MAYS LANDING - Michael Dress and Mike Neugent arrived two hours before the musicians during the recent Indie Music Festival at the Watering Hole Cafe here.
Verbal Designs Entertainment hired Dress and Neugent to not only provide the sound for the festival's acts, but also to record their sets of original music. Dress, an audio technician, and Neugent, an audio engineer, are co-owners of Digital Warmth, music company based here.
The company specializes in remote recording, where a live performance can be recorded and the end result is a CD with recording-studio clarity.
"I always thought it was funny that bands would spend all the time to practice together, then when they would go to the studio, they would wind up recording each part individually. We can capture music. You get together to make music. I think a remote recording or location recording captures that essence of live music, of people collaborating in the moment," said Dress, of Petersburg, Upper Township. "Everyone playing together has a certain energy. Now, if you have an audience in front of you, it builds that energy into something you can't get in a studio."
One of the reasons for an act to use Digital Warmth's recording method is its cost. Digital Warmth will charge a band $500 to have its show in a bar recorded for a CD, as opposed to the group paying twice as much to spend an extended amount of time in a recording studio, the partners said. The average cost of using a recording studio to make a CD ranges between $60 and $80 an hour.
Digital Warmth's process is two steps - quality control at the recording site and digital manipulation in the studio.
When the Digital Warmth duo arrives on the scene, they set up as many as 32 microphones to capture the sounds of all of instruments from a band. Each microphone receives its own channel, or track, which contributes to the fullness of the final recording's sound. The microphones, which can be filtered to reduce the sound from the other instruments, are plugged into four, eight-track preamplifiers, which convert the analog sound to digital for further processing.
At the indie festival, adjustments were made to the equipment prior to the sets by each of the 20 acts performing that day.
"You've got to make sure you are using the right microphones and make sure you are not overloading your preamps on the way in," said Neugent, a bassist, who added either he or Dress keeps an eye on the recording levels at the site.
Digital Warmth's multi-track, audio recording setup was placed to the left of the acts performing during the music festival at the Watering Hole.
The system features a computer, a TV monitor, a balanced power unit, a backup power unit and master "word clock," which allows all the sound samples from the microphones to align. Without the syncronization, there would be a significant loss of quality.
Once all the live performances are recorded on 32 channels digitally at the scene, the process of manipulating the tracks in the studio is called the mixdown. For instance, the lead vocal track can be played by itself to see if the sound of other instruments bled into the vocal microphone. If so, the sound of the instruments can be minimized electronically. All 32 tracks can be soloed in the studio and listened to for their individual sound quality if necessary.
The end result can be a more ambient recording that is a strict reproduction of an act's live show, or a studio-quality recording where a person couldn't tell that a live performance was recorded. Their recordings are of a higher quality than someone taping a live act with a couple of field microphones.
"It was really the technology that enabled us to do this," said Dress, 35, who is also a saxophonist and a keyboardist.
Michael Angelo, the owner and operator of Verbal Designs Entertainment, based here, hired Digital Warmth to run the production of his show. The recordings were done to provide the performers an opportunity to purchase their live performances. A compilation CD may or may not come to fruition, Angelo said.
"I would love to have it as a marketing tool for my company," Angelo said.
Dress and Neugent still need to presented samples of some of the songs to the acts, who expressed interest in buying them. The acts, who pay for the digital recordings, can do what they want with them. They can take their digital recording, press copies of CDs and sell them themselves or have the duo supply them with CDs to sell.
Digital Warmth previously recorded the Egg Harbor Township rock band Cover to Cover when it played a gig at the Bayshore Inn in North Cape May. The band's bassist and vocalist Chris Svec said the duo pulled out all the audience noise and any other background noise from the recording.
"It was like studio-quality basically. They just did a very quick mix," Svec said. "It turned out very well actually... I think they did a great job."
Mike Kuzma, 28, lead vocalist of the Ocean City punk band Great Deception was confident his group would be pleased with the recording made of their set at the indie festival, even though the Watering Hole is not the typical venue for the band's live music.
"The equipment they have is second to none," Kuzma said of the recording company. "We will definitely check out what the guys were able to capture."
Digital Warmth started with just Neugent, who lives here, at his home studio. Dress and Neugent met and started hanging out in 2002.
"We were both doing it on our own, recording, until we met each other. We wound up jamming together and recording together. Eventually, one day it was like, hey, we could do this for other people," Dress said.
A handful of people in the Northeast, including New York and Philadelphia, offer remote recording, Dress said.
For the past five years, Neugent has worked part time and Dress has been employed full time as the operations manager at ACIR Professional in Egg Harbor Township, which provides professional audio, backline, lighting, video and studio services.
They picked people's brains and learned about such things as balance power and backup power. Balance power ensures a constant and even power flow. Any fluctation in power will cause "jitter," which is cause of poor recording quality. The backup power unit allows the duo to have the ability to properly save the recording and shut down the computer safely in the event of power loss.
Since they started obtaining bookings for this type of work in 2006, Digital Warmth's high points have been recording singer and actress Idina Menzel, of the TV show "Glee" and the Broadway show "Rent" at the Tilles Center in New York, and comedian Kathy Griffin at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Digital Warmth's most loyal customer has been Betsy Lynn Paisley, the owner of Sound Reflections Management & Booking in Northfield. When Paisley, 58, started her house concert series five years ago, she hired Digital Warmth because he wanted audio, video and photographs taken of the performances.
Pailsey has hired them at least 20 times.
"We sat down and talked. I didn't know anyone else. They gave me a good deal," said Paisley, who declined to say how much she paid. "They're always here. They're really good."
Over the years, Paisley has had such performers entertain at her house as German musicians Georg Schroeter and Marc Breitfelder, who won in the "solo/duo" category at the International Blues Challenge 2011 and the blues group Kimon & The Prophets, who previously performed in The Trocadero Balcony in Philadelphia and the Stone Pony, Asbury Park, Monmouth County.
Musicians, who have performed in Paisley's home, have never complained about their recordings, she said.
Paisley owns the Digital Warmth recordings of artists that perform in her home because she pays for the video shoot and the audio recording. She gives the artists audio and video of their shows for them to do what they wish. Some of them have used either Digital Warmth audio or video for promotional purposes on their Websites.
Contact Vincent Jackson:
COMPANY - Digital Warmth Recording, a business that can record live performances and turn them into studio-sound quality CDs, has been co-owned by audio technician Mike Dress of Petersburg, Upper Township, and audio engineer Michael Neugent of Mays Landing for the last six years. For more infornation, call 856-207-6728 or visit the Website www.digitalwarmthrecording.com