PPLS studio guide
How to use the studio
The PPLS recording studio is in the basement of the Appleton Tower in room B.Z.31. It is maintained by Jamie Bathgate. Email email@example.com for help and bookings.
Training is required before using the studio. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org well ahead of time for advice or for a training session in the studio.
Booking the studio
Go to the booking webpage to check availability. Select the time you want to record by clicking the relevant slot on the timetable and then filling in the online request form. Your booking will be pending until either Jamie or one of the other members of the professional services staff confirm it. Once your booking is confirmed you will receive an email notification.
The studio is available from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
The studio ventilation will run every hour between approximately five minutes to and ten minutes past the hour.
Getting access to the studio
Access to the studio is by swipe card. If you are using the studio as part of a class, your tutor should organise access with the teaching office. If you are using the studio for your own specific project, you can request card access when making your booking or email email@example.com separately. Do this well ahead of time.
Preparing the studio and subject
The studio consists of two rooms; a recording booth where the speaker will be recorded, and a control room where the equipment and computer are. You will engineer the recording from the control room.
Make sure the subject is aware that any noise they make will be picked up in your recording. Sit them comfortably in the recording booth and ask them not to move around or fidget while recording. They must keep any paper scripts still while speaking, otherwise you will be stuck will rustling paper noises over your recording. Consider using the music stand in the booth to keep it out of their hands entirely. Using card or a phone/tablet can also reduce handling noises.
The microphone should be positioned 1-2 metres away from the subject and pointed toward their face. The subject should remove their face mask when recording. Untrained subjects tend begin their speech with energy and volume but then fade over the course of the recording. Ask your subject to maintain a consistent volume and delivery. In practice, it is unreasonable to expect flawless delivery from your subject while they also concentrate on the words you have provided, which is why the Recording Levels section below is important.
Your subject should bring along some water; a dry throat doesn’t come across well in a recording. A capped bottle or flask is preferable to avoid spillages. Spilled water makes expensive studio electronics sad. Remember to take your empty bottles and cups with you when you are finished in the studio.
It is essential that all human subjects in any research give voluntary and informed consent to their participation in the research. It is your responsibility as the researcher to obtain this consent and to ensure that the consent is valid. The subject must be made aware of the nature, purpose and duration of the research, the method by which the research is to be conducted, and any risks or benefits which may come from participation in the research. This information must be provided by the researcher as part of an informed consent form. Subjects must also agree to how the data will eventually be used.
Further information and the default consent form ("Use of recorded speech").
Using PreSonus Studio One Prime in the PPLS studio
You'll be recording on to an iMac using PreSonus Studio One Prime software, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface and monitoring through powered Genelec speakers.
Turn the lights on first: the control room light switch is just inside the door, and the isolation room has a fader panel just inside its door. Press the top button to turn the light all the way on.
Behind the partition in the isolation booth is a yellow transformer box. Turn it on at the mains.
The power switch for the iMac is located on the back at the bottom left corner. Turn this on and let the iMac start up.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface is the small red box to the right of the iMac. Turn the leftmost GAIN knob and large silver MONITOR knob all the way down. Press the small button labelled 48V so that it is lit up red.
The control room and isolation booth each have a Genelec speaker. Each speaker has a power switch at the front on the bottom right and a volume on the bottom left. Turn both monitors on and set their volumes to halfway.
The small silver Behringer mixer is to the left of the iMac. Move all the sliders all the way down. There is a small power button on the back toward the right labelled on/off. Turn this on and you will see the lights flash for a moment. Move the leftmost talkback slider to -15 dB (i.e., about halfway).
The talkback microphone is to the left of the Behringer mixer. Set the switch down to the ON position. To speak to the subject through the speaker in the isolation booth, move the rightmost slider up. Move it all the way down again when you are not speaking. Be careful – it can get very loud if you have the speaker and/or mixer sliders turned up too far.
Once the iMac has started up, log in as user pplsstudio. The password is studio.
Click the Studio One 5 icon in the dock and wait for the software to start. Check that the SETUP panel says Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, 48.0 kHz, and 512 samples. If the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 does not show, restart the iMac.
Click New Song… then, under Style, choose Empty Song. Enter a project name under Song Title; your name and the date is a sensible option. Note the location under the Song Title; it should be “/Users/pplsstudio/Documents/Studio One/Songs”. Also check that the sample rate is 48 kHz and sample rate is 16 Bit. Click OK.
Click the + icon to add a new track to your project. The Format should be Mono and Input should be Input L. Click OK.
Track record enable
To be able to hear your subject, the track that you just created must be armed for recording. The new track is at the top of the window and its name and controls at the top left. Click the button with the small grey circle. The button will turn red, the loudspeaker button to the right of it will turn blue, and the green meter to the right of these controls will react to sound in the isolation booth.
Before recording you need to set the recording level of the microphone and the loudness of the loudspeaker in the control room. Arm the track and turn the Scarlett 2i4 MONITOR knob to approx. 1/3 to 1/2 volume. Ask the subject to run through some test lines. As they talk, watch how high the track meter goes; you want it to reach approx. 3/4 at the subject’s loudest. Use the leftmost GAIN knob to adjust the recording level from the microphone. If the meter reaches the red part then it’s too high! Turn the GAIN down and click the red part of the meter to reset it.
It can be tricky to maintain this volume “sweet spot” if your subject’s delivery changes as they speak. This is why it’s important to ask your subject to be as consistent as they can. Keep an eye on this recording meter throughout your session and continue to make GAIN knob adjustments as necessary.
At the bottom of the Studio One window is a row of controls. Click the circle to start recording and the square stop. You can stop, skip forward and back, and play back using this row of buttons. The space bar can also be used to start and stop playback.
The numpad serves as an optional way to use these controls; hover the cursor over each control to see its corresponding numpad key.
Getting your recorded files
In the Setting Up section you created and named a “Song” (i.e., project) in the Documents folder. Go to /Users/pplsstudio/Documents/Studio One/Songs and open the folder with your Song name. In there is a Media folder with a WAV file for every time you pressed record. You can open your university OneDrive account in Safari and copy the files there. Once you have safely copied your files, please delete your Song folder from the iMac to free up space for other recordings. The iMac is not backed up, so any files left on it may not be there the next time you use it!