Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We're on our own here

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Matthew 16:28

It's pretty clear this means that he's already come back, and that happened quite some time ago. We're all on our own from now on. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Drums. Rise.

In order to help with happiness along the lines of the drum department it would be nice to do a couple things.
Unfortunately the one big thing I can't do, even though it would cause drummers to be vastly happier, would be to get an awesome set of DW or maybe Gretch acoustic drums and mic them up with $25,000 worth of microphones in a beautiful room with a rack of tremendous mic preamps. That ain't happening. Both the noise and the cost of such a project put it out of range.
So what can I do? Well for one thing I do not have enough cymbals. Drum kit "size" is always measured in drums. But honestly after a few toms what more are you going to do? Hit drum go boom. How many more pitches and timbres of toms does a person really need? Exactly. A 5-piece is more than adequate.

But the colors of cymbals makes a big difference in one's life and it would be nice to have a couple extra crashes and at least one more ride. It's a bit of a pain to do though because I'd have to get a whole 'nuther module/drum-brain thing to plug them into and you don't really get a break buying those pieces à la carte. So I'm not going to do that right away.
However, making sure we don't irk neighbors is a major priority for me and I feel that a little drum platform is in order to reduce mechanical noise conducted through the structure of my floor into the apartment below (or, ostensibly, above). The kick drum pedal is the major culprit in such noise transmission. 
Auralex makes stuff called Platfoam which minimize but don't necessarily decouple the drums on the platform from the floor. The purpose of the Auralex product is primarily for acoustic drums, not for just trying to quiet down electronic drums.
SOS has a pretty good article on building an electronic drum platform. MDF and stuff called Regufoam 150 are used. They mention in the article that the Regufoam is expensive but I can't even get a price on it. I may actually own a piece which I got at Canal Rubber. It's only big enough to cover the kick-drum pedal. And I recall there being some sticker shock when I bought it. But I can say that it really does work wonders. (The problem is that I only have that one piece so the drummer's right foot is a bit higher than his left which is generally irksome.)
There's also some stuff called "green glue" which is used. That's pricey but not like the Regufoam. I mean heck, a freaking Regufoam mat the size of the drum rug might be exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Things on my Desk Today

Weller's post on distribution is excellent. I disagree with his look at LGBT and African-American films though: at this point those two genres are played out. They still exist but the audiences have gotten more discerning because the markets have tended to saturate so they aren't as open to indy filmmakers as they once were.
I would binge-watch all of The Expanse except that only episodes 1-4 are up. Here's an article on the development of the series.
The top and bottom 10 sci-fi and fantasy movies this year. I'm not sure I agree with every choice...
This spoiler-filled review of Star Wars 7 is pretty smart.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Is there a conspiracy to make popular music suck? Part I

Yes. Yes there is. There is an actual and active conspiracy to make sure that popular music is bland and terrible. This is a provable fact.

But first let's look at what's been going down in the world of songwriting.

There have been many "Tin Pan Alleys" in the history of the last 150 or so years of popular music. Their working methodologies have changed over the years. For the longest time there were teams of lyricists and songwriters. The lyricists wrote, well, the lyrics, and the writers came up with the melodies.
Now note that traditionally in copyright law the lyrics are half the publishing and the melody is the other half. There's nothing for other parts of the song. At one time this sort of made sense as "arrangements" are non-copyright-able and more difficult to define in a legally protect-able way.
And up until the Beatles the performers of songs were divorced of the composers of songs -- almost exclusively. So there was a brief period there where the "public" considered "artists" to be composers and performers of songs. In the so-called "rock" world this is still true. Even when artists have extra folks there in the studio (typically called "producers") who, in any sort of non-fictional universe would be considered co-writers of the music but keeping up appearances is the rule of the game so we won't worry about that now will we?

So where are we now? In most pop music there are numerous writers. They are divided now into the guys (and they're almost always guys) who write the "tracks" -- the chords and the beats, and the "top liners" who write the melodies and usually the lyrics.
Let me back up for a minute. Ever since Schoenberg we've sort of realized that there's no "new" music. It's impossible to write a melody in a tonal system that hasn't been heard before. I mean there's a real limited number of them. I don't know how to do the math but if a phrase is as long as 8 bars and a note is as long as 6 beats in 4/4 and as short as a 16th and we have 11 tones to choose from... there's gotta be a calculator for that. So there's theoretically some septillion number of melodies possible but for all practical purposes many of those melodies sound similar enough that they're "the same".
It could just be 79 billion unique melodies.

But I'm going to go ahead and say that tonally we're looking at only about a few thousand melodies.

That's not particularly relevant to the conversation at hand.
Okay, so pop music is created slightly differently than it used to be. That's no biggie. And it really all sounds very similar -- especially because we're using tonal scales with mostly blues progressions in 4/4 with accents on the 2nd and 4th beats. We've been doing all that for about 60 years now.

But why does pop music deliberately suck? Well, that's a matter of marketing and promotion. And it's also a matter for the second part of this essay.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Expanse

The aesthetic design of this TV show is... expensive looking. It's also quite sophisticated and beautiful. There are a LOT of different worlds they have to differentiate between, each with their own class systems and such. The story is totally solid with a good mystery to it. Acting and dialog are all top-shelf. I'm pretty happy with binge watching it. Especially whilst rendering.
  • The opening scene has the best 0-G I've ever seen in a TV show. Honestly it's really hard to pull off. Chance and I think her hair was CG, which makes the most sense. The rest of the zero - G stuff doesn't look nearly as nice but that opening... oof.
  • I'm envious of the armor the Mars navy wears. The shoulders are particularly nice.
  • I'm envious of all the chairs in all the cockpits. They're super nice. We have to get our chairs to look that nice.
I'm not a fan of glass cockpits but I do like that hanging Spock viewer thing the character 2nd from the left is looking through.
  • The costume design is overall very nice. Nice spacesuits. Are they refitted drysuits? I don't know.
  • They have nice Pip Boys on their wrists.

Ceilings and actual multi-levels on sets. I presume almost all the lighting is on-set. There's a couple beams from above but other than that the actors are kinda getting slapped with practicals.

  • Another thing which is nice is the wrist lights on spacesuits. Those are also nice.
  • The helmets are very good. You have to have a lot of faceplate so the audience can see who they're looking at. They do that very well as well as make them look fairly robust.
  • The chairs. I love all those dang chairs. Even the slightly dumb jump-seats. 
This is a good view of what the Pip Boys are like. I so want a Pip Boy. For me.
  • The CG ships are really quite nice on the whole. Even in multi-hundreds of million-dollar theatrical releases there are some effects which are just... missed. But they hold their own in this series. And it's not like they can reuse a lot of those effects either.
  • The way the miniguns come out of the hulls of spaceships is a very nice touch.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


The Blender Foundation seems to have done a good job making their Cycles renderer work really well with GPU on an Nvidia card. It doesn't work so great on AMD cards (which sort of eliminates Apple machines from the running). But objects set up with Cycles materials can party with fairly fast renders (on Nvidia cards).

Weirdly, Adobe seems to also favor Nvidia over AMD graphics. In my experience this means their Mercury playback engine works better on Nvidia which again means that Premiere and After Effects work better on PC's than on Macs.

Some ridiculous human (me) is having some old Blender models (which do look beautiful) fly by in a couple scenes and man, they take longer to render than I expect them to.

The thing I do desire with all my heart is that there be an easy way to render out a ground plane that is invisible but otherwise accepts shadows in Cycles. There is a kludgey way to do it by rendering out a separate ground plane which is mostly alpha channel with a shadow on it but it involves setting up multiple outputs and you have to composite them back together again in After Effects. And although that's not a nightmare because at least you get to fiddle with the amount of shadow, it's well... it's a kludge.

"Kludge" is a word according to my browser's dictionary apparently.

Huh. It never occurred to me that Ripley has a watch in Alien. She has one in Aliens. But the one in Alien was not that big a deal. Somebody sells the one from the videogame Alien Isolation. But in the original Alien it was apparently a couple Casio F100's put together on the same band.
So much rendering to do. 0 to 536, and then 936 to 1361.

Further Jessica Jones Thoughts

See, the reason Jessica Jones irked me so much is that it was so close to being great. And instead did the opposite of being great.
I mean basically Krystin Ritter could read the phone book and I'd pay admission to see it. And David Tennant is just fantastic. But. But oof.

You know, you read enough versions of enough screenplays and you start to see recognizable echoes of earlier drafts. Oh. And spoilers ahead. Did I mention spoilers?

I bet there was an earlier draft of the Jessica Jones series where the vaccine the Purple Man's father was making worked. Because I kept expecting that to go somewhere. Like the scene where he tried to get his own dad to blender his own (the dad's) hand. Like that was a make-or-break moment where the dad had to commit to pretending to be under his son's control. And that the amplifying thing the dad was working on wasn't going to work.

Because otherwise, what was the whole antidote thing about? It never went anywhere. Dramatically that's pretty sloppy.

Dramatically it was a nice turn where we find that Kilgrave was abused as a child. But then that sort of went to pot as it turns out it wasn't true and blah-blah-blah. But what would have been vastly more interesting is if Kilgrave's whole persona, his whole being, was that there was someone worse than him. Someone who could control Kilgrave. Someone who made this tender and abused little boy into a monster. So that while he was cruelly controlling and sadistically toying with other people it was all because someone else was forcing him to do it.

Now that would have been an interesting turn. Then the huge irony is that indeed Jessica Jones would have to team up with Kilgrave to defeat the bigger monster.

You know what TV show did that well? Blade. Yup, Blade the series. That show was terrifically well written. The villain goes from being a guy you can't wait to see die to someone who's actually sympathetic. And then you want to straight-up murder a little girl (and, you know since this is spoilery to start with I may as well point out that Blade does not hesitate when the time comes to take her out). The girl is evil evil evil and dangerous (and, you know, not actually a little girl). And Blade doesn't not do things just because it would be the end of the series. No, they waive putting the two in a room together until the last episode. As it should be.

These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night. 

Scamming Landlords

Look. A couple ads for spaces at 356 Broadway, New York, NY 10013
Jody Susler and Ben Schneeberg seem to have lost yet another tenant in the last 15 days. Or they're just publishing pictures of offices randomly to bait-and-switch prospective tenants.

Here's one.
And another.

They're trying to backcharge me for things. Obviously we left the office spotless (see pictures in post below). But they won't answer my emails.

Somebody really should flag their ads because ultimately they're just scammers. Just click the "prohibited" box at the top of the page.

This owl is about how I feel.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

356 Broadway Landlords

Wow, so my former commercial landlords are a real couple of scumbags. Jody Susler and Ben Schneeberg of 356 Spaces, LLC, are trying to really juice me for the deposit.

I got an email at 5pm today demanding that I return the keys, the repeater, and pick up the furniture they say we left there by end of business day tomorrow or they'll bill me for a new repeater, furniture disposal, and new locks.

They don't really tell me where I would return them to because they, of course, have no office. But rather than doing anything reasonably they prefer to do everything in a way that causes the most discontent. They like that.

Here's today's insane email:

Final Notice: Repeater / keys / furniture


If you do not remove your furniture and return our repeater and keys by the close of business hours tomorrow (12/16) we will have the furniture disposed of; purchase a new repeater; and replace the locks at your expense.

356 Spaces, LLC

Monday, December 14, 2015

And 3

So they've re-plastic'ed thusly:

These were pictures sent by my landlord.

No, I do not know what's up with that broom.

Ugh 2

I visited my apartment today. This is my bathroom.
Here is where my shower once was.

In yonder days I had a flushable toilet here, children.

This be where the sink once set upon a counter.

This is the ceiling above my tub and shower.
Ah. Remember indoor plumbing? It is but a distant memory to me.

Ugh 1

So I visited my apartment today.

For some reason they'd taken down all the plastic they'd put up and now everything is a terrifyingly filthy mess.


It's hard to see but there is construction dust EVERYWHERE.


Yelling At Comic Books

I am angry at Jessica Jones.

[Marsian Queen]: I apologize on behalf of a show I've never seen.
Thank you. I feel better about that.
Actually, the same thing irked me about Batman.
"Here's your opportunity to kill the very very bad guy. But just stand there and talk to him instead."
[Marsian Queen]: The opposite of the James Bond problem?
Ha! Yes.
Except that the good guy just... refuses for some odd reason to kill the bad guy.
Or you'll have a character who doesn't believe the bad guy can control minds, but breaks him out of prison to help get her spouse to sign divorce papers because he can control minds... and doesn't see how that might go wrong for her.

So the last thing he orders the spouse to do is to slash the lawyer with a thousand cuts and while she's doing that the lawyer's lover shows up and kills the spouse. Yet somehow the law has it that the lover is being charged with murder for that. Because. Squirrels.

And the whole reason for not killing him is to prove that some girl who he made kill her parents -- is not guilty of killing her own parents. But in the course of tracking him down there are dozens of other witnesses that he can do that -- including a police officer.
Then there are about 30 police officers who get the same treatment. They are all unimpeachable witnesses. (There is some lame-o explanation later that they'd be suspended from the force if they told anybody about it.)
But no -- the plan is to have ONE cop (who's getting close to retirement) watch while the bad guy makes his own mom kill herself. Which isn't proof because all the cop sees is the bad guy telling his mom to stab herself and she does. How would he know mind-control was at work here? When this same cop had already seen 30 of his fellow cops put their own guns to their heads at this guy's command.
[Marsian Queen]: I recommend sedatives and restraints. Perhaps a nice cat to pet.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Composites and Rotoscopes

I'm the one responsible for most of the rotoscoping.
My first complaint is working in 4K. It's like just as we get computers fast enough to do fancy stuff in HD we have to quadruple the processing needs. Sheesh.
For some reason I decided to do this one shot as a 950-frame shot.
After Effects does some fairly decent auto-rotoscoping these days. But sometimes it does something weird like when it took away Kate's face. 

Kate with automatically removed face.
But doing a tiny bit of manual roto to get things back to normal is worth the effort.
Kate with manually replaced face.
I'm adding a lot of dust to shots. The dust is impossible to see in stills.
Kate among the dead and the quick.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Power Trio

The power trio is a fantastically difficult thing to pull off musically. First of all the rhythm section has to be astounding. In the case of Bonham and Jones you're pretty well covered.
But as much as I like to tease about how sloppy the guitar player is allowed to be when the rhythm section is super together, the guitar has a unique issue in that it's both a rhythm and lead instrument simultaneously.
The Who solved this by making the bass player play more "lead" than is typical in a rock band. But still Townshend's switching back and forth from rhythm to lead was rather informative to my own interest in guitar.
In Achilles Last Stand, Jimmy Page manages to pull of the elusive thing where the guitar plays a lead without the "middle dropping out" of the sound. It's rather hard to do.

I think that one reason Greg Bartus and I tend to play well together is that we both come from power trio backgrounds so we're sort of used to holding onto that middle to keep it from dropping out.

Huh. It just occurred to me that this Zeppelin tune is rather Who-like in that although there are points where they do their sort of trademark everybody-plays-together blues, the bulk of the tune is the bass and drums playing fast and together while guitar is doing huge open chords against the rhythm section.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


So my bathroom is being demolished. Yet. Again. Seriously, this is the third or fourth time. Here are pictures my landlord sent of what they've been doing to protect my apartment. I'm in hiding. I'm not coming out until Winter is over. ;-)

Monday, December 07, 2015

Diatomaceous Earth Hieroglyphic Overdrive

So here's the thing. This is a "proof of concept". This was taking three somewhat random cameras and having them roll while we did a song.

Of course during the one best take, one of the cameras never rolled. So everything from that angle, which is the only angle you can see Lou, the drummer, is from a completely different take. And from there sync actually gets worse.
You might ask yourself, or ask me: "Drew, why is there only one performer covered in a single, and that performer is you?" I would try to answer that it was not intentional.
I need LED clip lights for each performer. Don't I? Yes, I believe I do.
Also, the mix is very quick and dirty. In fact, I never did quite get the drum mapping right -- which is going to irritate Lou to no end. The picture edit is very dirty Yup, I'm making excuses. That's all I got. But next time we'll do so much better! And next time is Friday!
Also, I'll drop a slate at the top of the song. And make sure I look thinner.

Sunday, December 06, 2015


The Beuchat Baltik is an awfully inexpensive drysuit.

The only reviews are sort of wishy-washy. The legs are thin and the torso seems a bit short. Legs being tight actually have an advantage in that ostensibly air is kept out of the legs.
But for less than $700 it's pretty cool. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Session prep

I list some songs for the Diatomaceous Earth combo video/album here.

You'd think the Lehle volume pedal would be the active volume pedal to beat, wouldn't you? Of course, it's almost $300.

Greg pointed out that this session, Diluvia, has some very interesting things on it. Meaning the first two tunes.

End of an Era

So, the buttmunch landlords at 365 Broadway, Ben and Jody, are of course balking at giving us our deposit back.

Luckily I was smart enough to not pay the last month's rent.
Right now they're pretending that we left a desk there, and that I have a cell phone repeater of theirs. Which, I mean, why would it be in my office where I'm paying the electric?
Sigh. The amount of money just isn't worth it. It would be really nice to have non-psychotic landlords one day.

Monday, November 30, 2015


I've been killing a lot of androids lately. I know that's going to come back to me.

Yes, Mother, you can export ProRes out of AfterEffects in Windows. It requires this free plugin from the company DuBon. And you can only export files, not compositions, so you have to pre-render first. But it can be done. It can. Be done. H/T Ian Hubert.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ethan on Preamps

Ethan's response on preamps:

Input impedance is (one of) the big elephant(s) in the room when it comes to preamps.  How the input stage loads the source has a big impact on how it sounds and some sources are more affected by loading than others so some sources will sound almost identical with two different preamps while others might sound very different.  Output impedance also plays a role as the preamp will be loaded (or not) by whatever it's signal is feeding.

There's more to good gain-staging than just gain, and the subtleties of impedance matching are seldom explored nowadays.  Back when engineers wore white lab coats (and, in many cases, were actually engineers), a lot more thought was put into that sort of thing.  Through impedance matching or deliberate mis-matching, a lot can be done with how a preamp sounds that all sits outside of any "baked in" sound a preamp might have.  

That "baked in" or "native" or "default" sound that certain preamps have, combined with how stages are gained, further combined with how input and output impedances are taken into account are the triumvirate, and the first item on the list is often the only one that people consider.  It's one of the drawbacks of the recording renaissance we're living in; anyone can do this at home now and they have access to great gear for cheap and it's easier than ever to get good results, but they still have to know what they're doing to get better than good results.  Really understanding how things work is worth more to the "accumulation of subtleties" than how a preamp sounds.  That preamp sounds different depending upon how one uses it.  Most people recording at home don't understand any of that and even fewer have any inclination to learn about it.
My response to Ethan's response:
Yes. The input impedance is a thing. But most microphones don't get that much out of changing the input impedance. Oddly the ART preamp does indeed allow one to change the impedance. I play with it sometimes. It doesn't really do that much for me.
These days output impedance is virtually moot. All inputs are high impedance. I wonder how, say, Scully and Ampex machines used to be in the early and then the late 60's?
Preamps like the Neve have so much baked in that I don't even think the gain settings make that much difference until they start to break up (which honestly is not that pleasant a sound). I think that for the longest time recordists got away with being the 2nd tier in the studio because a mix engineer could fix almost any problem as long as the problem was recorded with good preamps and busses.
Completely counterintutively to me is the fact that lots of engineers have favorite EQ setting which they go ahead and just apply to everything. You'd think that would cause a buildup of certain things in the mix but... it doesn't. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Demon Hunter

I saw the most amazing reading last Wednesday of Nat Cassidy's The Demon Hunter.

 It was genius. It's a very "small" play -- just two locations and it uses the conceit of a psychiatrists' office. Which in Nat's hands is... brilliant.

The play is freaking terrifying. The reveals happen in a very tight and beautiful story. I mean, it's amazing. And in a reading it was terrifying. Nat built a narrative which expands into a story about the whole of history but, you know, with only four characters.
This is why Nat Cassidy makes the big big bucks.

More Meamps

When you do a double blind listen to different preamps they can all sound really close to one another. So close that it might seem very logical to think "why does it matter?"
The answer is usually that there's an accumulation of subtleties* that build up on a multitrack recording and that mixing is easier when recordings are made with great mic preamps.

The problem is that theory is impossible to test. It's not like you can go back to 1968 and have the Beatles do precisely the same performance of some song but swapping out different mic preamps during their perfectly re-created robo-playing to see if it's really the preamps and not the slight differences in performance that make the difference in what you hear.

Another odd thing about the theory is that if two different mic preamps sound very similar when listened to one-on-one, but you figure that when you're multitracking those slight differences build up, wouldn't then a simple stereo classical performance do just as well with cheaper preamps because you're not multitracking and therefore the very slight difference is not as important?

Ha! Hmm...

Well it might be that for simple stereo classical music you want the most colored - sounding big, fat, tube limiters and juicy transformers on the planet. But the prurient classical guys would all freak out if you told them that. So we won't. Let's get back to rock and roll where it's safer and we're less likely to get knifed...

So if the notion that we're just trying to aggregate the subtleties of having a bunch of really good mic preamps on a recording, it means we can get away with some of the preamps being less than "great". I mean, realizing we're talking about a very subtle difference in the sound quality in the first place. And if we have 8 inputs but only 6 of them can have super expensive preamps, that means we're 6/8ths of the way of the last percentage of quality improvement. Right? Maybe it's exponential? Who knows? I feel fairly confident nobody will care what preamps you used for the toms.

So where are we with this? Well oddly we don't care so much about the microphones. Not that we're willing to use Radio Shack microphones but we don't mind if we're using SM57's on the guitars and the like. We don't care if that's a U47 or a Rode NT1a in front of the drum kit for some reason. But we do seem to care about the preamps.

I'd been using good mics for longer than I'd been using good preamps. And when I finally switched to good preamps I suddenly was making recordings that mixed well and mixed easily. They sounded like "real" recordings. Is this a scientific analysis? Is it a double-blind study? Is it mostly emotions? No, no, and yes. The microphones didn't put me over the edge, the preamps did.

So I don't really know what I'm doing. That's pretty much the conclusion here.


A vocal pop filter for the Edwina microphone is only $40.

*This is an Alan Douches bit of wisdom.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Avery Cates

There shall come a time in the future when we as a species will realize what a brilliant and seminal and near-perfect a work as Jeff Somers' Avery Cates series is.
The thing is freaking genius. And dark.

It's sci-fi noir with like 75% noir. It's cyberpunk without the embarrassing dating stuff. It's a tough-guy first person narrator who is so self-effacing that the unreliability of him as a narrator occurs even to him.
Physical and mental modifications, that break down. Androids with the consciousness of other people. Computer viruses which kill you and zombify you via freaking nanobots. The end of the world. The end of the end of the world. The end the end the end of the end of the world.

Should these books be made into a movie? No. They should be a 6-season series. Maybe 7 seasons.

Last Additional Photography Day

Just as we're being summarily dismissed from our office at 356 Broadway by our insane landlords, we're in post-production on a couple pictures, one of which requires some additional photography. The images from the additional photography look great, but we have to shoot exteriors and this time of year there's only like 9 hours of daylight altogether at this latitude. For exposure purposes there's even less because once the sun goes below a mountain or a tree line you've only got the skylight left. You're basically in civil twilight even without being in, you know, actual civil twilight.

I'm thinking that publishing images of sunrise/sunset charts is about the most boring thing I could blog with. And for that I am somewhat moderately sorry. But I need to keep the image somewhere.
On Sunday at 4:30pm the gaffer shuts off the lights.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's for me

Of things that do not exist yet, the Blackmagic Micro Cinema camera is the thing that speaks most to me.

First of all, it's going to be cheap. Like a thousand dollars cheap.
Secondly, Chance Shirley has convinced me that 16mm is a better sized format for shooting because it's somewhat easier to focus than 35mm. Indeed, 35mm is a pain in the tuchus to focus.
Thirdwise, it's micro-four-thirds. I have a micro four thirds lens that's pretty fast. I'm totally down with that.
Quadranaically, there's HDMI video out. Oh man, the SDI on other Blackmagic cameras irked me. HDMI is so much easier.
On the Five Spot, it records to SD cards, not to weird stuff.
Sixly, it's got a global shutter and rolling shutter irritates me half to death.

The problems with it? Well for one it doesn't exist yet. Also, it's not 4K. Blackmagic is indeed coming out with a 4K Micro but it has no onboard recording. So as long as buyers don't care about "Ultra HD" we're good. The problem with 4K is that nobody can actually see it unless they sit with their face right up in the screen just like their moms told them not to do.

I feel like just as we got computers to get decent at rendering high-def and now we have to do 4K. Sigh. I feel HD really is the top resolution. Nobody really sees anything higher. I mean the boys down at THX say that film prints have an effective resolution of about 700 lines. So why all this resolution stuff? Ugh. Now I am complaining.

I think the Micro Cinema camera seems cool.

A Conversational Place - Full Film

Did I blog about this yet? I should have. I probably did. I'll do it again.

Groove to the beautiful and brilliant Catie Riggs.


Singularity is a fun little movie.

SINGULARITY [short film] 2015 from The Bicycle Monarchy on Vimeo.
** This film starts over black so have your speakers up nice and loud! **

SINGULARITY [short film] 2015

In the midst of a war between humans and sentient androids, a Delta Force team must battle a dangerous enemy to rescue the US President.

Directed by Samuel Jorgensen
Produced by Jeremy Pronk

© The Bicycle Monarchy

Web ►
Kickstarter ►
Facebook ►
The director is a visual effects guy, naturally. It's sort of surprising that they went for a small Kickstarter to finish just because the rest of the picture is clearly so expensive what with props and such.
It has an amusing ending.

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Preamps and Recordations

I have no idea about preamps. Maybe these days cheap preamps are just as good as expensive ones the way A/D converters are all pretty much the same. I don't know. A few years ago SoundonSound did a test of a wide variety of preamps. The cheap ones did very well.
Listening to the Samanas performance there are moments where musically and recording-ly we approach something that's pretty good. Not all the time, but sometimes.
I used all Focusrite preamps. But I have a collection of pretty nice preamps I didn't use. Will they make a difference? Yes, we can say without doubt they will be different. The question is will they be better? I don't know.

Will the Focusrite preamps sound better than the Tascam preamps in the US2000? My instinct is to say they will, but who knows?
The isolated vocals (allegedly) from the Adelle performance on Saturday Night Live.

I've been finding there something sort of dead about the mixes of recent SNL performances. The iso vocal track sorta indicates there's virtually no live instruments on stage. I don't know what they're doing with the drums -- triggered pads where the heads would be perhaps? I mean, it's a Ddrum kit -- but how do they keep the strikes from making any sound which gets into the vocal mic?
I'm going to end up selling my little Focusrite interface. Also my eBow which I don't think I've used even twice. And maybe my Tascam interface. You know what I'm also selling? My M-Audio 2626. That makes me sad because it's a really nice interface but it's only Firewire. And none of my modern PC's like Firewire. And M-Audio has kinda just quit that interface. It'll still work on Macs though. But because I'm married to mixing in Samplitude that's just not gonna happen for me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November at 40 Knots

So the City Samanas played at a little bar in Red Hook Brooklyn on Thursday.

The rain was biblical. Poor Dave forgot his cymbal case and stick bag and had to go back home to get it. Returning to the bar he face-planted from his scooter in the rain. He's okay now but it was a bit harrowing.

What's funny about this band is that we'll write back and forth very detailed emails about exactly what we're going to do. And then we do something completely different when we actually get there. Two examples of that are that I was roped into singing ("singing") a song I'd never even played before (Franklins Tower) and a thousand emails about how we would play Favorite Things was immediately abandoned and a psychedelic section was added to the song.

Roll away the dew.

The best-laid plans for recording all went out the window as soon as we showed up. My guitar was miked with an Oktava 012, Greg's was with an SM57 (draped sideways over his guitar cabinet). The bass amp was close miked with a Rode NT1. Uh, the bass mic twisted off-axis at some point and then got fixed again.

The drum kit is three mics. I did that thing where the overhead is an Ear Trumpet Edwina, the "side" mic is an Oktava 012, and the kick mic is a cheap kick-drum mic. Over the course of the evening the Edwina got very "grainy" sounding. I don't know if we were just hitting it with too much volume from the drums or if the phantom power wasn't up to snuff for it.

But the thing of that is that I didn't use any outboard mic preamps at all. I used the Focusrite 18i20 for every instrument. At one point the bass actually started to get too loud and I had to repatch it into an input that allowed me to put a pad on the input.

I am digging Lily's new 5-string bass. I'm mixing on Ultrasone headphones so I don't really have an idea of where the bass actually sits in the mix. In the future I'll have that more worked out.

The thing where I play with an Electro Harmonics C9 organ pedal seems to work really well actually. Since I can blend the guitar sound in with the very compressed organ sound it'll do a thing where I can get a guitar sound when I'm playing loud and it turns into an organ sound on quieter sections.

Greg and me singing is a very interesting sound. We're so very different sounding voices but it seems to work. I mean, at least on Franklins Tower. At least to me.

The vocals. The absurd thing is that we didn't have a cable which would go from Greg's mini mixer to feed the Focusrite. So I set up a small stereo bar on the mic stand and we had one dynamic go to the PA and another 58 go to the Focusrite. Sort of amusing. But I think even if we do that again we'll use the Edwina as the vocal mic. At least for recording.

These mixes are all over the place. In the Basement is marred by an off-axis mic or two. Some of the performances are lost in places. Sometimes we even get back on track!

My conclusion is that although there's a lot of scratches in this leather but the the loose, drunken (not literally), swing we approach is just right. It's sort of fascinating how this group of people go about playing as an ensemble, like four sculptors who are not entirely sure what the sculpture will be until they all start working on it.

I think if we do this a few more times we might just have something special in the way of a recording. Especially if I practice guitar more in the meantime. ;-)

Friday, November 20, 2015


This dude, James Lee, posted these amazing and inspiring images on Renderosity nigh on 10 years ago. I love how dynamic the scenes are. And the costume design is astounding.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Long Days

I do not understand the "work 'till you drop" ideology in the filmmaking world. I can't see how it's somehow cheaper to work really long hours because the number of mistakes you start making grows exponentially the longer you go.
Not having time to take a look at what you've been shooting while you're shooting is just... incomprehensible to me. I can imagine under a TV schedule that you're trying desperately to get something finished under a deadline although honestly I don't get why production doesn't just start a few weeks earlier instead.

There are some fixed costs of rentals, sure. Sometimes your soundstage is a huge part of your budget so from a financial point of view you want to have it working constantly. And sometimes your key talent has a limited schedule. But seriously, those are exceptions, not rules.
Putting the producer under a chopping block and telling them that they get whacked if they go over 10 hours has a magical ability to make things happen on time. Not allowing a production to go into overtime simply means that production will mysteriously become vastly more efficient at shooting. I've seen it happen on so many shows. It's a kind of fascinating thing to watch.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Someone's Things For Today

I love Language: A Feminist Blog. Here she discusses the differences between gay and lesbian lexicons and the problems with trying to figure out what they are or even if you're asking the right questions.
New Jersey in the Paleolithic.

Filmconvert. I'm not 100% sold on it. Ian Hubert likes it though.

I feel that this article on VOD will be used to delude a lot of filmmakers into thinking there's money in VOD. 

I should probably just go ahead and get another of these hard drives. They're fast enough to edit on and they're portable.
Yeah yeah, I know. You have to run a backup because they're twice as likely to fail (in theory). UPDATE: huh. Blogger refuses to put in this link apparently.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Samana Recordation

A pair of Neves. A pair of ATI tube preamps. A Tascam US-2000 interface. The City Samanas. Recording live. I have to figure this out.
The drum kit is small and conservative. One tom. The band is situated fairly close to one another. It just occurred to me that I don't enjoy close-miking snare drums.

  1. The bass guitar I've been traditionally putting a Rode NT1 (which is sorta Neumann U87 looking and maybe even U47 sounding) up against the grill of the bass amp. The snare and a variety of other instruments will get into that mic. There's nothing I can do about it. Probably use a channel of the ATI on bass.
  2. I bet the other channel of ATI will be as the drum overhead. I don't know what mic to use. If I go large diaphragm I could use another Rode NT1. Or I could use a Ear Trumpet Edwina. 
  3. I get a Neve 1272 on my guitar amp. With an SM47 (not my Unidyne, I don't want to deal with bringing that mic out with me -- which is a joke because every other mic I have is more expensive but that one mic is a pain in the tuchus because everyone thinks they're so special now.) 
  4. Just for balance let's give Greg the other 1272. 
  5. Greg's vocal mic. Now that's interesting. We could give him another Edana. The signal will be hopped up with a Mackie mixer so it'll be hitting us at something around line level
  6. The tom will go direct into a channel on the Tascam
  7. So will the kick
  8. And the snare, what the heck... I mean I have a kit for miking things I may as well use it. 
Now I just have to figure out that I have the right interconnects to get from the two preamps into the Tascam. The thing I don't have to worry about is monitoring -- there just isn't any. Problem solved.
There will be a world of bleed from microphones. But I think I can live with that.

I feel we need some psychedelic lights though. We definitely need psychedelic lights.

Franklin's Tower

The thing about playing Dead tunes is that it really forces you into thinking modally. This is because their music sits somewhere almost exactly between rock and traditional Irish/English/Scottish (which means, perhaps, "bluegrass and country" but maybe not.)

The thing is that the blues does some modalesque things without even asking. They're not really from the western world except kinda. So blending the two together with electric guitars and (at least occasionally) great playing, and you have something interesting. And surprisingly hard to do.

But the City Samanas will be playing at 40 Knots come Thursday and we'll do it. That we shall.

Carbon Copy Key

The key art at this year's AFM for Carbon Copy (formerly Android Masquerade).