Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bellows that ring through Pop Culture history.

This summer will mark the 89th anniversary since we first heard "the victory cry of the bull ape" from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes. As the summer lumbers on, we will be graced again with another attempt to accurately portray Tarzan on the big screen this July when Warner Brothers release The Legend of Tarzan on Canada Day in North America.

But we are here to talk about sound, and we shall we great satisfaction. The Tarzan Yell, you know the one, has been used in countless movies has a lot of controversy around it. More over, it's not the first bellow that was heard from Tarzan. In 1929, in the film Tarzan the Tiger was the first yell of Tarzan portrayed by Frank Merrill. This cry is not the resounding bellow that we all know and emulate whenever we swing on objects, but more closely resembles the drunken chanting of a fraternity pledge. Luckily, in 1932 Tarzan the Ape Man was released and brought forth the iconic yell. The controversy around the yell is about it's inception, and whether Weissmuller recorded it as is, or the studio MGM layered Weissmuller's track with a second track of Weissmuller's voice (amplified), a backwards track of a hyena howl, a female soprano holding a note, a growling dog, a camel bleat, and a violin G-string.

Regardless of how precisely this track of American Cinema was made, it rings on in our society's collective memory. But this is not the only scream that we all know and love. Since 1993, Jurassic Park brought us the memorable Tyrannosaurus Rex roar that made the fake dinosaur come to life with the help of a slowed down baby elephant trumpet, an alligator's gurgling, and a tiger's snarl.

Finally, an iconic bellow that rings through cinema history is from a childhood cartoon character that many of us grew up with.

The "Goofy Holler" was coined back in 1941 for the Disney short The Art Of Skiing. Hannes Schroll, an Austrian Alpine Skier, coined the iconic cartoon's yell back in 1941 for the specific cartoon short. People who saw the short fall in love with the "Goofy Holler" and it is now a staple requirement of the character.

What all of this comes back to is that sound doesn't just have to be music to be memorable and give people joy. Be it a much beloved track blared over a boombox at a picnic, or a spine tingling laugh that fills us with apprehension and exhilaration in the movies, the creation of these different sounds and yells and moans make up most of our understanding of pop culture. Between sight and sound, more people will try to mimic how something sounded in a song or on a show, than how it looked.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Make Sure Your Mix Translates Well

You’ve spent hours editing you mix and you think you have it all done but when you go to show it to your friend you notice that it sound completely different than what you head while you were editing. The reason is probably because you were listening to your mix through one platform. It’s one mistake that all audio engineers make at one point. You think that because it sounds good through your speakers it will sound good through all platforms, but in reality there are many steps that you need to take before you can be completely done with your mix. In this article I will take you through the steps to make sure that you mix is ready to be put out into the world.

First, be aware of the space you are using to mix and master. Adam Schwartz, Towson audio professor, suggest that you “mix somewhere you trust and are familiar with”. That way you have a better understanding how sound reflects in that space. If you get the opportunity to use a studio take notice of how they have set up their space. Do they acoustic panels, bass traps, or diffusers? But even if you get to use a studio and it sounds great on the speakers you cannot just stop there and assume that it will translate well through other platforms. You have to test it through other speakers and headphones, but we will get to that later.

(Manta Ray Records in Baltimore)

Second, make sure your recording sounds well from the beginning. You want to understand the final product when you are starting. And it’s not to say that somewhere down the road you will change your mind but its still good to understand the direction that you are going in. Also it may be awesome to have a ton of cool instruments on the track but less really is more. You want your instruments to sound well when played together. It may sound cool to have ukulele or a mandolin on it but if they have to battle another instrument just to be heard, then you have to decide on whether you really need it. 

Another tip can be to have a song that is similar to the song that you recorded as a reference track. You don’t have to copy exactly what they are doing but it is a good way to see how they differentiated the instruments, what they increased, panned, etc. After you have finished recording and are in the processes of editing it is good to alternate the way that you are listening to your mix. If you are listening through speakers, put on a pair of headphones and see how it sounds through there. Also be aware that there are many ways for people to listen to your music. Headphones, speakers, phones, tablets, car speakers are just a few of them, and even with those there are multiple types of headphones, speakers, phones, etc. that will give off a different type of sound. The more variety of platforms that you test your music on the better. 

(Left Audio Technica / Right JBL Studio Speaker by Angrydonat)

With technology becoming such an important part of our lives, some companies are having computers mastering your mix for you, and while that seems convenient what happens when you get your mix back and there is something that wasn’t done right? Or you have changed your mind about how you want it to sound? Do you really want to have to send it in every time with a new description and hope that the computer understands exactly what you want? This is where having an actual human doing your mixing and mastering is beneficial. They are there to communicate with you about your idea and work with you to understand what you want.

Now that you know how to make sure your mix translates well, it's time to get back to work and share your work with the world!