Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Render Order

Oftentimes in my life I have wondered what order effects are rendered in Final Cut Pro.

According to this search result it is indeed from top-to-bottom.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Solve that Roll

Via Kangas is this kind of brilliant tutorial on correcting for rolling-shutter problems. It's a very wonky solution, and I bet you could do it such that it corrected for each and every line of video which would only drive you very slightly insane. But it's quite brilliant. Yeah, you're not gonna want to do that for a whole feature, but man there's always a couple shots you wish you could do some handheld with that doesn't get all jello-cam on you.


I feel pretty certain my brother Dave owned a Farfisa organ at some point when I was very little. I distinctly remember the white accidentals and the black keys and maybe I even remember a volume swell thingy that stuck out the bottom.*

Farfisas are the poor-man's Hammond (which, in turn, is the poor-ish-man's actual pipe organ.) Farfisas have a unique sound and are the basis of a tremendous amount of psychedelic music from Pink Floyd to The Doors.

The Combo Model F is a very sweet Farfisa emulator (VSTi). Sometimes you just need some Light My Fire-type sounds to do that thing for you.

*Was it a Farfisa Fast model? Am I just making up that thing about a piece of metal like a coat hangar that does swells? Am I in fact mistaking the entire thing? I have no idea.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Studio

So it seems we're moving our studio. We're moving about a block away, to 356 Broadway.
The odd-shaped space requires some special thinking to fit our workstations.

Luckily we don't need to rent a truck to move our stuff. But we are going to need to hire a couple people to carry things.
Yeah, the pretend furniture is flipped around. I didn't notice in the plan view. I may rethink this setup.
The floors are wood. We have 20amps of electrical service.

I've been playing with this software to pre-visualize. You think we should put wheels on the bottom of the WhisperRoom?
The following are other visualizations based on smaller offices than the one we're getting. Or rather the one we put a deposit on, we'll see if it's all good when they google my name. ;-)

Setting Up the Electric Guitar

Ethan on setting up a guitar:

I believe Stewart Macdonald has a basic set up kit that probably has everything you'd need at some slightly marked-up price. Truthfully, all you really need is a machinist's rule, metric and English Allen wrenches, a standard truss rod wrench and decent 1/8" flat-blade and #1 Phillips screwdrivers. You may own some of that already, but make sure the Allen wrenches go down to .050" and 1mm, respectively. Little by little you'll end up adding a few tools for specific jobs, but not many or often.
You could get everything I just listed at Sears, I bet, except for the truss rod wrench. I would also suggest you pick up a copy of the book Electric Guitar Setups by Hideo Kamimoto.
His is not the only approach, but it's a very good approach. Also, many guitar manufacturers have setup guides on their websites (I know Fender does, and I believe G&L and Ernie Ball/Musicman do too. Not sure about Gibson). You'll find that none of them are quite the same. Find the method you like. You could always look on the web for other sources, provided you can quickly filter who's a nincompoop and who's not. Good luck with that.
So I checked the Internet. Here's a post on setting up a Gibson Les Paul.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Showcase Code

On the New York IT Awards blog is this post on the Actor's Equity Showcase Code.
"[The Showcase Code]  has helped to create a matryoshka doll of inequality in New York City theater."
Is my favorite sentence on the blogosphere today.
Here is a rabbit.
The Showcase Code is a non-negotiated code which, as a producer, you can sign. Doing so allows members of Actors Equity to work for you for (approximately) zero dollars (or basically whatever you want to pay) without the chance of them getting into trouble with their own union.
I'm not putting this in as an asterisk -- here's a very important point from the producer's point-of-view:

  1. Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees based on their membership in labor organizations. You do not get to decide on whom to hire based on whether they're Actors Equity or SEIU or AFM or not. They might have signed an agreement with one or more unions saying they wouldn't take non-union work, but you cannot decide for them. Whether you hire or fire anyone is dependent on factors other than their union status.
  2. You, the employer/producer, may insist your employees pay a collective bargaining agent. But this only applies to employers in states which do not have "Right To Work" laws. Talk to your favorite labor lawyer if you feel like doing this.*

There are a lot of restrictions on the contract though -- the number of shows you can do, the ticket prices, etc. It is made to keep the producer from making any money on a Showcase production. Which is ironic because, you know, "making money" in theater isn't a problem that any off-off Broadway theater producers have.

So we're not really concerned with the exploitation of surplus labor for Capital in the case of actors (and writers and designers and directors) in the way of off-off Broadway theater because there is no money in it. In fact, the producer is all but guaranteed to lose money while making off-off-Broadway theater. There is actually no way around it.

The fact is, though, that New York indy theater sucks.

Compared to the (this is my blog and so I will say) objectively better theater scenes in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington DC, indy theater in New York is simply terrible. It's boring. It's no fun. There's only two exceptions to this:

  1. Theater made by my very close friends
  2. Theater that isn't produced under the Showcase Code

The first thing is self-evident, of course. But the other kind of theater in New York is what I'm discussing. There are three companies I'm thinking about. They're all producers of long-running shows and they're all non-Equity.

  • One is Sleep No More which has a fairly large cast, is very interesting, and actually pays their actors/dancers something in the $125/performance range (as I recall). The show is on an open run and actually makes the producers money. 
  • Two is Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. This is an ongoing 2-nights a week show by the New York version of the Chicago company The Neo-Futurists. The actors in that company make something -- I don't know how much, I think several hundred dollars a years. Just enough to cover subway basically. 
  • Three is (and yes, I gag while I type this) The Wooster Group. Nowadays the Wooster Group is part of the establishment, man. But they pay around $850 or so a week? And they do a lot of theater.

I have a gazillion complaints about The Wooster Group but the fact is that all three of those companies at least try to do things that are theatrical and interesting. And most of the downtown theater does not. They do plays about two guys in black turtlenecks talking about living in Brooklyn in their 20's.
One problem with theater, as a thing to do, is that it takes quite a while to make a given piece any good. The fact that you can't do any more than 18 shows under the Showcase Code means that necessarily you haven't done the show enough to make it not suck. And you also can't make enough money in ticket sales (because of the limitation in ticket price) to keep renting whatever space you're using anyway.

Those three companies above, and every company in DC, SF, and Chicago, don't have those problems. And (as noted above) their theater scenes are objectively better and more interesting.


*You do not feel like doing this. But the union might negotiate a contract with you wherein you agree to make sure all your employees are paying them to collectively bargain for them. And there are other restrictions and Supreme Court precedents and nonsense.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Distortion in ADR

So my new thing is putting some distortion on ADR tracks to make them fit better.
The amp simulator plugin in Samplitude works really well for this. But all by itself it's a bit too much. So I feed an aux channel from an ADR channel so that I can blend the inserted distortion all I like.
Like so.

Where did I get this idea from? I got it from this brilliant book on dialog editing. Oh man. This book is good. Read it. Live it. Ignore all the ProTools-centric stuff. ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things to Know

According to iO9, these are 12 low-budget robot movies which are better than Transformers (H/T Brian Schiavo.)
The Chinatown YMCA has a pool and is only $87/month.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Futurama Spoilers

So we're mixing what I believe in my heart of hearts to be the last mix of Dead Raid. I'm about halfway through. I may in fact be done tomorrow.
Reverse-engineering the Hypnotoad sound.
Somebody do me a favor and build one of these. With nylon and padding it looks to me like it could actually be built. The trick is the balaclava -- if you get the texture of that right you're golden.

There's a really good sci-fi notion in one of the Futurama features. The character Fry ends up being able to read minds. There's a group of dudes who can also read minds who find him. And the trick is that although Fry can read other people's minds they can't read his. Which makes him the perfect secret agent against some bad characters who can read minds.
But here's the kicker -- if Fry is trying to keep his power secret then he can't tell anyone about his mind-reading powers. Why? Because the bad guys who can read minds would be able to read the minds of anyone he tells about it.
Honestly that's one of the best "you can't tell anyone" devices I've ever heard. It's an actual and real reason it has to be kept quiet. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's the best "you can't tell anyone" device.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Swinging Gains

In our voiceover booth we always have at least one mic hooked up at all times. The issue is that if you have the monitor speakers on and you open the door, you'll feed back. Which is, you know, annoying.
The simple answer is to turn the gains down on the input channels of the mics which are plugged in. But there's another better answer.
Arrows and circles indicate the buttons you need to press.

On the interface we use there are switches on input channels 1 and 2 which flip the input over to the high-impedance 1/4" front-panel jacks. So you press those switches and viola -- the microphone is turned "off".
So, that's your pro audio news from the Pandora Machine front today. You are ever so glad you check this blog.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Samosa Carcosa

I've become convinced that the secret of good vegan food is that it simply needs to be better than vegetarian or omnivoric cuisine. Thing is, you throw a piece of cheese or a hunk of bacon in your food and it's instantly much better. So much omnivore cooking is just "we'll do nothing but then we throw cheese in it and everyone's happy."
To make something work without the "tricks" that are mean and cheese, you really have to know what you're doing.
A friend of mine teases me about me referring to "vegetable samosas" because in her country all samosas are vegetarian.
But that's not quite true. There are samosas filled with other stuff. Unnecessarily. The best samosas are vegetable and they are, in fact, vegan. And delicious as they involve an exciting amount of fried bread (which is also very good for you.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Surround in Samplitude

Mixing for film.
So I've set up to do a surround mix and a stereo mix at the same time. I put limiters on the surround busses at -12dB because broadcasters throw a fit when you go above -12dB.
Then I do a bounce like so:
But what I GET is a bunch of levels that look like this:

With the way I thought I had everything set up all those levels should have been -12dB. But those first two tracks LOOK like what I'd think the stereo master should look like (if my calculations using this dB calculator were correct.) http://www.sengpiela...culator-spl.htm
I mean that's the way they should look if the limiter wasn't applied to them.

Is this functionality in Samplitude broken? Does anybody work with surround+stereo masters?

I have this feeling I'm one of like three people who uses Samplitude this way. ;-)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Minbox Wetsuit and Space

Minbox is the new hotness. It's like but with larger file sizes. 
Why aren't all wetsuits this sort of color?
We have a theoretical 156 square feet of space in our office but the plinths to the support columns knock that down to an effective 117 square feet. We're looking for a new place. There are a lot, I mean a lot of offices in NYC priced right at $950. There's a place very near to where we are which has a larger office for $550. I dunno. We'll figure out something.

I only got the two things

Eric Ian Steele on writing loglines.
Although not the best-written article, here's a comparison of what's needed for film sales in different genres. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today in the machine

So today I took a pair of black pants, put a robot armor calf piece inside them, and shoot them with a paintball gun loaded with dust pellets. I shot it overcranked. I have no idea what it's going to look like.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Steps to Making a Movie

This is a thinking-out-loud post all about what steps need to be gone through in order to make a movie. This isn't how we make movies. Although it might be a way to make a movie.

Greenlight script.

Make 3 budgets.

  1. $40,000
  2. $240,000
  3. $1,000,000

Back in the olden days we'd have worried about how to deal with whether we'd shoot on film and what kind of format and what shooting ratio. Thankfully those days are long gone.
Still, for each of these numbers we're looking at a 20-day shoot.

  1. At budget level 1 we're shooting non-SAG.
  2. At budget level 2 we're making a SAG picture with some talent people have heard of working "scale".
  3. At budget level 3 we're shooting a SAG picture with a fairly famous actor in the genre working for a low rate or for a very short time.

Then, using the script as a calling card, try to get whomever you think would be a perfect talent for the lead. That's perfect artistically as well as perfect as far as distributors are concerned.
You'll be running with three plans to shoot the picture. If you can get the right talent and can get the money, you'll go with 3. If you can get some talent (or even the right talent) but can't get the money you go with 2. Otherwise you go with 1.

I think the key to making budgets like these work is that you have to realize that shooting the movie isn't "making" the movie. Shooting is like advanced (and expensive) pre-production. It should only cost 40-60% of the money you have. Because you must, must, must finish the movie. That is, edited, color-corrected, dialog, music, and effects.
And remember you have to be able to do reshoots and additional shooting.

So. After greenlight you start hunting for talent and money simultaneously. Think in terms of "dream" and "reality" at the same time.

That's my thoughts.

Do these blog posts ever make sense to anyone else?

Today's questions include things like: Do we need a closeup of Hawkins' leg being hit by shrapnel during the robot shootout?
The magic solution to the inherent problem in ADR (that the new, dubbed, dialog sounds too "clean" and "dry" compared to the natural noisy and an ambient way dialog recorded on set -- even well-recorded dialog -- sounds) is this one reverb setting.
The 1.1-second "garage" impulse response in Samplitude has changed my attitude towards ADR.
One of the many impulse responses which comes in Samplitude is the thing. It's just a junky enough sounding room* that it sounds like an actual acoustical space. And it matches practically everywhere from a long hallway to a tiny anteroom. I realize that doesn't make very much sense but it just works. It sounds like the reverb one would record in a not-terrible room using a boom mic right over the actor's head. It's magic. I dunno.
Okay. Saturday we recorded the last of the scheduled ADR on Dead Raid. And I've re-mixed everything. New thing: when making the stereo masters off of the 5.1 masters I pull the levels on each channel down -12.144dB. This way the stereo mixes don't get additional limiting and yet the peak level never goes about -12dB.

The answer to the question is "probably not".

*"Junky" here doesn't mean engineeringly-bad-sounding. It just means small and, well, garage-y.

Friday, July 11, 2014

10 Hours

"Northern Ireland's work laws limits the work days to 10 hours a day."

Heck, Game of Thrones shoots that way. And you know me, I'm totally down with that. Like a mystery, limiting the number of hours you work simply makes you more efficient. It's amazing.
Just try it. Commit yourself to 80 setups in 8 hours. (I know, GOT only does 15 setups). But you'll like it. 

The Updating

I've been uploading new mixes from Wednesday night's Diatomaceous Earth rehearsal.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about my guitar sound. I'm using guitar-amp emulators and maybe that's cool, but maybe it feels different? I don't know. Maybe I'm just questioning it because I know intellectually I'm not going through a nice expensive tube amplifier?
Signal path is like Hebrew, it goes from right-to-left. MXR delay, Joyo American and British pedals, Dunlop MXR Uni-Vibe, and an ADA speaker emulator.
You'll notice I feed the "American" pedal into the "British" pedal. Sometimes I turn them both on. You might notice that I use extremely conservative settings on each of them. For me the Uni-Vibe works best when you don't really hear it.
Other thoughts: the ADA cabinet simulator mostly just takes out the very low end and very high end. But it adds some other things too. At first I didn't like it but I think that's the result of playing the guitar out-of-context (the "it sounds great when I do this alone in my garage" effect). I feel like it adds a bit of "wood" to the guitar sound. Which is basically what I think of good guitar cabinets.
I wasn't sure I was aesthetically pleased with the spacing of the guitars on this wall. Ethan said he knew what the problem was -- I don't have enough guitars.
One thing which we'd all experienced was that we were able to hear better -- and distinguish the low part of the Stick from the bass guitar. Thing is, I feel like that comes out in the mixes too.
The treble side of the Stick hits a Electro Harmonix HOG2 and then a Lex Strymon "Leslie" pedal. So yeah, these pedals are set up left-to-right. The thing on the far right is the remote headphone monitor station.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Double Bunny Time

Diatomaceous Earth had a full rehearsal in Jersey City last night.
The post-mortem was everyone agreed we could hear much more clearly than we could at the rehearsal studio. This may be because we're all on headphones and, using electronic drums, the levels were much quieter. I don't know.
Personally I felt we played with a kind of delicacy unique to the Jersey City environment. I don't know. Ethan's Stick actually went through the Tascam preamps (I made a routing mistake.) Ooh. And Alice the 5-string Squire Jazz bass got a setup by Ethan too! It played well before, it plays very very nice now. (I still haven't found the 1.5mm Allen wrench we dropped on the floor somewhere. I even walked all over the place in bare feet!)
Lily played that self-same Jazz bass directly into the ART tube preamp's DI. Greg went from his preamp into the other side of the ART (also DI). My guitar hit the JOYO British and American boxes to make a kind of sound (I'll have to explain that later)and then went into a Neve DI input. The drums are Abbey Road "Late 60's" drums. In this first mix I've done almost nothing to them -- a little LA2 emulated compression and a little reverb. The other instruments have the same LA2 compression on them and the mix buss has one also. 
We didn't play a single thing we actually knew. So we made this all up as we went along. You can probably tell. I'll be adding more mixes to this album in the coming days.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Mo Money Mo Problems

Tyrannosaurus Mouse has earned $10.71 in royalties from digital distribution. And because I handle the accounts that money is entirely in my clutches!
Ten bucks. Ten smackaroos. I got me a Lincoln and 5 Georgie boys. There's a Hamilton with my name on it.

Ten American dollars from digital Internet royalties from our album.
I guess I'm buyin' at the next rehearsal.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


We had a couple noisy locations on this picture and there really wasn't any option other than some ADR to deal with them.
Sarah Schoofs doing ADR in the studio.
 I've been using an Oktava 012 microphone -- the same we'd be using on set (except that this movie was almost completely recorded with wireless lavalier microphones). And there's a bit of distance on the mic (you can't even see it in the picture above.)
It seems that for most people, seeing the picture while they record isn't terribly helpful. So we've abandoned having a picture monitor in the booth. I'll play the line three times and then go into record. No bloops or leader or anything.
I think this makes it easier. You just need to memorize the cadence of the original and you're not distracted by picture.
I do try to line up each line for sync immediately after they record the line. Just to, you know, make sure.
There's a standard impulse response in Samplitude -- a 1.1 second "garage" reverb. I've been using that to give a bit of controlled distance and room on the ADR. Honestly I've lost all perspective -- literally and figuratively -- but it seems like the right sort of sound for ADR. The tail of the reverb doesn't do weird things the way the tail of a reverb which is more appropriate for (say) guitars and pianos would be.
We have two more actors we need ADR from. And then (hopefully) we will deliver final picture.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Three Things

My very first experience in a recording studio was at a little studio in (I think) Sparta NJ. My oldest brother David drove me there* one Saturday. I was supposed to go with a drummer but he bagged out at the last minute. The only thing I remember about the studio was that they had a Roland Space Echo there. This must have been... 1982? Probably 1982.
The Boss RE20 is $250.

The Boss delay gets great reviews. It does seem to sound great. At $318 is the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. I've enjoyed every Electro Harmonix thing I've played. There's something about them that's just fun. The Catalinbread Echorec at $230 is a pedal which emulates the old Binson Echorecs (like the ones Pink Floyd had). The online videos make it seem pretty cool, no? What I have, however, is an MXR Analog Delay. The "sound" of that MXR is pretty spectacular actually. It's very smooth. What the MXR doesn't do is multi-taps. Multi-taps are amusing. They're fairly easy to do in the mix. From what I've heard the Catalinbread is probably the closest to what I'd want in a pedal outside of the MXR. (Anybody notice how much Andy from looks and sounds like Andrew Kramer from *I also remember we listened to "Suzie Q" on the radio on the way.

Two things

The Electro Harmonix B9 seems pretty cool. It's not like Electro Harmonix makes stuff that sucks.
At $2100 the Kemper Modelling amplifier is seemingly the only real and good modelling amplifier. At least the word on the Web is so. I wish it were a tenth the price.