Tag Archives: Jim Beaugez

Creative Audio Mixing Powers ‘Switched On Pop’ Podcast

Switched On Pop co-hosts Nate Sloan (left) and Charlie Harding.
Switched On Pop co-hosts Nate Sloan (left) and Charlie Harding.

New York, NY (February 4 2021)—The Switched On Pop podcast lives by the motto “show, don’t tell” in its dissection of popular music and how the production team relates complex stories and concepts to listeners through audio.

“We wanted to have deeper conversations about music that could dive into some of the actual musical insights—things that are harder to write about on paper,” says Charlie Harding, who started the podcast with co-host Nate Sloan. “We knew that audio gave us the opportunity to evidence some of the deeper, more intriguing elements of music.”

Switched On Pop, which recently joined forces with New York magazine’s music outlet Vulture, goes deep into the making and meaning of popular music, juggling a mix of formats to reach entertaining and informative insights about anthems like Smash Mouth’s omnipresent hit “All Star,” artists Keith Urban and Carly Rae Jepsen, and the trends that drive the industry.

In the recent episode “D.O.C. (Death of the Chorus),” Harding and Sloan discuss how contemporary popular music has shifted away from the soaring choruses of songs like Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” towards a structure of continuous hooks without the sweeping buildup and release of a verse-chorus composition. Editor and engineer Brandon McFarland cues up clips of Franklin, Billie Holiday and Beyoncé like a DJ to illustrate their points.

Editor and engineer Brandon McFarland
Editor and engineer Brandon McFarland

“Nate starts telling us about A-A-B-A form, and he grabs an example of ‘Blue Moon’ with Billie Holiday singing it,” says Harding. “Immediately [when] he says, ‘A-section,’ the filter opens up [and] the highs in the music come in, along with the volume.” The A section crossfades into the B section, with a touch of plate reverb added to give the sound separation from Sloan’s speaking voice. “We really try to have a clear sense of 3D perspective of the music versus the voice.”

The production team is cognizant of maintaining fluidity within an episode, so transitions between clips fall naturally and in time, like beats of the same measure. “Nate and I are musicians and Brandon is a musician, so we make sure that you’re always going in on a beat, going out on a downbeat, or going out on the last beat of the measure, and that the clips themselves feel musical,” says Harding.

For their four-part miniseries on Beethoven’s fifth symphony, Switched On Pop recorded the New York Philharmonic Orchestra playing the iconic composition and presented particular sections in a similar manner. To eliminate dead air between sections they talk about, McFarland “creatively fade[s] those two sections together in a way that it’s fading underneath Nate talking. You don’t even notice we’ve cut out a piece of music, then the flutes come in. [McFarland] did a really good job of finding that perfect-zero crossing point in the music, cutting it, getting a nice little reverb tail, and making it sound natural.”

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When playing actual clips of popular songs doesn’t drive home the points Harding and Sloan make, their own backgrounds as musicians come into play.

“We have music executives, producers [and] all kinds of people listen to our show, but I want us to be accessible to a general audience,” he says, “and that means I’m always trying to find a way to make it as clear as possible what we’re talking about. I can’t assume that people can, in their ear, isolate the bass guitar from the main guitar, so if I don’t have the stems of a track, it’s often easier for me to recreate something to demonstrate what we’re talking about.”Switched On Pop Podcast

Harding’s comment points to a larger challenge he and the podcast team wrestle with every episode: how to draw listeners into the story and deliver information and clips without creating fatigue or disinterest.

“Our goal is to have the show sound as genuine as possible, but not meandering,” he says. “[It’s about] threading that needle of how we can take you on a journey where something is changing every 90 seconds.”

Switched On Pophttps://switchedonpop.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Pro Sound News’ Top 10 Articles of 2020

Pro Sound News top 10 articles of 2020New York, NY (December 24, 2020)—With the end of 2020 upon us (and not a second too soon), we look back at the year that was, presenting the Top 10 Pro Sound News articles of 2020 that appeared on prosoundnetwork.com, as ranked by the site’s Google Analytics readership statistics. Intriguingly, while the biggest news of the year was the pandemic, virtually none of these articles even mention it. Instead, audio pros like yourself were mostly interested in either looking ahead to when things would get back to normal by checking out the latest gear, or looking back at great moments in audio, whether it was the recording of classic albums or the earliest known stereo recordings. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but for now, enjoy the most popular articles from our site, and we’ll see you in the new year.

10. Discovering—and Preserving—the Earliest Known Stereo Recordings
By Clive Young. In 1901, German anthropologist Berthold Laufer used two wax cylinder recorders simultaneously to record Shanghai musicians, unintentionally creating the earliest-known stereo recordings.

9. Apple Mac Pro Rack: A Real-World Review
By Rich Tozzoli. Producer/composer Rich Tozzoli shelled out $10,000 for an Apple Mac Pro Rack computer; was it worth it?

8. The METAlliance Report: The Recording of Steely Dan’s Aja
By The METAlliance. Widely considered a pinnacle of recording excellence, Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja had an occasionally tortured gestation—but it won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. Now METAlliance members Al Schmitt and Elliot Scheiner share the inside scoop on how…

7. Sennheiser Announces Layoffs Amidst Slowing Market
With consumer and live sound sales heavily impacted by COVID-19, Sennheiser will cut 650 jobs worldwide by the end of 2022.

6. Inside the Live Sound of Live Aid, Part 1: London
By Steve Harvey. We look back at the live sound effort that went into the legendary charity concert Live Aid, held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. With 60+ acts on the bill and 160,000 in attendance—not to mention 1.9 billion watching it…

5. Creative Editing is Key to Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend Podcast
By Jim Beaugez. A variety of audio editing tricks help audio producer Matt Gourley ensure that the Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend podcast keeps the laughs coming.

4. Danny Leake, Legendary Studio/Live Engineer, Dead at 69
By Clive Young. In addition to working as Stevie Wonder’s FOH engineer for three decades, Danny Leake also recorded dozens of top artists in the studio, leading to six Grammy nominations for his efforts.

3. Tool Tours with Intricate, Immersive Sound
By Steve Harvey. Touring the world behind Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years, the prog-metal heroes are filling arenas with a massive audio system that takes a new approach to immersive live sound.

2. Exclusive: Yamaha Launches Rivage PM5, PM3 Desks, DSPs, More
By Clive Young. Take an exclusive sneak peek of Yamaha’s most ambitious expansion for the Rivage series yet, as the company introduces two new consoles—the PM5 and PM3—as well as a pair of new DSP engines—DSP-RX and DSP-RX-EX—and Version 4 firmware.

1. AKM Factory Fire—A Pro-Audio Industry Disaster
By Clive Young. A 82-hour fire in AKM’s semiconductor factory is already hurting numerous top pro-audio manufacturers around the globe.

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

How the ‘Flashback’ Podcast Takes History to the Top

New York, NY (May 21, 2020)—The brainchild of host Sean Braswell, a renaissance man of sorts who holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University and a law degree from Harvard, each episode of the new Flashback: History’s Unintended Consequences podcast shows how actions that seem inconsequential can eventually lead to surprising outcomes.

“We like to joke that he’s OZY’s in-house cool history professor,” says Flashback executive producer Rob Culos, who leads the creative direction behind original audio programs at OZY. “When you listen to an episode, it’s as if you’re sitting in Poli-Sci 506 and you are learning how a decision that was made had a ripple effect 50 years later.”

Flashback is the brainchild of host Sean Braswell.
Flashback is the brainchild of host Sean Braswell.

In the first two episodes of the 10-part first season, Braswell connects Henry Ford to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and shows how the YMCA unwittingly helped launch the tobacco black market. Co-produced by OZY and iHeartRadio, Flashback is currently ranked No. 3 on the Apple Podcasts chart for History podcasts and hovers around the top 50 overall.

That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident—Culos and the Flashback team had the podcast series in development for six months prior to launching. Production began in January 2020, so when the COVID-19 crisis hit and people began to shelter at home, eight episodes were already completed and two were still in production for season one.

Flashback executive producer Rob Culos
Flashback executive producer Rob Culos

The COVID-19 pandemic has doubled the number of Americans who work remotely to nearly 60 percent of the workforce—but the team behind the new Flashback: History’s Unintended Consequences podcast series was already ahead of the game.

“We had already been working and producing this show remotely, so our workflow was largely set up,” says Culos. “Our producers are in San Francisco, Washington D.C., L.A. and Atlanta, and have at-home studios. We had already done the groundwork for it to work.”

Even so, a new production process had to be invented from the ground up. The first order of business was to firm up assets, cataloging what was needed to continue producing the show. In a typical interview situation, they provide guests with best practices on ways to record local audio, which they later sync to the host’s audio.

“Oftentimes, we’re talking to folks that have done this before and might have a handheld Zoom recorder, or they might have some little thing they got at Radio Shack 20 years ago that will do wonders,” he says. “Outside of that, we have them use their phone and tell them to do the basics like hold it up as you’re talking on the phone and go into Airplane Mode. That file is our backup.”

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Luckily, the production team is accustomed to being flexible with how it sources audio. The production staff also recognize that the audio characteristics of a phone call or a VoIP app like Zencastr can be aesthetic choices in themselves. Culos says they often lean into those variables to enliven the podcast.

“We’ve actually put small telephone filters onto telephone calls so it enhances that experience, and that’s before any of this [pandemic] hit,” he says.

Where consistency is key—such as with the host mics and certain interview sources—the producers use a Shure SM7B to keep the sound and timbre uniform across a variety of voices.

“We tried out probably six, seven, eight microphones across the board,” he says, “and we just found that the SM7B highlights each one of those. We don’t have to think about it. It just gets what we want to get, and it makes it easy.”

Producers Iyore Odighizuwa (pictured) and Chris Hoff develop production music ideas around themes for individual episodes.
Producers Iyore Odighizuwa (pictured) and Chris Hoff develop production music ideas around themes for individual episodes.

The sound design on Flashback is a more open-ended animal, as it is for many OZY shows. Culos and Braswell begin by passing songs back and forth for ideas—on season five of The Thread, OZY’s successful precursor to Flashback, they even hired a bluegrass band out of North Carolina to record custom music. This time around, the team didn’t want to stray too far from the formula they established for The Thread, but Culos knew he wanted more “punch” and a more modern treatment.

“We relied a lot on our two producers on the team, Iyore Odighizuwa and Chris Hoff, who each have a really good ear for music, and we created a folder of production music and ideas around themes and beds and vibes and motifs,” he explains. “I wanted it to be a cool documentary style but also fun and unexpected.”

For each episode, editing and production work are done through a somewhat gated group effort, with a small group focused on the first round of edits. Once a rough cut with sound design is completed, the team leader opens the project to a larger group to get line notes. They even have a process to smoothly navigate editing over the different platforms used by the producers.

“There have been times in the past where we’ve had to export stems and sessions from Pro Tools to Logic, which can get a little bit hairy,” he says. “But as long as you know the exact way to export your sessions, you should be fine.”

Flashbackhttps://podcasts.iheartradio.com/ozyfb

OZY • https://www.ozy.com/

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com