This is a reflection on my experiences as console operator while recording a three song EP for the band The Flamingo Jones. I have identified four characteristics of performance standards: time management; working well under pressure; effective communication skills; and self-confidence. I will use these characteristics to demonstrate where I have succeeded in improving myself throughout this experience; as well as identify where there is still room for improvement an use this to implement strategies to avoid these situations in the future.
Working well Under Pressure
Going into this production we were aware that the band would be doing some improvisation. This meant that the production team couldn't fully know what the band was hoping to achieve or even where each song would begin/end. Several times I told the band that we had started recording and they would start playing another song entirely. Later on it became apparent that we might run short on time and we hadn't finished recording the first song. We all started to become frustrated at the bands' lack of structure despite that we knew that this is how the band wanted things to happen. I knew it was important not to let out my frustrations on the band as to not take their minds out of the performance.
I recalled David Ricard's experience in big band productions: "I don't know if it's just with me or if everyone experiences this: the first song takes forever to record. So much so that, no matter how many times it happens, I worry that we;re never going to finish. But that's just the players getting used to the sound in the room, in their headphones, and waking/warming up." This helped me to relax and gave me hope that the band would be able to finish every song in that session. The band decided to keep an earlier take of the first song and managed to finish the other song quickly and with ease. Giving us time to listen back to the recordings to double check them prior to packing up. I believe I was successful in this situation as I took from the experience of professionals to keep a cool head in a moment of frustration so as to not affect the production. Also I was glad for the fact that the production team had arrived in the studio early to setup and do line and gain level checking before the band was ready to record as it meant that all technical issues were resolved prior to the band's arrival. "The great thing about structure is that it imposes control and order on a potentially chaotic situation," (Rose, 2008).
Effective communication Skills / Self-Confidence
During the vocal overdub session I was again frustrated with the band's lack of preparation. All three singers were improvising the lyrics in each take. After a while they decided to sit down and write out a base set of lyrics to work from, which was taking a lot of time out of our studio session. It seemed as though the situation that occurred during the previous recording session was repeating itself. Also when we would tell the singers that we were ready for the next take they wouldn't respond or give us any indication that hey were ready to perform. In the end we decided to start recording and hoped that when they heard the playback they would take the cue. This seemed to prevail, however we definitely spent too long attempting to be polite despite the fact that they were wasting time.
Another issue that occurred during this confusion, and is also a possible cause for the confusion, was that the band members were often complaining that they couldn't hear properly in their headphones. Being console operator I was the one monitoring the headphone mixes. However I could never find an issue on my end despite offering several remedies. I could only deduce that there was something wrong with thee headphone connections in the live room. I offered some gaffa tape to help secure the connections but occasionally there would still be complaints.
As we were packing up the live room I noticed that there were headphones plugged into a cheap headphone splitter. This was most likely the reason for the headphone issues, as the splitter would have been degrading the signal or cutting it out completely. This seemed strange seeing as there were enough headphone outputs for everyone in the live room. Unfortunately this thought didn't occur to me until the session was over.
This impacted on the session's workflow, as we couldn't communicate between the live/control rooms effectively. This also swallowed a lot of time that could have been better used.
I could still improve on this in the future by taking the extra time to fully resolve an issue so as to not have the issue interrupt the session again (i.e. checking the headphone mix in the live room myself to be sure that the issue is not just because of a communication breakdown between team members).
We had a much longer break between our main two recording sessions than we would have liked. We would also have lied the final recoding session to be completed earlier in general. However the entire band was briefly ill, which was obviously out of our control. I made the most of my time during the two weeks between sessions. I stripped any unnecessary silence/extraneous noise from the instrument tracks. I also completed any signal routing to buses that I would require and adjusted the clip gain levels appropriately. After the vocal overdub sessions I imported the vocal tracks into my previously organised sessions, saving me a lot of time and allowing me to begin mixing the tracks immediately. I was able to have a draft mix of each track prior to the submission date. Unfortunately David Page was ill and unable to provide feedback on this draft, howver I did take the opportunity to receive feedback from Stephane Elmosnino, which I applied the following day prior to submission. "Obviously you cannot control time in the sense of stopping it, slowing it down or speeding it up. But you can apply it economically to the tasks you have to accomplish," (Adair, J., & Allen, M. 2003).
I have enjoyed my experience during this production and am proud that I have been successful in some areas and learned much in the process. Although, I accept that I have much to learn and am prepared to grow in all areas of this industry.
Ricard, D. (2015). The David Ricard Big Band: A Big Band On a Budget. Sound On Sound, 31(2), 168-174.
Dair, J., &Allen, M. (2003). Concise Time Management and Personal Development. London, GBR: Thorgood Publishing. Retrieved May 8th, from http://www.ebrary.com
Rose, C. (2008). The Personal Development Group. London, GB: Karnac Books. Retrieved May 8th, from http://www.ebrary.com