When we started rehearsals for Ricki and the Flash, we discovered that some things had to be changed. Part of what we faced was the reality of working with musicians who were used to the big stage in a club environment.
A brief review of our cast:
Drums and backing vocals: Joe Vitale. Joe has drummed for, among others, Joe Walsh (he co-wrote “Rocky Mountain Way” with Joe); Stills-Young Band; The Eagles; Crosby, Stills and Nash; and the re-formed Buffalo Springfield. Joe has written a book about his life as a musician called Backstage Pass.
Bass: Rick Rosas, aka Rick The Bass Player. Rick played most recently with Neil Young in Crazy Horse. He was also part of the Buffalo Springfield reunion. Rick passed away a few weeks after finishing the band scenes, and we miss him very much.
Keys: Bernie Worrell. Bernie was a member of Parliament/Funkadelic and joined Talking Heads for a number of albums. He’s in Jonathan Demme’s concert classic film Stop Making Sense and has played on countless sessions with artists as diverse as Keith Richards, Jack Bruce, Dee Lite, and Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
Lead guitar and backing vocals: Rick Springfield. Rick has been on the big stage since the late 1960s, first with Zoot, and then as a solo artist. For a time, Rick starred in the soap opera General Hospital, and he has many hit records, including “Speak to the Sky,” “Jessie’s Girl,” and “I’ve Done Everything for You.”
Rhythm guitar and lead vocals: Meryl Streep. One of the most well regarded actresses in the world, Meryl learned to play guitar for this movie. Meryl had never played in a band before but she has sung in many films, including Mama Mia and the recent Into the Woods, so she adapted quickly to the role of Ricki.
I have been “pushing faders” as a front-of-house (and sometimes monitor) engineer since 1979. I’ve mixed in wretched bars with “thrift-store” PA systems, and I’ve mixed bands at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. My background is live sound; working on a movie required some adjustment in my approach to mixing.
Music coordinator Mark Wolfson and Neil Citron, the music wrangler, have worked together for many years. Among other projects, they worked on the film That Thing You Do (also with Ricki director Jonathan Demme and producer Gary Goetzman). On this film, I worked with Mark and Neil to create an authentic club band feel.
One thing that we encountered from the get-go was a reluctance to show microphones on camera. This created some interesting challenges, as we had to find a way to capture the sound without showing any microphones beyond the vocal mics. Some solutions were simple: We could take a DI off of the bass, and we used triggers on the drums and then used drum samples that we sampled from Joe’s Drum Workshop kit. We hid the hi-hat and overhead mics as best we could.
Thanks to Audio-Technica, we had excellent condensers: an ATM 450 on the hi-hat and an ATM 4050 on the overheads. We were able to hide the ATM 650 dynamic on the Leslie high side and the ATM 250 dynamic on the Leslie low side.
The guitar amps presented a problem, though. We needed to capture an authentic sound without showing mics. Trying to mic the back of the amps proved unwieldy at best. It also didn’t sound so great.
Neil and I put our heads together and decided to call our friend Peter Janis at Radial Engineering. Peter sent us two JDX active speaker-simulator direct boxes. We were able to plug out of Meryl’s Fender 65 Deluxe reissue and Rick’s Fender Bassman 410. The Bassman reissue proved tricky because the speaker output has an RCA connector; we had to make two ¼”-to-RCA custom connectors. At the time, the JDX required an external supply, as well; now it’s available with the option to run on 48V phantom power.
We also used two of the new Audio-Technica AT 4080 active ribbon mics for room/ambience miking. These mics sound glorious, and they really helped Neil and Mark re-create the room sound when they did the mixing later.
With the system tuned, we were ready to watch five musician/actors become a band.
[This just in from Dave Hinson of Hinson Sound in Bethlehem, PA!]
Dave Hinson Sound has been one of the sound vendors at Musikfest in Bethlehem for 15 years. Musikfest is the nation’s largest free music festival, boasting performances on 16 stages over 10 days. Our line array rig is deployed at the Volksplatz tent.
This year we became the sound vendor at the Main Street stage. When the contract was awarded, I called Rick Scott at Parsons Audio to order a pair of StudioLive 328AIs with the companion sub—The StudioLive 18sAI.
PreSonus was my first and only choice since hearing these speakers at a Dante class in Philadelphia back in April. I was first impressed with their sound, and they became a must have when I learned they were Dante-ready, and fully compatible with my Yamaha CL consoles.
The group depicted below The Boiled Owls, performing a mix of Americana, bluegrass & folk music.
[This just in from Perry Sorensen, Head of Mastering for leading classical music distributor Naxos of America! He’s chosen the Sceptre S8s as his new weapon of choice, and used them on the upcoming Live From Music City: The Best of Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony, which releases on August 14!]
Q. Can you provide some background on Naxos of America?
A. Naxos of America is the leading independent classical music distributor in the U.S. and Canada. They specialize in state-of-the-art distribution and marketing and promotion. We distribute nearly 65,000 SKUs to traditional brick and mortar retail, as well as offering a comprehensive suite of services tailored to consumer direct fulfillment. Naxos of America is also one of the world’s largest digital distributors of independent classical music and video, supplying a catalog of over 1.6 million tracks and 65,000 album discs to hundreds of digital platforms and mobile outlets across the globe. We offer marketing, publicity, physical and digital e-commerce services, licensing opportunities, streaming services, sales support and customer service for all new releases and active catalog titles of Naxos Records and nearly 700 distributed labels. It’s a thriving company, and I really enjoy working there. We’re headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, just a few miles south of Nashville.
Q. How did you become a mastering engineer?
A. I’d have to say it started out when I was in my teens. Like a lot of guys that age, I loved speakers…and bass! I think my affinity for audio was a bit different from other kids, because instead of listening to music and doing something else while listening, I would just sit myself in front of a home stereo system – the kind with the 10 inch woofers – and just listen. I would take it all in: the way the bass thumped in my chest and how the emotion of a song made me feel. What I didn’t realize was that I was actually doing critical listening, albeit an unprofessional form, but I loved it! Years later, I got my hands on some gear and started recording. One of the first things I did after getting some gear was to edit together entire soundtracks for shows for the performing arts. This included producing narrative pieces, as well. I actually met the girl who later became my wife, pop artist Jessie Kol, when I had the opportunity to record demos for her, when she was a vocal student at the performing arts center my family owned. It was around the time that I began working with my future wife that I realized audio engineering was my career “calling,” so to speak.
A few years later found me living and working in Nashville, Tennessee at one of the publishing arms of Universal Music Publishing Group. My time at Universal was fun, and it involved keeping track of their archives and also working in their studio, running sessions for dozens of songwriters and artists. Universal was where I learned how to “make a record.” The process of producing a record from start to finished was learned during my time there. I would also do engineering work on the side for various Grammy nominated producers, which landed me some credits on a few major label recordings. Throughout working as a recording and mix engineer, and producing a couple EP’s and countless demos for my wife, I was always fascinated with the “art” of mastering. “How do they make it ‘sound better’?” “Does the mastering phase give a recording that ‘punch’ and ‘wow’ or is it the mixing phase, or a combination of both?” Those were all questions that I researched long and hard to find out. In my quest for the answers I learned so much about mastering – what it can do, and what it can’t do.
Mastering seemed like an ideal fit for me for several reasons. I enjoy critical listening—just ask my wife how often I interrupt our conversation to say “do you hear that?” I love music and music production. And I enjoy making things sound “that much better.” There’s a thrill to lending your skill set and wisdom to a creative project in order to help make it all that it can be. You know, bringing out that potential and making it sound that much better. Naxos of America has been a great place for me to practice the art of mastering, by helping them and the labels they distribute to produce a great recording. It’s a fun environment. It doesn’t feel corporate to me. And I’m thankful to have been given a place like Naxos of America, whereby I can master some great music. There’s always plenty to do at Naxos, because we distribute a lot of music globally.
Q. How did you come about to selecting Sceptre S8s? Was it the company’s reputation, audio quality, specific features, price, other factors?
A. I first saw the Sceptres in TapeOp Magazine. The first thing that caught me was their unique design. Realizing that they were coaxial and time-aligned, I immediately began wondering how in the world PreSonus was pulling that off, and at that price point. I started thinking of how I could get my hands on a pair! A few months down the road, I decided to reach out to PreSonus, and hear for myself what the hype was about.
Q. Have the Sceptres met your expectations?
A. I have to say that before they arrived, I was a bit nervous about hearing these monitors and being disappointed. Not because I’ve heard anything bad about PreSonus, but because I was wondering if they would really deliver, and if they didn’t, how was I going to politely tell PreSonus that I didn’t like them. Haha. Almost immediately, though, I was blown away. An engineer friend of mine, who is also a co-worker, and myself set them up for an A/B session in our company’s listening room. Right away he said that the Sceptres were “punchy.” We were both so excited about them that we brought in our other co-worker, who’s also an engineer. He too, was very impressed with the transient response they have.
The Sceptres are punchy, but when I say “punch,” I’m not referring to bass. I’m referring to the mid, upper-mid, and upper frequencies. The transient response amazed us. Side by side with the competition (who shall remain anonymous, but be assured, was not at all a shabby monitor) – which was an audiophile 8 inch design with air motion tweeter – the transient response, depth, and clarity were obvious. We were playing some classic R&B songs, and instruments that were getting masked over by the competition’s monitors were clearly and beautifully represented by the Sceptres! The difference was night and day! And yes, the Sceptres represent the low end quite well. There’s no disappointment there.
Q. Now that you have been using the S8s for awhile what do you find special about or that you have come to appreciate (regarding frequency response particularly, with how the midrange frequencies are represented, detail, channel spread, etc.,)? What do you notice in the coaxial delivery?
Put a different way, what features have proven particularly useful and why?
A. As a lot of engineers know, the mid-range frequencies are where the definition, the nuance, the texture, of any audio piece lives. The Sceptres have completely blown me away with how they lay open to expose every little nuance and detail of the music I master, whether it’s classical, jazz, or even a country album. Every instrument comes through. I honestly cannot over emphasize how the Sceptres really shine in allowing me to hear every bit of vital mid-range information. They don’t hype. They simply, effortlessly, and accurately reveal everything that’s there. That in turn, allows me to make any fixes and adjustments that need to be made so Naxos can give the client the best results. Seriously. Listening to the Sceptres is enjoyable. I can’t quite explain why, but the word I would use to describe how the Sceptres reveal the music to the listener would be “effortless.”
Q. Did S8s replace other speakers?
Q. In the box, or out?
A. My mastering needs allow me to stay primarily ITB (in the box). I enjoy the workflow that being ITB allows.
Q.You mentioned that the S8s are extremely accurate and that it’s hard to believe so, at their price point. Could you embellish that statement?
A. Like I said, it’s amazing what PreSonus has packed into these monitors. I’m still trying to figure out how they’ve come up with such an offering at this price point. They’re not cheap, but they sure are a lot less than I’d expect to pay for something that offers this level of accuracy and imaging.
Q. Any user tips or tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with? Any war stories you want to share?
A. One thing that I’ve realized about any craft, is that it’s not so much about the tools, but about the person using the tools. Sure, tools are important, but I think in the audio field we’ve gone overboard in believing that simply having the grand converter or pre-amp is what makes a recording sound incredible. I believe that having great gear is very important. But, when I began engineering, I learned how to make recordings sound great with a Mackie 1402, a NanoVerb, and standalone CD recorder. I would produce demos for vocalists. It turns out, they were impressed. That encouraged me to get my first DAW – the original MBOX with Pro Tools. Nothing ultra, but it’s what I was able to get. From there, I produced more demos for vocalists. One of the guys I created a demo for was so impressed that he told me my recording and mix sounded better than the demo that he had shelled out a bunch money for on Music Row a few years earlier. That, for me, was when I started realizing that it’s not so much about the tools, but the engineer – his ear, his understanding of what gives a recording “that” sound.
Again, high quality tools are definitely important, but what precedes that is the understanding and ability of the engineer. My take on it, is that a great engineer can make extraordinary use of minimal gear. Great engineering is also about process, just as much as it is about knowing your tools. There have been countless times when I’ve caught something that needed correcting, simply because the process I use in my approach to mastering a project was being used. In other words, it had little to do with the gear. I believe it’s crucial for an engineer to develop process – a protocol of how you approach and run through a project. Be thorough. Double check your work. Give a QA listen through of that disc or DDP master before you hand it off to the client. Make sure you really got the sequencing correct…for the 3rd time. If you notice something that may seem to be out of place, ask the client if that was their intent.
Q. Any interesting musical projects that you’ve mastered recently?
A. Yes! Definitely! Naxos is always getting interesting projects but aside from that, back in November, Naxos did a re-release of the acclaimed “Jazz at the Pawnshop” album that was recorded live in 1976 at the Jazzpuben Stampen (Pawnshop) in Stockholm, Sweden. That was a fun project to re-master. The history behind it and the fact that it was a re-release of the original 12 track recording made it to be a very exciting re-mastering project for me. Most recently, I’ve just wrapped up mastering a really cool project of the Nashville Symphony. Naxos has put together a “Best Of” project in partnership with the Symphony. It’s called “Live From Music City: The Best of Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony.” The Nashville Symphony and Naxos of America enjoy a great business and creative relationship and we’re both very excited to release this special project in August!
Here’s the details on the above mentioned release:
LIVE From Music City: The Best of Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony
Cat ID: 9.50141
Composers: Piazzolla; Sierra; Daugherty; Danielpour; Paulus
Artists: Nashville Symphony + Giancarlo Guerrero
Digital Release Date: May 5, 2015
Physical Release Date: August 14, 2015
About: Drawn from seven years’ worth of commissioning and recording projects, Live From Music City captures the full breadth of the Nashville Symphony sound, from Michael Daugherty’s pop-culture inspired tone poems to Roberto Sierra’s fiery, Latin-flavored symphonies. Hear an orchestra that’s truly in tune with its place and time, recorded live at the world-class Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
And here’s details on Ancient Voices, also recently mastered on the Sceptres.
Cat ID: 8.578311-12
Composer: Richard Danielpour
Artists: Hila Plitmann; Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero; Pacific Chorale; John Alexander; Pacific Symphony; Carl St. Clair
Digital Release: June 2, 2015
Physical Release: June 9, 2015
About: One of the most sought-after and decorated composers of his generation, Richard Danielpour refers to himself as “an American composer with a Middle Eastern memory”. His distinctive voice is part of a rich neo-Romantic heritage which includes 20th century American and European composers alike. Darkness in the Ancient Valley, a symphony in five movements inspired by recent events in Iran, utilizes a wide range of Persian folk-melodies and Sufi rhythms. Toward a Season of Peace is an oratorio which explores violence and war in the name of religion, using the season of spring as a metaphor for change and transformation towards songs of peace through forgiveness. Danielpour’s insistence on music having “an immediate visceral impact” can be heard throughout his oeuvre, and the beautifully translated Persian poetry and rich spirit of harmony in Toward a Season of Peace make it symbolic of a brighter future for our time.
Eric Welch, House Engineer at PreSonus HQ, discusses some of the projects we’ve recorded here at home. He discusses his use of the Studiolive 32.4.2 AI, QMix, Studio One, and myriad other PreSonus technologies.
For more on the StudioLive 32.4.2AI, click here: http://www.presonus.com/products/StudioLive-AI-Series
For more on Studio One, click here: http://studioone.presonus.com/
All of the inputs were routed into a StudioLive™ 32.4.2AI console. Besides doing the live mix, the other half of my job was to ensure that every note was “Captured” during both rehearsals and filming.
Here’s how we did it:
Neil Citron, Mark Wolfson, and I wired the stage and then set up two recording systems. The first was set up on my MacBook Pro, running Mac OS X 10.8.5 and connected to the console using FireWire. I was running Universal Control-AI (with Virtual StudioLive-AI control software) and recording with Capture 2.0.
We connected the DB25 outputs of the 32.4.2AI to a Tascam X48 recorder because we needed to track SMPTE time code. This way, we also had two copies of each recording; as anyone who has ever lost a file knows, you need to back up, back up, back up.
The great thing about recording with Capture™ is it is literally effortless. Once my FireWire connection was secure and I knew the computer and console were talking to each other, all I had to do was open Capture and make one mouse click, and we were rolling! Of course, it helps to have the drive path set and the files named. I find that, given the option, it helps to set this up in advance, although the only really crucial setting is the file path.
We noticed that, according to the X48’s meters, the DB25 analog output was 6 dB lower than the digital signal coming into Capture. I’m not sure why the levels were different but comparing the WAV files in Studio One confirmed the difference.
Jeff Pullman, C.A.S, was the Production Sound mixer for the film and was a pleasure to work with. He also was very helpful in getting some sound isolation products so we could have a cleaner recording.
We did some test tracks with Neil playing so we could make sure the rig was running; then we started rehearsals.
The five musicians that make up the band Ricki and the Flash are all top shelf players. Their credits are the stuff of legends; you hear them on the radio every day. Of the five, only bass player Rick Rosas and drummer Joe Vitale had played together before, as the rhythm section of the reunion tour for the legendary Buffalo Springfield (no relation to Rick Springfield).
Bernie Worrell is a visionary funk keyboardist and a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. His credits include Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads. Rick Springfield is a fantastic guitarist who also played Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital.
Meryl Streep, of course, is one of the most renowned actresses in the world.
To get them to be Ricki and the Flash, we set up in the World Famous Rodeo Bar in the Murray Hill district of Manhattan. The Rodeo Bar is a long, narrow room with a brick wall behind the band. We were in a small space, and they were very LOUD.
We set up the band in an authentic club configuration and laid out the monitors for them. We used three StudioLive™ 312AI cabinets for the vocalists and keyboard position and a StudioLive 315AI for the drum wedge.
When we first set up the wedges, we decided to just use them in the standard DSP configuration. The speakers use Dave Gunness’ TQ™ (Temporal Equalization) settings to correct for the acoustical issues that arise in a coaxial design. In addition, each box has DSP settings designed to assist the user in different acoustic situations. There are four settings on the back of the speaker, accessed by a small button. The settings are: Normal (full range for front-of-house), LBR Source (for low-bit-rate digital audio, such as MP3 playback), Floor Monitor (for stage wedge), and a custom User preset.
Neil Citron is a long-time studio engineer, guitarist, and all around great guy. He ran the Mothership for Steve Vai for 15 years and is a member of the Sapphire Group, a bunch of audiophiles in Los Angeles. Neil has incredible ears and was brought in to teach Meryl guitar, be the music director, and record the performances.
Neil and I set up the wedges, supervised by Mark Wolfson, and we ran some program material through them. We really liked the sound of the default Normal setting, so we left it. As soon as the band showed up, we quickly realized that the stage mix just wasn’t “there.” A quick button-push, and the boxes were in Stage Monitor mode; they sat perfectly in the mix, with no additional EQ required.
We used one StudioLive 312AI plus one StudioLive 18sAI subwoofer per side of the “house” PA. We put the top boxes on using the SP1BK subwoofer pole; this also allowed us to steer the top box to reduce reflections off of the brick walls.
Thanks to Brad Graham, Rapco generously provided us with microphone cable and snakes to wire the stage. We wired the guitars using Radial JDX DIs to get the sound of the amplifier, not the guitar. We used Radial JDIs on the bass and keys. Thanks to Roxanne Ricks of Audio-Technica, we had A-T mics on the Leslie and hi-hat. We also used the fantastic A-T ribbons for ambient room miking. We had triggers on the drum kit; more about that later.
Here were the basic challenges:
I’ll get into the recording aspect in the next part.
I need to give major props to Gary Goetzman, the producer, who took five musicians who had not played together before (with the exception of the rhythm section) and turned them into a real band in two weeks. Everyone was at the top of their game, and the professionalism of the band and producer really shone through.
Hello everyone, I’m Phil Garfinkel, the Special Projects Liaison for PreSonus® Audio Electronics. I’m writing about the shooting of a new movie, Ricki and the Flash, discussing the PreSonus products that we used and how we used them.
First, a little about the film: Ricki and the Flash stars Meryl Streep as Ricki, an aspiring rock star who leaves the Midwest to “make it” in California. Her band, The Flash, features the talents of Rick Springfield on guitar, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Joe Vitale on drums, and Rick Rosas on bass.
We set up the band in an authentic club configuration, with plenty of PreSonus equipment to reinforce their sound. We recorded with Capture™ and used Studio One® to create reference recordings. I was on site as the PreSonus tech, mixing the live show.
Here is a quick overview of what we used from PreSonus:
The movie is directed by Jonathan Demme and produced by Gary Goetzman and Marc Platt, all Oscar winning veterans. Jonathan and Gary wanted the band to play, not just pretend to play along to tracks; I was brought in to mix front-of-house and monitors and to take a 32-track feed to capture the music as it happened.
We faced some unusual challenges. Thanks to teamwork and a mutual obsession for excellence (and some pretty great gear), Mark, Neil, and I worked through it to help Jonathan and Gary make an excellent soundtrack for the film.
Special thanks to Roxanne Ricks at Audio-Technica for helping us get high quality microphones and wireless systems, Peter Janis at Radial Engineering for getting us some fantastic Direct Boxes, and Brad Graham at Rapco-Horizon for helping with cable needs.
Thanks also to my cohorts in audio-land, Mark Wolfson and Neil Citron, who led the charge for this journey. Also Jeff Pullman, C.A.S, the film’s Production Sound Mixer, who worked with us.
Ricky and the Flash opens in theaters everywhere on August 7.
Click here to watch: http://www.presonus.com/videos/presonuslive
Here’s the deal… when you buy and register an AudioBox iOne you automatically get Studio One 3 Artist, which is a tremendous value. But now through September 30th, 2015 you will also get Progression 3.
That’s a screamin’ deal…you basically get the audio interface for the price of the software…and it’s the perfect recording solution for guitarists and singer songwriters.
The AudioBox iOne allows you to record your vocals and guitar (or anything else) at a sterling 96 kHz. You can use it with Studio One 3 on your laptop or desktop computer, or record directly to your iPad using Capture Duo (which is a free download from iTunes). Capture Duo also allows you to wirelessly zap your recordings over to Studio One 3 for editing and mixing.
Once your recording is in Studio One 3, you can add all kinds of distortion, amp simulations and effects via Ampire and our other Native plug-ins. And thanks to Impact, and a nice collection of backing loops, you’ll even be able to create drum tracks and produce full songs.
Last but not least, for the more tablature-minded set, Progression 3 will allow you to create guitar and bass tablature, lead sheets, and standard sheet music with an intuitive fingerboard interface.
All told, this is a lot of power for not a lot of cash.
From August 1 through October 31, 2015, customers who buy any StudioLive AI console mixer will also get automatically upgraded to Studio One 3 Professional. If you’re looking for a professional studio solution (even in your very own home), this is the way to go.
StudioLive AI Mixers make a great choice for studio production work for 3 reasons: great sound, flexibility, and software integration.
Let’s Start with Great Sound
Flexibility For Every Studio Environment
Tight Software Integration
Benefits of the Studio One / StudioLive Connection
The StudioLive AI mixers and Studio One 3 play very nicely together. In fact, any settings you make in the StudioLive’s Fat Channel during recording are non-destructive—these settings can be imported into your Studio One session for additional tweaking during your mix process. Furthermore, StudioOne includes template configurations for all of our mixers and interfaces, so once you’ve connected the StudioLive to your computer and fired up Studio One, you’ve only got to make about two clicks before you’re recording. Smart stuff!
With all the additional effects, instruments, editing and Sound Design capabilities (like parallel processing FX chains) that come with the auto upgrade to Studio One 3 Professional. The StudioLive Production Suite is the ultimate solution for your recording studio (while still an incredible solution for live sound production and recording).
This offer is available worldwide. Just get yourself a StudioLive AI before October 31 2015, and you’ll receive a download link for Studio One 3 Professional in your my.presonus.com account when you register your mixer.