Music Is My Life
Most recording engineers come to the industry by way of music. That's certainly true of us here at Dynamix. I started taking piano lessons at age 7, and continued music lessons on guitar and trombone through college. My fascination with recording gear started about that same early age with a cassette recorder. I was taping everything I could, including annoyed family members. In high school I took guitar lessons from a guy who had a recording studio in his basement - I was hooked. Today, performing music isn't so much of my life as it once was. But I enjoy being part of the process whenever I can. Most of you reading this newsletter come to Dynamix for straight-up soundtracks and voice-overs. We've built our business on that. But we also dabble in music when we can.
We've done some small music projects here at the studio, but our most common is remote recording. We've recorded orchestras, choirs, wind ensembles, small groups, and soloists. Many of these are in conjunction with video productions that require precise synchronization. In larger ensembles, we place microphones throughout the stage. Some are used for overall capture, while some are moved close in to small groups or individual instruments. We have the ability to track each microphone separately and mix the music later in our studio. We also perform live mixes during the recording process. Sometimes we do both at once.
OK, so it's not actually performing music, per se. But working directly with the musicians and conductor is very satisfying to a musician at heart. Just like when I was playing in ensembles, you can't help but get chill bumps when everybody gels. It's a feeling that is so hard to capture in a recording. Maybe someday someone will invent a "chill bump" box that sits beside your sub woofer.
Dynamix Tech Notes
Placing microphones around a large ensemble can reap rewards for the engineer. It can also cause headaches. Let's take an orchestra for instance. Two microphones are placed in front to capture the bulk of the ensemble in stereo. You can place more microphones in various sections, like trumpets, trombones, cellos, and percussion. When it's time to mix, these separate microphones might actually muddy things up because of time alignment problems. An example would be a big tympani hit. The mic over the tympani would actually be recorded several milliseconds (ms) before the sound reaches the stereo pair out front. Depending on the distance, it could sound like "Ba-Boom" instead of "Boom." Sound travels roughly 1 ms every 1 foot. If the tympani is 50 feet away, that's a 50 ms delay. "Ba-Boom?" Not really, but it clouds and muddies the soundscape.
How do we get around this? We clap! Actually, just once - in front of the stereo pair out front. We record the loud clap on all microphones as we're setting up. After we import the project into our workstation for mixing, we align all the visual spikes the clap creates. The tympani mic would actually be delayed about 5ms so the the "Boom" happens in all channels at the same time.
Recent Projects From Dynamix Productions
Soundtrack for medical professionals' continuing education learning module (CE Concepts, Lexington, KY)
"Klipsch X7i Headphones - Never Settle" voice-over for marketing video (John Campbell; Outside Source Design, Indianapolis, IN; Voice Scouts, Dallas, GA)
Ongoing learning modules and sales training soundtracks for Lexmark International
"2012 Honor Flight" and "Cooper Station Tour" video soundtracks (East Kentucky Power, Winchester, KY)
Fayette Heating & Air radio spots (Brand Advertising Group, Lexington, KY)
"Simple Saver" television spot soundtrack (East Kentucky Power, Winchester, KY)
"Tapizar at Gainesway Farm" television spot soundtrack (Trapp Communications, Lexington, KY)
"December Sale" radio spots for Kentucky Lighting (Brand Advertising Group, Lexington, KY)
"Claiborne Farm" voice-overs with veteran sports broadcaster Charlsie Canty (Keeneland Association, Lexington, KY)
DVD On Sale Now
The documentary produced by Dynamix Productions, "The Beat of a Different Drummer: The Story of America's Last All-Female Military Band," is now on sale in our online store. Read more below.
"The Beat of a Different Drummer: The Story of America's Last All-Female Military Band" is a new documentary about the Women's Army Corps (WAC) Band. The 14th Army WAC Band is now largely forgotten, but in its heyday it transcended the novelty of being an all-female band and was considered an elite military band. The documentary, by Lexington producer Neil Kesterson, features interviews with former WAC Band members, WAC officers, and current Army musicians. Rare photographs, film and recordings help guide the story of how these trailblazers helped change the landscape for American women.
The 14th Army WAC Band existed from 1948 to 1976, during a time when America was struggling with equal rights. The WAC Band was a rare place where a woman could work as a professional musician. "I felt like I was special, because I was doing something that not many people did," said Jan Larson of Lexington, KY, a member of the band from 1954-1955. "And I was doing it as a woman."
From 1954 to 1976, the 14th Army WAC Band was stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, the last training site for all WAC enlistees. Women musicians were not allowed to perform in male military bands during most of this time; the WAC Band was their only option—many for their entire careers.
In contrast, male Army musicians rotated through different post bands every two years. The longevity, camaraderie, demanding hours, and high-standards turned the 14th Army WAC Band into an elite band, often compared to the top male-only bands in the other military branches.
"I didn’t realize at the time that the Women’s Army Corps Band was a group of handpicked musicians," said Robert Delano of Charlotte, NC, the last official member of the WAC Band. "It wasn’t just another post band that you got assigned to. It was a very select, elite group of musicians. And I’ve played all my life, and that still stands as one of the truly great wind ensembles I’ve played with."
The WAC Band played for presidents, national audiences on radio and television, and was even in a Hollywood film. They made whirlwind recruiting tours in cities and towns across America where their appearance was the big event. That fame came at a price, however.
"It was more difficult than you think," said Bernice Goldstein of Washington, DC, a member from 1952 until 1975. "A lot of people think we just play our instrument and that’s it, we don’t do anything else. But we really worked hard. And a lot of times we had to give up our meals sometimes because we had to be at a certain place at a certain time."
By the 1970's, it became increasingly difficult for the Army to maintain segregation, chiefly because of its inefficiency. But after the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, the push for equality eventually led to the full integration of women into the Army in 1978. In 1976 the 14th Army WAC Band broke boundaries, just as its early pioneers did, and integrated early.
Today, its former members still have bi-annual reunions and concerts at Fort McClellan in Anniston, AL. A handful of former members still serve in the U.S. Army, Reserves, and National Guard.
Documentary filmmaker Neil Kesterson is the owner of Dynamix Productions, a production company in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Ironton, Ohio, he has been a producer and sound designer for film, video, television, theater, radio, audiobooks, and multimedia since the mid-1980's. The inspiration for this documentary came from a family member who was in the band, a love of music, and a great story of heroism.
To view the trailer and press kit, please visit www.wacband.com.
I hope you find this newsletter informative. If you haven't seen our new studios, go to our web site. Or better yet, stop by! We now have two complete control rooms and voice-over booths, allowing us to be even more flexible in scheduling your projects. Oh, and pet the dog Daisy while you're here.