Director, AES Student Recording Competition
Professor at University
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.
An individual student or production team may participate in multiple categories/subcategories (Category 1: Trad Acoustics/Trad Studio/Modern Studio & Category 2: Sound for Visual Media) by submitting different recordings for each. However, Only two submissions per academic institution per category & subcategory will be permitted in the competition. Judge selection, finalist qualifications, submission assessment, and award distribution will be overseen by the AES Education Vice-Chair.
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). Relative loudness will be dependent upon genre, style, and performance, but a recommended loudness (LUFS/LKFS) of -24/23 LUFS/LKFS and/or peak measurements between -18dBFS and -3dBFS should be adequate to allow for necessary dynamic range.
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 offer educational opportunities to students and showcase high quality music and recorded sound in a healthy environment of constructive criticism.
To participate in the AES Recording Competition, you must:
If a project is engineered by a team, all team members must, at minimum, be student AES members. It is not required that all student members are affiliated with the same university audio program, however, the student who submits the project will be the submission representative from their respective university. This submission will be verified with the associated university from which it was submitted. To present as a team at a convention all team members must meet the complete eligibility criteria. 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.
For the virtual competition format, the schedule layout consists of playback of submission material; a pre-recorded presentation by finalists lasting no more than 7 minutes containing answers to questions previously sent to finalists. 3 minute answers per question will suffice; and a judge presentation with feedback. This video presentation will be compiled and created by SDA for presentation during the convention.
Sub-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 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 microphone techniques employed in traditional “classical” or “acoustic”music recording, live performances of exclusively close-miked ensembles should be proposed for sub-category 2 or 3.
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.
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 process.
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. Remember, for this category you have to submit two files, so the limit is doubled.
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 processes 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.
Finalists will be announced prior to the convention. Please note that judges reserve the final right to select an appropriate number of finalists based upon the total number of entries to the Student Recording Competition. As all students will submit just one recording per Category, in Category 1 – Audio, SDA will organize submissions into sub categories. Participants may suggest the sub-category which was the aim of their submission, but SDA will separate the audio submissions into sub-categories that are similar in terms of recording and musical style. This sorting decision will be final. This will be listed by AES member number and then sent to the selected judges for those sub-categories (Traditional Studio Recording, Sound for Visual Media, etc). All criteria with which SDA will make these judgements is posted in this document within the category descriptions and will be visible on the website.
For the virtual competition format, the schedule layout consists of playback of submission material; a pre-recorded presentation by finalists lasting no more than 7 minutes containing answers to questions previously sent to finalists. 3 minute answers per question will suffice; and a judge presentation with feedback.
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 SRC eligibility guidelines.
It is not required that all student collaborators be part of the same/single audio program, however it is the responsibility of the submitter to communicate information about the finalists to their team-members.
Only finalists presenting at the convention may receive awards or certificates. To allow for multiple certificates to be made for all student collaborators, please be sure to include all student collaborator information during the finalist’s presentation and documentation. While the Vice Chair may be able to duplicate prizes for co-presenters, it is not always possible and winning students should anticipate only one set of prizes. Prizes awarded to production teams are split between team members.
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.
1.Be submitted in English
2.Not exceed 4 – 6 pages and 800-1200 words in length. Please note that page limits include all session documentation, photographs, and illustrations. Judges will not consider any information beyond this limit.
3.Include standard session documentation based upon templates created by the AES Technical Committee and the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing.
a. AES: Recommendations for Delivery of Recorded Music Projects
b. NARAS: Recommendations for Delivery of Recorded Music Projects
4.Include no more than 8 photographs or other illustrations.
5.Be in PDF format and submitted in a zipped folder with the audio files according to the submission guidelines below.
6.Contain 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. 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. Failure to comply with these guidelines may result in disqualification and removal from the competition.
The Student Recording Competition submission system will be open to students and the appropriate due date(s) will always be announced and displayed on the website. Each must be verified by the AES student section’s faculty advisor, or a trusted project supervisor of the student’s institution. When submitting their projects, students will be asked to provide their faculty advisor’s / supervisor’s email address, who will then be asked to approve the submission within three days of the submission deadline. 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 (all sub-categories), should be uploaded as a single .zip file that includes all appropriate audio files and documentation for that particular track. It is highly recommended that you take the latest industry or recommended loudness standards into account.
Submitted projects for Category 2 should be uploaded as two .zip files: one for the individual audio files (not interleaved) and documentation, and one for the video file. 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). Remember, that for this category you have 250 MB limit per file – 250 MB for video and 250 MB for audio.
All files must be in PCM .wav, at 24bit, 48kHz. Please remember, however, the firm 250MB upload limit. Surround and height 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 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.
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, or remix. Category 2 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 2 with membership number 12345 would submit an archive named:
A student entering the Category 2 with membership number 12345 would submit a video file named:
Stereo audio files would be named:
If surround, files would be named:
Documentation files would be named:
The audio files submitted electronically are distributed to the judges for critical evaluation.
Finalists will be announced prior to the convention. Students whose entries are selected will present from their files submitted online through the Student Recording Competition.
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. 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. Sample critique forms can be found in Appendix A and B of these rules.
Category 1: Sub-Category 1/2/3—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.
Playback and critique of the finalists’ recordings will be presented during the convention. Prior to the convention finalists will video-record their presentation and judges will provide feedback via recorded video. These videos will be compiled for presentation during the convention. In the case of a team-entry, the 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 to represent the recording setup and production process. These video presentations should be recorded in a standard format 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.
**Please note judge feedback, critiques, and finalist video presentations will need to be presented in English.**
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. 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.
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.
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
Prize allocation is a supplemental tool intended to aid 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 Education Committee Vice-Chair, 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 finalists. 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 Miles Fulwider AES Education Committee Vice-Chair at email@example.com if you have any questions regarding the rules.
The Education Committee Vice-Chair reserves the right to disqualify any entrants that do not follow the guidelines and eligibility criteria. Exceptions after the deadline cannot be made out of fairness for other competitors and the professionalism of the competition.
Please note these are made with the OLD category numbering system, but are still accurate and exemplary to what is expected in terms of content.