If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter to finish an assignment, you can stop patting yourself on the back, slacker, because a group of fourth-year Ryerson students put all your cut-and-paste efforts to shame with the final project in their Radio and Television Arts degree. Third Floor Sessions is a series of ambitious music and multimedia events that is part live show for an in-house audience, part live internet broadcast, part HD multi-camera videos, and part fully produced MP3s of the live set that will, at its conclusion, span five months, hundreds of hours, four (maybe five) bands, and piles of sanity.
Elissa Matthews is one of the seven core group members behind the Third Floor Sessions and says that the idea was hatched in August, when most students were soaking in the last of the summer laze. “The idea for the project came from a group of us getting together and trying to figure out something exciting for us audio-inclined students to be involved in. [We wanted to use] some of the resources that have recently become available, especially the capability to make things that used to work separately—such as live streaming to the internet and multi-track recording—work in tandem.” Staged in the broadcast booth and audio production rooms of the third floor in Ryerson’s RCC building, the project is similar to another Ryerson music project, the SPIRIT Sessions, but with added live-broadcast and video components. “SPIRIT Sessions was actually started by some of the members of our production team, and it definitely influenced us when coming up with this project,” Matthews says. “The technology wasn’t in place at that time to do much more than record the music offline and upload the MP3s. When the new studio was put into place this summer, the direction we took seemed like a logical move.”
With their career ambitions ranging from working in radio to, indeed, working in the music industry, Third Floor Sessions is a perfectly un-sneaky way for Matthews and crew to get a head start while making their own DIY mark on the city’s music scene. But, oh yeah, there’s that whole school-and-grades thing, too. “In terms of meeting curriculum, this should be a professional piece of work that shows our capabilities within the media landscape. We’re being assessed on four main aspects of our project: the live online stream, the audio mix that is released later as MP3s, the videos that will be released later for streaming and download, and finally, an EPK package that documents the entire project.” And the scope of the project means long, thankless hours, both in planning and on production days. “In the pre-production stage, we collectively put in over two-hundred-and-fifty hours of work on the project. On a shoot day we pick up gear and start rigging at 10 a.m. to go live for 8 p.m., and by the time we tear down and wrap, it’s usually around 11 p.m.”
Local art-punk spazzes dd/mm/yyyy were the most recent Third Floor Sessions guests. Rotating multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Matt King says the opportunity is good not only for the overall project, but for the band, too—especially when the students’ endless work produces more than just a good grade. “The idea of a professional recording of our live set is exciting; we often get more attention for our live shows than our recordings. It’s a good document. And the Ryerson kids were great. They were totally professional, and by what it sounded like in the booth afterwards, they did one of the best jobs recording us [that we’ve heard].” Once some post-production editing and mixing is done to the live footage, the video and audio tracks are released as free mini live albums, complete with Third Floor Sessions artwork. The dd/mm/yyyy audio session is now available, with video slated for release soon. (The set from the first guest, Kay Pettigrew, can also be downloaded and loved.)
There are still two more confirmed shoot dates at the school—tomorrow, Wednesday, November 25 with Gravity Wave, and Saturday, December 5 with Ohbijou—and a potential third in the works. If you’re not one of the twenty-ish people who reserve a ticket, be sure to watch and/or listen live at SPIRITlive.net. And feel free to place bets on whether or not all of Ohbijou and their gear will fit in the room.
All photos by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.