Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Your three things for today

The Letus Helix. It's one of those new camera stabilization systems. And you know it's going to be awesome. I can't even remotely afford one right now, but it's going to be very cool. I've loved everything Letus has made.
Natural Reader is a pretty cool text-to-voice thing.
The Headzone Pro was a thing Beyerdynamic made a while back. It's the only surround-sound monitor for headphones system I know of. You can plug in six channels and it does some psycho-acoustic thingy to do surround out of the two speakers in headphones. Which if you have problems getting your room quiet or sound-isolated enough, might be your best option. Problem is they only make a vastly more expensive system anymore.
Oh, and it's made to follow your head around although that sounds like it would be terrifically annoying.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mixing too quiet means mixing too loud

If you're not trying to be really obnoxious to your office-mates you might think that it would be better to mix with your monitors turned down to a reasonable level. It's not. Indeed it means you have to mix over again.

In film there is a standard for how "loud" you should mix. Specifically, your monitors should be at 85dB SPL (measured in noise bands) from each speaker at the mix position with the meters at -20dB Fs. Does that make sense?
This is actually pretty loud. Louder than what you should be doing with music actually (my rule with mixing music is that you should be able to talk over it comfortably. That's how you know you're at about the right level.) Now the other thing with film mixing is that you typically have to hard-limit each channel at -12dB Fs. This may be more of a broadcast issue actually. But considering that -12dB Fs is 93dB SPL from each speaker it's a good idea to not go above that level anyway.
As an aside (isn't this entire post an aside?) I've often wondered why they fellows at Dolby or whomever decided to lose 12db of headroom from mixes. My only guess is that if all six channels of a 5.1 mix are limited to -12dB it becomes very hard to actually go above 0dB Fs when you mix all those channels together, even if you do it clumsily. That's my guess.
Anyway, remember about how 85dB SPL should equal -20dB Fs? Well even when I'm mixing "correctly" I don't even go that loud. I set my system to 72dB SPL at -20dB Fs. This makes mixes "louder" than if I'd done them at 85dB because I'm pushing the faders up more to make up for the fact that my monitors are turned down.
But this whole complaint is that I'd mixed the first pass of the Dead Residents movie even quieter than 72dB (somewhere around 60? Maybe?) and all of those mixes just slammed into those -12dB limiters way too often and too hard, losing any sort of dynamics in the mix and actually making it a bit distorted.
So, mixing quieter means mixing louder. Right?
Somebody re-write this so it makes sense.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nova Social

Nova Social is a sweet band with an 80's-retro vibe. Their lyrics can be amusingly hostile. You'll love them.
They started their set with a song called "Laptop Rock" which cracked me up. Especially because they are ultimately, you know, a 9-piece with two violins, a cello, keyboardist and backup/descant singer.

I've seen them twice now at Joe's Pub.
They are related to the band Balthrop Alabama which I recorded once on a Sunday (I believe) at Manhattan Theatre Source for my buddy Blair Johnson. Very different music. Also very groovy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


My very exciting journey to discover a kick drum pedal that works for me is, possibly, at an end. The single biggest thing of importance was keeping it acoustically quiet so I don't irk anyone downstairs. And I think that the direct-drive Axis pedals have the answer.
New (used) Axis longboard with EKIT trigger.

The beater bangs away on the pedal itself (there's a missing stopper -- I got the pedal used and I suspect it had been used on a real kick drum so the stopper got lost). The direct-drive pedal feels very much to me like a piano key. It has that same kind of "mechanical" feel of the "switches" that are piano keys. I believe this is one of the reasons so many drummers do not like the direct-drive pedals. But I kind of groove to the feel of it. And the built-in trigger makes things much easier.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Me. And Them.

I'm really enjoying The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Over the years I've learned things about myself. One thing I've learned is that I'm a terrible employee. Do not hire me. I mean, unless you want something to get done. Otherwise you don't want me. I talk back. I'll make fun of your bad decisions. I won't really respect your authority and if I have any suspicion that you're incompetent I will... er... let you know.
I've learned these things about me.
One thing I've learned about me which does super-duper not apply to other people is that I don't need a deadline.
And to my detriment I will hit and not exceed a budget. (I've learned since that sometimes budgets are made arbitrarily with "There's only $200 for this" when in fact we need to spend ten times that and all the other departments will insist on that too.) So I don't even know when to argue for and against things as an employee.
But other people -- other people are different. Most people like and work toward deadlines.*
I cannot express how much this screen grab cracks me up.
Anybody else notice that chlorine makes your skin really smooth? Just me? Okay then...
This year's best album is Passages to Safety by Cavallo.

*I've almost never delivered a movie on time. But that's not a matter of doing a task on time. And... I'm working on it.

You are low on T-shirts with bunnies on them

So I'm here to help.

Moon Bunny T-shirt
Moon Bunny T-shirt by pandoramachine
Create your own t shirt designs online at Zazzle.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal. Wednesday April 16th at Flood Rehearsal Studios.
I played drums on the first piece. Believe me, you can tell.
But that's not the part of this where I'm really not proud of myself. Nope.
Just before we started I noticed that for some reason the record-arm light on track one was off. So I re-armed it. And we played.
Then Lou showed up and I switched over to guitar and for some reason I didn't have the window sized such that I could actually see every track and yup -- track 1 had become unarmed again. I noticed this the next day when I was looking at the tracks and saying to myself "Why is track 1 so much shorter than the other tracks?"
That's the kick drum track. Oof.
The soloed snare drum track had practically no kick drum in it at all (nobody thinks great things about the kick drum at the studio here). So I had to duplicate the "overhead" track and EQ the heck out of it and then slam it with limiting just to get a good kick "trigger" to then use on a Steven Slate replacement kick.
Anyway, not my proudest moment. But we played some good songs.
Lessee, what else did I learn? Oh. Right. I found the limit on those wonderful Ear Trumpet Labs microphones -- close-miking electric guitar cabinets. Nope and nope. The mics break up at the high SPL range of a close-miked Marshall amp. Oh well. It was worth a try. An SM58 draped over the side of the cabinet sounds great.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cavallo Passages

I really dig Cavallo. They have a new record out.

Lawyers Guns and Money. Or at least guns. In the future.

Here is the Walther P22. That's the same manufacturer as the James Bond - famous Walther PPK. The thing I think that's most interesting is the laser sighting thing on the front. It gives the pistol a more sci-fi vibe what with the ergonomic grip.
You know, the Blade Runner gun just doesn't really do it for me aesthetically.
I mean, yeah, it's cool and all but it isn't weighted quite properly to my eye.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


The Hurry Brothers talk about their new album, and about the dumb movie producers who keep them from mixing it!

V-Blog Episode 2 - Making the LIFE AFTER LIFE album from Hurry Hurry on Vimeo.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Angry Planet on DVD

Angry Planet, the Mac Rogers-penned sci-fi picture we shot a while back, is out on DVD in North America.

Fun fact, by searching for "Angry Planet movie" I found that the design was come up through 99Designs.
There were some nice designs submitted. Some were based on an older piece of art for the movie (the art used for the streaming version of the movie.)

Those different versions of Daryl Boling are pretty amusing.
Order yours on Amazon or what-have-you. Buy some for the kids! (You know how the kids are always wearing through DVD's -- buy plenty of extras for 'em.)

Setup, Tears, Dastoli, Time

Okay, Michael Arndt on the setting-up of a story.

I really dig the Dastoli Brothers. They do some very nice visual effects work. And not just CG either, they have some very sweet miniature work too. The "tutorials" they do are super-advanced. I can only barely keep up with what they're talking about.
Sydney Australia is like 14 hours ahead of NYC time. Scheduling a mutually agreeable time to live-record a commentary track (especially when most of your people on NY time are doing day jobs with evening theater) is quite an achievement.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Jazz Bass Strings

So let me talk to you about drum pedals.

But first. Bass strings.
These Thomastic-Infeld flat-wound Jazz Bass strings are probably the most expensive bass strings there are. No, I take that back, I'm sure somebody's found a way to come up with more expensive ones.
But that's not the point. The point is that they are freakin' fantastic bass strings. If you want flat-wound strings, these are for you. Spectacularly low tension. And allegedly they'll last forever.
I think I wanted flats because on a very old bass of mine (or perhaps my high-school chum Scott's) had flat-wound strings and I was feeling nostalgia.
These TI's feel and sound great.
There. Thank you for listening.
Huh. Looks like I did not bring up drum pedals at all.

Whew, Finished

So last night around ten o'clock I "finished" Dead Raid (the new title for Dead Residents.)
Immediately, of course, I found an error -- some missing bullet hits and ricochets in the first act. But there's a whole movie, color-corrected, with 5.1 mixes in both full English and with the Music and Effects split out.
At this point in the movie-making process I'm usually pretty annoyed with the movie I've been working on. And no, I don't typically blog about that. But this picture I'm still feeling pretty good about. A lot of the effects the writer, Steven Niles, was going for worked. Those can be hard for a director (me) to pull off but I think that somehow we did.
We're late on the delivery for this movie. Originally we'd promised February 1 (and you'll notice it's early April now). But we created a new prologue (and postlogue) which are kinda fun. The movie will be delivered by Cannes.
There's still a tremendous amount of work to do. First there's the quality-control checks. New mixes, new renders of effects, all that sort of thing has to be dealt with -- all in an effort to make the movie better. A complete transcription of the audio, along with timecode, has to be created. And just for fun, a copy of every single contract has to be double-checked and scanned and made into .pdf files. Then there will be a load of other paperwork -- mostly me signing pieces of paper which say how long the movie is, what the aspect ratio was, and a notarized form promising that the movie was made in the United States. 
I'd love to say I'm going to take the weekend off. But we have two more movies lined up for this year and somebody's got to get on the pre-production train for 'em.

Twilight of the Gods

Rehearsal this week with Diatomaceous Earth was Lou, Lily, Greg, and me. This meant that I was thrown out of the position of drummer.
We were also really tired.
Here's a piece of music called Twilight of the Gods.

This is an edited performance. The drums are just a single kick mic and a single overhead/front mic. Lou has been refusing to play with miked drums, and he's been refusing to play the ride cymbal altogether which, is, you know, not exactly the world's most musical thing.
Now here's a different version of that same piece of music. That rhythm guitar you hear is me in both versions, and Greg is on slide guitar. But the Pleasure for the Empire version of Twilight of the Gods has, er, me on bass and drums. It's not perfect. It's more of a "proof of concept". Honestly we need a cleaner way to get from the 3/4 section into the 4/4 section.But this is the concept.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Robot. Aye.

Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel was first published in '58. And yeah, there's some stuff in it which is kinda creaky. It didn't age 100% well. The computers in it, for instance, are comically slow. 
It's basically the story I Robot (the movie) was based on, even though there's another book called I Robot. So there's that. And it's a good story about a detective who hates robots who is (naturally) assigned a robot partner.
This was the art on the copy I read. If you like book covers which have nothing at all to do with the actual content of the book, this is the cover for you.
One thing I thought interesting.There is, essentially, a Voight Kamf test which takes place in the book. It's not to test whether someone is a robot but rather whether a robot has a working 1st Law of Robotics in place.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

SaündFraud Skill Killer: Take Your Lack of Skill to the Next Level

This is my favorite April Fools so far this year.

SaündFraud Skill Killer.
Now if I could only get a pedal that would make me play more tastefully.

SaündFraud Skill Killer: Take Your Lack of Skill to the Next Level

This is my favorite April Fools so far this year.

SaündFraud Skill Killer.
Now if I could only get a pedal that would make me play more tastefully.

Roger and the Therapeutic Therapist

A short from our own Montserrat Mendez.