Saturday, March 31, 2012

Banana Clock

Do you like crazy people? Do you like crazy people with a lot of focus on a project they can't live to see the outcome of? We got 'em. Right here. The 10,000-year clock project.
We're going to try Pluraleyes again for The Prometheus Trap. Hey wait, aren't we Beta testers?
C'mon Red Bubble T's are an awesome name for a T-shirt company.
You know how Africans are all like "You haven't eaten a real banana"? Like there are some mystical magical special Ugandan sweet bananas that we just don't eat because they don't ship well? Well c'mon, this is New York City -- those bananas have to be available somewhere. Right? Gimme a good banana. Show me what I've been missing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dragons and Spaceships

So, you think I'm not a 9-year-old. I like to think so too. But I'm all about the dragons and spaceships today.

Dolf Veenvliet is building the Prometheus.
Nathan Vegdahl is building a dead dragon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beckett Day in the Pandora Machine

It was very important for him to try on a space helmet.

It fits him surprisingly well.


I've always said "Interns aren't worth what you don't pay them." And after I'm done with my wry, ironic laugh and turn back to the water cooler, I fall through the floor because an intern left the trap door open (again.)
Plus, you know, interns are basically not actually legal. I mean usually. In any case, here's ways to keep from getting smacked by the government for not paying your workers interns.
The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences is a Phoenix, AZ school which seems to have a focus on film post-production sound. Which is actually a good way to make sure your graduates get jobs.

But speaking of the water cooler (remember when I was doing that?):
The worst thing to have ever happened. It happened. We ran out of Poland Spring here in the office. I've yet to make inquiry regarding the permanence of this impoverished existence we all now lead. As a stopgap I filled my water bottle with tap water before putting it in the SodaStream.
I think I taste the placebo effect.

Girls and Dragons

Re-texturing to make a dragon dead. He's dark because he's all charred.
That's right, we're starting CG work on Dragon Girl. Nathan Vegdahl is having a dragon party at his house.
There are a lot of dragon shots in this picture. I'm going to have to find a way to reduce them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Time to Wait

So you drop down into the Big Scary. The dark.
There's a bird down there, crashed out on some moon of some other moon of Jupiter. The piece of rock only has some number you don't even remember anymore --  R348? The bird was a troop transport. 16 guys on that thing but none of them been heard from in the 95 hours since she went down and they barely had enough air to make the brake around Jupiter in the first place so you ain't feeling too lucky.
And right now you have other concerns. The transponder on the little bird is calling its name not just to the brass up in Mission, but to Mister Skinny -- who likes to use lasers because they're quiet and fast and penetrate your armor like ice cream in July.
Surrounded by little robots who will take a bullet for you (if they have enough time after seeing one come for you), you rocket three short bursts, and then flip upside-down and do it two more times so your landing, while clumsy and inelegant, isn't deadly.
Radio silence. You know your buddy is on the other side of that crater but any chatter will put you under the languid gazing eye of Mr. Skinny and bring his radioactive wrath upon ye. So you stay quiet and make two more hops. Just two bunny hops that your suit lets to do, on your toes, without reaching escape velocity.
And there it is. A scar a half mile long. The engines evaporated their contents within microseconds of contact of the surface of this barren, airless hole of a planet. Probably half of the ship bounced right back up again at escape velocity speeds, only to fall toward Jupiter or crash into some moon, days, months, years from now.
But the damn transmitter still works and is all augured in and your Geiger counter is screaming but your onboard computer tells you that you can handle the Rads for another 15 minutes so you better start digging.
And here you are, out in the middle of nowhere space, the highest - tech at your disposal and you have a freakin' shovel in your over-armored and pressurized and inverse-feedback-servoed gloves and you're digging. Digging a hole in this hard desiccated rock as fast as you can until you hear the clang of the metal through your own spacesuit and you open the hole even faster because you've only got two more minutes of exposure from the Rads left and what if Mister Skinny is watching? Maybe he's already sent a little warhead of his own just for you, with your name on it. He could have launched as soon as you landed and how would you know?
So you pull the bright yellow carton out of the bulkhead with your super-human strength -- tearing a breach in the bird and you see something you don't want to see and can't ever forget inside the ship where two guys had been sharing a single air mask until they both left their coil of mortality, curled up in their arms for heat while a dozen of their comrades already lay dead around them.
And your fear of Mister Skinny with his lasers and his guided satellites scares you even more (right then) so you hold onto that little yellow package for all its worth and you start your bunny hops -- as fast as you can go.
The horizon lights up. You don't look back. You're already a quarter of the way around the planet when the nuke goes off.
Mission will get here. They want that package. They want it bad. They'll send in a battalion of combat 'droids to pick you up they want it so much.

New T-Shirts

So we have another print-on-demand vendor for our Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirts. I'm going to have to check them out, especially because they're "Red Bubble T's".

You can also make hoodies and there are even children's sizes (because every child needs a Tyrannosaurus Mouse.)

"Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirt" T-Shirts & Hoodies by pandoramachine | RedBubble:

In the Machine

Questions to not ask when interviewing.
Look! Mr. Kangas showed me that wildcards work when you put in portions of file names in a directory. I was looking for "fall" and I found the sound effect I was looking for.
What are you people doing with my headphones? I mean, the edit station has very heavy-duty headphones -- Sennheiser 280's. And apparently you just take them out and drive trucks over them all day long when I'm not here.
Today is another punchlist day in the Pandora Machine. I'm re-mixing and re-fixing all sorts of things in Android Insurrection.
In my copious free time I'm updating our dialog page on the wiki.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I need a cryo chamber

I had to superglue a couple of our wall hooks which had fallen. And now there is superglue on my hands. On my pants. On the carpet. On my desk. It's really quite spectacular. I don't think I'd even done this big a mess with superglue when I was little. Good grief. I'm revoking my superglue privileges.

In the meantime we're doing some punchlist notes for Android Insurrection. You know, we're not going to be able to have a screening of that picture 'till after we finish shooting The Prometheus Trap.

So two tools from Waves are a big deal in our mixing dialog.
Vocal Rider
Waves DNS (Dialog Noise Suppression)

Both of these tools work shockingly well. The Vocal Rider is a very very slow compressor which rides your vocals to within a specified range. Although obviously not designed for dialog per se, it certainly works for dialog. Very very well. You can (and probably should) put some sort of limiting above it, but the Rider gets you ballparked the way you really ought to ride the levels.
The DNS is mission critical. Yeah, a Cedar (at ten times the price) might sound a little bit better -- especially as you really whollop a track with noise reduction. But it's basically the best single-ended noise reduction for dialog I've heard outside of the Cedar device.

Everything about the mix is better with the DNS. Even crappy camera-audio tracks of people walking around indoors can be cleaned up to the point of usability (to use instead of doing Foley).


So, there's a couple things I'm digging.
  1. The kind of Pink Floyd ostinato with big chords over the top of it.
  2. The Who kind of lots of fun with virtuoso bass guitar.

So the thing here is that those two things tend to be mutually exclusive because you need the bass to be playing those triplets or whatever with lots of delay. Or, you have the guitar doing that and then all of a sudden I can't play big obnoxious chords or self-indulgent lead lines. And that simply will not do.
Now one advantage of my bass player, Ethan Rosenblatt, is that if anything he tends to underplay. This is a good quality in a musician. We can, however, smack his bum and make him go all Entwhistle on us if we want to. And he's very good at it.
So, if we want the band to go all crazy but want to do it on top of some sort of ostinato then... then the option is obvious.
The Who - like repeated synth playback.
See? Pete Townsend already figured out the solution.
"Sheep" really hit the very bottom (or very top) of where Pink Floyd could go depressing-wise. It brings them back to Meddle-era ostinati and big fun guitar parts (the outtro is really exciting).

So yeah, I've talked about this idea before. It's time to start recording some ostinati.

Now for the big question. Do we use something like Abelton Live for playback? Or do we use QLab? I think we'll end up with QLab because we're going to need it for playing back all the dialog we need to create for the Imaginary Opera.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Who is what?

So Backblaze is kinda cool but you have to keep your drives plugged in or it'll drop you after 30 days. And it would really suck to have a whole movie backed up, you remove the drive, and then you have a crash after 31 days.

Y'know.  I've been thinking about how we're going to shoot this movie. Since my first movie I've been shy about using other camera people because every cameraman I knew flaked out on me. But since then I've met and worked with great camera people.
There's a couple issues working with multiple cameras. For instance, they all pretty well have to be set to the same f-stop. So if you're using a very long lens on once camera and it's clamped all the way down to f5.6, then you probably need to shut your wide-angle-lens camera down to 5.6 too or you'll end up yelling at inanimate objects in post production. Sometimes animate ones.
The other issue is what if you use different cameras? With different lenses? Oh my. Oh dear oh my oh my.
Well, here's an interesting thing about this particular movie: the Groundhog Day-like plot will take us back to the same location a number of times. Wouldn't it be interesting if the look were slightly different each time? For instance it's the same scene, but we go to camera X rather than camera Y for all the shots. Different camera operator. But shot at the same time.
I think that might work really well.
Me? I'll be shooting on the Panasonic GH1 with Canon S.S.C. manual lenses. I bet we're going to have to set the cameras at different ISO's in order to deal with the above issue of different f-stops because you know I'm gonna want to be wide open at f1.8 or so. But if my camera is at 100 ISO and the 5.6 camera is at, er, math-in-head, 1600(?)ISO, they should about match. We'll fiddle with it.
Now, who is in this movie?

Michael Shattner does not exist on the Internet. Therefore he does not exist. As far as you know.
Rebecca Kush.

Sarah-Doe Osborne
Sarah Doe Osborne is Artemis.
Rebecca Kush is Haskins. She also does not have a web page. What is up with that?
Andrew Langton.

Andrew Langton is Rhodes.
Kate Britton.
Kate Britton is Trent.
James Becton.
Nobody yet knows who is Cornell. That will be worked out in the next couple days. James Edward Becton will be Cornell.

The Hunger Games

I really hated The Hunger Games. Despised. Loathed.
Oh look, a beat-sheet for the novel (which is, unfortunately, followed pretty closely in the movie.)
The biggest problem for me was there were a lot of white boys whom I couldn't distinguish and just didn't care about. Beyond this owl there be spoilers.
The second biggest problem is that the "fun and games" section (in Blake Snyder-speak) was "go to the city and get dolled up and learn about the media and train for the Hunger Games." No. No no no. The fun and games is the Games themselves.
Oh, and she has a flaming dress. A flaming dress that does nothing for her later in the film. Even as fireballs are being shot at her.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jonathan E

Seeing Hunger Games led me to this T-shirt. Which, in turn, led me to listening to the organ version of the Toccata and Fugue in Dm, which (quite rightly) led me to listening to Stokowski's version of that as well as his version of the Fugue in Gm.
"Rollerball - Houston Energy - Jonathan E." T-Shirts & Hoodies by Fitcharoo | RedBubble:
The inner workings of my brain were brought to you by the letter "E".

I don't care what you long-hairs think. And I know he could be a summabitch. But Stokowski was the man yo.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Foley Up

I'm re-mixing Earthkiller. Yeah, I'm adding some footsteps but a lot of what I'm doing is lowering the levels of, or eliminating, music. As the new studio is vastly quieter than Theatresource was it is admittedly easier to hear details in the mix which makes me do a better job on dialog too.
One thing I've discovered is that it's very hard to mix with a space helmet on. These are the kinds of things we learn as we get older. I'm not saying I don't mix with my space helmet on. I'm just saying it's more difficult.

Sounds we recorded last week with DeLisa M. White are up on Freesound under a Creative Commons license:
Gritty footsteps
Talky servos
DeLisa's rain tube (heavily modified)

We also have some awesome robot "clicks" which are being uploaded.
I have to say I love the idea of Creative Commons. I mean, it's no skin off our backs to give away sound effects or computer models. That doesn't lose us any money. But it does make it easier for others (hopefully) to do more and better work. Certainly other people licensing their sound effects and models has made my life easier.

A Counter-Example

So I've been complaining about the sound of Saturday Night Live. But I can't complain about the Bon Iver mix.

Now here's a thing -- they're clearly using in-ear monitors and that always cleans up the stage sound. And I don't know what the double microphone on voice thing is about. He seems to favor the one to his right. Maybe that's a way to keep him just off of the left one.
But the mix is good. We can hear all the instruments, which considering the instrumentation is fairly tricky. I'm not exactly sure where the bass is coming from. Maybe the camera right drummer is playing a bass keyboard?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Work is Never Done

And by that I mean that there's always something to do even on a movie you thought you'd delivered and seen the last of.
I rendered out Android Insurrection and put it out the door today. $114 to FedEx to get the drive to Beverly Hills by tomorrow.
And the thing is that we just know there will be some changes. But it's out the door. I should be having a cigar. Or at least some bubble tea.
But in the meantime I've done a new mix on Earthkiller. We have a lead on possibly releasing that picture in North America. Maybe along with Android Insurrection. Heck, they should take Solar Vengeance too ya know.
I need to figure out how to make Dragon Girl with absolutely as few visual effects shots as possible. By my reckoning the final edit is about three times the number of visual effects shots you plan on. So we have to get the movie down to 1/3 of what we think we can do. Ha! Yes. That's what we'll do.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Remember how this blog is my Internet notebook?

Because it is.

I want to eat at Buenos Aries NYC. I checked my meter and I'm running low on Argentine food.

Sonus Masters will dialog edit, sound effects edit, Foley, and mix your picture in stereo for $4500. They're a bit too into the K-system for my taste but at least we know a price tag.

I have much to say about the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Especially having just read Dispatches. I just don't have to say it today.

Re-sounding is a sound design blog. Film oriented.

The Things I Go Through

Tattoos are so ubiquitus nowadays that it seems exotic not to have one. Here's a NSFW video featuring the abuse of a perfectly decent Fender guitar.

'030' by The Good The Bad (UNCUT) from The Good The Bad on Vimeo.

For the purposes of making my life easier, Final Cut Pro has decided that it won't hang onto a prerender of Act 1 if it gets restarted. It'll just lose the render files. For that matter, it'll "redline" the first act if we make an edit anywhere on the timeline. So I can't prerender act 1. Good times. Time to restart the computer.
I sound particularly drunk on the commentary track. I have a feeling that Libby was reducing my alcohol intake by putting more juice in my drink toward the end.
Has anybody else noticed that I was supposed to have gotten the movie out the door today and that's it's 9pm and it's not completely rendered? My distributor has.

Life in the Forbidden Palace

Today I came in at around 7 in the morning and Maduka was here. Which was funny 'cause I'd left him here at 10pm last night. He swears he didn't pull an all-nighter though.

Funny thing about having a gym at our office. I shower there a few times a week. Work out? Not so much. And the steam room is just too hot for me although it's great for allergies. The sauna is the best place to dry off. Now you know all my secrets.

This little cat amuses me much more than he should.
This would be the perfect office to have a cat in.
I'm finishing Android Insurrection today. Probably not for the last time though. Because there's never time to do things right, but there's always time to do them over.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Make Room! Make Room!

Search My Trash interviews Mike Raso. Mike distributed our Millennium Crisis as well as Chance Shirley's Interplanetary.
If you want to hire someone from the Vancouver Film School you can list your job in their Job Board.
I see in this (as far as I can tell) pretty accurate article on SyFy movies that Mega Python vs. Gatoroid was directed by Mary Lambert. She's hands down the worst director I've ever worked with. And yeah, I'm including kids right out of high school directing their first short.

Mary directed The Attic and holy cow, she's bad. I remember one morning her yelling at Art and G&E (she was always yelling at the art department -- and the actors) because we took a wide master and everyone realized that there was feeder cable snaked along the wall in the shot. So G&E rushed in to move the cable for the next take and she started yelling at them for changing the shot "I DON'T CARE WHAT THE SHOT LOOKS LIKE! I will use the best shot for the performance no matter what's in the background!"
And all I could think was, so you want to maintain the continuity of the feeder cable in the background?

She used to get into fights with the actors just because she wanted to yell at them. At some point some of them starting yelling back "I'm not going to respond to you when you talk to me like that Mary." I have recordings of that nonsense. It was weird.
Some free film music.


John Bruno discusses the importance of the script supervisor.
Here in the Pandora Machine we gave up on script supervision awhile ago.
This is one of those movie making rules like "never mix drunk" -- we don't pay attention to it although it's not that it's a bad idea in and of itself.*.
For me the difficulty with script supervision is that most of the work they do goes unused. The picture editors don't really trust the script supervisors to give them everything they need to know so they tend to not even look in the script supervisor's book during post. The other thing is that I really don't care what anybody has to say on set if they're not an editor. Whether a DP or a fight director, if you haven't edited a feature then you really don't know what you're doing. You might know a whole bunch of rules, and it may tend to be that if you follow all the rules you know you'll tend to not get into trouble.
But we don't really have time for all that.**
We just have time to shoot all the action, all the dialog in closeup, details of anything anybody does in the scene (like light a cigarette), a clean of anything anyone refers to in the scene (like the dead body on the floor), and whatever amusing thing anybody in the room tells you to shoot (if there's time).
This is one reason we like having Maduka Steady with us on shoot days. And the end of a scene I can turn to him and say "Anything else we need to get?" And sure, there's a whole shtick made up about how he invariably says "Get feet, closeup, walking in and out." But I'll tell ya -- we use those shots more often than you'd think in the final picture edit.
Picture edit. It's where the movie is actually made. I mean, sure, you can argue it's the dialog edit where the picture is really made but... picture edit. It's where the movie is actually made.

*Why on earth would I use that analogy? Oh. I see.
**The one think I do wish we'd do is write down the location of wild audio takes in the master script. Because knowing that is useful in post.

Like an angel who can operate a nail gun.

Our own Queen of Mars is interviewed in New York Innovative Theater Awards news.
Here she is with Greg Bodine, Nat Cassidy, and Rob Neill.

Planet Egg

This is a show which simply cannot be missed. Planet Egg has my three favorite things: puppets, robots, and eggs.
And they're performing at HERE.
Our own Ien Denio makes sounds! What's there not to like?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scheduling a Prometheus

Whew, here is the calendar for The Prometheus Trap. The schedule itself is here. How do you know which scenes are scheduled for which day? Look at the tabs on the bottom of the page, each tab is for a day of shooting as referenced below:

Sunday April 15
Day 1 (A)
Venom Bridge
1 Finn

Saturday April 21
Day 2 (B)
Venom Cryo/locker
(MS must be back in NY by 3pm)
1 Finn
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes

Sunday April 22
Day 3 (E)
1 Finn
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent

Saturday April 28
Day 4 (D)
Cargo Bay
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Sunday April 29
Day 5 (H)
Prometheus Bridge
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Saturday May 5
Day 6 (F)
Observation Deck
1 Finn
2 Artemis
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes

Sunday May 6
Day 7 (G)
Prometheus Engineering and Cryo
1 Finn
2 Artemis (?)
3 Haskin
4 Rhodes
5 Trent
6 Cornell

Sunday May 13
Please hold for pickups! ;-)

Mars Hates Audiences

I really wish that people wanted to see more movies with the word Mars in the title. Honestly, Total Recall is actually the best of all these movies (almost as good as Interplanetary).
Why should you listen to me when it comes to "how to mix a film"? Why indeed, when I've had my movies kicked back in my face for remixes and you haven't?
Uh. That's a pretty good question, honestly. That would be like someone on the Board of Directors of a theater that had to close -- because they couldn't bring in money to cover expenses -- giving a seminar on asking people for money.
Of course, what I may have to say is admittedly a result of my failure and what I've learned from it.
Learning Number One:
The sound job has to sound like a big-budget full sound mix.
See the trick is here that ironically stuff that might fly on a huge-budget in-theaters feature film will not work on your low-budget picture. This is because the buyers are being very wary of the fact that they're buying a low-budget movie. So that idea you have about letting a scene just play with music and no Foley? Ha! Scrap that idea.
And really, I did know that. I can even prove it with our Wiki. That doesn't mean I've always successfully done it.
But here in the Pandora Machine we're cleaning up our post-production process in order to get movies out the door better.

Hey -- here's something I need to write down about setting up a PC for audio editing:
Power settings: high performance

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Colossus

I'm making notes on different characters in The Prometheus Trap. Hmm... I wonder what Steven Niles, the writer, would think? ;-)
Looking at Rhodes. He's a great guy. You know that if you were in his platoon, Sgt. Rhodes would look after you. I think that's kind of his problem with Finn. He can't get that guy to feel at ease. And guys in Rhodes' unit always feel comfortable. There's always someone they can come to with their problems. There's always one guy who makes 'em feel like things are good no matter how deep in the hole they might be. And there's something clearly eating at Finn (he may be an android but that doesn't mean he doesn't have feelings.) It's your job to make sure your guys are all fit 'n pretty.

You have a lot of respect for your guys -- the enlisted. Not so much for officers, who are overpaid and mostly useless. Especially that idiot lieutenant you punched out in a bar off of Callisto. Which is why you're here, instead of being thrown in the brig they stuck you on the Venom with this rich girl -- Captain Haskin. She really ain't one of the guys -- she comes from some upper-class family where they send the middle kid into the Mobile Infantry. She has her own armor, not some Army hand-me-downs like everyone else. Worst of all is that she's actually competent. She's got a stick up her ass about a mile long but she can actually do the job of soldiering. So although it's amusing to razz on her because she did get her command on a silver spoon, she can actually do the job. There's no reason to tell her that though.

Stock Glasses, Hippos, and Lords

Seriously, what causes eyeglasses to get so smeary? I mean, if a dog were coming up and pushing his wet nose on them all the time I'd understand. But there is no dog here. Unless there's an invisible dog everywhere. Which, right now makes the most sense.
Sony Stock Footage has Battle: LA clips.

Traci Lords: "No, it'll be artistic, no it'll be creative. You'll look beautiful. We have a very limited budget but honest, you'll be proud."

Foley Day in the Pandora Machine

So we recorded Foley for Android Insurrection. DeLisa M. White came by and we made some footsteps and robots sounds (which will all be up under a Creative Commons 0 license on just as soon as they are moderated.)
I was surprised to find that our little voiceover booth was good for Foley work. And compared to hard-cut sound effects, Foley goes fast.
DeLisa M. White recording Foley with my shoe and a brick.
Now, is there any compelling reason not to deliver sound files for mixes in 24-bits?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Delta 9

So it's 0900 hours and you're hanging upside-down in a ratty steel capsule 35 miles in the sky over some moon you hadn't ever heard of until the day before. Slowly the dull panic starts to take your throat as the micro-gravity starts to turn into something resembling real gravity as the drop-container you're in got a sticky release from the carrier and now you're spinning end over end, faster and faster as the blood pushes up into your nostrils and sinuses making you want to scream but you can't because the racket the stabilizers are making slamming against the metal sides trying to keep up is louder than anything you've ever felt in your life.
And just as you think you can't take it anymore the HUD in front of you lights up and a little blue light blinks in the corner and you know it's coming and suddenly, maybe the whole thing lasted less than about ten seconds, you're feeling OK.
The onboard computer sensed your terror and injected you with some synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol derivative that smooths you out and keeps you alert and functioning. Now you're just spinning, head over heels and you focus on how you're going to get out of this mess.
Guys used to get addicted to the Delta 9 high and do stupid things just to get their onboard systems to give them the dose they needed to smooth out. So the docs changed up the formula and the high isn't worth the terror you gotta go through to get it.
Eventually the outer seals on the capsule blows apart sending you out -- momentarily and gloriously -- into the "air" above the moon. It's a barely breathable CO2 mix your suit would never let come near your lungs, but it inflates the 'chute just fine with a good 40 meters left before you'd splatter on the black rocks below.
By the time you've touched down the battle is completely over. The Skinnys sent up a surrender and locked off their weapons just as they detected your carrier had come out of hyperspace. So now you wait on the ground for a pickup for ten hours watching the dual suns spin in lazy 8's watching your heart rate spin up as the stuff in your veins reaches half-life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The awesome Ramsey Scott is designing our costumes for The Prometheus Trap. Here's a set of sketches for the six characters.

C'est Complete

Here they are. Three different kinds. Completed. Anthony Jones is a giant among men.
I feel like John McClane "Now I have space helmets."

Friday, March 16, 2012

The State of the State of Things

From an email conversation about microphones and preamps:

It seems that for most things other than single closeup voice I'm coming to the opinion that small diaphragm are better. This is more of a "philosophical" thing about mics than it is any sort of hard truth. Which is the way things tend to be in the way of sound. As far as I know the best cheap condenser are these Oktavas.

This is important: you really can't get these mics from anywhere other than the Sound Room though as the quality control on those mics is terrible. The Sound Room seem to be the only people who send them back to Russia when they aren't any good. (And now, I've noticed, they've gone way up in price. So maybe they're not the best for the dollar anymore. I dunno.)

I'll confess I'm always surprised when I go and hang a plain old Shure 57 over the strap on the guitar cabinet at just how good those mics sound. They just sound great. Of course, I'm cheating because (and here's where I can go on all day) I don't think that the mics are nearly as important to the sound as the preamps.
And I have Neve 1272 Brent Averill mic preamps.
And boy do they sound good.

We live in a golden age of good cheap microphones. There are plenty of them out there. And they all sound great once you add a great preamp to 'em. I've never heard a bad Audio Technica.

Overall, the thing is that nowadays all audio gear sounds "good". It's like there are three levels of quality: crap, good, sublime. And all gear seems to fit squarely in each category. There really isn't any crap out there anymore. But you're not going to getanything sublime for less than a couple thousand dollars.

The question is: what's the difference between "good" and "sublime"? In music I think it's a matter of what my friend Alan Douches calls "a culmination of subtleties."

If you use great mic preamps (and great mics) on an album, the record will have that big "expensive" sound we're used to hearing on, well, big and expensive albums. Individual tracks aren't necessarily that important (with the possible exception of voice, where it seems that you can hear the difference in mics and preamps right away.) The big expensive sound is an accumulation of great sounds. If you made an album and used expensive mic preamps and microphones on everything except(for instance) the toms -- well you probably wouldn't notice. But overall you're hearing an accumulation of all the subtleties on all the mics and preamps and good instruments you have on the record.
The difference between good and sublime is very slight.
Now here's a trick: for movie sound nobody cares about "sublime". They might claim they do but they don't. They need the sounds without background noise and clear of other noises and that's about it. Which, of course, is not easy at all. But if you record a movie using nothing but Neve preamps, Apogee converters, and the finest microphones in the world, but there's a lot of noise and traffic and airplanes all thorough the thing -- it's gonna suck. Believe me, I know from experience.
If you recorded a movie using a Zoom but you got it right over the heads of all the actors and were in a quiet environment then you'd be good to go.

I think the main issue with Chinese - made stuff like microphones is that US-based manufacturers who are trying to go cheap use Chinese plants. And if they're trying to just go cheap, and don't care about quality, the Chinese plants will give 'em that. Hmm... now that I think about it that's my overall opinion of the Guitar Center. Ha!

That being said there are some very good Chinese-made microphones. It mostly depends on who the "manufacturer" is.

I know that Rode and Audio Technica consistently make microphones which are better than their prices would indicate.

Personally I wouldn't try to go up a little ways in regards to quality mic preamps. I'd go all the way or nothing. I think most of the "good" preamps are pretty much the same, whether they're made by Mackie or Focusrite. I think the cheapest one can bump up to the level of "sublime" is with the John Hardy M1 (which do sound very very beautiful, they're much like my Neve 1272's.) So if you're going to want to improve your preamps I think you should make a BIG jump rather than a little one. And again, for film sound it isn't as much an issue although almost every film post house has some decent mic preamps. Which is ironic because the mic preamps used for dialog recording are "good" but not "great". 

I'm always surprised at how durable those SM57's are.

And Yet Helmets

This is, apparently, a blog about space helmets. Which is good, because there aren't enough space helmet blogs in the world.
Anthony Jones totally rocked these out. Thanks to Brian Schiavo with hooking us up.
The color palette. Most people think of the one on the right as the "old" one. That's interesting. Like it's an older design? In the foreground is the original model Anthony built.
 All that needs to happen now is for the last of the vacu-formed plexi to be put in. The helmets fit rather well.
The very blue light is from the triple-LED inside the helmet. All the other light is from the outside.
 Anthony designed the helmets to be light-weight as well as good-fitting. They just sit nicely on the shoulder.
It's kind of awesome that you can rim-light the face because of the two large side ports. 
At one point we'd had a different color scheme where one of the helmets would be white. That idea disappeared with the much better notion of all the helmets being in the same palette but each one being unique.
The visors do scratch easily. So we'll have to take care of them. But the helmets themselves are pretty sturdy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today's Doings On

Today is a big re-mix day on Android Insurrection. We've promised to get the movie out the door on Wednesday so we're doing all our cleanup work now.
Our distributor had some notes on the picture which I've mostly done at this point. The rest of the work is a matter of doing a whole bunch of Foley and cut-sound-effects work. DeLisa White will be in the studio here on Sunday to do some Foley for us. That means I have to figure out picture monitoring in the VO booth. Or something...
From Steve Burg.
I hadn't originally planned on having a front-title sequence in the picture. But we tacked on a prologue and then our rep suggested putting the front-title credits on there so it doesn't seem as tacked-on as we know it is. So there was the issue of what credits to put in the front-title. The writers insisted on using silly names for their credits, so we stuck them back in the rear-title crawl where it wouldn't make the whole movie seem like a joke. And what that did was meant that we had to figure out, well who does go front title and who is "above" the title on the picture?
I think that's all worked out now.
I'm going to go visit some space helmets...