Mixdown Presents Isolate and Innovate: How Audio Students Are Recording From Home

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Mixdown Presents Isolate and Innovate: How Audio Students Are Recording From Home

For part nine of our series with Collarts, we discover the experiences of students learning audio from home amid the pandemic.

Of all the various disciplines and sub-sects that make up the greater audio landscape, perhaps it is the art of recording which bears the most ties to the physical realm.

When we stop and consider the sheer complexities of the average recording chain – the broad range of sound sources, various stages of instrument amplification, acoustic factors, mic choice/placement, performance and arrangement decisions, the phase, spill, gain staging and sightlines (and all before our signal has even undergone its first A to D conversion!) – it’s pretty easy to see how things can quickly spiral out of hand, especially when we add playback and monitoring into the fold. 

Traditionally, this has meant the need for purpose built recording facilities, much like the main room at Collarts – environments where the room acoustics, monitoring and equipment inventory have been optimised, specifically with recording in mind.

Studios such have these have been an industry standard for decades and becoming acquainted with their operation and workflow is an important and vital component to Collarts’ Audio curriculum. 

But what happens in the event of a Stage 4 lockdown, where working from these state of the art, on-campus studios is temporarily off the table? 

Well if you are anything like the team at Collarts, you employ some crafty use of Desktop and DAW Control, High Definition/Low Latency Video Conferencing and some clever use of on-site engineers and go remote, giving students the ability to control the on-campus session from the comfort of their own home.

In what is considered by many to be a world first, the employment of cutting edge technology and the intricate combination of control protocols and conferencing systems employed by Collarts, has resulted in a Recording experience unlike any other, providing students with as close an approximation to the real world experience as you are ever likely to find.

This isn’t just going through the motions either: the quality recording projects coming out of these workflows are top notch, carrying all the sonic fingerprints of Collarts’ formidable collection of high end preamps, mics and processing, albeit with the added convenience recording from home.

“It’s insane, you can still get your assignments done in basically the same manner as you would on-campus,” explains Brigette Mulholland, an Audio Student from Melbourne, currently working from home on account of the COVID-19 disruptions. 

‘The level of control is remarkable, and you can really tell how much thought the staff have put in to making the recording units a proper three dimensional experience.”

For many people working in both the Audio Education and Commercial Recording sector, the application of this kind of long distance workflow was largely virgin territory. 

While the presence of the classic talkback mic or live room video feed has without question seen ‘Comms’ well and truly enter the studio lexicon, these had traditionally been used to connect Control Room to Live Room (usually a few feet away) and never as a primary source for monitoring.  

Collarts took this basic concept and scaled it up to the nth degree, incorporating cutting edge video conferencing and HD Audio streaming solutions, and delivering the ‘pro studio experience’ to students anywhere in the world. 

Combine this with the added flexibility of remote desktop control of Pro Tools and various other hardware control protocols and the result was something entirely new, bringing the tactile functionality and interactivity of the modern recording studio and bringing it into the home, whilst also allowing for seamless collaboration between producer and artist.

As Brigette explains:

“It’s as simple as locking in a date and the Collarts session musicians will go into the on-campus Studio and set up.”

“From there I can use Zoom and Audio Movers, to provide feedback and make production decisions on the fly. I can communicate with the artist, while operating the Pro Tools session from home via Remote Desktop.”

While there is little doubt that technology has played a massive role in facilitating these unique and cutting edge workflows, there are still some tasks in the studio that can’t be entirely replicated by automation or mechanical means.

For these, there is a decidedly more lo-tech solution, one that sees the Collarts staff take on the classic role of Studio Assistant. 

“If I’ve got the drums set up and I decide I want room mic, I can simply instruct the engineers on site and they will physically set one up for me,” explains Brigette.

“From there I can trial different mics or give feedback on where I want them placed, whether I want it on axis or off axis etc. The quality of the Audio Movers stream and the communication with the on-site engineers allows us to go into that kind of detail from home. It’s pretty crazy.”

As anybody working in record production will tell you, overdubs and tracking revisions are an important part of the process. Thankfully, the modern DAW workflow makes these kinds of adornments as simple as sharing a Pro Tools session.

“Often, I’ll just flick the Pro Tools session to the artist and they can add their parts, either in their own time, or we can link up on Zoom then and there and workshop a particular part together, outside of the context of a regular studio booking,” remarks Brigette, who is currently working on an EP for her final recording project.

“From there I can share the session with my lecturers and get some feedback on how it’s all sounding and make any amendments that might need a second run. It’s just a super flexible and efficient workflow.”

So how would she rate the Collarts remote learning experience, especially as it pertains to the Recording subjects?

“Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough about how well Collarts have adapted, not only to the challenging set of circumstances this year has provided, but how much this experience has open my eyes to what is possible with the technology.” 

‘The fact that I can collaborate on and engineer recording sessions in much the same way I would any other year—it’s just mind blowing to think about.”

Find out more about studying Audio through Collarts today.