Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stakeland in July

Man, Jim Mickle just blows me away. His latest movie is Cold in July. Jim's directorial style is what I would ignorantly call mannerist. All these very precise images assembled together for effect. Of course, his being able to do that makes him such an amazing horror director. Cold in July is not a horror picture as much as a thriller. A crime thriller I suppose. It's very Cohen Brothers in its deliberate and macabre humor. And sometimes very Kubrick-y in the framing.
This "looking at the bottoms of feet" motif is something that's in at least a few of Jim's pictures. This image really pays off when you see their POV. And not to get too precious about it but notice that the "bars" in this shot are on the far side of the subjects, unlike how (in this movie) they're frequently between us and some very bad people.
See, the lead character owns a frame shop. He's a "framer". And the movie has you looking through frames, frames that change, frames that hold different things. Frames.
The movie has this very specific aesthetic vocabulary what with repeated patterns and bars and obstructions between the audience and the subject. I mean it's just really well thought out. The frame shop and the locksmith shop are pretty awesome.
Nick Damici wrote the screenplay with Jim and again they get the tone of the movie just right.
I want, nay, need this owl lamp.

It is beyond my ability to understand how the economics of these kinds of movies works. I just wish he'd make more of them. In fact, I think they should have expanded Cold in July to be an HBO series. Because that's just how cool it is.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


For so long I have been struggling with what that sound is in Roundabout that the arpeggios are played on. According to the Man Who Knows (and childhood friend), Aaron Leone, it really is a Hammond organ. Here are Aaron's notes:
Here is what's happening with the Roundabout keys... If i understand your question correctly, your talking about the arpeggios which start @ 4:51 under the vocal "out 'n' out.. its a Hammond organ with a plate reverb on it. @ 4:58 Eddie Offord pans the organ left while Steve Howe's acoustic guitar theme is recapitulated... The 1st Em9 arp the roll is ( B F# D B D B D F#) No root is used in the arp. 1st B is an octave higher than the other B's The 2nd arp is C (C G E C E C E G) again the 1st note is an octave higher... Then Rick changes the Em arp to a straight Em alt with C (B G E B E B E G). This is definitely and organ... It could be a B-3 or another hammond.. Keith Emmerson or Tony Banks didn't always use a B3... The Mellotron enters panned right @ 5:35 with the lyric "In and around the lake". Sounds like the same tape bank John Paul Jones used for "Stairway" 
The chords for the solo really provide a groovy vibe for his solo. which really gives him the tonal platform to jam on. ||: G G C/E F C/E F C/E G | G G C/E F C/E Bb Bb :||
always liked a F bVII and Bb bIII sub to jam over in G 
§ §§
I'd thought, wrongly, that particular sound might have been the Mellotron mentioned in this article.

Friend turned me onto the band Rhinoceros. Which Pleasure for the Empire and Tyrannosaurus Mouse kinda resemble.
The top 40 Free VST plugins of 2014.
 Here are some tips for mixing and mastering.

Oh That I Would...

This plot generator tried to make a noir story for me.
This is a leather choker. Or a bracelet. You decide.
The Microsoft Band is two hundred bucks. It might tell you things.
Googling myself I found a number of books which mentioned me in some way. There are these books that list theater productions. I've probably designed several hundred shows but obviously they don't all show up in these kinds of books. Still, Ernest Abuba and Don Arrup. You can't go wrong.
So, I have this rack o'gear. This is (pretty much) everything turned on:
Things not turned on include a tube amp or two. But keyboards and psychedelic lights ARE on...
How much does that draw? Barely 120 Watts.
"But Ma, I'm tryin' to get to 120!"
The purpose of this was to determine my need for a UPS. But do I really need a UPS? I used to keep them on my gear almost religiously. Are they important really? (Would they have saved my last two computers? If so it ain't this rack which needs a UPS, it's my studio.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Various Noise

Notwithstanding Billy Bragg's argument (which may very well be legitimate) that her management is disingenuous regarding her recent brouhapickle over Spotify, Taylor Swift is by far the best of the modern pop artists out there.
We've been living in an age of female singer-songwriters what with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry et al but as much as I might like the Gaga, Taylor Swift has the best songwriting team out there.
Perhaps I am mistaking Taylor Swift for Max Martin who co-wrote most of the tunes I think are the most skillful.


Various nose.
This dude reviewed the Hello Kitty Stratocaster. Twice. Actually I really dig Joe Gore's blog. All about guitars and suchwise.


Free VST emulations of the VCS3 synth (probably most famously used by Pink Floyd in On The Run). I'm gonna try the KX77.
Wait. Why am I going to try that out? I can't think of when I'd use it. I'm not smart enough to use synth sounds. I can barely figure out what to do with a Hammond. Heaven knows what all those drawbars actually do.
The XLIS3 is another emulation. I'm honestly so confused by that review that I have no idea what's going on.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

For Me, Your Bear is Pretty

Among things going though my head are Bei Mir Bistu Shein. Interesting things about the history of this song. Composed by Jews, performed by African Americans, made into a hit by the then-unknown Andrews Sisters, popular in the Soviet Union AND Nazi Germany. This particular artist, doing the "original" Yiddish version, does some phrasing things which I feel are really quite special. Probably this is Katica Illényi. This all started because of watching A Christmas Story, looking up something about Jean Shepard, and finding the parody version of "The Bear Missed the Train" which, as a parody, still cracks me up.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Robot Revolution March 2015

So apparently Robot Revolution is being released on March 10, 2015.

Order early. Order often.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Stage and Screen s1 ep05

Here I introduce the mixing board (very introductory) to the reluctant sound designer.

Ooh. The name of this series really should be "The Reluctant Sound Designer" shouldn't it?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pleasure Two

I don't know what the best quote of the night was. It could have been Marc's:

"So. You named the band without talking to any of us first?"

Or it could have been Mike Kessell's:

"It's like being in a band will all next-level stuff and great musicians but they give you a Rockband controller to play instead of drums."

Either way, even though both were at my expense I am still amused.

Marc played his 4-string. I was on the Les Paul. Mike was on the Rock Band controller Yamaha electronic kit.
Marc also had this brilliant idea of playing this huge and dirgy version of The Sound of Silence. My playing on this is simply terrible but it's interesting how much Simon and Garfunkel end up sounding like Neil Young just by adding some distorted guitar.
In order to get us away from that whole "guitar panned to center, bass panned to center" thing I did a little panning with a send going to a reverb that's on the other side. With bass I went for some different sounds including sending to an amp simulator which was mixed back in (sometimes panning it, sometimes not) just to widen things out a bit.
I'm worried about running out of Guillaume Seignac paintings. I really wish I knew more about this model, she's in a bunch of his work and she's always very interesting.
There is a lot a lot a lot of compression on these tracks. Like too much. I have LA-2A emulations and then heavy limiters and multiband limiters and... well you get the idea. Too much. But I wanted everything to be very loud.
We're still working on our musical vocabulary. That said we seem to have an instant vocabulary. Yeah, I keep yelling "play more fills" toward the percussion section, but a very melodic bass with my guitar style works quite well. Our vocabulary... it seems to involve playing 9ths somehow. It also involves me not having the foggiest idea of what I'm doing. So there's that.
I also like how 35 Million Miles From Earth ends up being a suite. And The Dance of the Turquoise Mouse ended up pretty good, especially seeing how it was just a last-minute thing which we play after it got kinda late and we didn't want to be too noisy.
Gwendolyn Wormsign is perhaps my favorite because of the way the the bass goes 100% counterpoint to my riff. Which leads into that very trollopy melody toward the end. I feel that should be the music on some very hip talk show. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Android Insurrection Australia

Coarse language!
Our Australian distributor sent along these pictures of the Australian version of Android Insurrection today.
Man's final stand 'gainst the automaton foe.
I dig the back cover. I think that's unique to the Australian version.

Monday, December 15, 2014

High Priestess of a Dead God

Last Wednesday Marc Schmied, Mike Kessell, and I played in Jersey City.
Marc went through the Peavey Vypyer as a "bass amp" and I played through the Kemper. I liked the Peavey better than my amp-emulation pedals for the bass when I was experimenting with it. The "clean" Plexi and Twin sounds seemed to be the best.
I'm playing my Les Paul throughout. Drums are Abbey Road Late '60's.
Later I put in a bit of Hammond organ on some things.

There's a lot a lot a lot of compression on these tracks. Mostly an emulation of the LA-2A, but also some of Samplitude's brilliant M/S compression just to give the whole thing a bit of "finish" to it.
More more more...

That's all I got

Via John August Marco Arment's podcast guide, Dan Benjamin's podcast guide.
A wooden keyboard for your Chiclet-style keyboard.
As much as I made fun of font nerdery, the Typeset in the Future blog is pretty darn sweet.
Here's a free version of the Eurostile extended bold.
Weller's Words of Wisdom is a great blog on prop and art techniques.
Eric Ian Steele on the best screenwriting books.


So we have a screening of the movie and I just can't sit through it without the excruciating pain of seeing every single mistake.
That's right. It's all about me.
There's a whole act which needs a pass on the audio to smooth dialog transitions. Meaning that every time somebody speaks, the background hiss jumps up. Then it cuts off when they're done. It's entirely my fault and I don't know how it got through.
Then there are some render errors. Final Cut Pro does not always appreciate multiple layers of video being composted atop one another. We go to great lengths to avoid this by making lots of pre-renders but somehow there were a handful of shots which had that strange "overwhite" look where the bright patches in the frame actually go black because they're so bright.
And also a couple boom shadows which I had at one time dealt with by putting a "tunnelvision" effect on the robot's point-of-view. My guess is that we lost that effect when we put the movie in 3:1 aspect ratio but then when we pulled back out to 2.35:1 I didn't put the effect back on.
So I spent Sunday re-editing dialog and re-rendering picture to send out again.
My distributor's exact words when I told him I was sending him yet another version of the movie were "You're killing me."

I said "I know, I'm killing myself too."
Of course we didn't just have rendering errors. The dumb DVD took a dive in the middle of the movie. Luckily we got it started again off a computer (which is what we should have done in the first place.) I told people that if the DVD doesn't work we all have to go and act out the entire movie for the audience.
Apple killed DVD Studio Pro. Adobe has abandoned Encore. Honestly I don't know how professional houses make DVD's anymore. I am hoping that I never have to make one in-house ever again.
That said, dramatically the movie almost works (this is the director talking). There's always a problem in these small indy pictures where one misses a bit of the action, the impacts, that sort of thing. And I feel like we still missed some of those. But not all of them. Some of those moments we got right. Even though we had to shoot a lot of this picture where different angles of the same scene were not shot on the same day. Or month.
The movie is very well acted. It gets laughs where it's supposed to. And I think the story makes sense. The music is great. I dig the costumes. It looks different from our previous pictures. Steve Niles banged it out of the park on his end. And we have a couple good cg robots.
This movie is the least excruciating picture of ours for me to watch. Faint praise is all I've got for myself. But it's a step in the right direction.
I got the latest picture to UPS today. Hopefully it's the last version. It's been more than a year since we had shot the movie. That's a long time for us.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Indy Film Again

So Kevin Smith, who is an excellent public speaker, talks about how he wants to change indy distribution. This, to the Internet, is him "imploding" because he wants to distribute pictures himself.

The logic was that they made the picture Red State for $4,000,000 and whomever they would sell it to would probably put in another $20,000,000 in prints and advertising, so that ultimately the movie would have to make back about $50,000,000 just to go into "profit".
So he figured he'd tour around with the picture and sell out some movie theaters and do the distribution themselves.

Now we hear that we're going to finally break the mold, make a paradigm shift, and disrupt the dominant culture all the time. And in motion picture distribution it pretty much hasn't worked once.

Kevin Smith and his team are no spring chickens. They went in with eyes wide open. And they took a flippin bath on the movie.

Red State is actually Kevin Smith's worst-performing movie ever (at something like 1.3 million dollars worldwide.)

This does serve as a warning to all who are all "We got this whole indy VOD release thing figured out, we're gonna leverage our social networks into monetized actuarial pods with cash - based numberwang overflow."

You don't. Smith and company are rather sophisticated. And they've been through the process on pictures which made people money. If Smith (who can draw a fair sized crowd just by showing up) can't have numberwang, what makes you think you can?

UPDATE: As per Kevin Kangas below, Kevin Smith is saying that the picture is actually in the black due to $3M from non-theatrical North American rights plus $1M US theatrical and $1.5M overseas.
But those seem like gross numbers to me still -- surely the venues take a cut, no?
And note that this article speaks on being close to closing on that $3M deal. That was 2011.
So maybe they did actually see black on the books?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Screen and Stage s1 ep04

Basic things about speaker placement.

The Internet Hate Machine

You know, when I make a comment on this or any of my other blogs about Jack Conte's numbers on the Pomplamoose tour, I'm just putting on a public notebook whatever my current thoughts (coherent or otherwise) might be.
But that post of Jack Conte's is tremendously important. Nobody, and I mean freaking nobody puts any real numbers about anything on the Internet.
But boy did that post of Jack's activate the Internet Hate Machine™.

And the cold hard reality is that way too many people are insanely, derangedly, and incorrigibly jealous of other people.

In my business I'm sorta lucky in that I'm not beholden to the hipster elite which permeates the music business. Reviews by people who really really wish they weren't too frightened to make a feature film themselves don't actually affect us.

Boy do people in the indy music business really hate one another. The back-stabbery and the jealousy are at levels that really systematically reduce the fun part of music. The joke is that if Pomplamoose hadn't paid their musicians well and hadn't put them up in hotels, the Internet would be out with its pitchforks (ha!) and demanding their heads (see: Amanda Palmer.)
So there's a rebuttal to the rebuttals, but to me it's beside the point. If I fall back into a Marxist mode here I'd say that the indy music press is so freaking bourgeois that they can't stand regular working-class musicians making money. You have to either be starving to satisfy the bourgeois ideology of the starving artist or you have to straight up be one of the rock aristocracy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

144 Hours

Having just finished John Purcell's wonderful book on dialog editing I've come to a thinking. Suchwise:

I think the fundamental difference between the way dialog is edited on big features and the way we have to do it is that on big movies the M & E's come second, with the English-language mix coming first.
We really can't afford to work that way. Our M & E's have to really and truly sound just like the English language full mix -- just without any actual dialog in them. And they are a first deliverable, not something we can wait on if and when more money mysteriously arrives.
So for us doing a dialog edit is really doing the prepping for the Music and Effects mix.
What this basically means is that the dialog tracks themselves get stripped and noise-reduced down to their barest elements. Ruthlessly so.
See, normally a dialog editor works on making a smooth dialog track by fading in and out of each microphone, and leaving the tone up between pieces of dialog so the scene has no jarring cuts of background tone coming in and out.
Big crossfades between dialog tracks are fine, but how do you build an M & E out of this?

Then they fill the spots in-between with room tone.
This doesn't work for me. Why? Because what happens when you mute those dialog tracks?
The scene's audio disappears. All you have left is your Foley and any sound effects you've cut in.
Now, there's a thing called the P-FX track. That's where you put all your production sound effects which the mixer may or may not use.
But the fact is we can't deal with waiting around to try to figure out how to make the mix work without the dialog after the fact.
So what I say is:
1. Strip that dialog clean with dead-on noise reduction and then add room tone to the entire scene.
2. Those "PFX" tracks? turn them into actual effects tracks. Make a decision then and there (during the dialog edit) what production sounds are going to be sound effects in the movie. Drag those production effects down to one of your sound effects tracks.
3. If you're going to use room tone from the actual scene and loop it, that's fine. Just deal with it right then.
4. Now, during the dialog edit, you need to decide on sound effects during the scene in order to make the scene work. Why? Because some of those sound effects will have to sit on top of the dialog. In order to know if your M & E's will actually work you have to deal with that immediately.
5. The PFX track gets a new function -- it (or they) is/are muted while running off the full English mix. This is because the only thing on the PFX track are sound effects which take place right on top of dialog where the dialog track already has the effect on it.
For instance, if you're happy with a line of dialog where the actor says his line but also scuffs his shoe at the same time, you'll need to put another "clean" shoe scuff at the same place on the PFX track. This way when you mute the dialog tracks and unmute the PFX track, the scuff will appear in the same place, just without any dialog over it.
Obviously this isn't the ideal way to handle dialog tracks so I try not to use any of these kinds of PFX tracks if I can help it.
As unbelievable as it may sound to someone who has no idea what I'm talking about, the above system actually does make sense. But what it means is that the person doing the dialog edit on a reel is also making sound effects decisions on that same reel. Because every edit in the dialog requires a careful consideration of the Music and Effects tracks (well, really just the Effects tracks).
This means that a "dialog editor" has to have a bank of sound effects available. They have to have a sampler and a keyboard available. They probably need to have a recording booth available. All to do the "dialog" edit.
Are there effects that can be done as a "second pass" or by another person at another time? Yes. Yes there are.
For instance, any noises created by a CG element like a dinosaur or robot can be presumed to not exist on the dialog tracks so one need not worry about them while preparing the dialog tracks.
Footsteps which don't exist in the production tracks (especially in scenes which were shot MOS.)
So, how many hours should this take? I'm glad you asked. The answer is 144 hours.
That's three days for all the dialog editing (including ADR), all the sound effects (including Foley), on each 10-minute reel for a 90-minute movie. Some reels will take a bit longer, some a bit shorter. And of course you'll schedule your ADR to happen in chunks so you will be spreading the ADR recording over a few weeks. But basically? 144 hours.
Me? I'm gonna write all of this up and put it in our Wiki.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Type and Such

Rules for creating UI's. I'm totally down with being against this whole "flat" interface design too. Why do operating systems have to keep changing so much? No reason, it's just the fashion of the day.
Beautiful web type.
Proxima Nova is a sans serif typeface.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Focusrite Does Me a Solid

So I had a weird issue with my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 but Louie Gonzalez at Focusrite tech support did me a solid and figured out why my interface was obnoxiously flipping back to 44.1 from 48k all on its own.

To change the sample rate of your Windows settings please follow the instructions below:

- Navigate to Control Panel > Sound > Playback > Right click on Scarlett 18i20 > Properties > Advanced. Under Default Format change the Sample Rate to that of your DAW. Press Apply and then OK.

- Navigate to Control Panel > Sound > Record > Right click on Scarlett 18i20 > Properties > Advanced. Under Default Format change the Sample Rate to that of your DAW. Press Apply and then OK.

sdttss s1 ep03

That's right, it's the third episode of Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Stage and Screen.

(Click through to embiggen.)

Shout-outs to Ien DeNio and Kia Rogers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sound Design Episode 2

Wherein I explain the reasons behind using preshow music in the theater.

Robots Will Invade

I could listen to William Martell all day long.
Kangas on his computer system, which has the cheapest Mercury - compatible playback engine (albiet with a hack.)
Kate Britton in the Philadephia Desert. This is a test rendering by Ian Hubert for an opening shot of the movie Carbon Copy (nee: Android Masquerade) by Steven J. Niles. The background city itself is temp and will be replaced.
Soon, robots will invade.

Naomi McDougall's new movie "Imagine I'm Beautiful" available on Google play.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scarlett Mousse

I'm kinda stupid. I could have gotten a Sapphire Pro 24 rather than a Scarlett 18i20. At least I think so.
But the Scarlett works and works great so maybe I shouldn't complain.
Pomplamoose does a great post with some actual numbers (which you know I appreciate) on touring and expenses.

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. 

This statement is, however, technically not factual. The margins are, indeed, quite high. It's just that the revenue itself isn't terribly high. One of the great ironies is that small businesses have to run much higher profit margins than big businesses just to stay afloat.
Other notes. The quote of $8794/week for 6 musicians and crew seems a bit high. I'm presuming that includes the $20/day per diem (which is low for per diem, in the 90's I was getting $40 per diem and that was low then.) But that makes an average weekly salary (including per diem) of about $210/day for a 7-day week. That might be a tad high for such a low-budget tour but it means they were paying okay (for a low-budget tour). But I might be wrong and the per diems came outside of that $8794/wk. It's not like they published a one-line for crying out loud.
In any case, two hundred bucks a day is okay for this kind of work.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

So, because every-single-thing has to be harder than previously imagined, we had to get a new audio interface for the new audio computer. We got this Focusrite unit. It is, I must say, really nice.
"Ice Nymph" is the name of the hard drive which sits atop. 

I don't know why so many people are into the RME units. They're quite pricey. May as well get Apogees*. But here's the thing: I've A/B'ed Focusrite vs. Apogee and they sound so close that when you invert the polarity the signal will oftentimes actually null-out.
Maybe I just like the red color that surrounds the unit (which you can see in the reflection of the wood support just above the converter in the picture above if you so care.)
But even the preamps are usable.

I haven't actually hooked up a 5.1 system to it. I'll tell you if there's any problems. But so far it's been very stable, which is critical (and maddening when things aren't stable).

*Traditionally considered the best converters for everyone but some classical music guys.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

SDTTFSS series 1 episode 1

    The first episode of Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Screen and Stage wherein we answer the question of what to do when you need sound to come from somewhere on the stage. Ien DeNio was essentially the knowledge base around this episode. Here are the notes for the episode (these were my notes that I was working from in raw, unedited format.)

  1. There's a phone ring or computer sound that's supposed to be coming from the stage. It sounds dumb coming from the speakers overhead. What can I do on an unlimited budget, and what can I do to fake it?

The right (old-fashioned) way:
IFB and squawk box

The more recent hack is to use a baby monitor.
Ien’s favorite baby monitor to mod is the Sony NTM-910

Yea, the black wire was just something I had lying around.. a crap speaker 1/8" input jack or something.. so I hacked it off, pulled the red and white lines that went to the little microphone and connected them up. I didn't even solder this one... its just wrapped and taped
2014-11-18 (2).jpg
2014-11-18 (1).jpg
Photo on 3-6-14 at 12.39 PM.jpg
Also: walkie-talkies can be used.

Note that like all wireless things you can have trouble with taxicabs and other radio interference.

“It works best, I've found, if you throw up a dedicated wireless connection sans internet, connect the phone and computer to that.”


Ochen priyatna, Andrei.

I am experimenting with Open Broadcaster Software. We'll see how it goes. The goal is to make a series of videos called "Sound Design Tips and Tricks for Stage and Screen". Unless someone comes up with a better title.

The Things in My Browser

Wade Kwan on designing restaurant websites.
A review of an Andre Norton book, Search for the Star Stones. That's one of her space-cat books. I've never seen an actual review for one.

Women in Refrigerators.
Doing multi-cam edits in Premiere Pro. It's actually fairly elegant.
OpenROV is an underwater robot with camera. Nine hundred bucks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

After the Embargo

Now that the AFM has happened, we're after the embargo!
That's Maduka Steady with robots by Ian Hubert on all sides.

Note that if you look around this isn't the actual final art on this title. They changed the head. This is because by coincidence another filmmaker with the same sales rep used the same armor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

See Why I Like This?

The book Dialog Editing for Motion Pictures by John Purcell.

Dialog editing
Actually begins a chapter this way:
"Picture plays a huge role in cinematic storytelling--almost rivaling sound in importance."

I am tremendously amused by that sentiment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Composers Wanted

At the New Dramatists.
"New Dramatists is looking for composers to apply for our Composer-Librettist Studio to be held in NYC January 28 through February 13, 2015."

Lanie Zipoy's New Film Festival

Lanie Zipoy has started a new film festival called the DAMN Film Series.
Short films. No submission fee.
Do it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventures with the new Mac Pro

So the latest version of the OSX (Yosemite) does not allow you to install Windows 7 on it via Boot Camp. Why? Oh who knows? Just because. (B/C FU that's why.)
So maybe I can get Parallels to work.
Of course, SugarSync hates the "Documents" folder in Parallels because it thinks the folder is on a network.
The other issue, and yes I feel dumb for not realizing it, is that there are no FireWire ports on the new Mac Pros. Why? B/C FU that's why.
So I guess we're at the end of Firewire for audio interfaces. Which I feel like is a lot of money down the drain. But we get one more chance with Thunderbolt to Firewire interfaces. Which are, of course, stupid expensive for a little adapter.
Parallels is $80. The upgrade to Windows 8.1 is somewhere around there. I really don't want to "upgrade" to Windows 8.1. I would really just like my computers to work.

Blenchmark is a Blender benchmarking thingy. I like it because it tests the thing that I actually do.

It turns out that Parallels has a terrible time dealing with GPU rendering. It turns out that Blender Cycles only works in GPU with NVidea cards. And the Pro of course only has AMD cards. That was a stupid mistake on my part to make. I should have realized that.
I am not a Windows 8 fan. I seriously don't know how you're supposed to surf web sites with it. I never did find Internet Explorer. I put in "" in the address bar of Window Explorer just because I knew that by legacy that would work. It launched Internet Explorer. I downloaded Chrome so I don't have to deal with IE (wherever it might be) anymore.
And of course the highest-end Mac isn't compatible with the Adobe Mercury playback engine. Ugh. It's all rather upsetting.
On the plus side of things the computer is very quiet. And it understands 4K monitors via HDMI without complaining. It boots in OSX very quickly.
I have no idea what complaints it will issue about audio hardware.

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Theatresource

This conversation happened regarding the Theatresource space at 177 MacDougal Street.

We: The space is fallow. The landlord is apparently using the old rehearsal room as an office but otherwise the place is empty.
They: I [heard a rumor] that the landlord was [recently] calling around to some producers to see if they wanted to rent the space.
That's funny, because when I asked about that before Theatresource closed they said no.
Well, apparently they changed their minds.
It's worth doing. I mean, it is, after all, a theater.
It would not be easy to make that a theater again.
Why not?
They took down the grid.
Putting up a new grid isn't that hard. That grid went up in one day.

I'm just saying it isn't a turn-key operation.
It wasn't a turn-key operation even when we were producing plays there.
[Raucous laughter.]

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Re-wiring the studio so I become more productive and actually record the records and operas I was supposed to this year is a worthy task? Yes. Of course it is. Firstwise, I must put my recording gear in a new rack. Luckily, I happen to have one of those and it's in the way and empty at the edit suite. 
So this wooden rack, which I've had for...
Well. Lessee. Since 1986 or maybe '85? (I built it when that kind of wood was surprisingly cheap). But nigh on 30 years. 30 years? Good grief. I'm going back to bed.

Anyway, it had been living at the studio. And I'd been using SKB racks at home. Which have big doors on them and don't really make sense for a home studio. So now I've put this rack together and all the cabling is much neater. No money spent, things just seem better.
  1. On top of everything is the Celtic Edana guitar amplifier.
  2. Below that is a pair of Brent Averill Neve preamps which I'm not putting in the rack so that it's easier to take them around for remote recording.
  3. The little 1/3 rack thing in the dark is the power supply for the AKG C12A microphone.
  4. The thing with the purple knobs is an Apogee Mini-Me converter. Next to that is a Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 (or some such) converter. 
  5. ART tube preamp.
  6. Lindell preamps (in the cream "500" rack).
  7. A pair of Neve 1272's.
  8. Input patchbay.
  9. Power distribution.
  10. Kemper amplifier. 
Checking on the power used here I got about 70 Watts drawing with all the preamps on.
With just the Kemper on I draw many fewer Watts, but it's still about half that draw.
This power meter is cheap and cool and everything but it's a bit hard to read without a light directly on it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Sean Mac Zipoy

Sean Williams on Mac Rogers:
This seeming ambiguity leads people to be suspicious about Mac as a person.
Ha! Yes.

Also, Lanie Zipoy is starting a short film festival. Without entrance fees. I know, right? The DAMN Film Series.  Enter early. Enter often.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Home Mastering EQ Workshop

I've been digging these Ian Shepherd videos about mastering.

He provides a helpful look into that world. And yeah, you're not supposed to master your own recordings but facing reality: sometimes you have to. Also, learning to listen from a mastering standpoint helps a fellow to make mixes which need less mastering tricks and keeps the mastering engineer from "fixing" so much as "applying magic".

I think Diatomaceous Earth could release a double-album of stuff we recorded last year. We have lots of material so we'd have to do lots of editing. But it could be really very cool.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Mozz and Josh

H/T Mozz Mendez, this trailer for Ex Machina looks a lot like what we're trying to do all the time.

Josh James' royalty-free plays is, in it self, free this week:

Saturday, November 01, 2014


In my effort to prove the Mac Mini is the device with which I can replace a power machine I have discovered a flaw.
GPU performance.
If you read the Internet, and I don't know why you would, you'd find that most articles poo pooh the very high end of computers because "What are you doing? 3D rendering? Ha! Nobody does that."
These helmets are all but impossible to make.

Oh. But we do. We do.
When all is said and done the Mac Pro makes a good deal of sense. Especially a refurbished one. Quiet. Low energy use. Very interesting. Still have all the issues with certain, ahem, hardware.
The Mac Pro is essentially unphotographable.

I think I basically have to move over to USB for audio hardware. Right now the best solution seems to be the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. It has an adequate number of outputs.
Or I could just cheat. Somehow. Cheating is good.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Longer Kemper Profiler video

Here I talk more about the Kemper Profiler.

I go on a bit compared to the last video and show you some different sounds. Here's some links to the profiles for the two amps: The Celtic Edana (JTM-45 clone) with some distortion. The "Mutt" distorted. And the clean sound I've been grooving to, the "Mutt" set to what I call "Dog II".
One interesting difference between using the Kemper and using a real amp which I noticed after playing back this video is that many of the very loud sounds (mostly distorted ones) would be at such high volumes that if one were in the room there'd be no way to hear the bit of string "singing" (the acoustical sound of the strings on the electric guitar) through the lavalier mic clipped onto me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Every product I've owned from Letus has been really cool. By that I mean the 35mm adapters I've had from them have made things look nice. In an indescribable yet cinematic way. There's just a little bit of magic and art in everything they make it seems.
And now they've made their own stabilizer system called the Helix.
I can't even.

This stabilizer looks awesome. It's around $5000.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Just look at this nonsense. Look at it.
The back of a MOTU Ultralite (the original "Mark I" version) over-patched from here until eternity.
This is because Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) makes the "digital mixer" inside their Ultralite box only mix inputs. You can't also mix the so-called "software returns" inside the box. So what have I done here? Routed six analog outputs right back to the analog inputs.
The whole purpose of this mess here is to make it so I can monitor a 5.1 surround mix in stereo on headphones. That's the whole thing I'm going through all this rigmarole to do. And I have to make this huge inelegant cable mess just to do it.
So right, the only multi-core I have is this nice Canare 8-channel snake with TRS connectors on each end. It's sixteen freaking feet long. For a six-inch jump. Oh but wait. There's more!
Look carefully at those bottom two connectors. See how they're slightly canted away from one another? Yes! That's because the Neutrik connectors are fatter than the distance between the jacks on the back of the Ultralite. So I used a couple smaller cables with Switchcraft ends (the silver-ish connectors) to try to keep the entire PCB on the MOTU from being split apart simply by having things plugged into it.
And I would be using the M-Audio Profire 2626, which has a rather elegant mixer with which to do this thing, except that it simply does not work in Bootcamp on a Mac (it does, however, work in the latest version of the Mac OS.)
Am I irked? Yes. Yes I am irked. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about? No. No you do not.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We Are Not Good People

I just finished reading Jeff Somers We Are Not Good People. It is an absurdly well-written book. He wrote the Electric Church series which is also terrifically good.

I prefer my Jeff Somers in long-form (like novels) because there's this particular rhythm he develops, using a specialized language in the voice of the narrator. And you want to sort of get into that rhythm and sit there for the length of a novel.

I am, unfortunately, a bit too stupid to really understand what I'm supposed to be doing. I started reading We Are Not Good People and found that I'd already read it. Or, somehow, I'd already read the first half. I have no idea how that happened. I believe it may involve witchcraft of some kind.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Grand Experiment

So. The notion on the table is blowing off buying a huge and powerful PC and instead getting a Mac Mini and running Windows off of it. And if I get really complainy we go ahead and get two Minis so one can be rendering while the other does other work or whatever.
That's the notion.
Thing number one: M-Audio is apparently not a big fan of updating their drivers. This is too bad as the M-Audio 2626 is a fine A/D converter with really very serviceable microphone preamps.
This becomes a doorstop then.
So that's too bad. Very sad really. Boo.
That said, I'm getting irritated in general with FireWire. I just wish I didn't have to deal with FireWire anymore. I can't understand why it's no longer available on laptops and it's really difficult to... wait a minute, I'm just whining.
What else is wrong with the Mac? Well, like with any modern Apple it doesn't come with a DVD drive. Now in reality there is a curse put on my studio wherein I cannot make DVD's anyway. All our drives are broken all the time. Okay, that's not really true but actually right this minute it is.
A portable optical drive is about thirty bucks. And honestly we just don't need one on each computer at all times. That is overkill. But right now I do not have a working DVD drive in my studio with which to load software. That is a bit of a pain in the tuchus.
Resolution. Apple disables the high-resolution output from the DisplayPort on their Minis. Why? Because they hate you. Now, I need 4K because my eyes get all blurry otherwise. Apparently the problems with outputting 4k using the appropriate DisplayPort to HDMI 1.4-compliant adapter works perfectly fine when running Windows on the Mac. This is because Microsoft is greedy for your money, not arbitrarily hostile to you as a person.
Thing is, I don't have one of those adapters (the "HDMI 1.4-compliant" part is what is somewhat rare). Apple doesn't even have an overpriced one in their stores and B&H doesn't have them. So I'm waiting for Amazon to deliver. Is it worthwhile to go ahead and order an optical drive? All for this grande experimentia in running a Mac Mini as a powerhouse audio-editing and 3D computer?
Heck. I dunno.


So I have this fantasy. It goes like this. Diatomaceous Earth makes some videos.
Where? My apartment, of course. How? Multi-camera. Of what? Of these songs:

The Porcupine's Dream

This is our big hit. This, to me, sounds like Diatomaceous Earth.
Luscious Earth I don't know if this song has another name.
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and White Mouse Now I figure we're going to want to make some cuts and edits. Honestly I don't know how we're going to do that with multi-camera and multitrack audio. No idea at all. Somebody's going to have to figure that out. But it would be cool I think.

Maybe we'll have some psychedelic lights we can cut to in order to cover the edits. That sounds like something we'd do at least...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cat Scratch Fincher

So I was gonna write a non-spoilery review of Gone Girl about how it's really an HBO series packed into a feature film because of the weird episodic structure which doesn't really obey any sort of normal act structure.
Then I was going to write about how the cat in the movie was a cat from some romantic comedy thrown accidentally into a thriller picture and nobody really knew what to do with the cat once it had seemed like a freaking plot point to feed the damn floppy thing.
But that's not what I'm going to write about. No.
Instead I'm going to write about the gratuitous thigh scratching.
Look, I have to sit though tiresome essays like this one. Ooh. Fincher doesn't use closeups when he doesn't have to. Oh yeah? Then explain the thigh scratch to me.
Maybe the whole thing was a goof. Maybe the cat was really Jonesey from Alien. Maybe it's Fincher's apology for ruining the Alien franchise.
Also, this movie just wasn't directed at all. Everything about Gone Girl was on the writer. As a movie it didn't really need a director. Any competent cinematographer with a competent AD could have got all the shots they needed and then sent them to editorial.
But that's not the point. The point is that we cut to the closeup of a thigh. Being scratched.
That closeup actually makes me angry. I should go lie down.