PPLS studio guide
How to use the studio
The PPLS recording studio is located in the basement of the Appleton Tower in room B.Z.31. It is maintained by Jamie Bathgate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for help and bookings.
Please email Jamie at email@example.com well ahead of time for advice or for a training session in the studio. Training is required before using 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.
Getting in 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 firstname.lastname@example.org separately. Do this well ahead of time!
If your speaker is reading from a script:
- Try to use cards rather than paper, since card won't rustle and create background noise.
- Use large print where possible.
Preparing the studio
- The studio consists of two rooms; a recording booth where the speaker will be recorded, and a control room where all equipment and computers are. You will engineer the recording from the control room.
- During the recording session, turn the ventilation off. There is a switch outside the recording booth door labelled SOUND BOOTH VENTILATION. When activated, a red light will come on and it the ventilation fans will stop.
- Switch on the 'STUDIO ON' light to let people in the corridor know you are recording. The switch is next to the ventilation switch.
Preparing your speaker
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. Maybe pop the script on the music stand in the booth to keep it out of their hands entirely.
The microphone should be positioned directly towards their mouth, no more than 10cm away. Untrained subjects tend to relax and drift away from the microphone, and many subjects will also begin their speech with energy and volume but then fade over the course of the recording. Ask your subject to maintain their volume and distance from the microphone. 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 sections below is important.
Have some water present for your subject; 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. Mouldy coffee cups make Jamie sad.
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 ProTools in the PPLS studio
You'll be recording on to an iMac using ProTools LE software, Digidesign 003 audio interface and monitoring through Genelec powered speakers.
- It’s a good idea to turn the lights on first. The control room lightswitch is just inside the door, and the isolation room has a fader just inside the 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 power switch for the Digidesign 003 interface in on the back at the left hand side where the sticker is. Turn this on.
- The small silver Behringer mixer has a small power button on the back toward the right. Turn this on.
- Each Genelec speaker has a power switch at the front on the bottom right and a volume on the bottom left. Turn both monitors on.
- Once the iMac has started up, click on studio on the login dialogue box. The password is also studio.
ProTools will automatically launch and a window will appear. Make sure that Create Session from Template is selected. If you are recording only one subject choose Template 1. If you are recording two subjects simultaneously then select Template 2. Click OK. Another dialogue box will ask you to save the project. Use a name that is appropriate for you and your project, like your student number or UUN, and save this to the Desktop to find it easily later.
Track record enable
To be able to hear your subject through the monitors you'll need to first arm the track for recording. On the iMac screen at the top left corner of the main window is the word Subject 1, written in a blue font. Below this is a record button; a small square with a circle inside it. When you click on this button, it flashes red and you can now hear your subject, or “monitor” them. Remember: without clicking this button to arm the track, you won’t be able to record either. Later, if you want to play back what you've recorded, click this button again to disarm the track to allow playback instead of live monitoring.
Before recording, you need to set the microphone sensitivity for your speaker. Arm the track and ask the subject to run through some test lines. As they talk, the meter on the left of the screen will move up and down, going from green at the bottom, through amber, to red at the top. On the Digidesign 003 interface there is a knob labelled Recording Levels. Turn this dial clockwise to increase the sensitivity of the microphone or anticlockwiseto decrease it. Go easy here; you only need to make small adjustments! Aim to have the recording level peak in the amber part of the meter. Any higher, and they will start to sound like they are shouting through a cheap megaphone. You might notice that only certain words reach that volume, while the rest are much quieter. This is why it’s important to ask your subject to maintain distance and volume, as we mentioned earlier. Ideally you want to set this at a good level and leave it, but keep an eye on this recording meter throughout your session and continue to make adjustments as necessary.
On the bottom right of the Digidesign 003 there is row of buttons. To start recording first press Record then press Play. You are now recording. You can stop, skip forward and back and play back using this row of buttons.
Alternatively, you can click the same controls on the screen. It’s entirely up to you.
Getting your files
In the Setting Up section you saved the project to a folder. Within this is a folder called Audio Files, and within that are WAV files for every time you pressed record. Bring a USB stick or hard drive with you and copy them over to take them away, and maybe copy them to your OneDrive/Google Drive/Dropbox as a backup. Once you have safely copied your files, please delete them from the iMac to free up space for other recordings. Note that this iMac is not backed up, so any files left on it may not be there the next time you use it!