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What exactly does "enhanced or engineered" mean?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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What exactly does "enhanced or engineered" mean?

A fair amount of my work is producing audition recordings, often for college or scholarship applications. Many of these require video submittals to ensure they can see a "live" performance that has not been edited in post to correct errors.

Many of the auditions that do not require video include a clause in the submittal requirements that state that recording should not be "enhanced or engineered".

What is your interpretation of that clause?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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I did a recording of a clarinetist for a European Orchestra audition and he asked me to sign a paper saying that I did not alter the recording. He said that there could be no notes changed or pitch adjusted, no edits, it had to be a complete unedited performance etc. He said if he gets this job he will take me and the pianist to the best restaurant in town.....well that was about 2 years ago.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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Anything that takes away from perceiving the player's performance and instrument handling skill. That means not only do they want to hear all aspects of your playing, but they also want to hear how well you can set up your instrument to sound its best in a given room/situation without any processing.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
What is your interpretation of that clause?
Lol. My day job is lawyering, and that would be a fun one to toss about. Thinking practically, however, I assume it means no compression, EQ, noise reduction, reverb, pitch correction, etc. If I were tasked with recording a student subject to that clause, the very most I would do is pick the most flattering microphone, and then dither the original recording when I exported the presumed MP3 file for submission.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
What is your interpretation of that clause?
Simply put, not to use any 'performance enhancing drugs' you might have stashed away in your bottom DAW Our job is not to make them sound good, just to portray them as naturally raw as possible...ie no audio-Photoshopping.

No reverb, no edits, no noise reduction, no compression or limiting, not even any fades-in or out. Nothing which changes their playing dynamics.Anything which sniffs of a change to the file is to be avoided...think of yourself as the national cycle-team's doctor, with access to a cupboard full of substances which could get both you and the athletes into enormous trouble if misused.

I'm sure that there are blacklists of audio engineers out there, whose presence on a recording fires up immediate alarm bells with assessment panels, especially if it all goes on ''in your local town", and thus an audio engineer's professional reputation is clearly at stake here.

That of course doesn't prevent you from using all your knowledge of recording session etiquette and good practice, to put the player at ease, minimize background noise, use a flattering acoustic space, good miking selection and technique...all are positive contributions to their performance and its capture
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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boojum's Avatar
I would say the raw recording is what they are asking for. But, email them and ask.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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I do not regard reverb as enhancement, as most of these recordings are done in terrible small room acoustics and need a little reverb to sound natural.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
I use to be the director of audio services for the local college. We did audition tapes all the time and had to sign a form that we had not done anything to the recording and that it was exactly as performed with no editing or enhancement. No problem. We did as directed. Some students were not happy that we could not use our editing skills to enhance their performances.

However the students in the electronic music studio use to make a lot of beer money recording and editing audition tapes for the best performance. They too signed the same form.

With the advent of video taped audition recording sessions it was assumed that it would preclude any editing but the students in the film department soon realized that they could make some serious money by doing both audio and video editing of audition tapes. I saw some of the editing that was done on the video and audio and it was well done and seamless. So much for colleges and festivals trying to get an accurate recording of someone's playing in real time. One of the schools requires that time code be recorded on the video so they thought it impossible for someone to edit the recording. The students doing the editing got around that requirement by doing the recordings without the time code overlay and just added it in the editing process.

People are only as honest at they want to be.

Best of luck!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
I do not regard reverb as enhancement, as most of these recordings are done in terrible small room acoustics and need a little reverb to sound natural.
I think the "terrible small room acoustics" would affirm beyond doubt that the recording is not "enhanced or engineered". Anything added to or subtracted from the original recorded waveform could be considered tampering. But selecting an optimal recording venue (maybe a nice church with decent reverberation?) and putting up a suitable, well positioned mic(s) would reap benefits and stay within the spirit of the audition requirements. My $0.02.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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I frequently do recordings for my fellow music teacher colleagues who submit their groups to be selected for performance at state music conferences. Here's the pertinent bit from our state music education organization (bold emphasis mine):

Quote:
D. Unedited live recording of three (3) selections (individual movements of a piece can be considered as separate pieces) performed during the current school year (audio only or audio and video - please be sure conductor cannot be identified if submitting video).

i. Unedited shall mean NO studio enhancements or alterations of any type.
ii. Live performance shall mean a complete performance of each selected work, whether in the rehearsal room or concert venue, with or without an audience.

Example: It is not acceptable to “build” a recording using individual tracks recorded at different times and then mixing the tracks together to create the final recording of that selection.
The "complete performance" part is very cut and dry. The question is: what constitutes "studio enhancements" in their mind? I totally agree with David that reverb is not an enhancement in these situations, unless you're going overboard.

My opinion is that you present the best recording you can that realistically portrays how that ensemble sounds in person. If that means some slight tweaks in terms of reverb or EQ to correct for room issues, then so be it.

For example: All of these recordings I've done have RX noise reduction to compensate for the loud HVAC in school auditoriums. That noise would not be very noticeable to a live audience as our ears / brains tend to filter it out, but on a recording it's very distracting from the music.

I also put in fades (very brief) at track start/end, limiting on applause if much louder than the music, and then track normalization.

Are these things "alterations" by the above definition? Possibly. I mean, I'm definitely manipulating the recording in my DAW. Can the adjudication committees hear said alterations? Only if I've done my job poorly.

From where I stand, none of these things are giving the groups I'm recording any kind of unfair advantage in competition, which is really what these guidelines are trying to prevent. Moreover, not doing these things would make for a lower quality listening experience and a less accurate presentation of how someone would hear these groups in person.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
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A competent engineer would steer the candidate away from the 'small room acoustics' in the first instance anyway...knowing that flutter echoes etc can't be removed without processing, which would likely produce artifacts and violate the whole spirit of non-tampering into the bargain.

I guess it depends at which level of 'auditioning' we're guessing at here...entrance to a specialist secondary school or college, trying for a capital city orchestra, or as Jim mentioned at the outset "often for college or scholarship applications" ?

If it's an anxious parent recording on their cellphone in the family lounge-room then that's another scenario....and they'll likely reap the outcome of unpreparedness.

Whether the panel is assessing for future playing potential or current competence is another factor, and lo-fi rendition may not preclude informed panel judgements. A great recording is like showing up to the interview with shined shoes, a radiant smile and clean brushed hair...a damn good start !
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
A competent engineer would steer the candidate away from the 'small room acoustics' in the first instance anyway...knowing that flutter echoes etc can't be removed without processing, which would likely produce artifacts and violate the whole spirit of non-tampering into the bargain.
Sheesh.

This is a music teaching studio, architect designed but not a hall. The student cannot afford to hire a hall.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Sheesh.

This is a music teaching studio, architect designed but not a hall. The student cannot afford to hire a hall.
That's a very specific location you're citing...how did that enter the equation ?

For anything other than a piano, the instrument is portable (and pianos can be found in many places, including churches), so the aspiring student can chase a low or no cost place to record in. We're not talking about a radio broadcast concert venue.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
As to using churches...

In our town a lot of the churches have started charging a "fee" which they are calling a "building use fee" which is suppose to cover heating, air conditioning (if available) and a custodial fee. These fees can range from $35 to $75. For some parents that is a lot of money especially if they also have to pay for the recording engineer.

The college in town is in some deep do do fiscally and I would not be surprised if they too started charging for the use of their halls.

It is getting harder and harder to find "free" spaces to record in.

Everything in the USA seems to be a business and even educational facilities and churches are charging for things they use to provide for free. I guess it is the tenor of the times.

FWIW
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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I interpret the phrase to mean no editing of the recording.

Still, editing is often done because there is so much competition in this arena.

If done well, no one can tell if the recording was edited even if they ask for a video to accompany the audition.

On the other hand, the playa, if successful in the audition, has to appear and play live so one should not offer something that the playa cannot do.

People depend on me to present them in the best light. That is all I can say.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
A fair amount of my work is producing audition recordings, often for college or scholarship applications. Many of these require video submittals to ensure they can see a "live" performance that has not been edited in post to correct errors.

Many of the auditions that do not require video include a clause in the submittal requirements that state that recording should not be "enhanced or engineered".

What is your interpretation of that clause?
What they really want I think is sufficient information to allow them to make a judgement about the players abilities. They want to hear what the player played, mistakes and all. What they want to avoid is making judgements based on your abilities with your DAW. It's not about you, it's about the player.

If you keep that in mind, you'll probably be all right.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
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Plush's Avatar
My tapes always help the playa win. I have never had a person fail.

As far as how we do it, "I'm awfully sorry, but I couldn't possibly comment."
Old 3 weeks ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
On the other hand, the playa, if successful in the audition, has to appear and play live so one should not offer something that the playa cannot do.
I think this is the essence of the brief, and all the accompanying cautions and caveats. If we use our skills to misrepresent the capacities of the hopeful applicant, via selective editing or enhancing dynamic contrasts, smoothing out sibilants or bow rasps, then we are setting up the individual (and their future sponsors) for bitter revelation of the truth and failure all round.

Similarly if we undersell their abilities through poor recording we do them no favour either. The corridor between these extremes is the one to navigate, to shine their shoes for them
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
RPC
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I'm with Plush and studer58 on this one. The bottom line, as I tell the auditionee who wants to edit within an inch of their lives: "Look, I can do this, but if I do and you win this round, you're going to have to play for these people live. It will be painfully obvious to all that you cheated, word will get around, and you and I will never get any work." OTOH, it really isn't difficult to make an audition recording that's going to be head and shoulders above all the iPhone and shaver files the committee is going to endure, and that is a real advantage for your client.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Many of the auditions that do not require video include a clause in the submittal requirements that state that recording should not be "enhanced or engineered".
The deciding expert listens to a recording rather than audition a musician in person. Audio engineering is recognized as a secretive process of deception.
Old 3 weeks ago
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Originally Posted by aracu View Post
The deciding expert listens to a recording rather than audition a musician in person. Audio engineering is recognized as a secretive process of deception.
Recognized...by whom ? You're suggesting that both the listening panel (not a single 'deciding expert') and the recording person are complicit in deception, by the very process of recording alone ? That would make it an open agreement rather than a secretive process. Where does your paranoia and cynicism come from...are you on the board of FIFA ?

An easy way around this is a Skype audition, if the time zones match. This way you have electronic transmission in real time...no edits, no deceptions...and if microphones are involved, a recordist gets paid...win-win for everyone, and no airplane ticket expenses.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
A fair amount of my work is producing audition recordings, often for college or scholarship applications. Many of these require video submittals to ensure they can see a "live" performance that has not been edited in post to correct errors.

Many of the auditions that do not require video include a clause in the submittal requirements that state that recording should not be "enhanced or engineered".

What is your interpretation of that clause?
They want to know how well the player can perform live, onstage, for a given period of time. A "live" audition is best, but not always practical. A "live" video is the next best thing because the performer has to do the same things they would in a live audition or concert performance. I am going through this process at the moment and will admit it is not a perfect substitute.

In some ways, DSD would be an excellent format for auditions. The audio can not be edited or enhanced and the video element is removed. The problem is cost. I am willing to bet applicants would be more willing to spend $800 on a Sony PCM-100 than an academic institution/competition would be to spend $500 on a DAC that can playback DSD files.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
As to using churches...

In our town a lot of the churches have started charging a "fee" which they are calling a "building use fee" which is suppose to cover heating, air conditioning (if available) and a custodial fee. These fees can range from $35 to $75. For some parents that is a lot of money especially if they also have to pay for the recording engineer.

The college in town is in some deep do do fiscally and I would not be surprised if they too started charging for the use of their halls.

It is getting harder and harder to find "free" spaces to record in.

Everything in the USA seems to be a business and even educational facilities and churches are charging for things they use to provide for free. I guess it is the tenor of the times.

FWIW
My experience has been unless you have personal connections with the church clergy or music ministry, you're not getting use of the space for free.

Also in situations like mine where you're recording a large student band / choir / orchestra, it's often not feasible to add another commitment date for the students or have them transported somewhere else just for a recording, so you end up at their school concert with all of its associated warts that may need attention in post.

There was one occasion where our high school wind ensemble asked me to record an after-school recording session for competition submission. It was in their normal performance space because that was the only way the session was going to happen.

In these recordings I'm doing, the committee does in fact make their decisions entirely from the recording; there is no in-person audition since it's an ensemble and not a soloist. But I strongly disagree that there is some kind of "nudge-wink" deception going on in the process.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
My experience has been unless you have personal connections with the church clergy or music ministry, you're not getting use of the space for free.

Also in situations like mine where you're recording a large student band / choir / orchestra, it's often not feasible to add another commitment date for the students or have them transported somewhere else just for a recording, so you end up at their school concert with all of its associated warts that may need attention in post.

There was one occasion where our high school wind ensemble asked me to record an after-school recording session for competition submission. It was in their normal performance space because that was the only way the session was going to happen.

In these recordings I'm doing, the committee does in fact make their decisions entirely from the recording; there is no in-person audition since it's an ensemble and not a soloist. But I strongly disagree that there is some kind of "nudge-wink" deception going on in the process.
You make many good points here. In the case of the high school wind ensemble, I'm guessing it's very likely that all the schools submitting for the competition are faced with the same logistical and monetary constraints, of having to record in their usual performance space.

This levels the field amongst the competitors, as they are all hearing themselves (as individual players) as they typically would in performance...so the panel gets to hear them pretty much in their typical, natural environment...playing at their best, given the circumstances.

Move them to a classy concert hall to record the audition and they may well have ensemble-sync issues in the changed acoustic conditions. So a great playing space is not always better...sometimes familiarity wins out !
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Given To Fly View Post
They want to know how well the player can perform live, onstage, for a given period of time. A "live" audition is best, but not always practical. A "live" video is the next best thing because the performer has to do the same things they would in a live audition or concert performance. I am going through this process at the moment and will admit it is not a perfect substitute.
Well observed...a 'live concert recording' (either audio or video, perhaps both) requirement by panels for all applicants would immediately guarantee the 'performance anxiety factor' is taken as fact, and would put all applicants under similar pressure.

A typical concert (and I mean with a hall populated by parents, relatives and public...not 6 of their school buddies at an after-school gathering in the school assembly hall), with no subsequent editing and splicing in of rehearsal takes, would give a very good idea of how an individual or ensemble can perform under typical concert pressure.

That's quite different to the same players gathering for 3 hours in an empty hall on Sunday morning, rolling SSD and using the best take out of 5.

It comes down to exam philosophy..is it about allowing students to be recorded and graded at their very best, irrespective of 'how many takes it takes'...or is it about ramping up the pressure and seeing who delivers consistently, and doesn't crack, on the Big Night ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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I take this to mean that you cant comp multiple takes into one. Cant pitch shift, or otherwise fix performance mistakes.

Im ok with adding reverb, whether done physically (by getting a hall), or by using software. Same end result. Im also ok with small amts of eq to roll off rumble (whether a physical switch on mic or recorder, or in software). Also same result. Im also ok with mild eq to correct room problems, like giving a slight high freq lift to compensate for carpeting. This is not altering the performance. Its making it more listenable and is putting the performance (as played) in the best light.

All of that being said, i ultimately let my clients decide. If they want a straight capture, then that is what they get.

Tom
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
I would say the best approach would be to also include a video of yourself working on the project to prove there was no sleight of hand.

That is, the video starts with a darkened room. You enter, turn the lights on, load the file into the computer, hit START, hit STOP, output the file and seal it in an envelope and hand it to a UPS guy waiting by. Also, having a notary public on hand to sign something at a critical point, not a bad idea!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
I would say the best approach would be to also include a video of yourself working on the project to prove there was no sleight of hand.

That is, the video starts with a darkened room. You enter, turn the lights on, load the file into the computer, hit START, hit STOP, output the file and seal it in an envelope and hand it to a UPS guy waiting by. Also, having a notary public on hand to sign something at a critical point, not a bad idea!
How about, use your approach, but have a hidden version, made beforehand with at least 200 edits, that you slip to the UPS guy, using the secret spy thriller switch technique.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
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Do a single camera static shot video. No fancy stuff. For the audio, don't edit.

Make a good sounding recording. Don't put a huge amount of reverb on it, but a little verb and EQ is fine. Make the player sound good.

Anybody that asks for less is full of crap. Your job as an engineer is to make sure your client sounds good. Nobody on the other end will know or care if you're using Schoeps or Shure. They will care if your living room looking recording sounds like a cathedral. The won't know if there is a little ambience to make it feel better (and they may actually prefer it without realizing it).

Done.

--Ben
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
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^^^ This.
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