Interview with iZotope’s Jonathan Wyner on Pro Audio Essentials TEC Award Nomination

NAMM is right around the corner which also means the TEC awards are right around the corner as well.

Next month many innovators will be honored in various categories at the TEC Awards, and iZotope happens to be one of the nominees. 

iZotope has been nominated for a NAMM TEC Award in the Outstanding Technical Achievement category of Audio Education Technology for their  Pro Audio Essentials 

I had a chance to get a few questions answered by Jonathan Wyner, Director of Education for iZotope.

Big thanks to Jonathan for taking the time to answer my questions!  Check out what he had to say…

1. Most of us know iZotope as an audio software provider, what exactly does your role as Director of Education for iZotope consist of and what motivated you to step into this role? 

As Director of Education at iZotope, I develop and deliver presentations about audio signal processing and audio mixing, mastering and production for both domestic and international audiences. My role includes participating in product development consultation and design strategies, as well as supporting inbound marketing efforts with the creation of educational and training assets. My background as a professor at the Berklee School of Music, as well as a familiarity and love for iZotope products, motivated me to step into this role. iZotope products are designed with great transparency and enormous flexibility, which make them excellent teaching tools. As someone who strives to help musicians and engineers reach their goals, this role felt like a natural next step.

2. Does your role as Director of Education have an impact on the execution of ideas and features within the software itself? 

When it came to Pro Audio Essentials, I worked with a small team to develop not only all of the instruction, but the product design, features, and functionality within the application. We modeled the interactive practice tools based on real equalizers in our software, so that the experience users were receiving would be just as if they were using an actual EQ. My focus is on learning outcomes and I tried to focus on that in all aspects of Pro Audio Essentials — to shift the process of learning from a passive activity to a more active user experience. 

3. Do you feel it is important to have some sort of educational element within the software itself, and do you see presets as a way to accomplish that? 

At iZotope, we recognize the importance of having an educational component within the software itself.  The best tools are those that teach you as you use them. Our software has contextual help that appear when you hover over the parameters.  We have all manner of visualizations and metering. We have an entire area of our blog dedicated to tips and tutorials. The articles also offer intros to products and presets, specific tips for any type of audio production, and informational videos as well. For example, in our recent release of Ozone 7 Elements, we included a look inside its presets, so users could get a better idea of its 70+ presets designed to replicate the signal chains of award-winning mastering engineers. We’ve also created a number of in-depth guides, on topics like mixing, mastering, and audio repair, that can be downloaded for free from our website. 

4. You guys have always been pretty good at providing education surrounding your software, what made you decide to put together a dedicated course? 

At iZotope, we have a deep-rooted passion for both education and empowerment. We wanted to take that passion to the next level and work to evolve the current landscape of audio education. By developing an online resource that was both interactive and engaging, we were able to shift the balance from passive learning to active learning. We enable our community to learn by doing, rather than via a “sit-and-git” experience. 

5. There were probably a few topics you could have chosen to cover for this course, how did you decide on which topics to focus on? 

We focused on some of the basic building blocks of the audio production vocabulary.  It doesn’t make sense to talk about complicated concepts until you have a solid grasp of the essential tools of the trade.  Conceptual understanding of EQ, Compression, and digital formats as well as ear training is fundamental for the study of music production and engineering. A keen understanding of those topics are key to the success of any audio engineer—particularly when working in the mastering part of the workflow. But what users learn will help them become a better engineer, regardless of whether they’re mixing or mastering. Pro Audio Essentials was designed to help users improve their audio knowledge and listening skills, so that they can make better-sounding mixes and masters and do so more quickly.

6. How did you come up with the concept of the course itself, why did you feel a game-based approach would be most beneficial? 

There are some fantastic ear training tools available. They use different models to help users train their ears in a way to help them learn technical language—and they are all effective in doing so. It’s helpful to be proficient at hearing and describing sounds “by the numbers,” but the learning can’t stop there! It’s only useful to learn to hear a .5 dB change at 16kHz if it helps a user to DO something. In other words it’s a cool skill but so what? We’ve tried to give users that “so what” by connecting technical language with descriptive language that is tied to musical elements. Pro Audio Essentials was designed to be fun, interactive, and game-based, so that users are learning and practicing at the same time. It’s not just ear-training challenges, it’s not just concept videos, it’s not just interactive practice tools—it’s all of these combined that help users to develop their skills. 

7. What should users expect to walk away with after completing the Pro Audio Essentials course? 

Our hope is that users who complete Pro Audio Essentials walk away with a deeper understanding of the recording process, improved audio knowledge  and listening skills, and an overall stronger skill set. They will come away with something they can practice over and over as their skills level up. For us, it’s all about helping music makers succeed and arming them with the tools to create better-sounding tracks. 

8. What have you learned about the course through user feedback and did the reception meet or exceed the expectations you had when creating the course? 

We’re thrilled with the reception Pro Audio Essentials has received—in both the professional community as well as the academic community.  We’ve heard back from users who not only feel they are improving, but that they’re eager to come back for more practice. Additionally, Pro Audio Essentials has found a home with higher-ed music school professors. In fact, we’ve recently begun a partnership with Berklee Online where it will be used to supplement their existing music technology and introductory music production courses.

We’re always anxious for additional user feedback, and I welcome everyone to give us their comments, which will help us further develop Pro Audio Essentials as the go-to tool for audio education.

9. Can we expect to see more dedicated courses like this in the future? Maybe even a continuation of this series itself?

Education and the development of educational resources has always been a top priority for us at iZotope. Be on the lookout for more in 2017 and beyond.

10. Congratulations on receiving a TEC Award nomination for Ozone 7 Advanced as well! How do you think iZotope’s focus on education as a whole has had an impact on the overall use and reception of Ozone 7? 

Because of our passion for education, all our new products and installments are developed with our users in mind. We try to incorporate workflow concepts into the products which makes them well suited to learning and education.  As we do with all new releases, when Ozone 7 and Ozone 7 Advanced were released we created a tips documents for our users to consult, which I think helped with the overall reception. We also updated existing documents on our Tips & Tutorials page with information from Ozone 7 so that new and existing users could see how the changes and upgrades affected their work. 

Answers from Jonathan Wyner, Director of Education