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Issue #253

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Catching Up with Recording Connection
graduate Morning Estrada.


Recording Connection graduate Morning Estrada

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. Morning Estrada, graduate of Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production has gone from a job at the bank to working with today’s most dynamic and prolific artists including Aminé, Rosalía, Brandy, Trinidad James, Tech N9NE, Jessie J, and more.   Congratulations on your several Grammy nominations and Latin Grammy win.   “Thanks. It’s just been a really big year. I went from being nominated the previous year in one category in the American Grammys to having three new nominations [Best Soundtrack, “Invincible” from Into the Spider Verse & Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for Daniel Caesar ft. Brandy “Love Again”] including one win in the Latin Grammys for Best Urban Song for “Con Altura” by Rosalía [and J. Balvin, Frank Dukes, El Guincho].”   The past few years have been pretty amazing for you. How does it feel?   “Last year, when I got the [Grammy nomination] certificate that came for Camila Cabello’s album [Camila, for which Morning was nominated in 2018], I was just in shock when I saw it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I never even thought this was possible for me to do that.’   And then to go into later this past year and find out about being nominated for the Latin Grammy Awards, and then for the American ones…I was just in shock….To actually be honored and notified like, ‘Oh this song was a really good song and it’s Grammy nominated,’ it’s like, ‘Whoa, this isn’t me working in my bedroom anymore. This is the real deal.’”   So what does your family think of your success? Just a number of years ago, they weren’t so sure about your choice to learn audio engineering.   “My mom sometimes gets the names mixed up, but with Instagram and everything, I show her who the artists are, and she follows them now….In the beginning she was like, ‘Okay, we’ll let you do this. And in a year or so, you’ve got to go back to regular school and get a fulltime job.’   After that year and a half, things started happening and she was like, ‘Whoa, you have your own business. You operate your own business.’ And now she sees that, ‘Whoa, you’re actually busy all the time.’…I think that’s just a shocker to her, just because of the fact that my life has changed so much. She saw me grow up. In high school I wanted to be the party animal. I wanted to go out all the time and party, party, party. I really found my passion because I’d rather do this than anything else now.”   Exactly. You’re always appreciative of the opportunity you have to take part in the process.   “In the beginning of Recording Connection, you want to go from learning how to push the Record button to, ‘Now I want to record the top artists.’… And it doesn’t work like that. You have to really, truly fall in love with the process. And I think that’s why Recording Connection works so well, because it’s not like, ‘Hey, you can do all your lessons in one day.’…   You kind of go at your own pace….So you can sit back, read the material, or go over whatever you learn and practice it because you have access to the studio as well with the program. So yeah, I think it’s just falling in love with that process, really.”   So besides getting one’s technical skills down and working really, really hard, what else should up-and-coming engineers be good at?   “You might not know your tools in the beginning as you’re learning everything and you’re figuring stuff out, but don’t ever let that stop you from actually reading the room…. Not every artist can be musically inclined, but they definitely know the vibe or the energy that someone’s putting off…You also have to know when the artist is trying to think or come up with something. You don’t want to be like, ‘Hey, did you watch TV last night? Did you watch that episode of Friends?’ You have to understand when to be able to speak to them and stuff like that.   Yes, knowing the Pro Tools, and all the tools, and how the gear works, that’s great to know that. But if you can’t read the room, people will not call you back. If you’re just sitting there like a bump on a log, on your phone while the artist is trying to talk to you, and you’re texting people or laughing at Instagram, that could really set an artist off to be like, ‘I don’t want to work with this person anymore. Call the next engineer up.’”   Learn more about Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production, Beat Making, Logic, Ableton Live, Live Sound, and more!      
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or call (800) 755-7597

Special Feature

Straight Talk with Director of Photography
Vincent Wrenn.


Cinematographer Vincent Wrenn

Cinematographer Vincent Wrenn has three decades and hundreds of productions to his name, including HBO’s four part series The Defiant Ones, Inside Bill’s Brain, and the documentary Spielberg by Susan Lacy. We recently connected with Vincent to learn more about his journey into film, find out what he says it takes to be a pro in today’s industry, and to garner a number of insights and advice to share with you.   What led you into film in the first place?   “Honestly, what led me into film initially was lack of direction. I was young and didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I’m second generation. My dad is, or was until very recently, a Director of Photography. So I literally graduated on Saturday and I was an electrician on a commercial on a Monday, got into the craft and learned my way around set…   [Then] I went to college. I dropped out of the business. It was leaving that allowed me to really fall in love with the art of filmmaking…. Getting away from it, going to school, expanding my horizons in a number of ways, going to Europe for a while, seeing cinema differently, is what allowed me to want to know about not where the light went, but why it went there.”   Early on in your career you worked as a best boy. There are two different kinds of best boys. Could you explain the difference?   “Best boy is one of two positions in grip or electric, I mean, it’s really the same position in grip or electric, which is two different departments that work very closely together. The best boy is essentially middle management. If you’re the kind of person that likes to geek out on gear, and really get into the nuts and bolts of the tools of the trade, it’s a cool position. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll have to….I think what I got out of it as much as anything else was learning how to deal and negotiate with production and convince them to spend money they don’t want to spend, for instance, on gear that your gaffer or your DP wants, and make sure those deliveries come on the date that you need them, and leave when they’re supposed to…. So in that way, it was really beneficial in just like interacting with other departments as well.”   Could you break down the various Camera Department roles on a big production and one that’s shoestring?   “The 1st AC is in charge of the department. He/she creates the culture within that department and how people conduct themselves. Beyond that, a lot of responsibilities that might seem like a best boy’s responsibility…gets pushed over to the loader or the digital loader. The 1st AC is always on set and is in charge of pulling focus, managing the camera, changing the lenses for the DP.   The 2nd AC supports him, grabs glass, grabs filters, also lays down marks for actors and as well as for focus. Also now, there’s the DIT, who is constantly checking exposure and making sure the image is going to come out the way the DP envisions right there and then on-set, so there’s no surprises later. That’s, I guess, a decent to a large size production single camera film crew, then also maybe a camera operator.   The smaller it gets, the more lean it gets…. You always need a 1st AC…. I’d never want to shoot anything without a 1st AC. I’ve never pulled focus in my life, so I lean heavily on my 1st. If my gaffer didn’t show up, I could get by. If my 1st AC doesn’t show up, we’re going to have a rough day. 2nd AC is always valuable but not 100% required. And it’s really beneficial to have someone that’s constantly changing cards, downloading, and looking at footage making sure there’s no mistakes.”   As a DP or Cinematographer, how do you define what you do?   “The role of the Director of Photography is…actually almost every role on set is largely dictated by the role above you. So the DP requires a different skill set, depending on the director. The director who came out of acting, for instance, who might be really good at directing actors but maybe not so concerned about the millimeter of the lens you’re using, will just turn that responsibility over to you and let you make those calls. But some directors are like, ‘50 mils right here,’ you know, and they have a clear vision. So you have to kind of bend a little bit with them. But really your job…is to take their [the director’s] vision and make it better than they even thought it was going to be. The most pretentious way I can say what I do is that I evoke emotion through movement and light. But I mean that. I really think that that’s ultimately the job. Just as an actor is going to create a performance that causes a reaction, an emotional reaction in the audience, so should the lighting, and so should the movement. Now, not in a distracting way. So you have to be subtle with it, but it should be a subconscious effect on the scene at all times.”   Any words of advice for people who are thinking of making film their career?   “I feel that 85% of the population is not fit for what we do…. My advice to someone that wants to be in this business is to really consider your work-life balance and how challenging that’s going to be. If you grew up in a 9 to 5 home, and you think that that’s going to be something that you’ll experience in your life, you’re wrong. So know that this is going to become your life, and that you’ll have no schedule, and that 14 hours is a normal day. You’re not going to work and also make that date. You’re not going to have an evening to yourself, especially when you’re on a feature or a TV show. You’re [working] 80-hour workweeks, and that becomes your family. If that’s something that you don’t think you can give up, that freedom, then you should not do this for a living.   One of the things that is needed when you’re new, and probably throughout your career, is tough skin. You’re going to make mistakes. It is incredibly high pressure, minute-by-minute business, as every minute counts in a 12-hour day. And when they’re waiting on you to bring that one thing in, there’s going to be 60 people staring at the door when you walk in with it, and it might be the wrong thing. So learn the gear. Try not to learn it on-set. Go to an equipment house, go to school, and get your nuts and bolts, and learn the differences between, you know, the classic Baby Baby and a Tweenie, or you know, a Fat Boy Kino or whatever. There’s a ton of lingo so there’s a bit of learning curve, if you can get ahead of it, it’ll go a long way.”   Learn more about Film Connection for Film Production & Editing, Cinematography, and more!
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