Loudness in Production Music – What You Need To Know

‘The Loudness War’ is a hot topic in production music circles. For those who aren’t familiar, loudness involves the way that music is compressed and limited at the mixing and mastering stages. This allows the music to sound LOUD!

Apart from being weary of giving the listener ear fatigue, regulatory standards (such as R128) impact the way loudness relates to music production. New measuring metrics, including LUFS, compete with older RMS measurements. All of these factors make loudness a potential minefield for anyone looking to produce professional, high-quality audio.

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production music waveform
The whole premise of ‘loudness’ in music comes down to the way the ear perceives the quiet and not so quiet passages within a piece.

The history of LOUD

The idea of making your music sound loud is nothing new. Making sure that your album out enough volume was essential back when records competed with each other on jukeboxes in bars. The actual mechanics of mastering records required various tricks to make things sound louder and more bassy. Meanwhile, physical limitations of making sure the stylus stayed in the groove meant that loudness could only go so far.

These limitations no longer applied after the introduction of CDs and DAT in the 80s. Mastering engineers realized that boundaries could be pushed to make releases sound louder than ever before.

Mix and master

Essentially, loudness comes down to the way the ear differentiates between loud and quiet passages. (Dynamic range is the difference between loud and soft.) A listener percieves an overall boost in volume by squashing peaks and boosting quieter sections.

Compression and limiting tools in mixing and mastering often achieve this effect. However, dynamics can be lost (essentially the difference in volume peak levels), and an ear-fatiguing, ‘brick-walling’ is the end result.

Loudness and Production Music

It is important for production music to stand out from the crowd. Yet, making it too loud can mean end-users suffer in the long run. Most broadcast platforms, including online services like Youtube, apply their own normalization processes. This makes sure everything sounds similar in terms of volume. So, highly compressed pieces of music end up sounding thinner and less effective than those that maintain dynamic range. This is especially true when extra layers of modifications are used.

Moderation and balance are key when it comes to deciding how loud to make production music tracks. Composers and producers should learn this lesson if in order to stand up against the competition.

How Using Royalty Free Music Can Increase Online Ad Income

Royalty free music providers make creating content affordable and easy. Timely, more engaging content paves the way for increasing your online ad income. Source music for your videos and advertisements to boost your bottom line.

New online services make it possible for everyone to create an online income stream by using advertisements. In the past, you could only generate ad revenue by running a publication or broadcasting network. It was also possible if you were a celebrity who could command fees for sponsoring products and brands.

Today things are very different. Third party online ads can be placed on your website. You can even use popular social platforms such as Youtube. Content you create can be monetized by the addition of ads. These ads usually offer your own user base products and services that are targeted towards your audience.

royalty free music playing on television set
Royalty free music helps get your video online faster to help you boost advertising revenue.

No traffic, no click throughs

There is one obvious snag to this attractive business model. If people don’t visit your content, no one will view and click on your ads. This means that you have to make your content as professional, attractive and unique as possible. Quality content appeals to the widest internet audience and pulls in enough traffic to make your ads work for you.

The internet is a visual medium. You must create content that is engaging and competes on equal terms with everything out there. Thankfully, companies like Productiontrax make producing great content easy.

Royalty free music and visuals

One of the big secrets of the film and TV industries is now out in the open. It doesn’t cost a fortune to use visual and audio created by experienced professionals in order to make your own unique content.

Royalty free music, also called library or production music, allows you to buy professional standard music for a small one-off fee. It can be used indefinitely in your own work without incurring any further costs. You can usually find music to fit any kind of video or content. Once you’ve put your content together, you’re ready to drive traffic and serve up ads.

Many talented individuals in the realm of both the film and music industries now make a good living by creating this type of content, which helps others bring their own projects to realization.

So, by taking advantage of this type of service, you can achieve your own goals of making money from ads that are carried alongside the work online.

by David McCarthy

Expanding Your Production Music Library

Ideas for composers for increasing the number of clips in their music library.

Would you like to have or need more clips of your production music along with a wider range of time lengths and potential applications for your music? Here are some relatively simple and good ideas.

One thing you can do is to use pieces of music that you already have as completed works. Let’s say, for instance, that you have a five minute film score with a spacey ambient string section intro, a main full instrumental chord progression, a catchy melody theme, an energetic driving drum break, and a calm serene melodic interlude. It is not very difficult to have all these related individual sections edited into separate stand alone music clips. If you were to take for example the percussion break, this can easily be edited and turned into two individual clips, one as a percussion phrase with a distinct resolute ending and the other one as a loop.

Production Music EditingAlways remember you must be sure to check that the loop loops seamlessly before making it available for lease. All too often what sounds great in your audio editing software will have noticeable seams when actually looped. These loops can have noticeable clicks, timing errors, artifacts, or dynamic inconsistencies. It is always a good idea to make sure and check the rendered file before making it available for licensing! The same technique holds true for the chord progressions, ambient interludes, and melodies.

Two more benefits of this are:
1) the producer who is licensing your music can now have more options for time lengths and choices for dynamics of the original piece to use in their related project, and

2) you will have many more clips for a wider range of applications even if they are not related to the same end production.

Another way to have more clips can be by using different dynamics for the same passage. For example, one version can have only chord changes, another will have the melody line, and another without any percussion.

And yet another way is to make different time lengths of the same piece. One easy way to do this with MIDI produced tracks is by increasing or decreasing the tempo. For instance, a sixty second track at 60 beats per minute will become a thirty second track at 120 beats per minute. Yes, it will speed up the tempo but it does work for some things like ambient and certain kinds of melodic ambient and can have some interesting results. Of course there is always “copy and paste” too.

Well, I hope these suggestions will help a bit because they have worked for me!

Zoid Proteus “Interstellar Music”
http://www.productiontrax.com/profile.php?id=8215&sentby=13561

Five Tips for Taking Better Stock Photos

Selling stock photos is a great way to earn extra income from your photography hobby. However, with a bit of practice and some tips from the pros, you can elevate your stock photos to the next level and get your pictures and images featured in advertising, web, and print.

taking better stock photos

1. Maximize Your Camera’s Capabilities
Set the camera’s resolution to the highest setting your camera will allow. Higher resolutions allow you to take pictures with finer detail and more vibrant colors. It also makes your photos more usable by designers and producers who need your photos to look great in digital formats and HD. High resolution photos are easier to edit and crop. If your camera’s resolution are limited, consider upgrading to a new camera. High resolution photos take up more disk space, so get a nice sized memory card, and possibly an external hard drive to store your shots.

2. Compose Your Shots With The End User In Mind
Snapping photos haphazardly might give you a nice bump in quantity, but quality is what sells when it comes to stock photography. Keep your end user in mind when dreaming up shots. Think of how your photo might be used. Consider the angle that’s not only interesting to the eye, but pleasing and usable from a print or advertising perspective. Often times, you’ll need lots of negative space for copy.

Use classical photography techniques to frame your shot. Use the rule of thirds to space out primary interest and focal points. Imagine your final image split into even thirds, and your primary subjects should sit on those lines. Try to avoid splitting the image in half with horizons, solid lines, and people. Keep your backgrounds simple and clutter-free so that the audience can focus on your subject matter. But remember, every situation is different, and sometimes a great photo will break these rules of thumb.

3. Get Close
Unless it’s a scenic shot, fill the entire frame with your subject. Photos taken from a distance look amateurish and cluttered. Simplicity is better in stock photography, especially because end-users want the photos they purchase to portray a single theme or subject. Put on that high powered zoom lens, and get as close as possible. You can use high resolution settings if you don’t have a zoom lens, as you can always crop a bit later. And remember, focus, focus, focus. No one wants a blurry photo.

4. Don’t add borders or Instagram-like effects.
Just don’t. Make your photos look clean and clear. Let the designers and producers affect the photo later if they want. Frames and cartoonifying a shot makes your photo look cheap, and niche, limiting its usability.

5. Be Stingy With the Flash
Take photos in outdoor, natural lighting first. Using flash in poorly lit locations can cause ugly reflections and other undesirable shadows, not to mention red eyes and pale faces. You can avoid using a flash with a slower shutter speed (just be sure to keep it steady), or with a higher ISO speed. That doesn’t mean never use a flash. Flash is great for eliminating shadows, especially in bright light situations that leave shadows in unsightly places (like under eyes, or in corners).

Check out this great video on taking better photos — and remember, practice makes perfect!

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Opera

A lot of production music composers focus their energy on creating royalty free music for just a few specific categories. Typically, composers will say, “I’m a film music composer,” and subsequently post music to the film music category. Or they might be really familiar with corporate videos, and therefore only classify their music as corporate. These categories are not only well known, but also have a lot of competition as a result. This practice leads many composers to overlook production of music for different genres, which are equally as necessary for the licensing needs of many a multimedia project.

Stumped on what style to write in? Here this series explores genres that are extremely useful for customers of royalty free music, but tend to go neglected over the course of a composer’s production schedule.

Opera
operaThis sub genre of classical music is often overlooked, usually because of its complexity, and the resources needed for production. Opera requires orchestral composition and recording, which, ironically enough, is the easy part, given the higher quality and lower cost of orchestral samples for digital workstations. The difficult part? Finding a good live singer to float over the orchestra.

Opera tracks are exceptionally useful in places you normally wouldn’t expect. Car commercials, fragrance commercials, even cleaning supply commercials. Opera tracks can add an element of sophistication, mysteriousness, even comedy, depending on how the track is used. And yet, this category is strikingly relatively empty.

If you’re a composer, you have a few strategies for approaching production. Public domain operas are an excellent choice (not to mention one of two legal approaches). Be sure the composer is long gone, and that the lyricist is, as well. Note that some more recent operas by Vivaldi are not in the public domain, not because of Vivaldi, but because the lyrics belong to the estate of the lyricist. So do your homework before selecting one to produce to make into usable royalty free music. That said, however, the scores to most operas are easily accessible, so with the right samples, and a good strategic approach, you can create realistic, and by-the-book production music opera tracks. Dig in to an old public domain opera like Mozart. Select a couple of popular or not so popular movements, and team up with a great singer.

You can also write something original — no need to write a full opera, just something that has the same sound and feel. Keep the music sounding classical to impressionist, lush and stringy. Pick a language, any language, and write some lyrics. They don’t even need to make sense, especially if your singer has some great technique and vibrato. The point is that making a statement isn’t necessary here, simply creating the sound and feel of an opera is all that a commercial production needs. Have fun, and treat it like any other production project. It’s just another song, in a slightly different style.

Using Royalty Free Sound Effects to Create High Quality Location Sound

If you’ve ever filmed a scene on a windy day or outside on a busy street, you know how valuable sound effects are for recreating or even creating ambience and the audio landscape from scratch. If you’re a seasoned sound editing pro, or a beginner looking to get in on the basics, follow these three tips to create a vibrant soundtrack for your film or video using royalty free sound effects.

royalty free sound effects1) Start with variety, avoid looping. It can be tempting to put sound effects on loop. But if you need to create a soundscape of a busy intersection with lots of cars passing by, select several different cars and different “car passing by” sound effects. Why? Think about it: when you’re on the street, does the same care pass you by 30 times in 2 minutes? No, they’re all different. So find as many different drive-by sound effects as you can, and do your best not to loop the same one over and over again. You can vary timing of entrances, stagger multiple, even mess with the eq or tone of individual effects if you only have a couple to work with. This will enhance realism, and give you the most realistic sound.

2) Pick dry sound effects over affected effects. In other words, add your own reverb (echo). No two sound effects are going to have been recorded in the same space, so to make your audience believe their ears, you’ll have to tweak the reverb a bit. In a cave? Add some echo. On a windy mountain top, go as dry as you can. In a tiled room, put just enough reverb on the effect to make it sound like the noises are bouncing off the tiles. When you do this, be sure to take note of your reverb settings, and try to get a consistent sound when you’re creating sounds in the same “room”.

3) Use your ears in real life. Go out to the ocean and listen. Really listen. What do you hear on that shoreline? Is it realistic to put a barge passing by in your soundbed in a beach scene? Not likely. Listening closely to the way rooms and locations sound in real life will help you create better, more realistic sounding atmospheres. It will also get your creative juices flowing. Can you hear construction outside an office window? How about the sound of kids playing in a park — the rub of a slide, or the thud of falling to the ground? Getting a grasp on the individual elements that make up chaos is an important step in the soundtrack creation process.

Pro Tip: Good Sound Effects Evoke Emotion

by Bruno Strapko

Any situation is the right situation to record whatever you hear. And sometimes what you don’t.

We all have an emotional response to sound effects. Take footsteps. Are they fast and sharp, like a woman in heels on a hard surface getting away from something? Does your heart beat faster? Or ocean waves crashing on the rocks. Calming?
Good effects evoke emotions.

Good sound effects evoke an emotional response from the listener. When producing effects, keep the resulting feeling in mind.
Good sound effects evoke an emotional response from the listener. When producing effects, keep the resulting feeling in mind.

An example is my recording in Chicago of a busy shopping area in December. What one thing defines the season more than anything? The charity bell ringer on almost every corner. Makes you think of the warmth of a roaring fire and holidays with family. But what if you need everything in your ambience except the bells? For after the holidays? What to do?

I often record with a Soundfield microphone. Soundfield mics record 360 degrees on 4 channels which can be decoded into almost format – mono, stereo, 5.1 and so on. And is steerable. So in making a stereo version on the recording, I steered away from the bells to make a more “generic” track. New software allows for even greater directional control.

Using the many tools available to record and prep thick, dense, interesting backgrounds makes for sound effects that producers, sound designers and editors want to hear and want to use.

Sonic Branding – Using Music and Sound Effects to Create a Brand

by Bruno Strapko

The idea of using sound for branding is not new, but particularly in Europe, is considered an important marketing speciality. Using all of the usual marketing techniques of research, trial and retrial, entire agencies target sonic branding. It is the least used branding method and considered the technique with the most growth potential.

Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.
Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.
At the 2012 Audio Branding Congress at the University of Oxford, virtually every research project and branding development came from Europe. Speaking to other attendees, they were surprised at the lack of American participation when they felt American development was extremely mature. Cases cited included Harley-Davidson’s famous exhaust tuning studio, Intel Inside, and the omnipresent McDonald’s audio logo. New work presented at Oxford included sound design for the atmosphere in Harrod’s famous toy department in London featuring regenerative soundscapes, audio logos for two famous European companies, and an entire suite of sonically different logo-based music for use throughout the Dell Computer organization.

Recent literature that sum up current directions in sonic branding include “Sound Business” by Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency and “Audio Branding”, a compilation of articles and studies representing all issues associated with creating effective audio branding.

While considered a niche, sonic branding can be a differentiating part of the portfolio of a sound designer and/or composer. The unique chances to present their work from typical broadcast and the Internet to prestigious and renowned public spaces can be a fulfilling and challenging opportunity. Presented properly, any sound design student can be introduced to opportunities very closely tied to the main thrust of their education track. With awareness of jingle writers and sound designers in studios for traditional advertising media, adding the potential in sonic branding is worth investigating.