Friday, March 28, 2014

Le Maitre Neutron Hazer Maintain

If the Neutron is running and not displaying any error codes via the LED at the rear of the unit it most likely just needs to be adjusted.
First make sure the air pump is running and that the small plastic bottle on the same side as the heat tube is not full of fluid, if it is remove, clean, dry, and reinstall.
If you are comfortable doing so, remove the side cover (10 screws) to gain access to the PCB, just above the fan at the center bottom of the PCB there is a blue potentiometer w/ a white center, use a small flat  screwdriver and in small increments turn the pot to adjust haze output, too far on way or the other will slow/increase the fluid pump and cause no output or cause too much fluid and spit fluid with the haze.
Those are the notes from Le Maitre themselves on how to get our hazer to behave properly.

Things on or about the Internet Today

Jeff Wills wants to do a crowdsourced Twitter novel. I'm totally down with that. Here is the character I want to play:
Oops. That's a rabbit on the moon. Totally different character. Er. Here we go:
Mei Xin: I am a 29-year-old Chinese Special Agent (F) who works for the Chinese government on the Orion system. I wear sneakers, jeans, a short-cut leather jacket, and carry a 2mm flechette pistol. My biggest problem is alien smugglers bringing in photopsychedelics from uninhabited planets. Or, that's my second-biggest problem.
My biggest is that I've been infected with an alien nanovirus which lets me see 15 minutes into the future...

Holy cats. Do you want a really good software Foley instrument? Dig these free ones from Signo Audio Designs. They're for Kontakt (you need the full version, not the free version, ironically.) Signo has some very nice instruments for Foley. Reasonably priced, too. From Text to Speech is a pretty good text-to-wave web app.

Diatomation Direction

I think Lily came up with the perfect description of Diatomaceous Earth.
"Fantastic, goth-esque, masquerade-type event for which waltzes are the prominent feature and stately, sumptuous outrageous revelry happens with lots of watery darkness, weird wonderful costumes, and some sort of scented smoke…... maybe smoldering rosemary branches sprinkled with opium oil….."

Yup. That's pretty much what we've got going on here.

Here are some improvised pieces we did last week. Ethan on Stick, Lily on bass, Greg on guitar, Drew on drums.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Foley For You

Recording the RC car.
So today I bought an radio controlled car. And not for the 9-year-old-boy reason you think I did. No. 
We've needed something to make robot sounds for quite some time now. And the dude at Pilotage Hobby came up with with this RC car as a relatively inexpensive way to get servo sounds. 
The picture above shows the car on its back, on top of a music stand, being recorded by a Rode NT1. 
The servos seem to change in quality over time. We'll see how it all works out. 
Tomorrow will be robot Foley day in the Pandora Machine, that's for sure.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pre and Post

You know what is a song I'd like to cover? This thing, Arctic Botany, could be played cleaner but the structure is pretty solid. I'm pretty sure this is Dave, Lily, Greg, and me. I think it would make an excellent side of an album.

So. Preamps.
The operating theory has been for a while that the quality of a recording is an accumulation of subtleties. Which is why listening to any given preamp makes you think "Huh, that sounds pretty good." Even cheap preamps in (say) Mackie mixers.
But remember that mic preamp shootout a few weeks ago? Yeah. The differences between the preamps were pretty apparent. At the same time there really wasn't a correlation between expensive and good. In fact, the cheapest preamps were among the best-sounding.
The ART PRO MPA II is... well it's just amazing. The sound is (to use a real weasel term here) rather 3-D.
I compared the direct-injected sound of Alice, the Fender Squire Jazz 5-string, between the ART and the built-in preamps in the Focusrite preamps in the Scarlett interface.
The subjective difference is that the Focusrite were more, er, focused. And the ART were more broad and deep. Actually I'd say the Focusrite's were more accurate than the ART's. But that's cool. The ART preamps have plenty of color, which you'd expect from a tube preamp.
As an old man I've started to get very grumpy about audio engineering. My grumpiness is suchly: once you've got gear that actually works, it's all pretty good. Spending untold amounts of money on esoteric gear isn't nearly as helpful as, say, practicing your instrument.
Maybe this wasn't as true back in the day of Realistic mixers and those early Tascam mixers. Because I had a lot of trouble getting those to sound good back in the day (mid 1980's).
But now I have Neve preamps and Apogee converters. They're not night-and-day better than even the Focusrite built-in preamps and converters. Not even dawn-and-dusk better. Arguably not even better in all situations. Am I contradicting myself here in the last paragraph? Yes. Yes I am. Just a little. I'm like the New York Times. Don't worry about it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Skin Undertone

According to Amy Parlow:
The easiest way to determine your skin undertone is to look at the veins on your arm.  If they are green in color you probably have warm undertones, and if they are blue you are most likely cool. You can also tell by the color of clothes you gravitate toward.
My neighborhood is the best.
Languages included in the institute's easiest category are Danish, French, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.
And languages in the hardest category are Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin Chinese.
Used DUI drysuits.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Note this is actually me playing drums.

Drums are hard.

Could I become competent enough to record if I had enough practice?
It would take a certain minimum number of months though. Perhaps many of those months.
My biggest problem is not that I don't know where the beat should be. It's actually executing the drum part. Hitting things with sticks at even remotely the right time is really quite difficult.
It's like finding a bunny on the moon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This is a test.

This is only a test.
This is a test of the recording system in my apartment. It's made from parts and pieces of other bits of gear I've had lying around. Getting my Focusrite Scarlett to work on this laptop was a spectacular nuisance. I finally went to using ASIO4ALL drivers and that seems to make the hardware stay connected. Sheesh.
Alice now has Thomastik-Infeld jazz bass strings on her. I'll admit, they do sound very nice. They're thicker than the previous strings so the bass becomes a bit "grindier". I don't know if that means I should adjust the truss rod or raise the bridge or do nothing. I'll find out from Ethan.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So. Yeah. Kontakt and Crossgrades

I'm willing to admit I made an error. But this one seems like... it wasn't me.
The data which countervails the rest of my argument here. I swear that two days ago this isn't the message I got.
So. I ordered Native Instruments Komplete 9. The reason I did is because I looked on the web site and clicked on "crossgrade" and found I could order the crossgrade because I owned a previous Kontakt product -- Garritan Personal Orchestra.
Now. It turns out that GPO is not a qualifying product. It's not. Maybe I made a mistake. I could have read the website wrong. But I don't see how I could have. I think they altered the website just after I ordered. There was likely a mistake in their database and they hadn't caught it yet. Why do I think this? Here's why:
When I went onto the NI website I had completely forgotten I'd ever owned Garritan Personal Orchestra. 100% out of my mind. In fact, it isn't even installed on my main audio computer. So when it said I could get Kontakt "full" because I owned a previous Kontakt product I was surprised because I wasn't thinking about GPO.
I really wish I'd taken a screenshot of that now.
Furthermore I believe that over the last two days I'd gone onto the NI website and confirmed that was the case. I believe that even the "Service Center" application confirmed I had the appropriate product to upgrade from even though it would not actually let me register.
The other piece of information which may or may not be relevant is that I put in a ticket to NI a couple days ago and they still haven't got back to me. I, of course, then put in another ticket and that was only about a day and-a-half ago. They haven't responded to that one either.
My suspicion is that they'd coded into their web-based "service center" that GPO was a qualifying product but that had been in error and the registration part of their system knew better. So now I'm theoretically stuck with an upgrade product I can't actually upgrade to.
You may be surprised to learn that there are those on the Internet who have "cracked" NI's copy-protection. This is because you're easily surprised. Drink some chamomile tea, take some deep breaths, and go to your happy place.

Trying to register Native Instruments Komplete 9

Native Instruments is bummin' me out man. I bought a crossgrade bundle of their "Komplete 9" software. I got it from Sweetwater. I'm under the impression I'm entitled to use the crossgrade because I also own Garritan Personal Orchestra.
This is merry - go - hoppy me.

So I enter my serial number for my crossgrade. And what happens then?
Errors galore. My User Account does not have the prerequisite software to help me party down with actually having a registered version of Komplete 9. Sigh.

I am, however, allowed to download updates, even if I can't register.

A quick look at what I have registered. Yup the Garritan Personal Orchestra is on there. But I can't activate Komplete 9. Why not? Who knows?

Here I'm just making sure I have Garritan Personal Orchestra. Yup. I sure do.
So now what? It's been over a day since I submitted my first ticket to Native-Instruments.
Oh and look. Now the online tool says I'm not qualified for a cross-grade. Interesting. I believe up until yesterday It was saying the opposite.
So if I'm not mistaken, I bought the crossgrade because the website said it would work on my account. And not it doesn't.
This makes bunny cry.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Card-carrying member.
I got my EFR card. It means something very close to nothing at all. It means I said I understood the things I got wrong on my test. And it means I watched a video and beat up a CPR dummy. But it's kind of cool to have done it. Everyone should, really.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


I'm rethinking recording paths. I would be a lot cooler if I claimed that Echoes or maybe Ummagumma was the best Pink Floyd album. But no. It really is Dark Side of the Moon.
I have this fantasy about how I'm going to be recording a lot more this year. Like a lot more.
I want to re-arrange my microphone preamps. I think I have a way to to that. Here then is what I'm thinking for recording Diatomaceous Earth:
  1. kick
  2. snare
  3. lo tom
  4. hi tom
  5. --
  6. Ethan stick melody
  7. Front panel -- Lily Bass
  8. Front panel -- Greg guitar
  9. Lindell OH L
  10. Lindell OH R
  11. Neve Drew guitar
  12. Neve Ethan stick bass
The first 8 channels are the Tascam's own preamps. They sound surprisingly good. With Lily's bass we're finding that if she goes through an Alembic preamp it really doesn't matter what preamp she hits afterward. The drums are mostly triggered and replaced -- with the exception of the overheads.
What I'm doing here is removing a pair of Neve 1272's from the rack at the rehearsal studio for use elsewhere (like my apartment and/or studio).
We'll make the overheads Lindells. Why? I don't know. I just figure it's what we'll do.
That leaves us with one more pair of Neves. One will go on my guitar because I don't know how to record my guitar otherwise. I don't know about that last channel. Could be Neve on the Chapman Stick bass side. Or maybe not. I have no idea.


Preamps. So. Then. Therefore.
Microphones preamps are very difficult to A/B properly because it's nigh on impossible to get a performance replicated exactly. The dudes at Sound On Sound figured out a replicable source: the Disklavier. And then they did a test of preamps
Wow. The Mackie and the ART Pro MPAII do really well. And those are the cheapest preamps in the bunch.
Listen before looking at the key.
I've been less and less excited by high-end mic preamps. I own a pair of Neve 1272's and... I will use them on guitars but... I don't care that much.
I certainly don't care about A/D converters anymore (and I own a Apogee).
So. Huh.

Here's a walkthrough of the Drumdrops Premier kit interface: And so forth.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Redbox Android

You know what my take-away was from this negative review of Android Insurrection?

The movie is in RedBox y'all!

Big ol' tip of the hat to Tom "sunglass-wearing cocky bastard" Rowen.

Spiders and Guns

Procrastination. So this whole thing started because Brian Schiavo showed me this radio-controlled spider. WARNING. Spider. Do not watch video of mecha-spider unless you want to see large mecha-spider. The fact is that spider would be excellent in some upcoming movies provided it can walk on sand. I'm afeared it can't. But this brought me to Han Solo's blaster. Here's a weird thing about why it's so hard to replicate: apparently even in the original Star Wars they used multiple versions which were slightly different. And then good grief. It's all about the Blade Runner gun. Everybody loves this gun. Actually, I'm not so into that particular prop. Now if someone were to make a working Logan's Run gun...


The most hipster bands.
You remember Drumdrops? Oh man. You don't? That's because I sooo olds.
Back in the dawn of Man, there were these LP's of recordings of drums -- just the drums -- to songs that didn't exist. You could buy them and they'd have different tempos and styles of drums you could use to make your clumsy demos with. You'd be kind of stuck with the structure the drummer was playing with but as recording drums is so dang hard and this was the age just before drum machines (JBDM) it was the only way to go.

Now Drumdrops makes drum sample libraries (and loops). Which is, you know, kinda logical.
Their 1963 Premiere kit sounds pretty spectacular. And in the US it's less than $40 (because we pay no VAT and if you sign in you can get 20% off your order).
I've been saying that a late-Beatles drum sound would pretty much satisfy me for the rest of my life. One funny thing about that is that many of those sounds are compressed like crazy. We like to think of over-compression as a relatively more recent phenomena but you can hear some kick drums choke on Abbey Road. In any case, I really dig this Premiere kit. C'est tres groovy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Foley Kontakt

Alejandro Cabrera released a free Native Instruments Kontakt instrument of Foley footsteps. You launch the Kontakt player and then you select "indoors" or "outdoors" and then the type of shoes. Could you use a wider selection of each? Of course. But it's free. Is it worth paying for? Yes. Do you have to? No.
Signo makes a number of different Foley instruments for Kontakt too.
Note that you need the full version of Kontakt for these instruments to work for you (at least for more than about 15 minutes).
I haven't actually tried these in a post-production environment but it seems like you could really do a lot by "playing" your Foley on a keyboard. Frequently one is "playing" footsteps by "walking" with shoes in one's hands so it's not that far out a concept. It's certainly worth a try.
(Kontakt is a software "instrument" you play with a MIDI keyboard or similar.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Things that disturbed me when watching The Asylum's Android Cop

I've seen those Video Copilot bullet holes before. Heck, I've used those bullet holes before.
The opening shot was pretty nice actually.
Ooh. That blue anamorphic lens flare. I just spent the morning putting that same flare on a bunch of shots in our robot cop movie. Maybe I'll back off on that a little.
I'm gonna guess that's a VC heat distortion behind the flying craft.
The flying craft is okay.
The bullet impacts look composited. This is a problem I have too. It's really hard to get them to fit properly so that it really looks like the wall near the actor's head is getting hit.
The autocannons look pretty nice. Good idea too.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Quiet That Guitar

The Jet City JetStream ISO is presumably only $300 (if you can find it). It's an isolation cabinet.
This video demonstrates about a 15dB SPL difference.

This video claims a 40dB SPL isolation.

I suppose my biggest concern is making a fairly "boxy" sound with it. Also the Eminence speaker is just never going to be quite as cool as my Celestion Alnico Blues.
But the price sure is right, isn't it? And if you need to rock out at home (I do) it could make a big difference.  (And again, the second video didn't post the first time. It just got deleted from the html when I pressed "publish". Sigh.)

Android Barry Light

Look. I totally wanna see Android Cop. The Asylum went for a Robocop-remake mockbuster as did we.
The 'copter effect they have is actually pretty nice. And I dig the robot armor.
And they made their street date. We did not.
Lionel Barry is the father of the boom pole.
I'm still watching Stu Maschwitz in his tutorials on color-correction. They are extraordinarily enlightening.
Ha! Get it? So proud of self am I.

Book Report

Ancillary Justice is a pretty brilliant book.

There are some super interesting things it does like, for instance, the lead character confuses the genders in the society she lives in and ends up referring to everyone as "she". Some of the characters are clearly male and clearly female. Not many of them. In fact I'd have to read the book again but I'm not 100% sure the narrator is female.
It's fascinating how much of one's brain is taken up with wanting to know characters' gender. The narrator refuses to give it to you. And it just happens so organically. Pronouns. Messed up. Brilliant.

Lessee. Complaints. I feel like the story slowed down toward the end. The artwork -- the book is actually aesthetically more in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and grimdark than in the sort of older-fashioned sci-fi world the cover depicts. Uh. That's about it.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Day 14

So apparently at some point I said "Doesn't there need to be a prologue to this movie?" And apparently the answer was "yes".
Virginia Logan takes one for the team.

So now we have a new opening. Steven J. Niles re-wrote a terrible outline I'd created. Then we brought in Anouk and Kire.
Kire Tosevski rockin' the post-apocalypse with my sherpa sunglasses.

Then I got the bright idea that Anouk should play the thing mostly in French and dance around. I did a little dance for her to show her what I meant. She looked at me like I was insane.
The Queen of Mars did that awesome Yellow Sign tattoo on Anouk Dutruit.
Robot 43 (Maduka Steady) comes to the rescue.
We shot entirely in the basement of my building. I'm so lucky to have such an understanding super.
I'm just amazed at how inherently limited the color palette is. It has something to do with the way I suck the color out on camera but still, the art direction is perfect for us.
I just wanted a shot with this kind of depth in this sequence.