immersive. The technical staff liked the idea, but it all went quiet. A few months later we got the call – and what had happened was a Eureka moment for the music director of the Opera House, who’d heard a demo. Not the engineers; the creative chief. That’s where the decisions have to be made, so now I won’t push the techs too hard; I’ll wait for the artistic leadership to get on board.” Stage Electrics is now completing an immersive demo suite at the HQ in Bristol, where the sofas and
coffee await invitations to new targets in the creative community. It’s an initiative that represents a new dynamic in the sound reinforcement industry, one not possible before: digital consoles had to win over engineers, and wouldn’t have impressed the music and artistic directors any more than chocolate sprinkles on a cappuccino. If they hear an immersive loudspeaker system, on the other hand… Virtually reality Others take the opportunities as they arise, with faith intact. “I can imagine that in 10 years’ time we’ll consider mono/stereo reinforcement systems as amusingly quaint,” says sound designer and founder/ex-chair of The Association of Sound Designers, Gareth Fry. “As the technology advances and costs come down, adoption rates will grow. I’m doing a show at the moment that can’t afford an immersive system – but it really needs one. I’ve been obsessing about imaging for many years, and if you have to do it ‘manually’, as it were, it’s far more laborious and time-consuming than using one of the new systems. But it is cheaper… “It’s ironic. We’ve been working around these problems for a while, and we’ve come up with solutions that kind of get there, almost to the point where it can be difficult to justify the real thing that’s now available. We all know we can now do better than being clever with delays, but we still have to. Fry continues: “Everybody has opinions, and you get lots of notes from producers about levels and all kinds of detail, but as soon as I’m in a position to use TiMax with tracking, for example, all those notes stop appearing. People stop noticing. Everything sounds so natural, they forget it’s there. Then you have the challenge of justifying a system that nobody realises is being used.” On the other hand, some productions have no such compunctions and are beginning to promote immersive experiences as a defined aesthetic goal. If talent or audience, or both, are willing to wear VR helmets, it doesn’t seem too much of a leap of faith to accommodate 360 audio, and it does become a requisite. Fry has been working on a show at the Young Vic called Draw Me Close, with a performer in a motion-capture suit and an audience in headsets, using game-audio technology which he claims “is proliferating in the theatre industry". Liverpool-based full service company Adlib has been working with Sennheiser’s AMBEO team for some time, developing the concept alongside other immersive solutions in the hinterland where theatrical performance meets content capture and creation. “I call it 'What You See Is What You Hear',” says director, Dave Kay. “On the one hand, with its Neumann connection, Ambeo offers a 3D audio capture system with a quick-to-configure workflow, while on the reproduction side we can create a sound field to recreate that scalable immersive experience in a wide variety of spaces.
EVERYBODY HAS OPINIONS, BUT AS SOON AS I'M IN A POSITION TO USE TIMAX WITH TRACKING, ALL THOSE NOTES STOP APPEARING. EVERYTHING SOUNDS SO NATURAL GARETH FRY
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TiMax SoundHub Tracker for Sankt Magarethen Opera Festival, Austria
“But the really interesting part of the puzzle is to mix in Augmented Reality using the dearVR engine by Dear Reality in Düsseldorf, with which you can place the audio sources within the immersive space by just picking up the source and placing it where the image or the performer is within the sound field. This can be done either with VR goggles and a wand or, actually, in a 360 video playback cylinder. “It’s more about a shared immersive experience than something on your own, and a technology that I’m personally very excited about. We previewed the system to attendees of our January open day, and the AMBEO team is setting up demonstrations to get sound designers on board.” The final frontier In partnership with Dutch immersive start-up Astro Spatial Audio and launched at InfoComm in 2018, Martin Audio’s Sound Adventures package is typical of the supply now meeting demand in theatre worldwide. Yoshitsune Senbonzakura (Yoshitsune & The Thousand
Cherry Trees), one of the most popular Kabuki plays in Japan, is an innovative production that combines traditional Kabuki performance with modern technology such as CG, VR, AR and motion capture. For the latest performance at the recent Cho Kabuki-supportedby-NTT event in Chiba, the production team from NATiON was keen to try some new things to make the performance better. The original plan had been for Miku Hatsune’s vocal sound to appear from all around the venue along with the opening image video. After reviewing this, they instead decided that effects including the sound of thunder and the ‘voice’ of a dragon should be localised at the back of the venue while Hatsune’s voice continued to ‘fly’ all around. “It is the strength of Sound Adventures’ object-based solution that meant we could respond flexibly to such last-minute production changes,” says FOH engineer Mr Takahashi from Shochiku Show Biz Studio. “Sometimes we receive a request to make a 3D sound for the normal Kabuki performance as well. We’ve usually deployed channel-based solutions with a
DAW, but it would be useful if this kind of object-based solution would spread further.” “When I first listened to Sound Adventures during trials, I thought it could be used to make a more superior production than usual,” comments NATiON’s Mr Tanabe. “When I actually listened to it in the venue, I was totally convinced of the success of the show as I felt a sense of presence and impact that I had never experienced. I also heard the audience’s favourable response. I can see myself using this in various productions in the future.” The business climate has changed, and that could mean more choice in the long run. “Immersive audio is definitely the new buzzword for something that in some ways people have been doing for a long time in a very specialized and bespoke way,” comments Autograph Sound’s financial director, Duncan Bell, “but it’s now becoming more accessible. Commercially we’re seeing some of the big names putting a lot of marketing spend into promoting their systems. Not surprisingly, some other manufacturers are thinking we’ve been doing that for years. Some of the earlier solutions from LCS, then
Adlib's dearVR demo with Oculus
Meyer, and Out Board were groundbreaking but very niche – and the market was small. “In addition, use of tracking systems, where the audio tracks the performer in conjunction with the immersive systems, is an area of particular interest in theatre. The current phase of newer products means we’ll see some growth here too. But this all depends on many things: the production; the budgets; and the theatre buildings themselves, as to whether they can accommodate the multi-hang arrays, individually addressable delays and surround required to deliver the full experience. The key may be to find the way to allow venues to maintain the traditional systems but to design them with the flexibility to accommodate the requirements of the newer configurations. The ‘immersive’ word has definitely got more people talking about it, but I think it’s too early to say if this will become a must-have across the board." Back on track Dave Haydon is director and co-owner of UK spatial audio pioneer Out Board, which, at PLASA last year, added the StageSpace object-based spatial environment auto-rendering tool in the new TiMax 500S software. Most sound designers have known TiMax for a long time, but as a time-delay management tool – “I’m now using it for object-based mixing too, on the back of my experience with Soundscape,” as Seb Frost reveals – and perhaps it’s still only TiMax that can satisfy the most exacting immersive requirements. “Some people have said that certain attempts to create ‘spatialisation’ can put a veil over the sound,” says Haydon, “whereas our focus with TiMax has always been
Out Board director Dave Haydon
THAT'S WHERE WE'RE GOING WITH OUR SPATIAL REVERB: RESPONDING DYNAMICALLY TO THE PERFORMERS, ALLOWING THE SOUND DESIGNERS TO DIG IN AND BE CREATIVE WITH IT DAVE HAYDON
to make the system go away. Ironically, though, some people do seem to want to hear a system. Some of the latter initiatives have tended towards spatialisation that has made sure that people are aware there’s a system there, which is odd, to us, when TiMax always strives to go ‘beyond fidelity’.” Spatial reverb has undergone a transformation, and as well as its own developments, Out Board has an association with digital audio and sound design specialist Amadeus in Austria. “Last week, I was putting in the tracking for the Sankt Margarethen Opera Festival, an 80m wide stage and a typical multi-channel system across the front, buried in the set with surrounds," reveals Haydon. "The TiMax outputs that go to the speakers go in parallel to the inputs of the Amadeus spatial reverb system, which creates an artificial room for the open-air amphitheatre and responds to the movements on stage. That’s very much where we’re heading with our own spatial reverb: one that responds dynamically to the performance, as well as allowing the sound designers to dig in and be creative with it – like a post-production recording engineer might do.” Alongside mainstream shows like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Mary Poppins – which are embracing tracking with Soundscape – there is a new generation of producers really pushing immersive sound and making it a selling point. Whether that needs VR, AR or a similar techno-sell remains to be seen. But the legacy of Martin Levan survives and, who knows, maybe one day there will be a stage musical about his life. If there is, it had better be immersive. n
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Super power M
artin Audio recently announced the launch of the BlacklineX Powered, a new powered loudspeaker aimed at the portable and touring market, but with the versatility and discreet aesthetics to apply to the installation market as well. This new product marks a different pathway for Martin Audio, stepping into a multi-purpose avenue with a more cost-effective solution for the portable realm. It can be used in a wide variety of applications – from live venues, for DJs and corporate events to permanent installs, particularly houses of worship. Comprising the 12-inch XP12 and 15-inch XP15 full range enclosures, plus the compact 18-inch XP118 subwoofer, BlacklineX Powered integrates acoustic, DSP and amplifier technologies in order to achieve clarity, precision and richness of tone. The new line also offers optional Bluetooth control, streaming and a built-in three channel mixer in a road-ready construction that is quick to set up, making the product flexible and accessible to every user. The range’s debut follows the international success
Martin Audio recently introduced its newest powered loudspeaker to the world, the BlacklineX Powered, aimed at the portable and touring market but with a multi-purpose flexibility, making it usable in a wide variety of applications. Fiona Hope spoke to managing director Dom Harter at the launch, who tells us how this product came to fruition and about its future in the multi-purpose loudspeaker market...
of the passive BlacklineX series of portable enclosures – the fastest-selling portable series in Martin Audio’s 48year history and the first series developed and launched after Dom Harter became managing director. Designed to set a new benchmark for full-bandwidth, high definition portable audio at a user-friendly price point: “The introduction of a self-powered series makes perfect sense and by leveraging our engineers’ expertise in acoustic, DSP and amplifier technologies, we have crafted a very forward-looking portable range with a classic Martin Audio sound,” Harter said of its launch. Here, we speak to Harter about the inspiration behind BlackineX Powered and where it sits in today’s powered loudspeaker climate… BlacklineX Powered will begin shipping worldwide in late July or early August this year. What was the inspiration behind the new product line? BlacklineX Powered is a totally new thing for us. As a kind of sub brand, Blackline has existed since the mid-
'90s. In 2016, we upgraded our passive loudspeakers and when we upgrade, everything tends to incrementally get better, as we're able to do more sophisticated modelling on how loudspeakers behave. This is us entering a whole new marketplace; this is us for the first time making a powered loudspeaker that is fairly accessible to professional and semi-professional musicians, DJs, corporate rental companies, etc. Typically, you'd expect Martin Audio to be at a price point above this for a powered loudspeaker. Our ethos is that we'll make a professional loudspeaker for anything provided that we believe we can make it as good or better than the competition. And more importantly, that we can add something for the end users in the market and be at a sensible and accessible price point. We looked at what was out there, and some of it is good, but we felt that perhaps it didn't have the professional look you might expect from a loudspeaker in this sort of class. And, that we could deploy the same engineers who voiced and tuned products like our MLA that are at the biggest festivals in the world. If we used
BlacklineX Powered showing its strengths at the laucnch party
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Managing director Dom Harter
The majority of sales will be to a general portable environment, but by keeping a lot of the features discreet, as well as esoteric and professional, when it's installed it looks good and unobtrusive. Where does it sit in the installation market? The reality is it's not a dedicated installation product, but our view is that the difference between installation products and touring/portable products is about how visible handle boxes are and whether it has wheels and a flight case. Traditionally, manufacturers would have pretty garish designs for portable stuff, functional designs for touring stuff and completely impractical designs with no handles for installation stuff. What we tried to do at the entry-level range is have a multipurpose product that is easier to get hold of. Our customers in Norway, Sweden, Austria – our smaller markets – need to be able to go to their local distributors and say 'I want one of these and I want it today.' the same engineers we did for that, then we could bring the kind of performance and sound you'd expect from that kind of PA to your everyday powered speaker world. How does this product differ from Martin Audio's usual offerings? BlacklineX Powered marks the first time we’ve been able to engineer a self-powered portable series at this price point and still retain the sound quality expected from Martin Audio. We have leveraged our engineers’ experience and expertise in acoustics and electronics to ensure that we have created a road-ready and adaptable solution that offers end users a quick set up time, yet also retains the classic Martin Audio sound. We believe it provides the opportunity for a whole new range of users to deliver the highest possible sound quality. Is it available to all types of application? When you design a loudspeaker you pick what you're designing for, and in this case it was always an entrylevel powered loudspeaker.
How has the multi-purpose market grown since Martin Audio started out? I think what's interesting is, particularly over the last few years, and especially in Europe, there has been a perception that the market hasn't been growing that much. What people tend to think about when thinking of this market and the relatively low price point is straight retail and big retailers. That's not where Martin Audio sits, even at these kind of price points, because it's very unlikely you'll buy these products online. It's more likely going to be a relationship sale. This side of the market for us has been growing; we grew 25 per cent last year. If we continue to do things our customers want, we'll continue to take market share in a market that seems pretty buoyant at the moment. Does it seem that the industry as a whole is doubling down on this market? If you're talking about a €500 loudspeaker in a retail environment, my personal view is probably, but I don't operate in that market.
I have quite a long history in the industry, and have been part of brands that do have products in that area and the race to the bottom was feared by everybody, everyone was constantly trying to make things cheaper. That's true to an extent. Martin Audio is a brand, and therefore we operate in a space where we believe the sales channel and the customer have value, and wouldn’t want to destroy our value by selling it all cheap. So I wouldn't say a 'doubling down' or 'race to the bottom' is something you'd see from Martin Audio's core markets. However, we firmly believe in creating loudspeaker systems for pristine audio that makes people's lives easier. How will it fit into the summer season of gigs, festivals and parties? We believe that BlacklineX Powered will prove to be a very popular option for up and coming bands, gigging DJs and smaller stages at festivals. It’s robust construction, quick and easy deployment and the flexibility provided by its factors such as Bluetooth control and a built-in three-channel mixer make it the perfect option for any serious player in this market. Add to that the high-quality sound that you would expect from one of pro audio’s founding brands and its easy to see why we are already receiving such great feedback about the series. Has it been employed in any applications so far or sold to any major clients? We have been astounded by the demand that we have already seen for BlacklineX Powered. Even though the series was only formally introduced a matter of weeks ago at our launch party in London, it is already a popular addition to the range. We knew that bringing the classic Martin Audio sound to this price point would be a popular decision, and the orders that we have already seen go a long way to prove this. There are lots of people out there who are extremely eager to get their hands on the system when we begin shipping in late July/early August. n
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Exclusive London nightclub Tape London recently upgraded its audio offering with a brand new sound system from d&b audiotechnik. PSNEurope takes a trip inside with the club’s team leader, Heff Moraes, and AV and production manager, Sam Hunwicke...
ocated in London’s upmarket Mayfair district, exclusive London nightlife venue Tape is a regular haunt for some of the capital’s most finely heeled clubbers, attracting all manner of household-name DJs and A-list stars from across the globe. Targeting an elite clientele of ‘influential members of the music industry and true enthusiasts’, it places audio quality at the forefront of its operation. Recently, it upgraded its sound system to a complete d&b audiotechnik solution with the goal of becoming the best sounding club in London. Reviews of Tape regularly mention not only the on-trend customers and solid soundtrack but also the superb sound quality, priding itself on how it sounds, looks and feels. Stuart Wright from global audio solutions specialist Eighth Day Sound oversaw the club’s sound upgrade after being approached by two of Tape’s key figures: team leader, Heff Moraes, and AV and production manager, Sam Hunwicke. “Tape London is a venue that plays mainly hip-hop, so we needed a system that could handle ‘industrial’ bass end with accuracy and punch,” says Hunwicke. “The club is an unusual shape, so designing a system that delivered a great sonic experience throughout the club was a challenge.”
“d&b was definitely the correct tool for this project, given the size and dimensions of Tape’s main room,” Wright adds. “It was also clear from the start that a point source solution was the best way forward. “Eighth Day Sound is one of the largest stockists and users of d&b products in the world, and we have grown together as companies. I had heard the d&b 24S-D loudspeakers at the Global Partner Meeting that year and knew they were what the club needed. We went ahead and provided demonstrations at our London facility, including the loudspeakers we thought would suit the install.” Following the showcase, Moraes and Hunwicke specified a system of d&b 24S-D and 10S-D loudspeakers, with low end reinforcement from B22-SUBs, V-SUBs and B6-SUBs, and driven by D80 amplifiers. The loudspeakers and subwoofers are flown from the roof of the venue to give as much clear line of sight as possible. They are configured in a classic left, right and outfill layout with delay positions to lift the HF, as it naturally starts to tail off near the rear of the room. “We utilised d&b ArrayCalc and R1 software for system design, settings, optimisation and control, as well as timing and tuning,” Wright continues. “Of course, our ears also played a big part in the fine tuning of the system, with Heff’s and the club’s requirements taken
into consideration. “Cardioid has its place in the world, there is no doubt, but for the hottest hip-hop club in London the B22SUB was always going to be the smart move. Eighth Day has had many years of providing sound solutions for tours the world over and our success in rap and hip-hop touring is undoubtedly down to one of the best subwoofers ever made – the B2. With that knowledge, its successor, the B22, was an easy choice.” Hunwicke comments: “Since the installation, Tape has become known as the best sounding nightclub in London. The system delivers exactly what we were looking for – punchy, exciting bass, with a smooth, high fidelity top end.” In addition to a clubbing space, Tape functions as a standalone, 300-capacity venue and has hosted exclusive sets from artists including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Drake. The exclusive Tape Members room is an intimate 100-capacity that has regular live unplugged events with MTV and other music brands. It also houses a world-class recording studio, home to some of the most sought after producers and artists on the planet. Wright concludes: “The feedback from the clients and the London club scene is very positive. The belief is that Tape is now the best sounding club in London and I do not doubt it.” n
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With this year's festival season jam packed with live shows and gigs galore, PSNEurope’s Fiona Hope spoke with a range of audio professionals about their experiences within this buzzing industry and how they’d advise others who are navigating the field…
ith the summer months now upon us, the professional audio industry’s busiest time of year is currently in full swing. Whether it’s traditional festivals out in the fields attracting hundreds of thousands of punters from across the globe, city-based outdoor gigs or comparatively small-scale boutique gatherings, the live events merry-go-round seems to grow more expansive and more diverse with each rotation. As such events grow and diversify, so too do the audio specifications required to ensure a splendid time is guaranteed for all. To find out about some of the biggest challenges facing engineers out in the field, we spoke to some live sound professionals to gain in-depth insights into what it’s like to work the summer season and find out the best and worst advice they’ve ever received, from dealing with the industry's more technical hands-on challenges, to facing and combating gender discrimination and coping with the strain such work can place on one’s mental health... You can find information about supportive charities at the back of the mag if you or anyone you know in the industry are in need of help.
Name: Beth O’Leary Job Title: All round sound person Based: Sheffield, UK Projects: PA tech for Arcade Fire, J Cole, Elvis Live on Screen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Weller, Roy Orbison Monitor tech for Kylie Minogue’s Golden tour PA/stage tech at major UK festivals
Tip and tricks for audio professionals? • Write the band member’s names down on your desk and use them during soundcheck. It really helps to show you’re paying attention and care about their gig. It also gives you a fighting chance of knowing who they’re talking about when someone yells they want ‘more of Dan in their wedge’. • The people you think of as your bosses aren’t. Your only boss is you – those people are your clients. • Be nice to everyone you work with, especially the caterers.
Biggest challenges of the job? Working to tight deadlines while keeping safe is a priority – we all try our best but it isn’t worth risking anyone’s health to soundcheck on time. There also comes a point on every tour when everyone is tired and grumpy, and it can be hard to always remain positive. What is the worst advice you’ve been given? Either “drink through the hangover” or “you won’t make a living from this industry so don’t even try".
Name: Abby Hillyer Job Title: Freelance sound technician/engineer and music journalist Based: North-East England/UK Past projects: Freelance sound engineer for TedX event, Newcastle College Planned and hosted an all-female music event
What are the biggest challenges of your job? The biggest challenges I’ve found so far regard negativity. With the work being so fast-paced and tiring, many people can get frustrated and irritated at the littlest things. I’ve also dealt with discrimination due to my gender. People have this strange idea that in sound, women aren’t as capable as men, or that we don’t know what we’re doing. It’s hard to get on with the job when people are constantly wanting you to prove yourself and your knowledge because you’re a woman. I’ve had people question my authenticity as a female sound engineer, and more recently, I was denied access into a venue because they didn’t believe I was there to collect PA equipment, because I am a woman. Another experience I had on account of my being a female sound engineer was someone telling me to “Show your tits to any sound company and you’ll get a job in no time”. Quite obviously, this is absurd and isn’t the way the music industry works. It’s not about who you are, your gender and your physical attributes, but how hard you work and the quality of work you produce. However, the music industry
is heavily male-dominated, which can make it daunting for women to head into it for a career. What’s the best job-related advice you’ve been given? To persevere and put in as much effort as possible. This is so important because as a sound engineer, there are going to be times when you’re working a gig on no sleep and little energy. You’re there to set up before the show starts, throughout the show, then afterwards to pack-down and organise equipment. Pushing through and getting on with it is essential. Also, always bring snacks! What’s the worst job-related advice you’ve received? The worst advice I’ve heard is to only rely on the people that you know. This is something you’ll hear quite often in the music industry – “it’s all about who you know”. Realistically, it’s about hard work, time and effort and getting to know people from all areas of the music industry. When I initially started out, I didn’t really know anyone, but I started going to gigs and networking with sound engineers and musicians in order to make contacts and work with as many people as I could.
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Name: Kelsey Brooks Based: Manchester, UK Job Title: Studio and live sound engineer and music producer
Name: Laura Nagtegaal Job Title: Self-employed tour manager and guitar technician
Current projects: Three studio albums, and giving talks about sexism in the industry
Upcoming projects: Ayreon 2019 Awards/nominations: 2018 Backliner Of The Year, Women In Live Music
Best advice you’ve been given? One of the first, and still among the best advice I've been given, was by my friend Raymond, shortly before I landed my first tour. We'd known each other for about seven years by then, and while he saw the talent I had for making it in this industry, he also saw what was holding me back. He said: "Be more assertive; but not arrogant. Don't ever say you can do it if you aren't confident that you actually can. If something's broken and you're not 100 per cent confident it's fixable, approach it like 'I will give it a shot if you want me to fix this (and in the mean-time acquire the knowledge
that I might be lacking), but I am not sure I will be able to', instead of 'Sure, I will fix it'." What do you find to be the biggest challenges of this line of work? Maintaining mental, social and sometimes even physical health while on the road full-time are an often overlooked aspect of touring. This aspect is rapidly receiving more attention though. Of course, it is usually the performers themselves making headlines, but it still results in more awareness for the industry as a whole.
Name: Mads Mikkelsen Based: Denmark
What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? A lot of people told me not to bother with university for sound engineering, but for me personally, it's one of the best things I ever did. I picked the right school (SSR Manchester), I was taught by industry active tutors and got access to commercial studios and a mock live venue, which taught me so much. Because I had a student loan that I could live off, I could use all of my spare time to freelance and shadow other people. I did so much networking and got as much out of the experience as possible; it made a massive difference to my career prospects. And the best tips you’ve been given? The CEO of Women In Live Music (womeninlivemusic.eu), Malle Kaas, once told me that everyone is nervous in this industry, it's just that some people are better at hiding it than others. That really stuck with me. I
think trusting in your knowledge and remembering that, whatever a gig or project throws at you, you're a good engineer and qualified for the job – without being conceited. Having the right amount of confidence is really key. What are the biggest challenges of the job? A lot of people say stress, but for me it's not so much that, because adrenaline takes over and I switch into autopilot. I think post-show analysis is horrible, and I can stay up all night thinking about how I'd do things differently. I do the same thing when my studio work is released. I'd also say there are massive equality and diversity issues in this industry, not just with gender but also race and sexual orientation. I personally have been discriminated against in the past because I'm a girl, and not only does it suck, but sometimes it can be difficult to get support in standing up against that kind of thing.
Job Title: FOH mix engineer Current projects: Volbeat and Jacob Dinesen Past Projects: King Diamond, Die Antwoord, Babymetal, Hammerfall
Worst advice you’ve ever received? There has been plenty, but I think the idea that there is “only one tool or one way to get a job done” is pretty dumb. A lot of people get caught up in doing things the same way, but I think you should try to approach things differently every once in a while. Best tips? A FOH mixer that I respect very much once told me to “Do your own thing”, and that has stuck with me ever since. For instance, I played a big stadium gig with multiple bands one time and
there wasn’t enough room on the FOH platform to fit everyone’s desks and racks. I more than willingly put my FOH production on the floor next to the platform and behind a camera (I like it better like that, I feel the low end like the audience does.) What are the biggest challenges of the job? Not going insane. Doing work like this can be compared to doing your final exams, but doing it every night. You’re never better than your last show, and it can be very stressful from time to time.
TRUSTING IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND REMEMBERING THAT, WHATEVER A GIG OR PROJECT THROWS AT YOU, YOU'RE A GOOD ENGINEER AND QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB – WITHOUT BEING CONCEITED. HAVING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CONFIDENCE IS REALLY KEY KELSEY BROOKS, FREELANCE SOUND ENGINEER
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Name: Rachael Moser Job Title: Road staff Based: Nashville, Tennessee
What’s the worst advice you’ve been given during your career? “You’re probably not going to make it in this business; most people don’t. Go ahead and come up with your fallback plan.” I surprisingly heard this more than once. Why tell somebody to give up before they even try? And the best tips you’ve received? “Take care of the opening acts. You never know when you may run into
Employer: Clair Global
Name: Anna Clock
Current Projects: Monitor systems tech for Chris Stapleton
Job Title: Composer/sound designer
Nomination: 2019 Parnelli nominee for Audio System Tech of the Year
Projects: Armadillo at The Yard Theatre, a live project with musician Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, Summer Fest for the National Youth Theatre, Fatty Fat Fat which is heading to Edinburgh festival and on a UK tour soon
them again.” I was first introduced to my current tour assignment when they were in the first opening act slot back in 2015. Helping them out during those three shows has led to being part of their audio team in a headlining capacity for the last three years. What are the biggest challenges you’ve experienced? Being away from loved ones; it’s hard to have to miss out on holidays and big life events with friends and family.
TAKE CARE OF THE OPENING ACTS. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MAY RUN INTO THEM AGAIN. I WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO MY CURRENT TOUR ASSIGNMENT WHEN THEY WERE AN OPENING ACT; NOW I'M PART OF THEIR AUDIO TEAM IN A HEADLINING CAPACITY RACHAEL MOSER, ROAD STAFF Name: Daniela Seggewiss Based: Leeds, UK
What are the biggest challenges of the job? Collaborating. Creating something is always very personal and emotional, and you have to constantly remind yourself to leave your ego out of it in order to serve the story or idea when you are creating with a team. As soon as ego gets involved you can cloud your vision and start putting up defences which makes the work suffer. I’m at a stage now where I mostly choose to only work on projects that I can emotionally engage with and get passionate about - it’s the most rewarding but also the most exhausting and challenging work. There are also a lot of practical problems in the UK theatre industry. Sound designers for theatre still don’t have a union, and so we have no protection regarding working conditions, hours or pay rates. It’s very easy for institutions, funding structures and producing houses to take advantage of people who make the work for them and leave us feeling overworked, underpaid and undervalued. Basic things like temperature and hygiene regulation in
Projects: Monitor engineer for Opeth (SWE) and The Sweet (UK) Sound engineer for Frontm3n (UK) Monitor tech / engineer for UB40 feat. Ali Campbell & Astro and Paul Carrack
Best advice? Be nice and stay calm. It sounds very easy, but so much is down to people skills when you’re on the road. If you are a nice person to be around on tour, it goes a long way. The last thing anyone wants is a grumpy know-it-all. Staying calm is rule number one when you’re a monitor engineer. I am there to create a comfort zone for my artist, and if things go wrong (and they will go wrong) it is important to project confidence and calmness in order to keep the comfort zone intact.
Worst advice you’ve been given? I’ve heard a recording engineer say that everything is down to luck in this industry, that skills and knowledge are highly overrated. I’m not the kind of person that gives up. I set my mind to becoming a live sound engineer, so I did everything in my power to achieve that – learn the basics, observe other techs and network wherever I could. Being in the right place at the right time does play a big role in our industry, but if you know your stuff, one open door is all you need to get in.
working environments, and being paid, fed or at the very least thanked when working overtime often get overlooked. It often feels like a constant struggle not be hugely taken advantage of. It takes a lot of conscious effort to look after yourself in this industry and not burn out. As a gender minority within this industry I have of course experienced a fair amount of sexism over the years. It does feel like spaces and attitudes are changing, especially in London where I do a lot of my work, but it still happens. I think there is still a lot of work to do across the board. Best tips you’ve been given? Don’t take a course you don’t have the time or money for, just stay up all night and Google it for yourself (I have my sister to thank for that). What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? ‘Be careful’. Sure that is good advice in some contexts but i feel like some people, especially women, are told it way too often. It’s taken me a long time to learn to be less careful.
Name: Nicola Chang Job Title: Theatre composer, sound designer and performer Based: London Current projects: Six the Musical (West End), OPHELIA (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe), The Tempest (Orange Tree Theatre), White Pearl (Royal Court), and more
Worst advice you’ve heard? "You have to go to school to get into the industry". Sure, it'll give you a step up and great contacts, but at the end of the day it's also about the work ethic, people skills and about how far you take your own personal growth. Best advice up your sleeve? "Work smart, not hard."
Never stop fiddling around with what you love. And, you should always be growing, maintaining positive, and nurturing working relationships with people. Biggest challenges? Being away for long periods of time. You miss out on a lot when you’re always on the road. n
2019 Denmarkâ€™s iconic Roskilde Festival took place from June 29July 6 this year, with Meyer Sound systems deployed throughout its expansive grounds. Tara Lepore dropped by for a chat with the event's sound crew, as well as company founders John and Helen Meyer, to find out more about this unique relationship...
Roskilde in full swing
f you’ve ever walked around a music festival hours before the gates open, you’ll be familiar with the buzz of expectation across the site. Soundchecks happening on every stage (which, of course, adds to the buzzing); clouds gathering overhead making you think you should’ve packed something waterproof. The distinct feeling that anything could happen as the weekend unfolds. Walking around the Roskilde Festival site in Denmark, the anticipation is palpable, but chaotic it is not. The 2019 edition of northern Europe’s largest continuing festival marks the second year of a unique partnership between Roskilde and Meyer Sound, where the Californian manufacturer hires its own sound crew and deploys its systems across 100 per cent of the site. But the partnership extends beyond the eight-day festival in the first week of July, with the two working together yearround to look at how live sound can be fine-tuned to be consistently brilliant, year after year. And what better place is there to showcase the collaborative progress of the past 24 months than a working festival site with 130,000 attendees? Roskilde Festival took place for the first time in 1971, taking inspiration from the legendary Woodstock festival, and a few years after Meyer Sound founders John and Helen Meyer first met during the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ (the couple were awarded the Pro Sound Awards Grand Prix accolade in 2017 for almost four decades’ service in the industry). Constructed over two weeks, the small town of Roskilde, 40km west of Copenhagen, is transformed into the equivalent of the fourth largest city in Denmark. Since 1972, the festival has operated as a not-for-profit event and is mostly run by volunteers (the sound professionals are paid). Last year, the event raised €2.5m for charity. Meyer Sound systems had been present at the festival for many years, but what led Roskilde to make the first move to secure official partnership status? Lars Lillengren, Roskilde Festival’s artist production manager, tells PSNEurope: “What we’d experienced with the stages where Meyer systems were deployed was that the tech support always showed up. We didn’t ask for them to do that, but they were here supporting the system.” And, as co-founder Helen Meyer adds, the company was the only manufacturer to do that. She says: “We invest a lot in our technical team and we expect them to be there for our customers. So when Roskilde was a customer - even though another rental house was supplying the equipment - we wanted to make sure that everything worked right, so we would send our techs. We were the only ones. I think that made an impression. “So, they approached us and asked if we’d be willing to work with their technicians: to train them and do research with them to figure out how to elevate the whole experience. That idea was so interesting and we really liked their attitude and the way they approached their problems. So, we visited the festival ourselves, and
it felt like this could be a team effort, working together on different aspects of sound that we haven’t had the opportunity to really research.”
WHEN ROSKILDE WAS A CUSTOMER - EVEN THOUGH ANOTHER RENTAL COMPANY WAS SUPPLYING EQUIPMENT - WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYTHING WORKED RIGHT, SO WE WOULD SEND OUR TECHNICIANS. I THINK THAT MADE AN IMPRESSION HELEN MEYER
Outdoor factory At the 2018 event, which marked the first of the five-year deal, onsite research explored the effects of weather and atmospherics on broadband sound propagation. This year’s work took that research another step further. On the main Orange Stage, weather sensors were mounted to the microphones to measure factors such as temperature, humidity and wind speed and direction. Headed up by Meyer’s senior scientist Roger Schwenke, and supported by the Danish Technical University, the teams were looking at how these factors affect the way sound bends and will analyse the data to reduce sound spill to other stages. Schwenke explains: “What we’ve been doing [differently] this year, is instead of separating our weather stations vertically, we’re separating them horizontally, so we can broaden the range of our findings and bring more precision to our predictions.
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Festival family: (L-R) John Meyer, Roskilde CEO Signe Lopdrup and Helen Meyer
thread that runs through the whole of the LEO family is the idea of linearity. To put it simply, if we design and build a successful linear system, then what goes in is what you get out of the other side. Achieving linearity means we have to apply very rigorous standards so every step in the chain of the system must be perfect in order to achieve the result we want.” Working together When you’re showcasing your products across an entire festival, your sound crew will certainly benefit from a few pointers if you want to achieve the best possible output. But the tutorials Meyer Sound offers aren’t exactly typical of traditional tech training. Since the partnership was signed back in autumn 2017, Meyer has run two six-day training courses. The first two days are headed up by Meyer Sound’s director of system optimisation, Bob McCarthy, who teaches product-specific tutorials about
Andy Davies, from Meyer’s technical team, tells PSNEurope: "Obviously we measure our own boxes an enormous amount back at the Factory [at the firm’s HQ in Berkley, California]. But what we're really looking for is the performance of the hardest-working box in different weather conditions. When you really push it hard over time - and it's hot - is it making any difference to the performance of the box? With the measurement chambers we have in the Factory, you can't change the temperature to the extremes that they experience when they're out on the field. It's one of those interesting things we could only do in collaboration with someone like Roskilde to let us do it." 100 per cent Meyer A five-year coalition between an audio manufacturer, live music event and leading technical university means there are countless opportunities to tweak and improve the set-up year after year. Already, John and Helen say the atmosphere behind the scenes is running much smoother this year, as a result of the year-round partnership and the teams working together through all
seasons. But as the experiments happen across the site, it’s clear that for both Roskilde and Meyer the audience are the most important element of the whole event. Roskilde’s Lillengren adds: “When we first started talking about sound, we didn’t talk about SPL or any of the data seats, we thought, 'What can we do to create the absolute best audience experience?'” To achieve this, Meyer Sound deployed its LEO systems across all eight stages, with almost 1,000 loudspeaker across the site. All systems were supplied by Bright Group, Scandinavia's largest event technology company. LEO and LYON line arrays took prominence on the main Orange stage, which welcomed top-bill artists including Bob Dylan, Cardi B and The Cure. The intimate Gloria stage had a LINA line array system, and LYON and LEOPARD line arrays were deployed across the other stages. Meyer’s ULTRA-X40 and UPQ-D series, its newest loudspeakers, were introduced for the first time this year and provided fill and delay systems on some of the stages. Davies says: “The LEO family really brings together all the research we’ve done over the past 14 years. The core
the PA’s system designs. The rest of the course covers topics such as group collaboration, crisis management, psychology and communication. It’s all about getting the teams to consider the festival experience as a whole, as Andy comments: “We train our techs to work with the other technicians coming in, but also with the festival to understand what it is we’re going to create.” In its first year in, Roskilde was originally called Sound Festival. Audio is still a key element, and as John points out, the notes in the festival programme encourage people to bring their own sound systems into the camping area (noting guidelines for decibel levels as to not upset your tent neighbours). It’s this supportive, inclusive focus on the audience’s experience that is core to Roskilde’s ethos. Davies comments: “Roskilde pours so much effort into understanding how the social aspect of a festival works, how to make people feel comfortable and engaged on a massive scale. If the audience engage with the artists and the artists engage with the audience, something magical happens. As you scale that up, some performances require technology. A performance on a massive stage with 70,000 people watching requires technology to link the artist to the audience, and that's where Meyer Sound comes in. We aren't creating the art, we aren't managing the people onsite, we come in and we bridge the gap. It's such a unique thing that we get to do this on a festival site and it's because both sides of the equation are so passionate about moving the experience forward. Roskilde want to know how to make music festivals, we want to know how to deliver music festivals better, and we’ve found a relationship that lets us use this site to work out this stuff.” John Meyer concludes: “I’d say 99 per cent of these people have no clue how this festival was put together. It’s about the music and it’s about the audience. All the rest is just what you have to put around it to make it happen.” Here’s to another three years of the partnership, and - hopefully - many more to come. n
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Independent spirit Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), talks to PSNEurope about sustainability, market monolopy and the effects of Brexit, in his annual update on the state of the independent festival market...
estival season is upon us again and I’d like to start by saying that reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated. This season may be off to a slightly slower start with an almighty cloud of Brexit uncertainty hanging over our rather crowded marketplace but, in truth, many AIF members are where they need to be or slightly ahead in comparison to last year. In the current climate, festivals that are able to find their niche will be the ones that thrive. This is illustrated by the growth of events such as Black Deer, Nozstock, Bluedot and, on a larger scale, Boomtown Fair. At those events and many more, the owners really invest in the customer experience; there is an attention to detail and level of care involved and I’m convinced that the customer can tell the difference. For artists, there is no shortage of festivals on offer, and the live industry remains the rocket fuel powering a lot of careers. But many independent festivals have stepped away from the major artist headliner arms race. Festivals are ultimately at the mercy of artists being available and this has meant that many organisers have invested in overall quality and other non-musical parts of the programme such as comedy or creative production. It’s a smart move - especially when you consider that, in AIF’s 10-year report last year, when asked about the single most important factor influencing ticket purchases, 53 per cent of people said that it was the “atmosphere, vibe, character and quality of event”. This was based on almost 30,000 responses across the 10-year period and the report also confirmed that our members contributed an estimated £1 billion in revenue to the UK economy in the three-year period between 2014 and 2017. We’re punching above our weight, as ever. There’s also a continued focus on sustainability. Following the launch of our ‘Drastic on Plastic’ campaign and pledge to eliminate single-use plastic in a three-year period last year, festivals have reported some significant changes at their events: 93 per cent of signatories ditched plastic straws, 40 per cent banned the sale of drinks in single-use plastic on-site, 40 per cent replaced single-use bar cups with reusable cups, 67 per cent sold branded reusable drinks bottles, and 87 per cent promoted the use of reusable bottles.
AIF’s 10-year report also revealed that 9.7 per cent of people attending its member events had ditched a tent when leaving a festival in 2017, equating to an estimated 875 tonnes of plastic waste, the equivalent of 70 Routemaster buses or eight blue whales. In response to this, we launched the ‘Take Your Tent Home/Say No To Single Use’ initiative, an awarenessraising campaign that aimed to equate this behaviour with the single-use plastic crisis and urging major retailers to stop selling and marketing tents as essentially single-use items. There are an estimated 250,000 tents abandoned at UK festivals each year, the majority of which can’t be recycled, meaning they end up in landfill. The average tent weighs 3.5kg and is mostly made of plastic, the equivalent of 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups. The campaign attracted widespread coverage and we estimate it reached over 12 million people online. We’ll be continuing the messaging throughout the season and hopefully it will have a tangible impact. Shifting focus to the overall market, we published a festival ownership ‘map’ in 2018 revealing that a single transnational corporation, Live Nation, now owns or controls 25.6 per cent of UK festivals licensed at over 5,000 capacity. Due to further acquisitions that have subsequently occurred, this is already out of date and, in a wider context, a MINTEL report published in 2017 showed that Live Nation owned 47 per cent of the overall festivals and music concert market. Live Nation also owns Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticketing company, which according to our analysis controls an estimated 46 per cent of the top 61 venue box offices in the UK and sells 500 million tickets worldwide annually. This essentially means that a single company increasingly has control of all elements of the live music supply chain through vertical integration of concert promotion, festivals, ticketing and box office control. The live music sector is fiercely competitive, but this data rings numerous alarm bells - highlighting that a single transnational corporation is headed towards widespread dominance. For independent festival operators, and indeed the entire live music market, a Live Nation monopoly would quite simply be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequence.
Interestingly, a DCMS Select Committee report on live music published in March asked that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) consider “conducting a market study of the music industry to assess whether competition in the market is working effectively for both consumers and those working in the industry”. At the time of writing, we’re still waiting for the government to respond - I can’t imagine what else they have going on at the moment. Back to the ‘B’ word. The only certainty is uncertainty, but it is bound to have an impact on our sector, especially in the event of a no deal Brexit and in terms of movement of people (performers and crew), freight, VAT, data protection… the list goes on. A recent report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) raised concerns about the current visa system, stating that, if it’s maintained, foreign workers in the music industry will face convoluted, drawn-out visa applications or the possibility of being shut out entirely, as their jobs don’t qualify for the Tier 2 work visa. The same report estimated that self-employed workers account for 70 per cent of the music industry, all of whom could be at risk. The one thing we can be sure of is it won’t be business as usual, and the government needs to stop perceiving the music, festival and wider events industry as ‘soft power’ and ‘nice to have’. According to UK Music, 30 million people attended live music events alone in 2016, and those who work hard to make these events happen need to be offered appropriate protections, whatever lies ahead. n
Jodie Comer as Villanelle
An immediate hit with fans and critics alike, spy thriller Killing Eve has become one of the most talked about TV shows in recent history, with accolades bestowed left, right and centre for its impeccable performances and razorsharp writing. Equally impressive, and indeed challenging, is the showâ€™s technical production, as Daniel Gumble found out from its award-winning sound crewâ€Ś
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ew shows have captured the imagination in recent years quite like Killing Eve. And that’s saying something, given the golden age TV has been enjoying for the past decade or so. In an era where blockbusting budgets, A-list casts and CGI extravagance have become commonplace on the small screen, the first half of 2019 has already treated TV audiences to new series of Game Of Thrones, Stranger Things, Big Little Lies, Jessica Jones, Black Mirror, Good Omens, Catch-22 and Chernobyl to name but a few. All of which makes the success of Killing Eve even more remarkable. In essence, it’s a show that has taken the fundamental principles of great story-telling - impeccable writing, endearing characters and peerless performances - and subverted them to create something that is not only unique in today’s TV landscape, but can also be seen, and indeed heard, over the squall of fire-breathing dragons, explosive special effects and sparkling Hollywood sheen of its competition. Like the first series in 2018, the second series of Killing Eve, which concluded at the end of July, has drawn plaudits from across the globe, scooping numerous awards and proving a major hit once again with viewers. For the uninitiated, the show is based around the relationship between British Intelligence investigator Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Russian assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and takes place across an array of glamorous European city locations. And while praise continues to be heaped upon its writing team and star turns from Oh and Comer - the show won BAFTAs for Best Actress (Comer), Best Supporting Actress (Fiona Shaw) and Best Drama Series - equally crucial to the show’s success is the work of its sound crew. In April of this year, Killing Eve won the sixth annual AMPS (Association of Motion Picture Sound) award for excellence in sound for a television drama, recognising the importance of ‘clear dialogue and impressively crafted sound in any feature film or television drama’. According to location sound mixer Steven Phillips, Killing Eve’s second outing was all about refining the process, as opposed to any major upscaling on the work carried out in series one. “We had to accommodate the fact that the first series was so successful, which made shooting on the streets difficult; ADs had to mask out paparazzi or people walking down the street so they couldn't interfere with the shoot or see spoilers,” he tells PSNEurope. “Everyone knows the cast now and we don’t want to hear people walking past and saying ‘Oh wow, it’s her off Killing Eve’.” For Phillips, the key challenges with location mixing on the show remain the same - battling with the bustling sounds of the busy European city locations and clearly capturing dialogue. “Sometimes it feels like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, because we film
in some especially noisy locations, like London, Rome, Paris and Bucharest,” he continues. “When you see cities on screen you have to hear them too, but not too loudly. So we have to get rid of most of the sound and provide the post-production team with as clean a dialogue track as possible, then they can cut the sound to the picture wherever they want. One of our tricks is to put up an atmos mic, so we can provide a clean track of traffic background or an aircraft going across. We capture all that out of the ordinary sound so that we have a clean effects track that can be put underneath. This way, we can keep that atmospheric sound without making a big thing of it. This really helps the guys in post-production. “We also shoot a lot of two-camera stuff, but we have limited shooting time, so sometimes we are forced to shoot ‘tight and wide’ (the camera teams might film with 135 or 180 and 50 or 25 mm lenses at the same time). This means we can’t get anywhere near the actors for the really tight shots, so we radio mic everyone. Radio mics have their own challenges and on Killing Eve some of the costumes are really noisy or tight-fitting, so hiding the mic pack can prove difficult. Villanelle is famous for her costumes, and in the first series I had second assistants working exclusively with the costume
department and cast to figure out where to put mics, with some being sewn into the outfits or placed in the cast members' hair.” The show’s international feel poses different yet equally difficult challenges for supervising sound editor and dialogue editor Tom Williams, whose role entails editing all location sound and recording and editing all ADR and crowd sound. “My biggest challenge is the multi-lingual main cast and loop group,” he says. “I was working with a voice coach in ADR to get the pronunciation right, while still trying to preserve the magic of the performance. The female prison scene was fun, with six hyped up Russian ladies in the studio! Preserving the dramatic scenes (the episode one hospital murders are brutal) is very important, while also adding humour where possible. For example, Villanelle loved her food and we reflected this with exaggerated eating Foley. This was straight off the bat with the first ice cream scene. Historically, you don’t see assassins eating much!” Another significant task for the sound crew was achieving consistency in sound across the show's various settings. And, as re-recording mixer Nigel Heath explains, it was crucial that its audio component was not
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Kim Bodina as Konstantin (left) and Sandra Oh as Eve
only even from scene to scene, but from series to series. “The second season was very much a continuation of the first season,” Heath elaborates. “With a much publicised new writer onboard, I was mindful of the potential for critics to compare the second season to the first. For that reason, I worked hard to ensure sonic consistency so that the 'box set' audience would feel it just as a continuation.” Heath also highlights the soundtrack as one of the key elements to the show’s success. “I work in conjunction with my amazing assistant (now co-mixer, Brad Rees), and my job is to blend together all the incoming ingredients from the various sound editors involved in the project - dialogue, sound effects, sound design, Foley and, of course, music. "The producers and directors had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve with the soundtrack from the start, and the styling was soon 'solidified' during the post- production of series one, episode one. The score was by David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia and, together with music supervisor Katherine Grieves, they loaded the show with awesome sounds." He continues: "The score and commercial music was often treated in the mix to appear to be coming from
SOMETIMES IT'S LIKE TRYING TO MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW'S EAR. WE FILM IN SOME VERY NOISY LOCATIONS
various sources in or out of vision, as is usual, but we pushed that kind of thing - probably as far as one can go on Killing Eve.” Though delighted to see the bar being raised in the realm of TV sound production, Heath does express a slight concern with the fact that the great work being done behind the scenes may be lost on those consuming shows through less than ideal audio platforms, such as flatscreen TVs and mobile devices. “It’s great to see more 'near feature film' values appearing in TV work when it comes to sound,” he tells us. “But I worry that sometimes it’s easy to forget that most punters hear it on very basic kit in a non-ideal domestic listening environment. To me, it’s slightly ironic that as methods of sound acquisition and distribution have improved, an increasing number of devices used for the actual reproduction of said sound have become less sonically satisfactory.” However, despite of the dichotomy between premium audio and far from premium listening devices, sound effects editor/designer on Killing Eve, Darren Banks, insists there is no room for anything other than the very highest production values in television today. “The standard of TV drama sound is rising all the time,” Banks tells PSNEurope. “The line between a high end drama soundtrack and movie soundtrack has become increasingly blurred in regards to quality and content in the last few years. Alongside that, viewers’ expectations have also risen, and so has the scrutiny.” For Phillips, the increased scrutiny and closing of the gap between film and TV sound is a testament to the great work being done not just on Killing Eve but across the medium as a whole. “Everything on TV is driven by what’s done in film,” he states. “It’s just that we have less time. The number of radio mics used, along with the multi-track machines and multiple headsets handed out to production now, is an indicator of how important sound has become. "In the ‘90s, a TV drama might have had a sound crew with two people. Now it’s three or four trained crew. The gap between TV and film is severely narrowed now. The budgets and timeframes aren’t as big, but we use pretty much identical kits.” With a third series now in the pipeline, the Killing Eve audio team is already relishing the prospect of reconvening and building on its formidable sonic achievements to date. “On the second series, nearly everyone came back, and it was a really nice atmosphere,” Phillips concludes. “We had a good dialogue with the editors and production; they were supportive and it’s not always the case that you get that level of understanding. We were working as part of a bigger team where everyone was trying to help each other. That’s why it was wonderful to win the AMPS award and I'm thankful and honoured that the work of the entire sound team has been recognised." n
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Come together This month, mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini looks at the many benefits of being an active member of the pro audio communityâ€Ś
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love participating in and attending events to do with audio (or anything really!) because studio life can get lonely, and it’s great to meet and learn from other people. The main event that I take part in is Red Bull’s monthly Normal Not Novelty workshop for female and non-binary DJs, producers and engineers. I have been hosting the engineering workshop for around two and a half years now and I’ve met some incredible people, and made friends for life. I have also attended and participated in events run by the Audio Engineering Society, Omnii, Church Studios, and The Great Escape, as well as doing regular masterclasses at universities around the UK for degree-level students. But in order to be able to participate in these
I'm a firm believer in making real, solid connections and being genuine, and it's so hard to do that when you're sat behind a screen all day KATIE TAVINI
events, I first had to become an active member of the professional audio community. I went to workshops, networking events and events set up by brands. I still do. I asked questions, offered support and made connections, which is why, when people send me an email asking whether they can be involved in events that I’m also involved in, I get so sad. This happens a couple of times a week, and it’s incredibly frustrating because, when I ask whether they have ever attended any of these events before, the answer is usually no. They are not interested in attending the events for all the event has to offer, and only want to join in for a bit of press. There’s generally not very much I can do anyway, as I often have no control over the events I participate in, but it’s very worrying to find such a large number of people who aren’t willing to turn up and support the community. I am a firm believer in making real, solid connections and being genuine, and it’s so hard to do that when you’re sat behind a screen all day. I totally get that there are many incredible engineers in parts of the country where it may be hard to turn up and participate, and there may be others who are unable to travel or are worried that events won’t be accessible for them (accessibility and events outside of the big cities is a whole other topic, and definitely one that should be discussed! But I’ll leave that for another ranty column). But if you are a member of this industry, or want to support it, and can attend pro audio events, then you absolutely should. Regularly. Imagine spending 10 years being a mix engineer, mastering engineer, editor, sound designer, or any
of the many other less sociable audio jobs. After 10 years, if you don’t keep things exciting, it’s going to feel exactly like an office job. It doesn’t matter how passionate about the topic you are in the beginning, it’s always going to get stale. Meeting other people in a variety of jobs throughout the pro audio industry challenges you to constantly improve. It motivates you to produce the best work you’ve ever done, it teaches you how to network with other professionals, and most of all it can be a right laugh. And I think that having a right laugh with likeminded people can often be exactly what this industry needs. You no longer feel overwhelmed and isolated by your work. And there’s usually a pub trip afterwards. What’s better than talking nerdy with other engineers in the pub? Isolation is a huge problem among audio professionals, and it can be a tricky cycle to break out of. I’ve already written a column about looking after yourself in this industry we all work in, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep learning, questioning, challenging yourself and to keep the curiosity alive. In a normal day, I probably work about nine hours completely alone. And that can be stressful, tiring and lonely, but meeting up with other people in the same situation can be so liberating. With a little bit of Googling, there is a whole load of free, audio-focused events to be taken advantage of, which can provide amazing learning and networking opportunities. Go to them, make friends, and, if it’s your wish, make those connections that will allow you to participate. I guarantee it will be more effective than sending an email. n
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Access all areas
Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything, updates PSNEurope on the brilliant work the charity is doing to make festivals, music venues and studios more accessible for deaf and disabled audiences, musicians and audio professionals…
ith festival season marking the mid-point to 2019 (is it that time of year already?!) I’m delighted to report that Attitude is Everything is enjoying a particularly exciting period of expansion with our own 20th anniversary on the horizon in 2020. Of particular note was the launch of NEXT STAGE at the end of last year, which is widening our charity’s campaigning beyond deaf and disabled audiences and shining new light on the career barriers faced by deaf and disabled artists. Funded by Arts Council England and led by our wonderful new artist development manager, Rich Legate (who also plays with the band Childcare), the initiative kicked off in earnest at The Great Escape, where we curated a well-attended panel featuring Blaine Harrison (Mystery Jets, and Attitude is Everything patron), DJ Laura Jones, Ruth Patterson (Holy Moly & The Crackers) and Roxanne de Bastion (Featured Artists Coalition), and unveiled new research drawn from responses of 96 artists with impairments or long-term health conditions. Covered by media including BBC Radio 6 Music and The Guardian (and PSNEurope of course!), the findings highlighted significant problems across all facets of the music business, including recording studios and rehearsal spaces, where a significant number of respondents reported access challenges. Even more troubling were the responses around live music, with evidence of artists compromising their health and wellbeing in order to perform, withholding details of their condition or impairment due to concerns that it would endanger professional relationships, and even cancelling their shows. Such findings will, I expect, only represent the tip of the iceberg - but it’s important they feed into ongoing conversations around inclusivity and diversity in the music business. Deaf and disabled artists have played such an elemental part in popular music’s past, and for the sake of its present and future it is crucial that they continue to do so. As Ruth Patterson commented at the NEXT STAGE launch: “I look forward to a time where seeing someone like me on stage isn’t 'inspirational' or 'admirable' but just the same as seeing a disabled person in any other form of work, and that is what our future generation of artists need to see and aspire to.” To that end, the hard work starts now.
'We can play our part': Suzanne Bull
IN WHAT IS AN EXTREMELY TOUGH MARKET FOR LIVE MUSIC, [IMPROVING ACCESSIBILITY] IS A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH A RELATIVELY UNCATERED-FOR AUDIENCE SUZANNE BULL MBE As well as establishing a new steering group with representatives from UK Music, Arts Council England, Jerwood Arts and Help Musicians UK, Attitude is Everything has been busy building and expanding our artist network, as well as forging new partnerships, for instance, with Pirate Studios, to demonstrate best practice in recording studios and rehearsal spaces. There is a vast road ahead, but this is a long-term initiative, and I anticipate long-term gains in the months and years to come. And who knows, we might just support the next Robert Wyatt, Ian Dury, Rick Allen or Stevie Wonder. Of course, Attitude is Everything’s core mission - to work with the music industry to improve deaf and
disabled people’s access to live music - also continues. This year, we have already seen 11 more festivals either join or improve their standing on our Charter of Best Practice - including BST Hyde Park, Bluedot and Pride Cymru (all now Gold Standard), Standon Calling, Truck and Victorious (Silver) and The Downs, Love Saves The Day, Rewind, Tramlines and Y Not (Bronze). In March, we celebrated some of the best accessbased achievements at our Outstanding Attitude Awards - with winners ranging from BST Hyde Park to Band on the Wall, and from innovative music tech company SoundSense to portable toilet provider GigLoo. As ever, we aim to highlight that, whatever the size of an event or whatever the budget, there is always potential to promote inclusivity. As evidence of this, our Grassroots Venue Charter continues to attract new signatories - some of the most recent being Brudenell Social Club and Komedia Brighton (both now Silver) and Tunbridge Wells Forum, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Norwich Arts Centre, Trinity Bristol, The Sugarmill, Wedgewood Rooms, Exchange Bristol and West End Centre (all Bronze). Meanwhile, our Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition goes from strength to strength, and now includes more than 40 ticket services, trade bodies, promoters and venues, all committed to improving the ticket purchasing process and establishing new standards for accessibility. Following a panel discussion at ILMC, with representatives from AEG Presents, DHP Family and RockHal, I anticipate we will have more announcements from this hugely important initiative. On paper, this appears like a hugely ambitious and all-encompassing programme. In practice, it most certainly is! However, I still maintain that improved accessibility will not only benefit millions of disabled fans, it is also in the direct interest of promoters, venues and event organisers. They have a commercial imperative - as well as a moral and legal duty - to get this right. In what is an extremely tough market for live music, this is a fantastic opportunity to connect with a vast and relatively uncatered-for audience. I wouldn’t be so bold as to claim that the work of Attitude is Everything will guarantee a bright future for the live music sector. However, through continued collaboration, we can certainly play our part. n
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oger Mayer is a renowned English audio pioneer. Initially working in Naval acoustic solutions for the British government in the 1960s, he made his name inventing guitar pedals for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Bob Marley. He also designed recording consoles for leading New York studios. A constant innovator and entrepreneur, he has recently returned to making studio electronics in the form of the Roger Mayer 456 analogue tape emulation circuitry. Essentially, the RM 456 is a proprietary FET-based feed forward gain reduction, high-speed, non linear, wave shaping amplifier. Designed to mimic the wave shaping produced by a properly aligned Studer A80 24-track analogue multitrack recording on to two-inch Ampex 456 tape, without all the associated speed and maintenance issues, the most recent release in the range is the Roger Mayer RM58 Classic Stereo Limiter. Mayer explains the thinking behind his new project: “What the 456 is all about is the fact that many record producers were coming to me a few years ago saying that they were unhappy with the end result of their digital recordings, but that they were very pleased with the fact that they could go back and, say, listen to a Hendrix, a
Beatles or another recording made in the 1970s that had been transferred to a CD. So, this inspired me to think that the actual digital medium itself is not at fault. In other words, the CD player itself is not at fault. I went away and did some tests that involved presenting a digital recorder with an analogue sound, as if it had been recorded on tape first, similar to how some top producers do, and it sounded great. So, I developed a Solid State analogue version of that called the 456, named after the famous mastering tape, Ampex 456. The process is called 456 HD and we started doing that in England with some of the top producers like Paul Stacey, Dave Eringa and mastering engineer Ed Woods. Some of the record companies that have heard it on new records have flipped and gotten very into the sound. Once people have heard this they tend not to go back. It has been done on all music, from rock to electronic." Utilised within the RM58 is the RM 456 HD's unique proprietary Field Effect Transistor (FET) gain reduction circuit. This uses the input information in a feed forward manner to control both positive and negative signal peaks. This dynamically controlled gain reduction method enables a Stereo Centre image to be maintained whilst using significant amounts of gain reduction, thus
Roger Mayer's RM 456 HD processing is causing record producers and sound engineers to rethink their approach to recording. Simon Duff investigates…
making it popular for vinyl mastering applications. “It is almost the opposite of using the old type of limiter where the information is integrated over a period of time and then applied to control gain,” Mayer adds. “The limiting ratios are not specified because with this dynamic gain reduction method occurring in real time they are always changing to produce a very natural and musical sounding result. The wide range of Attack and Release times available enables many difficult situations to be recorded perfectly. A FET, first used in the 1950s, is a type of transistor that behaves in a similar way to a triode tube, enabling circuit designers to achieve attack times much faster than those that can be obtained from vari-mu or optical compressor, making it suitable for use in limiting.” The close dynamic matching of the RM58 limiters is crucial to enable successful Master 2 Track Bus production tasks. It is also highly suitable for bass guitars, vocals, drums, strings and brass. The audio circuit path is all Class A low noise advanced discrete design only using the best available components. The resulting Class A circuit path provides optimised audio transparency with an extended frequency response to 100 KHz. The output is also Class A - ultra low output
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impedance. Mayer comments on the overall design: “Technically the design was very advanced and today its performance still stands out and compares very favourably to newer designs. It is more open and dynamic sounding than many of the traditional radio station type of limiters.” The RM 456 has found favour with a number of leading record producers and mastering engineers. Among them is Dave Eringa, who makes regular use of the 456 preamp in his work. He comments: "The 456 process is an absolute game changer, it has completely filled the gaping hole that was left for me when we could no longer regularly use multitrack tape. The way the process made me go back to my engineering fundamentals of gain structure has made everything I do sound so much better. The 456 RM attaches this process on the back of the biggest sounding mic preamps that I've heard and I really couldn't ask for any more. “The 456 is a cumulative process,” he continues. “I find that when I've recorded everything through it, it just makes it so much easier to mix. It's not necessarily that each individual sound is enormously better in solo, it's just that everything gels together so much better. Just like when we were back on tape. I haven't done a session without it since I first heard it and it's on pretty much every sound on the last Manics album (Resistance Is Futile) and the latest Roger Daltrey solo record (As Long As I Have You) too. The stereo 456 box is also on the end of every mix I do. In terms of the recording, or mix bus chain, it always sits at the very end, just like
THE 465 IS A CUMULATIVE PROCESS. I FIND THAT WHEN I'VE RECORDED EVERYTHING THROUGH IT, IT JUST MAKES IT SO MUCH EASIER TO MIX DAVE ERINGA, PRODUCER/ENGINEER
tape did.” Sean Genockey, record producer and owner of Black Dog Records, is also using the 456 process. He explains how he is using it in his audio chain: “I have been using Roger Mayer’s 456 process exclusively for the last four years. It’s unique wave shaping capability’s present me with source audio that is dynamic and full range, frequency wise. This means that the audio is extremely malleable afterwards, and the simplest of equalisation changes have a huge effect; it sounds like tape but better, as it doesn’t have any of the technical drawbacks that we had with tape. I use it on every source on the way in and in a stereo fashion on the two bus during mix-down. The RM 58 limiter is now my go to for all vocal tracking, drums and two bus mix duties. Simply amazing.” Ed Woods at Ed Woods Mastering in South London is another keen user. “I have used the 456 unit a lot in my mastering chain,” he says. “It is a unique piece of gear that has found a place in my chain that would be difficult to replace. If I am looking to add characterful limiting and saturation, or just a little harmonics and colour, then the 456 is my go-to.” As for what’s next, Mayer concludes: “Myself and some colleagues are taking a good hard look at the gaming industry to produce more 3D effects and improve the quality of the music and the immersive audio experience for gamers. I have got all my years of working in film, and Jimi Hendrix, who did very immersive work with guitar sounds, and I want to put that to good use in a new way. Watch this space." n
Roger Mayer RM58 Classic Stereo Limiter
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WORK OF ART TiMax and Meyer Sound recently teamed up to provide Projection Artworks with a new state-of-theart demonstration space. PSNEurope spoke to those most closely involved with the project to find out how they created an experience that is ‘second to none’...
rojection Artworks recently unveiled its first-of-a-kind, hybrid spatial audio and multimedia demonstration system located within its London head office. The immersive space features a floor-to-ceiling, projection experience met by the dynamic audio capabilities of TiMax Soundhub, which not only handles the programming and reproduction of multichannel immersive spatial audio shows but enhances traditional stereo and 5.1 formats as well. Delivered through a Meyer Sound loudspeaker system, the full-saturation immersive audio combines with the also immersive projection experience to demonstrate the level of ‘creativity and innovation that goes into every Projection Artworks project, from design through to delivery’. The change was pre-empted by a desire to help clients better understand the changing pace of technology and how it can explicitly enhance their campaigns, events and installations. Projection Artworks managing director, Tom Burch, explained: “People are fascinated by the effects of our creative technology, but it’s always been a challenge to showcase our sophisticated and intertwined design and delivery process, and the level of innovation and knowledge which we put into every experience, especially in the current saturated market.” Speaking to PSNEurope, TiMax manufacturer Out Board’s Dave Haydon, also noted: “The breadth and scope of the TiMax platform and its workflow has been embraced by the experiential markets for its adaptability. The recognition of its effectiveness for creating immersive audio in environments such as this makes it very relevant here.”
Projection Artworks collaborated with UK audio specialist Autograph to supply the audio demonstration system. Alongside TiMax, which assigns timing and 3D placement of each track in the room and is designed to deliver a seamless audio experience regardless of the listener’s position in the space, Autograph specified and supplied a 14-channel Meyer Sound loudspeaker system combining 12 ultra-compact MM4-XPs, a centrallylocated Ashby-8C ceiling unit and a single MM10-XP subwoofer. To achieve the desired sonic impact, the Meyer Sound loudspeakers are installed unobtrusively at several levels around the room. “Our long experience in deploying Meyer Sound products in artistic installations and multi-zone experiential applications made them the obvious choice for this project,” Chris Austin, technical sales manager, Autograph sales and installations, commented. “Their amazing power-to-size ratio and pure sonic quality allowed us to create an unobtrusive audio solution which doesn’t distract from the visuals at the new showroom.” “Collaborating with Autograph has been a great experience,” Trevor Nichol, senior production manager at Projection Artworks, added. “They went above and beyond to design a bespoke system, taking into account our needs for the showroom space, and therefore, we have a system that sounds fantastic and fits seamlessly into our room. The TiMax object-based spatial audio and multimedia demonstration system allows us to manipulate audio piece by piece to create a dynamic and immersive experience like never before, and the suggested Meyer loudspeakers were a clear choice, offering high quality audio in an amazingly small chassis. “The after sales from Autograph has been great too, particularly whilst programming and tuning the TiMax
spatial audio system, getting the best possible audio quality and experience for our visitors. The response has been fantastic.” The visual element of the immersive showroom is driven by ‘disguise’ media servers and rendered through 360º virtual cameras to test the multi-perspective content during the creative production process. Projection Artworks also pre-visualised the content through VR using the existing VR station in its office. Burch elaborated: “VR allows our clients to grasp the space and scale before anything goes onsite. It has also helped us test and check the content during the build of the immersive room.” The immersive room also features some of the latest audio-visual technology on the market, including Epson ultra-short throw ‘snorkel’ lenses and high contrast 6000 lumen laser projectors. The central display is a 65” OLED screen, while the entire space is centrally controlled by Barco’s Medialon Showmaster software, integrating the video show, audio, pixel mapped LED lighting, conventional lighting, and ventilation. It also enables the user to interact and control the system with the custom touch screen panels. Sean Lamonby, lead creative at Projection Artworks, explained: “We wanted our concept to differentiate from previous showreels, all based on an amalgamation of finished filmed projects. This new showreel expresses an intricate level of detail and lays bare our core storytelling theme – how the convergence of light particles takes you from a single pixel to a huge show.” Haydon concluded: “We are very pleased to have TiMax involved at the cutting edge of immersive multimedia creation and production; this new facility at Projection Artworks is second to none.” n
Earlier this year, sound editor Nina Hartstone saw her work on Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody recognised with an Oscar at the 2019 Academy Awards, bolstering her already well-established reputation as one of the most sought after talents in the industry. Daniel Gumble finds out about her formative years and her favourite projects to date…
hen Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody hit the screens at the tailend of 2018, the film’s leading man Rami Malek was quickly installed as favourite to scoop the top honours at the imminent Oscars and BAFTA Awards, and he was duly decorated with the Best Actor award on both sides of the pond. Yet, while Malek and his portrayal of the iconic Queen frontman dominated the headlines, Bohemian Rhapsody was also notching up numerous accolades on account of its stellar sound production. At the BAFTAs, it won out in the Best Sound category, while at the Oscars it emerged victorious in the Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing awards. Crucial to the film’s sonic triumphs was its sound editor Nina Hartstone, whose role comprised everything from splicing Mercury’s original vocals in the film’s musical moments with Malek’s performance, to recreating the atmosphere of Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance in 1985. Here, she discusses the exciting rollercoaster of her illustrious career… What sparked your interest in the industry? My dad, Graham Hartstone, had an incredible career as a re-recording mixer at Pinewood Studios, so I felt like I grew up in the film industry. As a child, I remember playing in Pinewood gardens and climbing around props from films, like the cable car from one of the Bond movies. We saw a lot of movies growing up and I took an interest in the work behind the camera. When I was 15 years old, I was lucky enough to do work experience on the first Batman film, directed by Tim Burton. I was in the art department and I loved every second of it – seeing all
the drawings behind the creation of Gotham City on the back lot and watching the Batmobile drive onto set. My interest in filmmaking was definitely sparked after that. What was your first job? My first paid job was during university as a floor runner on a low budget feature called Shadowchaser in 1991. It gave me a whole new insight into filmmaking – we were shooting in difficult locations, there were lots of stunts and pyrotechnics, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie that exists in a film crew. Despite the temptation to abandon my studies and dive into film work, I continued with my university career and graduated with a degree in Visual and Performed Arts in 1992. After completing my studies, I was introduced to Graham Harris, a supervising sound editor who was working in the cutting rooms at Pinewood Studios on a film called Cyborg Cop. Graham took me on as a trainee and I learnt an awful lot about the process of sound post-production and sound editorial on 35mm film. He was a great boss and a fantastic teacher. Within a couple of years, digital audio workstations were being introduced, so I spent my spare time trying to learn how to operate them. In 1994, I was extremely lucky to begin working as an assistant with the brilliant Eddy Joseph and his first-rate team. I continued working with Eddy for several years and in 1999, he gave me the opportunity to step up from being an assistant and have a go at ADR editing, which I really enjoyed and I never looked back. What is a typical day at work like for you? These days, my average day at work is not particularly average! I feel incredibly lucky that I get a wide variety
of challenges on every production and that I’m always learning new things. As a co-supervising sound editor, I oversee the sound editorial on the film alongside another sound supervisor. Specialising in dialogue, ADR and vocals, I spend a lot of time listening through all the mics that have been recorded on set and assessing our ADR and crowd recording requirements. Each day can be very different to the next, involving focused editorial time, creative recording time or collaborating with the director, editor and rest of the sound team and coming up with innovative ways to realise the director’s vision for the film using sound. The one consistent element is that the days are usually quite long and very busy. What has been your favourite project to date? Unquestionably, it has to be Bohemian Rhapsody, but probably not for the reasons you might be thinking. Of course, it was an amazing experience to enjoy the
Queen of Harts: Nina Hartstone
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emotion was there for me with every viewing, which is a testament to both the exceptionally talented cast and the committed and gifted crew on the show, not to mention the fantastic music of Queen. The added task of working on the vocals gave me new, unique challenges, but on all films, the result you want is to suspend disbelief. My work should be invisible when you watch the movie, so in that sense, there is an absolute common thread amongst my sound work on all movies. Winning the Oscar was the icing on the cake and I felt so delighted for the recognition our work received. How do you balance work and life? Balancing work in the film industry with life is not easy. I have three children, but am extremely fortunate to have an amazingly supportive husband and extended family, without which I could not do this job. My work hours are often unpredictable and long, so we tend to work on a very short-term basis. Finding my way back into work after the birth of each child has only been possible because of my access to flexible childcare. Taking time off inevitably stalled my career somewhat at the time, but I was always lucky enough to find my way back in. I think it’s really important to allow parents flexibility with their working days and try and think of ways to improve the work/life balance for everyone in the industry. As a freelancer, the benefit of this kind of work is that when I am not on a project, I can throw myself into other areas of my life.
accolades the sound team received, but it was my favourite project long before awards season. It felt like a dream come true to have the opportunity to work on this movie with Queen. Throughout post-production, the collaborative efforts of the talented cast and crew allowed us to create a great sounding film. The post-production team worked so well together; we truly did become the ‘Bo Rhap’ family. I also had the great privilege and pleasure of editing the vocals – working with the voice of Freddie Mercury made me feel unbelievably fortunate. What’s the most ambitious project you’ve worked on? I feel like I’ve worked on a few ambitious projects – it’s quite hard to narrow it down to one. At the time, Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2001) was incredibly ambitious. It was the first movie I had worked on which had 16 tracks of dialogue recorded on set (by Peter Glossop).
The dialogue was all ad-libbed, which presented me with lots of challenges to keep the ensemble dialogue continuous and natural across the cuts. It was intricate and complicated, but so satisfying when I made it work. Another great challenge was Everest. We had to record a lot of ADR on that film due to wind machines and other on-set issues. Baltasar Kormákur was the director and he allowed me a lot of freedom to use new and different techniques in the ADR theatre, in order to achieve credible dialogue recordings. Of course, weaving together three different voices for the main protagonist in Bohemian Rhapsody was no small challenge either. How did it feel to win the Oscar for 'Bo-Rhap'? As I said previously, Bohemian Rhapsody was an absolute joy to work on. Of course, we did some long days, but it all felt so incredibly worth it. Bohemian Rhapsody was one of those rare movies where the
What are the biggest challenges of the industry? When I started out, there weren’t many females in the cutting rooms. In fact, there were some sound supervisors who refused to employ women because they "would be a distraction”. I managed to navigate a path and thankfully, times are definitely moving on, but we are nowhere near parity yet in the sound workforce. I’m very keen to encourage more women to work in the traditionally male-dominated area of sound in film. It's important for them to see there are women working in the sound department and that it isn't out of their reach. What excites you most on a project? I have always been drawn to particularly imaginative thinkers, such as David Cronenberg and Tim Burton. I grew up captivated by films like Star Wars, but also loved musicals such as Singing in the Rain and The Sound of Music. These days, I love any movie with a great script and compelling performances. The sound-track of a movie is a vital tool in the storytelling and I am always inspired by my peers who have created amazing sound work – there is a lot of impressive talent out there. This past year, I particularly enjoyed Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. Animation films have such great opportunities for creativity in sound. n
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Parallel lines At the end of May, Moscow-based Parallel Music set up a week-long music tech course for women, inviting two UK organisations – Saffron Records and Brighter Sound – to facilitate the workshops. Tara Lepore spoke to some of those involved to find out how the project came about and what it has to offer…
his wasn’t just about teaching DJ skills,” Saffron Records’ creative development manager Lizzy Ellis tells PSNEurope. “It was about how building a supportive community for women in music should go hand-in-hand with technical learning. Also, it was a cultural exchange – we wanted to learn what it’s like to create music as a woman in Russia." The workshop was part of the UK-Russia Year of Music, a programme of events throughout 2019 funded by the British Council to get Russian and UK organisations in the creative industries collaborating together on music-based projects. Moscow-based organisation Parallel Music set up the week-long course for female musicians at the end of May, inviting two UK organisations – Saffron Records and Brighter Sound – to facilitate music tech workshops in the Russian capital. In January this year, Parallel, which aims to support women in music, received a grant from the city’s British Embassy to go on a research trip to the UK and meet leaders of similar creative projects to collaborate on
delivering a workshop back in Moscow. It was during this trip where Parallel founder Zhenya Nedosekina – whose adopted artist name Jekka means she commonly goes by the name Jenny – met Laura Lewis-Paul, the founder of Saffron Records, a Bristol-based record label and facilitator of music production workshops for women and non-binary people. The succesful meeting led to Lewis-Paul applying to be a workshop delivery partner as part of the Year of Music, funded by the British Council, who also suggested that Jenny get in touch with Manchester music charity Brighter Sound. With two keen yes-es, Parallel organised the residency, flying over some of the UK's best music tech talent to teach female-identifying musicians from Moscow key production and DJing skills. Access all areas Access barriers in the field of music production aren’t just a problem in Russia, but felt across the UK too. And particularly for women, who it is estimated make up just five per cent of the music tech industry. Saffron Records
was set up to try and change this statistic, offering music tech and DJ courses to women in Bristol since 2015 (having already received two rounds of funding from the PRS Foundation, and financial support from DBS Music). Ellis, who also heads up Saffron’s subsidised MixNights DJ course, says while the opportunity to export the workshop over to Moscow has “given me the confidence to know that we can do things further afield”, there is increasing demand for classes like MixNights across the UK. “We've had loads of requests to roll it out, not just in the rest of the UK, but in Europe as well. We definitely want to at some point. We've been trying to nail down our model here [in Bristol], but I think we're nearly at the stage where we can start across the UK.” The two-day DJ workshop Saffron brought to Moscow was a condensed version of the nine-week MixNights course it runs in Bristol, right down to the teaching equipment used. MixNight’s resident tutors Em Williams and Daisy Moon ran the classes, using Pioneer DJ mixers with the group of 15 musicians who attended the course for free.
PHOTO: Zhora Sirota
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PHOTO: Valeriy Belobeev
YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO KNOW MILLIONS OF THINGS BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN TOUCH A SYNTH. IT CAN BE A HARD WORLD TO ACCESS, ESPECIALLY FOR FEMALE ARTISTS, WHO MIGHT HAVE LESS EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH THEM POPPY ROBERTS, SONGWRITER/PRODUCER
Ellis says: “We started by going through the equipment: the decks, the mixer, the headphones and monitors and how they all work together. We also gave an introduction to beat matching, which is really key if you want to be a DJ, especially for electronic music. The main aim of the two-day workshop was at the end of the second day, we would all come together as a group to do a megamix. So, everyone chose three tunes and had to mix them, like a massive back-to-back set. We also talked about how to order your tracks to tell a story with Pioneer software Rekordbox, which you can use to organise your DJ music library.” Saffron’s workshop was run out of a Moscow club called Powerhouse, which is a “really cool multi-space venue,” adds Ellis. At the end of the week, Brighter Sound sent songwriter and producer Poppy Roberts to Moscow to run a two-day music production class with the same group, focusing on the use of synths, something that can “often be perceived as an elitist thing” if you don’t have easy access to them. She continues: “You feel like you have to know a million things before you can even touch a synth. It can be a hard world to access, especially for female artists, who might have less experience [working with them]. We were using Ableton on the laptops with a Focusrite Sapphire, which is the soundcard that I use as a kind of ‘mini studio’ – they're very good for that.” The synths used were a Moog Sub Phatty, Arturia Mini Brut, and an Arturia Drum Brut. Culture clash When we ask Roberts what the feedback was like
The future is Bright: female-identifying musicians taking part in the course
from the workshop's participants, she relays that they "definitely" don't have many opportunities to attend music tech classes. "There's a lack of opportunity, in the specific sense, probably everywhere," Roberts explains, "which is why the Brighter Sound's Both Sides Now programme – which aims to get more women into music – and Parallel have had so much impact. There's also a lack of opportunities to learn together in great facilities like the Moscow Music School, as well as limits on getting your hands on equipment like this." To the same question, Ellis responds: “What I kept hearing from the participants was that there's not an organised music industry [in Russia] in the same way that we would describe it in the UK,” which, she adds, makes it difficult for them to figure out what they can achieve in the business. “They said that makes it difficult not just for women, but for everyone, because it's not run in the same way.” But now, with programmes like the UK-Russia Year in Music, “these opportunities are coming up and people are really grabbing them,” Roberts states. After both workshops, the women on the course made arrangements to collaborate together in the future. “I hope that we've inspired them to further support each other and feel empowered to know that they can do these things – they just need to build their own community for it,” Ellis adds. Roberts concludes: “They were so grateful for it. The impact at the end was pretty extraordinary. I'm still getting messages and emails about it, and I'm still seeing on social media that the artists are sharing their work and talking about how inspired they were." n
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Small world PSNEurope columnist and acclaimed live audio engineer Ben Hammond takes a look at some of the biggest challenges facing FOH mixers in small venues…
his month the team at PSNEurope asked me my thoughts on mixing in small venues. Apt really, as I have spent the last three years with an act who sells out arenas in the UK, but are still growing everywhere else, so we could go from a sold out Wembley Arena to a 200 capacity show in Australia. Vastly different venues in every respect, but the aim, as always, is consistency. Being able to take your show from 10,000 to 100 and back again, while keeping the same energy and focus, and getting the same message across to the audience is much harder than most people think. It requires hugely different approaches to achieve the same sonic result and level of consistency in these smaller rooms. Away from such things as touring PA, systems techs, touring consoles/FX/dynamics etc., being able to faithfully recreate last night, and then being able to recreate tonight and tomorrow is suddenly much more difficult. For me, the main thing is adapting your approach to suit the environment. With a rock band in an arena, if you turn the PA off, it goes quiet. In a 200 cap room, however, if you turn the PA off, some of the weight drops out, but in most cases its not going to get that much quieter. You are governed by the loudest noise coming off the stage, be it a snare drum, wedges, or a guitar amp; you have to bring everything else up to meet that, to take that loudest sound but make it sit where it should in the mix. To be entirely in control, ideally, we need to be louder than the stage, but without pinning the audience to the back wall. The job then becomes not so much about creating the sound, but about taking what is already coming off stage and using the PA to enhance it to achieve the same end product. Example: as you’re trying to overpower the snare coming off the stage the transients might be shutting the PA down, so instead, maybe dial in a heavily compressed snare with a big lump at 200hz and with the high-end rolled off. This will bolster the 'crack' you already have in the room, and will then help to make the snare sound forward and connected to the mix. The aim here is to give the illusion that you're hearing it all from the PA with everything else, but not using all your power to fight a transient that already exists. To go even deeper, you could think about sending the snare pre EQ to your snare reverb, so the reverb return still contains the HF information, and again helps to take
the acoustic snare sound that is coming off the stage out of the roof, and into the face of the audience. The small room certainly makes you think harder, which in the worlds of old tired club PAs, that isn’t such a bad thing. The use of filters and surgical EQ to remove absolutely everything you don’t need is going to make the system work more efficiently and hopefully get you those all important extra dBs that you’re craving. I often will tune a system in a smaller room to suit the band, instead of trying to create the flat response system as normal. Things like pulling 80-100hz in your subs is going to take the stress off those tired old drivers, and let them extend and move more freely to produce the 50-60hz stuff that’s going to move and engage the audience. Techniques aside, managing your own expectations is a huge part too. Although there is every chance that you’re stood at FOH, squashed behind the bar, or in
some horrible cupboard somewhere hating life, and for you the gig is at best a solid 2/10, the important thing is to remember to put yourself in the mindset of the punter. These people come to this same venue week in, week out, and in reality what you may be hating is probably blowing their minds. As long as these guys leave the show thinking ‘I have never heard that venue sound like that before’ then you are worth your money, despite the fact that you too may very well be thinking ‘I have never heard my show sound quite like that before!’ It’s easy to get down when you’re walking into some bar and grill somewhere in the US, and seeing three Mackie SRM350s hung on their side, then having to listen to the house guy telling you about their new “line array” system (this actually happened to me). But by just taking a minute to adjust to your surroundings, set your goals and expectations realistically, you can then dive in and achieve 10/10 on the night. n
TV AND RADIO ON THE PHONE 5G looks set to shake up how we use our smart phones and mobile devices. It also has possibilities for broadcasting, as Kevin Hilton discoversâ€Ś www.psneurope.com
t's been hard to avoid 5G recently. The fifth generation of mobile telecom and broadband internet technology has been talked of as the next big thing, and now the major service providers are launching 5G networks this year. EE started its rollout in six UK cities during May, followed by Vodafone in July and Three in August, all of which has received considerable coverage on television and radio. While the main focus has been on faster download speeds and streaming to smartphones and other mobile devices, 5G is also being positioned as a carrier and distribution technology for broadcasting that could complement, if not replace, established RF, satellite and fibre systems. This was underlined in the BBC's coverage of the start of EE's services on May 30, when its technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, reported live from Covent Garden in London over a 5G link. Cellan-Jones' contribution to the Breakfast programme on BBC One TV was hailed as the first news broadcast over 5G in the UK. He also made audio-only reports on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Scotland.
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EE-BT Sport 5G Remote Broadcast with presenter Matt Smith (left) and Matt Stagg (right)
Ian Wagdin, senior technology transfer and partnerships manager with BBC R&D, says his department first starting thinking about how 5G could be used in production about a year ago: "We looked at the possibility of 5G and existing technologies and whether it could replace or enhance what we are already using. Spectrum is at a premium now and we may not be able to carry on using RF." Wagdin explains that either bonded cellular or WiFi would usually be used for single camera news contributions, carrying HD video and embedded audio. Cellan-Jones' reports were passed through a WMT (wireless multiplex technology) encoder for distribution to the BBC Breakfast studios at MediaCityUK in Salford. Wagdin admits he did not expect the link to work as well as it did, even though there were some problems in getting on air. "We'd been doing four days of testing and we thought the SIM card had been unloaded but it hadn't and we ran out of data," he says. "But we got on air and for a first trial it was extremely successful." The soundonly contributions used the same infrastructure as the TV link, with the audio stripped off as a separate feed.
The emergence of 5G has brought about a change in attitude towards telecom technology for broadcast, largely due to its higher bandwidths and lower latency. Among the projects currently in progress to develop suitable network standards and broadcast/ entertainment related applications is 5G-MEDIA. This involves companies from the telecom, cloud, broadcast and academic sectors, including IBM, Spanish AV group RTVE, University College London (UCL) and German technology research institute, IRT. The IRT is also heading the 5G TODAY project in Germany, which is focusing on large-scale TV transmission in the FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) mode. IRT spokesman Thomas Schierbaum says the main task of 5G TODAY is to evaluate the robustness of FeMBMS, with the first results expected to be published towards the end of this year. Schierbaum comments that 5G Broadcasting covers both production - mobile/ location contributions, wireless cameras/microphones and drones - and distribution for linear TV and ondemand services. IRT is working on 5G TODAY with Bavarian regional broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, transmitter manufacturer Rohde & Schwarz, communications specialist Kathrein and telecoms provider Telefonica. R&S is supplying two transmitters, which will operate in the 700MHz band currently being auctioned off for mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Mohamed Aziz Taga, product manager for LTE/5G Broadcast transmitter systems at R&S, highlights the difference between 5G for mobile phone/broadband use and broadcasting as being the quality of service combined with the ability to reach multiple users simultaneously from a single source. "The approach with 4G was unicast, on a one-to-one basis," he explains. "If you want to distribute a major event that lasts five to six hours, then it is better to broadcast it using a one-tomany format. Unicasting in small cells means that other people can be affected when there are a lot of others watching the same programme." The broadcast and multicast elements of 5G are being formalised by the 5G-Xcast project. The technology for this is designated 5G PPP (Public Private Partnership) Phase II and is being developed jointly by the European Commission along with information and communication technology (ICT) manufacturers, telecommunications operators, service providers and research bodies in Europe. It includes Next Generation Audio (NGA) and object-based production. BBC R&D is part of 5G-Xcast and has been researching 5G Broadcast as a potential means of radio distribution. Lead research engineer Andrew Murphy
says work is also taking in object-based media and personalisation, as well as coverage for remote areas. This last category is being investigated as part of an ongoing test on the island of Stronsay, part of the Orkneys off the northeastern coast of Scotland. Because Stronsay has limited fixed broadband, little or no mobile coverage and poor digital radio transmission, Murphy says it was an ideal location for the tests. "The key point was to prove the possibilities of the technology," he comments. "The project is divided into two parts: a public trial of broadcasting to mobile phones and a development from scratch of a 5G Broadcasting modem, which is taking place in Glasgow. We are using some 4G aspects but the test is free to air and SIM-free, which are features of 5G Broadcasting." Another broadcaster looking into a different aspect of 5G Broadcasting is BT Sport. In November 2018 it staged what was described as a world first when a live link from Wembley Stadium was beamed to a presentation theatre at the ExCel exhibition centre in London's Docklands. All vision and audio mixing on the transmission was handled from the broadcaster's headquarters in Stratford, east London. BT Sport had been looking for a means of performing remote productions at lower league football matches, with only a few cameras and microphones on site and the production team back in the main studio. In the past, it has used 4G, even though, as Matt Stagg, director of mobile strategy for BT Sport concedes, it was never designed for broadcast. "It does work," he notes, "but it is only one network that is designed for downloading and streaming." The remote production set-up demonstrated by BT Sport encoded the output of the camera and passed it over Ethernet to a CPE dongle. The signal was 5G up to the cell, with the handshake done in 4G. After this the feed moved on to the EE 5G test network, using 3.4GHz spectrum from a 5G antenna in the stadium connected to a 10Gbps backhaul link for transmission to BT Sport's broadcast centre. Audio from Sennheiser radio mics was embedded in the video signal, while a Comrex codec was plugged into the 5G cell for in-ear monitoring. Stagg describes this new way of working as a mixture of TV and telecoms. "If there is fibre in a stadium we will always use that," he says, "but a director might still want the freedom of 5G cameras and mic links. There are other use cases, including breaking news as well as standard OBs. We also see 5G as changing the way film or drama productions are edited, with footage sent directly to the edit suite." These are very early days for 5G and 5G Broadcasting in particular, but broadcasters and telecom companies are looking seriously at what it may offer in the future. n
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In a departure from her full-time duties fronting Seattle indie rock outfit Chastity Belt, Julia Shapiro recently released her self-produced debut solo album Perfect Version. Daniel Gumble spoke to her about her first foray into production and the pressures of working alone…
Julia Shapiro (photos by Eleanor Petry)
t wasn’t really intentional, I just started recording stuff in my apartment for fun because I wanted to learn how to use Ableton,” Julia Shapiro tells PSNEurope as we connect with her in Seattle via Skype to discuss Perfect Version, her debut self-produced solo album. Released on June 14, it arrives two years after Chastity Belt - Shapiro’s fulltime band - dropped their third album I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, a record that saw the Seattle fourpiece expand once again on their unique, low-key brand of guitar-driven melodic melancholy. It’s a sound that the band have been coaxing rather than forcing into new territories, with each album building subtly upon the last with additional layers of instrumentation and richer sonic textures. And while her latest outing is every inch a solo excursion, it is this sound that Shapiro continues to explore. As the lead vocalist and principle songwriter in Chastity Belt, that will hardly come as a shock, but, as she explains, the decision to embark on a solo project was more the result of a happy accident than an attempt to break from the shackles of her band. “I ended up with about four demos and was liking the way they sounded, so I sent them to Jason Baxter at Hardly Art (Chastity Belt’s record label) for some feedback,” she says. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, put these out’. But he said maybe I could do a solo album and they’d release it. So I went into my friend’s studio with those four songs and re-did them. That was going to be my plan for the rest of the album, but I started demoing more songs and just grew really attached to them. There is a magic to a song that’s been written while
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being recorded. Writing the parts as I was recording made it pretty fun. It was a great learning process.” Despite being well versed in the art of making a record with a band in the studio, Shapiro had never before taken the helm as a producer. “I’d done stuff on GarageBand but nothing I’d ever mixed,” she explains. “I needed this push from Hardly Art to make me finish something, and I really enjoyed the process. There was a lot of pressure on me compared to being in a band where you’re making decisions together, but I liked being in control of everything. It’s nice not having that with Chastity Belt because it would change our whole band dynamic and it just wouldn’t be very cool, but it was really nice to have this one thing going on in my life where I felt totally in control. "Sometimes, if you let go of your creative control just a little bit, like handing over songs to engineers, things might not go the way you planned. With this, if something didn’t turn out how I wanted it to it was completely my fault, which made me feel better. It felt really cool to produce some songs that were completely my work. It was mostly me just listening and experimenting and seeing what sounded good as I went along. And it was fun to experiment with some really fucked up sounds in a way that I wouldn’t with the band.” With Perfect Version, Shapiro’s approach to production was largely shaped on the fly, experimenting as she went along and recording ideas as they were taking shape. However, through her experiences with Chastity Belt, she has developed her own definition of what she expects from an outside producer.
“We as a band already have so many ideas and go into the studio with all our songs pretty much ready to go,” she elaborates. “We generally need one extra voice to look at the big picture of things and let us know how things are sounding, because you can get lost when you’re playing a song over and over again. We all have our own ideas, and a lot of them, so we like a pretty hands-off producer but one who still has opinions and can make decisions when we’re having trouble.” So how did it feel to embark on a project without having her bandmates on-hand to provide those additional ideas? “It was liberating, but it was hard at times,” she says. “It was difficult for me to not have someone else to bounce ideas off of, or have someone tell me it’s good. Especially with mixing; I would mix for a really long time and get to a point where I’d stop, come back to it the next day and it’d sound really fucked up. In that sense, I did have some people I’d send the songs to just for some reaction, because I needed someone to say, ‘Yes, that sounds like a song’!” With a new Chastity Belt album also in the works and due for release later this year, Shapiro believes that the lessons she learned during the making of Perfect Version have made a positive contribution to its sound. “We actually just finished mixing the next Chastity Belt album and it was really helpful for me to be able to describe the different tones that I wanted,” she states. “And I thought more about panning and had more of a sense of the things the engineer could do to help us reach the sound I was looking for. The more experience
I have making records the more I hear the next time. “The new album sounds very different to our last record,” she continues. “It’s the most time we’ve spent recording. It’s a bit jammy, there are a lot of overdubs, there are more instruments, there’s violin, cello, trumpet, keyboards and lots more harmonies. It’s more intricate, more dynamic. It’s for sure the one we’re most proud of. I felt that way with every record but with this one in particular we really sat down and talked about exactly what we wanted and made sure everything was very intentional and treated with care. It was different to our past experiences, where I don’t think we really thought much about the process. We thought about the songs but the recording always felt rushed.” Before we part ways, talk turns to the records that have most heavily influenced Shapiro’s producerly sensibilities, as well as those she is currently excited by. “I really like how all the Elliott Smith records sound, and the same goes for Wilco,” she concludes. “Both of those to me have really cool, dynamic sounds. I started listening to music differently when I started making music. And I sometimes wish I could go back to listening to music the way I did before. In school I would listen to something and think, this just feels good. I wouldn’t know why but I like this song. I think that’s how most people who don't make music experience music. n
THIS MONTH: Here, we chat with Asher Dowson from d&b about his life in the industry, and take a look at some supportive charities within the music and audio worlds. We’ve also curated a run down of the most exciting industry events coming up. To let us know of anything exciting and different you're doing this month, or later on, email firstname.lastname@example.org
60 SECONDS WITH…
ASHER DOWSON d&b audiotechnik House of Worship segment manager
What first sparked your interest in the industry? I’ve always been around production and technology, from audio in church to my dad’s corporate video production company. Looking back, there were certainly several great people in the industry whom I respected, which steered my interest from a young age, and as my career developed more towards the installed audio field, I found a home amongst an incredibly friendly bunch of fellow nerds. What was your first job? Unofficially, that would’ve been video editing at my dad’s place over the summer when I was 15, but officially, I first found my sales stride working in the music education services sector before launching my own business at the tender age of 20. What is an average day like at work for you? Average? What’s that?! There’s always an interesting push/pull mix – a balancing act between delivering my own house of worship priority projects and responding to the needs of my stakeholders: the global d&b team, influencers and our customers – without getting too drawn away from the overall segment strategy and plans. Our EMEA territory manager, Phill Coe, gave me some excellent advice early on to that point: deliver on the strategic whilst being flexible for the tactical. Wise words indeed. What has been your favourite project to date? That would’ve been my first PA install in a 600 seat church renovation. I fell in love with the goal of delivering an orderly project; nerding out on well wired racks and cleanly installed containment. Winning that project felt incredible – seeing it through on site and handing over a well-delivered system to the client was a very important moment for me. What is the most ambitious project you’ve worked on? Thankfully, I can say that I’m working on the most ambitious projects of my life at this very moment. That said, the scope of d&b systems makes house of worship projects easier than you’d imagine. How do you balance work and life? Regular and meaningful communication. With increasing demands from the worship segment
globally, my commitment to growing d&b’s presence in this segment requires significant travel, so saying ‘yes’ to my family can sometimes feel like saying ‘no’ to an opportunity for the company and vice versa. But family first makes for a healthy, happy (and more effective) me. Both work and home life need to be understanding, and thankfully they are in a big way. What are the biggest challenges you face in your job? Time. d&b is growing at such a tremendous pace, that often time seems to be the only thing we lack, so it’s important to remember to pause and reflect every now and then. Also taking care of those around you. What do you like most about the pro audio industry? The people. And it’s all about the people: colleagues, competitors, customers and the press. Wouldn’t change them for the world. Who/what is your inspiration? My wife, my parents and Mick Spratt. What do you like to do outside of work? Living in Norway, I enjoy many local activities, including axe grinding, foraging and collecting many leather bound books so that my house smells of rich mahogany. But seriously, my church is a big part of my life, so hanging out with those guys or my family would be top of the list. After that, probably fumbling my way around my Les Paul’s fretboard.
D&B IS GROWING AT SUCH A TREMENDOUS PACE, THAT OFTEN TIME SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY THING WE LACK, SO IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER TO PAUSE AND REFLECT EVERY NOW AND THEN ASHER DOWSON
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Find out what pro audio and tech events are happening in the coming months…
Rare tour of Abbey Road Studios with lecture August 8-18, 2019
practitioners who are involved in theory, technical design, and the application or evaluation of headphone technology.
Abbey Road Studios is offering a rare opportunity to tour the studio from August 8-18. This tour will kick off 50 years after the release of The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ album and the day the band took their iconic zebrawalk photograph, on August 8. Guests will have a chance to see the Studio Two Echo Chamber as well as the Control Room, and will then find out more about the studios’ exciting history with a 90 minute lecture from authors of Recording the Beatles: The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used To Create Their Classic Albums, Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan. They will explore the studios' legacy of innovation from the patenting of stereo to the invention of numerous recording techniques.
IBC 2019 RAI Amsterdam September 12-17, 2019
2019 AES Conference on Headphone Technology August 27-29, 2019, San Francisco, USA AES is bringing the second edition of its Conference on Headphone Technology to the pro audio community, with a targeted focus on the emerging trends of Mobile Spatial Audio, Individualisation, Assistive Listening and Audio for Augmented Reality. This event attracts scientists, developers and
Occupying the same venue as ISE, yet later on in the year, IBC is a media, entertainment, and technology show. As well as exhibitions and conferences, IBC has developed a series of events and free-to-attend features to enhance the show's experience: theatres hosting demonstrations, presentations and briefings; the future of technology and research from leading R&D labs; and blockbusters on show at the custom built Big Screen. The show also includes the IBC Awards, for which entries are now open, recognising notable contributions from organisations and individuals to the industry. In fact, the 2019 show is adding two new Awards to the bill, including the Young Pioneer Award that acknowledges young and emerging talent in the creative, commercial or technical spheres, and the Social Impact Award, which represents achievements in inclusivity, diversity, and the environment. Other Award categories include the Innovation Awards, Outstanding Achievement Awards, and Exhibition Stand Design Awards. We also do our own 'Best Of Show' Awards, so be sure to be on the look out for who wins this year.
AES NEW YORK 2019 October 16-19, 2019 This show, the 147th Audio Engineering Society International Convention, is made for those interested in all things pro audio. As well as exhibits and demos, there will be comprehensive papers, workshops and tutorial programmes. AES New York 2019 will be colocated with the Independent NAB Show New York.
CHARITY CORNER MUSIC SUPPORT BACKS THE INDUSTRY
BACKUP PROVIDES FINANCIAL AID FOR ENTERTAINMENT TECH PROS IN NEED
The charity began in April 2016, the founders being veterans of the music
Backup – The Technical Entertainment Charity – provides financial support to industry technical professionals working in live events, theatre, TV and film. Backup helps live entertainment professionals by providing grants for financial aid in the event of illness or suffering an accident. Grants can cover essential living costs, medical related expenses, advice, re-training and travel. If you currently reside in the United Kingdom and have earned your living for at least five years in the entertainment technology industry, or you are an immediate family member of someone who has, including his or her spouse, domestic partner or dependent child, you are eligible.
industry with personal experiences with mental health and addiction issues themselves. After witnessing the sometimes negative impacts of working in the industry on themselves and those around them, they realised a personal and confidential service was needed. The charity’s mission is to make sure nobody in the UK music industry is left to suffer alone. Music Support offers a 24/7 telephone helpline with peer support from volunteers with personal experience with emotional, mental and addiction issues. It also provides “Safe Hubs” backstage at UK music festivals where there is an opportunity to chat with someone. There are also resources are the website and educational events that take place.
You can find out more or apply for a grant at www.backuptech.uk. Backup also host a variety of charity events for entertainment tech professionals to get involved in.
Helpline: 08000306789 Enquiries: email@example.com To donate or volunteer and for more information, visit the website: https://www.musicsupport.org/
Visit the website: https://www.backuptech.uk/
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Here, we discover more about the significance of sound design and music composition in the podcast world, as well as its more obvious presence in music production, through the well-informed lense of So Wylie, music producer and sound designer for Gimlet Media (Spotify)...
o Wylie is a 27-year-old sound designer and music producer, currently working in her dream job spinning out sound designs for Gimlet Media (Spotify) and producing music for various artists, currently Shilo Gold and Archana. Among the pro audio industry's most prosperous sectors at present is the podcast market, a market that So Wylie has certainly made her mark on. Her resume has already been significantly populated, having designed, mixed and written the original scores for the podcasts The Habitat and Conviction, created the sound design and music for Spotify's Mogul, the inaugural season of Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight, and Peabody-winning series Uncivil. She’s also dipped her toes in custom music to support brands such as Reebok, The Wall Street Journal and The Cut, not to mention entering the world of film by sound designing the score for When We Grow up (Catherine Curtin, Best Feature, Indy Film Fest) and An Aspirational Space (Best Original Score Silver Award, ISA). Here, PSNEurope’s Fiona Hope chats to So Wylie about how classical music played a part in getting to where she is now and her experiences in this vast and varied industry to date... How did you get into this industry? My background is in classical music. I studied composition and music technology in undergrad, mostly writing experimental chamber music. I got into audio working in sound crews for live events while in school,
but I knew I eventually wanted to be in post-production because the level of detail was appealing, and I began mixing and composing music for films. Eventually, I built up a portfolio that lead to my current position at Gimlet Media, and I also produce music for recording artists. Who are your influences within the industry? I’m really inspired by the composer Jesse Novak, who does the music for Bojack Horseman and Tuca and Bertie. He’s able to create absolutely zany music cues that subvert our expectations of how music works in television. He’s incredibly prolific and has to jump into so many different genres but manages to keep a stylistic throughline. He tends to blur the line between what is music and what is sound design; I try to blend the two myself, so I appreciate that a lot as a viewer. What’s the worst advice you’ve been given? When I was first starting out, I was told I needed a ton of expensive gear and plugins and a studio space to do anything “right”. I have access to these now, but back then it felt like without them I didn’t have a chance. However, so much of what I learned starting out didn’t require that; the rise of consumer audio allows anyone to learn about audio with a much lower price tag. Now, I know your gear collection grows organically as you build your skills. And the best tips you’ve received? My colleagues at Gimlet, Austin Thompson and
Matthew Boll, raised the importance of file-naming and organisation habits to me. Because of this, I’ve been able to pull up years-old sessions without much fuss, find exactly what I need when I need it, pass sessions back and forth between engineers, and rarely lose any work. Creating solid templates, strict specs, and developing naming conventions allows for my creativity to flourish. What’s your favourite thing about the industry? I love being able to wear the hats of music producer, sound designer, and mixing engineer all at once. These positions really inform each other, and it’s been great to have simultaneous practice in them all. Our audio tools are so powerful and flexible now that we can artfully combine all of the functions of audio to serve whatever project is at hand and treat them as one, whereas before it made more sense to stratify them. I also like working with so many different types of creatives. What are the biggest challenges of the job? Communicating about music and sound is difficult because we don’t have a full vocabulary to discuss it. A lot of what we use to converse about it is based in music theory or technical skill, but everyone has different levels of experience. Coming to an understanding with an artistic partner about how to create a sonic identity that doesn’t exist yet is difficult, but it is also one of my favourite parts of the job. Each time I create work for a project it feels like I’m learning a new language. n
In for the kill - Up close and personal with the Killing Eve sound crew.