Welcome to Earshot’s beat by beat coverage of The Imaging Days event, direct from Die Lichtfabrik, Haarlem, Netherlands. This post contains all sessions from the morning of day one. For the afternoon sessions try this.
Cyclists in Haarlem
Look… commuting cyclists. On proper solid bikes with panniers and the occasional basket, riding socially in a pleasant mood and at a moderate pace without breaking a sweat. No wannabe Tour de France entrants in Lycra here. Dear London, please note.
This is a live blog through the day. Refresh this page for the latest updates.
Sessions start at 1000 CET (local time), that’s 9am in the UK, with Denzil Lacey from Ireland’s 2FM (check this podcast to hear their latest jingles from ReelWorld).
Highlights today also include Chris Stevens from Ignite Jingles discussing time and how to make more of it, Chris Ward, group head of production from Bauer’s city network in the UK, an imaging ‘1 on 1’ mentoring session and Dave Foxx from the US, fresh from last week’s ReelMix event in Miami.
To join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #TID16.
Denzil from RTÉ 2FM takes the stage. From under a shock of Borisy hair, he promises some ProTools sessions to unpick and some creative notes.
He plays a montage of his imaging work, heavy in branded intros and then asks the audience which one they’d like him to demonstrate. A voice from the hall says “Bastille”, and so that’s what we’re looking at.
This example is unfussy but effective. There is a little tuning (with WavesTune) and Denzil incorporated the 2FM sonic logo in F minor to match the key of the track.
Denzil says it’s important when doing branded intros not to reprocess the original song because that’s been mastered to sound a particular way. He has a track on his laydown which contains no plugins and runs straight to the master output, bypassing any processing, even the output chain.
Denzil’s fvo is called Afrik. Her voice is clear and open but needs a good amount of EQ to remove the lower muddy frequencies and make the top end really pop.
Denzil adds some subtle delays, left and right, and compression to complete the sound he wants. It cuts through nicely without the need for any gritty harmonic distortion.
Now, onto a promo spot in audio and video. Denzil plays the video promo for 2FM Xmas Ball 2016 which is entirely mute. His job is to make the soundtrack, and an accompanying radio spot as part of the campaign.
It’s a mix of music tracks from the artists involved, unique drops from the output of the station grabbed from the logger, voiceover and effects.
We look at EQ for voice again. Learning point: it’s just as much about what you remove with eq than what you boost. Take out frequencies that add little to clarity in order to make space in the frequency range for other elements to poke through.
Now we’re moving on apace. The next piece is called ‘5 seconds of summer’. It’s a branded intro. Denzil has audio from James Corden on this ident, and he’s incorporated the station name in perfect rhythm.
He says he wants people who hear this song, even in other places, to think of 2FM. By tightly integrating the station branding into the top of the song he will increase the chances of that happening.
Denzil says he avoids using karaoke versions of songs in his work. There are lots out there, he says, but he prefers to reuse elements from the actual track.
Denzil previously worked at Spin South West, a regional station in Ireland. He’s playing a piece he worked on there which includes the word ‘Spin’, recorded by him, from his own voice, on his mobile phone.
He’s cut it up in a stuttery way and harmonised it so it no longer sounds like a random bloke saying ‘Spin’ into his mobile. Because that would be odd.
Denzil recommends playtime with plugins: just spend time getting used to the various plugins you have and experiment with them he says. Good tip: if you learn from experimentation without the pressure of making actual work you’ve made a valuable investment in your future.
Denzil has a musical background but relies on the Mixed In Key software to analyse the tracks he’s working with. It looks like this:
Denzil is asked how he got on in his career.
He says imaging producers are all very helpful and if you ‘just do anything’ you’re asked to you’ll quickly pick up experience. He says he didn’t do well at school, but is doing well in radio and that’s more important to him.
Ooops. It’s quite dark in the hall: I kicked over my coffee. Sharp sfx rang out but sorry to the cleaners.
Chris Stevens from Ignite Jingles
Chris is on stage and we’re hearing a one minute montage from Chris’s team at Ignite.
It’s about time. Chris promises ten ideas and tip about time and how to use it. Why does time matter? Here’s a clue:
1. Know your body clock
Do you work best in the morning or at night. Get to know your body clock and use it accordingly.
2. Dead time
Do you have some? Bet you do. On the train, can’t sleep on a flight, away with work. All these are opportunities to use dead time productively. We see a video from James Stodd of Celedor, nicely filmed in the SAM FM studios. He talks about his commute by train (Southern Trains so plenty of time there).
He works from his laptop wherever he goes, making rock imaging for Benztown during his commute to Sam. He says his ability to take the laptop to different places helps his creativity.
@jamesstodd video about going out of the studio and changing your production location.. agreed 100%. try it! #TID16
If you say ‘it’s easier just to do it yourself’ then you’re wasting time. Train, delegate and you’ll find you have more time for your work.
4. Save time on air
Do you truly have the right jingles, the right slogan, the right voiceovers, the right clocks? Get them right once and they’ll serve you well for a long period. Chris is playing a focus group video in which listeners are discussing Real Radio jingles in strong Scottish accents.
They like some, they dislike others. The familiar ones with the known logo melody perform best.
Chris has now invited some volunteers to join him in an exercise..
Chris plays a piece of imaging and asks the volunteers to draw the voiceover, and decide whether they’d like ‘a pint or a fight’ with him.
We see some drawings, like this by Staxx. The big reveal is that the voice artist is – gasp – in the room. It’s Chris Ward. Unlike the drawing of him, Chris Ward has a mouth.
The point is: it’s interesting to learn what listeners think of your audio image.
4. Time savers on air.
Chris demonstrates how he saved a lot of airtime with a shorter, sharper top of the hour news jingle. From 20 to 10 seconds every hour, 24 hours a day.
Add that up across the year 1440 minutes per year. They gained a whole day of extra broadcasting every year, just by shortening the news jingle!
5. Get organised
Chris sings the praises of Smartsheet. Find what works for you. Dropbox, Trello etc. All good tools to help with workflow and productivity.
6. Know your weaknesses
Chris’s worst nightmare: recording vox pops. They make him miserable and he knows it, so he gets someone else to record them. He also reveals that his guitar playing isn’t really up to it, so he makes a MIDI demo of what he wants and then hires a professional.
7. What if you’re in a world of meetings?
The public/state broadcasting people in the hall raise their hands to say they have the most meetings.
Chris Reay from BBC Radio 2 appears on the big screen to explain how he writes while walking to work or on the bus. This is where his inspiration comes from, not from being sat in BBC meetings. One example is a Terry Wogan rapping promo made for Christmas.
In a second video, Chris Reay talks about his own time management techniques. He sends emails to himself with a time delay to act as reminders. He works on emails first thing in the day. A ‘follow-up’ folder contains everything he’s asked other for, so he can chase without forgetting anything.
Radio 2 has a big grid which acts as the master planning tool for all the teams. Chris says if you get the planning sorted first it gives you time to work on the creative without worrying about what might change. He knows his own energy levels change through the day and plans his tasks accordingly.
Tip from Chris Reay to Imaging Days delegates: fight for the time to make great stuff. Good bosses understand you need time to make good work, others need educating. Build a reputation for being a brilliant producer, not for your ability to knock out lots of volume.
8. Plan for emergencies.
Chris jokes that there are three things imaging producer can lose: their iLok, their passport and their virginity. He’s lost two of the three (so far). He has two iLoks, everything is backed up to Dropbox: basically he’s saying put in place some contingencies now.
9. A clear head.
Chris knows that sometimes he needs creative stimulus. He reveals the three films that are guaranteed to help his creativity flow. This explains a lot.
Chris Stevens’s movie choices
He also has a basset hound called Arthur: walking Arthur works for him, creatively.
We hear a funny clip of Chris singing a rough impression of jingle idea into his phone while walking Arthur. This became a jingle for Radio Carmarthenshire, once performed by professional musicians.
10. Take holidays.
Americans get few days holiday each year, Europeans many more. A change of scene unlocks your creativity so take as many holidays as you can. It will help your work.
Well that was a great session. Superb tips, no sell. Nicely done Chris.
Bart van Gogh and Gijs Knol: top of mind branding
An introduction from Bart (grew up listening to the radio pirates of the 60s) and Gijs Knol (born in the age of machine music). This session is about how things have changed over the years. They both work with Top Format, a Netherlands-based imaging company.
We see a vintage video (I assume it’s JAM Creative Productions because Chris Kershaw is in there) of seven singers making Sky Radio jingles. Bert says they were mixing during recording, they didn’t have vocalign, they didn’t have autotune. They just had to get it right as a group.
Gijs says that today he works with just two or three singers. He layers them three ways. If it’s a modern sound the singers are recorded at different times, even if they’re creating harmonies between their parts. Sometimes the singers never meet.
If you want to see and hear what’s going on here, try our Periscope feed. Apparently, it’s working well…
On stage, the session has become a loose conversation between Bert and Gijs, exchanging experiences. Gijs says he’s not always in the right mood to write jingles but there’s no such thing as a writers block: it’s just work so you have to get on with it, with a bit of inspiration from wherever you can find it.
In a nod back to Chris Stevens’s session, he says he’ll take a walk or drink a coffee.
We’re seeing a ProTools session for a recent public radio project made by Gijs. He composes in Studio One, then assembles and produces in ProTools from bounced stems. The Studio One interface is good for working with audio samples, he says. He doesn’t feel ProTools is right for his kind of music composition, but its audio workflow and busses are superb.
Let’s have a wide angle…
We’re looking at a 25 second ramp with soulful female vocal licks across the track and a firm sung tail. It sounds pretty polished in Studio One, even before moving the elements across the ProTools.
Bert asks Gijs about his simplification philosophy: he says today’s hit music is pretty empty compared with the elaborate productions of the past.
Gijs says he aims for sonic clarity and loudness – they’re upward trends and his bass production is very simple, taking out what you don’t need. He says old jingles using bass, keys guitar, drums and vocals were sometimes pretty basic too – they all have extremely high production value though.
He’s now talking about dynamic processing. Gijs puts his instruments into groups and applies appropriate dynamics to each group, with very little processing across the final mix. This helps to keep the sound clean and “let the station’s Orban or whatever” do the rest.
On samples, Gijs says it’s important not to use the same old samples on every project. Each station is different so he likes to pick appropriate stimulus material from the station playlist – sometimes even sampling bits of the songs themselves (not sure how the licensing works for that) – so the jingles grow from the essence of the radio station.
We’re looking at some settings now in response to a comment from the audience about the ‘cleaness’ of Gijs’s mixes. How does he do that? Good quality samples, limiters just tickled, not driven hard and minimal output chain processing all help.
And now it’s lunchtime, but there’s no food! Anxious faces, shuffling feet.
Hang on, what’s that arriving round the corner…
After lunch, Chris Ward from Bauer in the UK, an imaging 1 on 1 mentoring session, and Dave Foxx.
There will be a separate post within Earshot for the afternoon sessions, for ease of scrolling. Afternoon sessions start at 1330 CET / 12.30pm UK time / 7.30am Eastern – good morning to our friends in the US.