June 30th, 2016
I have done a few live recordings in my time but generally speaking they have been in a studio or some sort of Theatre however, this is Yearbook so the location is… A Warehouse. In West Drayton. Where’s West Drayton I hear you ask? It’s near Slough.
To record 3 tracks from Yearbook’s upcoming debut full length, live, in a Warehouse, featuring numerous friends doing guest appearances and multiple camera ops shooting from multiple angles. Oh and in the space of 10 hours.
We arrived at roughly 11am having picked up numerous people and bits of equipment at various points along the M3. We were up against it from the minute we got there as we were utilising the daylight for the cameras so it was full steam ahead from the word go. I am going to take this opportunity to run a list of instruments and vocals for the session.
It is important to note that not all of this was going at the same time for every song however due to the fact I am limited to 16 inputs at any one time, it was a challenge making sure that I was able to record everything necessary to the best of my ability within the space and time provided. It is also important to note that there were to be no overdubs or post production re-records. What you see is what you get.
The channels that were constant for all three tracks were as follows:
This mean that we were left with two remaining channels for each track which worked perfectly as for one of those we were using the extra Snare and Hi Hats and for another we had two further vocalists. It did however mean that I had to compensate on a few things I would have liked to have had. Under snare mic and a Bass Cab mic. These are non essential but would have been a nice addition when it came to mixing.
In terms of setup it was fairly simple, one mic for each instrument totalling 14 inputs at all times plus the additions where necessary. Each input fed into a multicore in the centre of the room which was then led to my rig. I play the drums in Yearbook so the recording rig was set up beside me so I could easily monitor gain staging during the dry runs before we hit record.
The biggest challenge of the day was ensuring that not only did it sound good but that it also looked good. We wanted to perform facing one and other in a circle and have our amplifiers in the same way. Biggest concern here for any engineer tasked with mixing a live performance is spill. The first decision I made was to use no condenser mics anywhere in the set up apart from my overheads. I positioned the overheads much closer to the cymbals than I would in any other situation but it meant there was less space for spill to get into the mics and due to the size of the warehouse it also mean that the sound of the cymbals wasn’t getting lost before reaching the mics. As for guitars, every mic chosen either had a cardioid or hyper-cardioid pickup pattern for eliminating as much spill as possible. After a few shuffles of speaker cabinets and band members plus the continuous checks of camera angles we had a spill and phase happy setup.
Oh and I forgot one major thing. We weren’t using headphones to monitor our performances which meant that all the vocals were running into a rack mountable multi DI unit with the link outputs being sent to a PA system so the vocalists were able to monitor their vocals. SPILL CENTRAL.
The next 6 hours were non stop performance with the occasional file backup and refreshment break.
Given the time constraints and the sheer amount of setup before we even started tracking let alone the amount of people to organise, the final dry mix/blend of instruments was very pleasing.
The mix for this project was really very simple. We wanted it to sound as natural as possible so that rather than it being a live session that sounded like it had been overdubbed a thousand times and ultimately had been finished in a pro studio it was a live session with imperfections and a raw overall sound quality that still let the energy of the songs translate.
Ultimately it came down to careful EQ and Compression as well as level and panning.
Unlike most of my studio sessions, with this only being 16 channels of audio at any one time, I attacked each channel individually allowing me to really ensure I wasn’t affecting too much of the original source sound.
The vocals were all scooped up to 50Hz with a notch cut of 5dB at 250Hz. The lead vocals featuring a 2dB notch boost at 1k and a 2.5dB shelf boost at 10k. This allowed the vocals to cut through over any remaining spill without boosting unwanted Guitar and Drum spill.
Guitars were all rolled off between 40 & 50Hz with little extra EQ needed across the board. Each was compressed with the Steven Slate F11 Series Compressors featured in the Virtual Mix Rack bundle. This just allowed for a bit of energy to be re-introduced.
Drums were done in the normal fashion. See previous post ‘Studio Project 1’
This project was truly a lot of fun to be a part of not only as an engineer but also as a performer. Creating art with your friends is one of the best feelings in the world and when you see it all come together as a final piece it is so satisfying. I hope you can enjoy it and appreciate the work put in to create it.
Further thanks to:
Benny P for Directing: https://www.facebook.com/bennypvideo/
Taylor Baron: http://houseofbltmr.com/
Alan Clarkson: http://alanclarkson.co.uk/
Thomas Brooker: http://tlbrooker.com/
Iain Kerr: https://iainkerrmusic.com/