Imaging in the UAE and PlugIN Insanity – Meet Vish…

Vish is the head of imaging for Radio 1 and Radio 2 of Abu Dhabi Media Group and while Nadine was staying in the UAE she connected me to him. His demo on soundcloud blew me away and I had to chat with him about Imaging and radio in the UAE. Learn about his favorite plugIns, Imaging Tricks and Enter Vish!

Hi Vish, please give us some background info about yourself.

My name is Vish. I am currently the Imaging Production Manager for Radio 1 & Radio 2 UAE. I’ve been in imaging and radio production for about 8 years now. My other work includes freelance custom imaging for a company in the UK, as well as sound design and podcast production for a few podcasters in the UAE. While my work has been predominantly in CHR/Hot AC English radio, I have also produced Imaging for a Bollywood Station and an Arabic station (briefly, and with translation help). When I’m not producing imaging or other audio, I am either busy being a dad to two kids or performing as the drummer for a local band here in Dubai.


Which production system do you use and why?

I use a combination of Pro Tools, Logic Pro X & Reason. Pro Tools is my primary DAW for editing, mixing and over all production and Logic & Reason for Beat production, programming etc. I’ve been using Pro Tools & Logic since my days at audio school and being the industry standard at the time, that’s what I followed. I did an internship at a post-production studio during my time at University and that’s where I discovered the true power that Pro Tools had. The internship also enabled me to learn all the shortcuts really quickly as well as develop a solid workflow system, which has evolved all these years, so Pro Tools is my choice of DAW, since it’s what I know.


What are your favorite plugins? What is the perfect VO chain?

My favorite plugins for processing are Slate Digital full arsenal of Compressors, EQs and Saturation plugins, as well as their Verbsuite Reverb and the D16 Repeater Delay. I’m a bit of a plugin junkie so I’ve tried a large number of plugins but keep going back to Slate. I also use the Waves CLA compressors from time to time and Waves’ L1 & L2 maximizers. For special effects I really like working with iZotope’s Nectar and Vocalsynth plugins for vocoding and pitch/tuning effects and Melda Production’s MAutopan & Waves’ new Brauer Motion for cool 360 styled panning effects. I’ve also been toying around with Stutter Edit and Sugar Bytes’ Effectrix recently for cool glitch and gate effects. My mix buss constantly features iZotope’s Ozone 7 Equalizer and Maximizer plugins.

Since I work with many different kinds of VOs in my work, I don’t have one perfect chain. I tend to alter my approach a little depending on what I’m producing. As a basic starting point I do some corrective EQ and D’essing if needed and get it balanced in the mix before I do any additional EQ or compression to give it some character. I like my VOs to sound natural and not overcompressed and harsh. I have separate tracks for VO lines that need to be emphasized such as the call to action liners or text numbers will probably have a telephone EQ, some tape distortion and slap delay. I like having the production bring out the writing more, with clever use of samples, acapella cuts or drops and to add overall energy.

How do you schedule your work?

Being a freelancer for the past year, this has been the most testing aspect of my life. Since I mostly work from home, I take advantage of being able to start really early and finish off any backlogs of work and get a head start on what I can expect coming in for rest of the day. I also use a timer to ensure that I don’t spend too much time on one production. This could be anywhere between an average of 1 hour for an intro to 3 hours+ for a long promo/opener. I currently don’t use any updating imaging or FX libraries so a certain amount of time and effort goes in finding appropriate sound design, drops, vocal samples and music beds for any production.

I also slot in time for sending out emails, and other admin work. I spend time once a week in cutting up individual takes of specific lines from my VO and labeling them, so I have them at hand when needed to get a promo or ID done faster without having to re-edit any audio. I also make sure I’ve got my sample libraries properly organized and labeled to spend less time searching specific audio clips. Small timesaving factors can really add up on the whole and get things going faster and make room for any urgent production that needs to be done.


What do you love about being the head of imaging? What is special about UAE and the Imaging/Radio community?

My position as Head of Imaging is only recent and since we’re in the very early stages of re-launching Radio 1 & Radio 2 under a new network, my work has been predominantly operational in nature, finalizing VOs and services for the station along with budgeting for any other required resources. Since I work from home I do miss being an in-station producer for the culture and of course feedback from listening sessions.

Radio in the UAE is truly exciting and challenging because of the enormous diversity of the people here. I believe there are more than a 150 nationalities that live here and the UAE truly exemplifies the idea of peaceful co-existence beyond traditional boundaries. It’s a market that undergoes regular shifts in the population and demographics, which means we have to constantly find new ways of expressing our brand and our product. Having to constantly re-invent ourselves, while challenging, brings new energy and excitement into the way I approach my production. We don’t have an Imaging/Production community here, not yet, but it’s a great idea and worth looking into I guess.


What is the best Pro Tools or production trick anybody should know?

I wouldn’t call it a production trick as much as ‘trade advice’: “An extra set of ears”.
Earlier, when I was an in-station producer, I would have our PD come in to listen to anything I’d produced and more often than not, he’d pick up on something that would be so subtle yet really effective and it would make a huge difference in the way the promo/ID sounded on the whole.

It also helps to imagine yourself in the ‘listener’ seat often and try to listen like a normal listener would, it helps in developing a more objective and critical opinion about your own work. I also highly recommend learning music theory, especially rhythm theory and at least the concept of major and minor scales. This can go a long way in helping shape well-paced, rhythmic and musical sounding production.



How do you get inspired and what do you use as source of creativity? What does the term “creative imaging” mean to you?

I’d like to think that ‘Creative imaging’ is imaging that has the ability to evoke an emotional response from your audience, while staying true to your brand at the same time. I understood this better when for a brief period of time, a station I once worked at had all its imaging changed and replaced with a batch of basic IDs that had nothing but the station name and a random mix of positioners. It felt like they were just a batch of IDs that were put together for the sake of having some imaging on air and then never got updated. In that phase, it lost its entire audience share and it’s connection with listeners. What once was a station that had so much soul and personality was suddenly bland and boring. I also wasn’t able to get any idea of what the brand was about and what was special about that station. That’s when I learnt that no matter what one does technically, they may have the best effects and the most powerful VO in the world, but if they aren’t used to deliver a clear message, set a tone and build a brand with consistency and emotion, it’s going to fail to connect with its audience.

For inspiration I spend time listening to Soundcloud highlights of various producers. I also listen to other radio stations such as Triple M and Fox FM in Australia, The Rock in New Zealand and Kiss FM and BBC Radio 1Xtra in the UK. All these stations are home to some of the best producers. I also listen to a few podcasts including Ryan Drean’s Producer’s Podcast and the Earshot Creative Review with Steve Martin. Recently Chris Nicoll, former production head at Capital has started his podcast and it’s really amazing, that a producer as great as him is helping so many producers with his immense experience and skills as a producer.


Who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a producer?

There are too many to mention here. Tom Cross & Adam Burgess from Imaging Blueprint are the first names that come to mind for me. They are not only some of the best producers, but they have also been hugely influential in my work directly. They’ve given me invaluable amounts of feedback, tips and advise, constantly helping me improve my production. Apart from them, I still get the chills when I listen to Jeff Thomas’ work. Other names that come to mind are Michael Andersen at Triple M, Matt Nikolic @ Fox FM and David Konsky @ 2DAY FM. Chris Nicoll’s work at Capital and one of the guys who produce for Kiss FM UK (Mitch Von Arx) are also a major inspiration for me.


Thanks for this interview, Vish!


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