Thursday, January 31, 2013

Portrait of the Artist as a Dragon Renderer

6 Channels

There's a lot of iron in this box. I think my band(s) would prefer if I started playing a Leslie because it would weigh less.

I have six good channels of analog going on here. That's a pair of Lindell peamps above two pair of Neve 1272 preamps.
The A/D conversion is done with the M-Audio 2626 which then feeds the red thing -- a Focusrite Scarlett -- via TOSlink.
You might ask yourself "Why not eliminate either the M-Audio or the Focusrite?" Yeah. About that.
The Scarlett is USB so I can use my laptop. But the analog inputs on the Scarlett are very unhappy with the relatively high levels from the preamps and I can't turn the preamps down enough to work with it without getting into that very squirrely last 1/8 of a turn on the preamps pots. And the M-Audio, which can better handle the preamps levels, is only Firewire (so I can't use my laptop with it.) This means I have to feed the Scarlett with the M-Audio.
Note that the M-Audio's preamps aren't bad. They aren't as cool as the Neve preamps. But they're better than the Scarlett's. I'd come to a determination that I kinda liked the M-Audio's A/D better than the Scarlett's but not by much and so I'd be perfectly happy with the Scarlett's A/D if only the level thing weren't an issue.
Now. Three albums. One of which is an opera.
N.B. That thing on the top left is the power supply for an AKG C12A. I don't really have an awesome place to put it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pass the Test

I feel better now that I've given up on trying to test things and will just go with the M-Audio converter at 48kHz and recording at 16-bit. I'd use the Scarlett but I can't get the input levels under control with that thing.
I wouldn't have had to go through all that rigamarole if I'd only watched this video first.

Yes, it's almost an hour. But as a quick course in audio gear theory and testing it's well worth it. Ethan Winer does a much better job of explaining why I was frustrated trying to test things than I did.
Stacking tracks using higher-end preamps and reverbs seems to me to be better and easier to mix. Mr. Winer explains that the distortion on the same preamp on different instruments is a different kind of distortion. Which explains why it can be nice to record a whole record with the same preamps.

Now and Then

Typical for the New York Times the headline of this article isn't really demonstrated by the article itself. Royalties Slow to a Trickle. The key word here is "slow". As in, it's worse now than it was in some time before now.
“In certain types of music, like classical or jazz, we are condemning them to poverty if this is going to be the only way people consume music,” Ms. Keating said. 
Uh. Classical or jazz music... and not living in poverty? When has that ever been true? For four years between '59 and '63 maybe? For jazz artists touring Europe in the 1980's? I don't know.

This is odd thing for me to be cranky about because in this case because we have some actual data about royalties for streaming.
What do I mean then about "slow" or actual data? I mean we know what's happening now. But we don't really know what was going on then. What we don't have is context. How much were similar artists making before Spotify? It may be that information is simply not available in spreadsheet form because it was never delivered in spreadsheet form. 
It may be that artists were having an even worse time before. And now with Spotify there's at least something. Nobody knows. And as far as I can tell there's no way to find out.

Unloading some tabs again

The KWA KRISS Vector is an airsoft gun which runs on "green gas" and has a bit kick to it. The bolt ratchets back. Not a heavy amount of blowback like you'd expect with a real AR15 variant but a bit that might be enough to make it look good on camera.
Unfortunately it doesn't actually exist as of yet. They're still on "preorder". So uh, yeah.
Here's a post on Microsoft's hiring practices. From everything I've read about it, Microsoft is much much better at hiring than other people (especially Silicon Valley people) are.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Too Many Open Tabs

The Goblin Solo micro launcher.

Or the sexy Goblin Deuce kit.

They're both dual use airsoft and paintball markers with only one shot in 'em. Very sci-fi to me.
If you can read the Wall Street Journal then you can read this article about a local video store. They didn't have Feast III. Dude says to me "I know someone who was in it." I was all like "You know somebody in it and you don't carry it? Dude."
He was all like "I know."

Six Easy Days

I have no idea why exactly I'm doing this. But I'm on page 54 of a rewrite of "No Easy Day" making it into a sci-fi thriller about the Mobile Infantry.

Things that No Easy Day have in common with Starship Troopers include a complete lack of critical distance on the part of the authors. The absolutism in Starship Troopers is so enormous that you might start to question the reliability of the narrator. (The idiocy of the Fascism in Starship Troopers is, in fact, impossible to not parody when set to film.)
In No Easy Day they do things which the author doesn't even momentarily think about the ramifications of. Like when they steal some women's underwear from a house they're searching in Afghanistan. The SEALs think it's funny for them to parade around wearing some Afghani woman's bra. And it never occurs to "Mark Owen" that maybe some of the people who might be swayed one way or the other in Afghanistan might be swayed away from American policy because of that behavior. Or he never wondered what it would be like if soldiers came to his house in Alaska and did that with his sisters' bras. Or... well anything.
So anyway I decided to rewrite it. At first I was like "I'm going to do a word find and replace and turn 'helicopters' into 'landing boats' and turn AK 47's into 'SAG pulse rifles' and be done with it."
But of course that's not the way its going. I've gone and made the story much darker. And it's much more influenced by Dispatches. And it's not altogether pro-Mobile Infantry, but the narrator is. That narrator being very, very unreliable.
I'm also having most of the story take place in the Belt of Orion.
And the direction it's taking is much more grimdark than either Starship Troopers or No Easy Day.
Is it like I have nothing better to do with my time than write a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies version of No Easy Day? Not at all. I have to render dragons. Okay, so rendering dragons is its own reward. Or at least I need something to do while rendering dragons. But I could be prepping or next movie. And yeah, I am doing that. But just let me finish this dang book.

Dragon Renderer

My grandpappy was a dragon renderer. My daddy was a dragon renderer. Ah got my brothers, they're all dragon renderers. My momma used to render dragons 'till she got too sick to work in the dragon rendering mines. I got two cousins who are dragon renderers up in Altoona. I guess I got dragon renderin' in my blood.

C'mon. These LED lights are cool. Literally and figuratively. Yeah, seven-thousand bucks gets you the equivalent of a 2500-watt HMI. I really dislike HMI's. I mean I dislike them personally. They say mean stuff about my mom. I've been in more than one bar fight with an HMI. Let me tell you, those ballasts are heavy.

John Scalzi on the 1000 True Fans concept.

If I'd had this multiple-math-thing calculator in the 2nd grade I would have been much happier. 
1102: Callista the dragon watches Amelia (Julia-Rae Maldonado) eat a Choco Nom-Nom.
Nathan Vegdahl, who animated the above dragon, uses Dreamhost for web storage and Linode for applications.

If, in the next six weeks, you ask me what I'm doing, the answer will be the same.
"Rendering dragons".

Sometimes I blog for my parents

And this is one of those times.
Remember: the national Do Not Call Registry is your friend. Register your telephone numbers. Only use the ".gov" domain for doing stuff like that. For instance, if you're my parents, click on the link above and follow the instructions. You can add your home and cell phone numbers all at once.
Note that you will get a separate email for each phone number you enter, asking that you confirm. Make sure you click on the link in each email confirmation (and make sure the emails don't end up in your spam folder like they did with me.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Picture Edit Rules

I'm coming up with some picture editing rules. These are just things I've noticed 'round these parts which we have to be careful about. I've noticed these issues, incidentally, in both Final Cut Pro and Premiere, and with quite a few different picture editors. So it's not like any of these are anybody's fault or anything, just that they're things to look out for.

Look out for:

  • One frame of black between shots. 

The snapping tool is your friend, friend. You'd be surprised in QC how freaking often it is that we find a single black frame between two shots. And if we miss one of those you just know a distributor will kick the movie back to us to get fixed. Be careful out there.

  • Speed changes in the timeline. 

This is about the number one thing which ticks off our distributor(s). If a piece of footage really needs to be at a different speed, it has to be brought into AfterEffects and the speed changed there with proper interleaving of frames and suchlike.

  • Continuing the same shot as a new segment.

I know, you match-framed the shot and you just want to add some more time to it. But instead of it being one segment, this shot is now divided into two segments. Don't do this. There are a couple reasons not to do it: one is that you've just made two things to color-correct rather than one. The other is that now there's one more thing to get bonked out of sync. Sure, it barely ever happens -- probably just twice in a feature. But that's enough to fail QC.
But, you think, what if I'm changing the speed in one of these segments? See the rule above, brother, see the rule above.

  • Embedding in embedded sequences.

I don't know why, but FCP and Premiere start to get very cranky when you've embedded in embedded sequences. Also, it makes it vastly harder to go back and see what the footage involved was originally named. Especially for the post-production-sound department this can be a hassle. But more than that I've found that both Premiere and FCP become very obtuse about correctly rendering out sequences-within-sequences. It'll look at first like it rendered out properly. But your distributors will find that the program did some unholy thing when it rendered out your footage with too many layers of embedding.
Try to just use the actual original synced footage when you're putting scenes together into acts on a sequence in the timeline. My angina will thank you if you do.

C'est La La

Today I struggle with knowing if 24-bit or 16-bit is really better for recordings (not mixing) of rock bands.
In similar vein I wish to know if I should care about 96kHz.

In both cases I just want the cheaper one to be better. I'm just not sure if they are.

Meh. I'm pretty sure.

Also, I've learned that I do not care much about the difference between a film dissolve and a cross dissolve. Yes, there's a difference. I'm just not sure I care about it that much.
Did I get much actually done today? Not as much as I'd have liked. But I guess that's every day. We have this beautiful Steve Niles script which needs to be boarded out. Or at least scheduled.
At the same time I have to finish laying out all the visual effects we need in the dragon picture.
I'm about halfway through slugging and delivering plates for the animator. Can I tell you that John Dillon has been doing a simply bangup job on the post-production here?
Holy cats Seed&Spark seems to be poorly thought out. Although, I don't have a lot of positive things to say about the art-house indy film part of the industry. So maybe for movies made by people who don't know how to make movies, making movies that will never be distributed, it's a perfectly fine idea. But selecting G&E gear from a drop-down list is an absurd activity. I tried Justcloud but it seemed a bit... scammy. Their 15GB free account is limited... to 5MB. Right? I de-installed it. I use SugarSync (free) on all my computers, iDrive (for which I pay -- on my Mac), and Backblaze (for which I pay -- on my PC).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Simple Sample Signs

Remember back when I was pontificating on the differences in sample rates and bit depths?
I've since given up. 48kHz and 16-bit is good enough for me. At least with Apogee converters they are. I've played The Great Gig in the Sky out of my iPod so many times now just to invert the polarity on different recordings and find I just don't care.
Actually, looking at the waveforms is interesting. Other than that, though, I just... don't care. My first reaction to hearing the 16-bit 48k recording was "Ooh, I like that one the best" before I realized which recording I was listening to.
I believe I'd already abandoned 24-bit as a recording bit depth when one has any sort of control over the input levels (recording classical music live and dialog for movies are not those times, so I'll still do those at 24-bit).
But I was still on the 96kHz Kool-Aid religion. I now forsake those high-sampling-rate gods. It's not that I believe those gods do not exist. I just do not believe they hold sway over the lands upon which I now live.
Excuse me while I set all my converters to 48kHz now. Oh look, now I can put signals over Lightpipe...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last of the New Gear

I'm done with my studio for this year. Here's the Lindell 6X-500 preamps in their A Designs powered rack.

No, not the world's most awesome color-combination (brown on cream). I recorded some acoustic guitar with the preamps (boosting a little 6K on each channel just because I could.) The Lindell Test is at 96kHz, the Anubus was recorded at 48kHz. I downsampled them both to 44.1 based on the theory that such an obnoxious downsample would adversely affect both of them about equally. I threw both of the signals through identical non-linear summing plugins. Obviously, the performances are not identical because that would be impossible for me to do.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Now We Know

This is probably the single most helpful critique I've gotten from Taxi. First of all, it reiterated the one thing I'm coming to grips with about my music.
  • It is no, nor has it ever been, terribly "modern" sounding. I don't have a contemporary bone in my body.
That's fine. But most importantly I've learned what genre Tyrannosaurus Mouse is.
  • Psychedelic Space Rock
And that's spectacularly helpful to know. I suspect the City Samanas are Psychedelic Space Jazz Rock.
Now we know.


Here is my pair of Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphones.
Numbers 195 and 210.
 The Edwina is a very sweet and smooth-sounding condenser. And you know how I feel about smooth-sounding microphones these days.
The very first thing I did with this microphone was to deface it. I put a little red dot on the front. I do that for two reasons, one is to mark the microphone as "mine", and the other to indicate which side is front. If you're listening to the mic it's very easy to tell which side is front. If you're just looking at it (which is how I do most of my band recordings) you have to know which way the bolts go in. And I know I'll never remember that.
I'd wanted to try them out on the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. But FedEx didn't deliver until this afternoon.

Russian for Russian

Recording the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York is a spiritual experience. After Sunday's show I didn't think they could be any better. Nope. On Wednesday they were even more awesome.
I recorded using a pair of Oktava microphones. Fitting, isn't it? Russian microphones for the Russian Chamber Chorus.
One of the mics was an old silver one and the other was a newer black one. Even though the old silver one had been beat up over the years I couldn't tell the difference between the two sound - wise (I flipped them right and left during rehearsals just to make sure.)
For the actual recording they were in an X/Y configuration. You can see that the silver one has taken a hit.
I don't know if I'm becoming grumpy in my old age or I'm just letting myself be swayed by stuff I know intellectually or what but I like these Oktavas better for almost everything right now. They are vastly cheaper microphones than the AKG 460's. But they're smoother both on-axis and off-axis. Yes, the AKG mics have a bit more lift in the upper mids which many people find pleasing. But at the place I'm in with my life right now I like smooth.
It may be that I like the non-lobing off-axis sound the most with the Oktavas. Most directional microphones sound yukkity when you're not directly in front of them. And a lot of sound in a natural recording situation hits the microphones from behind (like all the reverberation from the back of the church). That stuff sounding bassy and squffly can make the whole recording sound less... well less musical.
So yeah. Microphone selection is more religion than science.
Now if we could only do something about the heating valve that was just over a quarter-tone sharper than the key I'd be all set.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wonderment and Suchlike

So you're wondering about my standing desk. You're thinking "I wonder if Drew wants to invade Iraq without assembling enough men or materiel to do it?"
The answer is no.
But as far as making my legs feel better, the answer is yes. At least so far. It's not a world of comfortable to stand and write. But the fact is that I go back-and-forth from the standing workstation to sitting down again at another computer a whole bunch.
Remembrest thou that the desk was supposed to only cost $22? And that since I didn't use the shelf it was even cheaper than that (like, theoretically $7?) Well, preemptively I got one of these standing mats for another 20 bucks. Click through. Buy one for yourself. Your knees will thank you.

 Those mats are impossible to photograph. So just trust that I'm standing on one.

You know what I've been buying like it's candy? These little portable hard drives:

We use them for deliverables. Our distributor yells at us if we give him anything other than 800 Firewire drives and these sexy little things have everything and they can totally be buss-powered.
Another thing they work great for is hooking up to a Sound Devices recorder in order to make a simultaneous hard-drive recordings along with the recording on the CF card. Again, no external power is needed.

My Things for Today

Apparently Lucy Liu is a terrible driver.
Mac wonders: my startup disc is/was messed up. But having been cursed by Baba Yar, very few of my DVD drives actually work. This means I can't boot with the OSX install DVD in order to repair the disc. To which I say bleh.
But there's a solution. Applejack lets you go into Unix and repair stuff automagically. UNIX. Because who doesn't like computing like it's 1982?

Our own Julia Rae Maldonado is in the Strawberry One-Act Festival with "When Greenland Melted". March 1st. Be there or be square.

Kill some Earth for me while you're at it

Earthkiller is now buyable on Amazon.


Mystical Weapons. I heard them yesterday when I was having my very decadent shave in a barber shop. They're totally like Gentle Giant meets King Crimson in a post-aught indy-modern world. Which is funny because their provenance is so not that. Or maybe it is.
I left this at rehearsal last week. Hopefully someone will find it and squirrel it away for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leviathan Moon

Here's another track from City Samanas. I feel like we're getting a hang of this whole recording thing.
Ok. So. I was getting shaved today in a very hip place.
Here's Matt at Person of Interest in Brooklyn taking me to facial heaven. If I were an aristocrat I would get this treatment every day.
Anyway the soundtrack was Mystical Weapon. Yeah I know, Sean Lennon's band. They sound like a cross between Gentle Giant and King Crimson but, you know, with more Zappa influence than you'd normally expect.

Not my best day

Obsessed with remembering the stereo bar for two microphones for recording the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York I completely forgot the actual mic clips. A priest gave me some blue painter's tape*. Yeah. I'm not proud.
But then I had a more pernicious problem. Somebody kicked on the lights in the church and I got this obnoxious buzz in one of my AKG 460's. I thought maybe one of the capsules wasn't seated so I tried re-seating. That didn't work. I did notice, however, that my hand off to one side of the mic reduced the buzz considerably. Like my body was some sort of electromagnetic radiation shield for the microphone.
If I touched the mic capsule I could reduce the low-frequency portion of the noise. And I could get rid of some of the higher frequency noise stuff by putting my hand next to the mic.
Of course, I couldn't stand there with my hand up next to the mic for the duration of the concert. So I ran down and got a music stand, thinking that perhaps a big metal shield would do the same thing my hand did. It didn't. And it sounded almost as bad as it looks.
Amusingly if I touched the stand to the mic element I could get rid of a tiny bit of noise. If the music stand touched the little neck-thing between the capsule and the body of the mic I got some AM radio.
So none of that really worked.
By the time rehearsal was over I figured I'd swap the two mic elements just to confirm that it was the capsules and not the bodies of the microphones. Yep, the noise switched channels. But fiddling with the seating of the capsules a bit more and... the noise disappeared! Oh happy day.
Not for long.
Somebody dimmed the lights. Hoo boy.
So my EMI was back. Now, I quickly found I could shield a little of it (again) with my body. By this point the concert had started. The woman who came in late and sat in my aisle finally stopped rooting around in her purse for her keys. And there was no way I was going to be able to hold my hand up next to the microphone for the duration of the show.
So I did an ugly thing. As there was no intermission and not even any breaks between pieces, I just dropped the mic stand down to head-height right in the middle of the show. It sounds on playback (I just listened to it) like squirrels running up and down the microphone stand.
But with the mic stand down there by me I could shield it better. I had to breathe with my mouth open for the rest of the concert and every little tic and sound I made was louder than gunfire, but the noise was reduced.
Obviously on Wednesday I'm going to have another set of microphones as a spare...
*Sounds like the first line of a blues song.

Six Easy Days

Because, apparently, I have nothing better to do with my time (wait, uh...) I've been re-writing No Easy Day to be an Old Man's War/Starship Troopers book. This is an utterly absurd activity. I don't know if I'll finish it. There are so many more important things I should be doing.
Who doesn't love the -8003 error on Macs? It's just a helpful error code, isn't it? Anyway, I can't delete my trash, which means that my render failed to go onto an empty drive (because, you see, the trash isn't empty even if Finder shows no files on it). So I look up the issue.
Turns out that a company called Titanium Software makes freeware for OSX so that the operating system, you know, works. Because Apple couldn't be bothered apparently.
Considering that I was supposed to have this delivery made today this situation is... less than good.
And yes, if you're a PC person and you're reading this you'll say "Why don't you just get a PC so you can actually empty your trash?" Well, you'd be right, but then I'd run into some other problem and all the Mac people would be like "Why don't you get a Mac and then all your problems will be solved?"
Ooh. And it looks like Onyx by Titanium Software may have actually emptied the trash on the Mac. Oh frabjous day.
What's 135.76GB? The 1920x1080 version of Angry Planet.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What I Want Update

Because everyone wants desperately to know what I want in the way of a camera, it's this:

  • Sensor size no bigger than APS-C, no smaller than 4/3rds sensor
  • 3200 ISO without unreasonable noise -- then we can shoot outside at night with reasonable f-stops
  • I want to be able to take production stills with this camera
  • No rolling shutter. Enough with the rolling shutter already
  • 1920p. Because now that's our delivery format
  • The ability to control the take number. In fact, I'd love to be able to put the project number and then the take number (or the roll and then the take number) into the camera. 
  • Marks in the eyepiece to indicate the 2.35:1 frame
Things that would be groovy, but I can understand if I don't get them right away
  • Wi-Fi tap. Just transmit picture over wi-fi. I don't even care if it's real-time or not, just let the art department see the frame on their iPads
  • I would prefer it if the camera would purr while it's shooting -- it helps to feel confident that we're actually in record
  • I'm becoming weary of the .mts format. Or any of these other weird formats. Can't we just shoot in .tga sequences or something? How about OpenEXR?

Things I don't really care that much about (in no particular order)

  • Through-the-lens viewing. Honestly, I shoot a lot of laser beams. And the sun. And between the two I'd rather not be looking directly through the lens. A little TV screen is good enough for me.
  • No compression. Meh. Go ahead and compress the signal. No, I don't want banding once we're out of color-correction in post. But RAW files? Not helping me make movies. ProRes normal resolution is good enough for me.
  • 4K. I just don't care. Yeah, we could re-frame in post if we shot 4K. But I don't want to deal with it. I don't want the data bothering me. Tell it to go away (see "compression," above.)

Восстание андроидов

Or: Vosstanie Androidov.
I believe that Russia's distribution method is simply to embed ads in the online videos. Which is a neat trick really. You can watch all of Android Insurrection here, in Russian. Although they use actors to voice the parts, they do that over the English-language dialog.
Joe Chapman found this awesome new cover art. 
 I believe this to be the DVD version of the movie in Russian.
Then I found this version of the artwork. I dig the color in it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dust Star

There's times when you just have to play for 23 minutes without really knowing what you're going to play next. This was one of those times.
One of the big differences in this recording is that Lily used her good bass head into a 4x10 cabinet at the studio. Although the band's sound is typically more of a "growly" bass (or at least one where you can hear the round-wound strings), but with this amp setup Lily went for a warmer and deeper sound. What this sound has in common with what we/she usually do/does is that it's a very lyrical bass sound. The sound and the playing style are melodic I mean. Something like that. Click through to listen.

Now up until now we'd set the bass speakers aimed right at the center of the kick drum. But in this recording the bass speakers are on the left side (drummer's right) of the kit. So the bass comes out more in the left (even with multitrack there's no way to separate the low frequency out of everyone's microphones, and even with the "omnidirectionality" of bass tones it does tend to sit in the left side.)
I had a devil of a time when I first put these tracks up on my editing workstation because the timing was off slightly so there was this strange delay happening. I went back to the original project and got everything into sync again.
The guitar preamps and the A/D converter are the Focusrite Scarlett. This is because we had that movie emergency wherein I had to use my old PC for other purposes this week.
Playing with the City Samanas has given me a lot of opportunity to play guitar in styles I don't usually play. Jazz, for instance. I know some major 7 chords in theory. And now I will actually have to play them. ;-) I'm good at those chords where you just barre over all six strings and pretend it's a suspended minor 7th or something.
On this particular song I don't have to do that. It's funny how simultaneously simple and difficult Dead songs can be. 

What's Keeping Me Late at the Machine

Not content to blog just on my own blogs, I'm taking over other people's blogs too.

So what's going on in the Machine? I'll tell ya. A movie we shot 5 years ago has some scenes in it where frames are doubled. And a distributor is mighty unhappy.
I went to look at the movie and sure enough, there are a lot of doubled frames. At first I thought it might have to do with a 3:2 pulldown issue and no, it's not that. It's just that some of the prerendered exports have errors.

The problem is that we edited this movie on Adobe's Premiere. Version CS2.0. And the codec we used is called RayLight and it's proprietary (because, at the time, we were shooting on Panasonic P2 cards and yadda yadda, was the only way to edit for about 6 months there).

Premiere was a huge pain on that picture. So I rendered out sections and then re-assembled them in Final Cut Pro.

But Premiere crashed constantly and hated, just HATED, dealing with a full-size feature at the time.

So I went to open the original project and the drive it was on was dead. But I had two other drives with the edit on them and one of those worked. Sort of. So I copied all the data off onto yet another drive. Then I tried to open the project in a more modern version of Premiere. New Premiere hated the legacy effects on the movie. Worse than that, it couldn't parse the Raylight codec.
Why? Because the Raylight codec only works in 32-bit operating systems.

Luckily the computer the movie was finished on was at my apartment. I was this close to mothballing it. But nothing about working with these projects is awesome. Still, I've been rendering and exporting .tga sequences to then bring into FCP via AfterEffects (where I turn them into ProRes422 Quicktimes) in order to fix the doubled-frame issues (which, as it turns out, are a result of bad renders in Premiere.)

Where are we now? Re-rendering sections which didn't like the 2nd (or 3rd) render I've done this week.

But that's not the news. No.
The news is that the new delivery format is 1920p ProRes422HQ. That's right. HQ.
It's a silly delivery requirement because it's a format that's made for in-house transfers of partially-composited files. But it's what they want now. So we're going to deliver them. I hope it doesn't eat render time for breakfast. I'm about to find out if it does or not.

Bit Depth and Sample Rate in the Mouse

16 vs 24-bit

I'm not 100% onboard with the notion that recording in 24-bit is, in absolute terms, any sort of real advantage to me. At least not when recording rock music.
Reading about it on the Interwebs there's a lot of BS. The place I'd go for low BS is Sound Devices. And they have a little article on the real audible differences between 16 and 24-bit recordings.
My issue with just doing everything at 24-bit is that it uses up a lot of power and data when I'm recording. 24-bit recordings are by their very nature less susceptible to precision when setting levels. In other words, if you're recording a bit on the low side you can boost up the levels in mixing later on and not have problems with the digital garbage that would get louder when boosting.
In the world I live in it's the analog stuff that's noisy. Let's face it, I record a guitar with P90 pickups. There's plenty of noise to go around.
For recording dialog in films: sounds like 24-bit is the way to go. Because who knows what level some idiot actor will deliver their lines? But we do that at 48k because movies are, for the time being, 48k.
For classical music: 24-bit 96 (or 88.2)kHz. Because who knows how quiet that clarinet solo is going to be? And since you never know how freaking loud that part in the middle might be you're always going to set your gains 8 to 10dB lower than the loudest rehearsal. Because you know it's going to get louder than that.
For rock music: 16-bit. Why? Because I'm doing multi-track recording and any machine I drag around simply does not have the power to handle even six tracks of 24-bit 96kHz recording without ASIO buffers dropping.


Here's the thing. Back in the olden days when dinosaurs walked the earth [Editor's note: the early 1990's] some A/D converters claiming to be 16-bit were, in fact, only 13 (or even 12) bit. The big difference with Apogee converters is that they were actually 16-bit. So they sounded vastly better (they still do). Another thing is that converters used to be really terrible about only being linear at the upper part of their range. As things got quiet the converters got wonky.
So there's a possibility that the same converter at 24 bit sounds better in the upper 16 bits of its range than when it's just set to 16 bits. I'm not, however, hearing anybody on the Internet saying that. And if it's not on the Internet, it must not be true.
Also note that when we're in post-production and/or mixing we're working at 64-bit floating-point, dual-overhead cam, fuel-injected steppin-out over the line. Yes, we need all kinds of high-bit-depth for anything we do to those recordings after we've actually recorded them. And all mixes are delivered at 24-bit (except for film, but we do pre-mix at 24-bit in film).

48 vs 96kHz

The next big issue is what sampling rate to record at. Boy my music life would be easier if I could record at 48kHz. But I think, feel, and in part believe, that 96kHz sounds "better". We all know now that the reason oversampling rates sound better is likely due to the analog portion of the A/D conversion process (right?) We're not actually hearing stuff up at 48kHz but rather we're hearing the anti-aliasing filters which are phase-shifting down where we can hear the difference.
For recording dialog in films: 48kHz is such a standard across the board we're just going to go with 48k. I don't see this changing any time soon. I can't even deliver my movies in 24-bit, I'm certainly not going to change the sample rate.
For classical music: 96kHz* because more = better.
For rock music: I believe that all the converters I use, even the cheap ones, sound subtly better at 96kHz. By "subtly" I mean "enough to make a difference here".


Now it may very well be (from what I've read on the Internets) that 60kHz is the "ideal" sampling rate and that above 60kHz is just nonsense. But I can't set any of my converters to 60kHz so that's a moot point.
It also may be that cheaper converters start to sound much more expensive at high sample rates. That's just me making stuff up though, as I'm wont to do.

*For purposes of this discussion, 96kHz and 88.2kHz are the same. I'm not ready to go into the notion of which is better for which purposes yet.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tilting at Whirls

The groovy Delicate Cutters have a new video out.

125th Street

Tom Rowen made a short, Uptown 125th Street, and here's an early cut.

It has everyone in it. Tom Rowen, Maduka Steady, Christopher Pope, David Frey, David Ian Lee, Dave Chontos.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An Update on the Machine

We're powering through the picture edit on the dragon picture. John Dillon has taken the lead on that. We lost a couple weeks due to some fairly popular holidays which occur (apparently) at the end of December and the beginning of January. But we're getting back into our stride.
Callista with Amelia (Julia Rae Maldonado).

Nathan Vegdahl is animating away for us. I'm going to be doing the detailed lighting and the compositing. The goal is to have some visual effects done for the Berlin Film Market in February.
Then today we got whumped with an issue on Angry Planet (which, by coincidence, we'd also got the artwork and new trailer for below). There is a strange doubling of frames in some of the acts. It's like a 3:2 pulldown issue where an extra frame is created every few frames. But it doesn't actually seem to be that. 
With tremendous difficulty I am re-rendering sections of the movie from the original (or close to original) footage. Whoo. The next few days are going to be a lot of arguments with computers I can tell you that.

Angry Planet Trailer 2012

Furthermore, we have a new trailer for Angry Planet. I'll put it up twice -- once as a YouTube video and once as a Vimeo video. Click through to like, embiggen, share, etc.


Angry Planet 2012 from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

Angry Planet Art

There's new artwork for Angry Planet, our Mac Rogers movie.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stand Up

Because the new big fad is standing desks, I made myself one. I went to Ikea and got myself the parts from this article on making a desk for $22.
The notion is that you're just putting a small desk on top of your regular desk. So that cheap little $7 Ikea desk is just fine.
What happened was that it turned out that on my desk, the Ikea side-table thing is almost EXACTLY the right size for me. So I did not add the shelf with the brackets. I did, however, have to raise the monitor a bit so I'm not looking down at it.
The keyboard seems to be at the right height for me. It feels pretty right at least. And it matches the diagram from the article above.
 The other odd benefit is the increase of desk space.

There are kinks to work out. With the monitor so high I end up looking into one of the light sconces in the office. This is less that good. And speaking of light, I managed to cover up the sconce over my desk (while simultaneously looking into the light -- good trick) so we need more light in the office.
And the audio monitoring situation is a mess right now. I have to get that worked out. Mixing while standing -- it's going to be interesting.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

This is Why I'm Not Asleep

Apparently, Kathryn Bigelow's piece of agitprop irritates me. At least that's what I've been told. And then I write things on the Internet about it. But so many people are better at writing about it than me.

However compelling the heroine’s determination to find bin Laden may be, the fact is that Bigelow has bought in, hook, line, and sinker, to the ethos of the Bush administration and its apologists. It’s as if she had followed an old government memo and decided to offer in fictional form step-by-step instructions for the creation, implementation, and selling of Bush-era torture and detention policies.

Bigelow and her supporters seem to want to turn the debate into a strawman -- that people object to the depiction of torture itself and not the made-up consequences that Bigelow's movie says it has (getting real, actionable intelligence from suspects.)
Bigelow's claim that "depicting" torture is in no way the same as "endorsing" is particularly disingenuous given that her critics have clearly argued that it's the lack of accurate context in which it occurred, not the depiction itself, that is so problematic. Similarly, her argument in defence of her focus on the use of torture - that it was a part of the "history" the film explores and thus had to be represented - only works to the extent the film accurately reflects the actual events and conflicts surrounding torture's use, which it does not do.
Right. You gotta pick one, Bigelow.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kaleb Lechowski

Here's a groovy little short film by a guy named Kaleb Lechowski. It's all CG. Note how much the robot looks like a more complicated version of the robot Ian Hubert built for us in Android Insurrection.

Brutal Budget

So. I'm thinking to myself "I gotta make our next movie look like it cost forty-million dollars."
Question is, how are we going to do that?
Now, we have this awesome script. The trick is making it look like a lot of money. I think the place we need to work on right now isn't necessarily CG but rather new sets.
Much of this screenplay takes place inside an apartment in NYC in the future. So I'm all thinking, you know, Fifth Element.
Let me tell you. I am not the first person to think about this apartment set. You look up "fifth element apartment" on your interwebs and you're going to see that a lot of people have gone and replicated it.

Here's a Maya rendering of the apartment. It's helpful, actually, for some of the detail. We don't care specifically about what-goes-where, but rather it's inspiration for making alcoves and suchly in our own set.
Sure, it would be helpful to have Milla Jovovich in the picture.
And I'll admit to having a thing for fluorescent lights (and, according to reviews of my movies, redheads.)
I might go for a somewhat more "brutalist" look. Mostly because it's easier to photograph humans against a more burnt umber color. But it could be the inspiration of the Brutalist building across the street from our studio.
This is not brutalist, but is kind of cool.
I'm also somewhat inspired by the look of this Dredd movie. They did have some expensive sets, which we can't afford, but they did some interesting things with cityscapes and wide shots, some of which we can do.
I want an APS-C camera that will shoot 3200 ISO with at least 6 stops above and below exposure. I want no rolling shutter. I almost don't care how compressed the image is. Almost.
Don't worry, this image is gratuitous.

Blink Blink

Today was the last day of principal photography on the dragon picture. Whew! I realized today that it had been a year since I met Julia (we ended up shooting another picture in-between.)
The Queen of Mars looks to get herself out of frame while John Dillon and Julia Rae Maldonado look out at the city.
John Dillon shot all of the shots of me. I had to finish up some dialog and chase after Julia for a while.
Andrew Bellware as The Monk. An evil, evil man.
He also shot with his fancy-pants Panasonic HD camera. We put the Letus adapter on it in order to use my Canon lenses.
A closeup of the map!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just Notes Folks

If you want to see my notes on a screenplay you can't read then please, keep going. Otherwise nope. There's nothing to read in this post.
I thought way back in the day (meaning two days ago) that Barbara should be a ground operator for mechs. That makes it so she's like a team leader for the good robots. She has an implant on her skull which gets destroyed. It's goo enough to control an android if she replaces herself with it, but not to actually control a drone platoon. Does that even make sense? I thought that way she could be seen more easily in the Philadelphia Desert. (Comically, the "Philadelphia Desert" is an idea that Montserrat Mendez came up with on Earthkiller and I think we've used it in three movies so far.)
Barbara and Vicky seem more like sisters than friends. They get into a political spat so quickly -- friends wouldn't tend to do that but sisters would. Especially if they're on such opposite sides. Kind of like the story about the two brothers -- one who became a Green Beret and the other took asylum in Canada during the Vietnam War.
Are we going for the Supreme Leader also being an A.I.?
When the gang first meets up with Android Barbara I think it would be awesome if one of them really hated her and smacked her without warning. Smacks her. Kisses her. Smacks her again. I figure Alvarez for that part. She's jealous of both of 'em. Love triangle!
In the first scene -- what if Barbara hears an order to let some enemy robots go through to the city? She objects and Mission tells her to not pay any attention to the order she just heard.
Instead of calling it a Holocaster, how about just a "jack"? Or something like that? I think we'd get it, the audience would get it, and that's how people familiar with the technology would say it.
Maybe the kind of android she is isn't a combat-capable model? That would explain how they could have restrained her.

Scene 30 -- lets keep these locations in the same room. They have the jack right there.
32 -- I think Barbara has a one-room apartment like The Fifth Element. Somebody want to build that for us?
If the doctor makes house calls and a gang just shows up at her apartment it means a lot fewer sets we need to build. I figure he has a crew of techs. Or heck, they don't even use a doctor, it's just a bunch of low level medical plumbers (including Ryan) who show up, do the work right there, and leave. Not having a hospital means one fewer target for the robots to try to hit, know what I mean? Everything's mobile.
40 -- if we're going to do the whole thing in her apartment then it's possible she could have been in the shower when he comes in or something.
I feel like we're missing one bit of intrigue here. Barbara shouldn't trust Ryan. They should mistrust one another in every scene. I think they should start to get evidence that the Supreme Commander is another AI and that there's a whole

I'm Going to Ramble Now

There are partial spoilers about the recent Judge Dredd movie in this post.
This post is a list of random stuff which came out of my brain.
I'm glad we're all on the same page now.

Dredd is a surprisingly interesting film.
The slow-motion in it, which is beautiful, is also integral to the story. There's a drug which makes everything slow down. So the slow-motion is actually a part of the plot. Not a super-duper important part of the plot, but a part anyway.
There is no B story. And honestly you can feel it missing. There were a million different possibilities for the B story. In, like, the third scene Dredd is described as someone in control, but behind that is anger, and behind that is something else. We never went there. The villain had a potentially engaging story but we never went there either. And, of course, there's the inherent problem of the neo-Facist police state (which was addressed in the first movie but not in this one.)
The story isn't Dredd's. It's mutant psychic girl's. But her powers end up having relatively little effect on the story.

You finally get to see that Lannister get her comeuppance. Honestly she's such a good actor I couldn't recognize her but I was all like there's something familiar about her. So I looked her up on the imdb's and was all like oh, it's her.
I've seen so many movies lately, Jack Reacher or Zero Dark Thirty, which are shot un-artfully.  So it's kind of relief to see a movie where they actually care what the frame looks like.

I'm going to go out there and admit that I kind of like 2D blood. I like 3D CG blood even better (I don't mean a stereo visual effect because I hate 3D, I mean I like it when it was generated in a 3D animation program.)
I feel like Django Unchained used quite a bit of CG (but not 2D) blood. I say that because I'm under the impression that getting those long spurts of blood in a squib are very hard. 
The color in this movie is just beautiful. It's mostly an amber-and-emerald movie.
I find it amusing that Brutalist architecture is such an easy signifier for Fascism. I want someone to make a 3D model of that AT&T switch across the street from my office so I can use that building in all my movies from now on.