Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dolls, Rent, Quotes, and Cat

The "Ground Zero" "Gentlemen's Club" "New York Dolls" has a free admission coupon you can print out. There's a free buffet with that.
My rent didn't go up! I'm still at $893/month for my (what would have once been called) "Junior 1-bedroom".

I'm using a lot of "quotes" in today's post.
Pushkin was a special kitty.

Computational Malarkiks

The Brads - Buying a Computer
Hey, what takes 17 minutes on my quad-core computer and less than 4 minutes on the dual-quad-core Mac? This freakin' render, that's what.
But I can't get my new computer because the darn CPU is backordered. It's a Sandy Bridge i7 and apparently they had to change something about the production on them to fix some bugs. Or something.
In the meantime it's being a major league snarfle to get these renders out. Because you know that new computer would be bonking these frames out in less than two minutes.
Oh look. Tomorrow is the first. I get to pay rent. I may as well do laundry too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I STILL have no idea.

Here's something I'm not concerned with -- being "authentic". Whatever I'm doing, I assure you, I'm not being "authentic". I'm not playing music associated with whatever ethnic or sociopolitical group you want to assign me to. I'm just not.
I think people get all bent about how "authentic" their music artists are because they simply don't know what kind of music they do, or do not, like. Nobody wants to listen to uncool music. And what's cool music? Well, it's the music that the cool kids listen to. Right?
Who the cool kids are may depend on who you are. Or which kids tried to sell you their Kinks live album for drug money when you were a Freshman in high school (incidentally, thanks Charlie, that was a pretty good album.)
To some degree I was immune from "cool" because I listened to classical music. It's an immunity to cool because let's face it, you will never be cool because you're listening to some Stokowski arrangement of a Bach fugue.
Where was I going with this? I have no idea.

Android Issues

So let's see. We're late in delivering Android Insurrection. And I feel very bad about that. We're waiting on the last act to be delivered by an outside editor. And we have some more visual effects to render. I'm rendering a robot right now.
We have a script by Steven J. Niles for The Prometheus Trap. You can read it here.
One of the problems with being late on Android Insurrection is that it makes our distributor less-faithed that we'll be able to turn the Prometheus picture around in time.
But we will. I promise. We will. ;-)

Today is Robot Kick Day in the Pandora Machine

Virginia Logan kicks a robot in Android Insurrection.

Today's Bunnies

Why do a case study of a movie that hasn't made its money back yet?
Lighting a sharkstooth scrim.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Promethius Trap Bible -- First Edition

There are two ships:

  • 1. The Venom has a compliment of two biological crew and one android crew.

The ship might look like the Nostromo.

  • It must have a docking sleeve to dock with the Prometheus.


  • The Prometheus, on the other hand, is big. 
  • It has multiple cargo bays, one of which has been breached. That could mean simply that it has an open door.
  • The Prometheus also has a GUN on a TURRET up top which can be operated from the BRIDGE.
  • The bridge has a WINDOW.

The Venom docks with that cargo bay (it has a universal docking lock in order to make a tight seal.)
Here are some pretty pictures:


Today is thinking about spaceships and spacesuits day here in the Pandora Machine.
It's also robot rendering day. But let's just face facts, every day is robot rendering day. I'm doing a closeup of the dang 'bot right now and he's taking 2:44 a frame. And that's just for the Blender render. Afterwards we get to do the AfterEffects render.
By Philip Drawbridge.
So this new Alien movie. Spacesuits. Actually, the spacesuits look to me to essentially be bodysuits with motorcycle armor.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Journey of Discovery

So here's a thing I've discovered about myself. It only took 46 years:
As a composer, I've almost always composed alone. Indeed I know I've been resistant to composing with other people.
And you know what? I hate composing alone. Hate it hate it hate it.
There isn't any music there Dog. C'mon. Just improvise.
Now, composing with other people is another set of problems. You have to be on the same "wavelength" as the people you're working with. This is one reason I like Tyrannosaurus Mouse so much. Our best material has come about through someone saying "how about we do this?" and us trying it and liking it.
How does all of this apply to composing for film? Well, I think I hate composing for film. There. I said it.
Whew. I feel better.
I wonder how this makes me feel about writing the Blade Runner Musical by myself? Hmm... The guys in Tyrannosaurus Mouse have ignored the idea. But I might be able to fool them into doing the music by pretending we're doing something else. Tricking your friends, as it turns out, is the most efficient course of action.

New Helmets

This model is larger than a ping-pong ball, smaller than a tennis ball.
Anthony Jones is building our helmets for us. They're a fairly ingenious design. First of all, the visor is vacu-formed which makes it cheaper and lighter than buying a Lexan sphere.
He's also come up with a unique answer to the whole connect-the-helmet-to-the-body issue by using the top of a 5-gallon bucket as a "collar".
Q. Is it going to be hot inside the helmet?
A. Hell yeah.
Q. How about breathing?
A. There will be downward-facing vents in the back of the helmet.
Q. Wearing those helmets will be a pain. Would you ever ask an actor to do something you wouldn't do?
A. I'm wearing one right now.
Q. Oh God. That's true. You are wearing one right now aren't you?
A. I like pretending I'm on a computer... in space.
Q. No girl will ever date you.
A. But I'm in space.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Online Backups

So. iDrive is $15/month for 500GB. You can backup multiple computers (but not both PC's and Mac's on the same account). And it doesn't automatically delete data after a set period of time. Right now I have two iDrive accounts (one for PC and one for Mac).
The only thing I don't like so much about iDrive is how the interface sometimes "forgets" which folders you want to back up. It seems that the server holds onto the files online, but that you just have to re-click the checkbox next to the folders you want backed up every so often. At least on the Mac interface.
Sugarsync is $15/month for 100GB. But the interface is a tad more clear. Its purpose is different too -- it's great at syncing files and folders across multiple computers (and platforms.) So I use the free version to essentially backup my documents.
And that's how it is.

Everything Samplitude Standardizations and Monetary Outlays

Kraznet has a whole page of YouTube tutorials on Samplitude. They're great tutorials and will take you through everything you need to know.
As it turns out, you can be a rock star for $100,000. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable price to me. Oh wait, that cost includes lessons and living in NYC. So hey, I've already done that!
Oh wait, it also doesn't work.
OK, do you remember the olden days? Back in the early 80's when my composition teacher Dean Powell was showing me how to write music he had his own drum notation method (by the way, you can't blame Dean for my guitar playing, I only took a few lessons on guitar before we switched to writing music.) The kick was a "D" below the staff (if it were a treble clef, drums are written in non-pitched clefs) and the snare was the middle "G". The trick was that the quavers came from below on those notes. It does indeed make for a very readable chart.
But now it looks as though notation for a trap kit is standardized. Well isn't that something? I suppose that helps that all of those General Midi drumkits needed to have standard notes to play to.
And I'd say that I should learn how to write in standard trap kit but lets face it: who is ever going to read it? ;-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moar Notes

For our new Prometheus movie I have the following locations/sets:

This is the monster. Scary, right?

  1. Space
  2. Vulture -- bridge
  3. Vulture -- corridor
  4. Vulture -- cyro compartment
  5. Vulture -- airlock
  6. Caucasus -- corridor
  7. Caucasus -- observation deck
  8. Caucasus -- cyro compartment
  9. Caucasus -- bridge
  10. Caucasus -- engineering
  11. Caucasus -- cargo room anteroom
  12. Caucasus -- cargo bay

That's 12 sets and six characters. Our sales rep was questioning whether we could actually finish this movie in time. I think we can.

Celtx Hot Keys

Over on the Celtx forums Steve lists the hotkeys for Celtx:

Script Elements:
Heading - ctrl + 1, or ctrl + return
Action - ctrl + 2
Character - ctrl + 3
Dialog - ctrl + 4
Parenthesis - ctrl + 5
Transition - ctrl + 6
Shot - ctrl + 7
Text - ctrl + 8

cut - ctrl + x
copy - ctrl + c
paste - ctrl + v

white space - shift + return

find & replace - ctrl + f
find next - ctrl + g
find previous - shift + ctrl + g

new project - ctrl +n
open project - ctrl + o
save - ctrl +s
print - ctrl + p

Mac users can substitute the 'cmd' key for the 'ctrl' key.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Today in the machine

For our upcoming The Promethius Trap we have the awesome Dolf Veenvliet designing and building the spaceships.
Anthony Jones is making our helmets.
A basic tutorial on the Blender interface. This was put together by Michael Richards, via the New York City Blender meetup group.
These dudes have a replica of the International Space Station. They also have a bunch of space suits and space helmets for rent and for sale. Plus they'll make custom ones for you.
Did I already mention these things? I may have already mentioned them.
The dudes at Letus have a new camera "platform" called the Master Cinema Series. I've always dug the stuff they make at Letus. The electronic viewfinder is very very sexy.
An interview with Ron Cobb on the design of the spaceships in Alien.

Samplitude and You Volume III

Every new release of software ends up having a couple issues which confuse lil' ol' me. But one of the best things about Samplitude is the user forum. It's registered, which keeps out some of the riff-raff. And although the developers don't always respond directly, the distributors do and it can be really helpful.

I had a couple problems with the new way Samplitude Pro X handles "objects". And a couple folks on the Samplitude forum, Kraznet and Graham Duncan solved them for me.

The big deal about Samplitude, and why it is so much better than anyone else's software, is the whole concept of "object editing". What that's all about is this: each "segment" or "clip" of audio can have any number of effects applied to it, and volume and fade-in and fade-outs applied.

This saves you from two things which makes audio projects unwieldy. Firstly, it keeps the track - count from going into hundreds of tracks because you don't need a separate track if you want an effect to just be on a brief bit of audio. Secondly it saves from having to automate every damn reverb or EQ setting or bit of compression you put on something.
You want a single note on the guitar to have a big ol' delay on it? That's fine -- just take the object/clip/segment* with that guitar note you want and put a big ol' delay on it. (Make sure you set the order of effects so that the delay will ring out past the length of the object and you're all set.) Easier and simpler than automating the send for the delay on the entire track.
In the world of music mixing I think that's pretty cool. In the world of dialog editing this "object" methodology of working is a HUGE improvement. For instance on feature films I only use three main dialog tracks. That's it. I only have a total of 29 tracks of audio on my feature film template (and I usually use far fewer tracks on any given act). Not having a bazillion tracks of audio to keep track of makes things go hugely faster for me.

The object editor lets you alter time, pitch, EQ, fades, and any effects you like.
What are the downsides of Samplitude?
It's a small company. Making software is expensive. And you're going to have to sacrifice something in order to get the software out on time and actually make some sort of profit. So what do they sacrifice?

  • Documentation. 

Of course that's true with all software. Documentation is always lacking. Writing up new docs doesn't help you sell any more copies of your program and it's very expensive and time-consuming. I'm sure most of their customers would rather they put their minds to bug fixing rather than writing documentation which will be obsolete in a few months. On the flip side, there's the user forum. The forum is very helpful and friendly.

  • Very large number of edits.

Actually, I don't know if this is a problem anymore. Up through version 8 of the software you could go crazy making edits. Like 20-minutes of dialog edits. Hundreds and hundreds of edits. And the program didn't care. Then starting with version 9 there was a problem with huge numbers of edits.
I know that for a while ProTools had this problem too. But eventually Avid fixed it.
But back to Samplitude -- what I did was to go down to 10-minute reels for all of my audio-for-picture. That was my work-around for VLNoE (Very Large Number of Edits). Because it's so much easier to deal with 10-minute reels than 20-minute reels I've been keeping the length of our reels down to 10 minutes. And there have been many many versions of Samplitude since this problem first came up. So the problem might not exist anymore. I'm still keeping our reel-length to 10 minutes.
Note that for music purposes you almost never run into the Very Large Number of Edits issue. That's only an issue for dialog editors. And I've never had a problem with Samplitude running a memory error when working on a 10-minute reel, no matter how much dialog is in it. I suppose your mileage may vary.

  • Waveform display

This isn't so much a sacrifice as a philosophical issue with how you like your waveforms displayed. I find that Pro Tools is better for editing music and Samplitude is better for editing dialog. For some reason I find it harder to find dialog ins and outs in Pro Tools and I find seeing the beginning of (say) kick drums harder in Samplitude. Since one gets used to whatever waveform display one is looking at, it's probably not that big a deal ultimately. I edit lots of music in Samplitude and heaven knows I used to edit dialog in Pro Tools like crazy.

So the downsides are pretty minimal. And the object editing is a monster. You're paying ProTools - like prices to own Samplitude, at the same time it's completely possible to work entirely within Samplitude without buying additional plugins.

I gotta get back to work now.

*"Object" is the Samplitude word for what other programs call "clips" or "segments". Objects go onto tracks.

Delicate Cutters

You know, a lot of reviews point out the "folk"-ish-ness of the Delicate Cutters. To me they're more of that REM-ish in-specifically influenced band.
There's a fantastic sense of space in their arrangements. Yet they also sound big. That can be hard to do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mah Notes

Kevin Kangas grooves you to the new good cheap LED light.

Haskin - F Captain scout ship
Rhodes - M Lt scout ship
(Are they both officers? Does that make a difference?)
My older brother's new dog, Maggie. She has an ear.

Inverse Kinematics in Blender. Because you completely understand Forward Kinematics and Inverse Kinematics. Completely and fully.

I'm looking at coveralls as spacesuits.

How to write 10K words a day.

Dope zebra dance is dope.

Azania Triad

Azania is performing at Triad on February 4th.

Samplitude and You Part II

The Restoration Suite
One of the new tools that comes with Samplitude Pro X Suite is a "denoiser" in the "Restoration Suite". The denoiser works on tracks in real-time and you can use a preset noise or a noise sample.
The first thing I tried it on was a classical musical recording -- I had a bit of a hum in the left channel of a recording I made for the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. Chorus, cello, and piano, recorded at St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village.
[I'm still not so sure what caused the hum. Of course, I bring all the gear back to my studio and can't make any of it hum at all. Perhaps the lights were inducting some noise into only one of the two AKG 460's? Who knows?]
Anyway, I tried Samplitude's de-noising on the tracks and... it sounds nice. Very nice.
How nice? Well, actually I decided not to use it actually because the "natural" noise reduction of the actual chorus singing overtaking the noise on the track was maybe a bit nicer (this also means that the sound of the hum will probably only bother me as it is so quiet to start with) but the Samplitude noise reduction was surprising in its lack of artifacts -- the way most noise reduction "chomps" on the signal making it all swishy and chewy.
I spend a lot of time cleaning up dialog in movies. Not enough time, actually, as we have to mix very quickly. So for a long time I've fantasized about having a Cedar DNS 1500 to run all the dialog through.
Instead what I do is run all the dialog through a submix buss that has multi-band expansion, some hard limiting, and now the De-Noiser.
Is it better than a DNS 1500 (at about $5000)? No.
Are we getting close? Sure thing.
Now note that one should go through each piece of dialog in a motion picture and carefully craft the volume and the noise reduction for each phrase of speech. That's not happening. Why? Because I am too lazy we simply do not have that kind of time.
So we slam the dialog into the "SMax11" limiter (which is part of Samplitude) and we do all that expansion and noise reduction and we move on.
Samplitude is funny. It's an immense and fully-featured Digital Audio Workstation. And the concepts (especially the "objekt" editing) are brilliant. But the company that makes it is small -- so sometimes the releases are few and far between and they take a bit of updating to get stable.
On the other hand, I've been running Samplitude Pro X Suite on a very creaky old computer and (knock on wood) it hasn't crashed. Plus (and this is a big freakin' deal, actually) if I have trouble with a project opening in a newer version of Samplitude I can always go back to an older version. If there are special Samplitude effects the older version doesn't have it'll say "plugin missing", but it will read the project.
For those of us who use Final Cut Pro or any Adobe product this is quite the big deal.
Look, screen captures don't show you the video playing in the window!

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Dream Song

In my dream on Saturday morning I was playing this song with Tyrannosaurus Mouse. So I recorded it into my answering machine.

Just as soon as our bass player leaves the land of milk and honey that is his day job at the opera, we'll get to playing more and making more music.
You'll have to click through to hear the "music".

Pianos and Mice

EQ Magazine says that the Native Instruments pianos are the best. Interestingly the most recent versions of their Steinway and their Bosendorfer are only $79.
The Line6 Stagescape is a very interesting idea. On the one hand it seems kind of childish to have a graphic of the band as your main screen. On the other hand, that might ultimately be very wise. I can imagine that especially in worship service pro audio that there's a huge problem with the competence of the sound operator and anything that can make it easier for them to not mess up the sound is a plus.
Now I need an awesome and inexpensive string library. Unless I'm cool with the Independence Workstation which came with Samplitude. And I might be. I might be.


We're announcing a new picture today. We're going to go into production on The Prometheus Trap by Steven J. Niles.
It's a fantastic original script. So even though we'll be making it as a "mockbuster" of the upcoming Prometheus, our "Prometheus" is a groovy original concept about a ghost ship in deep space. I can't wait to get to shooting.
Yes, this changes our schedule somewhat. We're pushing back Dragon Girl until the weather is warmer.


You know, I really liked the "steampunk opera" Miranda. It's an opera which was being performed at HERE. But it was very flawed. The biggest flaw was in the sound. All of the vocals were mixed just under where they needed to be. And that's the fault of the music being too loud, not the voices being loud enough. The mix was loud enough that the room itself could just barely handle it without becoming just a harsh icepick aimed at the audience's head. Or about 85 - 90 dB SPL.
But that meant that, even without worrying about gain-before-feedback, there was no way to make the voices louder than that because they'd just become strident and irksome.
Although the show was produced by HERE, a Kickstarter campaign was used to pay the musicians. To me that sounds like a pretty smart way to use Kickstarter.

(Note this video is not from the recent performances -- the performance I saw ironically didn't sound this good although this may have been a special mix from the board rather than a mic sitting on the camera.)
Continuing the problems with the sound, the romantic lead was singing way below his range. And the only way to deal with that is to turn up the volume (see problem number one, above). And although she's a pretty good singer, Kamala Sankaram doesn't do that necessary thing where you sing quieter as you go higher. Instead she uses her support for volume rather than, you know, support.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Samplitude and You part I

So, I'm one of those guys who says "Samplitude is better than any other editing/mixing program out there." Exactly, one of those guys. Yeah, I've been a Pro Tools editor. And I've worked with strange systems (Pyramix, etc.) over the years. And still, Samplitude is the best.
Now, sometimes people think one system is somehow inherently better than another just because they're used to it. And I can totally understand that. And look, there are things that Pro Tools is very good at -- tracking live bands for instance. But Samplitude is better for editing. Maybe not even for editing music, but better for editing everything else. And it sounds great with music.
"But Drew" you say to yourself "how can you objectively say one thing is better? You're just prejudiced because you've been using Samplitude since, like, version 2 or something."
And I say: "objective" is right. The big difference is objekt editing. Samplitude does it. Nobody else does. Ergo: Samplitude is better.

(Tanita Tikaram. Not in any way related to the rest of this blog post.)
First of all a disclaimer. All audio editing programs work. And they all sound great. At one time engineers would slag on Pro Tools because they said it sounded bad. Me? I never thought that was so. But now those engineers seem happy again with Pro Tools. Further more, pretty much very major album is recorded and mixed using Pro Tools (even if they go through an analog desk). So the only difference in audio editing/mixing applications is the process of doing that work. OK, I'm glad we got that out of the way. Now:

I do two things: music and sound-for-picture.
In my music life I'm primarily mixing or pre-mixing my own band. And I'm surprised every dang time how nice the comes-with-the-product effects are with Samplitude. You want a nice 1176-type compressor? You want a Pultec or some older-sounding limiters or compressors? The ones built into Samplitude sound fantastic. Really, they're just great sounding. Believe me, you have much bigger problems in your life than the sound quality of the compressors, limiters, EQ's, and reverbs in Samplitude.
There are some advantages to the Waves stuff. They're multiband L3 is pretty nice sounding for that horrible squash sound you hear on modern records. But the single-band "L1-like" limiter in Samplitude is pretty good.
I do love the analog delays in Samplitude. They just subjectively sound nice. Mmm... nice.
In my sound-for-picture life I have much more exotic needs. For instance I need to be able to import OMF files. ProTools has traditionally been very difficult to work with in this regard. And Samplitude used to make you buy something called "EDL Convert" which was like six hundred bucks. But now Samplitude will let you import OMF directly. And it works.

I bought the upgrade to Samplitude, which is called Samplitude X. Right. It's technically version 12, but it's named "X". Fine. I've also reconciled myself to the fact that "Samplitude" is kinda a silly name anyway. So now we're at "X".
A 70GB sample library comes with the "Pro X Suite" version. I was a tad confused about how to load the samples 'till I found it was a menu item rather than an installer on the 10 DVD's you get with the program. But once I pressed the icon in the start menu it all worked automatically.
There's an automatic updater for Samplitude. It's a tad confusing to me. Actually, it doesn't seem to work at all. Maybe one day it will work. Nobody knows. Samplitude has had a history of "Oh, there's this thing which just doesn't work" which is what you get when you have a small company competing against the big boys (Avid). But the rest of this release is pretty stable it seems to me. UPDATE: the "auto update" seems to work now. To which I say  "hooray!"
Automatic Update unfortunately freezes at this screen.
The "Independence Workstation" comes with the Samplitude Pro X Suite. There are some surprisingly nice horn sounds included. I don't particularly like the piano sounds [UPDATE: oddly, there was a big high-end roll off filter applied to the default piano sound making it very dead - sounding, the piano is much better sounding than I first thought -- just turn off that dang EQ]. Ironically, the pianos included in the Vita workstation (which also comes with Samplitude) I find a bit more "real" sounding. Perhaps the pianos with Independence sound the way they do in order to better mix with an orchestra? I'd that that might be true except that the pianos are a bit dull - sounding and normally to get them to mix better you'd brighten them up a bit. But perhaps the pianos sound a bit more "real" only because they don't have the hyped-up top end of other sampled pianos?

Anyway, those are my first and somewhat incoherent impressions. Seeing as how I have to mix this movie, I'll have plenty more to say about the restoration suite and other features in Samplitude in the coming weeks.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tell Your Unicorn

Jammit is actually kinda cool. I have no idea how they get the original masters, but it's kinda cool. When they put Comfortably Numb on there I'm totally buying it.
Brady Cases. They make cases. You know. For stuff. I need roadies. I need a guitar tech. I need fans first though, I think.

I am unnecessarily proud of this sound of talking on a radio of a landing craft in a science fiction movie. What I like most is the modulation sound caused by my using the Vandal plugin in Samplitude and kicking in a bit of the "octaver" sound "pedal".

Thursday, January 19, 2012


So I have to stack amplifiers on top of speaker cabinets (and other amplifiers) that have handles on the top. I will use wooden blocks. Ethan came up with the very smart notion to put suede leather on the blocks so the blocks wouldn't be all slidy and would also not hurt the finish on the nice wooden cabinets.

This article in EM on processing while recording is... actually quite helpful. I woulda never thought of that. You can apply software effects while you're recording. Rock on.

You Like Random Information

Verizon's high-speed DSL is $40/month. Their low-speed DSL is $25/month. They charge you $20 to install the thing. (We're having so much trouble with our Internet at the new office that I'm considering just bailing out and getting our own DSL line.)
Chance Shirley is a world of information about spacesuit helmets. The sphere's he used for his spacesuits came from Complex Plastics. I've written to get a price from them (I actually called but they said to email them -- go figure.)
Here is Chance on the helmet itself:

I believe we used 14" diameter spheres, and we had them cut a 10" holeat the base.

And I think that's a good size for space helmets. The trick, which Inever quite figured out, is how to make a collar to keep the helmetcomfortably/consistently attached to the actor's shoulders. Ourhelmets tended to lean forward, resting against the back of the actorshead. So we put a little strip of foam in the back to at least make it more comfy.
Because Things Chance Says should be on permanent record on the Internet, I include some of his advice (without his permission) right here. This is what he has to say about how the gasket was attached to the helmet:
We glued a wooden hoop (painted metallic) to the gasket, then gluedthe helmet to the wooden hoop. I'm surprised they stayed together aswell as they did. Probably would have been better to build some kindof working mount and attach to the helmet with screws.

I considered a back piece, a la "Alien," but couldn't figure out agood way to do it. If you let gravity keep the helmet in place, watchout for light leaks (which the back piece would help with, too) thatwould give away the fact the helmet isn't really airtight.

And definitely get some lights in there. I figured you could get somekind of cheap LEDs these days...
All this time I've been whining about how expensive Cedar noise reduction systems are. But rather than buying one for five grand you can just rent one for eighty bucks a day. Considering the fact that we'd only need it about six or maybe eight days a year, that's just $640.
If you don't believe me here is a duck.
Dreamhire also rents Cedar but their ratecard is substantially higher than Audio Rents in CA.

Palm Flower Blinking

You make a cartoon referencing Logan's Run, I am amused.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Helmets of Space

Now, my buddy Chance Shirley already made the most awesome space movie, Interplanetary. So really I should just quit and get a real job. I'm just too stubborn.
The helmets for Interplanetary do a great job of solving one of the biggest inherent problems with space helmets: how to attach them to the body.
Now you'd think I was just posting pictures of topless women gratuitously. But, shockingly, I'm not. This picture just happens to have the clearest view of the way the gasket on the helmet works.
As it turns out, acrylic is much cheaper than Lexan.

The Pandora Machine Telephone

This took a whole bunch of experimentation. But I think we're in the ballpark now. This is our telephone.

It's an inexpensive handset hooked up to an iPod Touch. The Touch is hooked up to our Mac Mini (which serves mostly to just power the iPod.
We're running Skype. This way the telephone can be answered from wherever. In fact, you can pick up the handset and the iPod and walk to the conference area or anywhere you like.
Right now the only downside is that the ring is very quiet. But if we have enough computers also set up with Skype we'll have no trouble hearing them ring. The Mini is serving both as power and as a ringer.
The Skype account is unlimited minutes to US and Canada. So go crazy with it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm not allowed to watch TV anymore

I wouldn't even say I have a particularly good eye for this kind of thing.
But I do tend to see this kind of thing right away.
That character had a line. But his action was to raise his hands -- which is undoubtedly why his jersey rode up and hooked around his transmitter.


It's not that I just like to think each movie we make is better than the last, they are actually better.
I think that the biggest issue is visual effects. Because, facing reality, the only thing our buyers really care about is the genre and the visual effects, right? I suspect that all the work we spend on getting scripts just right and nuanced performances and such are really just for us and have nothing to do with how well our pictures sell.
Which is no big deal. It's just nice to know that fact when we're racing to the finish line on getting a movie completed.
What surprises me though is how frequently I am able to just idiotically and without thinking blow things off -- really important parts of the story -- just because I'm too close to it. Last night our producer, the Queen of Mars, came by the studio and looked at footage. And what do you know? The first big decision our lead character makes, the decision which the second 2/3rds of the movie is based on, is absent from the cut. And yup, it's all because Mr. Derpitude over here didn't shoot the scene with it.
The decision.
Crimea if I don't know better than to miss those critical decisions. But knowing better and actually doing it right are two way different things. So I blew that one. I mean, it's simple enough to shoot. Get a closeup of your lead looking one way then another.
Lucky for us the Martian Queen found a bit of footage (just before the slate comes in, don't you know) which we cut into the edit of reel 3 which shows our lead making the decision to save the android.
You might be surprised (spoiler alert!) to discover that later on that android saves our lead's life. But that's another story. No, wait. It isn't.
If no off-world royalty ever came to give us notes, that very important story bit would have been missed. So although I might suck as a director, at least the people around me are really good. That helps mask my imperfections.

My new Skype picture


That thing that Pete Townsend wore with The Who, the shirt with the RAF target? That symbol is called the RAF Roundel. Even moreso: the French Air Force were the first to have one (different colors).
Here's a huge one (that's what she said.)
Stu Maschwitz linked to this DSLR mount on the Twitters. But so far there's only one review of it. It is, however, only three hundred bucks.

I'm kinda interested in seeing this opera, Miranda.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marina Del Ray

I don't really get all the hating on Lana Del Ray happening on the Twitters for her performance on Saturday Night Live. Well, I think I do get it -- and I think it's misdirected.
The first thing which was a tad cringe-inducing is that she really looked nervous. Scared, even.

But you know, she can actually sing. This isn't a matter of opinion. You might like or dislike her voice. You might like or dislike her style or her songs. But she has control over how she hits notes. So she can actually do it. (I don't hear the common artifacts of Auto Tune on this performance, although that's possible for broadcast.)
I think the thing many people were reacting to was that the shtick that was going on was a very chanteuse - style of performing artist. And you know, SNL does not put up with someone singing to background tracks very well, so there kinda has to be a live band. (Yes, it's possible that the band was playing to a click-track and she was lip syncing to a played-back vocal performance, but in any case this is a perfectly good vocal performance so let's just pretend for this argument that those things are off the table.)
But the band was very deliberately un-lit.
And I think the psychological effect was that the relatively unknown artist was being just a bit too much and up-front. If they'd put the keyboard player down on the stage and had her singing with him I think that people would have been vastly more charitable to her performance.
Well, and maybe the mix was done too loud: that tends to make the vocals too hot in the mix. Now, her vocals are very loud in the album-version of her material. But but but I think the keyboards are a bit buried in the SNL version.
Actually maybe it's not an awesome arrangement for the live performance of this song?
So say I. So say we All.

I'm That Guy

I'm that guy who thinks Community is the best thing since sliced bread.
I only started watching in Season 2. So last week I went back to Season 1 only to find that at one time it was the good-looking white guy's show. I would say the show is actually Abed's show.
The entire show is a parody of television. Which, of course, desperately needs to be parodied.
There are a lot of things established at the beginning of the series which aren't part of the characters later on. Like the fact that Troy is a jock. He's totally a nerd by the middle of the second season.
This is, of course, another indicator that it's Abed's show. In fact, there are a whole bunch of indicators that Abed actually created all the characters and all the events are playing out in his mind. But we don't have to go there.
What I really don't understand is how they manage to take the serious moments without being embarrassing. That's usually a huge failure in sit-coms but somehow they always avoid the trap.
The pilot had some boomed sound which was actually on the edge of being unacceptable for broadcast quality. But other than that one episode the show is one of the best - sounding shows on television. The musical numbers do all the things right that Glee does wrong. The vocal sound doesn't "stick out" the way it does on Glee, instead the vocals match the dialog naturally. Of course I'm the dorkus who would notice such things but it really does make a difference.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


So, we're going to have this new album finished very soon, right?
The question is: what physical means will it be available?
The thing is that obviously it'll be available for digital download from bandcamp.com. But should we also make CD's? Who actually listens to CD's anymore? I don't know of anybody.
Which ironically (in so many ways) brings us to the possibility of making vinyl LP's. I think we could easily find ourselves in the position that most of the people who want a physical copy want vinyl rather than a CD.
Capsule Labs makes LP's.  Of course, you're talkin' about two thousand bucks for even a short run. But, you know, it's something to think about.

Lazed and Refused

This live version of Dazed and Confused is pretty good. It's fascinating how good the sounds are. The drums sound dynamite. They're just enormous sounding. And John Bonham is a very tasteful player. He makes the drum part sound huge and powerful by playing very specifically.
The quality of the bass sound in this video is also a tad surprising. Normally these old film versions don't have the hefty low end to really make the bass sound good.

Every electric guitar trick for making a guitar sound different is going on here. And I don't just mean the wah pedal. Flipping pickups and changing the position of the right hand all contribute to a wide tonal palate and dynamic range. And all the time the sound is fairly distorted, which oftentimes masks those kinds of details.
And, er, just as a warning -- the video cuts off abruptly at 10 minutes.

The Weirdest Thing on the Internet Today

Connect. Cream.
Yeah, I don't have any idea either.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Notes on spacesuit helmets

Generally speaking there are three basic kinds of face-readable spacesuit helmet designs. 

1. There's the "bubble" helmet like the Apollo suits had, with variations like the helmets in Alien.

I do love the clunkiness of this particular suit design but I expect it's rather expensive because the Lexan dome is going to cost more than our budget.

2. The second main kind of design I do not like because it's very visually distorting and makes it hard to read the faces of the actors. I'll call this the "Firefly" design. 

3. The third design is what we might call the "Outbreak" design. Three flat lexan panels instead of a curved piece of plastic for the visor is likely vastly less expensive to manufacture.

The big cost issue is the visor itself. I haven't been able to source reasonably-priced bubbles. Flat pieces are likely to be the cost-effective way to go. 

The other big issue is the method by which the helmet will actually attach to the body. Typically a pair of rings are used (like in the Apollo design). Another way to go is to make the helmet attached to the carapace which would then have the suit itself pulled up over the carapace -- similar to the way dive suits sometimes are made.

We're very price-conscious. When we say the budget for all three is $500 it really is $500 for all three of them complete. ;-)

So those are our thoughts regarding spacesuit helmets right now.