In a fast growing age of technology and communications, the affordability and availability of new professional audio gear is benefitting the entire audio industry, right down to the bedroom musician. However, it’s not just the bedroom musician who is benefiting from these advancements. We spoke with the team at UpState, an audio/visual production, marketing and consulting company based in downtown South Bend, IN, to see how they use the latest gear and technology to benefit their business and their clients.
[JAL]: Can you tell me a little about Upstate?
[UpState]: Our team of experts includes video producers, photographers, live audio engineers, and recorded audio engineers. Our facilities are located on the second floor of the historic State Theater in downtown South Bend, IN. On site, we have a professional recording studio and a blackbox soundstage.
Our company’s goal is to present clients’ art, music or businesses to their consumers and potential consumers in a form that is truest to a clients’ vision and mission as possible.
[JAL]: How different is live video recording and mixing from regular studio recording and mixing?
[UpState]: Mixing for video adds a few obstacles that are otherwise manageable when studio recording. When recording audio for video, we have to take several things into consideration that don’t arise when performing regular studio recordings. When live recording a full band in the same room, whether it is for video or another
specific circumstance that just so happens to require a same room recording, mic placement is already integral. You have to keep as much bleed from surrounding sources out of each mic as possible.
Further, for video, we also have to take aesthetic cohesion of the microphones into account. Microphones have to take up the least amount of space possible while still achieving proper mic placement in regards to source, maximum isolation and capture integrity. While with studio recording, doing each instrument separately, you obviously eliminate that variable. Sometimes, a camera angle will cause a microphone placement to be visually disruptive and the video director will ask for it to be moved. If a microphone is moved, it needs to be moved in a way where it sounds just as good as in its original position.
[JAL]: When you started, it seemed like the majority of your clients were local artists. Now, you are featuring more and more groups from out of state. Why do you think people are starting to come from further away to record an Upstate session?
[UpState]: In regards to our Session videos, our reputation for presenting acts in their most genuine state possible has been communicated by artists to their friends all over the country. We’ve featured artists from Portland to Delaware, from Michigan to Texas at the Mexico border. We love when touring artists take time from their exhausting schedules to stop in for a Session. The consensus from our staff is that the geographic spread can be attributed to a combination of marketing, gear upgrades, growing efficiency and a strong music community.
[JAL]: Are there any current technical trends you find particularly impactful?
[UpState]: Recently, the audio technology trend has been an increase in quality for price as opposed to an increase in the amount of features at a price point. For roughly 6 years, companies have stopped addressing how many tasks a product can perform, but rather how well it can accomplish the tasks it is already designed for. The impact this has speaks for itself.
[JAL]: You recently decided to use the Soundcraft Ui24R in your studio. Why did you choose this mixer?
[UpState]: Our audio staff had the opportunity to use the Ui24R for the first time over the summer while mixing bands at 2017’s River Lights Music Festival in South Bend, IN. The first things we noticed were the user interface and ease of use. The quality of the on board EQ/RTA metering, delay, reverb and the compressors also caught our attention. Also the exceptional headroom on and the sonic integrity of the preamps got us
really excited. At the time, we were in the market for a digital mixer that could be used as a multitrack recording interface and would also be easier to transport than what we had been using previously.
Once we found out the price, the Ui24R went to the top of the list. Since we would primarily be using the Ui24R in a recording environment, we prioritized our decision making based on recording studio-related metrics. For us we decided that those metrics would be signal to noise ratio and the dynamic range of the AD/DA converters. After two months of exhaustively researching every option on our list, we decided that the Ui24R was the choice that made the most sense to our needs. What initially made our decision was the fact that the mixer has -114db of dynamic range. For something with 20 individual XLR inputs anywhere near this price point, that metric alone made the mixer a no brainer for us. Other things like the ability to simultaneously record to a computer and to a USB stick, the ability for performers/talent to control their own individual mixes and the sheer lack of size made the choice painfully obvious. Had this mixer been three times the price, we merely would have only bought one instead of two.
TL;DR: One of our engineers put it best –
“A combination of convenience and quality that is hard to beat practically forced the decision.”
–Jacob Lindsey, Junior Engineer: Audio. UpState, LLC
[JAL]: What are you currently using the Ui24R for? Any plans to use it for other things in the future?
[UpState]: We own two Ui24R’s. One, we use for our live captured soundstage videos, for tracking drums on recorded audio projects, and any other audio that is captured for records on the Soundstage whether its choirs or string ensembles.
The other, we keep ready to go for our live sound gigs. No matter if a client asks us to bring a system or whether we are running sound on a client’s system, we always bring our live Ui24R with us and almost always end up using it as the primary board even when we are using clients’ already provided systems.
[JAL]: With the growing ease and popularity of home recording, why should musicians still go to recording studios? Will home recording ever completely take over?
[UpState]: The growing popularity of home recording is a double-edged sword. Professional level tools becoming accessible and commonplace has had an interesting effect. On one hand, the amount of talented engineers and producers has skyrocketed. On the other, the knowledge of the skill and experience that it takes to make professional recordings has spread like wildfire. We believe musicians that are aware of that required skill are going to be far more willing to pay someone else with more skill and experience than attempting to tackle it themselves.
Further, the interest level in the recording process has increased exponentially in recent years, so recording clients are better educated on what specific things to ask for in a recording. We believe bands’/artists’ standard for what a studio can accomplish compared to what they can accomplish themselves is going to continue to rise in the future.
We don’t believe that home recording will ever completely take over. With the increase in knowledge of process comes a higher level of respect for exceptional sound quality. That being said, the day of subpar sound or worse- subpar customer service from expensive studios is nearing its end. This can be directly attributed to the increase in home recording popularity. If a studio has sound quality that is less than what a client expects, they can simply find another studio to record at. There are too many options for clients to have to put up with unsatisfactory treatment or sound quality.
I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to the entire team at UpState for taking time to speak with us. You can check out their full portfolio of work on their website.
Do you have insights into new technologies’ impact on the recording process? Share them in the comments.