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Adobe Audition Podcast – Mike Dawson (transcribed by Sonix)

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Mike Russell: Hi, I'm Mike Russell from Music Radio Creative. Welcome to the Adobe Audition Podcast were I'm interviewing power users of Adobe Audition. We'll reminisce back to Cool Edit Pro and take you right up to date with Adobe Audition CC. If you'd like to learn about audio production – everything from vocal effects to radio imaging, commercial production to music mixing – join my next audio production course at mrc dot fm slash learn. That's mrc dot fm slash l e a r n, learn.

Mike Russell: My guest is Mike Dawson. Mike is a professional voiceover talent. He's an audio engineer a music producer and a broadcaster and he's also the producer and voice engineer of a show that you may know, The Adam Carolla Show. A Guinness world record holding podcast. Mike it is fantastic to have you on the show.

Mike Dawson: Fantastic to be here Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Russell: It's an absolute pleasure. Now before I ask the first question I would just like to roll some of your voice over demo some of the imaging work you've done let's have a listen.

Mike Russell: That is amazing what attitude Mike. Tell me a little bit about you and how you are using Adobe Audition?

Mike Dawson: Shoot man I've been using Adobe Audition since it was Cool Edit Pro back in my early days of radio started radio in 1997 and Cool Edit Pro was the first editing software that I ever learned to use. And then of course that became Adobe Audition and it's just it's always been so damn easy and intuitive to be able to produce on Adobe Audition that I just I just stuck with you guys for twenty five years.

Mike Russell: Wow. Where you there even before multitrack?

Mike Dawson: Yes that was interesting. That was interesting because you have to bounce back from one program to another program through another program it's like recalling those days when they recorded records on tape.

Mike Russell: Wow. So tell me a little bit about obviously learning audio production and audio engineering yourself and in particular any bits of advice. Is there any one bit of really good audio production advice you've received and you've kind of used as your mantra through the years?

Mike Dawson: Aww man I would say that the best piece of advice that I ever got in producing audio is making sure that the signal that you're recording. First of all is as perfect as you can get it. Because when you try to fix things in post it will never sound as good as it would have if you just recorded it right in the first place. So that's that's the biggest thing. Don't try to fix your mistakes at the end try to fix them in the beginning so that you don't run into those mistakes as your recording.

Mike Russell: Absolutely. That makes so much sense and so when you're choosing microphones so you're looking to make audio sound good. Are there a lot of factors that you take into account such as room acoustics. What's the best thing for somebody. Maybe who's getting started with recording audio maybe some advice you could give to somebody who's looking to make it sound good is the mic choice important or the the room acoustics?

Mike Dawson: Mic choice is usually the most important. You know it all comes down to signal flow so you're dealing them with the microphone and then into your preamp and your EQ and your mixer and your cables. It's everything but for me microphone is the best because people sound different in different microphones. It's really amazing the quality of voice you get when using a different array of microphones so of course if you have the means. I always recommend trying out three or four mics and seeing what you sound best in and if you don't have the means Rode microphones they're a sponsor of ours and the Adam Carolla Show Rode has an incredible array of voice over microphones. I own them all. My favorite my favorite right now. Right now I'm using the NT2000 to record a brand new audio book and this mic is really cool because it's got your multi patterns on the front of the mic. You can go from omni to figure 8 to all of that stuff but then it's got a high pass filter that goes up to 150 Hertz and then a nice not necessarily a boost but it's a 10 db dip. If you need it for attenuation and it just it's crystal clear it comes through a really really good. I'm excited about this new audio book. First time I ever used this particular microphone but I like the NT1A the NT2A the NT1. Everything from Rode at rode dot com is pretty much a solid microphone because you know they essentially hired all of the Neumann engineers when Neumann decided to mess up their manufacturing plan and moved all the Neumann guys down to Australia and said we want you to build Neumanns for a tenth of the cost can you do it? And they said yeah we're German we can do anything.

Mike Russell: That's an awesome story. Wow. So the NT2000 is what you used to audiobooks I'd imagine it would be quite a challenge and you need to have a lot of time and focus to produce these audiobooks. Plus I mean like you say it's about getting the signal as good as you can going in. So what kind of audio book projects are you working on?

Mike Dawson: Right now I'm working on a book called Truck Stop Jesus. It is a fiction novel by a guy named Buck Storm that's his real name. I love him for that Buck Storm. His dad was a rodeo guy and a big fan of Buck Owens. So that's how he got his name but the book is like a modern day Romancing the Stone. A couple of Spanish missionary brothers 300 years ago had two coins that hook together as one as a cipher one's a key and there's a treasure at the end and there's a lot of crazy characters. And it's as I said it's like Romancing the Stone and it's a cool little love story but with a lot of action and adventure and a ton of different characters with all kinds of different accents so on this one I'm really stretching out my regional accent dialect as far as it can get and I'm still waiting to hear what the author thinks about my Boston accent because I'm not too pleased with it. But he might be. It is. It is the Boston accent is probably one of the most offensive in the world. So even if you get it right it's not going to sound good. You know what I mean. Everyone from Boston is going to hate me for this but…

Mike Russell: Yeah for those of us outside of the area who are not familiar with the Boston accent you'll have to throw in a little bit Mike of your Boston just so we can get an idea.

Mike Dawson: Oh god I got to warm up to it.

Mike Russell: Is it like New York?

Mike Dawson: It's completely different from New York in the fact that you got to drop your Rs. You got to kind of talk like this. It's like ah man it's a little it's a little early for me and I'm usually digging into the audio book and have plenty of time to you know warm up to it but it's like, "Hey yeah **** yeah this **** wicked cool". I don't know it's not great it's not great. And as I said I'm going to wait for Buck to get back to me on whether or not I should continue with this accent. I think it might be ok enough but we'll see.

Mike Russell: So there's a hint of Irish roots definitely in that Boston accent for sure. Wow.

Mike Dawson: Yeah there is a little bit.

Mike Russell: Truck Stop Jesus. Amazing. So I mean that sounds like a pretty challenging project. The fact that you're putting on different dialects and you're recording possibly for hours on end but what would you say Mike is one of the most challenging projects you have worked on as a producer or someone in audio.

Mike Dawson: Well every year for the Adam Carolla Show we produce our best of awards show for the year it's called the Ace Awards and essentially we go through 330 different shows that we've done and grab all of the highlights from thousands and thousands of hours of content and essentially whittle that all down to the best of the best of the best and cut it into a tight 90-120 minute presentation. It takes. It takes us quite a few hundred hours and a lot of hands on deck to get all this stuff. But Adobe Audition is a huge huge part of this because it's just the easiest. The easiest way to highlight and clip and save files and then especially with the latest versions of Adobe with clip gain and all the updates that have come through with Adobe Audition. It is. It's gotten much easier to produce this. Now I've tried. One year I tried to produce the awards on Pro Tools. I've tried to do it on other other programs and I always keep running back to Adobe Audition because it's just the easiest and quickest to be able to use. There are also you know a lot of elements to the final production of the show just finding the clips is one thing but then after that when you have to piece together these packages there has to be applause that sounds like awards show applause. I grab a lot of our awards show music I get it all from extreme music dot com which is a great resource for royalty free music and all of this has to be pieced together in a way that if you are listening inside your cans or on a stereo pair somewhere. It sounds like you're at an awards show. But no it's great you know a little touch of reverb on the vocal makes it sound like you're actually announcing from an auditorium and you know Adobe Audition gives me all of these together. But you know that's for me. Every year the Ace Awards adds up to about 200 hours of work.

Mike Russell: That's amazing. So you know what. Want a project. What an amazing amount of content that you're pulling together to put it together that production. Let's maybe talk a little bit about cataloging and organization. How are you. Have you got any system in place to be able to easily catalog and organize all of this content so that you can easily get back to bits that you think might fit into the award show.

Mike Dawson: Well everything that we clip out and save fits into a certain category like best reenactment or best impression rant of the year which is one of our favorites because Adam Carolla does go on several several incredible rants throughout the year. But all of that stuff pretty much gets saved into its own file unattenuated. And then as I make edits to it it gets saved into a another file and that's with all the edits and then finally to another file where it's actually mastered for air. So any time I need to go back and work with something I can just dig back into a earlier file and find the unedited or unattenuated piece of audio that I need to use to fill it in. I'd say organization though is probably my weakest point. I know that my workflow would be a lot better if I could just figure out a different better way to be organized. If any podcast listeners out there have some have some great ideas on how to better organize your audio I am all ears because I'm not really good at it.

Mike Russell: I like the fact that you'll versioning so yeah you have the original but then you make some edits and then obviously you had some filters and that's all versions of you need to get back to the raw audio you can you can easily do that.

Mike Dawson: There's nothing worse than having to go back to the original hour and twenty minute file where you pulled 15 minutes of content because you did something wrong with it and now you need to start over. Nothing worse than that.

Mike Russell: Exactly. Exactly brilliant. So what is the maybe one cool project you'd really like to work on that you haven't told anyone about yet?

Mike Dawson: It's always been my dream to record a symphony orchestra. I'm deep into classical music. You know in Los Angeles I live out here in L.A. and traffic is pretty much the biggest complaint and almost the only complaint of anyone who lives in Los Angeles and I've found about four years back that if I listen to classical music on the radio it makes the traffic just a little bit easier. You don't care as much and I think it was when I heard Holst's The Planets which is an incredible work. I believe only six planets are represented he didn't write anything about Earth or Pluto whether that's a planet or not anymore. I don't know. But anyway anybody who's listening and has an inkling to get into classical music go listen to Holst the planets and essentially when I when I listen to that I thought Oh oh my god I know where the oboe is. I can hear where that second violin. I can hear it. I know where it is. In the span of the stereo spectrum. And that's just it's just a matter of of painting and and and gained levels and it's just it's a beautiful thing and so I've always wanted to you know get in front of a full orchestra mic them up in the places where I think they should be heard in the in the whole in the whole presentation and you know hopefully one day I'll be able to do that. But that's that's the one thing that I would love to do is record a symphony orchestra

Mike Russell: From what I understand working with music. I mean that really takes up a ton of tracks in the multitrack so I guess you'd be like you say you'd be micing up individual instruments and recording all of those tracks and then trying to mix all the tracks to make them sound just just right?

Mike Dawson: Yeah you know in some cases you'll just put a stereo pair on the string section or you know a pair of overheads on some percussion and then you kind of pan those inside each other where you want them you bus them down to another stereo pair and then you take that stereo pair and you pan it where you want it in the full orchestra. Now this is just how I'd imagine doing it. You know as an audio engineer everyone knows there's a million ways from A to B and as long as B sounds good it doesn't matter how you got there.

Mike Russell: So if you think back Mike to growing up and maybe listening to music or your first experience with audio. I'm really curious to know because I guess for most of us working in the audio industry we're here because we want to be here and because we enjoy audio and we've had a good experience with it we've listened to something and thought how do you do that? How do you replicate that? For you Mike. What was it. Back to you childhood that you're maybe one of your first memories of audio or listening to something where you had that wow moment and you were like Yeah this is something I'm interested in. What was it for you?

Mike Russell: Back to the interview. In a moment but if you want to in my perfect audio create a sense of head over to MRC FM slash win

Mike Dawson: I grew up on FM radio in the San Francisco Bay area on a rock station called KRQR The Rocker which is a brilliant call letter sequence. And you know so I grew up on on the Rolling Stones and Grand Funk Railroad and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and all that stuff but more importantly when I was driving around the car with my mom I listened to the deejays. I always wanted to be a radio jock and that was since I was 6, 7 years old. I would be riding around in the car with my mom and a deejay would say something I would turn down the radio and I'd say what he said but I'd try to do it better. And my mom was just laughing going I think I know what you're going to do when you grow up. And fortunately. Fortunately I was able to you know it took a long time to break into radio but you know you get your foot in the door and work your ass off. You eventually climb up through the ladder. But then after that. So that's what made me want to get into radio and be a deejay. I'm good friends with Alan Parsons. I love dropping his name. Alan invited me over to his house one day and asked me if I wanted to listen to his original quadraphonic mix of Dark Side Of The Moon and he sat me in his studio and the quadraphonic mix has four speakers all around you. And I remember Alan distinctively saying to me listen to the clocks they're traveling around the room. And in the quadraphonic mix they are there they're going around counter-clockwise in a circle and I'm like oh my god how do you do this. I want to do this. And so there was a passion for a while until I was actually able to go to audio engineering school and that's something that. Was a huge eye opener for me. I mean it's one thing working with this stuff for you know 15 to 20 years and knowing what things do you know compressors and gates and things like that. But when you finally learn the science of why it does what it does it opens a whole new world of audio production as soon as you understand the science behind it. The landscape's just opened wide up. I mean it's. It's been an amazing run.

Mike Russell: And it's super interesting so and it's interesting to hear what you said about getting started listening to the radio initially and then working in radio working your way up the ladder. So kind of an that's from what I understand how most people in radio they learn audio they learn on the job they learn in a studio then mentored by somebody who has been there before them. But from what you are saying that if you actually go and learn audio engineering itself as a science. So this is something you would highly recommend?

Mike Dawson: Oh absolutely. If especially if you're you know I didn't go back to school until I was 39 years old. And if you're 39 years old and you go back to school and you don't get straight As you're doing it wrong. So. Yeah as soon as I got back into school you take it very very very very seriously. And you know especially if it's if it's if it's a passion of yours if it's something you really want to do to make a living at it you've got to pay attention you've got to learn you've got to figure it out. And most of it you know I'd say 90 percent of what I've learned I've just learned by doing. But without that 10 percent of schooling you know the whys of the hows. Without that that 90 percent wouldn't be possible. You know what I mean.

Mike Russell: Was that a passion of yours as well listening to not only the deejays on the radio stations but were you interested in that imaging side of things and jingles from an early age too?

Mike Dawson: I wasn't until I got my first job in radio. And as soon as I was exposed you know all I wanted to do is be a deejay before sit behind a microphone play records and talk about the music. But as soon as I got my first job in radio and I learned about radio imaging and and what it is. One of my early bosses told me look it's kind of a comple-sult where you give someone a compliment but it's really an insult he said. You know you're going to make most of your money doing straight voiceover work in imaging. I'm like why is that he said cuz you're not a really good deejay. I ended up proving him wrong. Been working as a deejay for 20 years but the real love I have is in the imaging it's kind of turned away from from being on the radio and on the microphone and actually creating the imaging and the production and soundscape to identify radio stations. It's a lot of fun.

Mike Russell: So let's get into now some real workflows and features in Audition and maybe even some resources. And gear even though you've already mentioned some fantastic mics that you're using. I'm curious to know when you are using Adobe Audition. There's a great range a broad spectrum of FX and shortcuts but if you had to pick one feature in Adobe Audition that is your feature your favorite feature. What would that be?

Mike Dawson: Ah man that is a tough question number one because I'm almost a basic Adobe Audition user. You know it's usually just voice over music. Maybe some effects. We do a we do a bit on the Adam Carolla Show called Definitely Not a Jew and it's actually a praise to the Jewish people. It starts out with a news story saying that you know somebody in Alabama robbed a chicken store you know. I don't know. And then the close is Definitely Not a Jew. And essentially saying that there is no way that a Jewish person would be caught doing this. This particular crime usually it's some white trash something or or whatever. But anyway what I've had to do because that that bit kind of takes place in a stadium and I apologize if you can hear some clicking outside I'm in the middle of building a recording studio and right now I got guys right outside my studio window finishing up the stucco. So if you hear that that's them banging on the wall I asked them to keep it down but apparently they don't listen to me. But whatever. So I had to find a stadium voice effect and I went through the effects in Audition. And I believe I use an echo effect that essentially sounds like I'm in a stadium and it's a stadium VO and there's like a slap back delay. You know like when you're at I don't know if you've ever been to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. But it is the worst place on earth to see a concert because you hear it twice once when it's coming from the stage. And once when it's bouncing off the back wall right at you. But that's the kind of effect I was able to find in Adobe Audition and that one effect I have been using for the last 12 years with Adam Carolla. Other than that in audio book production there is a lot of I have a hot key set up in my Adobe Audition you know control S is save control alt S is save as or something like that on mine S means silence. So when I highlight a portion of audio all I got to do is hit S. I inserted that hotkey myself and so you know simply the most used function for me in Adobe Audition. At least in my program is the S key just simply to silence audio.

Mike Russell: Inserting silences. It's something that you need to do alone particularly in podcast production and certain styles of audio production. S is not set by default is that something you've set up specifically.

Mike Dawson: That's something I said specifically and that's another thing I love about Adobe Audition is you can create your own hotkeys create whatever keystrokes you want to to be able to make your workflow go easier. The next one I am I need to set up is I need to make a hot key for inserting silence so if I just highlight something and press S it will just silence that area. But what I need to do next is create a hot key that say especially when you're listening to the flow of an audio book when you're listening to the flow of conversation. It has its own tempo and you need to make it sound as if someone is speaking to you. Sometimes that's a tenth of a second of space. Sometimes that's three tenths of a second of space. And sometimes it's a little bit more but usually it's a 10 to 3 tenths of a second of additional space in-between lines in a book and sometime today I'm going to set up that key so that I can easily insert silence.

Mike Russell: That's interesting. So how much time do you spend producing for instance an audiobook to you would you say you spend more time post producing than you do recording does it require a lot? It's not an area I'm extremely familiar with. I mean do you are you removing all turning down the volume on on breaths or do you try to keep it natural? Interested to hear how you're doing that.

Mike Dawson: Well what I've found is most of the time breath doesn't matter. Audio books are not like singing. You know when you're singing a breath is important a breath speaks to you when you're doing an audio book unless it's a line of conversation where someone is taking a deep breath or transitioning from you know kind of one sentence to another. Sometimes I will leave those breaths and but for the most part I eliminate all breaths because they can be a little bit distracting and then in post when you touch him with a compressor sometimes that breath is just way too loud and the combination of compressors and gates and and all that stuff. I mean a gated compressed vocal track with a breath on it rarely sounds like a regular breath. You know you'll it'll start to hit the gate and then all of a sudden the gate will open and then there's this huge breath compressed and then all of a sudden just disappears because it's no longer touching the gate. So for me it's simply easier to eliminate those breaths with the silence key and and move on from there. So breath not a big part of my audiobooks.

Mike Russell: Fantastic. Interesting so we've covered your favorite feature in Adobe Audition. Some good work flows and timesaving shortcuts such as S for silence and insert silence as well having insert slience hot key. I'm curious you mentioned one resource that you mentioned extreme music dot com where you grab some royalty free music and some microphones. But let's talk a little bit more about resources and gear you use to create great sounding audio and anything else that you would you would recommend all you've got in use do you say you currently right now you're working on building a studio a new studio setup. What kind of gear do you use and resources do you like to use?

I've been using the first generation PreSonus studio live analog digital consoles. They jive wonderfully with Adobe Audition and Adobe just recognizes that as a DAW and so I use that I have a I have a Focusrite preamp that I use on another microphone to do all my car commercials and other voice over that. To give that a beefier radio sound so I got a Focusrite pre that I've actually had I've had the same Focusrite preamp for about 12 years. I have never turned it off and it still works beautifully. So I'm very happy with the Focusrite gear. My studio monitors are the Event 2020s. And you know it's it's it's a real simple setup for me that a few lava lamps and we're ready to go.

Mike Russell: Awesome. Wow. I love the lava lamps as well as I have the mood you have the ambience in your studio as well?

Mike Dawson: You got to have a vibe and your room. Yeah.

Mike Russell: Love it. Love it. So the Event 2020s. The PreSonus, the Focusrite. Do you know the model of is that a Sapphire Pro or Scarlett or a Clarett?

Mike Dawson: I have the Focusrite Track Master Pro.

Mike Russell: Amazing so well it's been a great chat. We've covered lots of interesting information I'm sure. For anyone listening who's interested in getting into the space. Wants to know the right gear or you know how to get started. Already some great advice but maybe Mike for somebody who's young and aspiring to get into this space. Maybe they're just getting started with Adobe Audition and they'd like to know a little bit more about you know how to get started in the industry and looking for some good advice. What would you offer as advice to that young inspired person. Getting ready for a lifetime of working in audio what would you say to them?

Mike Dawson: Well the best advice I can give is get your foot in the door at a place that produces audio and anytime you see somebody doing something you do not know how to do. Ask them to teach you. You need to make yourself invaluable unfireable. Everybody is replaceable but if you're the guy who knows how to do everything you're going to be the guy that gets to keep his job at the end of the day because you're not a one trick pony. That's part of why I produce so many so many different audio mediums and the other thing is if you want to do voiceover work. It's great work if you can get it. It's one of the hardest businesses to break into. It took me 15 years of doing voiceover before I actually started making money doing voiceover which by the way Mike you got a great voice. I think you should you should look into some VO work. If you're if you're able to there's always a market for a British accent especially here in America because we go we go gaga over that. But the one thing I can tell people about voiceover work is get one gig and keep it. And always deliver and always be there for the guy. But yeah I know it's difficult getting that one gig. But you know whether it's a on hold answering machine service whether it's just just just something very very simple and easy just get it keep it and try to make that one client happy happy happy and then everything will snowball.

Mike Russell: So you talk about getting the 1 gig and keeping it and so pleasing that client. Does that mean that you need to be around all hours you need to be flexible to be able to deliver within like say you know 15 minutes need it tomorrow need it yesterday kind of thing?

Mike Dawson: That's part of it. Part of the reason why I have kept so many of my voiceover jobs is I can usually deliver a VO file within 20 minutes of it being emailed to me because I'm here at the studio. This is what I do. I'm in this room all day and if you can if you can turn around and turn things around quick people are going to come to you because they don't want to wait nobody wants to wait for a voiceover file and the other thing is nobody wants to really cast a voiceover person. It is the worst part of their job. They hate doing it so when they find somebody who can do the job right and do the job quick they're never going to look again. That's your job. All you got to do is deliver.

Mike Russell: That's it. I absolutely love it. Well you've given some really golden advice in the show. You've got a great and unique voice yourself and like you say having different strings to your bow so you know being able to voice it but also might you produce it and you do the podcast production and you create the audio books as well. You got to be curious about Truck Stop Jesus. I may have to check it out and see what your varied voice acting is like.

Mike Dawson: It'll be out in June and it is a fantastic book I'm about halfway through reading it. The book is going to be about eight and a half hours long but when you're reading outloud into a microphone you've got to multiply that time times three. So you know it's going to take me 24 hours of production time to really get it read correctly because you know if you're reading in your head you can scan through a book and that amount of time it takes to read. But if you're reading out loud into a microphone for someone else it's really difficult. Sometimes your tongue gets tired and enunciation is not your best friend.

Mike Russell: That's interesting. And how can we get it is it Audible?

Mike Dawson: All of my books are on Audible and on iTunes. There are several of them out right now. I have the link to a few of them at my Web site at Daws Angeles dot com.

Mike Russell: Awesome. Yes I was going to ask you about that so the best place to find you online is at Daws Angeles dot com did you say?

Mike Dawson: Yes that's correct. And then across all social media platforms at Daws Angeles and mostly I'm on Twitter.

Mike Russell: Mike it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much for coming on the show.

Mike Dawson: Thanks for having me Mike. Looking forward to doing it again some time and happy 25th birthday Adobe Audition. I love you guys.

Mike Russell: That concludes this episode would you like an extra chance to win the awesome audio gear giveaway. Hit subscribe and review this podcast then e-mail the details to podcast at MRC dot fm for an extra entry into the awesome audio giveaway. Good luck.

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