Matt Toulson

Week 1- 5th Feb to 11th Feb

Over the last couple of weeks, we had been given a brief to create a pop-up station that would be broadcast for three hours every Monday for four weeks. Ideas were developed from subjects we thought would create engaging content that could be sustained for the four week period and we, as a group, voted for the gaming station because of the vast subject areas that could be covered.

Last week, the group assigned roles to everyone based on what we thought they would do best. I volunteered for the role of Head of Branding, which would include creating the authoritative, jingles, stings, trails and music beds for all the three shows that were being produced. As well as this, I was to help with the marketing which would include getting commissions for ads and then producing and editing them. The group agreed that most people must help produce at least one ad, which would help Sam, the Head of Sales, by reducing her workload.

I was quite confident about this role because, although I’m not the most knowledgeable about gaming, I know enough to understand what would suit the tone of the station. I began to think of ideas of how I wanted the branding to sound by listening to famous gaming soundtracks, which I wanted to be the basis for the sound of the branding. However, a suggestion was made that perhaps that wouldn’t be the most appropriate because it would sound like we were promoting those games. So, it was suggested that I produce ‘remixes’ of these soundtracks and use them instead, because they would be familiar enough to any gaming fan, but it wouldn’t sound like we were trying to just promote those certain games.

A small meeting was held between the producers and I to discuss if any of the shows required specific jingles/idents/music beds. I decided that I was going to produce 4 general jingles/idents for the station and then 2 specific shows that suited each shows sound. I was also asked to create music beds for each show and a trail that would be played out in other shows to promote them.

 

Week 2- 12th Feb to 18th Feb

The focus of my work this week was to help Sam with getting the commissions for ads from shops around Harrow. We spent the afternoon pitching our ideas to the shops to see if they would agree to let us advertise them on our station. The exercise was successful because we managed to get about 5 more companies agreeing to letting us advertise them. While I also had to get the commissions for the ads, the agreement that we all had to create an ad meant that I had to start looking for voice overs for my own ad. I’ve sent several actors about voicing them, but none have got back to me yet.

Meanwhile, I began to collect the sounds that I wanted to use on the branding. Simon gave me a contact that said he would happily produce music that I could base my branding around to create them into music beds and content that I could use for idents/stabs. So once he has produced those for me I will begin to produce the rest of the branding that must be completed by next Friday.

 

Week 3-  19th Feb to 25th Feb

I received the scores of music from Simon’s friend, JD Marsters, over the weekend and thought they sounded brilliant. He followed the brief perfectly so I began to edit them to include the voice overs and the other ‘gaming’ sound effects that I wanted to include. They were finally starting to sound how I imagined they would when I originally was assigned the role of Head of Branding. I managed to get an aspiring voice over artist to record the links for the branding and once I was happy with the way they sounded, I began to add them to the idents/stabs/music beds.

All was going well until I accidentally deleted the voice overs recordings before saving them. With no time to contact the original voice over artist, I decided to try and find a more available V/O. Mark suggested a V/O called Graham Reid. I listened to his demo online and thought his authoritative Geordie voice would suit the voice of the station perfectly.  I got in contact with him and he seemed very enthusiastic about taking part, but he didn’t have his own recording equipment which meant that I had to invite him into the university’s studios to record it. Graham also said he would not be available until Tues 27th (the day after the pilot) so I had to find someone else to fulfill the role until then.

I decided to use a V/O Artist that a group were using for the radio drama module. I settled on a guy called Bart who had finished recording with a group. I asked if he would be interested in being the station’s ‘Voice’ for the pilot broadcast and he agreed. I quickly recorded him, edited the individual pieces of branding and added them to the drive.

The one thing I struggled with getting this week was music beds for the games and features from the shows. I was asked to find some suitable music for each of the four features that would be broadcast across the three shows, but I did not find any that I thought were suitable. As well as finalising the branding with Graham’s voice over it, getting the branding for the features is one of my main priorities before the official shows begin on 5th March.

Week 4- 26th Feb to 4th March

I had only been given the brief for my ad on Sunday night (25th) so it wasn’t ready to be broadcast on the day of the pilot. It was an interesting ad to research and script, though: a gaming charity called Special Effect that helped people with disabilities express themselves through gaming. I didn’t know what the right treatment would be for it because of the sensitivity of the subject, so I had to think of a way of approaching it to make it interesting and appealing to the audience without offending people either. I watched a few of the clips on the Special Effect YouTube Channel and other similar charity ads for inspiration. Ideas began to form in my head about just how I wanted it to sound.

Meanwhile, we broadcast the pilot for UNLOCKED which I feel could have done with some improvements, specifically with the branding. Although I liked Bart’s voice, he kept peaking with the levels which made the audio sound distorted and nothing I could do would changed the way it sounded, so I knew that I had to get someone else in voice the ad.

Graham, the VO Artist who I was going to use for the final branding, didn’t have studios of his own in which he could record, was due to come in to the campus to record the voice over for the branding. However, he revealed to me that he lived in Newcastle and would have to get the train down here to record. There were a few problems with this. Although we loved his voice and thought his Geordie accent was perfect for the tone of the station, we agreed that there wasn’t enough budget for us to pay for his travel expenses, which would have been in excess of £100. To add to that, he was also touring with a West End Musical at the time, which meant he had very little time to come down. Therefore, I had to tell Graham we could no longer use him, and it meant I was back at square one with the ‘voice of the station’.

As well as improving the voice, I think I wanted to re-work the whole ‘sound’ of the station to make it sound tighter and more professional for Week 1 of the live shows.

On Monday afternoon, just after the pilot, Sam told me that she had a professional VO artist coming in to voice an ad. She said that he could put on accents which meant he could voice her ad and be the voice of the station. After a few technical difficulties (we recorded in the voice over booth and his levels kept peaking regardless of what we did to rectify it) we began to record his voice. He did two versions that I liked: an ‘announcer’ voice and a ‘lad’ voice. I believe that the lad voice sounded better for the tone of the station because the target audience might identify with it. The only problem I had with this was that it might give the impression that the station was for ‘lads’ only, excluding girls, which was not the plan. However, Eliza assured me that I was overthinking it a bit too much and the audio I had sounded good.

 

Week 5- 5th March to 11th March

The live show for week 1 went a lot better than the pilot show. The branding I produced was, on the whole, favoured more from last week. I, personally, have a few things that I want to improve because I am not completely happy with the way it sounds (including some levels being all over the place).

When I began to rework the branding last week, I asked James’ advice because I thought he had good technical experience, but I also wanted a second opinion on what sounded good so I could improve from last week. We spent the whole afternoon on Wednesday working through all the shows branding to see what needed to be reworked. I listened to some Radio 1 and Capital branding for some inspiration (because of similar target audiences) and then I began to edit the new branding together on Audition. What I produced from that afternoon was a marked improvement from the pilot’s branding. It sounded a lot more professionally produced and tighter, and I was glad that I did this because it made the station as a whole sound more professional when it was broadcast.

There were some problems with State of Play’s music bed because the presenters didn’t think that the music I had for them served their show well. Although I personally liked the music bed (it was similar to something you might hear on LBC or 5Live) the presenters felt it was too upbeat for a speech show so I was asked if I could find something different. I also had to create small branding packages for the features (such as AFK for State OF Play).

I tried to get a VO artist in to voice my ad last week, too. However, due to circumstances out of my control, I wasn’t able to bring her in to the studio where she would record the ad. I had to start looking for potential ad VO artist number 3. I looked on Voiceoverartists.co.uk where I came across a VO called Dominica who replied within half an hour of me sending her an email. I was glad that she had replied because I had listened to her demo and thought it was the perfect voice to go with my ad.

She replied to me on Friday evening, and I asked her if she could get it to me by Sunday. She told me that she didn’t work weekends and would get the audio to me first thing Monday morning. Over the weekend, in preparation for her VO I edited together the rest of the ad (music bed, sound effects) so that when Dominica sent me the file with the audio on it on Monday morning I could add it into the session on Audition and it would be ready for broadcast in Week 1.

Due to certain circumstances, I didn’t receive the VO until 1:30pm on Monday afternoon which meant it was too late to add to the log for Week 1’s broadcast. Sam, head of ads, agreed that I could add it from Week 2, where there would be an additional batch of ads to make sure the commercial breaks didn’t become too repetitive and made the audience disengage with them.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the branding for week 1. I want to constantly keep modifying and updating it to keep the pop-up station sounding fresh because the audience might become bored if not. I know, however, that it’s important not to change it too much to keep some continuity to the station’s image.

 

Week 6- 12th March to 18 March

The first live show had been an improvement from the pilot, and this week- the second live show- was a huge improvement from the first. In regards to the branding, there was some changes made to the audio, but it wasn’t noticeable during the broadcast, because I tried to keep some continuity from the previous week. For example, I made the ‘power-up’ sfx that plays at the beginning of the ‘coming out of ads’ stabs more prominent by making them longer, but they were small changes because I didn’t want the sound of the station to be completely unfamiliar to last week. However, when I asked people what they thought of the new branding, the general response was that they didn’t notice any changes. This was frustrating, but then I decided that it would be better if I try to improve it more next week. The one problem I have is trying to find a balance between modifying the sound to try and make it sound fresh while keeping continuity across the station.

It was suggested this week that I should contribute more with songs and their intros by producing some power intros. Although I already did try this with certain songs, they didn’t come out the way I intended so I scrapped them. This week, my main aim is to focus on this for the branding to make them sound professional. This would be done by focusing on the power intros- perhaps two per show (Play Again and Press Play)- and freshening up the stabs and doughnuts to make them tighter in their production. Also this week, I helped the shows, specifically the music shows, decide what other music they would be needing- i.e. Play Again wanted retro music that had an 8-bit edit to use as  alternative music beds so the one I originally provided didn’t get too stale. I also had to get someone to voice the names of the features of all the show so they could be introduced and identified.

 

Week 7- 19th March to 25th March

I made more edits to the branding this week, including adding more gaming sound effects to some of the music beds and stabs to give it a ‘gaming’ effect. I think it worked well and freshened up the branding without changing it too much.

I began to make the power intros for some of the songs this week- something which was suggested to me a couple of weeks ago. I thought this would be a perfect way to integrate the branding with the songs, so this was one of my main priorities for this week. I wanted to try it for the second week, but it was quite complicated to achieve. I had some of the songs with power intros ready but the playlist was changed at the last minute and there was no time to complete more, so I had to save them for the final week.

The show keeps improving week on week and I think the branding has more of a presence on the show than it did on the first week. Next week’s main priority will be to get at least three power intros for each of the music shows to integrate the branding into the rest of the show.

This week, Iona needed help with PRS for the music, so I helped her out with that. This was always a challenge because there was a lot of information that needed to be collected from the internet. The ones I helped out with were the Press Play from week 3/4.

 

Week 8- 26th March 

The final week’s shows included all the final branding that I had produced over the last five weeks. This included updated music beds/stabs/idents and power intros of one song on Play Again and four for Press Play. One of the power intros was not included, however.

I think the pop up station went well overall. It was a challenge to produce them from scratch, but I found it interesting. I think the hardest part of my job was to create a new sounding branding every week without breaking the continuity of the show. I think I managed it, especially in week 4 when there was new branding and ramps for some of the songs of Press Play.

 

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