Archive Collection Volume Two: Production Diary

9th February 2004      3rd January 2004      6th December 2003     19th July 2003    14th/15th June 2003        11th June 2003         5th/6th April 2003


9th February 2004

Work on Archive Collection Volume 2 is now nearly complete.  Track credits, titles and information have all been completed, sleeve-notes have been written and the cover artwork has been prepared.  On Friday 6th February Ant went to Serendipity for the final mastering of the album with engineer Dallas Simpson.  Ant reports that the mastering went well and the whole double CD set was mastered in around ten hours.

Just a few final adjustments remain to be made to the credits for the album before they are sent off to Voiceprint.

3rd January 2004

With Christmas out of the way, it's on with the final stages of compiling the album.  Our task today is to ensure that we have all the final versions of the selected tracks ready for Ant to take to Serendipity for the final mastering.  This is successfully completed without too many problems.

Work is also underway on the artwork for the CD as well as track titles and track information.

6th December 2003

Having revised a number of tracks short-listed for inclusion on the CD, I have recompiled the whole planned track listing once again from scratch on 2 CDs for a listening session.  As Ant and I have been going over the tracks a number of different times by this stage, Ant has asked Alan Hewitt to join us and give his comments on the selection of pieces.

By the end of our listening session we have decided on some changes to the content, with a couple of tracks being removed from the track listing and a new one being added. 

10th/11th November 2003

After a slightly longer than anticipated pause in proceedings largely due to Ant working on a couple of new Library Music projects, I head off to Ant's house for 2 days of further work on Archive Collection Volume 2.  The plan of action is to finish off the work still left to do on the selected tracks so that they are ready for mastering.

Although there has been a pause in journal entries, work has still carried on in the meantime on various aspects of the album since the last entry.  A brief recap:

 - Some of the previously mentioned suites have been re-compiled to incorporate new mixes and edits

 - Some selected tracks have been re-transferred from the original tapes

 - Some new mixes have been tidied up and other tracks re-edited slightly

- Some sleeve notes for the finished CD have been supplied by a special guest (whose identity will remain secret for the time being)

Once in the studio I play Ant two new CDs I have made up of the various re-edited suites and tracks.  Ant thinks that these work well, so they are all transferred onto the Radar hard disc recorder.  Following on from this, we turn our attention to the last suite planned for inclusion.  Choosing the order in which the parts of this suite are edited together proves to be quite hard as there are a number of possible ways that this can be done but by the end of the day we have the basis of the final version of this suite.

The following morning we transfer the various tracks from the Radar to DAT in order to compile a rough assembly of the final running order of the album.  This will be used for reference once the final mastering of the collection takes place.  As each track is transferred, Ant and I discuss various technical points about each one that will need to be addressed during the mastering as well some potential titles for some of them.  


19th July 2003

Back in the studio once more for a further session.  First of all we recap on the work done so far before starting on transferring some further tracks that have been selected for possible inclusion from the original master tapes.

Once completed we turn our attention to a couple of suites that are planned for inclusion.  Things threaten to get rather complicated at this stage as the suites combine material that has recently been mixed from scratch along with existing mixes and some of these have been joined together with cross-fades and edits.  The end results sound good but the downside is that any changes to the order of the pieces in the suites or the mixes means that they have to be compiled again from scratch.  However, a plan of action is soon worked out and some further new mixes of tracks are then made, with new cross-fades and edits to be made in due course.

We also discuss potential track titles for several as-yet untitled pieces as well as cover design ideas for the finished CD.  

14th/15th June 2003

Following on from the previous entry, with multi-track transfers complete it's time for me to head to Ant's house again for a further session in the studio to continue the work on assembling Archive Collection 2. 

Armed with various tapes (in all formats) and several pages of notes on the work completed so far, I also have brought with me a CD-R of newly edited versions of a couple of tracks which I compiled the day before.  Following the obligatory cup of tea we start proceedings by transferring the 4-track material from ADAT to Ant's Radar 24-track recorder.  Once completed, it's time a for lunch break which provides a good opportunity to soak up some more of the sunshine out in the garden.  However, this doesn't last long and we soon head back to work.

Next up is the CD-R of the newly edited tracks that I have compiled.  I play this to Ant and he thinks the edits work well.  To keep all the material for the album in one place, Ant decides to transfer all of it onto the Radar and the extra tracks on the CD-R are the best place to start.  A few lead changes later everything is connected up and operation transfer begins.  Once the edited tracks have been transferred we then start on all the other short listed material that doesn't require mixing and transfer this as well.  Whilst the tracks are transferring, Ant and I take the opportunity to listen to each of them and discuss any further work that needs to be done to them - editing, cross-fading, adding reverb and so on.

Eventually all the tracks are transferred and it's time to start mixing.  We elect to tackle Vic's Tango first and pretty soon we have a basic mix set up.  A couple of trial runs later, a few adjustments on levels, eq, reverb and  chorus and so on and we are ready to go, with two mixes being made of the track.  By now we've been working at this for over 8 hours, so it's time to give it a rest.

The following morning we're back in the studio, mixing more of the 4-track pieces (Romeo & Juliet, Old Wives Tale, I Saw You Today, The Ridolphi Plot and Shady Arbors).  This proceeds well and a couple of hours later I'm heading back home armed with details of more tracks that need to located and further editing and mixing to be dealt with in the next studio session.

11th June 2003

Having identified those recordings that may benefit from remixing (or mixing from scratch as the case may be) from original 4-track and 8-track masters, the next stage is to transfer those tracks from the original analogue tapes into a digital format.  Following on from the previous entry, the original 4-track tapes I took away with me were transferred to ADAT last week.  To save some time I compiled just the required tracks from each of the tapes onto a single ADAT tape which saved searching for the required tracks when they are transferred onto Ant's 24-track hard disc recorder.

Once the slightly laborious process of putting each tape onto the machine, locating the relevant track, checking levels, transferring the track, rewinding the original 1/4" master, putting the next one on the machine and starting again has been completed, the next stage is to write out some track sheets with details of what instruments are recorded on what tracks.  This will help when it comes to mixing the tracks.  Once all of this is completed, some of the 4-track tapes are transferred to ADAT in their entirety to preserve the recordings in a digital format and also for possible use in future projects - but that's another story for another time.

The multi-track tape transfer has become slightly complicated as regards 8-track recordings as the Brenell tape machine I have is currently not working properly.  To get around this, Ant has arranged to hire an 8-track machine in order to transfer these recordings at his studio today, with help from Paul, an engineer.  What should in theory be a straight-forward process becomes more complicated because of the condition of the original one-inch tapes.  All of them are Ampex tape stock and like so much Ampex tape stock from the late 1970s and early 1980s they have a tendency to shed oxide upon being played. 

This is down to the formulation of the binder used in the tape which over time has caused the binding to stop doing it's job and the oxide from the tape begins to shed over the tape machine heads and tape path.  This can cause the tape to make a high-pitched squeaking sound when it is played.  Some batches of tape seem to be affected more than others - a couple of Ant's one-inch tapes played well when I checked some of them last year and indeed one of the tapes Ant accessed today plays fine and is transferred without a problem.  However, two of the multi-track masters we have earmarked for transfer are shedding their oxide and Ant decides not to risk any damage to the tapes by playing them further.

Tapes that are shedding oxide can usually be saved by baking them in special ovens made specifically for this purpose which slowly dries out the binder.  The tapes can then be played again and the contents transferred to a digital format.  As Ant has hired the 8-track tape machine (and is paying for Paul's time and expertise), it's not cost-effective for this project to have the tapes baked and then hire the machine again to transfer them, especially as stereo mixes exist of the tracks in question.  However, Ant and I have discussed plans to organise a systematic baking and transfer programme of all of the 8-track masters in due course so that they can saved for future access.

5th/6th April 2003

It's a nice sunny afternoon as I head off to Ant's house.  Amongst other things, our plan is to go through the shortlist of material that has been compiled so far for potential inclusion on Archive Collection Vol. 2.

Upon arrival we have the obligatory cup of tea and the warmth of the weather suggests that taking a seat outside in the garden will be a good idea.  I give Ant a copy of the 4 page listing I've drawn up - this has all the possible tracks for inclusion with notes about their source, which of them have been derived from multi-track recordings, which tracks may benefit from remixing and those which we are still undecided about.  We also catch up on some other news - Ant reports that the writing for the new Private Parts & Pieces album continues to go well and he is looking forward to getting the bulk of the tracks he has written recorded in the next few weeks.  I also bring him up-to-date with the latest details on the forthcoming Soundscape and Radio Clyde releases.  We also discuss other forthcoming projects including album re-issues.

On to the task in hand - once in the studio we go through the shortlist of tracks that has been compiled so far and listen to most of them to work out which will require further work (possible editing and/or re-mixing, adding reverb and so on).  We also check back on those tracks over which there is still a decision to be made as regards including them or not.  With a track that is a variation of one that has already been released the obvious question is "does it sound too similar to the released version?"  On our shortlist there are a couple that fall into this area so some concentrated listening and comparison takes place to try and help (or add to the confusion as the case may be).

At the end of the listening some tracks have been taken off the shortlist (although they may well appear on a future release) and a couple of others have found their way onto it but the bulk of the tracks on the shortlist remain the same.

The next stage is to test that the ADAT transfers that I will be making of the 4 & 8-track masters that we are using can be transferred onto Ant's 24-track hard-disc recorder.  In order to check this I have transferred the original 4-track master of the 1975 demo recording that Ant and Harry Williamson made of Tarka, which is included on the CD release of Gypsy Suite.  After wiring everything up we hit play on the ADAT machine and success - it works!  Ant is interested to hear this recording again in it's original form.  We also check one of Ant's ADAT recordings just to be sure that everything is running as it should and this works as well.

I then search through Ant's tapes and locate the 4-track masters for those tracks that will need mixing from scratch to take away with me.  These will then be transferred onto ADAT ready for the next stage of production.

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