TUESDAY TECH TIP: STACKS, RACKS & MACROS… OH MY!
By: Jim Edgar
A lot of clients have asked about creating “Stacks” or “Racks” or “Macros” for their VO studio recordings. Though you may have heard these terms, their meaning might not be terribly clear. All those labels refer to the same thing: combinations of software Effects which can be sequentially applied to audio files.
The various recording applications use different terms to describe this. Twisted Wave uses “Stacks” – denoting Effects piled in a sequence, while Adobe Audition calls them an “Effects Rack” – harkening to the days when the actual processing hardware was mounted in a vertical rack cabinet. Audacity has finally settled on the term “Macro” – drawing from a programming term of combining simple steps into a more complicated process.
Regardless of the name, each is an individual, semi-automated function which goes through the processing steps needed to deliver final files to a client. If you are always doing the same thing to your recordings, then a Stack/Rack/Macro is a great way to consolidate your individual Effects processes into a single action.
However, when we begin automating steps there may be unintended consequences. Much like the animated brooms relentlessly heaving buckets of water in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, things can quickly go horribly out of control. It always helps to understand the full scope of what we are setting in motion.
Strong VO Stacks Stand Upon Robust Basics
Obtaining expected results is the main reason I focus upon establishing repeatable conditions in your home recording workflow. Achieving consistency in your recordings comes from controlling the variables. Establishing simple procedures, such as a known reference point for your microphone position or clearly understanding how to set input levels, pays big dividends.
Stacks, Racks, and Macros can combine to be fairly complex processes. What you put “into” these processes can make a big difference. The old phrase “GIGO” (Garbage In, Garbage Out) applies. We always want to make things sound how we expect.
Working the same way within your recording space provides that strong foundation. If the audio has the same qualities each time we record ourselves, that means that we can then create consistent Presets in individual Effects which gives us expected results. It’s those Effects which then get built up into Stacks, Racks and Macro processing chains.
The Final VO Audition Step – Don’t Close Your Ears
Listening back is the final part of the process. Always run it through your ears before you send audio off to an audition or client! Even if we didn’t build up an Effect Stack ourselves, when something sounds weird, pay attention. Something sounding “off” is always worth investigating. Settings sometimes get changed, or software updates may break things. You likely have a good enough sense of how your recording should sound to at least ask for help.