Saturday, March 31, 2007

5.1 Channels of Pure Love

I'm finishing up the surround mixes of Millennium Crisis. And I'd become quite concerned with bass management and the Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channel.
For good reason.
The gain structure of the audio in feature films is, as far as I can tell, kinda messed up. In the "mix position" (which is a place which doesn't exist in real life) -20 dB Fs on the recording is supposed to be 85 dB SPL ("C" weighted, measured with band-limited noise) from each channel. So if you're in the middle of the house (presumably the place closest to the mixer's "mix" position was) then each speaker could put out a maximum of 105 dB SPL! And if two speakers had the same in-phase signal, the listener could be hit with 111 dB SPL. If you had the whole system going at full blast then you're up to 117 dB SPL and beyond (that is 4 speakers of equal distance putting out a signal of identical phase at full level -- 0 dB Fs).
This is like being at a Who concert circa 1976. Or the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. It's actually illegal to subject your employees to that much sound pressure level without hearing protection.
To make matters worse, the LFE channel is 10 dB louder on playback than each other channel in the rest of the system! Presumably, this is because of dynamic range limitations on analog optical tracks -- not a big concern in the world of low-budget science fiction anymore.
So -- first of all I think the system is gain-staged a bit oddly. 85 dB SPL should be like -10 dB Fs, and the LFE isn't really necessary in a digital system because you have plenty of headroom anyway. Sure, maybe Tomlinson Holman, whose brain is extra-big, has something vastly smarter to say about this whole matter, but for me it don't really work.

That's what's inspired me to finally go out and get a 5.1 surround system. I'd been thinking for a long time about a Genelec system (minimum price: $2800, maximum price: "whaddaya got?")

But then the light appeared in the sky and the truth lit upon my wracked and weary soul. Blue Sky makes a system called the Media Desk. It lists for only $1300 or so. Oddly, almost nobody has one in stock.

But I found one at Strassberg Associates. Joel set up their floor model for me and I was amazed at how good it sounded. It even comes with a nice remote control. I got the whole thing for under $1000 because it was the floor model (there's a little ding in one of the drivers, I can't hear that it makes any difference). The system is clear and unveiled. It's really much easier to mix on than virtually any system I've heard lately. I can kinda hear the cross-over between the sub and the satellites, but I can't hear the high/mid crossover (and that's the most important.) Maybe when I finally set a good position for the subwoofer the time alignment will be better.

The other thing I decided was to use the optional calibration of 72 dB SPL at -20 dB Fs. This lets us go up much higher in the digital 1's and 0's without shattering our skulls and inflicting permanent hearing damage. Of course, for a theatrical release, someone would have to make the mixes about 12dB quieter.

I'm limiting dialog to -12 dB Fs (that is, 80 dB SPL). Everything else gets mixed around the dialog at that level. So far, that seems to do the trick. Plenty of headroom on top for "boom", loud and clear dialog in the middle.

So -- there you have it. Pandora Machine, Digitalsource, Braidwood Audio, whatever we're calling it these days -- can mix in 5.1. It's official.

Oh and look below! There's an "update" to my biography status!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Olja the Werewolf

Olja Hrustic sent me pictures of her at one, maybe TWO premiere parties.
O! Werewolf Women of the S.S.! Directed by Rob Zombie! O! Yea verily I say unto ye, this is why we make films!
Olja Hrustic is a werewolf! Although this photo is from "Dukes of Hazzard, the Beginning"? What... what...?
Gosh -- Olja is just great!

In other news, "Millennium Crisis" is now the official title of the movie on

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rejected Biography

I actually had my bio for a theatrical production rejected today. That's never happened before. Have I finally crossed the line? I sure hope so.
Worse yet, it was rejected by Daryl Boling, of all people. For those who know Daryl, the fact that I'd been able to offend one of his sensibilities (I think he has two) is quite an achievement.

"Drew lives in a cave directly below this theater. If you see him it means that he's come out of hibernation. The good news is that it's no longer Winter. The bad news is that he's hungry. Try feeding him chocolate-chip cookies. He's a Founding Member of Theatresource and a sci-fi movie director. His Robot Girlfriend likes to fight crime and calculate Pi out to the billionth decimal place. Drew's grown less enchanted with her when he realized that his offer to help her with her calculations were greeted with the same enthusiasm as we might have for the house cat who wants to "help" with the computer. Drew's hobbies include taking naked pictures of Daryl Boling, reading, and writing his bio."

UPDATE! Due to the outpouring of support from the tens of thousands of fans who read this blog, my bio is now in the program for the show!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Breaking Radio Silence

This cat forced me to break the blog silence. So happy. So Cuteoverload.
I keep hoping I'll have something specific to blog -- namely about our North American deal. We haven't signed it yet but I'm sure we will in the next few days.
One thing's for certain, the name of the movie ain't Bloodmask. In fact, there's another Bloodmask coming out. I wrote to their distributor and offered them the site but ain't nobody wrote back to me yet.
Today I'm going to look at a Blue Sky MediaDesk 5.1 system. I mean "listen to" such a system. I had to replace my M-Audio Firewire 410 audio interface with a MOTU Ultralite interface because the M-Audio was dying. I actually got the ASIO drivers to work on the MOTU unit and it seems to work fine.
Mac is working furiously on a script. If you're a dorkus you'll be as excited as I am about the Google calendar on the Ghosts in the Machine page.

Friday, March 16, 2007

You're a Kitty!

Still working on Learning Flash. Yuk.

Furthermore, here are some words Laura, Queen of Mars does not like:
1. Solecism
2. Solipsism
3. Palimpsest

UPDATE: "Persimmons" is perfectly acceptable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More for Everyone

I've got jokes about how this is the lone ranger of rabbits. Or this is Robert Smith's bunny. Or that this is an ancient Egyptian hare. But I'm not going to say any of them.
Furthermore, there just hasn't been enough NSFW on this blog. Nope. Not At All.
All topless. All the time.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An Hour Later Than It Is

I am a little confused about which words I should capitalize in a title.
But then again, I'm confused about Captain Space Dog too.
Actually, I think we're at blue alert level according to the Department of Homeland Security. If the terrorists only knew we had this dog, they'd be so scared they'd... well, they'd laugh I guess...

Thursday, March 08, 2007


My sister Jean is visiting. She's showing me some web-design tricks and I'm building now.
Who doesn't need a nice analog clock?

Or two?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bad News

I hate having to deliver bad news to people who want to videotape their shows at the theater. But nobody, not even your mom, will watch a videotape of your show.

Here is an edited version of a letter I had to send someone about their desire to make the sound better when they videotaped their wife's show:

"The short answer is that a videotape of a play is always unwatchable because of the sound.

"Viewers will think the picture doesn't look so good when the sound isn't very clear and present. They seldom realize that it's the distant-sounding dialog which they're viscerally reacting to.

"Typically, cardioid mics aren't going to help you unless you can get them within about 3 feet of the actors (on feature films they tend to use hypercardioids at about that distance). When you're as far as about 4-10 feet, one would tend to use shotgun microphones, again aimed exactly at the mouths of the actors who are speaking at any given time.

"But of course, your camera is further than 10 feet from the stage, and the actors on stage will end up being further than 10 feet from one another and from any given place on the stage. So putting a shotgun on top of the camera, or any given place on the stage, still makes for fairly unwatchable video unless you had a boom operator flying the microphone back and forth over the heads of the actors to get all of their dialog cleanly.

"One could: spend thousands of dollars and much effort to put wireless lavaliere microphones on each actor -- and have someone mix the show live (or better yet, direct to multitrack). Or one could put numerous microphones either along the lip of the stage (like Crown PCC 160's) or cardioids or hypercardioids up in the grid. Both of these options are expensive and complicated and require another person in order to mix them if they aren't being recorded directly to multitrack.

"One could find and use an automatic mixer but I don't even know who rents the very few of those which actually work and still it would require fairly sophisticated setup. (Incidentally, if one were to simply sum a number of microphones mixed together and recorded on the audio tracks of the camera, the effect would be similar to simply putting a shotgun on top of the camera because of all the extra "ambience" from all the microphones being mixed together.)

"So -- where does this leave you? Well, I'm basically telling you that it's impractical to even try to make a videotape which you'll want to watch. But the best of the practical sound solution is probably got from either placing a shotgun microphone on top of the camera (with the camera in the corner of the theater) or to place a pair of cardioids up the in the grid (together at a 45 degree angle from one another, or about 8 to 10 feet from one another and pointing straight down) with each mic feeding a separate channel on your camera.

"Many consumer cameras, however, don't have separate inputs for the "right" and "left".

"Sorry about the grim assessment!

"BTW, "cardioid" refers to the shape of the "pattern" of the microphone. A cardioid is a directional mic -- it tends to pick up sounds in front of it more than sounds to the side or in the back of it (and on a polar plot it kinda looks like a "heart"). A shotgun has a more pronounced effect of picking up sounds in front and not from the sides or back (typically with some performance tradeoffs). A hypercardioid is somewhere in-between. (There are also "figure-8" and "omnidirectional" microphones but they're not necessarily relevant to this discussion.)

"Hope this was... helpful!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Look Pink

I kinda love the red hair and turquoise eyes look in this Pink video. The colors are really aesthetically exciting to me. Whenever I see something like this I think it would be great to make a good dramatic feature which had a compelling story and looked like this:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Director's Commentary

I'm working on the commentary track now. Laura and I did a pass at it together. Now I'm going in and adding stuff I felt we forgot to get to. I'm very amused by this comic. I'm going to attempt to embed it in this post.


And here are a pair of chickens breaking up a fight between a couple bad, bad, rabbits. Yes, this is why the Internet exists: