Sounds Good! Tape Syncs

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Intro from Jay Allison: From the Transom Imaginary Archive, comes this vintage-y instructional video on the art and craft of the Tape Sync, created so that you radio freelancers can finally get it right. Dubious Credit for this goes to our friend and Transom Story Workshop graduate, Andrew Norton, the tall guy in Canada.

TRANSOM COMPANION FEATURE: A totally legit article on Tape Syncs from Katie Mingle of 99% Invisible, one of the Tape Synciest shows in the business. If you ever need to hire someone to do this job, be sure to give them the link to Katie's page, not this one.

Maybe it’s mainly a radio nerd’s thing to want to know about “Tape Syncs” (aka “Phone Syncs” or “Double Enders”), i.e. when the interviewer and the interviewee are in different locations and the interviewee is recorded by another producer while they answer questions over the phone. Still, I recommend that you entertain and inform yourself with Transom’s two new offerings, because even If you just listen to the radio and don’t make it, you hear tape syncs every day, and now’s your chance to GO BEHIND THE SCENES. Exciting.

What the hell did I just watch?

“Sounds Good” is not actually a production of the Canadian Audio Council. The Canadian Audio Council doesn’t exist, though Mr. Sub does. No – this video came about partially to spoof the videos I grew up watching in school and on TV. The ones I now love digging up on YouTube; the bad green screen, the music, the corny transitions. As someone who often works in video it just seemed so fun to make something and not have to worry about it being perfect. Actually, the worse it looked, the better the end result.

So wrong, but so right.

In 2007 I saw a video series called Infinite Solutions. I loved it right away. It’s a series of fake DIY “life hacks” played completely straight. Things like how to increase the shelf life of your produce by microwaving it;or how to increase your Wi-Fi signal by wrapping your Ethernet cord around your cell phone. I feel like this series came out before “life hacking” (I can’t use that term without quotation marks and still keep a straight face) took off as a weird modern day phenomenon. That is, simple, often crude DIY solutions to common modern day annoyances. And sometimes the “hacks” are more work than what you’re trying to get around or avoid. It also pokes fun at the smugness and faux professionalism of any DIY online video – I’ve seen many. I love the idea of giving utterly wrong advice with the confidence and greasy-haired condescension of your company’s stereotypical IT guy.

Tape Think (see what I did there?)

For some reason it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to hear stories about tape syncs gone wrong. As a naturally over-achieving freelancer, I pride myself on keeping my tape sync game tight. Plus, who doesn’t like stories that fit squarely into the “you had one job” category. I don’t like to hear the ones where easy mistakes are made – an honest mistake anyone could make – I like hearing about the really bad mistakes. And after hearing the story of an egregiously botched tape sync when I spoke to Radiolab’s Andy Mills last summer, the image of someone so confidently doing the absolute wrong thing just made me laugh. But at the same time made me realize a lot of people might not know the proper way to tape sync. To find out how to tape sync – for real – read this article by Katie Mingle. And whatever you do, do not follow the tips provided here. Follow hers.

Getting the look right.

Part of the fun of this video was making it look like it was really from the ’90s. I borrowed an old mini DV camera (tapes, remember those?) and procured some authentic ’90s props – the Zach Morris phone, the Sony tape deck and the old headphones. Add some ’90s-inspired make-up and wardrobe and you’re pretty well there. As the last touch though, I had my friend Kris, who works at a very fancy post-production house, actually dub the video to VHS. We then re-digitized that VHS and while we played it back we messed around with things like tracking, colors, the vertical hold – to give it that authentic VHS patina. That fuzzy VHS picture brings me right back to the ’90s.

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  • Andy Mills

    11.06.14

    Reply

    Andrew, thanks for shining light on the bobsled method! I’ve been using it for years and it’s helped me make great radio and intimate friends.

  • Jay Allison

    11.06.14

    Reply

    At 2:40, I saw you, Andrew. You were hiding. But I saw you.

  • mary o beorA

    11.07.14

    Reply

    Loved this spot! Well done! And in its contrarian presentation, I actually learned something! Thanks Andrew and JAY!!! Transom is the best!

  • dave goodman

    11.07.14

    Reply

    Loved this parody! (It was a parody, yes?) But it makes me long for the days when we could still use the EV RE50. My favorite mic by far.

  • Tony Mauro Ruiz

    8.10.15

    Reply

    This is gold!

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