The Imaging Days 2014 – day one
Significant ideas and provocations from the Imaging Days event in Amsterdam held on 8 and 9 September 2014. The official hashtag is #imagingdays2014
This page is compiled as a live blog from the event so it’s in reverse chronological order by session. Start at the bottom if that’s important to you. Each session should read through sensibly in its own right though.
Simon Palframan of the UK’s Kiss runs us through some station credentials (Kisstory reaching around 1m just a year after launch) and plays a positioning video. The line: the beat of the UK. Includes a few frames of Prince Charles too! He’s all about the beat.
Simon’s now playing a session and is the first person today to use Ableton Live, not ProTools.
Simon creates “mood boards” of sounds that might spark an idea. His fiancé works in textiles and does the same.
“We try to work ‘the beat of the UK’ into the top of the hours and other production but never want it to sound slapped on”.
Simon says it speeds up his workflow if he routinely goes back through old projects and archives elements that could be useful in the future. Sound Miner is an expensive but useful tool that helps.
Now he’s showing the use of electronic riser fx in some top of the hour work, using Ableton’s auto-pan and a rhythmic gate them so they don’t clog up the mix or compromise the intelligibility of the speech elements.
This is an excellent demo of the power of Ableton Live as well as of Simon’s incredible sonic judgement and passion.
A great demo now of how Simon took a custom vocal performance from Melissa Steel and worked it up into a piece of production that could be used in a breakfast trail.
Melissa had not provided a clean vocal a’capella so Simon reverse-engineered the elements he needed, taking all kinds of editing liberties along the way.
The boundaries between imaging and commercial are blurring so we make all the station S&P production in the imaging team, says Simon.
One or two messages only says Simon. “If you give people too many messages they’ll take out nothing”.
Simon keeps a block of 30″ blank audio on a spare track so he always has a guide of what thirty seconds looks like.
Part of the Kiss sound is based on use of vocoders. Simon uses Razor within Ableton and demos its power in a Transformers S&P promo which also blends drops from the film, the classic Transformers sfx and some risers and music.
There’s a lot of discussion in the social breaks at this event about working in video – Simon picks up on this and plays some Kiss video productions which have benefited from the techniques of his radio production.
He bows-out with a great imager spot for 4 Music, which is also produced by Bauer, the owners of Kiss.
…and we segue straight into a session about Sky Radio and Radio Veronica.
Guido and Arjan talk about responding to the brief and thinking about what is behind the purpose of a promotion before you start production.
They compare how one brand would use certain voice effects while the other would never dream of it.
We’re dissecting another ProTools session now to see some practical challenges over length and phrasing and how the guys deal with it.
It’s clear they know their respective stations inside-out and are extremely adept at imaging them.
A short and sweet session from these guys. Next, Simon Palframan from the UK’s Kiss.
A brilliant opening from voice artist and writer David Wartnaby including stories about how Andy Roberts would hack down David’s 40″ works of art to 17″ on a two-track editor. Andy’s the butcher for that.
“There are only 10 ways to say the word Kiss”. If you try to add an eleventh it gets dangerous. Funny demo of this demonstrates David’s vocal abilities.
David says that Smooth Radio stands out for its cleanness and lack of production. He also calls David Arnold’s jingles as “coming from the Disney orchestra”.
By contrast, LBC’s top of hour “sounds like armageddon has come on an hourly basis”. And that’s a good thing, he says.
Absolute Radio’s v/o Matt Berry is also one of David’s favourites. “He puts on the voice, but that’s the sound”.
Relationships – they’re important and one of the most important is between voice artist and producer. You can go from misery to elation if you try.
David has voiced sessions from some incredible places. He shares his pictures of duvets from around the world and is getting ready for the demise of ISDN. He’s decorated his Prima with dolly mixtures.
David’s liturgy of radio sackings would make John Holmes wince. He plays the audio. Best one? Telling listeners on Heart that a beach in Epping Forest was a great place to dispose of a body after a murder.
Jo Godfrey is the first female imaging producer to be namechecked today. Jo’s at Global.
David demos how, in his time there, Kiss recorded the vocal phrases “Kiss”, “One” and “Hundred” in twelve keys and that provided the source material for all power intros. “I just chose the ones that sounded least clashy.”
It’s good to have talent at these events. Not every brilliant studio producer can also be a fantastic showman on stage so David’s performance was well-judged and a well-received punctuation in the day.
Mark Khan takes the stage. He’s an imaging and programming consultant who promises to tell us “how other stations do it” and he works all over Europe.
Markus starts with the story of stations across Europe that are now making their jingles in-house. He says the guys at Wise Buddah don’t like that!
SWR3 does this – it saves the money, ensures they earn revenues from royalties and, he says, the quality stands up to the programming well.
“They pick the music, they do the jingles so they should create the perfect flow”. They’re also a public station with the time, money and studios.
Next example is “SWR Das Ding”, the CHR station from Baden-Baden, Germany. It’s a Wise Buddah client and, to be honest, the work sounds a million dollars better than SWR3’s in-house work.
Now, FM1 from Switzerland – a station that pleads poverty but says they have plenty of passion. Poverty in Switzerland. Really? Maybe not – they have an epic package from PURE jingles to support their AC format.
Another aside – some of these European speakers are remarkably potty-mouthed. I lost count of the number of F-bombs dropped on stage already and one guy talked about “golden showers” earlier. Ew. Bet it’s not like that over at NextRadio.
Now playing the Grooveworx “bad boy in the limo” video. You’ve seen that, right?
We’re now hearing his station. He’s another Reelworld client. They have to sing the word “radio” a bit differently in Slovakian. Flat As.
Next example is Fajn Radio which seems to have a sex, drugs and pop image if the video is anything to go by. On air, the bong game is called the Bank Robbery. They also have a competition called Russian Roulette which includes ransom values, suggestions about how you might spend your final hours alive and then gunshot sfx. Ofcom would not be impressed, but they have no jurisdiction in the Czech Republic .
Fajn Radio gets a lot of press.
Radio 1 & Antenna in Slovenia has a “more good music” positioning and solo female vocals on their sung jingles. Pretty jingles paired with sometimes some heavy beats.
Antena Zagreb (that’s Croatia) is a hugely popular AC station on the coast, apparently. The station uses traditional local instruments in its imaging. Part of their positioning is about national pride and they use lines in their jingles about “the purity of Croatia, the good-looking girls and their nice coast”.
Hope you’re keeping up… we seem to be going to Serbia now. Radio S, Gradski and Pingvin are radio stations there. The jingles sound very strongly infused by local rhythms… and then disco, then EDM.
Finally, Kiss FM in Spain, Markus Kahn’s current client – better not be rude about this one.
It’s a station with problems – dead air between automated items and overlong talk segments. Markus has started kicking it into shape with proper music flow, consistent new imaging and now a story behind its brand promise. Seems to have sacked all the DJs too.
Their music positioning promos are called “hookcollages” – all one word. Michael Jackson seems to be very popular in Eastern Europe.
Oh – here come the DJs – they’re deep in the music in produced high-energy bumpers.
In summary – we’re using exactly the same stuff all over the world but it’s up to you to make it special for your station and your brand.
Team Reelworld explain how they do “music build-ups” to demonstrate to listeners the hidden layers of sound in their favourite songs.
They strip-back each song and recreate the component parts, culminating in the full mix with vocals and a tag line: “they build it, we play it”.
Konsky talks limiting. He pre-masters to -0.3dB with a limiting threshold at -6dB so there’s still a bit of kick to it and the mix still cuts through.
Andy promised that ProTools would crash. And it did.
I ask what conversations the team have with radio stations over their audio processing. This prompts a strong degree of agreement that they don’t master their work, but just pre-master it so there’s some dynamic range left within.
Konsky says it can be a “bitter pill to swallow” for production directors who might want a bit more loudness in their mix but it sounds better on the air if they don’t totally brickwall it.
Reelworld went down very well with the audience – more tomorrow they promise when two of their composers unpick some jingles.
We’re talking production workflow now. Smartsheet, Google Docs, Basecamp and Dropbox the key tools for the team at Reelworld.
Robbie also likes Snapper for audio, Evernote for capturing ideas quickly on any device and Audio Hijack is great for “stealing” any audio from your computer he says.
David Konsky likes Digital Music Pool as a source of acapellas and sometimes uses karaoke versions of songs to get the beds and loops segments he needs.
On 2Day FM Konsky gets just 20 seconds plus station tag for his music positioning promos. He uses concise as a verb. That’s new.
The second big showcase of the day from a major imaging company. It’s Reelworld’s Paul Fernley, David Konsky, Robbie Ehrbar and Andy Jackson unlocking the secrets of their Production Vault.
Andy Jackson reveals the amazing power of his auto-tune settings by playing his own slightly dodgy vocal. Good man.
“as it’s Z100, we have Dave Foxx” he says.
Andy believes you don’t need to be a practical musician like a pianist to do musical imaging but that you do need to “know the notes” and understand tonality and keys.
The Imaging Days audience – a good crowd for a first event.
Lunch with people we’ve never met before. I’ve been paired with this gentleman for an over-lunch chat. Vladimir does all the imaging for the national CHR network Fun Radio in Slovakia.
The story of the TROS shout. The sound of this station’s group shout became a musical running gag that song producers and even other stations started using, says Ivo Samplonius.
All together now… “TROS!”. Ok, you probably have to be here.
Ivo gets briefs from stations across the public radio group – everything from CHR to classical music and has to come up with something appropriate. He’s certainly versatile.
Ivo Samplonius explains his imaging responsibilities across the range of public radio stations in the Netherlands, taking us through a typical day in his personal schedule, hour by hour.
He’s taking apart some power intros which really sound like jingles – full of logo melody for the station, DJ and show names.
Ivo makes a category of imaging he calls a ‘beat sweeper’ – it’s a short id, loaded with voices and mixed over a rhythmic bed.
Two big debates here in Haarlem – firstly, should jingles sound like jingles or the playlisted music and, second, is this appropriate in 2014…
Coffee break. Much needed.
Turns out the coffee and the water cost EUR 2.50 a cup. I think we can think of a suggestion for a “further improvement” the conference could make, don’t you?
It’s Mark Vickers, Creative Director of Wise Buddah jingles, later joined by Chris Hartgers – Imaging Director at Radio 538.
Let’s have a heated debate.
Together they’re taking apart the ProTools sessions of some new work WB is producing for 538 in the Netherlands.
This made me laugh, from Jem Godfrey… with real chickens.
Mark’s now doing a quick sell on IMGR – Wise Buddah’s new CHR imaging service and No Sheet Music. Listen to our most recent podcast for more on those from Mark Goodier and Paul Plant.
Taking questions from the hall, Mark explains that he has a tried-and-tested set of drum sounds he will often go to first and how he uses a lot of EQ notching to ensure sounds don’t fight with each other within his drums mix. The trade secrets are coming out.
The UK kicks things off with James Stodd, Dan Mumford and Nathan Freeman sharing a brilliant range of audio that demonstrates how radio stations can break out of the cliches of imaging. Lots of audio and a few laughs.
James has compiled all the main points from the session on his personal blog and here is the snazzy Prezi slide stack.
They talk about creative process and communicating to the listener as the main focus of their work. Above all, standing out and leaving a lasting impression.
Lots of the audio from these three is in various episodes of our Earshot podcast, catalogued here.
First up, some everyday misogyny courtesy of Beds & Beats and Benztown. It’s a bed.
Day 2 is documented here.