Imaging In 2019 – Carl Kinsman

Welcome to the “Imaging In 2019 Series” – a blog series that interviews inspiring producers and great creators of Station Sound.

Carl Kinsman

Carl Kinsman

Wow. Where do I start with this week’s post.  Myself and Carl got to collaborate together about five years ago. Carl had just recently moved from Cool FM to QRadio and we got to share loads of ideas.

Carl is a true Radio guy and probably knows more about it than most – which makes this a really fun and great interview.

Carl Kinsman of QRadio, Belfast.

1. Tell us about your career and how you got to Q Radio

I always liked “putting on the records” so to speak; It was from a young age that I used to practice doing pretend radio shows in my old room and tried out my own production too. After practicing for so long it was during my last year at high school- throughout the early 90’s, that my Dad actually took a tape cassette of me pretending to do a radio show and gave it to the boss of the new community radio station ‘Wear FM‘ in Sunderland. I had been already involved in Hospital Radio South Tyneside doing one show a week, however this was essentially the ‘big break’. Because of that tape, I quickly ended up getting involved in the production side of radio and soon after I was given the chance to get on the air co hosting an evening show. 

Not long after leaving school I had a short spell on ‘Radio Top Shop’ working in the Metro centre, Gateshead and Glasgow outlets. Then one day while I was live to the stores in Glasgow I got a call from the boss of Atlantic 252. I had been a big fan of the station which was soon to be the UK’s biggest commercial station. I was given the chance to present the late night show and also weekend party shows. At the time, I was the youngest presenter on UK national radio. You can imagine the jokes from others like, ‘When are you doing your exams’ etc! I then got to work for Metro FM, the station I always wanted to be on with some of the presenters I listened to growing up in the North-East. This also meant presenting some shows on it’s sister station TFM in North Yorkshire. 

In the late 90’s I moved to Northern Ireland to join ‘Cool FM’- I got to present a few different shows including Drive-Time then quickly after, the Breakfast show. In the late naughties I came off full time presenting and took up the new role of Station Sound Producer for both Cool FM and Downtown Radio.

After being at Cool FM for such a long time, I was looking for a new challenge elsewhere outside of Northern Ireland but Q Radio seemed to find me first, persuading me to stay local. Q Radio had a newer, more progressive sound compared to its former softer format. The prospects this station brought into the province definitely made for more exciting radio- for instance they were soon to cover nearly every inch of Northern Ireland frequency wise. Currently, I am the Manager of the Production department (Group Head of Station Sound) at Q Radio. In other words, I produce all of the station branding, Identification and station Promos etc alongside being in charge of the audio sound.

2. What's your opinion on the current state of play with regards to Radio Imaging?

It has changed a lot. There are less imaging producers in radio due to radio groups buying other stations. Some have a team of producers and some Imaging producers are producing for various stations instead of just one. So a lot more work is required- what this means for imagers now is we have to be able to work fast and still be creative and fit in the time to learn new tricks and skills etc. I find that the best way to do this is by carefully using time management. I prioritise things by on air date and delegate to other team members if I need to. I also let the guys who send the sponsor tags and promos know that I need stuff sent 48 hours before they go live or at least a time that allows me to fit it into my schedule and be creative rather than having to stop everything and jump straight to it. OK sometimes you have to allow for this to happen but it should not be the norm!  

Branding will always be important regardless of how radio develops and grows in the future. Recently, Imaging Producer Kelly Doherty spoke at “The Radio Days conference in Switzerland, she spoke eloquently about how imaging can be used as a tool to create an environment that encourages a connection with our listeners. This area of Imaging is something I am passionate about, connecting with our listeners and leaving an impression hopefully a good one with them, basically making the listener feel like they are part of the station.

A few years ago, liners and Jingles were filled with boasts and hard sell salesperson type tactics, now I think we need to be really focusing on who we are talking to, e.g, would we sit next to a friend and say “Hi, I’m the BEST person you know!”, “Keep being my FRIEND! “, or “Hey I’m the ONLY friend you need, forget the rest you’ve got the BEST!”. Slogans thankfully have now moved away from empty boasting about how big and wonderful we are to a less arrogant, more connective use of language.

Currently at Q Radio we have introduced the strapline, ‘Q Radio….. Feels Good’ , not just meaning the music but the brand, giving a more holistic feeling to with everything we do. 

3. In 2019, what do you think is more important - creativity or technical ability (or both)

When it comes to imaging I think both are important. But of course content is more important to the audience. How important is production to the audience though? Well I was thinking about that. If you’re watching a TV programme people will always look forward to watching the characters and the things they say. (Content). They will never say ‘That was amazing last night…. the bit where the whoosh sound came in after his joke’ …. But if they were to watch a programme badly edited with bad timing going to the next scene etc or, if it had no music, it would change the whole dynamic of the programme. I remember my family gripping on to their chairs during suspenseful moments, when watching X Factor. If the programme just let you see the singer on stage and the judges speaking with no sound effects or editing etc, I don’t think they would be feeling the same way watching it at all. The production can sometimes be the invisible part to people. They don’t realise that it’s the production that is making everything more exciting! In Radio Imaging or Music Production, knowing the technical is the part that makes everything illuminate, or in other words create a different dynamic to what could be described as black and white and add colour. So yes both content and technical both go hand in hand. A Music Artist will always be particular about how their album is both produced and mastered!

4. What was the best tip you know now, that’d you wish you knew when starting out?

I didn’t fully understand frequency clashes when cutting and adding EQ. Learning how to produce dance music about 10 years ago helped me to understand frequency clashes and how each instrument and kick cannot fight over the same frequency area etc. By letting bass be bass in music tracks, and removing parts of bass in voices stops them both fighting for the same frequencies, therefore this allows multiple sounds at the same time rather than each element taking turns to be heard. 

5. What set up do you? DAW/Favourite plugins etc

I will always be faster using Adobe Audition as I have used it since around 1997. When it comes to all the sponsorship tags and promos I use the latest version of Audition. I also love Pro Tools for production that involves any kind of beat matching. My sonic sounds and music composition are produced on Logic Pro X using instrument plug-ins like Sylenth1 and Nexus for synths, strings and pianos etc. My main production plug-ins are still Waves. I think they just get the job done and I’m familiar with how they work. From L1 Limiters, C1 comp / gate. (used on voices / drops etc), C4 Multiband (used in master chain before the L1 Ultramaximizer), Tru Verb (for big room reverb), Reneisance EQ6 (for extra headroom when EQ-ing), Doubler4 (for creating nice chorus sounds on voices), Enigma (for glass echoes), R Channel (to create some nice distortion sounds), Waves Tune and Morphoda (for tuning voices and vocals). Outside of Waves, sometimes I use Native Instruments plug-ins such as Stutter Edit (used for playing with some words like rah…ddddio etc), ‘The Mouth’ also comes in handy especially on the Taylor Swift – ME! , branded intro, for this I wanted to  create a sound that mimicked the robotic effects of Taylor Swifts  vocal on that particular song. Then there are the usual built in ones like Echo and delay.

6. What's your favourite type of production to produce and what format is your preferred?

I have always been influenced by Z100 New York (CHR format). I am very thankful for the help I have been given by Dave Foxx who was Imaging Director of Z100 for many years. I think Staxx who took over from him is also doing a great job in keeping up the momentum. I like how the imaging at Z100 doesn’t sound too busy. I try to keep everything tidy and to the point without it sounding too over the top. Although Q Radio is a Hot AC I think my style and sound could fit both CHR and Hot AC. Another one of my main influences is BBC Radio 1. I think it has the best station sound on the planet at the moment. The brand always sounds attractive. I love how Radio 1 have imaging voices that don’t deliver in the typical voice over sound. Its very cool and relaxed but has attitude without sounding like its trying too hard. I most enjoy being creative by grouping voices together and layering acapella vocals, tuned voices, drops etc. I think its important to have real sounding sung vocals mixed in if you’re using a lot of auto tuning. It keeps it real. So my favourite type of imaging would have to be the type where the brand name glitters! 

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