Online course in Critical Listening at DVinfo.net

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Old January 23rd, 2014, 03:06 PM   #1
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Online course in Critical Listening

There is a free and very good online course in critical listening available now from the University of Belfast via FutureLearn.

It is in the second week so it is not too late to join and catch up. I believe that about 3 hours per week is required. It is happening in real time so if you are reading this as an old posting it is probably too late.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/...dio-production
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Old January 24th, 2014, 11:53 AM   #2
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Thanks, Richard!
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Old January 25th, 2014, 09:06 AM   #3
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Thank you Paul.

For anyone reading this, a few words about the course may be of interest. This is not a review but some feedback that might help if you are thinking of signing up or wondering what it might offer you.

The full name of the course is Critical Listening for Studio Production. I suppose you could call it a sound engineer's primer.

If you make films and take your audio seriously it could be worth spending time on it. For instance if you have recorded someone in conversation and the result sounds a bit muffled or it lacks punch you are going to need to use some audio tools in order to fix that or to give the sound the character you want. There are many theoretical and practical aspects of this course that would help you a lot in such a situation.

The first week of the course finished with endless practical tests which involved listening to recordings in order to identify their frequencies. Then it went on to offer you tests where the task was to identify which frequencies were missing from a recording. If you asked me beforehand whether this is something that I thought I could do I would have said no. But it turned out that I could. So those endless tests were doing the job even if they were a bit tedious at times. I am no expert (what I have learned has been learned on the job, from books and from DVinfo) and I am not musical so if I can, you probably can too.

To be quite honest I skipped some of the more technical stuff (eg where they asked you to pull out a scientific calculator with a log function) but a lot of it has been useful and interesting eg I now know that if you double the frequency of an octave you get the next octave up. I also think that I now understand the difference between decibels used for measuring sound levels and the decibels you see in your sound recorder etc.

One word of warning if you do take it up. I am 58 and couldn't hear some of the higher frequencies. Although I was vaguely aware that we lose higher frequencies as we age this was a bit of a shock. But then I asked a 32 year old friend to listen to their 12k signal and she couldn't hear it either! So the problem partly seems to lie with my hardware. But I have discovered that at my age I am unlikely to be able to hear this frequency either, which is a bit depressing :-(

There are not any tests for your hearing or equipment at the beginning of the course. So you will have to work out for yourself if you have any problems. Having said that it is unlikely that if you are reading this that you do not have the equipment or are not aware of any hearing difficulties that may significantly interfere with what you can get from the course.

I think there is a lot to be learned by anyone who wants or has to take the audio part of their film making seriously ie if you don't have sound engineer to call on.

And at the moment it is free. So you can't argue with the price ;-)

I hope that helps.
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Old January 25th, 2014, 10:06 AM   #4
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Thanks very much for the heads up, Richard - signed up and currently working my way through week 1.
I could use a bit of practice to keep my ear in.
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Old January 25th, 2014, 01:47 PM   #5
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

I think it's Harman that has a free on-line ear training for engineers as well, but I flunked out when I had to pick out frequencies higher than about 8K. It was a sequential course and since I couldn't pass that step I couldn't go on.

32 year olds these days could easily have trouble with 12 khz if they indulged in some ear damaging levels in their teens and twenties. And plenty of gear gives up at 10 khz or a little higher, because in the real world there's not much info up there anyway.

Fran
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Old January 25th, 2014, 04:13 PM   #6
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Interesting what you were saying, Fran. In the early part of the Belfast course I thought that I/my set up was incapable of detecting much above 6 KHz, but I persevered and I am now finding that it is quite clear up to 10 KHz. Couldn't hear a damn thing on the first 8 KHz examples. Can't be just me - I don't believe it is just a matter of practice. I suspect there might be some inconsistencies in the delivery of the files.Still, that's a reflection of real life for you - all part of the training.

I notice there are some problems at the beginning of each of the videos I have watched (low resolution and audio sync out) then they settle down, but generally it seems well done.
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Old January 25th, 2014, 05:19 PM   #7
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
I think it's Harman that has a free on-line ear training for engineers as well, but I flunked out when I had to pick out frequencies higher than about 8K. It was a sequential course and since I couldn't pass that step I couldn't go on.
Fran
You don't need to pass anything in order to move onto the next step with this course.

There is some kind of certificate for those who want it and who can make the grade.
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Old March 7th, 2014, 04:44 PM   #8
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

Well I've finished that course now, and I'm even more grateful to Richard for his initial post. Thanks once again!

It was a Beta version, so there were a few typos and the occasional mixed up sound file, but that didn't detract from its value for me. I'm confident that there will be a review of any reported issues before it runs again. The depth of the listening exercises dismayed me at first, but I found that with a clear understanding of the processes involved and how they affect the sound, with enough practice it is possible to detect quite subtle processing of a single instrument in the middle of quite a complicated mix.

The main point is to teach really focused listening, and while that is second nature to me in the role of Musical Director, I found that I had much to learn from the engineer's standpoint. I will probably still have little use for digital vibrato, chorus, flanging and phasing in the audio work I do, but it has done no harm to have learned so much about the various parameters of each. At least I have learned how to use reverb to rather better effect.

When it appears again, I would unhesitatingly recommend this course to any else who approaches audio work from a related discipline, or even those who have been professionally trained in audio some time ago and fancy a bit of a skills revision.

To those who, like me, who are no longer in the first flush of youth, I would say not to worry about your hearing. I calibrated my desktop computer to compensate for a slightly uneven hearing loss, and managed to get through all the EQ tests quite well (I quickly learned that if I could hear ůĝğŗ all difference in the before and after files, the answer must be 12kHz and less than 6dB plus or minus!).
Although the introductory video recommends speakers, I preferred to use my trusty Senny HD 25-1 ll headphones because I use them for all my audio recording monitoring.

Here's the link again.

Richard, if we ever meet, I owe you several pints. :-)

PS - I got managed to score 79% in the tests! :-)
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Old March 7th, 2014, 05:09 PM   #9
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Re: Online course in Critical Listening

I met with Richard last week at BVE in London (and after...a little beer got consumed) and I know he found it a time consuming but very valuable excercise.

If I ever get the time (and it comes round again) I will be sure to try and do it.
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