TwtrSymphony: Working through the Recording and Editing Process
25 Mar 2012
Interchanging Idioms

Musicians have been fast and furious getting their auditions to me - which also means I've been working overtime trying to get notes back to the musicians in regards to any problems in their tracks before the final process is complete.

Playing to a click-track is challenging. We have upped that challenge by throwing in a mix of different hardware platforms, file types, transmitting those files over the internet and then attempting to sync them up on the other end. TwtrSymphony has taken the recording process through the rabbit hole into a technical wonderland. The process would be different if the various musicians were recording their remote sessions in dedicated recording studios around the world. At least then we could make some sort of standard: exact file types and bit-rate we want to the files to be in when they get to the mixing studio. However, since we're dealing with musicians around the world using materials they have on hand we have more of a hodge-podge approach. Some work with Mac's, others on iPhones, some with zoom recorders, still others with PC laptops. The file types I've been receiving run the full gambit from Apple aiff, to Microsoft wave, from mp3's to ma4's. One person even recorded their track to a CD and send me the cda audio form file.

Since these are all digital formats, you might believe there is no degradation in sound quality. But, every time you move from one system to another, convert a file from one type to another there is some sound loss. In one particular case, there was a pretty dramatic tempo shift. The audition recording arrived in my inbox and I put it next to the original click track only to find the tempo of her audition was quite a bit slower than the click track. What ensued was a number of emails between the musician and myself and a fair number of hours trying to figure out why the problem occurred. She was convinced she played it at tempo. Was it the click-track on her end played slower? Was there a problem in translating the file from her zoom to the mp3 format she sent me? After a fair number of emails I eventually received the original zoom file and her performance matched up perfectly!

It is possible to adjust the timing of notes here and there, but the more accurate the original track is, the less time I have to spend editing the time and the more time I can spend on getting the final piece ready. Perhaps the TwtrSymphony needs to conquer these technical demons!

Moving Forward:
While I can handle a variety of different types of files, ma4, aiff and wave are the best quality. Recording at 44100 (CD quality) is the most common, but I can accept up to 192000. I can also work with 64 bit files, but 16 bit is standard CD quality. Let's establish a standard when possible:
Recording at 44100, 16 bit
Files in ma4 or aiff (if at all possible)
no click audible on the final recording
Obviously, I'll continue to try and incorporate what ever formats you can work with, but, there will be less hair-pulling for all of us if you aim for this standard.

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