Imaging UAE – Meet Tom Ferguson
Today I am really thrilled to do an Interview with Tom Ferguson. He is a Brit, but works in the UAE and images Channel 4 as well as he is the PD for that station. Tom was a great talent a few years ago and developed to one of the best Imaging Guys out there. He sent me his soundlcoud and I was blown away and needed to reach out to him to get to know more of how he does it, what is his favorite PlugIns, what techniques does he use etc.. Learn more about Tom, check his audio and screen caps….ENTER IMAGING UAE.
Thanks for inviting me to be part of the Blog Andy! I make the Benztown Blog a weekly read and often find myself inspired by many of the talented people who read / interact and share their radio imaging knowledge and experiences on here so it’s a real honor to be listed alongside some of the world’s finest imaging producers.
My career started at the age of 16 at 96.3 Radio Aire in Leeds as an assistant imaging producer ,this is where I learnt my craft. 2 years later I moved to Galaxy 105 in Leeds where I produced the breakfast show “Hirstys Daily Dose”, 18 months later an opportunity came up in the network imaging team and I jumped at the opportunity to be back doing what I truly love, imaging. This lasted for 4 years and I was then made redundant when the Global Radio take-over happened. I made not only a huge career move, but a huge lifestyle change by moving to the UAE to head up the imaging team at Channel 4, this has more recently developed into being the Deputy Programme Director and now for the last 3 months I’ve been running things as the Programme Director. I’m still very heavily involved in the imaging and hold it very close to me.
Mixed Imaging from Tom:
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What production system do you use? Why?
I’m a dedicated and loyal Pro Tools enthusiast. I’ve been using it for the last 8 years and feel at home in front of it, however I still find myself discovering helpful and useful shortcuts / tricks / working methods all the time. I used to dip in and out of Ableton for certain projects such as beatmatch promo’s but with Pro Tools Flex Time I no longer need to do that.
When it comes to creating music, I use Logic X.
What are you favorite plugINs?
When it comes to processing VO’s my go to plugins are Waves & Focusrite. I work from a template and adjust each session’s plugin settings to suit the VO’s that I’m working with. It’s a good starting point but there really isn’t a “Golden Setting” for the perfect VO (due to the different environments and equipment each VO is recorded via). I hope you find my Master Vox chain useful and a good starting point. I always try to create a clean, but punchy VO sound for both Male and Female VO’s (and that doesn’t always have to result in cutting all the bottom end away and having a thin VO). Think about your VO’s as an added musical element to the music / SFX underneath and ensure that your VO isn’t fighting for frequency space. Sometimes it means adjusting the music and fx as well as treating the VO properly.
PS. One thing I always do on all my Music & FX channels is have a highpass filter as the 1st plugin and have a sharp cut off at 65. With such high production values on music and production beds, certainly in CHR formats you can find yourself working with some really bass heavy tracks I said earlier that I like my VO’s to be clean (but punchy) in the way that they cut through, you’ll also hear from my demo that I like to get all kinds of weird on my VO’s and music elements. I love the Air-FilterGate and use that often, the ability to adjust and automate so many of its settings make the results endless. I also love to use the Izotope Stutter Edit as an insert and then route a midi channel to it and really mangle musical elements. Some of the built in pre-sets are great – especially the BT collection (an audio IDOL of mine), However some of them just result in messy noises, spend some time adjusting from a preset and you’ll love the outcome it can give! (If you like to get weird like I do). Another suit of plugins I’ve purchased recently is the Vengeance Producer Suit – this comes with some fantastic tools for music production.
How is it to work in UAE? What’s special? What’s different?
The UAE is unique in many ways, you’re talking about a country that is celebrating its 43rd national day this year (that means the country in theory is recognized as being 43 years old). Radio has only been around for about 14 years and many of the groups look at international markets for inspiration. The Channel 4 Radio network (where I work) has lead the way since conception.
The differences you face in the UAE stem from the country being so multicultural, whilst English is very much a dominant t language out here, western expats are still a minority. The language barrier can often cause confusion with scripting or presenting ideas and concepts to agencies / clients. Our radio group is made up of 5 stations, 2 English speaking (channel 4 and coast 103.2) 1 Hindi (Radio 4) 1 Malayalam (Gold) and 1 Arabic Station (Al Rabia) – I was recently asked to assist Radio 4 in creating a new image for the station. This was a challenge as I was making TOH’s, Idents, Music image promo’s in a language that I didn’t understand… I’ve attached an example of what I did with Radio 4. The station is now celebrating it’s highest figures and commercial revenue – something I’d like to think the new position and image has played a role in!
What is your key advises for youngsters?
Never give in. The radio industry has never been as streamlined as it is right now with most stations operating via a network or on a skeleton staff system.
I remember being 16 years old and already having the radio bug, I turned up at Galaxy 105 in Leeds during the school summer holidays with 2 starbucks, one for me and one for the Programme Director at the time (Mike Cass, now Nova 100 PD & Nova Network Assistant Group PD). I sat in reception waiting patiently, hoping he would give me at least 2 minutes of his time. I had done my research and knew what he looked like, he arrived in the morning and walked past me in reception through to his office, I followed up with the receptionist and asked her if I would be able to see him, she left and came back after 5 minutes and told me “Im sorry, Mike won’t be coming in to the office today he’s sick”.
Knowing he had just walked past me really upset me, so I drank his starbucks along with my own as I walked back to the bus station. I never gave in though, after this incident I ended up langing a full time job at 96.3 Radio Aire in Leeds and spent 2 years there before I got an email from MIKE CASS (yes the man that ignored me and lied to me) asking if I would meet him for coffee, he head hunted me and offered me a position at Galaxy (the station I had dreamt of working for since I got the radio bug). Be polite, be great at what you do and be persistent! Get yourself noticed (but for the right reasons).
What is your favorite radio stations?
That’s a tough one, If you asked me what my favorite radio station is because of their station imaging I would say BBC RADIO 1 & 1 XTRA, hands down.
If you asked me for my favorite station in terms of entertaining jocks and personalities, I’d say 94.7 Highveld in South Africa. Darren Simpson who does breakfast is one of the funniest and most creative radio personalities in the world IMO.
What is radio production like in 10 years?
Undiscovered frequencies and tonal sounds that trigger our minds to understand messages… we’ll live in a silent but audible world… or is that just my warped imagination? A little bit like the sex scene from Demolition Man….
Who is your favorite voice over ?
t would be unfair of me to single out 1 favorite voice over because I’ve worked with, and continue to work with so many. They’re all weird, wonderful and creative in their own unique way. Rachel Mcgrath was the station voice of channel 4 for the last 2 years and I enjoyed every session with her, we’ve evolved and moved on with a different direction now and I’m working with somebody new to me which is Becky Whitcroft, an amazing VO with so much depth and character, she just “gets it”
My Male Station VO is David Bethell, pretty sure he needs no introduction to most people who read this blog, despite him being one of the hottest male voices out of the uk he is also a musical genius. Read up about this guy if you don’t know his work, incredibly talented!
Thanks to Tom for sharing his work and experience with us!