Monday, October 29, 2012

Audio Engineers: Between Musicians and Producers

Popping on your favourite album, you might begin to revel in the history of how that music was made.
This is how the normal daydream can sometimes go: A couple of friends decide to form a band. They practice in a basement or garage a couple of their favourite tunes before starting to write their own music. They get their first gig, then a few more, and maybe open for a much bigger name. They rent out proper jam space, beef up their gear, and begin to develop their sound. One night, they make a contact of someone who wants to produce their music and make an album.
After several months in the studio, with the band rocking their hearts out and the producer shaping their sound, style and image, the much-anticipated album is released. Now it's got a permanent spot on your mp3 player.
This formula is most likely an over-simplification; although there must be some cases in musical history that somewhat resemble this story. But there is one player missing from this equation.
We've mentioned the musicians, and we've talked a bit about the producer, but the figure who brings together the band's sound and the producer's vision is the audio engineer.
During that time spent in the recording studio, the audio engineer is indispensable. These people are highly trained and skilled individuals who have spent years learning their crafts in audio engineering school and beyond. But what exactly is the role of the audio engineer as opposed to the producer?
The biggest distinction is that, while the producer, along with the musicians, agrees on how they want their music to sound, it is up to the audio engineer to achieve that specific sound. For this, one must have a much larger technical expertise than the producer. While both need a good ear, and imagination, for sound, the audio engineer knows how to tweak the analog, digital, and other recording parameters to turn the audio into that sound.
Some of an audio engineer's areas of expertise surrounding a recording session are:
- Microphones: what kind of microphones, how to position the microphones, the use of microphone filters, shields and screens, etc. 
- Space: the size and shape of the room, the level of padding on the walls, how many musicians can play together in the same room, etc? 
- Instruments: knowing the difference between digital and analog instruments, recording them with microphones or running the signal through wires, etc. 
- Performer: style of singing and style of playing, setting up monitors for the performers to hear themselves while recording, capturing the specifics of their unique sound, etc.

These four things form the basic setup for the audio engineer before going into much more technical work throughout the recording and post-mixing processes. Learning these fundamentals are some of the first things taught in audio engineering classes.
While everything still starts and ends with the musicians, and the producer certainly does have a very important role, it is up to the audio engineer to truly bring together all that talent, technique and professionalism that results in a fantastic sound and amazing music.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Look Inside Music Recording Through MIDI Technology

How and when music first came to be part of our culture is a long and lengthy discipline. What was the first distinction between noise and music? When did poems begin to be recited to melodies and become transformed into songs? How has music been preserved and passed on beginning with oral traditions, then written score, and finally, to the more technologically-dependent medium of sound recording? From the rhythmic and repetitive pounding of percussion of more primitive music styles, to the theoretically complex arrangements of full orchestras in classical music, to the lo-fi raw energy of garage rock, music has a complex and diverse evolution.
One of the most recent developments in music technology is MIDI, which stands for musical instrument digital interface. It is first a tool for of both music composition and recording. It is simultaneously an instrument in itself as well as a device for controlling other instruments. It is part of the digital medium of using information about sounds instead of actual analog sounds. Finally, it is an interface connecting instruments with computers. Because of this final point, MIDI is very prevalent in today's electronic music scene, such as house and techno music, but can also be used as a tool to compose and experiment with broader classical arrangements.
In today's music recording scene, MIDI provides many new advantages that were previously unheard of. One advantage is that it allows a single person, or very few people, to simultaneously play and control many instruments. This is possible because a MIDI controller operates in a daisy-chain, meaning that one controlling device can link through many other slave devices in a long series of information exchange. This gives the individual the chance to compose multi-instrumental music without needing other musicians or pre-recorded tracks. This creates the possibility for expanding the live performance of a single individual.
Stage for Experiments
Another advantage with MIDI is the ability to experiment with different sounds in the early composition stages. A musician can write the melodies and chord progressions with one instrument and sound, and then instantly shift those notes onto other sounds. Doing this over and over can let the musician hear the melody played through many different sounds and instruments in a short time so as to help him hear and decide which sounds best.
Extended Reach
A third advantage of MIDI is that it creates new opportunities for musicians to share music and collaborate regardless of proximity. A MIDI musician can send the digital information of his MIDI track to a collaborator via the internet. This is not sending a recording, but information that is easily replicated and manipulated while always preserving the core values of a musical track, like the melody, notation and time signature.
Learning about music still requires an understanding of the basics of theory and much practice for performance. But music production training has certainly expanded its scope with the advent of MIDI technology.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Audio Engineering Lingo

Words have meaning. Words are also first formed with sounds, before writing and other visual representations of words. The exact relationship between sounds and the words we use to define and describe them is sometimes very straight-forward, other times a bit more obscure.
Nobody would hesitate to understand my meaning if I describe an ambulance siren as loud, or a bass line in a techno track as deep. These are easy because adjectives like "loud" or "deep" refer to easily assignable parameters like volume and pitch.
Other sounds can be described through adjectives that refer to the way we process them-in other words, our attitudes towards them.
For example, I could describe a lone trumpet as sounding sad or the continuous yelp of a little dng as annoying. These adjectives are mostly subjective, and requires the human capacity of symbolic interpretation to give them relevant meaning.
But what about adjectives that attempt to give more objective definitions of sounds beyond the basics of loudness or tone that most of us readily understand?
Experts in sound design have a language of their own to give meaning to sounds that are somewhat above our everyday understanding of these adjectives. Since audio engineers need to get much more specific when communicating the qualities of sounds, they have their own special lingo.
Here is a beginners list of some sound adjectives that one would become familiar with in audio production college. How many of them do you already know?
- Bright: High frequency sounds that are also very clear. They are perceived as being lighter and happier in mood.
- Cold: This sound lacks a certain completeness in terms of a wide range between high and low frequencies-in other words, without much middle range. It is very sibilant (hissy). It is perceived as edgier, and not very comforting.
- Dark: Like cold, but lacking the hissing quality. It produces an effect as if the sound is distant, and can be quite melancholy or even foreboding.
- Dry: Technically, this sound has no decay, meaning it cuts out abruptly without any trace of reverb or echo. I sounds like it is played in a very small, padded room.
- Fat: Somewhat the opposite of a dry sound, this quality lets the sound expand (fatten) after it is initially heard.
- Punchy: A sound with a high level of attack, meaning its full force is heard instantly with no delay. It is also a bit dark.
- Tight: It is opposed to a fat sound in that it does not expand much before or after it hits (no attack or delay).
- Warm: Strong in the mid-range, thus not too high or low. It has a reverb to it as if being played in a larger, and more natural room.
- Wet: A good deal of a sibilant quality and lots of reverb. This sound has a strong decay, which means it dies away slowly.
With thorough ear and audio training, these words describing sound can easily become a second language.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Film School in Canada Versus DIY Productions

Technology is such today that it is possible to shoot a feature-length film on one's cellphone, as one Montreal-based independent filmmaker, Christos Sourligas, recently did. But if filmmaking is becoming more accessible, do aspiring filmmakers still have to bother with film school in Canada? (This is a question that could also be posed for other related fields of study, such as audio school and DJ courses in Canada.)
1) At film school, students can experiment with the school equipment before investing in their own.
Not all graduates of film school in Canada will be following in Sourligas's low-tech footsteps and shooting films on their phones. Many will want access to more sophisticated equipment, of the kind that it is hard to afford at the beginning of one's career. It can be a wise decision to start one's career with student films, while one has unfettered access to school facilities.
2) Film school in Canada can help aspiring filmmakers navigate the tricky public sector financing system with potentially greater ease.
If you are even considering attending film school in Canada, then chances are that you are going to need to get a handle on the public funding available to aspiring filmmakers in this great country of ours.
Even more so than for students destined for audio school or for DJ courses in Canada, students seeking to attend film school in Canada need to understand the ins-and-outs of such public sector initiatives as:
- the Canadian Feature Film Fund, which helped bring Bon Cop, Bad Cop to the big screen. 
- the Canadian Film of Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC), which is a labour force tax break for Canadian-made productions.

3) Film school can help prospective Canadian filmmakers identify public sector funding sources earlier in the game.
Yes, graduates of film school in Canada who go on to make movies need to know how to navigate the public sector. But that is not all. They will also likely need to know how to secure private sector funding. Who can they turn to when they need capital? This is the kind of question that cinema professors, who have experience in the industry, may be able to answer.
4) Make connections within the industry.
Most graduates of audio school or film school in Canada come to realize that, to a certain extent, it really does matter who you know. Film is a collaborative art form, and an expensive one at that. It takes teamwork, and you want to be sure that you have a strong professional network with members with whom you would be proud to collaborate. This may even be all the more true in Canada, where our film industry has to constantly fight for its continued existence, faced with stiff competition from the south.
5) For easy access to information about festivals.
At any film in school in Canada, students are provided with information on the festival circuit, student competitions, etc. Although one can access this information on one's own, it is nice to have it provided!
Whether you choose to go it on your own, or to apply to film school in Canada, bon cinema!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Canadian Teens Prepare for Careers in Audio and Film Production

Career counseling often starts in high school. In career orientation sessions, students are asked to reflect on their future careers, and the choices that they will have to make to get where they want in life. Students aiming for sound technology, cinema or film school in Canada are well advised to start this reflection as early as in their high school years to take full advantage of all of the related courses and activities that their secondary schools offer.
Knowing that you are headed for audio school, for example, can even influence your choice of high school. Some schools offer introductory sound engineering classes and clubs, where students can discover the field, while helping the school community, for instance, by working for the student radio station or helping with sound in the auditorium for talks and for theatrical or musical performances.
Music rooms in today's schools no longer contain only the tambourines of yesteryear. They are rigged up with microphones and sound systems that require student involvement. A good way to prepare for audio school is to get involved in your high school's music or drama department.
Students aiming to take DJ courses in Canada may want to make their choice of high school accordingly. Does their high school have an in-house radio station, like École St-Louis and Westmount High School in Montreal? Does it have a tradition of sparking school spirit by participating in move dub competitions, like Collège Regina Assumpta in Montreal? Are students invited to DJ at school dances? These are important questions for students headed for audio school in any province.
Similarly, students aiming to attend film school in Canada may want to start their cinematic explorations while still at the high school level. Some schools, like the Etobicoke School of Arts in Toronto, have entire programs and curricula dedicated to film and film production.
Aspiring filmmakers may want to find out if their high school encourages students to participate in the same competitions that they might eventually contemplate at film school in Canada, for example Montreal's M60 60 second film festival or Toronto's YoungCuts.
But in the case where your high school does not have an audio school club, or any film or DJ possibilities, it may be possible to create them. Students can consult with teachers in the music and drama department, or with members of student counsel. They may be able to create partnerships with other institutions that do have the necessary equipment or facilities (for example, partner with a local theatre or drama school as Montreal's École St-Louis does with Le Gésu and the National Theatre School).
There is more than one way for a high schooler to prepare for audio school or other specialized multimedia studies. All it takes is a willingness to do the research and to propose changes, where necessary.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Understanding The Advantages of Vocational Education

In the uncertain business world of today, where workers are discovering that the solid job they have had for years is not nearly as solid as it once might have been, more and more people are turning to vocational education as a means to learn a new trade. Sometimes this is done out of necessity as the worker gets his layoff notice from his employer of many years, and very suddenly finds himself in the very unenviable position of needing to learn a new trade or skill as quickly as possible so that he can rejoin the work force. Other times it is because a person has finally determined that they have more to offer than a menial job they are doing and want to get trained in something more lucrative or more professional.
This is where vocational education plays a key part, since any of these prospective students has multiple choices in terms of how they will complete their course requirements through vocational courses, perhaps in a classroom setting, or with today's technology, perhaps via online distance learning.
It's because of this reason that nowadays, companies hire new employees who have successfully completed their vocational educational training and learned how to apply the newly learned knowledge on the job. Employers are also interested in these vocational school graduates because they have demonstrated an initiative to get the training they need, to set a goal of achieving it, and having achieved that goal, perhaps even getting their degree via vocational training. Companies today are not looking for the employee who needs guidance and direction every step of the way, because they already have an employee roster full of that type of person, but rather are looking for the kind of person who can recognize what needs to be done to achieve a goal, and go after it with the drive and initiative required.
The advantage of vocational education over the more traditional types of education available at colleges, universities, and even community colleges is that the vocational model allows the student to focus on the topic of study. For example, if you are pursuing a degree or certificate as a paralegal or nurse practitioner, you would focus your learning on the courses that will enable you to learn as much as possible about your field of study, and not require you to take courses in geology or 18th century music in order to fulfill the degree requirements, as would be the case at most conventional colleges.
Many of the vocational schools now also offer online vocational training, where you can complete your coursework online in the comfort of your own home, based on your own pace and schedule. For the person who already has a full time job and family responsibilities, the online learning method, also known as distance learning, can be a real blessing.
If you need to learn a new skill, trade or industry quickly, whether out of necessity or for preparing for your future career path, consider taking advantage of the many benefits offered by vocational education in today's world.
The clock is ticking, and you can continue to think about the possibilities here or you can take action and start making something happen for you. But just thinking about it is not going to accomplish anything until you take action. Understand the tremendous benefits of what vocational education can do for you, understand the myths about it from past years, and then set a course to move forward. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

101: Certificate III in Aged Care - Career Prospects

This article will look at the elderly care industry general, the course outline of the qualification and possible career prospects for students completing the aged and community care training course.
The Certificate III in Aged Care
Like many thousands of Australians, you may be working within the bustling field of aged care. Or, you may be considering a career in the aged or community care sector. Many people with an interest in caring for the nation's elderly undertake formal vocational qualifications. Currently, the Certificate III is the entry standard for the industry. This ensures older Australian's are benefiting from experienced and qualified individuals who have invested their own time into learning about the requirements of aged care.
The most popular qualifications is the Certificate III in Aged Care. However, a large majority of students also undertake vocational courses concurrently. An example may be undertaking the Cert III in conjunction with another related qualification like the Cert III in Disability Care or the Certificate III in Home and Community Care. There is also opportunity to progress onto higher qualifications including Cert IV and Diplomas.
Course Outline of the Cert III
The Cert III is generally offered through online, distance, blended or face-to-face mode. By undertaking the course you will learn to both support the elderly and provide personal care needs. You will understand and obtain the knowledge to answers to client's psychological and emotional needs. By completing aged and community care training you will also learn to realise differences within culturally diverse environments and gain knowledge to assist individuals with differing types of medication.
This qualification comprises of ten core units and four electives and can be undertaken during a twelve month basis in conjunction with work experience.
Career Pathways and Options
Completing an aged or community care qualification opens your career pathways immensely. By 2050, more than one million Australians will be working within the aged care sector. To achieve this, the government has recognised that they need to expand the current aged care workforce by over four times its size. After completing your Cert III in Aged Care you have the option of going on to future study, or entering the workforce.
Potential career paths include becoming an assistant in nursing, disability service worker, field officer, community support or personal care worker.
Find out more about care courses and join on of the fastest increasing network of Australia's workers in the nation's greatest growth sector of 2012 and beyond.
Inspire Education is a leading provider of nationally recognised and nationally accredited courses.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Running Smooth: The Importance of Regular Checkups

Everyone who drives is familiar with this situation: you're cruising along and all of a sudden, there's a noise coming from the engine that you haven't heard before, or maybe the feeling in the gas or brake pedal seems a bit off, or there's smoke, or a funny smell. There are many tell-tale signs that your car needs servicing and the best thing to do is to bring it in before the problem escalates. But what is equally important, is to bring your vehicle in for regular checkups and tune-ups even if everything seems to running smoothly. Similar to our own health, we don't always visit doctors when we feel ill, but have regular checkups to mark our physical development and watch for problems. Regularly-scheduled visits to the auto mechanic are just as important for maintaining a healthy engine and a safe ride.
How often you should bring your car in to the garage is based either on elapsed time, or the amount of kilometers driven since your last checkup. Not every aspect of the vehicle will be inspected on every checkup; but there are different recommended tune-up periods for different parts of the car. Knowing which order of priority to give to each part is an essential module in mechanic colleges.
Every Three Months or 8,000KM.
This is the basic checkup. The most important thing here is the engine oil. While one could read engine oil levels themselves and add more oil if needed, with this checkup it is recommended to change the oil and clean the oil filter. It used to be believed that the oil should be replaced twice as much, but today this is seen as unnecessary and wasteful.
Other parts of this checkup will include checking other fluid levels, like brake fluid, washer fluid, and coolant fluid.
Every Six Months or 16,000KM.
All of the previously mentioned checkup points are included here as well. One new aspect is the wheels and the tires. Fist, the alignment is checked and reset. Then, the tire pressure and the depth are checked. Related closely to the wheels is the braking system, which should be thoroughly inspected.
A basic cleaning of some of the engine's components is also done, like the battery and the spark plug wires.
Every Year or 25,000 KM.
This is considered the most important checkup, and it is recommended with new cars to bring the vehicle in to a licensed dealer service shop rather than any garage. The above aspects are checked again. Most parts that are often simply cleaned should be replaced at this point, like the spark plugs and the windshield wipers.
Further cleaning of the engine takes place, like the fuel filtration system, the brake pads, and the radiator. Basic nuts and bolts are checked and tightened as well.
Every car is different and every service shop or garage has varying methods for checking and maintaining a vehicle. Skilled auto technicians are graduating from mechanic programs all the time to work in a variety of shops to guarantee each car is given the service and attention it needs for a long life on the road.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Get Certified: Entry-Level Mechanic Positions

Cars are complicated machines, and we rarely think of all the smooth-running technology required to drive our cars safely and comfortably. They are powerful machines synthesizing mechanics, electronics, combustion systems, and more.
The reason we feel secure in our cars is because we know that the people who work on servicing and repairing our cars are all highly-trained and certified to do the best job possible.
In Canada, many provinces have required certification programs for auto mechanics that ensure these specialists are held to the highest standard.
In Ontario and Quebec, for example, the certification programs are based on a three-level system. These systems total 6000 hours of training, with 2000 of these hours dedicated to actual work experience. Alongside the theoretical and practical training, one must also pass a written exam.
After successful completion of such a program, one is certified in that province.
To gain a Red Seal Certification, which certifies one to work as a mechanic anywhere in the country, one needs to show proof of having accumulated 9,720 documented hours of work experience.
This process of getting certified first at the provincial, then at the federal level, guarantees that our nation's mechanics have the dedication towards their profession and have the experience to work anywhere and in any specialized task. Auto certification therefore benefits not only mechanics, but everyone who shares our roads.
Training in such a field is never one hundred per cent complete, because one can always learn to specialize in new areas. There are some positions that a newly-certified mechanic can begin immediately. Here are a few examples:
Maintenance Technician
In automotive careers, this is the basic mechanic who performs regular checkups and repairs of everyday car problems. They can work in gas stations, garages, or dealerships. The following positions are technicians with more specialized roles.
Lube Specialist
This position checks and evaluates the various lubricants in an engine, determines what needs to be changed, and performs the lubrication. They check the oil waste collection systems. They also must be aware of lubricant products and handle purchasing and inventory.
Brake and Alignment Specialist
This person checks and repairs the braking systems for proper functioning of the hydraulics, the leverage, and the use of friction. It checks the braking fluid and the wear-and-tear of the brake pads. The alignment relates to the orientation of the wheels. Over time the direction of the wheels can be set at an angle, and thus needs re-aligning.
Mobile Electronics and Audio/Video Installation Specialist
This specialist focuses on the sales, installation and repairs of electronic devices such as GPS systems, radar detectors, rear-car video cameras, wireless mobile phone adapters, and event data recorders (black box). They also handle the car's sound system.
There are plenty of other positions that you can attain with further training. Once you get your initial certification, then you can count on a career, and we can count on you to feel secure on the road.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Growing List of Auto Dispatcher Responsibilities

Once upon a time, in an age before advanced telecommunications, the transportation industry had to rely solely on the transporter's knowledge of their geography, and records were made manually only after deliveries had been made and the transporter returned to their point of origin.
This was mostly the case before cars and trucks became the primary mode of transportation (across land), but nonetheless, the need for more advanced systems of organization became an obvious factor in improving the efficiency of transportation and delivery.
Today, the dispatcher has become an essential part of the transportation team. They not only give directions before the transporter sets out, and take records upon the transporter's return, but they continue to work with the transporter during the entire length of their journeys.
Because of the many responsibilities undertaken by the dispatcher, there are many schools and programs across the country that offer very specialized and competitive courses to train dispatchers. And with increasingly-sophisticated technologies, the number of responsibilities, and the training required, is constantly increasing.
The dispatcher is the trucker's constant and direct line of communication with the transport company. The trucker depends on the dispatcher as a sort of steady lifeline, and this trust forms the backbone of the transportation industry.
Aside from this relationship of communication, a dispatcher course covers more tasks and responsibilities of the auto dispatcher, such as:
Freight Matching is the task of matching specific loads or freights with the right number of vehicles and the sizes of the cargo containers to optimize the transport with the least amount of vehicles needed.
Route Management requires skills to determine the fastest or best routes for the truckers, considering road allowances, underpass heights, highway tariffs, construction and traffic.
GPS Tracking involves managing the global positioning satellite of the tucks to keep track of their location at any given time and to assist the trucker in case of detours or mis-directions.
Border Crossing provides all the necessary documents for crossing borders depending on local customs and rules.
Specialized Freight handles any specific procedures regarding specialized freight and transportation services, including refrigerated freight, hazardous materials, and heavy-load freight.
Order management uses modern software programs to track and keep records of orders for archives as well as for estimation of similar orders.
Freight pricing handles the estimations of the cost of a transportation account and taking into account labor hours of the truckers, fuel, tariffs and fees. Also keeping track of repairs and servicing as it is required on the job.
Fuel optimization determines the total amounts of fuel required, optimal filling up locations at specific destinations of the itinerary.
Dispatcher training covers all of these tasks and more. But aside from all of these tasks, the dispatcher's main role is staying connected with the trucker during the long hours of the journey. While the basics of this communication are taught in schools, it is only with experience that the dispatcher comes to appreciate the important role of their relationship with the trucker, and vice versa.