Knowledgebase

Cue

A “Cue” may be visual or aural. In television it is usual for somebody in the studio to be given a visual cue to begin by a wave from the Floor Manager, and also sometimes to conclude by “winding up” gestures (which become more frantic as time runs out!). In radio a cue light is…

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Underwater sound

A member asked on IBSNET for advice on hydrophones. Chris Woolf responded:- Hydrophones vary quite a bit in quality from high grade phantom powered  devices to some pretty poor plug-in power versions. The are invariably omnis and since the propagation of sound in water is very different to air you can expect a lot of LF…

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Alternating current (AC)

Alternating Current or AC refers to a flow of electrons that reverses in direction in a cyclical manner

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Pre-Fade Listen (PFL)

PFL usually stands for “Pre-Fader Listen”. PFL is a combined channel and monitoring function. On an analogue mixer with PFL, each channel has a switch which can connect the channel signal path, at a point just before the fader, to the pre-fade bus. This bus is picked up in the monitor module and made available as an…

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Watts

Watts are a measure of power. The symbol is W (never w). Electrically Watts = Amps x Volts. The name derives from Scottish engineer and inventor James Watt (1736 – 1819) in honour of his work that transformed the primitive steam engine into a practical power unit. Watts are obviously useful for indicating the power…

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Pan Pot

Panpot is an abbreviation of Panoramic Potentiometer, a device used in Stereo mixers to vary the signal levels sent to the outputs from a Mono input, and thus apparently move the sound across the “sound stage” between left and right.

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Edit Decision List (EDL)

An Edit Decision List (EDL) is simply an ordered list of items of recorded video and audio with Timecode references which enables a video editor to assemble a version of the final programme.

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After Fader Listen (AFL)

AFL may be After-Fader Listen or After-Fader Level, depending on whether the user is more concerned with the quality and/or content of the signal or with its level. It is similar in operation to Pre-Fader Listen (PFL) except that the signal is derived after the channel fader instead of before. As AFL is also derived…

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Noisy floors

Noisy Floors can be the bane of a Sound Recordists life. There are two main problems; noise from things like heels hitting a hard and hollow floor and noise from the floor itself as objects move over the surface. Heels and Legs High heels and chair legs can easily produce enough noise to drown out…

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Timecode

Timecode in audio operations refers to the SMPTE/EBU time and control code which is used for synchronising audio with video and for locating sections of programmes. Linear Time Code (LTC) is most commonly used, although Vertical Interval Timecode (VITC) may be encountered in television operations. Both versions use an 80-bit binary code to identify video…

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Sound Levels

Sound Pressure Levels Our ears respond to fluctuations in the steady atmospheric pressure, so when measuring sound, that is what we usually measure. Sound pressure levels (or Sound Levels for short) are specified in Decibels, relative to a reference pressure of 20 micropascals. This reference pressure of 20 micropascals is nominally equal to the threshold…

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Stick pads

Stick Pads are the soft rubber things that you fit onto the end of a walking stick to protect the end of the stick and reduce the noise of the stick hitting the ground. Sound Recordists use them on high heels or chair legs to reduce the sounds of walking or chair movements on hard…

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Intermodulation

Q: What is intermodulation? What causes intermods? A: Intermodulation generally only comes up in conversation when discussing interference. To understand about intermodulation products, or intermods, you need to know a little bit about transmitter and receiver design. Transmitters and receivers are designed to work at a particular frequency. High frequencies, such as those used in…

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Audio levels

Analogue audio signal levels have historically been categorised for professional usage in two groups – microphone level (low) and line level (high). Domestic equipment generally falls into a third category, just below professional line level. Signal levels are measured using units based on the Decibel. There are many different types of Level Meter used for…

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Polar Pattern

The Polar Pattern of a Microphone describes its directional sensitivity. The main family of patterns is a continuous spectrum between omni and bi-directional (figure-of-eight). Thus their titles are somewhat arbitrary, often overlap and, perversely, in most cases they are best defined by their ability to reject sound. Polar Patterns are generalised – they give an…

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Background Noise

Background Noise are sounds that are not the main sound you want to record. Sounds from traffic outside, air conditioning, lighting and so on. Ideally sources of background noise are stopped, switched off or removed but what do you do if you had no choice but record the noise? Record an atmos/room tone Wild Track…

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Jackfield

Most mixers, except for portable types, have an associated Jackfield, also known as a Patchbay, either integral with the mixer frame or fitted nearby in a wall-mounted rack or free-standing console. The jackfield is used to terminate incoming lines from remote studios, tape machines etc and to provide access to the mixer line inputs and…

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Super Audio CD (SACD)

Super Audio CD (SACD) launched by Sony in 1999 and intended to supersede the original Sony/Philips CD.

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Bright Eyes (Phantom checker)

This “Bright Eyes” device was described by Hugh Robjohns in this Line Up article (June/July 2006) and uses a circuit designed by Chris Woolf. A Bright Eyes can be a very useful tool to have during rigging or fault finding to check if an XLR cable has active microphone powering. It is simple to construct…

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Direct Stream Digital (DSD)

Direct Stream Digital (DSD) uses a sampling rate of 2.8224 MHz to directly record a 1-bit signal. Used for recording SACD, launched by Sony in 1999.

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Aircraft Intercom

While it is possible to connect to Aircraft Intercom systems, the quality is at communications level rather than broadcast, though it may be adequate for short items and can give a useful “atmos”. Aside from the issues of obtaining the correct connector you MUST obtain permission from the pilot on each occasion before connecting location…

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Creative Commons Licence

A Creative Commons Licence allows authors, artists, and educators to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry, changing the default of “All Rights Reserved” into “Some Rights Reserved”, as the creator chooses. There are three areas that the licence covers; attribution, commercial use and derivatives. These can be combined in…

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Lockit

Lockit is a device manufactured by Ambient Recording which enables video cameras to be synchronised with audio recorders.

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Carnet

An ATA Carnet is a multi-part document which is used to confirm an inventory of items which are taken out of the EU and returned within a pre-determined time. This is to prove that they have not been exported, or indeed imported when you return. Failure to complete all sections properly at any point when…

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Off Tube

“Off Tube” is when commentary for an event is provided by the commentary team just watching the televised pictures. While commentators almost always have a picture monitor (or “tube”) regardless of their location, there is great advantage to be had from also being in a position to see the proceedings with their own eyes, and…

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Mix Minus

Mix Minus describes the arrangements used when a broadcast studio is connected to an external site such as an Outside Broadcast as a contribution or another studio which is simultaneously broadcasting the same programme in another region, two way working. In both cases the remote source needs a feed of the programme but not of…

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Collection and Delivery

For large items where ordinary postal services may be too expensive, members have had success using the following providers. Most are reselling the services of other major courier/delivery firms and collect from your premises. Parcel 2 Go Appear to offer a choice of carrier at various price points depending mainly on how quickly you want…

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Foldback

Foldback is a feed of audio to the studio, via either loudspeaker, headphone or earpiece (IEM). It may be to provide the presenter and/or performers with a Cue feed from an external source or from a singer’s Microphone, to reinforce a singer’s voice for confidence or as an aid to tuning, or to provide actors…

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Diary Services and Agents

First of all to quash a big misnomer. A Diary Service is not there in order to ‘get you work’. That is what an Agent does. Now – to more detailed thoughts. When looking at Diary Services it might be wise to take a brief look at how they emerged and why. In the late…

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Late Payment

Running a business, owed money from another business? Then you have a statutory right to interest and compensation under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 (as amended). There is no obligation to charge interest or claim compensation on a late payment, you just have a legal right to do so. Be aware…

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Talkback

Talkback originated in radio studios, where staff in the control cubicle who could hear the presenters and performers on their monitor loudspeaker were able to communicate with them using a dedicated microphone/loudspeaker system, “talking back” to the studio. This system was extended by the introduction of “reverse talkback” which provided the presenter with an additional…

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BLITS (Black & Lane’s Ident Tones for Surround)

Black and Lane’s Ident Tones for Surround (BLITS) developed by Sky Television Sound Supervisors Martin Black and Keith Lane in 2005/6 to provide a standardised form of channel identification and alignment for surround sound material. BLITS is a broadcast-specific line up tone system for use with 5.1 surround sound formats, and is currently being considered…

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Wild Track

A Wild Track is an audio recording made on location with no reference to picture, intended to provide post production with useful background sound during editing. Recording wild tracks on documentary shoots it’s advisable not to switch the camera to bars, but to have the microphone in shot. With a fast turnaround in the edit,…

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Ohms

Ohms are a measure of the resistance to a flow of current. The name derives from the German physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1759-1854). The symbol for the ohm is the Greek capital letter omega. If the Greek letter cannot be used, the word ohm is used instead. In a simple circuit the relationship between the…

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Interference Tube

An Interference Tube is simply a long metal tube with a series of circumferential slots cut into it, fitted onto a directional Microphone. These slots produce interference patterns in sound waves from the sides, resulting in partial cancellation of off-axis sounds and a resultant apparent increase in the gain of sounds from directly in front.

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Critical Distance

Critical Distance or Dc is the distance from a sound source where the level of direct sound equals that of any reverberant sound. Dc applies to all sound gathering but measuring it is normally only required when advance planning of microphone positions is needed. Critical Distance does not dictate where a microphone must be placed…

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Amps

Amps (Amperes) measure the flow of current that a potential difference forces through a circuit. The symbol is always A. The name derives from the French physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836). As with Volts, current can be unidirectional – Direct Current (DC) – or alternating in direction (AC), and the values used can be peak or…

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Audio software

This is a selection of computer software for audio applications which is either free or inexpensive. It has been compiled from various sources, and inclusion in this listing does not in any way imply any endorsement by the IPS, or any warranty that it will be satisfactory. User (and buyer) beware! Contents 1 PC Software…

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Cross Point

A Cross Point is a notional intersection between an input and an output in a Matrix, which may be represented graphically by a cross-hatch of horizontal and vertical lines. Usually the horizontal lines represent the inputs and the vertical lines the outputs, and a cross overlaid at an intersection indicates a connection – a “cross…

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Pressure Zone Microphone (PZM)

Pressure Zone Microphone is a registered trade mark of Crown International, and describes a method of mounting a microphone close to a flat surface to minimise room acoustics. Other variants are described as Boundary Microphones. See http://www.uneeda-audio.com/pzm/

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Broadcast Wave Format (wav)

Broadcast Wave Format was developed by an EBU Project Group (see The Broadcast Wave Format – an Introduction) to provide a product-independent means of exchanging programme material between workstations from different manufacturers. It is based on the Microsoft WAVE audio file format (file extension .wav), which is one of a number of file types specified…

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Electret wiring

Electret personal microphones are all unbalanced. They all need a screen, both for the cable and for the grille and casing around the capsule. This usually gets connected to 0V. The electronics inside the capsule will have two external connections. One connection always needs to be kept more +ve than the other but it makes…

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Metadata

Metadata is literally data about data. In its simplest form it could be a note attached to an item of recording medium (e.g. a tape or disc) telling the user what is on the medium, how long it is and where and when it was recorded. More practically it will be digital information embedded in…

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Phantom Power

Phantom Power is a means of powering condenser microphones remotely, using balanced microphone cable. The AES (and IEC 61938) endorses two voltage levels, 48 V and 12 V, and they are referred to as P48 and P12

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Optimising Windows or Mac computers for audio

Problems are usually bus and/or buffer overload. As Macs and PCs now share the same Intel chipsets, hopefully the “rules” that you have to apply to optimise a PC for audio will be similar. Basically the machine needs to be focussed entirely on handling audio and minimising system interrupts on its data buses. While the…

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Tesa tape

Tesa Tape is a generic term applied to self adhesive foam rubber tapes or sheets a few mm thick. TESA is an American adhesive tape maker, with a UK subsidiary. Tesa Tape is commonly used stuck to the heels and soles of shoes to deaden the noise of footfalls on hard or hollow floors. It…

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Earthing

Earthing for Audio The following is taken from an article published in the Nov/Dec 2005 issue of LineUp by Peter Thomas, Managing Director of the Professional Monitor Company, with his kind permission. At the outset, I need to make clear that there are no references to PMC loudspeakers at all (except in this introduction). Neither…

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Impedance

Electrical impedance is effectively resistance in an AC circuit (see Ohms). Impedances are significantly more complicated than simple resistance because they are frequency conscious and because they can apply to the behaviour of an entire circuit rather than a single element. There are load impedances, having the effect of a virtual resistor across the input…

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Induction Loop

An Induction Loop or Audio Frequency Induction Loop System (AFILS) is a system commonly used by hearing aid users to clearly hear the sound in a theatre, through the bandit-proof glass screens in a bank or just a telephone call. It can also be used to provide wireless talkback or IEM to crew or presenters…

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Balanced line

Balanced lines are typically – and quite incorrectly – explained as follows. A signal is split into two equal but antiphase parts in a balanced line driver. These signals are connected to each leg of a pair cable and eventually arrive at a balanced receiver. This device inverts one leg of the signal. In doing…

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