Podcasts

An overview of what Wicklow Sounds can offer:

Pre-production

Personnel: Wicklow Sounds always assign a single supervising audio engineer to oversee all pre-production activities for the entirety of the podcast series. The rationale for this approach is to ensure uniformity of recording environment and consistency of recording procedure across all venues.

Location isolation: We endeavor as far as possible to isolate the area of recording as much as possible from external sound. Mass provides the greatest shielding from external sound, so we would typically look to record in a concrete structure as opposed to anything pre-fabricated and then use portable sound insulation baffles to restrict sound ingress through windows, doors, etc. Internal sound sources such as fluorescent lights; computer fans or air conditioning units need also to be mitigated against. A base ambient noise level of 22dB’s or below should be achieved using these procedures. This will afford us a minimum of 6dB’s headroom and greater scope to more extensively process the recording in the post-production stage.

Location acoustics: Clarity of the vocals is our paramount consideration and this can only be achieved when the only sound waves reaching the microphones are those being emitted directly by the vocal source (interviewer). If the recording space has an effective clear floor area of greater than 3m in all directions from the vocal source, very little treatment is needed other than to trap lower frequencies in the corners of the room using portable bass traps. Should the recording space be smaller, then more extensive treatment will be required in conjunction with closer-to-source placement of microphones.

Microphones: The vast majority of sound recordings are recorded using analogue microphones and then converted to digital signals for further processing using audio interfaces. This makes the quality of the recording dependent on the type of microphone available and the efficiency of the interface employed. Wicklow Sounds prefer to use an entirely digital process of recording vocals to maximize the quality and consistency of our recordings. There is no latency (delay) in our recordings and we can model several hundred different microphone types so as to better match the requirements of our clients. Unlike traditional recording, we have the ability to change microphone type after the recording has been made. Furthermore, using an entirely digital process eliminates potential problems associated with complicated and poorly integrated analogue/digital systems. Obviously we are open to follow our client’s direction and can record in analogue/digital or indeed both processes concurrently.

Process:
• Supervising engineer will receive proposed podcast script/agenda from the client at least 24 hours in advance of scheduled recording unless otherwise agreed.
• Recording engineer/engineers (dependent on complexity of recording) will arrive on-site 60-90 minutes before scheduled recording to perform setup operations and carry out systems and line checks.
• Recording engineer will establish and test external communications platforms in the event that telephone/Skype/voice calls are to form a component of the recording.
• Recording engineer will perform sound check with voice talent/talents immediately prior to recording.

• Recording will start under instruction from main voice talent and will be conducted under his/her direction.
• Recording engineer will alert main voice talent to any technical issues that require re-recording
• Main voice talent will indicate to recording engineer any passages that require re-recording immediately or to be noted for later correction.
• Recording engineer will keep a continuous written assessment of the recording session for later examination with main voice talent.
• Recording engineer will examine all recorded materiel before voice talents leave site to verify quality, make the requisite number of session back-ups and give a copy to the client representative.
• Recording engineer will disassemble and store all equipment before leaving site, unless otherwise agreed.

Quality Control: All recordings will subject to a pre-production check on-site by our recording engineer prior to transfer to our studio and prior to voice talent leaving the site. This is to ensure that all elements of the recording meet our minimum standards for further processing and that there is no further requirement of voice talent services.

Storage/Backup: Wicklow Sounds has an established protocol of making 4 immediate backups of all recordings. The first is stored on the session recording computer, the second on a dedicated external hard drive. A third copy is given to the client at the end of each recording session and a fourth is electronically transferred offsite to our post-production facility so as enable immediate post-production if so required.

Communications: Wicklow Sounds always designate a specific member of staff to co-ordinate all aspects of any given production and to be our first point of contact when personnel are not operating on-site. We will ensure that this person is available Monday-Saturday during normal office hours.

Co-operation/rostering: Podcast production and specifically the pre-production recording phase, is very much driven by the voice talent. We at Wicklow Sounds appreciate the necessity to bring out the very best in the people that we are recording and dependent on the personalities involved, often this can be achieved by some people better than others. Wicklow Sounds are quite happy to take client direction with respect to which personnel we assign for pre-production. All our personnel are suitably qualified/experienced in audio pre-production.

Post-production

Personnel: Wicklow Sounds will assign a single designated audio engineer to oversee all post-production activities for the entirety of all podcasts. The rationale for this approach is to ensure consistency from episode to episode. It is perfectly feasible using multiple engineers to ensure that all production adheres to agreed parameters, however the human auditory system varies slightly from individual to individual and true consistency can only be achieved using a single, experienced perspective to tailor the final product. This is particularly true when multiple sound sources are being integrated into the production, i.e. recordings from different recording environments, telephone interviews, imported sound samples/sound effects, all of which need to be processed to best match the main body of the podcast.

Location: The vast majority of post-production activities will take place at Wicklow Sounds’ studio in Wicklow. It may be necessary for certain external components such as foley (sound effects), musical elements and telephone conversations to be recorded/processed in other locations, however all integration of these external elements will take place in our Wicklow studio.

Process:
• All raw recordings are examined for vocal mistakes, volume peaks, breath sounds, etc., and treated.
• Adherence to script is examined and confirmed, or checked with voice talent if necessary.
• Additional external processed elements are incorporated into the recording
• Overall project volume is set according to parameters agreed and individual tracks adjusted accordingly.
• Equalisation of the recording is applied according to agreed parameters.
• Selective dynamic processing is applied using automation tools
• Compression is applied selectively to individual tracks to achieve balanced mix.
• Tracks are combined into a mono, stereo or surround sound mix as required
• Mix is examined for consistency across headphone, earphone, speaker and broadcast replay,
• Combined mix is bounced to agreed format/formats (mp3, WAV, AIFF, etc.) using the agreed industry standard parameter (EBU, Sony, ATSC, etc.).

Quality Assurance: Wicklow Sounds have in place a 32-point quality control checklist for all recordings that are produced in our studio. Our supervising engineer will cross-reference all recordings produced against these quality parameters prior to dispatch for publication.

Publication: All fully produced materiel will be made available for client inspection before publication on the agreed hosting platforms. Current platforms employed by Wicklow Sounds are:
• SoundCloud
• Audiomack
• Spotify
• iTunes
• Vimeo
• Bandcamp
• YouTube
• Tidal

If the client has a requirement for publication on a platform/platforms not listed above, Wicklow sounds will endeavor to meet that requirement. Wicklow Sounds agree to have all recorded materiel available for publication no later than 36 hours after the pre-production phase has been completed subject to all external materiel required for inclusion being provided to them by the completion of recording.

Reporting: Wicklow sounds will provide the client with a text based podcast summary in MS Word and/or PDF format at an agreed timeline prior to each publication event. The podcast summary will extend to no more than 500 words unless otherwise agreed.
Wicklow sounds will provide a monthly report to the client with respect to the most up to date figures and statistics concerning downloads/plays that relate to the client’s publications on the platforms listed at item 5 above. Outside of these monthly reports, Wicklow Sounds will monitor said figures/statistics and advise the client immediately of any anomalies or unexpected trends/events if and as they become evident.

Review: Wicklow Sounds are open to avenues that will result in an improved and enhanced end product. We will suggest and advise in this respect all through the contract. It should be borne in mind however that quality, and the consistency of that quality are our primary goals. It is preferable that major changes to any aspect of the production cycle and end product should be implemented at either the beginning or end of each annual contract cycle so as to avoid disruption to listenership.
Wicklow sounds will provide an annual report to the client regarding areas of production that could be enhanced/improved and will provide sample methodologies to achieve these improvements.

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