Wednesday, August 28, 2013

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Accepts the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill

F.I.R.S.T. Institute is honored to welcome its military student population, including those on Active Duty, members of the Reserve or National Guard, Veterans, and spouses and dependents.

Those eligible for VA benefits may apply them to their training by supplying a Certificate of Eligibility to their Admissions Representative as soon as possible after gaining acceptance into their program of choice.

VA benefits currently accepted at F.I.R.S.T. include:

•   Montgomery GI Bill
•   Post 9-11 GI Bill

Find out more by contacting your local VA Office or by visiting

Find out more about F.I.R.S.T. programs by visiting

Tips on Home and Project Studio Acoustics - F.I.R.S.T. Institute

F.I.R.S.T. Institute Course Director and Instructor, Rich Ott, has some tips and advice to share about home and project studio acoustics:

These days, all gear is acceptably flat over the most important parts of the audio range. Distortion, aside from loudspeakers and microphones, is low enough to be inconsequential. And noise - a big problem with analog tape recorders - is now pretty much irrelevant with modern digital recording. Indeed, given the current high quality of even semi-pro audio gear, the real issue these days is your skill as a recording engineer and the quality of the rooms in which you record and make mixing decisions.

What's the point in buying a microphone preamp that is ruler flat from DC to microwaves when the acoustics in your control room create peaks and dips as large as 20 dB throughout the entire bass range? How important really are jitter artifacts 110 dB below the music when standing waves in your studio cause a huge hole at 80 Hz exactly where you placed a mike for the acoustic bass?

Clearly, frequency response errors of this magnitude are an enormous problem, yet most studios and control rooms suffer from this defect. Worse, many studio owners have no idea their rooms have such a skewed response! Without knowing what your music really sounds like, it is difficult to produce a quality product, and even more difficult to create mixes that sound the same outside your control room.

Ethan Winer, co-owner of Real Traps, a well known acoustic panel and design company, gives us the details on construction of absorptive panels to help tame that home or office studio.

There are a number of ways to create a bass trap. The simplest and least expensive is to install a large amount of thick rigid fiberglass, spacing it well away from the wall or ceiling. As noted earlier, 705-FRK that is four inches thick and spaced 16 inches away from the wall can be quite effective to frequencies below 125 Hz. But many rooms have severe problems far below 125 Hz and losing twenty inches all around the room for thick fiberglass and a large air space is unacceptable to most studio owners and audiophiles.

Fortunately, more efficient bass trap designs are available that are much smaller. However, studios on a tight budget can apply rigid fiberglass in the room corners as shown in Figure 3a and lose only the small amount of space in the corners. Since bass builds up the most in the corners of a room, this is an ideal location for any bass trap.

Figure 3a shows the corner viewed from above, looking down from the ceiling. When the rigid fiberglass is mounted in a corner like this, the large air gap helps it absorb to fairly low frequencies. For this application 705-FRK is better than 703 because the goal is to absorb as effectively as possible at low frequencies. However, you can either absorb or deflect the higher frequencies by facing the paper backing one way or the other, to better control liveness in the room. Using 705 fiberglass that is two inches thick does a good job, but using four inches works even better. Note that two adjacent two-inch panels absorb the same as one piece four inches thick, so you can double them up if needed. However, if you are using the FRK type you should remove the paper from one of the pieces so only one outside surface has paper. Top
Besides the corners where two walls meet as in Figure 3a, it is equally effective to place fiberglass in the corners at the top of a wall where it joins the ceiling. With either type of corner, you can attach the fiberglass by screwing it to 1x2-inch wood strips that are glued or screwed to the wall as described previously. The 1x2 ends of these strips are shown as small black rectangles in Figure 3a above. One very nice feature of this simple trap design is that the air gap behind the fiberglass varies continuously, so at least some amount of fiberglass is spaced appropriately to cover a range of frequencies.

When mounting 705-FRK directly to a wall - not across a corner - you'll achieve more low frequency absorption if the paper covered side is facing into the room. However, that will reflect mid and high frequencies somewhat. One good solution is to alternate the panels so every other panel has the paper facing toward the room to avoid making the room too dead. Panels attached with the backing toward the wall should be mounted on thin (1/4-inch) strips of wood to leave a small gap so the backing is free to vibrate. For fiberglass across a corner as shown in Figure 3a, the backing should face into the room to absorb more at low frequencies.

For a typical unfinished basement ceiling you can take advantage of the gap between the support beams and the floor above by placing rigid fiberglass between the beams. Short nails or screws can support the fiberglass, making it easy to slide each piece of fiberglass into place. Then cover the fiberglass with fabric as shown below in Figure 3b. You can optionally pack the entire cavity with fluffy fiberglass one foot thick and you'll probably get similar results.
Hopefully this will get you started on your way to making your mixing and recording space sounding as good as it can. Remember the gear doesn’t make the room - the room makes the gear! Want to learn more about the Recording Arts? 

Consider attending F.I.R.S.T.! Request more info here

Written By Rich Ott, Recording Arts Course Director and Instructor

Student Spotlight Video: Matt Hassard, Audio Engineering and Music Production Program

Check out what Matt Hassard, aged 25 - a former student of Class #160 in the Audio Engineering and Music Production Program here at F.I.R.S.T. Institute - has to say about his experience. He chose F.I.R.S.T. because he "wanted smaller classes, which is more my learning style. F.I.R.S.T. offers quality of teaching, compared to the other schools I visited as they were all about the numbers."
Matt stated the staff at F.I.R.S.T. is very friendly, knowledgeable and very into what they teach. "All have been very useful and helpful."

Watch Faculty Spotlight Videos here...

In this Student Spotlight Video, Matt discusses working on a movie trailer, as a team, where they strip all the sound and they re-design everything, building it back up with their own creative-ness. He said it "opens up your mind" how you can design this yourself. 

Working on the trailer, the class built it up with an original score, their own sounds they created by walking around with microphones, doing ADR work and voice over work, and more. Find out a little bit more about Matt Hassard - and what he was working on as a student - by watching the short video below:

Matt's words of advice: "Come to F.I.R.S.T. with an open mind, and be willing to try anything that you can. This is where your imagination gets to play!" 

If you would like to let your imagination play, become a student at F.I.R.S.T.! Request free info here...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

History Lesson: Invention of Audio Tape Machines

What does a popular music crooner, a cigarette paper manufacturer, and the Nazi WWII propaganda machine have in common? Well, let me tell you if you haven’t already guessed. One clue is that these are a few of the key elements that helped change the recording industry forever, turning it into a multi-million dollar industry virtually overnight.
In 1877 Thomas Edison became the first recognized person to record and playback sound, using his new invention the phonograph. Next the Polish engineer Valdemar Poulson got the stone rolling for the recording industry by inventing the Telegraphone, the first magnetic recorder. In 1896 Telegraphone used wire to capture sound and later steel tape and coated steel discs. This a revolutionary concept, but tube amplification was still 10 or so years away, there wasn’t enough quality for these devices to become popular.

All of this leads us to WWII, where U.S. Army Signal Corps lieutenant Jack Mullin is stationed in Europe working on RADAR and other allied electronics. The military tasked Mullin with investigating Germany’s many advances in electronics and technology. While listening to German radio broadcasts, Mullin noticed that all of the music was much clearer and sounded better than the discs the Americans and British were using. After some investigating he found out that the Germans were using the Magnetophon, the first iron oxide based tape recorder, for all of their productions.

It seems that an Austrian inventor, Fritz Pfleumer, working on cigarette manufacturing, discovered a method for applying iron particles to a strip of paper. Being an audio enthusiast, he invented a recording machine to utilize this ferrous oxide (rust) coated “tape”. By 1935 Pfleumer had partnered with several German companies to become BASF, which would in turn be a leading manufacturer of magnetic tape and the first quality tape recorder the Magnetophon.

While Mullin was still in Germany he shipped parts from the Magnetophon and 50 reels of tape back to his home in San Francisco. When he returned home from the war in 1945 he partnered with film sound pioneer Bill Palmer. Together they reverse engineered the Magnetophon and built their own tape machine. Throughout 1946 and 1947 they gave demonstrations of their tape machine to the film industry with rave reviews.

This is where famous crooner Bing Crosby enters the story. Crosby’s technical director was at one of Mullin’s presentations and immediately saw the value of the machine for Bing’s weekly radio show on NBC. Bing had been performing the same radio show live two time each week, one show broadcast to the East Coast then another three hours later to the West Coast. Bing had just quit the show for the upcoming 1946-47 season when NBC executives refused to let him record the show in the studio to acetate transcription discs.

When Crosby signed his new contract with the then new ABC he decided to use Mullin’s tape machine to pre-record his shows, eliminating the need to do two live broadcasts of the same show. He hired Mullin on as his chief engineer and then invested heavily into the company that would refine and mass produce the reworked Magnetophon as the Ampex Model 200 tape machine. This would make Bing Crosby the first music start to produce all his following commercial releases on tape. Also, Cosby would be the first to pre-record radio broadcasts.

Since tape could be easily edited, unlike wire or acetate recording discs, this changed the entire music and broadcast industry. Shows could now be edited to improve pacing or remove parts that didn’t work. Crosby also created the “laugh track” by having the engineers edit in laughter from other takes and performances. All of this is standard today, but in the late 1940’s it was unheard of. By 1948 Ampex Model 200 machines were being used at all the major networks.

When Crosby gave Les Paul on of the first Ampex 200 machines the industry would change again. Les Paul always an innovator and pioneer in the music industry found a way to use the tape machine to record along with previously recorded tracks, inventing overdubbing. Soon with Les Paul’s ideas, Ampex would create the multi-track recorder, first 2 tracks, then 3, and eventually 8 tracks. Les Paul was the first to receive a custom built 8 track recorder that he named the “octopus”. A year later in 1958 Atlantic Records purchased their own 8 track Ampex for renowned engineer and producer Tom Dowd. The recording industry was now changed forever. Artists no longer needed to perform live to record, musicians began overdubbing, and tape editing for corrective or creative reasons became commonplace. All of this thanks to a popular singer, a cigarette manufacturer, and the German war machine.

Did you find this history lesson interesting? Would you like to learn more? 

If you answered "yes", then consider learning more about today's advances in the recording arts industry! 

Learn more first-hand while enrolled in the Audio Engineering and Music Production Program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute - get free info here...