Education & Career

AES Student Recording Competition Rules

For detailed instructions regarding registration and submission process please follow this "link"

The Recording Competition deadline for the 149th AES Convention, is 7th of September 2020.

See the past Recording Competition winners!

>> Past Recording Competition Winners

Student Recording Competition

The video presentation of every finalist will contain pre-recorded materials covering the following points:
1. Playback of the submission recording
2. *The presentation from the student finalist - approx 5 minutes 
3. Feedback from judges -  approx 5 minutes 
4. *Answers to the judges questions from the participant - 3 minutes maximum
*Items 2 & 4 must be video recorded by the student finalist, and submitted as a video recording (on a phone is OK) no later than 28th September.

It is the student's responsibility to understand the complete rules and procedures of the competition. Failure to do so often results in the disqualification of the project due to any number of issues!

 

RULES AND POLICIES

Effective January 2020

    1. Introduction
    2. Eligibility
    3. Competition Categories
    4. Documentation
    5. Finalist’s Presentation
    6. File Naming Conventions
    7. Procedures & Authorship
    8. Submission Timeline & Guidelines
    9.  Important Notice
    10. Convention Procedures

 

1: Introduction
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 any or all of the competition’s 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 (Audio, Visual Media, Remix, Immersive) but must submit different recordings for each category. The judging process, finalist qualification, and award distribution is overseen by SDA.
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 educational email address for your faculty advisor and to communicate to them this time-sensitive deadline.

Mixes submitted should represent your best mixing skills. This is a mixing competition, and therefore, any form of mastering is not allowed to be applied to your mix. Your mix levels should meet accepted standards through the mixing process, not mastering processes.

Violations of the rules and policies contained in this document will result in a deduction of points as your mix is judged – so an otherwise amazing mix may not be a finalist if it is mastered, submitted as the wrong file type, or the documentation does not meet the standards described in this document (a few examples only). Excessive violations of these rules will result in disqualification.

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.
 
2: Eligibility
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. (Remember, you can renew your student membership and register for events at student rates for up to one year following completion of your studies.)
• Engineer the nominated recording while you are a student affiliated with a college audio program.
• Be accepted by your faculty advisor as a contestant from your school or section.
• Register for a 4 day STUDENT ALL ACCESS BADGE for the Convention Technical Program. 
• Submit your recording and documentation electronically according to the submission guidelines.
Finalists must attend the convention, SDA 1 & 2 meetings, and the competition session they are competing in. Finalists will be announced at the SDA-1 session, and prize winners announced at the SDA-2 session.
• Finalists must give a short presentation during the competition session (described elsewhere in this document).

If a project is engineered by a team, all team members must also be enrolled students affiliated with the same university audio program (which will be verified by the faculty advisor), and to present as a team at a convention all team members must meet the eligibility requirements above.
 
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. Submitting additional songs from the same album, scenes from the same movie, or any additional material from the same project is also prohibited in future competitions.
 
3: Competition Categories
The Student Delegate Assembly reserves the right to disqualify entries that do not meet the criteria/rules in this document. The SDA also reserves the right to move submissions to other categories or disqualify them if they feel they were submitted incorrectly.
A: Category 1 - Audio

Sub-category 1 – Traditional Acoustic Recording 

Sub-Category 1 is suitable for recordings of acoustic instruments, vocalists, and ensembles recorded live in natural acoustic settings such as concert halls, performance spaces, 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 primary arrays and individual microphones so that the musical balance, perspective, and spatial orientation are largely a function of the ensemble, the acoustic space, and the recording techniques.

 

• The final stereo balance may be mixed and recorded live, or multi-tracks may be recorded and mixed in post-production.

• Editing is allowed.

• Overdubs are prohibited.

• All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s).

• Mastering is not allowed, but levels should meet acceptable standards.

• Only stereo submissions are permitted.

• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.

• Submissions should be between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and edited to meet this requirement.

• Audio and documentation files should be downloaded as a single zip file, not exceeding a 250MB upload limit.

 

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 microphone techniques employed in traditional “classical” music recording, live performances of exclusively close-miked ensembles should be proposed for sub-category 2 or 3.

 

Sub-category 2 – Traditional Studio Recording
Sub-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 proposed for sub-category 3.
 
• Emphasis is on the craft of multitrack studio recording and mixing.
• All live acoustic or electroacoustic sources.
• Editing and overdubs are allowed.
• No sample loops or sample replacement from synthesized or prerecorded sources.
• No MIDI sequences.
• All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s).
• Mastering is not allowed, but levels should meet acceptable standards.
• Only stereo submissions are permitted.
• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.
• Submissions should be between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and edited to meet this requirement.
• Audio and documentation files should be downloaded as a single zip file, not exceeding a 250MB upload limit.
 
Sub-category 3 – Modern Studio Recording & Electronic Music
Sub-category 3 is intended for all multitrack studio projects that do not meet the restrictions of sub-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 sub-category 3, 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 and mixing 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 and mixing performed by the entrant(s).
• Mastering is not allowed, but levels should meet acceptable standards.
• Only stereo submissions are permitted.
• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.
• Submissions should be between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and edited to meet this requirement.
• Audio and documentation files should be downloaded as a single zip file, not exceeding a 250MB upload limit.
 

B: Category 2 - Sound for Visual Media

Category 2 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.

 

Music videos, live concert or in-studio style video recordings, or any other music-only works are not acceptable submissions. All category 2 submissions must have non-musical sounds in one form or another (such as narration, sound effects, voices of characters, sounds made by objects in the video, or ambient noise from the environment). Music accompanied by video can be submitted as audio only to any other category as long as they meet the engineering and mixing requirements for the category.

 

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 Category 2, 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.

• Loudness appropriate to the delivered format, style, and genre.

• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.

• Submissions should be between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and edited to meet this requirement.

• Submitted projects for Category 2 should be uploaded as two .zip files: one for the audio mix (multi-mono, non-interleaved files) and documentation, and one for the video file (containing no sound).

• Video files should meet appropriate frame rate standards (PAL for European conventions - 25 frames per second, and NTSC for conventions in the US - 29.97 frames per second).

• For this category you have 250 MB limit per zip file - 250 MB for video and 250 MB for audio.

• All channels will be played at equal level, including the LFE 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 the upload limit, though also high enough so as to clearly see synchronization elements, such as with dialogue and Foley.

• Video files should not contain any sound.

• Make sure the submitted video and audio files are time-aligned so the play in sync when imported into a DAW to the same start times.

C: Category 3 - Remix

Category 3 is intended as a creative mixing outlet with a small set of criteria to allow competitors ample space and freedom to create what they feel best expresses, or enhances, the music from the provided track. The Student Delegate Assembly will provide stems for competitors to utilize within their remix. It is up to you which tracks to utilize and how to do so, and you can also add elements if you wish. There are no stipulations regarding re-recording tracks of the song, or even re-recording all of it if you see fit! The only limitation is your creativity and artistic vision. We urge you to make the track fit your style, taste, and genre of choosing.


The judged factors are as follows, with the first three of highest importance:

• The time allotment for the track must be around +/- one minute of the original songs’ length (i.e. An original song clocking in at 5:20 should be remixed within the 4:20-6:20 range).

• Quality and uniqueness of the overall mix.

• Creative use of provided and original content.

• Other “standard” evaluative methods (tonal balance, tempo and timing, musical dynamics, dynamic range, relative track levels, musical balances, track panning, creative processing, soundstage and spatial qualities) will be utilized.

• All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s).

• Mastering is not allowed, but levels should meet acceptable standards.

• Only stereo submissions are permitted.

• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.

• Audio and documentation files should be downloaded as a single zip file, not exceeding a 250MB upload limit.

 

>>The remix for AES149!


>>Here you can listen to the original track

 
D: Category 4 - Immersive Audio
Category 4 is intended for any type of audio-only recording created to be an immersive experience. The category is open to all surround (5.1) and immersive recordings up to 5.1.4 (up to 5 lower level, 1 LFE, and 4 height channels). There are no genre or style limitations in this category, making it open for content from orchestra recordings to rock bands to dance music. Break up the file upload into multiple zipped folders with neither exceeding the 250 MB upload limit. Please note the supported formats listed as there are no exceptions to this.

Emphasis on the full exploitation of the recording studio or performance environment as a musical instrument.
• Any genre or style is permitted.
• Up to 5.1 or 5.1.4 delivery formats ONLY.
• Submit multi-mono, non-interleaved files.
• All channels will be played at equal level, including the LFE channel.
• Audio files and documentation should be split between multiple zipped folders, none exceeding 250MB.
• All recording and mixing performed by the entrant(s).
• Mastering is not allowed, but levels should meet acceptable standards.
• All audio files must be PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz.
• Submissions should be between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and edited to meet this requirement.
 
4: Documentation
All contestants must submit appropriate electronic project documentation (PDF) with their audio mixes. The specific documentation must 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.
 
Documentation must:
• Be submitted in English
• Be a minimum of 4 pages, and a maximum of 6 pages in length, and about 800-1200 words in length. Please note that page limits include all session documentation, photographs, and illustrations.
• Include standard session documentation based upon templates created by the AES Technical Committee and the Recording Academy'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.
• You should propose a sub-category suggestion on the first page if submitting in Category 1 - Audio.

Documentation must be anonymized entirely. Only the entrant’s AES member number is to be used for identification. The entrant(s) name must not appear anywhere on the documentation. 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.
 
5: Finalist’s Presentation
Playback and critique of the finalists’ recordings will take place during the convention in an open session with the judges and an audience. During the playback sessions, each finalist (individual or group) is allowed a maximum of ten minutes to describe the 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. These presentation are not anonymous, and finalists are free to disclose any information that was anonymized in the submitted documentation.
6: 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: audio, visualmedia, remix, or immersive.
 
Category 2 archive files will be appended with _audio or _video, respectively. Individual surround or immersive files shall be named similarly, with channel designations included as _(L, R, Ls, Rs, C, LFE, HL, HR, HLs, HRs) [see below].
 
Example: A student entering Category 1 with membership number 12345 would submit an archive named:
12345_audio.zip 
 
Example: A student entering Category 2 with membership number 12345 would submit an archive named:
12345_visualmedia_audio.zip
and
12345_visualmedia_video.zip
 
Stereo audio files would be named:
12345_audio.wav
 
Immersive audio files would be named:
12345_immersive_(L).wav
12345_immersive_(R).wav
(12345_immersive_(Ls).wav) [Left Surround]
(12345_immersive_(Rs).wav) [Right Surround]
12345_immersive_(C).wav
12345_immersive_(LFE).wav   
 
If height channels are used, files would be named:
12345_immersive_(HL).wav
12345_immersive_(HR).wav
12345_immersive_(HLs).wav 
12345_immersive_(HRs).wav
 
Documentation files would be named:
12345_audio.pdf.
 
A student entering the Category 2 with membership number 12345 would submit a video file named: 
12345_visualmedia.mov
 
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 or changes after the deadline cannot be made, out of fairness to other competitors.
 
7: Procedures & Authorship 
To participate as a finalist in the Student Recording Competition, finalists must be present at the SDA-1 meeting on the first day of the convention. Finalists will be announced at this meeting. 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. Prize recipients must also be present at and until the end of the SDA-2 meeting.
 
As all students will submit just one recording per Category. In Category 1 - Audio, SDA will divide the recordings between the sub-categories. Participants can suggest the sub-category which was the aim of the submission, but SDA will have final say over which subcategory the submission is entered into.
 
Submissions will be listed by AES member number and sent to the selected judges for each sub-category. The decision made by SDA is final. All criteria with which SDA will make these judgements is posted in this document within the category descriptions and is visible on the website.
 
Authorship of your submission, just as in the case of academic articles, is of the utmost importance. While it is presumed that you may have worked with numerous individuals (producers, musicians, etc.), this work should be considered your own to claim and present (what would be considered the primary author of a paper). In many disciplines, including our own, collaboration is the norm and issues of authorship can be controversial. However, please understand that all engineers credited must have been involved throughout a majority of the production process.
 
If you worked with several individuals who deserve to share in the credit of the project, you may include their names as collaborators. However, note that only one individual may submit the project (as there is only one primary engineer/author of the work). As well, please understand that all individuals listed as collaborators must meet all competition eligibility guidelines.
 
Only finalists presenting at the convention may receive awards or certificates. While the Student Delegate Assembly may be able to duplicate prizes for co-presenters, it is not always possible and winning students should anticipate only one set of prizes.

8: Submission Timeline 
The Student Recording Competition submission system will be open to students from about 120 days prior to a convention and submissions usually are due approximately 60 days prior to a convention. The due date will always be announced and displayed on the website as well as reminders sent via social media and electronic means.
 
 
9: Important Notice 
It is the student's responsibility to understand the complete rules and procedures of the competition. Failure to do so can result in points deductions or disqualification of the project, for reasons including incorrect file formats, incorrectly named files, documentation files that are not anonymous, etc.
 
Please read and understand the rules, and contact us with any questions you might have.
 
Good luck with your projects!

 Please direct all questions, comments, and concerns to the Student Delegate Assembly at sda@aes-sda.org.

  
10: 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 as finalists will present from the audio files submitted online through the Student Recording Competition, but are welcome to bring additional digital copies as backup. Finalists may bring additional documentation materials for their presentation.
 
A: Judging Procedures and Criteria 
Judges are selected by the SDA and associated Education Committee Officers on a per-convention basis, and will be rotated in and out at events based on attendance, category needs, creating balance and variety on the judging panels, as well as completeness and thoughtfulness of the comments given in the written forms and during the students presentations at the convention. We thoroughly appreciate your participation, but please do not be offended if others are rotated in during different conventions.

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 criteria below. Additionally, judges will also take the difficulty of a project into account. Recordings that are especially ambitious can score a few extra points, so take this into consideration when choosing a project to submit. As described elsewhere in this document, and in fairness to all entrants, entries that do not follow the rules may have points deducted or be disqualified. Sample critique forms can be found in Appendix A and B of these rules.
 
• Category 1: Sub-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 1: Sub-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 2 – Quality of soundtrack components and the overall mix; creativity; success in supporting and enhancing the narrative and/or emotional impact of the visual component.
• Category 3 – Quality and uniqueness of overall mix; Creative use of provided/original content.
• Category 4 – 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 (depending); soundstage and spatial qualities, use of immersivity in enhancing the musical affect, message, and experience.
 
Playback and critique of the finalists’ recordings will take place during the convention in an open session with the judges and an audience. During the playback sessions, each finalist (individual or group) is allowed a maximum of ten minutes to describe the 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. These presentation are not anonymous, and 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 Competition Presentations will be published in the convention Technical Program.


B: Awards 
Judges may recognize outstanding recordings by conferring merit awards to the finalists in each category. Finalists will be 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. It is also possible that none of the entries in a given category will 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 
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Bronze: The recording is judged to be very good by professional standards and shows the potential for achievement if released.
4. 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

D: Prizes
Prize allocation is a supplemental tool intended to aid the Student Delegate Assembly 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 SDA, 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 the Student Delegate Assembly at sda@aes-sda.org if you have any questions regarding the rules.
 

 

AES - Audio Engineering Society