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AES Student Recording Competition
RULES AND POLICIES
Effective January 2015
- Competition Categories
- Entry Procedures, Formats and Documentation
- Convention Procedures
- Appendix A - Sample Critique Sheet for Categories 1 - 3
- Appendix B - Sample Critique Sheet for Category 4
- Appendix C - Samples of Exemplary Submitted Recording Documentation and Convention Presentations
The AES Student Recording Competition is a unique opportunity for student attendees of AES International Conventions to receive feedback and recognition for their audio production work. If you wish to participate as either an individual or a group, a faculty advisor must recommend your recording to represent your school in one of the competition’s four categories. This should be the faculty advisor of your AES student section if one exists at your school or a trusted faculty member from your school if you are a student member of AES enrolled where a section does not exist. For example, students who are members of AES regional student sections including the majority of regions outside North America, will have approval handled at their school by a trusted faculty advisor to ensure each school is appropriately represented.
An individual student or production team may participate in multiple categories by submitting a different recording in each category. However, each school may submit only one entry per competition category. If multiple students or student groups in a school wish to enter the same category, they must consult their faculty advisor. One suggestion is for schools to hold preliminary contests to identify the best project in each category. Faculty advisors will be asked to verify all entries via an automated email response within 3 days of the upload deadline. As the participant, it is your responsibility to provide a valid university email address for your faculty advisor and to communicate this time-sensitive deadline accordingly.
Students are expected to submit competition mixes that represent their best final mixing efforts without additional mastering. Judges frequently criticize student mixes for excessive peak limiting and inadequate dynamic range. Therefore, contestants should resist the temptation to maximize loudness to the detriment of tonal balance and musical dynamics.
Students who are not competing are strongly encouraged to attend the Recording Competition events at the AES Convention, where they can hear the highest quality projects created by other students, learn from the thoughtful comments of the judges, and share their opinions and suggestions with others in attendance. The goal of this program is to showcase high quality music and recorded sound in a healthy environment of constructive criticism.
To participate in the AES Recording Competition, you must:
- Be a current Student Member of the Audio Engineering Society. Join at aes.org/join. Please note that fees vary by region.
- Engineer the nominated recording while you are a student affiliated with a college audio program.
- Be selected by your faculty advisor as the sole representative / group for your school in a competition category.
- Register for an ALL ACCESS BADGE for the Convention Technical Program.
- Submit your recording and documentation electronically according to the submission guidelines prior to the deadline.
- Attend the convention in person.
It is the responsibility of each student to ensure eligibility which must be maintained throughout the Recording Competition. If a project is engineered by a team of students all team members must, at minimum, also be enrolled students affiliated with the same university audio program which will be verified by the faculty advisor. To present as a team at a convention all team members must meet the complete eligibility criteria above. Violation of these rules will result in disqualification. Late entries will not be accepted under any circumstances
Once an entry is submitted to an AES Student Recording Competition, it is disqualified from future competitions. This also means submitting additional songs from the same album, scenes from a movie, or any additional material from a whole and complete project is prohibited.
3: Competition Categories
A: Category 1- Traditional Acoustic Recording
Category 1 is suitable for recordings of acoustic instruments, vocalists, and ensembles recorded live in natural acoustic settings such as performance halls, churches, theatres, soundstages, pavilions, and similar environments. The recording may take place with or without an audience present. Entries in this category will generally be recorded using combinations of individual microphones and microphone arrays so that the musical balance, perspective, and spatial orientation are largely a function of the ensemble, the acoustic space, and the recording technique. The final stereo or surround balance may be mixed and recorded live. Alternatively, tracks may be recorded to multitrack media and mixed in post- production. Editing is allowed, but overdubs are prohibited. This category may include classical, jazz, folk, or any other genre of music that is performed and recorded live in a suitable acoustic environment. Electronic instruments are allowed, provided that they are reproduced through acoustic means (e.g., amps and loudspeakers) and are recorded live using the microphone techniques described above.
Since this category is defined by the live application of stereo and multichannel microphone techniques employed in traditional “classical” music recording, live performances of exclusively close-miked ensembles must be entered in either Category 2 or 3 according to their specific criteria.
- Emphasis on the craft of acoustic music recording on location
- All live acoustic or electroacoustic sources
- No overdubs
- Editing and mixing allowed
- All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s)
- Stereo or surround delivery format
B: Category 2 – Traditional Studio Recording
Category 2 is suitable for recordings that are created in a recording studio or similar facility using multitrack studio techniques and technology. Music of any genre is permitted, and both editing and overdubs are allowed. Electronic instruments such as electric guitar, electric bass, and keyboards may be recorded direct and/or by acoustic means. Conventional signal processing techniques (e.g., equalization, dynamics, reverberation, etc.) during recording and mixing are permitted. Since this category is defined by the creative and proficient use of microphones and studio recording techniques, MIDI sequences, sample replacements, and sample loops from pre-recorded sources are prohibited. In other words, all sonic and musical elements must be performed by musicians and recorded by the contestants specifically for the project. Mixes based on highly processed and synthesized sources should be submitted in Category 3.
- Emphasis on the craft of multitrack studio recording and mixing
- All live acoustic or electroacoustic sources
- Editing and overdubs allowed but not required
- No sample loops or sample replacement from synthesized or prerecorded sources
- No MIDI sequences
- All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s)
- Stereo or surround delivery format
C: Category 3 – Modern Studio Recording & Electronic Music
Category 3 is intended for all multitrack studio projects that do not meet the restrictions of Category 2. All options are allowed with respect to sound sources, recording techniques, creative production, editing, processing, and mixing. Music of any genre is permitted, including, but not limited to, pop, rock, dance, rap, hip-hop, electronica, recordings of live DJ performances, and re-mixes. “Anything goes” in this category, provided that recordings do not violate applicable copyrights. Note: While the use of samples, MIDI, electronic instruments, and other creative process are highly encouraged in Categories 3 and 4, the AES Student Recording Competition is, above all else, designed to judge excellence in audio recording and production. As such, the composition elements discussed are secondary to the recording process.
- Emphasis on the full exploitation of the recording studio as a musical instrument
- Any combination of real and virtual sources allowed
- Captured in a studio environment onto multitrack tape or DAW, fully programmed on a computer, or anything in between
- All modern recording, signal processing, editing techniques are allowed
- Programming, sequencing and sampling, including sample loops and sample replacement/enhancement allowed
- All recording, production, and mixing performed by the entrant(s)
- Stereo or surround delivery format
D: Category 4 - Sound for Visual Media
Category 4 is intended for any type of sound recording created to support a visual experience. The category is open to all visual media, including narrative and documentary video and film, advertising, video games, signature graphics, and image spots. Sonic elements such as dialogue, narration, sound design, and musical scores are permitted. These sources may be derived from production sound, sound effect libraries, synthesis, and original “wild-track” recordings made by the contestant. Audio content must be arranged specifically for use with the video. Therefore, music videos and live concert reels are not acceptable entries. Audio from these projects should be submitted to categories 1, 2, or 3. For projects involving video games, you may capture raw gameplay and layback audio to that video, or you may implement the audio adaptively and via an appropriate audio engine / middleware and capture that combined audio and video output. Note: While the use of samples, MIDI, electronic instruments, and other creative process are highly encouraged in Categories 3 and 4, the AES Student Recording Competition is, above all else, designed to judge excellence in audio recording and production. As such, the composition elements discussed are secondary to the recording process.
- Emphasis on the craft of recording, editing and mixing sound to complement visual media
- Any combination of dialogue, music and sound design elements permitted
- All editing and mixing performed by the entrant(s)
- Stereo or surround delivery format
The Student Delegate Assembly reserves the right to disqualify entries that are submitted into the incorrect category or that otherwise violate the criteria listed above.
4: Entry Procedures, Formats and Documentation
Finalists will be announced at the first Student Delegate Assembly meeting (SDA-1) on the first day of the convention. To participate as a finalist in the Student Recording Competition, finalists must attend SDA-1. Please note that judges, in coordination with the SDA as needed, reserve the final right to select an appropriate number of finalists based upon the total number of entries to the Student Recording Competition.
All contestants must submit appropriate electronic project documentation with their audio mixes. The specific documentation will vary for each project and must adequately describe the recording and mixing processes for the project. Students should accurately portray how the recording was created and mixed, using proper session documentation such as studio setup diagrams, microphone input lists, patch lists, mix notes, photographs, etc.
- Be submitted in English
- Not exceed 4 - 6 pages and 750-1000 words in length. Please note that page limits include all session documentation, photographs, and illustrations. Judges will not consider any information beyond this limit.
- Include standard session documentation based upon templates created by the AES Technical Committee and the Recording Academys's Producers and Engineers Wing.
- Include no more than 8 photographs or other illustrations.
- Be in PDF format and submitted in a zipped folder with the audio files according to the submission guidelines below.
Documentation must be anonymized entirely. Only the entrant’s AES member number is to be used for identification. Other people involved in the production such as performers, composers/songwriters, publishers, technical personnel, assistants, etc. should only be referred to by their first names and the initials of their surnames. Also, the locations where the submission was recorded, mixed and mastered must not be disclosed. Entrants should work to omit any clues to institution/university affiliation to preserve the impartiality of the competition. The Student Delegate Assembly reserves the right to disqualify entries that are submitted without being properly anonymized.
B: Submission Guidelines
The Student Recording Competition submission system will be open to students from 120 days prior to a convention and submissions are due 30 days prior to a convention.[*] Submissions are limited to 5 minutes in length, should be no shorter than 3 minutes, and must be edited appropriately to meet this requirement. Files exceeding 5 minutes or 250MB will be rejected.
Each submitted recording in Categories 1, 2, and 3 should be uploaded as a single .zip file that includes all appropriate audio files and documentation for that particular track.
Submitted projects for Category 4 should be uploaded as two .zip files: one for the individual audio files (not interleaved) and documentation, and one for the video file.
All files must be in in PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz. Please remember, however, the firm 250MB upload limit. Surround channels will be treated at equal level including the sub channel. Videos must be an ISO MPEG 4 (.mp4) or Quicktime (.mov) container format. Entrants should use MPEG-4 or H.264 codecs, keep the resolution reasonable in deference to o the upload limit, though also high enough so as to clearly see synchronization elements, such as with dialogue and Foley. Videos should also not contain any sound. Therefore, entrants should make sure that their submitted video and audio files are time-aligned.
C: File Naming Conventions
Entries must comply with the following file naming convention: .zip files shall be named membernumber_category.zip, where "membernumber" is the entrant’s AES membership number and "category" is the category of entry as follows: traditionalacoustic, traditionalstudio, modernstudioelectro, or soundforvisual. Category 4 archive files will be appended with _audio or _video, respectively. Individual surround files shall be named similarly, with channel designations included as _(L, C, R, Ls, Rs, LFE).
Example: A student entering the Category 1 with membership number 12345 would submit an archive named:
Example: A student entering the Category 4 with membership number 12345 would submit an archive named:
Stereo audio files would be named:
If surround, files would be named:
Documentation files would be named:
A student entering the Category 4 with membership number 12345 would submit a video file named:
The audio files submitted electronically are distributed to the judges for critical evaluation.
The Student Delegate Assembly reserves the right to disqualify any entrants that do not follow the file naming and upload requirements. Exceptions after the deadline cannot be made out of fairness for other competitors and the professionalism of the competition.
5: Convention Procedures
Finalists will be announced at the first Student Delegate Assembly meeting (SDA-1) on the first day of the convention. Students whose entries are selected will present from their files submitted online through the Student Recording Competition. Students are welcome to bring additional digital copies as backup.
A: Judging Procedures and Criteria
Judges will receive entries anonymously, approximately one month before the convention, allowing time for a thoughtful evaluation in listening environments of their choice. Evaluation criteria will vary by category and include the following attributes. Sample critique forms can be found in Appendix A and B of these rules.
- Category 1 - Accuracy and quality of tone; suitable balance of direct-to-ambient sound; dynamic range; musical dynamics; musical balance of internal parts; soundstage depth; soundstage width; source-localization and perspective.
- Category 2/3 - Quality of recorded tracks; quality and uniqueness of overall mix; tonal balance; tempo and timing; musical dynamics; dynamic range; relative track levels; musical balances; track panning; creative processing; soundstage and spatial qualities.
- Category 4 - Quality of soundtrack components and the overall mix; creativity; success in supporting and enhancing the narrative and/or emotional impact of the visual component.
Playback and critique of the finalists’ recordings will take place during the convention before the judges and an audience of attendees. During the playback sessions, each finalist (individual or group) is allowed a maximum of ten minutes to describe his and/or her production process and play a sample of the recording. Each team shall elect a spokesperson who will speak on behalf of the group. Finalists are encouraged to prepare several slides or graphics that can be displayed via computer projection to represent the recording setup and production process. These presentations should be brought as PDFs to ensure maximum compatibility. In their presentations, finalists are free to disclose any information that was anonymized in the submitted documentation.
Judges have the option to make comments and ask questions of the participants prior to making their final award decisions. Locations and times of the Recording Presentations will be published in the convention Technical Program.
Judges may recognize outstanding recordings by conferring merit awards to the finalists in each category. Finalists will not be ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, but rather awarded Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention certificates of quality. As it is possible to have more than one extraordinary project in each category, judges may award more than one Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention certificate. Thus, any combination of awards is permitted, as long as it does not exceed four awards per category. Furthermore, it is also possible that none of the entries in a given category rise to the level of Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention. Judges are not obligated to select finalists in every category.
Awards will be presented to the finalists at the last meeting of the Student Delegate Assembly (SDA-2) on the final day of the convention.
This award system is intended to make the Student Recording event less of a head-to-head contest and more of a merit-based, collegial competition that recognizes outstanding student recordings.
C: Award Criteria
- Gold: The recording is judged to be artistically and technically extraordinary by professional standards and could be award-worthy in the marketplace as a commercial release.
- Silver: The recording is judged to be artistically and technically excellent by professional standards and could be competitive in the marketplace as a commercial release.
- Bronze: The recording is judged to be very good by professional standards and shows the potential for achievement if released.
- Honorable Mention: The recording is judged to be good by professional standards and shows the work of a talented engineer.
“Awards are given to un-mastered student entries based on their ability to achieve truly professional levels of quality. Winning entries don’t sound like a student project. The student has performed so well that their project sounds like the work of an experienced, talented audio engineer. No excuses are made for any flaws; they are simply professional-sounding in every way. Judges hear a recording which, after a high quality mastering session (entries should be unmastered), would be fit for release.”
- Alex Case, AES Education Chair Emeritus
Prize allocation is a supplemental tool intended to aid the Education Committee in congratulating students for exemplary work. It is secondary to the recognition of achievement bestowed by the AES. Prizes in the form of audio hardware, software, accessories, apparel, and other merchandise may be presented to competition awardees upon or following the receipt of achievement certificates. The selection of these items will vary based on the generosity and intentions of competition sponsors.
Prize distribution shall occur at the discretion of the AES Education Committee, which reserves the right to assign prizes to individuals or their respective institutions based on the number and value of available items, the intentions of the donating sponsors, the number of competition awardees, the levels of recognition received, and the number of participants per entry. Students should note that sponsor-provided prizes are provided in addition to their honorary certificates, which represent an extraordinary accomplishment of which awardees should be extremely proud.
Please contact Magdalena Plewa at email@example.com if you have any questions regarding the rules.
6: Appendix A - Sample Critique Sheet for Categories 1 - 3
7: Appendix B - Sample Critique Sheet for Category 4
8: Appendix C - Samples of Exemplary Submitted Recording Documentation and Convention Presentations
Additional examples of project documentation and convention presentations available upon request.
[*] The availability of the Student Recording Competition submission system from 120 days prior to a convention will not be in effect until Fall 2015.