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Bad Engineering Horror Stories
Old 15th October 2002
  #1
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drundall's Avatar
 

Bad Engineering Horror Stories

OK, many of you have had to OD or mix tapes which were recorded by other engineers. How about some venting?!

My story is I was asked to mix some tracks for a semi famous artist. They were done in a 2" home studio. No track sheets (of course), no tones (what's new?).
As I pulled up a kick drum sample track, suddenly a harmony vocal popped in for a few bars, then back to kick drum! Several tracks followed this pattern, including OH's.

What a night...
Old 15th October 2002
  #2
I think I'd crash the server if I tried to relay some of the many....
Old 15th October 2002
  #3
Jax
Lives for gear
 

No concept

I did a track transfer/mix from 1" 16 track into PT. Throughout the tape there were sounds of two bandmember's girlfriends clapping, cheering, and squealing, especially at the ends, and they wanted all that edited out.

Of course, no track sheets and no notes, no tones, etc. A quick phone call to the "engineer" who recorded it revealed that he thought he was getting good enough isolation by close mic'ing everything using dynamics. This didn't take care of the problem much at all, but to make matters worse, several tracks infused with random girlfriend squeaking definitely weren't done with dynamics.

"What about the overheads, vocs, ac gtr? Those don't sound like dynamics." I asked.

"Well, of course not! You wouldn't record that stuff with dynamics, would you?"

"Um.... no." Click.

Although I knew it wouldn't work, I tried for about a half hour until I told them they would be better off recording it over again without any moral support in the live room at the same time.

The music and playing sucked, and they showed me polaroids of them in rock star poses, jumping and doing air kicks that were apparently taken while they were recording. I laughed pretty good at them, and they didn't even know I was laughing at the idiocy of it. They thought they were being cool. If I didn't know better, I would have thought they were shooting Spinal Tap II, Smell My Love.

I don't understand how the person who recorded could have gotten paid for it, but he did. Luckily I got paid too, for the xfer time and for telling them they should do it all over again. Amazing what people are willing to waste their time and money on. First timers usually have no concept of how it works, though.
Old 15th October 2002
  #4
Why do you suppose I hate mixing my own stuff?

Old 15th October 2002
  #5
Gear Addict
 
mixer's Avatar
 

2 inch master tape where the heads were totaly out of alignment and no tones on the tape.....along with a click track on every instument.....
Old 16th October 2002
  #6
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by mixer
2 inch master tape where the heads were totaly out of alignment and no tones on the tape.....along with a click track on every instument.....
I normally charge extra to put the click track on every instrument. I'll do acoustic guitars for free, but it's a lot more work to get it on DI tracks...
Old 16th October 2002
  #7
On analog I used to be the SMPTE bleed king!

Then like Dave I moved over to click tracks... Specialising in making them audible during 'quiet, sensitive sections'.

heh
Old 16th October 2002
  #8
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
On analog I used to be the SMPTE bleed king!

Then like Dave I moved over to click tracks... Specialising in making them audible during 'quiet, sensitive sections'.

heh

PPPPPffffffffff .... that happened to me only last week ....... nice quiet acoustic guitar - piano ending with fade out and .... click - click - click - click - click - click - click .......

another horror story is with Protools Nubus ..... after running a speed disk to defragment a drive part of a trombone solo turned into a basdrum. I ended up editing / cutting / pasting / pitch shifting the exact same solo back together with other parts of the trombone track .... the trombone player is still very pleased with his solo and still doesn't know ....

oh and what about the time I made a complete fool out of myself by bouncing a comlete compilated CD master in MONO ..... it was allready on its way to the CD manufacturing company to be pressed and if it wasn't for the artist himself taking a copy and listening at home and calling me if I would mind double checking because he thought it sounded strange .... it would have ended up like that in the stores .......

ok enough of that ..... I got better since then .... heh
Old 16th October 2002
  #9
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
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The click track bleed and no tapes tones are classics!

How about receiving PT sessions to mix with a large, cheap reverb present on all of the audio tracks.

Or the PT session to be mixed that you load up and quickly realize that the PT session sample rate was not the same as the sample rate of the clock fed to the converters at the tracking studio. (That happened to me a few times early on as while...heh) Hello, Res-Edit...

Or the drum tracks where OH L has mostly bass drum and OH R has mostly snare...with phase shifting to boot.

Or when you can't tell the difference between the snare mic and the hat mic.

Or all the audio was removed from the tom tracks between each tom hit by a PT jedi warrior.

Or the stereo guitar that has deep comb filtering effects when you listen to more than just one of the two at a time.

Or the vocals which were recorded in a small, untreated room at home with tons of lousy ambiance and reflections...

Or the vocal recorded with the cans really loud with the backing track bleeding like hell into the take.

Or super-sibilant vocal tracks recorded with harsh mics like AT4033s through cheap sound cards.

Or the stereo PT tracks from midi sources which are in fact mono.

Or a stereo track from a cheesy pseudo-stereo synth patch effect.

Or the DAW session with all the tracks tracked at maximum levels by another jedi who thought that everything should be recorded as close as possible to 0dBFS (I was guilty of that once, too).

Or where you get 15 lead vocal tracks and 20 BV tracks, all of which are out of tune, to choose and comp from.

Or on the mix day, everything is fine until the producer decides toward the end that the bass should be re-recorded...or the lead vocal.

I could go on and on.
Old 16th October 2002
  #10
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by C.Lambrechts



PPPPPffffffffff .... that happened to me only last week ....... nice quiet acoustic guitar - piano ending with fade out and .... click - click - click - click - click - click - click .......

oh and what about the time I made a complete fool out of myself by bouncing a comlete compilated CD master in MONO ..... it was allready on its way to the CD manufacturing company to be pressed and if it wasn't for the artist himself taking a copy and listening at home and calling me if I would mind double checking because he thought it sounded strange .... it would have ended up like that in the stores .......

ok enough of that ..... I got better since then .... heh
Ooh, I've done both of those...

As an aside, I'd suggest a shaker sound rather than a click - that helps some and the GK Superphones help even more. http://www.gk-music.com/

And why won't PT 5.1 remember your preferences when bouncing mixes? With 4.3, it remembered, but 5.1 makes you enter your choices every time you open a new session.
Old 16th October 2002
  #11
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you have a problem with ProTools Jon ? heh heh heh
Old 16th October 2002
  #12
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

ProTools, well-used, is fine.

Hack engineers, now that's a different story.

You should see my old studio...I still own the walls and now rent it out by the month, without gear, to a nationally-known hip hop collective.

To pay the rent and nominal gear purchases (PT, 2 888/24s, a U87, G4, HR824s and sound cards), they do commercial sessions at low rates ($100-$150 per day) about half the month. Nice guys, but boy, it's hack city. I visit them and field questions like, what does a phase meter show? How to connect the mic to the 888/24, it's not loud enough somehow? How do I connect the headphones to hear the mix?

heh
Old 16th October 2002
  #13
Lives for gear
 
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

so how come that mic doesn't sound loud enough .... been wondering about that one myself for years now ..... did you figure out why ? grggt grggt
Old 16th October 2002
  #14
Gear Addict
 
mixer's Avatar
 

old 2inch improperly stored heads out...tons of print-thru. and oxide all over the floor.....time for easy bake.....great old album but !!!!! whatever happend to real tape vaults?
Old 16th October 2002
  #15
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e-cue's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jon
\You should see my old studio...I still own the walls and now rent it out by the month, without gear, to a nationally-known hip hop collective.
France HAS a hip hop collective?!?!

I end is near, so very near. Eva Manley Hold me...I'm skurred....
Old 16th October 2002
  #16
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Volodia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jon

Or the PT session to be mixed that you load up and quickly realize that the PT session sample rate was not the same as the sample rate of the clock fed to the converters at the tracking studio.
.
It just happened to me this week . Change the session sample rate to the one that was feeding the converters,consolidate the tracks .Export (shift/option/K) the audio at the correct sample rate,reimport in a fresh session et voilà .
one of my worst nightmare was not enough time code preroll to sync the 2" or time non-referenced time code on a digital multitrack (like copied from a 2" multitrack) when you have to sync two machines .
Old 16th October 2002
  #17
Gear Head
 

My worst one is still inexplicable. I got a 2" 16 track tape from a NYC studio who I have mixed alot from cause of their bad customer service, ears and mostly overcharging and refusing to work more then an 8 hour day so they can go out and drink. None the less we get the reel and put it up and I don't usually look at the track sheets at first cause sometime I will come up with cool blends without them to use later for FX. So the point is I find this GREAT sounding ride mic. Then I start to hear a weird sound everytime the floor tom is hit. I look at the trck sheets and realise this is the floor tom mic. Everytime the floor is hit the first 5ms or so is really strong and then the tom just sinks violentlty and then the ride or whatever bleed rises back up. So I am really freaked out by this on the track sheets it says none of the tracks have compressors I call the guy he says no just mic pre and EQ on his board. So just in case I take a ride over to the studio and go there and listen. I go up to the engineers position and I really dont notice it with his N ASS-10's up against the wall. Then I walk back and just as I am gonna say something I hear the sound the same as it was where I was mixing the record and I realise it aint me. He assures me he didnt compress or do anything and my machine mustve ruined the track. WHATEVER. He assures me he has worked with Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade constantly and they are close freinds and thats how a Tom should sound. He then asks who I have worked with as if this is justification for this sound and is being very standoffish. I end up having to take a cell phone call and the guy proceeds to hit on my girlfreind who I brouight with me. ASSHOLE. While taking the call a mutual engineer freind walks in and he he hears it and asks what the **** is going on. AHHH REDEMPTION!!!! I end up taking the tapes dumping em into PT and replaying everytom fill on the record and triggering them as well. Unfortunatly this guy hit the toms more then anyone on earth so life really sucked for the 30 some odd hours that took. Fact is though the guy who produced that record hasnt ever done a single record with another engineer since cause of that.

The other thing I HATE HATE HATE HATE is I now get **** where people sing through the ****ing autotuner. **** YOU. Leaving autotune on in chromatic mode and singing through that is so ****ed. I love autotune(I SAID IT!!!!) it makes me able to listen to songs I normally wouldnt be able to when it is used right.... but auto mode is the worst thing ever on that ****ing ATR1. Can they put a sticker on that thing that says not to do that.
Old 16th October 2002
  #18
Gear Addict
 
Curious G's Avatar
 

voice session hell...

I fixed a public radio documentary that had been field recorded in mono/16 bit DAT... BUT... the "engineer" had thought it would be a good idea to bring all the sound sources (hours and hours of tape) into digi 001 at 24 bit because of the "higher resolution". To top it off, he recorded all the new 24 bit tracks in stereo (dual mono!) and on some of these tracks he had recorded silence only on the right channel...

The session took up over 40 gigs of hard drive!

The session was an unbelievable mess with no logic to the track set-up and the narrator popping up on 8 different tracks. When I renamed one of the tracks the producer said "I knew you could do that", apparently the engineer had said it couldn't be done. The editing was some of the funniest I've ever encountered and had to be completely recut. Finally, the engineer had strapped the stock digi large room verb on the 2 buss to "warm up the sound"....

I got the session 'cause somebody at the radio stations' production oversight board thought it didn't sound quite right.
Old 16th October 2002
  #19
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by e-cue


France HAS a hip hop collective?!?!

I end is near, so very near. Eva Manley Hold me...I'm skurred....
My understanding is that France is the second-largest producer world-wide of hip hop music after the US.

Rap/R&B has been very big here for about the last 7 years or so.
Old 16th October 2002
  #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cannon Fo So
refusing to work more then an 8 hour day so they can go out and drink.
How can I apply there?heh
Old 16th October 2002
  #21
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drundall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Cannon Fo So

The other thing I HATE HATE HATE HATE is I now get **** where people sing through the ****ing autotuner.
So you're remixing Blink 182?
Old 16th October 2002
  #22
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jon


My understanding is that France is the second-largest producer world-wide of hip hop music after the US.

Rap/R&B has been very big here for about the last 7 years or so.

and fwiw .... often better produced then us hip hop.
Old 18th October 2002
  #23
Pink Floyd's wish you were here

A thread about tracking horror stories would not be complete without a mention of the time Pink Floyd had to re-record almost all of the "Wish You Were Here" album because a tracking engineer made an error which made the tracks impossible to mix.

I forgot what exactly the error was; I think it was having the tom-tom mic's signal duplicated on all of the other tracks or something similarily horrendous.

My horror story consists of a studio which was so popular (very low rates; decent mixing) that one had to book months in advance. Well, myself and a singer (one of those 1980s-style two-person bands) planned on recording at the studio one day months in advance.

All along, I was working with the singer to record a song for this recording studio session. On the day of the recording studio session, the singer decided that he didn't want to sing at the recording studio after all.

What I ended up having to do is have a family member give me a ride to the studio, and write up some lyrics to the song on the way there (I let my singer write his own lyrics). Since I am not much of a singer, we ended up having me whisper the lyrics in the verses, running the sound through a flanger, and doing some goofy stuff with a pitch shifter to get some interesting vocals in the chorus.

My other horror story consists of working with a singer who singing was so bad I had to use an autotune on her voice all of the time. She was so quickly changing ideas that we never got a song completed together, even after working together for four months, before I gave up on her.

- Sam
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