Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Noise on the Internets

Steve Albini, who I think of as someone more interested in having an extreme opinion that sounds all rad and cool and makes a great sound bite, rather than a thoughtful insight filled with subtleties and contradictions, is also disingenuous. Why do I say that? Because he knows better.

In this article he goes through the economics of a major-label record contract and concludes snarkily:

The band members have each earned about 1/20 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.

Well, there are two things with that statement. One is that he conveniently ignores the publishing royalties that the composer(s) in the band makes. The other is that he inserts a $50,000 "buyout" in this contract which of course mathematically makes sure that the band doesn't "recoup".
But also, note that this example band now has all new backline gear. New drums, bass, guitars, etc.
And they sold a quarter-million units. That means that any backline they get from here on out will likely be free because they'll get endorsements.
And and... somehow their tour only grossed $50,000.

I've never seen a Neve without at least one module that needs to be fixed.
The other thing is that the best thing which could happen to a band like this, especially nowadays, is to have had sales of 250,000 units and then get dropped from their label.

Now, they probably wouldn't get dropped at 250,000 units on their first or second album (although they would be arguably rock stars) but they probably would be dropped if they went below 100,000 units. Why is being dropped good? Because then they'd have had all the push from a major label and all the publicity and name recognition, but they can run on their own, owning all their material from here on out and making much more money (per unit) than they ever could have with the major label.

It would be a good scam if you could pull it off as a band. As far as I can tell the reason most bands don't continue to tour and release their own records after being released from a major label is because the band members all hate one another.


Via Tim Shrum, Volpin Props. Out of Atlanta he designs and builds some beautiful replica props.

Is the USPS the Evil Empire or the Rebel Alliance?
Today I've changed the call sheet for Sunday three times. Let's hope I finally got it right. Sheesh!

At least I'm keeping all the call times exactly the same all three days of shooting.

Three days of shooting... I bet that means Chinese food, Italian, Chinese food. Now that the wing place is gone those are our only choices.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Amps and Music

David Kronemyer on HiWatt Amplifiers. The dude David Kronemyer has a crazy resume, and in addition to everything else was an executive at Capitol and Atlantic records.

The Vintage Sound Classic is a pretty amplifier.

Sufjan Stephens sold 10,000 copies of the EP "All Delighted People" the first weekend it was available on Bandcamp. It debuted at #48 on the Billboard 200. He's on his own label. And his work is really interesting. The choir and orchestration are very tasteful and delicate. He's sold out two nights at the Beacon in November. Kind of reminds me of a cross between Donovan and Frank Zappa with that kind of modern indy-music vocal style.
His "record company" is Asthmatic Kitty Records.

    Facebook is My Nemesis

    Early this morning I got this message this morning from an old friend of mine via Facebook:

    I didn't think much of it, I may have (after checking the URL) actually clicked on the page but I didn't do anything which would actually activate anything (so I thought).
    Of course, my friend is not a native English speaker, so the idea he'd use that BS LOLspeak is unlikely.

    What's even MORE unlikely is me sending a mass email worded and punctuated like that. So my friend Anthony caught it when "I" had sent the same Facebook message to a bunch of people in my friends list (some of whom I know better than others.)

    The obnoxious thing is I can't readily "reply to all" in Facebook to get people to not click on the stupid link*. More insidiously -- this might actually be an official Facebook app.

    I hate Facebook. When is that new open-source "Facebook" coming online? The sooner the better.

    *It turns out I can, but it's not as crystal-clear as when you do in, say, email.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    A Meydl In Hand Is Worth

    My dad decided to take Meydl off the chair so that she wouldn't jump down and bother Pushkin. Ha!
    Putting the cat to bed.
    They both really love this chair. I don't know why. Pushkin really disappears into it, Meydl (being orange), not so much.

    Meydl gets a bit squirmy.

    Because we play favorites around here and ol' Pushkin gets the chair (apparently). I told my dad there was no way he was going to pick Meydl up off that chair ('cause as a cat, she tends to dig in with all four cylinders paws.) But boy, he proved me wrong.

    And that's what there is to say about that.
    OK, she gets a LOT squirmy. Does that tail even belong to her?
    All of this so Pushkin can get some rest without a noisy kitten banging around the place.
    The King in repose.

    Ridiculous Animals

    Pushkin being shy.
    These cats get along pretty well now. They sleep near one another and they will play together even though Pushkin is an old man now and Meydl is just a little pipsqueak.
    This evening they both ran to the door when I got home. That was fun.
    Pushkin has, though, been a bit more off-put of late. He's not as big on jumping in my lap as he used to was. Maybe I don't watch as much TV?
    Meydl, Pushkin, Dad, all trying to check email.
    The two cats love my dad's desk-chair. They will actually crowd him as he's on the computer.
    Meydl pretends she is a squirrel.
    They do a reasonable job of sleeping through the night. Six am is another story though. Luckily with my stepmom back from knee rehab and walking with a cane already(!), they bug her for breakfast and not me.

    No Need for a Scarf in June

    Hipsters only annoy people from Brooklyn, because hipsters are mostly only in Brooklyn.
    The Post, which usually isn't good for much, published this amusing chart of things which annoy New Yorkers the most. Can you tell that it's August? Yep, another slow news month.

    My favorite quote, regarding hipsters: "They wear those tight pants, flannel shirts, suit jackets, man purses, and there is no need for a scarf in June."

    UPDATE: my dad's comment to this was "There are no slow-walking tourists in the Bronx." Ha!

    The Seventh Day of Earthkiller

    Today we got a lot of coverage pretty quickly. We're only shooting one day this weekend. Next weekend we'll make up for it by shooting three days in a row.
    Nat Cassidy overacting while Michael Bordwell noms, Libby Csulic looks very Vermeer and nonchalant (she was the door operator in this scene) and yes this was just the rehearsal, Nat chewed far less scenery in the actual take (well, maybe in the third actual take. ;-)
    One thing which I don't feel I've been doing a good enough job of is getting stills of our leads. I've been using "camera rehearsal" to shoot the scene motion-picture and what I should be doing is shooting stills. Either that or when we get to the end of a scene someone should say "Hey Drew, shoot stills!"
    This is the cover of the first Tom Rowen solo album. Zombies eye him hungrily.
    So somebody remind me to shoot more stills.
    Nat Cassidy... I... I have no idea what he's doing here. Maybe he just knows his character has about 12 more seconds of screen time before his ignominious death.  In the meantime Lucy Rayner readies her Saltz-Heiburg NT21P thermal inertia plasma rifle to put some hurt on some zombies.

    The only thing that's been hard on this shoot is that we have to completely wrap our sets down flat and set them on palettes at the end of the day. Whew! That adds a lot to our day. It would be vastly easier if we could just leave them standing.
    Other than that, things are going great.
    I wish I could report on how the GH1 responds to being "hacked". Maybe some compression artifacts are gone? Honestly, I have no idea because I just see the movie through the viewfinder. As we get further into post maybe we'll have a clue. I'll tell ya more as I know it.

    Earthkiller Day Seven

    Call in NYC was 11am and we wrapped people to be on a 7:09pm train back out of Metuchen.

    Lots of zombies, a little bit of zombie action, some walkin' and talkin'
    Shane Jacobsen and Irene Antoniazzi - they're not dead, they're dormant.
    Ben Guralnik - walk by him as you would a hungry bear's cave in early Spring.
    Joe and Libby, who just got back from St. Croix the night before somehow made two more doors for the Earthkiller Station. I don't know when they built the doors, I think they may have actually made them in St. Croix. We totally weren't expecting the doors. Or Joe and Libby. They were tres awesome. All of them!

    Evil zombies lie dormant on the floor, waiting for the right time to strike.
    Don't worry. I'll be soon.

    Michael Bordwell thinking "Nat Cassidy looks tasty. So does Tom Rowen."

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    24-bit 44.1kHz

    When the Mouse was in the studio a decision had to be made. I told Eric* that we wanted to have an "old fashioned" sound. We wanted the drums to be like drums from the early 70's, but with more room reflections (see: Led Zeppelin) and, of course, louder than drums used to be mixed at.**

    Eric (he and I are old friends and he has the bestest recording studio evah: Trax East) looked over at the unused analog tape decks in the corner of his control room. "If you want old-sounding..." There was sort of a wistful look in his eye as he considered the washing-machine-sized recorders ignominiously turned off and silent in the corner of the control room.

    Yeah, I'd love to record onto 2" 16-track. Heck, we'd record at 15ips with Dolby noise reduction. But wait, you said tape was how much? OK, we're not doing that. We're recording directly to ProTools.

    Which brings up the questions of bit depbth (I'm leaving the spelling that way because it amuses me) and sample rate. Eric suggested 44.1 as the sample rate (which is the same sample rate as CD's). Because, he said, many people thought the darker sounds with the more "broken up" top end worked well for an older sound. The thing we won't be doing is the noisiness of tape. He pointed at his Scully 2-track "What is that? 56, 57dB?"
    So we're recording at the lowest "professional" sampling rate of 44.1kHz but with a more sophisticated bit depth of 24 bits. 
    At 24 bit we'd have a lot of room to work with the files in the digital world.
    Oddly, we won't be doing that much . My studio is competent for two microphones -- I have an AKG C12a (which is possibly the best mic for my voice) and I have a pair of Neve 1202 Brent Averill modified preamps going into an Apogee Mini-me A/D. So my signal path is just fine, thank you. And in Samplitude I can stay at 24 bit and even do 32-bit float for a party. This means that in my studio we may do some editing of some sections. We'll certainly do some vocal recording. And we can re-record guitars and keyboards until the cows come home.
    But when we go to mix it'll be through a big analog console (Eric's).
    And when the signal hits analog again it'll be at the mastering stage.
    *Who am I that I make these decisions for T-Mouse? Uh. I don't know. I don't think that was a unilateral decision, at least not strategically.
    **Why did drums used to be mixed so (relatively) quietly? Was it because the transients were so hard to record? Or was it that the stacks of guitar amplifiers typical by the late '60's had made it so that the unamplified drums really were that much quieter live so nobody thought to turn them up?


    I may have linked this before but here's an article on refoaming speakers. I have this pair of Infinity SM 122 cabinets which a friend gave to me nigh on 10 years ago (and she probably had them for 10 years before that) and the foam has just disintegrated.But apparently you can get foam for these Infinity speakers on eBay. So I'm a-gonna try that for about $20. If it works it'd be awesome.
    If you like teh crazy, there's some crazy for you right here.
    And before you're done, hipster dinosaurs.

    More Clonehunter Reviews

    David Ian Lee, Angela Funk, and Ben Thomas in Clonehunter.
     DVD Verdict
    A micro-budgeted sci-fi actioner attempts to compensate for its vanishing funding with sexy camera effects and Super Serious Acting.

    The Tamba Tribune
    A good old throwback to the low-budget, but high-aspiration, Drive-In flicks of yesterday.
    My favorite line from the review is: There aren’t enough aliens or gun fights.
    These aren't reviews, but mentions/blurbs (I don't know what you call those) about Clonehunter:
    The Winston-Salem Journal gives us a mention.

    Beaver County Times.
    Imperial Valley News.

    BrooklynPRgrrl Margarita Sophia Cortez is our distributor's (Lifesize Entertainment) publicist.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    What Are We Doing?

    At some point a discussion of Tyrannosaurus Mouse and what we're doing has to happen. I'll start it now.

    1. We're making an album. I figure the album will be finished sometime around the beginning of 2011. [Wow, "2011" -- that looks like a date in the far future doesn't it?] I suppose it hasn't even occurred to any of us that we would do anything other than give the music away for free. Of course you can download the entire album. But we'll also have T-shirts.

    Ethan wants a physical CD. I don't know where the money will come from. Ha!

    And what about a 12"? Are we cool enough to warrant a lacquer master? I don't think there are enough people willing to buy a phonograph LP of Tyrannosaurus Mouse to make it worth our while yet.

    So I suspect you'll be able to (at least eventually) do any or all of the following:
    a. download our album (or just some songs) for free
    b. download our album (or just some songs) for any amount of money you want to pay us
    c. buy our album on vinyl
    d. give us lovin'

    2. And what next as far as live-performance?
    Well I've always seen Tyrannosaurus Mouse as being a big psychedelic band that plays on a stage with oriental rugs and chandeliers -- groovy oil light projections dance over the band and a backdrop of out of this world films play behind us while nude dancers on either side of the stage enact Salome as pots of smoke billow up from the stage turning and twisting themselves into snakes while splashes of light dapple the audience, exploding through time and the musical eruptions of the Mouse.
    Now, it's quite possible that other members of the band have a different idea about what it would be like if/when we play live, but I doubt it.
    We do all need some psychedelic duds. I nominate Ethan for a top hat and a cape. And I see Arie in an ascot. I always feel bad for the drummer because the drummer always seems to get the hottest, so maybe just a very frilly shirt for Lou. I get tails and paisleys.
    Plus, and I may not have explained this earlier, I need a staff. I need my own guitar tech to take care of my pedals and turning on and off my delays and such. Need.

    a. So where on earth could we actually perform?
    I suspect we'll have trouble in normal NYC clubs with our nude dancers. That's why I'd prefer to play in theaters. Problem with theaters? They're really freakin' expensive. We can't perform at Theatresource, for instance, because we're way to loud.
    b. And what about our light show? That sounds expensive too. And it sounds like it'll take some rehearsal to do.
    c. How many people could we possibly expect to come see Tyrannosaurus Mouse? Could we get sixty people to show up at $10 a head? That's $600 to pay for sound, lights, and theater rental.

    These and many other questions await us.

    What Bugs Me

    Here's the kind of thing which irritates be beyond all holy recognition. Philadelphia wants to charge a "business tax" of $300 to bloggers.
    Up next: squirrel tax
    This is the typical kind of idiotic anti-small-business thinking which goes on everywhere. Note that whether you're a multi-million-dollar company or some poor shlub with a blog about flowers, you get taxed exactly the same amount.
    The same is true of virtually all business "licenses". It's just the most regressive kind of taxation imaginable. Personally I think that any business with less than $100K in revenue should simply pay no tax -- not even payroll tax. Make the freakin' State pick it up from big companies that can afford it. So there. Pththth.

    Three Things For Today

    Jeff Plunkett as Shu in Clonehunter.

    • We've done a lousy job with craft services on Earthkiller. We're halfway through the shoot and I have to do a better job of making sure everyone has snacks and stuff they want. I'll go broke if I provided as much liquor as anybody could drink though. Sheesh! Our cast and crew can finish off a bottle in no time! But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have more fruit and crunchy things on set. We should.

    • Bill Cunningham points out that Blockbuster is looking at Chapter 11. Note that this does not mean the end of Blockbuster. No, rather our bankruptcy laws protect Blockbuster by letting it dump the leases on 500 stores (if the LA Times article is correct.) And note too that even after closing 500 more stores, Blockbuster will have thousands of stores.

    Also, as far as I know, there are hundreds of independent Blockbusters in addition to the nationwide chain. At least this is what I've been told.

    Now if we can all convince our parents, aunts, uncles, and friends, to use Blockbuster's online service rather than NetFlix, we might have an independent movie business again. ;-)

    On the Psychedelic Jacket Front

    Really, the whole band needs psychedelic jackets.
    The Jimi Hendrix Hussars.
    This one is five hundred Great British Pounds. Thin Red Line also makes historically accurate jackets. I think I want something that's a cross between one of these and a tail-coat. I feel I need tails.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Do You Like Giraffes?

    The millionth giraffe.
    How about a million giraffes? Here's the millionth one.

    Making a Business Plan pt 3 (Interregnum)

    This post is rambly even for me. But it's the rambly part of the business plan, so there's that.

    So, it turns out that successful entrepreneurs are very conservative. They're not actually big risk-takers. This dude from Case Western, Scott Shane, says so. And, well, so do a lot of other people who've looked into it. The big entrepreneurs tend to take on sure things. If we look toward Indy film god Corman, indeed by his second or third movie the buyers were paying for his pictures up front -- before he shot them.

    OK, so that's one thing.

    More than that, the average startup begins with $25,000 in cash. And worst of all, the average startup starts with a terrible industry to do business in. And we're not doing that, are we? Oh. Er.


    Tina Tanzer and her zombie army in Day 2
    Care to guess where the movie business is on the scale of "good" to "OMG this is a nightmare"? Right. Exactly.

    So the trick is to suddenly make this a good business, right? Well here's the thing.
    According to David Rimawi of The Asylum, the entertainment industry loses a billion dollars a year (although he doesn't really believe that number, it may be accurate, or at least it's a start.) So we're not in an awesome business. But there are people who can make enough money to stay alive. And The Asylum is the only example I can think of.

    We could follow their lead more closely. They make the movies their buyers tell them to. We, uh, try to do that. Day 2 is basically what our distributor wanted. We hope. We think. I suspect we need to get closer to our buyers to find out what they want (I know, I know, "creatures" and "disasters".)

    We also need to work up other "revenue streams". If we can get VOD to work for us I suspect that we could add between $10K to $20K to our North American revenue (which these days is starting to mean "make $10K to $20K for North America.)

    For a little company like us, the big sale would be to cable TV. Or to make a picture specifically for cable TV. And yeah, we're working on that too.

    It's my belief that there's a specific minimum size a business can realistically be in the US -- due to a bunch of factors going into the raw cost of doing business. Wow, that's a very "Drew" way to say that and it makes virtually no sense. Anyway, I think that number is somewhere around $250,000 in revenue a year. That basically means that the principal will earn the equivalent salary of maybe $40,000 a year. (Depends on how you calculate that.) As the business grows past $250K the principal will typically find that at least one person, if not two, working for him/her make more money than him/her. And the principal gets over that because that's just the way things are. And then whatever you do don't grown too fast or (egads!) buy property.

    And that's my incoherent part 3 of "Making a Business Plan" -- a document in constant flux.

    You Know Who Makes A Pretty Amp?

    Emery makes pretty amps.

    And Yet Again, Another Review of Clonehunter

    Angela Funk as Rachel in Clonehunter
    This is one from my distributor's site again.

    Stripper Spoilers

    I know, I know, you're asking yourself "what do the strippers at Ground Zero think about the new 'mosque'?" Well the Wall Street Journal has the answer.

    OMG, this is the funniest thing I've seen all day.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Touch Sensitivity

    So the other day

    I went to Ethan's house and we listened to some of his fantastic amplifiers.

    He has a pretty dreamy collection. What's nice is the variety of the sounds they all put out. And each amp makes you play a bit differently.

    He has a Ampeg Reverb Rocket combo (1965 he thinks). The Ampeg is bright and jangly (not strident at all.) It just has high end for days. I immediately started playing "House of the Rising Sun" on it. And that was with a Les Paul with mini-humbuckers!
    The Ampeg is very cool but not, we decided, what we needed for Tyrannosaurus Mouse just now.
    One thing I found interesting about this amp is that, especially compared to other amps of the period, when you played harder the amp got louder. Just louder. The same "sound", but at a higher amplitude.

    Which is funny because when most people talk about the "touch sensitivity" of an amplifier they're talking about how the amp sounds clean when played lightly but becomes dirty as you hit the strings harder.

    Shouldn't this be the pattern of my psychedelic jacket?
    Sometimes you just want the amp to make a louder sound though, and otherwise sound about the same at a given volume setting no matter how hard you play. But the Ampeg, doing this, makes it seem like it ironically isn't touch sensitive. When, in fact, it responds exactly to what you're doing.

    "Touch sensitivity". It's hard to define then. Well, I guess trying to describe sound with words is like dancing about architecture isn't it?

    The other odd thing is the way compression affects an amp. For instance, the Blankenship Fatboy Extreme has (I think) a Deluxe-ish front end which makes it very compressed. At the same time it "opens up" into a sweet overdrive as you play louder into it. Ethan's Rickenbacker amp (similar to a Deluxe) does a sweet thing with its compression. So does my Lil' Dawg Mutt.

    Other amps are somewhere in-between. I have to say that all those mid-'60's Fenders have a similar feeling to them, but they all sound different. And boy, does his Princeton Reverb sound nice. We may just use that and my Mutt the next time we record.
    All you could want to know about Fender Twin Reverbs. I know this: I'm selling mine. Come on over and buy it!

    The Stompbox Blog.

    The best part of this "100 Free Resources for Teaching Yourself Guitar" is number 49:  about Vodka.


    Chance Shirley reminded me, via Twitter, that REM was a light on the very dark landscape that was popular music in the mid-'80's. Here they are performing on the David Letterman Show.

    Even the Bunnies Have No Respect For You

    Apparently in the world of medicine they don't prescribe antibiotics for the first few days of having a sinus infection, hoping it'll go away on its own. But my doctor, er, "physician's assistant" says I have a Summer Cold.
    Which is, of course, awesome.
    Bunny Bronx Cheer
    Hungover Owls.

    Don't nobody worry. Settle down. I got pants.

    Film vs the Alternative

    Now with the big camera manufacturers (like the Arri Alexa*) in the game it's clear we've crossed that threshold which we've been staring at so long -- that horizon after which everyone starts shooting on some sort of video format and we can actually ignore film (as in the chemical see-through stuff everyone used to make pictures out of) as a format. Which is too bad 'cause I'd love to shoot on 2-perf 35mm. As a producer I simply cannot allow the cinematographer part of my brain to use film even if we went to bigger-budgeted things.
    Early key art for "Day 2"
    Here's the argument as it happens between the two in my brain:
    Producer: You can use film if you pay for it.
    Cinematographer: I'll pay for it!
    Producer: Liar. You mean I'll pay for it.
    Cinematographer: Er... um.
    Producer: Just for that, I'm cutting your lighting budget in half.
    Cinematographer: You can't do that!
    Producer: I hope you like fluorescent lights.
    Cinematographer: Well sometimes those are nice. They have those new instruments which are daylight-balanced...
    Producer: Here's a clip light.
    Cinematographer: Can't I get a stand to attach it to?
    Producer: What do I look like, a millionaire?

    It's a cruel world, ain't it?

    *Note that I don't even think the footage they have on that ProVideo Coalition site is all that awesome. It does indeed seem to lack some things. Maybe it's the lack of grain? But it doesn't matter, we can add grain in post if you like. A good-looking guy and some music on the soundtrack, the only thing missing is a (ahem) story.

    Erin Hill

    Erin Hill, who was the sound designer for the first Estrogenius Festival, is in a children's band called "The Dream Jam". New album is out on EMI -- "Leave It In the Soup".

    Melanie the Mermaid.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Another Clonehunter Review

    Not a good one, mind you, but another one.

    General Filmmaking Post

    Jef Betz as Galloway in Solar Vengeance.
    This is information I want to be able to search for one day:

    Stop Motion Magazine has a blog.

    They also have some free HD explosions, smoke, and such. I'm still downloading it on my incredibly slow connection at the studio.  (Thanks to Bill Cunningham.)

    Rostronics has inexpensive fluorescent - based instruments. File under: studio lights, light, fluorescent, instruments.

    28 Days of Dark Nights

    They: wait, there were 28 dark nights at Theatresource last year?
    We: that's what I hear on the streets.
    That's like, what... out of twelve days was dark?
    Not quite, but in the ballpark.
    But... someone was tech-ing a show or something like that, right?
    No, in our definition we mean "dark night" to be "no show, no tech, no rehearsal, nothing booked."
    Can I make fun of your blog?
    By all means.
    Very funny. Well, sure. Now here's the thing, we should have booked all those nights, that was a lot of money lost. We do have an odd business model wherein we absolutely must book every single day except for Christmas. But that's what we have to do.
    So uh. What's anyone doing about it?
    Well a pretty smart idea came out of the Theatresource Advisory Board: volunteers could, with a certain number of hours, earn a Flopnight... sorry, I'm old... I mean a Development Series night where they could put up a show at Theatresource at no cost to themselves and the theater takes the $18 ticket at the door.
    How is that any different from just signing up for a Flopnight... er... Development Series night now?
    Well, normally we ask that you guarantee $300 of ticket sales. That encourages producers to actually sell tickets rather than giving them away.
    And with the long-term goal of getting producers in the door...
    It sort of dovetails into that goal. That's the idea.
    It doesn't really do anything for volunteers who aren't actors/writers/producers.
    No, you're right about that.
    And your take on it?
    Ha! Well... considering that we're talking about nights which simply weren't booked anyway it certainly can't hurt. In theory if those 28 nights were half-sold houses of 25, at $18 a ticket, the theater would have brought in over $12,000.
    Those numbers are a big high though, aren't they?
    Yeah, they probably are.
    Not exactly a conservative estimate...
    But you'd think that even a more realistic number...
    Would be enough to pay rent one month.

    Six Trillion Dollars

    Six Trillion Dollars?

    Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that it will take 20 years to recoup the $6 trillion of housing wealth that has been lost since 2005. After adjusting for inflation, values will never catch up.

    And then:

    It made me feel slightly uncomfortable that I'm the person making all the decisions about my life.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    How To Do What They Do

    David Rimawi explains how The Asylum does what they do.

    One huge advantage they have over us is that we don't have an opportunity to talk directly with our buyers very much. We can get vague "We want giant creatures and disaster movies!" sorts of comments, but it's hard to get specific like "Gimme a big shark and a giant squid."

    We're gonna have to change all that.

    Courtney Love Does the Math for You

    Ten years ago Courtney Love gave a talk on music technology and piracy. It's mostly a coherent argument, which destroys many of my prejudices about Courtney Love, and honestly the less-coherent portions of it may be because this Salon article is a transcript of a speech.

    Here's my favorite quote from her:
    Don't tell me I'm a brand. I'm famous and people recognize me, but I can't look in the mirror and see my brand identity.
    Keep talking about brands and you know what you'll get? Bad clothes. Bad hair. Bad books. Bad movies. And bad records

    That's not actually the crux of what she's talking about though. Courtney goes over some of the numbers for a major-label record contract. Here she talks about the "million dollar" record contract for a 4-piece band.
    They spend half a million to record their album. That leaves the band with $500,000. They pay $100,000 to their manager for 20 percent commission. They pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and business manager.
    That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After $170,000 in taxes, there's $180,000 left. That comes out to $45,000 per person.
    That's $45,000 to live on for a year until the record gets released. 

    So of course things aren't quite that simple. The odd thing, from an economic standpoint, is that the record company itself is getting ripped off. That's right. They would love to see 10%. They're lucky if, overall, they're seeing a percent and-a-half. If you read on, Ms. Love goes over the record company expenses for this act which "got" a million dollars and sold a million records.

    Add it up and the record company has spent about $4.4 million.
    So their profit is $6.6 million; the band may as well be working at a 7-Eleven. 

    Yes, that's what this band got (note that the record company also spent $750K in publishing, some of that presumably goes back to at least some member of the band.) But that's not how well the record company does. No no no.
    Instead, the record company has a lot of acts out there. A very small percentage are profitable. Essentially what is paying for the development of the many acts which do not sell a million records is the blood, sweat, and tears, of the few acts which do. As she notes later:
    More Irony Please
    Of the 32,000 new releases each year, only 250 sell more than 10,000 copies. And less than 30 go platinum.
    So another way to put this is that the "surplus labor" (that's the Marxist way to think about it) of some rock stars goes to develop some smaller, newer acts which may or may not go anywhere.
    As far as the systematic exploitation of rock stars goes, I have difficulty caring.  Sure, back in the day they used to pay for an executive's private jet (those days are long gone). But now they're mostly paying for the failed endeavors of hundreds of other acts.
    It might be more fair, and clear, for the record company to simply tell the band "We're putting you on salary at $45,000/year -- make whatever else you can with concerts and publishing. Everyone who is in a band at our company makes $45K/year for the run of their first contract. Those of you who are hit artists end up paying for those of you who aren't. Get over it."

    But that would make all the bands whiny and complainy. They'd much rather be a band with a million dollar record contract. Wouldn't you?

    Ooh. Special note: classical musicians apparently have much clearer record contracts. I read that in a book on the music business once. They make vastly less money but none of the expenses are "recoupable". They make a small royalty on each record sold, starting with the first record.
    As for the rest of Courtney's argument about "works for hire" I'm not exactly sure what she's talking about. I was under the impression that any work could be a "work for hire" -- what she's talking about is probably a very specific nuance in the law, not that record companies automatically own in perpetuity any works without a contract.

    Actually, after that she either goes a bit off the rails and/or she's talking from 10 years ago and either "we already know this stuff" or "yeah, that's not how it worked out."
    I heard a funny story once about why the second Men Without Hats record didn't do so well. The record company decided that the manager of the band was getting too much of an attitude and decided to teach him a lesson -- by not pushing the band's second release.

    14 degrees

    It's a dark night here at Theatresource. Ain't nobody in tech. Ain't nobody got a show.
    On Friday we got the studio here below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since June. It was a "cool" 78 degrees. But because we had cameras in the studio we decided to start locking the door again instead of having the door open with a fan blowing in (which, coupled with an Internet security camera, is what we've been doing all summer).
    So now the studio is up to 92 degrees again. We just can't do that. The hard drives are hating us. We simply must get the temperature below 80 and keep it there.


    GH1 Failures

    So we had our first hacked Panasonic GH1 failure. I wasn't actually there for it, but Mr. Steady was.

    I don't have the exact wording of the error, something to the effect of "could not write to SD card, check SD card".

    They were shooting out in the very very hot direct sunlight. Now my tolerance for direct sunlight and heat is vastly lower than Henry Steady's. So if he said it was hot out in Central Park, I'm sure it was really freakin' hot. And our GH1 is hacked, so the data rate is much higher than it would be if it weren't.

    Also, they were doing fairly long takes.

    Between the three things (hack, heat, and hlong takes) the GH1 stopped recording.

    The good news is that the solution was to shut the camera off for a couple minutes and start 'er up again.

    That's just something to keep in mind.

    Mozz Review of Jen and Liz

    Montserrat Mendez reviews "Jen and Liz in Love". The show is stage managed by our own Queen of Mars. It's a great 45-minutes of theater.

    Things Three

    Reddit has a new rule regarding the "Ground Zero Mosque".

    Has anyone noticed that Blogger has the worst search function ever? Isn't it ironic that they're all part of Google? And now that I've changed my Blogger address it seems even more difficult to search.

    Gmail Backup. I'm using it. I've never had to restore from it so I have to presume it works.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    The Terminal State

    So I'm all caught up with my Avery Cates series. I just finished The Terminal State by Jeff Somers. That dude can write. The entire world of this somewhat post-apocalyptic earth (just slightly in the future) is deep, complicated, and complete.
    Cover to the French version of The Electric Church
    This latest book is possibly his (Jeff's) most brilliant idea (and one which you could apply to a million different scenarios). The hero gets a full military modification -- similar to the mods in Old Man's War but as with most things Jeff Somers it's very specific. The HUD is brilliant. Maybe I have a thing for nanobot - enhanced military body upgrades 'cause I don't want to work to get into shape and I'd prefer to not fall apart as I get old.
    Anyway -- the hero gets his body upgraded with augments BUT there's a failsafe explosive charge built into his brain and his worst enemy has the button and a job for Avery to do. Awesome, right?
    Hell, our next movie should be built around that idea.
    Actually, there's a slight chance that the cover of the book The Electric Church can be seen in the background of the love scene in Day 2. I'm not sure, I haven't seen the edit yet but I noticed the book was there when we were shooting it. I wonder if we'll have to blur it out? ;-)

    Experimentation Day

    Today I visited Ethan at his beautiful new house and played through a bunch of amps. Ethan has a gajillion* amplifiers and guitars.

    I played through a Les Paul with P90's and a Les Paul with mini-humbuckers. They don't exactly sound like either of my guitars, but that's cool. We listened to amps. Lots of amps.

    Ethan has fixed up a bunch of very cool guitar amplifiers. He's got an old Rickenbacker amp which is essentially the same as a Fender Deluxe. It was awesome 'cept for the tear in the speaker. He's got a '65 Ampeg which sounded amazing - all chime and... well it just sounded like 1965. And his '65 Vox Cambridge was exactly what you'd expect from a '65 Vox. (When I originally published this I thought the Cambridge was a '64 but it ain't, it's just exactly as old as I am. In better shape though.)

    But the amp we were looking for was what we thought a second Tyrannosaurus Mouse amp should sound like. I have my Lil' Dawg Mutt, which is basically a Deluxe front-end with a Champ power section, and it sounds awesome. What I want is that second amp which would be cleaner - sounding and which I'd play at the same time.

    Beverly Road "Q" - train stop.
    Our final four were all amps from the early to mid-60's. They were a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a '62 Princeton, A '66 Princeton Reverb, and a '61 Tremolux. The Princeton and the Princeton Reverb were the amps which Ethan had done the most "fixing up" to. All the amps sounded simply awesome.

    What I found most interesting is that my favorite amps had a very smooth response across the guitar and a sort of "three dimensional" sound. You could hear beyond the speaker like the sound came from a few feet behind the amplifier. The Princeton Reverb and the Tremolux were the most smooth and three dimensional. We cross-patched the channels in the Tremolux head, which seemed to give it an even better sound (even more "smoove" and 3D I felt).

    My feeling was the Princeton Reverb was the best - sounding for my needs. Which didn't mean that there weren't a dozen more amazing freakin' amps, but they'd be #1 for different applications.

    And one day I'll write what my thoughts are on touch sensitivity...

    On the way home I took this picture of the unique Q/B train station at Beverly Road in Brooklyn.
    *That's a bit of hyperbole, he only had a kabillion of 'em.

    My Five-Word Review of Inception

    "Your dialog -- it hurts me."

    Actually, my other non-spoiler 5-word review is:

    "White guys with dark hair."

    Which is a surprising review for such a relatively diverse cast.

    OK, here's my last snarky one:

    "What? No actors with diction?"

    I did like the different color-corrections though. Each act looked different but not over-the-top.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    You Know Who's Awesome?

    Jason Birdsall is awesome.
    I lost my Mars Defense Directorate pin on the subway and I told Jason about it and he sent me a bunch of them as replacements. Thanks Jason!

    I can has Venus Rises pins.

    Three Blogs

    Spock and Cat.
    You know Spock digs cats. Cats are cooler than that unicorn dog any day. Well, I'm not saying the unicorn dog isn't cool, just that... well Spock's petting a cat. 

    Lemme 'lone.

    OK, three blogs has seriously reduced the amount of meaningless malarky I post on any one of 'em.

    Today in the Pandora Machine

    Day 2: We have our first mixes of acts 2, 3, and 5. Which means we have locked picture on those three acts (out of eight.)
    This movie has a drop-dead date for deliverables of November 3rd 2010 (which is when the American Film Market begins.)
    Unused art for Alien Uprising.

    Earthkiller: we've been on a 2-weekend hiatus on this picture. We're diving right back in though in a week. I really should make up call sheets. The movie looks great. We're waiting on a couple models from Ian Hubert. We have to have a quick edit of this picture with as many visual effects as possible ready a few weeks before the AFM (early October) so that our distributor can make a trailer for the movie.

    Clonehunter: we're starting work on a 25-second cable TV commercial. David Frey will be editing.

    And our next movie: I don't know what it will be. Either I'm going to scramble out a screenplay in 30 days about giant monsters roaming 'round New York City, or we're going to shoot someone else's script.


    This painting is by Steve Burg. Smuggler's landing zone by moonlight.

    His work is terrific.
    SyFy has listed some new shows they have coming up, including "Orion" which is... well it's here:

    National Treasure meets Firefly in this swashbuckling space opera about an adventurous female relic hunter and her team as they hunt down — and sometimes steal — valuable and powerful objects to sell on the black market, all while staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters hot on their heels.
    Co-Executive Producers/Writers: Dirk Blackman & Howard McCain
    Co-Executive Producers: George Krstic & Ryuhei Kitamura
    Supervising Producer: F.J. Desanto
    Studio: Universal Cable Productions

    It's interesting that the cancelled "Firefly" is still a selling point. Otherwise there is absolutely no information on the interwebs about this series -- other than idle speculation by people who read the press release. Maybe I wasn't paying any attention but I didn't realize that SyFy was developing new programming.

    Do You Like Pictures?

    Do you like pictures that represent different imager sizes for different cameras? Well then you'll love this post from Abel Cine.
    Update: I do wish it had Academy aperture too.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    The Movie Biz

    So here's a neat little movie called "Suck" and it looks pretty cool. Rock band turns into vampires road movie with Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins and Malcolm McDowell as the vampire hunter.

    And the producers are begging in the pop-ups in the trailer for you to "demand 'Suck' in your city."

    To which I say... wow. Iggy Pop wasn't enough to get a distribution deal which took care of your expenses?

    The movie business... now the movie business... that's what sucks...

    A Beautiful Day

    So I woke up this morning with this tune and lyric in my head. Don't know why. Don't know what caused it (a bit of port the night before?) You won't see the music in an RSS reader, you gotta click through to the page.

    War is over

    ... if you want it.

    Yep, there will still be US soldiers in Iraq. Probably for the next 50 years. Hope you're over it, 'cause it's the way it's gonna be. And we're still in a "hot" war in Afghanistan. But it sure could be a whole lot worse.

    I seem to be all out of bunny pictures. This is exactly the kind of blog post which needs a picture of a bunny.

    Update. I added a graph.

    Good Theater Lately

    So it's the dog days of August and the New York Fringe Festival is happening. Ironically the slowest season for theater is also the busiest time for theater in New York. [The Fringe, unfortunately, doesn't pay nearly enough for Theatresource to make its nut, so although we were "Fringe Central" one year, we've managed to avoid being a Fringe venue since.]
    Vincent Marano in Solar Vengeance.

    Jen and Liz in Love was first performed at Theatresource. I'm saying that without verifying it, it's possible the show was performed somewhere else earlier, but if I write down that the premiere was at Theatresource then it seems quite authoritative, doesn't it? In any case, I really enjoyed the show. Heck, you don't even need to listen to me, here's a nice web review which says of the play "a small, honestly touching story of love and regret emerges like aromatic steam" 

    Our man Vinnie Marano produced.

    I also saw The Great Galvani from the Chicago company The Magpies Project. It's a bonkers and nuts show with an ending you totally won't expect but it's one of the most brilliant 30 minutes of theater you'll ever see. C'mon! Bearded ladies! What's there not to like?