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Crappy music mixes on network television

Discussion in 'Recording' started by RemyRAD, Apr 26, 2007.

  1. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    So having worked in the business for a while, I'm wondering why I've heard this change over the recent past? Music mixes on Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Carson Daly, et al.. What's with these music mixes of these bands?!?! The most underwhelming mixes and lackluster sound I've ever heard. It's getting worse. No effects, no reverb, no space, lousy equalization, lifeless. I can't all be the bands. WTF?? This can't all be because of digital consoles and beginners. It's crappy engineering. It's a trend in mixing but I don't like it.

    What's your take?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  2. dementedchord

    dementedchord Well-Known Member

    gee i havent even had the TV on in like 6 months...
  3. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Maybe they're all Circuit-Cityizing their staffs?

    "NOOoooo...we're not FIRING you! We're offering you an opportunity for us to use your knowledge and experience to do the same exact work as before, but for greatly reduced wages! It's an OPPORTUNITY to show that you really ARE a team player, and that you are loyal to the job you love! We have to make up for the shortcomings of our CEO's who have driven our stock prices into the ground while collecting enough compensation to actually have given you all substantial raises if we didn't have to supply them with their golden parachutes! This is a GREAT CHANCE to start over...fresh..
    Now...who's WITH US!".


    ...."Uhhhh...hmmmm....anybody at all?"

    "hmmm...I don't understand"....."Why are you all walking OUT!!!"

    "Oh well...guess we'll have to just have to hire and train 30,000 new cheap people, huh?"

    Kapt.Krunch :(

    ('Wait a minute....WHO'S gonna TRAIN THEM?!")
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I was, in my past life, an audio engineer for the local PBS station. It was a fun job and I learned a lot about audio and video in my time at the station. One thing I learned early on is that most people working in television seem to think that video is king. They would say that video is 80 to 90 percent of the total presentation and audio is 10 to 20 percent.

    I think you are just hearing the results of that generally held opinion. Look at any network show and you see the outlay of money for the HD cameras, the effects units, the lighting and the number of cameras that are being used. Then you look at the audio and it has not progressed all that much from the RCA 6B audio consoles and reel to reel tape and cartridge machines that I used. True there are now wireless lav microphones and most consoles are digital but the increase in the video side of things far out weighs what has been done for the audio side of equation. I don't think that audio is all that important to the people who do television on a daily basis and I think that it is considered more of a necessary evil than a important part of the production.

    The PBS station that I worked for use to have two full time audio engineers now it has NO full time audio engineers and the audio engineering duties are handled by the other engineers when needed for live broadcast. Most TV stations in this area have NO full time audio engineers and either hire a part timer or divvy up the duties to the engineers that are on staff.

    Maybe some day the TV stations and network shows will realize the error of their ways but with video becoming more and more important every day I kinda doubt it. Audio engineers in TV may go the way of the dodo bird and eventually they may have the AD doing the mix with a portable fader console that is pre programmed or with buttons that say things like "two person interview" or "audio mix for the Tonight Show band". <GRIN>
  5. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Kapt. Krunch nailed it.

    It is a phenomenon in many industries in this economy.

    They are lowballing professionals in many industries left and right.
  6. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Well, being in the home-studio tinkering business for over 20 months, I've built up the confidence that I could easily do as good or worse a job as ANY network mixdown artist! Man, I have this preset on my DAW compressor that will make anything sound bad. I'm sure NOT afraid to use it either!

    Ms. Remy Ann David, I just want to say that I really enjoy your posts. I love your humor, but even more I appreciate your expertise and willingness to offer it up for free! That being said, I seem to remember a post of yours recently where you said you didn't have as much time for checking out new equipment and new DAWs... I guess now we know why!

    Come back Arsenio!



    P.S. At least the Superbowl...ERRRRRR "the big game" halftime shows are still great :wink: !
  7. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    You know, now that I think about it a little more, this is how all business is run. Whenever there's something working fine (usually because there are compitent, well-trained, and quick thinking folks making it work) the suits look down the spreadsheet and say, "See here, Charles, we're spending quite some dollars in the mixing budget. We don't need those compitent persons working there, because everything is running fine. Let's get a couple of rent-a-professionals. We could save 43 cents!"

    And then, they can the good guys and hire the new guys. And here's what happens... everything continues fine for a short time, then it hits a parabolic downward slope crashing to oblivion. But, just before that, the guy who saved them 43 cents gets promoted, and his replacement seed the writing on the wall, cans the new guys, hires some good guys, saves the day, then gets promoted. Then HIS replacement tries to save another 43 cents...

    That's how the intergalactic communications megaconglomorate I work for does things. We almost doubled our profit in 1st Q over last year. I got a 0.043% cost of living bonus! Holy smokes!

  8. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Its because all the "good ol boys" have retired. They werent exactly music mixers, they were mixers that knew how to translate to broadcast.

    With the ever shrinking, or should I say demise of live to tape "Music based Variety" shows, the pool of these type of mixers is pretty much gone.
    The only one left, I know of, is Bart Chiate doing the Kimmel show.
    Others (Ed Greene, Doug Nelson, Don Worsham) (Remember them, Remy??) have since semi retired, and only doing selected work.

    Now show like American Idol are heavily remixed in post production.
  9. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Actually, though diminished budgets do contribute to using lesser quality personel, but I think a lot of it has to do with other things as well.

    There is little or no time to cobble a mix together prior to broadcast.

    As a former touring musician and sometime FOH mixer I can tell you that musicians immediately turn up the volume when the "red" light goes on, thus negating the soundcheck mix. And there-in lies the problem; the lesser qualified sound mixers rely much too heavily on their pre-set digital mix and have a great deal of trouble adapting to changes on the fly.

    Another problem is that there are a myriad of audio playback systems available to the consumer, some of whom use the TV speakers while others use a $2k surround system with dozens of variables in-between. Mixing to accomodate them all is a nightmarish task.

    The biggest problem in any entertainment industry is the "suits". They have the mindset that advanced technology reduces the need for qualified personel whereas the reverse is actually the case.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Condemning the people doing the work is an easy way out in any field, be it entertainment, finance or politics. Fire the transgressor and the "problem" is gone, thus giving the appearance of action without actually having to change anything or take responsibility.
  10. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Uncle Bob,

    Ill only comment on one of your statements:

    "There is little or no time to cobble a mix together prior to broadcast. "

    Thats what the good ol boys were good at, putting together a good mix quickly!!!!

    I just mixed a news comedy pilot (ala Colbert) that was shot in a small soundstage, and the audio was distorted start to finish.
    After doing some inquiry, I heard an assistant set up a wireless lav, and the boom was shot from 10 feet away (all room, totally unusable). He set up the levels during a quick sound check, when the show started the talent started acting as he should, meaning his levels now were up about 30dBs, and the assistant was away from his headphones doing video playback.
    Soundwoman/man?? Nobody though of hiring one!!!!

  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Great post, Remy, and a lot of great replies already....

    I'll add my own .02 worth as well.

    Firstly, I try NOT to watch much television anymore; it's everywhere, all the time, and there are far far too many choices. As for the sound & quality of a mix, I just don't even think about it until/unless I have my own 5.1 system fired up, including sub. Anything less, and all bets are off. With so many different mixing & playback systems, I can't begin to imagine what anyone's using on their end.

    Secondly, there are so many potential problem areas between the mixing board in the TV studio and what my Comcast digital cable box is spitting out, I'm still amazed it sounds as good as it does. Generally speaking of course!

    Third, there are so many variables in the TV studios end of things, esp with touring bands, big sales, and egos, etc. I don't know the policy on shows like Leno, Kimmel, Letterman, etc., but I suspect there are the occasions when the live touring guy (or their best friend, etc.) is given the shot at doing the mix, for whatgever reason - contractual, or better knowledge of the band's quirks, etc. (Not nec. translating to a better mix, of course!) I have heard a lot of variables from one band to the next on network shows (over-compression, lost vocals, no bass, too much bass, etc.) that leads me to this supposition.

    FWIW, I only watch Letterman and Ferguson when I even have the time these days (which is rarer all the time, now...) and I find their stuff to be pretty good, 90% of the time. Ditto for the folks at SNL; the live bands come off pretty good, MOST of the time. (Prince on SNL was pretty amazing all around, I have to admit).

    Fourth, live TV is still great and enjoyable BECAUSE I sometimes catch bad mixes and flubs (It's always fun to know there's someone ELSE out there sweating the details, eh? Heehehe)

    Fifth, I think there's still a big crop of folks out there who are doing to TV sound what is already being done to Radio & CDs: Make it LOUD. Add to that the brick wall limiters and compressors of TV broadcast, and you can easily get the muck that Remy's talking about. Nothing much has changed in the last 30 yrs in that department. In my mind, the mixes that really sound great these days are the result of some brave and smart sound mixer who does NOT need to crank everything up to "Slamming" levels to make it sound good.

    I still LOVE good TV mixes, and they're out there, from time to time.

    Last, I think American Idol is all LIVE, so "Post production" mixes are only on the reruns, or for segments that are pre-taped to drop in as special segments. (I'm sure that show is all digital consoles, etc.)

    Hey, remember when live music was FUN???? :wink:
  12. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Live to tape, American Idol is shot during the weekend, and goes to Post for Tuesdayand Wednesday night airing.
    I dont think, I know!!!!
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I've really enjoyed everybody's theories and viewpoints here. I think you're all right? Thanks!

    Or has the recording schools been delivering these engineers? Sounds to me like the bands like sounding like wet socks? Or, is it all greed profits? I mean, they're still fighting for ratings late-night. So I really think this is the A list audio engineers? I still believe bands might be requesting this awful lackluster dry mix syndrome? Kevin Eubanks, Paul Schaefer and Max Weinberg's mixes usually appear good. But the bands??? The bands???

    I know personal preferences have changed in the concept of mixing music. Its ever evolving. Is this just a phase?

    As far back as 1997, when I provided live mix from my remote truck, for a local FM rock station for a Counting Crows concert. It was requested of me to use NO REVERB'S. I thought, all right, no problem. The manager of the group got upset because of all the reverb he heard. I wasn't using anything. It was real acoustics coming off of this huge outdoor stage into every microphone, in one of those beautiful outdoor, all wood, pavilions. It's amazing how much reverb you get off of an outdoor Pavilion concert stage. I just found it strange to get a definite request for no reverbs or digital thingies on anything. Go figure? We have all these wonderful processors and nobody wants to use them? I don't get it? Cook your own acoustics. Make mine rare.

    Now, I still don't generally utilize nor monitor through a 5.1 surround system. So I'm listening to the 2 channel down conversion as my normal modus operandi. Not playing a lot with surround myself, I have no frame of reference in how to judge and/or compare an actual stereo mix, specifically from a "made for two track mix", from that of a downconverted 5.1 mix? Not sure if some of my complaints and curiosities, are merely from what happens to 5.1 when down converted to stereo? That coupled without any stereo ambient generating DSP and lesser paid, inexperienced engineers with corporate profit mongering just seems to me like this is actually a trend in mixing preferences over that of profits?

    I've always known NBC to have quality equipment and audio engineers like myself and far better. After all, they had myself for nearly 20 years. I can't vow for smaller stations. But there is also that element of the old boys you bring up but I don't think is quite correct? I remember most of them had pretty much retired by the time I came onboard in 1981. If I'm not mistaken, numerous late-night shows involve more than one audio control room? One for the show mix and one for the music mix, since they still largely shoot live to tape. All the more reason why I feel confused about this trend It's not like control rooms don't have digital reverbs and a full complement of everything else we have/want in our control rooms. I know they do.

    You're certainly correct, you're right, there is that element of the "flying by the seed of your pants" aspect to doing live television and especially live television with music, if a single control room is involved. I thrive upon that scenario. It's completely ideal for an ADD like myself to work in. It only used to take me a few moments to tweak something up for a decent mix and add some digital verb to a couple of instruments. I always had at least one commercial break (2 minutes) to work out a mix. That's why I'm so puzzled? I think I'll NEVEr get it? Even though I am at the Lexicon of my career.

    I guess I'm a fossil? A clueless burnout? Old fogy?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  14. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Not to hijack the thread (and I can't believe I'm actually going to give this show more attention than it already has...) but, American Idol is most definitely live or on a short (7 sec?) delay - at least the main segments in the final weeks of the show in the spring. (Those hideous and hilarious auditions back in Jan & Feb. are most definitely taped and put together for the shock & humorous portion of the show, early in the season).

    I don't see how it makes sense - or even works - to have it "taped over the weekend", when the point of the two-nights-in-a-row shows is to have them each do a new song the first night, have the audience vote overnight (right up till airing, or shortly before) so they can decide who gets kicked off the second night. (I think they'd need a time machine to do that, wouldn't they?)

    Besides, with all of the drama, hoopla and carrying on when the show gets down to its final contestants, there's no way in the world you could contain all of the people involved (Family, friends, etc.) to keep their mouths shut (and the media quiet) for four or five days. No way. (I don't watch it at all this season, but doesn't Brian Sea-Quest have some kind of line like "We Are Live here in Hollywood, CA...." - I seem to remember hearing him say that at the top of each show, but I could be wrong.....)

    Indeed, there are taped segments (those ensemble Ford Commericals with the entire cast in a video-like story line set to music), and those "look-backs" at a contestant they've just booted. And I have no doubt at all that the consoles for the b'cast feed are all digital and have instant recall for each musical number. perhaps some of it is MIDI tracks with background vocals preset as well.

    BUT the main point of the show - esp in the final weeks with the contestants getting knocked off - is indeed a LIVE, nerve-wracking performance. I belive that's part of the appeal and the excitement.

    If you can find a way around that Tuesday to Wednesday Time-travel-space& time-continuum shift, you're welcome to prove me wrong. I'm all ears, as it were.... :wink:
  15. dementedchord

    dementedchord Well-Known Member

    i guess tuesday could be taped... but yeah wed would have to be live...
  16. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    Anyone watch/listen to Meatloaf on Dancing with the Stars?

    He sang Bat out of Hell and his new single.

    On Bat out of Hell, it was obvious that his mic was heavily compressed, as there were NO dynamics in the very dynamic song, and the mix was absolutly HORRIBLE.

    The second song sounded slightly better; it may've been the CD with lipsynch, though I didn't see any lipflubs.

    I thought that might be relevant to the conversation.
  17. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    ok, since we're digging heavily into what makes a good mix vs. a crappy mix (and compression seems to be an inescapable way of life, sigh....), I'm wondering what most people are listening to shows like these on. Are you in 5.1, stereo, HD channel, etc? Are you using your TV set's built in speakers, or are you using a separate, dedicated system with a sub?

    Taking the AI show as one example, I have found MANY variations on the theme of what's "GOOD" vs. Crappy.

    For example, you can get it on Comcast in SD (Standard Def) or on the FOX HD (Hi Def) channel. Both sound & picture are very different, depending on how you dial it in.

    You can get the audio in normal Stereo or ProLogic II (quasi-) Surround on the SD Channel, and of course in Dolby 5.1 Surround on the HD channel. And of course, any of these choices will sound drastically different depending on what you're listening through: The tv spkrs or a separate 5.1 system.

    But that's not all.....on my receiver, anyway, it's easy to miss out on the best choices if you're not paying attention. (Something to do with the way the local affiliates hand over the meta-data tags in the data stream they're spitting out....date, time, viewer/age ratings, screen size, bit rate, and of course audio formats.) I try to leave everything on "Digital-Auto" but even then, sometimes something will come along and mess it all up again, making me reset everything.

    I have often gotten just "Dolby Stereo" and needed to get up and tweak the receiver to get it to play in 5.1, and so on, even while watching the HD channel. (Big giveaway is when there's nothing coming out of the rears; very often AI has all of the audience reaction, applause, etc., coming out of the back channels.)

    My wife and daughter really don't care WHAT they're getting (women!) as long as the picture is ok. Very often I walk into the room to find them watching a great looking show with crappy audio. I turn on the 5.1 system, and they go: "Ooooh, MUCH better!" (Or they just laugh at me, one or the other, sometimes BOTH. ;-) ) Fortunately, my son loves his sports in HD and 5.1 surround, so it all works out.

    As for sheer entertainment value and bang for the buck, I will ALWAYS turn on my 5.1 system when watching most shows; it's still a lot of fun to find out what they've sent to the sub channel & surrounds. (Football SFX's are great, too! The FOX/NFL stations have some great audio to go with those visual stingers.)

    The center channel for dialog is a huge boon as well.

    So perhaps it comes down to: What kind of signal are you getting (HD or SD) and what are you listening through??

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