Friday, November 30, 2012

Alien Uprising Video Review

Maduka found this awesome video review of Alien Uprising from Totally Twisted Flix.

One day people will say that the movies are from Pandora Machine. But for now I have to admit it's a pretty fair review. The picture quality of this review is a bit wonky which, ironically, is basically what they say about us. ;-)

Analog to Digital

One of the few studios in NYC with a Daking console in it is The Maid's Room.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about right now.
Getting back to the notion of recording I've come up with this signal flow chart.
I'm not entirely sure this makes sense to anyone but me.

The key to this chart is using just gear that I have (or have access to). It's for recording a quartet which is all together in a room. The bleed will be... well it'll be enormous between instruments. There will be no isolation, no ability to fix single notes. We'll be able to fix sections by editing. But if I play a wrong note we'll have to cut in from another portion of the song where I don't mess up.
I think it's perfectly possible for the Samanas to make a very groovy space-rock record which will sound pretty darn good this way.
This is me. Thinking that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interiors to come

There's been entirely too little drinking on the set of the dragon movie. I have no idea what's up with that. Somebody should look into that problem during the post-mortem.
I am shooting a very low ratio on this picture. I'm being kinda a jerk about it -- not because I'm some sort of auteur "editing in camera" but simply because I want to keep our options in post to a minimum. The fewer the options, the faster the edit happens.
I'm very deliberately trying to keep the number of shots with dragons in them to a minimum. And when we do have a dragon I try to make sure it's in front of everything. In other words there's nothing between the camera and the dragon but some air. A dragon can occlude a person, but we don't want to have to deal with it the other way around.
We're finished shooting exteriors. At least scheduled exteriors. I think we need a shot of Amelia and Miranda approaching Gregor's hut. And we need at least one more shot of Amelia walking with her dragon and a dragon POV of her. And we may still yet need the dragon that kills me to swoop at me on a roof.
Map of the world being made by Hanna Garland.
We have about a quarter of the picture edited. This weekend we have to start readying material for upload to Nathan Vegdahl for him to start animating some dragons within.
And in the meantime Jeremy Crowson is building new sound effects for Angry Planet and I'm creating new mixes. We have a deadline of December 15th for the new movie.

Three things ferry todays

Peggy Archer talks about what a terrible idea using real locations is. The curse of some idiot director saying "We need the place to be real" is very prevalent in New York indy film. It costs a lot of money. It never looks as "real" as you think it will.
We, of course, use locations because we have no crew and no budget to do anything else. But we're special.
She also complains about crappy gear from rental houses.
This is a thing which has irked me most all my life. I'd rather have just one or two good, working, pieces of gear than a whole pile of semi-working crap. I've spent way too much of my time fiddling with junky stuff just trying to get it to semi-operate.
Experimenting with MultiCloud File Manager in order to sync Open Office with the "cloud" (in this case, Google Documents). So far so good. Considering that we work on so many computers in my shop, it's really freakin' helpful.
Cinecoup seems to be about as bad a business idea as Amazon Studios.

Samana Recording

Greg recorded the rehearsal last night using a Fostex portable recorder and a pair of Shure SM58's.

To me this recording is shockingly good. The 58's were a spaced pair pointed almost straight down on either side of the kick drum (and slightly away from the drums). The bass amp was directly in-between the centerline between the mics, about five feet away. The two guitar amps were on either side.
Greg Bartus and Andrew Bellware recording City Samanas.


Tonight I played with the City Samanas at their groovy rehearsal time-share space at Smith and 9th in Brooklyn.
I realize these pictures look as though I took some grainy pictures of each of the CS and then composited my ridiculous face on top.
Dave Wolfe and Andrew Bellware.
In fact, it sure doesn't look like I'm playing in any of these pictures. And, of course, I'm not. Because I'm taking pictures. Sheesh.
We had loads of fun. You know, two chords (because after all, who can remember three chords, amirite?) Big, lush, ambient stuff.
Andrew Bellware with Greg Bartus.
I played the SG through the Marshall 800 at the studio (and I used my MXR analog delay).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

All Your 80's Are Belong To Us

Hello? You know what's just straight-up nuts?
Just (seemingly) a few years ago it cost a hundred thousand dollars to get a Fairlight CMI.
And now it's a freakin' app on iTunes. Yeah, it'll work on iPads and iPods. An App.

Even better is that for an additional seventy bucks you can get this keyboard from Akai -- the SynthStation25 -- and dock your iPod Touch in it. So a Fairlight. For less than a hundred bucks.

I need an office manager

Here's the latest back-and-forth regarding the contract for a movie.

They: you sent me everything but the signature page.
We: I can't fathom where the signature page is. Why would I send everything but the signature page? I... I can't figure this out.
They: I know you got it notarized because you sent me a scan of the page.
We: Oh. The signature page is still in the scanner.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


There's a thing I read somewhere once where someone was saying that students tended to divide into two groups: those who, when they didn't do well on a test, said "I guess I'm no good at that" and those who said "I guess I have to try harder."
I get the impression that some people look at a skill others have and, because whatever it is they're doing looks easy, decide that one does not have to concentrate or focus in order to do the thing well.
Back in the olden days I worked for Rutgers TV (as a freelancer). The in-house crew at Rutgers was seriously the best crew I'd ever worked with. Each one of the guys there was a quadruple threat of a very high order. And on bigger shows when they all divided up into what each of their strong suits was? Holy cats. Get out of the way.
On show days the crew looked very relaxed. In fact one might argue they looked lazy and unfocused and if you'd walked onto the stage and saw them you'd have to think "Making TV is easy".
It isn't.
They just put the work in all week for a Friday shoot so they knew what they were doing by the time shoot day rolled around. Then they could approach the shoot in a relaxed manner.
And some new people would look and see everyone lying around like deviants and think "Oh, there's no pressure here I don't need to actually be ready to do a show."
And they'd be ever so wrong.
I get the feeling that people d'un certain âge frequently look at young people who do fancy-pants things on computers (like send attachments as emails) and think "I'm no good at that" without taking into consideration the amount of effort by those young people that went into learning those things.
Now, it could be that I'm just a crank. But I think that when senior citizens get frustrated with learning computers it's the fact that most people after they've reached (say) middle age simply do not every fundamentally learn new things. So they aren't used to it. And yeah, some skills are easier to pick up when you're 12 years old, but that applies more to the skill of learning French and not the sort of skill where you know that you have multiple open tabs on a browser.
You know you have multiple tabs open on your browser, don't you?
I feel much better with this analysis because it's much better to lay blame on someone else for their inability to learn rather than my own ability to teach.

Kunk in Skunk

You know who's funny? Melissa Stetten. She writes about being a model and how incredibly un-glamorous the whole experience is. The thing that's weird to me is knowing that you're beautiful -- the sort of person who turns head when she walks in a room -- yet at the same time feeling fat and gross.


Today in the life of the independent film maker I'm looking up 2257 compliance statements. There are a couple interesting law blogs out there for pornography websites. There's the Handbook for 2257 compliance. There's also the 2257 Law Blog which addresses such things as breastfeeding videos.
In my particular case I have to place a 2257 compliance card at the end of Angry Planet.
Which considering the tameness of the nudity is... sheesh.

Here we go:

In compliance with United States Code, Title 18, Section 2257, all models, actors, actresses and other persons appearing in any visual depiction of content whether actual sexually explicit conduct, simulated sexual content or otherwise, displayed in the Picture were at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time such depictions were created, and all other visual depictions displayed in the Picture are exempt from the provision of 18 U.S.C. Section 2257 and 28 C.F.R. 75 because such visual depictions do not consist of depictions of conduct as specifically listed in 18 U.S.C Section 2256 (2) (A) through (D), but are merely depictions of nonsexually explicit nudity, or are depictions of simulated sexual conduct, or are otherwise exempt because the visual depictions were created prior to July 3, 1995. Records required to be maintained for such materials pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2257 and 28 C.F.R. 75 are maintained by Licensor (“2257 Compliance”).

In the meantime, here is a baby bunny.

So I'm going to make up a cute lil' plate of that to tack onto the end of the movies.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Up on the Roof

Today is/was the sixth or seventh day of about 10 or so days of shooting. Seriously, I have no idea at this point.
Making art, I am.

Nat had a hard day on set. His first day shooting and we just kill him.

Does this make my nose look big? It does. I feel very Texan in this.

John Dillon looking very heroic in a socialist realism sorta way.

Julia Rae Maldonado's hair was nothing short of amazing in this shot. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I Probably Posted This Picture Before

Chrome doesn't seem to render Buzzfeed correctly. Or, for that matter, the HTML editor in Blogger. Which is ironic because Blogger and Chrome are both Google products.

The new and groovy place to go for airline reservations and the like is Hipmunk.
If you want to compare the Samsung Stratosphere and the Galaxy, go here.
Artisanal Pencil Sharpening.

Records, Giants, Fishbowls

Erika Records is a vinyl manufacturing joint out in California.
As of right this minute the notion of straight-ahead stealing riffs from the oeuvre of Gentle Giant seems like a good idea.

This is what 5.1 meters look like when they actually work in Samplitude.
There was a Tyrannosaurus Mouse discussion the other day about how you don't see "fishbowl" baffles around drummers on TV so much these days. And it occurred to me that the reason was the prevalence of in-ear-monitors for singers. The singer's ability to hear themselves = they aren't as concerned about the drum volume onstage so drummers don't have to be surrounded by plexiglass.
Of course, then immediately afterward on Saturday Night Live the band Maroon 5 uses a fishbowl.
Now, they also used IEM's. And they're also one of the best sounding acts on SNL I've heard in a while. The mix was really quite good. I'm not really into Maroon 5 myself but ya gotta admit they sounded pretty good.

More Thinking Out Loud About Drums

It occurs to me, in my own little way, that there's a very amusing notion about recording drums with just a couple microphones. Like maybe four microphones -- two overhead and two in the room. Yes, no separate mic for the kick. And during the course of a song one could fade back and forth between the overheads and the room mics just to create and dynamic change of the acoustical space.
I mean, it's a matter of having a drum kit that sounds great, in a room that sounds great, played by a great drummer, right? Once you have all those things together all you have to do is put a couple mics in front (or above) and record away.
One thing I'd like to do is get away from Neve preamps on drums. I know, I'm a huge fan of Neve. But for drums... my feeling is that they're just too big and pilloughy. I think something with a bit more snap to them like say API preamps might be more like what the doctor ordered.
Maybe close overheads with API's and distant mics with something thicker and tube-ish? There is merit to that.
Making the room mics responsible for the sound of the kick would mean you'd have to have a whole lot of faith in the sound of your kick. I'm thinking that it might be worthwhile to spend all of one's time tuning the drums and not the microphones.
Sigh. Now I wish I'd never sold my API's. Well, the Neves I got to replace them are more useful to me in everyday life though.
And, as I'd already determined, it's easier to go somewhere else to record drums anyway.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dad and Cat

Yesterday, being Thanksgiving, and being that my parents live in a place that has its own restaurant so they don't have to deal with dinner, meant I spent a lot of time taking pictures of cats and uploading them to Tumblr.
Although it may look like a switchblade in my dad's hand, it is in fact a magnifying glass. That orange ear belongs to Meydl the cat who had decided to sleep on my dad's desk while he was working (what actually happened was the cat wanted to crawl all over everywhere and my dad said "Enough" and made her lie down which, as it turned out, she was quite content with.)


All my life I've been unhappy with the D chord on a guitar. I'm talking about the chord that's the first one you learn, the one that's a triangle of fingers with an open D string. You know the one.
Thing is, that chord is always out of tune.
Enough so that on recordings sometimes I'll tune the guitar just for the D chord and then punch in on the chord where I need it. Which is, you know, not optimal. I just want the chord to sound in tune. (The other chord which consistently bugs me is an Eb major as a double-barre.)
The problem is that guitars have frets. And the frets are all an equal distance from the nut and the bridge. But the strings are different sizes. And therefore the neck of the guitar is just an average of in-tune-ness. [And that's in relationship even-temperment, which is as good as we could ever pray to get on a guitar.]
So I got my Gibson SG and it sounds great but I didn't like the intonation and I decided it was time to put an Earvana compensated nut on it. I'm too much a fraidy cat to pop the nut off my own guitar so I took it to Matt at 30th Street Guitars here in NYC and had him install the nut and set up the guitar. As always, Matt did an amazing job of setup. (As a side note, he did a different thing to the nut of my Les Paul -- putting a little piece of bone on the G string, which sounds really dirty but really helps with the intonation.)
The installation and setup was $110, more than worth it. The guitar came new with a pretty darn good setup but it's even better now.
A note on the recording: the SG was plugged directly into my Lil' Dawg Amp "Mutt", which then fed a 12" Celestion Alnico Blue. The microphone was an AKG C12a (backed off a couple feet because it really couldn't take the guitar amp levels and I wouldn't have used it except that all my other mics are away right now because of the session we did the other night) into a Neve 1272 preamp and an Apogee Mini-me converter. There is only the slightest bit of compression on the 2-mix buss and other than that there are no effects.
My conclusion?
I've been waiting for this freaking thing my entire life. Yes, it sounds vastly better. The nuts are only $35 for crying out loud.
This is not entirely a proper A/B test (because I was not as careful about the tuning as I was with the Earvana test and there is some delay on the guitar so it's an unfair test) but here's the same guitar from before the installation of the Earvana:

Yeah, this makes a big difference. I don't really know why there's such a prejudice against these nuts. I mean, everybody should use them. That's my take away.
Will I replace the nut on my Les Paul (even though it's been specially modified?) Yes, eventually. Will I replace the nut on my Blattocaster which has the specially made bone nut that Ethan made? Um. Yy... yes. Eventually. (I mean, it's really cool that Ethan cut that himself and installed it and it sounds great it's just that... yeah...)
So that's where I'm at with the Earvana nut.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Drums and Venues

Recording drums is a major pain. Any other individual instrument I can do a perfectly reasonable job of recording here in my studio.
But drums are a very big deal and hard to get right. And the fact is that on a normal album you spend a relatively minimal amount of time actually recording the drums as compared to overdubbing vocals and (for Pete's sake) mixing.
Also, since the advent of the drum machine the number of studios and rooms which are any good for drums has plummeted.
Recording at Stan's the other day has made me think briefly about how Tyrannosaurus Mouse might record drums, if we were to record drums.
A kick and two room mics are all you need, right fellas? Right? Actually and for serious I cannot tell you how awesome a kick and an overhead can sound. With a nice kit and a good room that's all you need. Right?
Who am I trying to convince here?
The fact is that buying the multi-channel converters and preamps and microphones just to record drums doesn't make much sense when you can spend the whole day in a studio which already has that gear (and a good drum set) is just $600 or so.
This Danny Thompson work looks like the inside liner to an album to me.

WPRB in Princeton has a list of venues in NYC and Philadelphia and between. It's a tad out-of-date but has a lot of venues on it.

Happy Thanksgiving

The Mouse Goes Back to the Studio

 Last night we recorded an "acoustic" version of the Mouseverture. We went to Stanley John Mitchell's studio in his house in Brooklyn.
 We recorded all in one room (the room with the piano, which Arie is sitting at but that you cannot see in these pictures. We experimented with a number of different ways of recording the 40-seconds of music we were trying to get, including playing in 6/8 and playing (I hope you're sitting down) quieter.
We recorded onto a Roland VS1680. This means we'll have to get the tracks off of it. Which will be a tad exciting. We suspect two tracks at a time rolled off onto a CD or another computer but we don't know yet.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On seminal British 1970s prog rock band Gentle Giant

There's a band out of Stanford, teachers actually, called Glass Wave. They put out one CD. They do a very groovy thing. They sound like an older-fashioned early prog rock act. One difference is that they have a female vocalist, Christy Wampole. Yeah, they kind of do an It's a Beautiful Day thing.
This is a podcast with the guitar player of Glass Wave, talking about Gentle Giant.

Glass Wave is basically the West Coast version of Tyrannosaurus Mouse. But with a better guitar player and singer.

I love Wampole's sound. What's funny about this record is that although it feels like '68-'72 somewhere I can't actually come up with an analogous singer. Not Savage Rose, or Renaissance. She does an interesting thing where she sounds very close (miked) but kicks in her vibrato late in held notes. Hmm... I guess if there were one artist she sounds the most like it would be Donovan.

The guitar sounds are old-fashioned-ish and sound fantastic.

It's okay if I have a crush on the singer, right?*

*True story: Tommy Rowen put that op-ed up on Facebook before I'd even heard of Glass Wave.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Other Other Fifth Day (of Nine)

We shot our fifth day of the dragon picture today.
Harry, Julia Rae Maldonado, and Annalisa Loeffler tromping through the Hudson tubes.

Steve Deighan and Christopher Pope about to meet their end.

Julia and Annalisa light themselves in the tunnel.
Somebody derped and forgot the spiderbrace for handheld camera today. That somebody would be me. But this was a better day for tripod anyway. Right? Yes. Absolutely. Right. We shot the whole day on sticks.
Annalisa Loeffler.
We bought a bunch of LED bike lights to put inside the cheapo lanterns we got. It gives us a kind of different-world feel. Like they're using dragonstones to light their way.
Julia Rae Maldonado.

John Dillon lookin' sexy as he comes to rescue his sister.

Apparently this is what Amelia looks like while tied up in our world. Sort of on the supplicant side of things I should think.

Here's Julia's glamour shot.

Amelia tied up has to escape.

Joe and Amelia have their little "talk" in the movie.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Groove it.

Groovy. Here's an article on Nat Cassidy's new opera. It's coming to the Kennedy Center.

E Flat

So I just cannot get an Eb major chord to sound in tune on any guitar. I never have.
Over the years it's bugged me so much that I've either avoided music which has an Eb (forcing a transposition to another key), or re-tuned for the Eb chord and punching in and out on that chord while recording.
My Les Paul has a tiny sliver of bone on the G string that was put on there by Matt at 30th Street. But tomorrow I'm going to go beg him to put my Earvana nut on my new SG. I have two reasons to want that, first of all my issues with D chords and Eb chords in general and then also the fact that my SG feels more irksome than either my LP or the Blattocaster.
Wish me luck.

Things in my life

I need some deep-dish pizzas. Shockingly, NYC has no good Chicago pizza. At least not according to the Internet. But you can order some Lou Malnatis to be shipped to you.
Here is a summation of the Reddit cosmology. As an aficionado of Fifth World Problems I find it quite amusing.
The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield.
A baby harp seal
The August 1 2001 brief on Al Qaeda's attack plans.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2nd Unit

Tom Rowen is shooting some 2nd unit. Plus he's a writer on the show and played a hillbilly cannibal.
Here's some pictures he took "behind the scenes."
John Dillon and Christopher Pope at the end of a long and grueling day of shooting.
David Frey is behind me whilst the Queen of Mars booms Julia Rae Maldonado.
I don't. I mean I have no idea. What am I doing here?

Again, you got me. Notice the balanced craft services on the steps.
David Frey practiced really hard to get his curtsy right.
Sand people.
Christopher Pope eats a prop apple while John Dillon looks way too cool.

Things, Stuff, and Other Things

We hear good things from AFM.
"the eight-day market experienced an increase in buyers of 6% to 1,616 (compared with 1,523 a year ago) and 35 more buying companies than 2011. A total of 753 buying companies from more than 60 countries were present, while exhibiting companies were on par with last year, at 357."
I'll keep my fingers crossed. Knock on some wood. Throw some salt over my shoulder. Pray to the new gods, or the old. Whatever it takes.
These are pretty good tips on movie making.

The original screenplay to Prometheus.
Blender 3D actually allows for image-based lighting setups.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Tyrannical Things for Today

The Legion Bar is a venue in Brooklyn.
So is Spike Hill.
I got one of these Standard Leather Guitar Mounts from Guitar Ideas. It's tres groovy. I got turned onto these kinds of mounts from Mandolin Brothers, because that's how they hang their guitars. The only guitars it won't work with are those which have the tuners all on one side of the headstock. But as we all know those kinds of guitars are completely irrelevant anyway.

I don't quite understand what this opera is that Nat Cassidy is working on but it has something to do with Dunsany's Charon, which is fairly high on the awesome scale.
I think I know the answer to the question of what we're going to do as far as any sort of organized promotion of Tyrannosaurus Mouse, et al. We're just going to use Taxi. We'll submit for whatever we're eligible for and suchly. There. It'll cost about $500 for the year including the costs of delivering things and so forth. All done like that.

So that and CDBaby. That's our promotional plan. Taxi, CDBaby. There ya go.
The Sweatshop is another rehearsal studio in Williamsburg. Their website is pretty obnoxious though.

Bandcamp lets you upload 24-bit files! Tell me that isn't the sexiest thing you've heard all day.
Here’s what you can upload:
  • lossless WAV, AIFF and FLAC files
  • 16 and 24-bit samples
  • 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz sample rates
  • stereo and mono

Tap tap tap

So Mitch Gross shows off the AbelCine wireless solution for HD video transmission. If we ever want to have tap on set again, we'll likely want something like this. Excuse me. A producer just beat me senseless. All I remember is "Of course we want tap back!"
This was the same producer who wants to never have to boom a scene ever again. So we better get some wireless mics...
This is a picture of said producer.