S. F. Shields, Media Smoothie
Editing, mixing and mastering
Hello, My name is Scott and I'm an Audio Engineer. I own my own mix studio called Media Smoothie and I'm working on expanding it into a proper recording studio.
In my time as an Audio Engineer I've worked in various roles on many different projects. I have two degrees in my field and I am proficient in music production, production sound, post production, mixing and mastering, ADR and Dialog Recording, songwriting and working as a producer.
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Interview with S. F. Shields, Media Smoothie
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I worked as the mastering engineer on Pop Music Is Not A Crime by Dylan Grimm. Dylan's mixes were really awesome and we spent something like two days mastering it. It was really easy to do and working with Dylan is always a blast.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Building up my business and my website. It takes a lot of effort but it'll be worth it in the long run.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I've worked extensively with Eric over at ESO Audio Arts. He does great work and is always great to work with.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I don't really have a preference. It really just depends on what kind of sound you're going for.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I always try to do the best work that I can possibly do. I'm not interested in doing things in a mediocre fashion and I take what I do very seriously.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I really enjoy working with and developing artists. It's really satisfying to work with someone and to watch them struggle, work hard, improve and put out a product that they are really proud of.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: How much is it going to cost. The answer is usually: It depends. Each project is unique and has its own set of challenges. In this day and age of the internet people are used to being able to bargain shop at the click of a button so its comes as a bit of a reality check when they can't do that with recording or mixing.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Probably the cost. Most of the people I've worked with are small bands or film projects that have very little money set aside for a project. They tend to get a bit upset when they come in with the mindset of spending $250 and come to find out it will be $2,500 or $25,000 instead. I've figured out that I have to be really transparent in explaining exactly where their money is going and I spend a lot of time explaining why recording in a properly treated studio is nowhere near the same as a basement recording in terms of quality.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: There are a couple of questions that I try to get answered based on project types. For film I want to know if the picture is locked and completed. I actually write into my contracts that when I start a project if the picture is changed at all my estimates go right out the window and I move over to an hourly rate until the project is finished. Nothing is more frustrating than working on a project for a week and then having to realign everything because a scene was changed. Music is a little bit different. I usually end up having a lot of conversations about tone and how we want things to sound.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Because cost is the biggest issue that I face in dealing with clients, I recommend that you really take the time to educate yourself on exactly what it is you are paying for. I also suggest that you get into the mindset of getting the best engineer that you can afford instead of looking for the cheapest person you can possible find. It will make a huge difference in the way your projects come out and oftentimes the cheapest people available will end up costing you more in the long run anyways.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I really try to be as transparent as possible. In recording I try to accurately capture what I hear standing next to something in a room. Mixing is sometimes a bit harder to be transparent but my ultimate goal is to have a listener never consciously think about the mix of a song. Just to sit back and enjoy it.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I'd really like to work with Imelda May, The Refused, AFI, Tiger Army, The Living End, and Rise Against. Each of these groups has consciously decided to step away from sounding like everyone else and developed their own sound.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I love working on all sorts of music. If I know I'm going to be working in a particular genre I try to do a lot of research on how and where a particular song or album was recorded. I also listen to a lot of things in the same genre to help prepare.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I guess having really high standards. This really translates to everything I do. If I have a choice I'm not interested in putting out mediocre material at all. Sometimes that means doing things over again for free if I didn't get it right the first time.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: This really depends. Each song is different and has its own challenges and hurdles to overcome. When it comes to mixing I really just try to bring out the best aspects of a recording and get out of the way of the good parts.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: For mixing I start by setting up the specs for a session and set the mix level for a project. After that I usually just sit down with a notepad, hit play and listen to the project from start to finish. I write down any first impressions I have to refer to later on down the road. After that I organize my session by labeling and color coordinating everything. After that I do a basic pan and volume adjustment, edit everything out that I don't want to hear, cross-fade everything, shape things with eq and dynamics, import a bunch of songs to reference my mix against, and do a final pass.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: I guess my Gretsch 6120 SSLVO, a good tube amp, a pair of Lewitt LCT 640's, my computer and a good 8 channel interface.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: Since 2011. It took me a while to figure it out but when I did figure it out it was like someone welcoming me home after a long absence.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Get the best sound you can at the source. Stay away from canned sounds and samples. And record everything in a room with a real person. Especially Drums.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Right now I just have a mixing studio that I'm planning on expanding into a much larger full size studio in the future. There are a couple of studios that I have access to if I need to record anything major.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Mostly the ones I've worked with. I think my favorite person to work with is Dylan Grimm. I've also worked with Eric Openshaw, Bruce Kirby, Bryan Sansom, Ryan Purcell, Ray Bowers, Bradly Shorts, Mateo Colletti and a whole bunch of other great people. Each of them is a great engineer and artist in their own right, and I've tried to take the best that each of them has taught me and incorporate them into my own practices.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Recording and Mixing. These include music and film projects almost evenly.