Author Archives for Brad Belcher

“ Left Brain/Right Brain”… Decision Making in a Demanding Environment

September 16, 2020 2:14 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


There are not many careers that require decisions under pressure from both the Left and Right side of your brain.  Audio production is definitely one of those careers and is extremely challenging in this regard.  Decisions abound in the studio, requiring technical and creative expertise to be applied at the same time…all within a tight timeline…in order to accommodate the demanding deadlines within modern audio post.


Technically, (left brain) an Audio Producer has to be able to apply knowledge of applied physics, waveform propagation, understand mic choice/mic placement, utilize electronics theory, understand signal flow, understand equipment abilities/limitations, have a firm grasp of IT and file type choices, be able to organize file structures, and have an intimate understanding of the delivery specification to be able to maximize the quality of the product within that specification.  It has been said that at any point in time during a session, an audio engineer has to pay attention to more things than an airline pilot.  Now if we crash in the recording studio, no-ones dies … well OK, it just feels that way.


Creatively, (right brain) the audio producer has to have the ability to understand music theory, arrangement, how each instrument adds to the mix, recommend voices when casting, determine music direction/music choices, understand the capabilities of the sound effect libraries, effectively apply overall sound design concepts/direction, apply understanding of mix balances and how to make them impactful within the delivery standard.  There is also a healthy dose of psychology involved in music/audio post, whether you are guiding performances from talent, or guiding clients through the audio post process to ensure a quality product makes it to final approval.


Effective decisions in a timely manner require experience and confidence.


It’s very challenging…


I love what I do!


Passionate about the craft of audio,


Brad Belcher… Read More

“Maximizing Your Bit Count”

January 20, 2016 3:59 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Have you ever noticed how digital recordings sound richer/fuller/better when the peak level surpasses -6db? This is due to the fact that the bit count itself is describing more featured instrument/voice, than background noise or silence.


Here is a brief breakdown of digital recording options, how they affect the quality of the final recording, and how you can maximize your bit count for better sounding digital recordings:


Digital recordings have several options to choose from, all of which affect file size and quality of recording.


To begin with, you must choose a “File Type”…typical options are:

– Broadcast WAV
– MP3

Note: Several others are available, but we will focus on these types, as they are the most prevalent in the world of professional audio.


File type is the first point at which a choice of file size vs quality must be taken (.wav, aiff, Broadcast wav are all larger files than mp3, but deliver considerably higher sonic quality).


Beyond file type, you must choose a “Sample Rate”…typical options are:

– 44.1 KHz

– 48 KHz

– 88 KHz

– 96 KHz

Note: Again, there are several other options, but we will focus on the most prevalent sample rates used in professional audio.


The choice of sample rate determines how many times per second a “picture” of an audio waveform is taken (ie: 44,100 times per second for 44.1 KHz). The more times you sample a waveform, the more defined the representation of the waveform, the better the recording sounds. Intuitively, the more samples, the larger the file. This is the second point at which a choice of file size vs quality must be taken.


Finally you must choose a “Bit Rate” to describe each sample within the sample rate…typical options are:

  • 8 Bit
  • 16 Bit
  • 24 Bit

Note: Again there are several other options, but we will focus on the most prevalent Bit Rates used in professional audio.


The choice of “Bit Rate” determines how many descriptors are used within the “Bit Word” (ie: 16 Bit means 16 bits of information describing each sample). Intuitively, a longer Bit Rate makes for a larger file size, more defined description, and a better sounding recording. This is the last point at which a choice of file size vs quality must be taken.


Recordings within this digital framework are then affected by the material present at the microphone, or the mix output. The bit count can only effectively describe the material it sees…up to a maximum of 0db (once you exceed 0db, you run into digital distortion…not pretty to listen to). So, if your levels are above -6db, and at or below 0db, the “Bit Word” will be describing more of your intended material than noise floor or anything else. More defined description is why recordings sound richer/fuller/better when the peak level surpasses -6db.  This is what is called “Maximizing Your Bit Count”.


I encourage you to maximize your own bit count, regardless of the file type/sample rate/ bit rate you are using. If you can find that sweet spot, you won’t be disappointed!


As a side note, the majority of the public are now choosing smaller file size over quality… which is why the mp3 has become so prevalent in today’s recorded material. As someone who is passionate about audio, this is highly disappointing, and I am hopeful there will be a movement to higher quality files now that transfer rates and storage capacities can accommodate them.


As well, the Broadcast Standard for Television is lacking, as it doesn’t allow for maximizing your bit count. With a standard of  -20db VU … it requires peaks not exceed -8db. The choice of such a low standard was made for safety reasons to avoid programs from exceeding 0db, and thus creating digital distortion. There is a better solution than this … hire a professional audio engineer.  They are trained and educated in how to create mixes that approach 0db, retain perceived dynamic range, avoid digital distortion, and maximize the program’s bit count.


I am hopeful these standards will change.


If you have any thoughts on this posting, or on any of the “Audio Insights”, please contact me…I look forward to hearing from you!


Passionate about the craft of audio,


Brad Belcher


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“The First 3 Takes – The Importance of Quality Casting”

September 29, 2015 2:28 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I was extremely fortunate to be mentored by one of the top voice directors in Canada…Miles Ramsay of GGRP. During my time with Miles, he relayed several tenets I still use today. One of the most enduring pieces of advice was: “If you don’t have something you could use within the first 3 takes, you’ve miss-cast”.


This highlights the importance of casting to a quality end product.


Quality casting requires a comprehensive understanding of the voice talent pool. It takes into account the strengths and limitations each voice possesses, and presents the ones that are right for the part.


If auditions are called for, they should not be overly voice directed. Talent should be given general directions to get them close, but they should not be “twisted out of shape” as this will make it difficult to re-create the performance of the audition in the final recording. Remember, you are looking for the right voice for the project. That voice should be able to supply you with something you could use within the first 3 takes of an audition as well.

With the right voice in place, the opportunity to create a “spectacular” product is greatly increased. You may not use one of the first 3 takes takes, but a good starting point supplies the voice director the raw material needed to help elevate a performance to “special”.


With the wrong voice in place, you will typically spend the next hour (or longer) attempting to get the voice performance “close”, with no chance of elevating to “special”.


As Miles says, pay attention to those first 3 takes.


More importantly, utilize professional casting to ensure a quality end product!


Passionate about the craft of audio,


Brad Belcher… Read More

“7 Sounds”…It’s all around Us!

April 8, 2015 4:11 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Take a moment to listen where you are right now…you should be able to pick out at least 7 different sounds that make up the soundscape surrounding you. It may be the furnace kicking in, the wind in the trees, the dog barking down the street, two magpies having an argument outside your window, the airplane high overhead, a horn in the distance, your teenager playing “Call of Duty” in the basement (OK…maybe that’s just my house!). The point is, the world we live in has many layers of sound that combine to make rich environments. These soundscapes are what we identify as “real”.


As sound designers, we need to be keen auditory observers of the world around us. We use these observations to help create soundscapes that are believable.


This “Reality Sound Re-Creation” is critical to television and film production.   If done well, it goes un-noticed…and should be crafted to allow the audience to follow the storyline without distraction. Like having the right background visually, it supports the believability of a scene.


In application, this discipline takes hours of work to craft, and can be a thankless endeavor…if they don’t notice you…you have done a terrific job!


Yet without it, the production would feel incomplete.


Go ahead and listen…can you hear 7 sounds?


Passionate about the craft of audio


Brad Belcher


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