María Mejía Yepes
Assistant professor and coordinator of the Audio Program concentration at the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, María Mejía Yepes, chatted with us about teaching future audio professionals the art and craft of location sound using Scorpios and MixPre-6s.
Tell us about Ithaca College’s audio program!
The audio production concentration is housed by the Television & Digital Media Production program within the Roy H. Park School of Communications.
This concentration provides broad-based knowledge of the theory and practice of audio production. Students learn the scientific and aesthetic aspects of sound, as well as a broad range of audio production techniques applicable to music, theater, and electronic media. Courses are drawn from the Park School of Communications, the School of Music, and the physics and theater arts departments in the School of Humanities and Sciences in Ithaca College.
Can you walk us through your program’s current equipment?
Currently, our program has access to 3 recording studios, 3 audio editing suites, and 1 classroom with 12 Pro Tools stations.
As far as our equipment is concerned, we have a vast range of options for all skill setsAmong those there are MixPre-D mixers, MixPre-6s, and Scorpios. The latter are used exclusively for the Location Sound recording class.
As far as microphones are concerned, we have many options for studio as well as field recording. Some of those are Electrovoice, AudioTechnica, AKG, Rode, Shure, Sennheiser, Countrymen, Sanken, and Neumann. We have an array of wireless systems such as Sony and Lectrosonics and a couple of Tentacle Sync devices for timecode. We have plans to incorporate a Dante network into our school for Fall 2023.
When choosing the equipment for your program, why did you choose the MixPre and Scorpio? What features are you and your students using the most?
I chose these recorders due to my experiences back in college. I started with a 702 and not only liked the quality of its preamps but how user-friendly it was, then moved to the 744T, 552, and 664. It was a natural decision to me to go for it, even though at the time I was hired, the school had different field recorders.
As far as features, my students love the Wingman app as well as SD-Remote. This allows them to access some options quickly and eliminates the extra work of manually filling a sound report. They also use the Ambisonics plugin with our Sennheiser and Rode AMBEO mics.
What piece of Sound Devices gear is the favorite among the students?
We got the Scorpio recorders right before the pandemic began, and I only had the opportunity to do a small demo but nothing hands on. The recorders had to be stored for almost a year and a half with no use due to us going remote. I would say that once we came back in person, Scorpio became a novelty among them.
What are the challenges of teaching location sound?
In my personal experience, this is a difficult class to teach if there aren’t any hands-on or on-set experiences. Luckily, I was able to collaborate with another professor who was struggling on the other end from a lack of sound people!
We ended up coordinating both of our courses to provide on-set experience by working together in small production crews and producing small scenes during our 3-hour classes through the semester. This turned out to be a great opportunity to teach professionalism and appreciation for each skill on set.
Any advice for the location sound students out there?
Take any opportunity that you have to practice and learn. There is no safer space than college, so ask questions. Don’t be afraid to contact professionals – I’m sure many of them will be willing to answer if you ask respectfully.
Be proud of what you do. Audio sometimes is underappreciated but if it’s not well done, it will bring the quality of any project down.
I remember I used to check out every single piece of audio gear my school had even if I didn’t have anything to record. I would always come up with something just to get my hands on any piece of gear, especially because I didn’t know when I would get access to it again after graduation.
The best films I got to work on were those where everyone had the same goal, and we were able to work together and communicate to achieve it.
For more information on the Television & Digital Media Production program within the Roy H. Park School of Communication, visit their website.