Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Oceans of Ganymede on CD

You can buy The Oceans of Ganymede on CD with a credit card.
You can buy The Oceans of Ganymede on CD with PayPal.
You can get .flac and .mp3 from CDBaby. And of course you can get .flac and .mp3's from Bandcamp:

The Oceans of Ganymede MP3's

This record is now available to buy as .mp3's:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

At the Intersection of Props and Costumes

Brian Schiavo over at Strangewerks is building out these terrifying masks he designed for the combat drones in Carbon Copy.

This is what he says about these pictures:

First there are pics of the sculpt sprayed with crystal clear, so that the clay will come out easier of the mold when it's done. The tubes are in the eyepieces so that resin doesn't fill them when it's poured.

Modern Record Distribution

So I figured I'd make some CD's of this new album using Kunaki (because it's cheap). I sorta misread the directions and thought I had to use Kunaki's disc designing tool. That tool required you have an actual mastered* CD in your drive.

Of course I have no blank CD's because who uses those anymore? So I think, hey! Why don't I try Total Mounter and "burn" the CD from Samplitude virtually direct to CD?
Of course Samplitude just hates that and it says "finished writing to disc" right away and then there's nothing on the virtual disc so no, that doesn't work.

So I go out to find some blank CD-R's. 

I find some at Target. I write a CD.

But for whatever reason I get an error in Kunaki's software that traces back to being that Kunaki can't read the last 10 sectors on the disc. Who knows why this is true. But using the Kunaki software ain't getting me nowhere (probably because the built-in CD player has some driver issue or something. Honestly at this point I just don't care.)

But the Kunaki web uploader seems to work. Aren't you glad you read this whole post? Actually the thing about all this is that for me it's so freaking hard do deal with every single step of this kind of process. Because I basically have to go over it again with CDBaby.

In fact, I've already had to make unique artwork which is sized slightly differently for CDBaby and Kunaki.

I'm really happy with this record. Marc Schmied does some amazing things on it. It's cool.
And here you can buy it from Kunaki:

 click here to buy The Oceans of Ganymede CD

*"Mastered" here means that it's been properly written with a table of contents and such.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Against Mastering

For several months I was an audio engineer for a company which did the in-house commercials for supermarkets. The business the company was in was to sell national spots, but my job was to record all the free spots they gave to the supermarkets in order to get the supermarkets to play the company's ads.
So I did all the "We have a baked beans special in aisle 12 here at Food Emporium*" ads. I would do upwards of a hundred 15 to 60-second spots in a day.
But I also was given the task of taking certain national spots and essentially "mastering" them for noisy supermarkets. The term John Cheary used for that task was "make this sound terrible*".
And with the 1176 compressor and some broad sweeps of EQ I would do just that. But boy, I promise that after I smashed that signal you would be able to hear it everywhere over the crappy PA system in the grocery store.

 So. Why am I bringing this up?
Well for the last 20 years or so (about the same about of time as the existence of the CD but that's only a coincidence) we've been in a so-called "loudness war" where mastering engineers have been slamming the levels of records harder and harder until all albums sound like white noise. I've gone over this before but I'm thinking that I just don't care.
The only things which mastering engineers ever talk about which doesn't involve smashing the dynamics so that a record is "competitive in the marketplace" are the soundstage and how wide the stereo image is. And that is easily played with (primarily by using some M/S limiting but also occasionally some fun analog-ish EQ) in the mix.
And all this hemming and hawing I'm doing is just to say by golly, I'm just not going to do any sort of mastering other than mastering myself. So there.

*I still know the Food Emporium jingle. Be thankful that you do not.
 **He may have said something more graphic. It was a long time ago.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Additional Photography

We're gearing up for some additional photography on Carbon Copy. Brian Schiavo is building some (5) masks for the androids.
What we need is a rock quarry -- preferably in Pennsylvania (because we'll have airsoft and paintball guns which look like real firearms).
What would be even better is if there was some sort of abandoned steel mill there.
We're shooting in the "Philadelphia Desert" and in post-apocalyptic New York City.
First sculpt.

The eyes will have lenses.

Speaking of which

Would you like to spend an hour listening to psychedelic music and then giving me notes on it? If yes, awesome, if no, still awesome!

Notes look like this:
"Song 3, 2:34: the kick drum sounds disjointed" or
"Song 2, 4.51: I feel myself getting bored here" or even
"Song 5, 6:22: I'm just not feelin' it."

What ISN'T a note is "Great job, sounds great!" I don't care about that (yet).
Please have all notes in by mid-day Saturday. I'm trying to wrap this up and get it on CD Baby and iTunes and stuff. I'll also make physical copies.

Pedal put together

Now, what I really wanted to do was to have a pedal board which was small and that I didn't have to gunk up my pedals with Velcro. That didn't really happen. The first thing I did was find the Pedal-links System. Basically they're bicycle chains which have been broken apart. And I figured that I could just use machine screws and attach them to a Temple Audio Designs pedalboard. Their boards are light, made of metal, and have pre-existing holes in them (which are actually designed for attaching their proprietary mounting system, we'll get to that in a minute).
But the first thing I wanted to try was Pedal-links.
A single Pedal-link. Quarter for scale.
My problems with them is they're brittle and require very small machine screws (for most pedal boards you'd use wood screws which would be easier to "drill into" the pedal-links.) But they also have a tendency to "kick up" and I found it hard to get a pedal to sit flush with the board using the pedal-links.
So the next option for a velcro-free existence is the Pedalock.  They're reasonably priced, pedals just sit cleanly inside them without interference with their controls or jacks. Ah. A dream!
But... what's that you say? Oh, they're only available for MXR and BOSS pedals (and a wah pedal). So no unusual sizes, no Electro Harmonix, no nuthin' else. Boo.
The Pedalock with a couple machine screws goes right into the Temple pedalboard. Super sweet.

It locks in nicely, no interfering with the operation of the pedal, and you can remove the pedal any time you like. Note that the Temple's handles preclude using a straight cable to take the output (the Carbon Copy is at the end of my chain). That would be true with or without the Pedalock. Just note that the Pedalock does raise the pedal a bit.
 The last thing which is nice about the Pedalocks is that they even have cutouts for the pedal's feet. So you seriously don't have to make any modification of your pedals at all with the Pedalock.
"Look Ma! I still have my feet!" The underside of the Pedalock with the MXR Carbon Copy inside.
So. The Pedal-Links are being a tad wonkity, I can only put one pedal of mine in the Pedalock. Foof. What's next?
Aah, right. The actual mounting system from Temple.
They have big, medium, and small plates. They attach to the bottom of your effects with adhesive (which I was trying to avoid for a variety of reasons including not wanting to obscure important information printed on the bottom of the effect and also just not wanting to deal with sticky yukky glue.)
Using Temple Audio's pedal mounting system:
  • Thing number one I advise is to really really make sure you attach the plate evenly. so that it isn't crooked at all. Because you will soooo notice it when you have the pedal mounted on the board.
  • Thing number two I advise is to attach the plate to the pedalboard first and line up your pedal so that the plate ends up going in a reasonable place in regards to cable runs and other pedals (remember the plate has to fit in the already existing holes in the pedalboard).
  • The third thing is to remove the feet from your pedals. The feet are going to be taller than the plates and will end up pulling the plate off the pedal. 
So yeah, you end up putting sticky stuff on the backs of your pedals and you end up with a pile of little feet (insert band name joke here.)
Here you can see the feet being taller than the plate.
 So I'm gonna end up sticking things to a bunch of pedals. And removing those pedals little feet.
I don't even know what I was trying to demonstrate with the next image. Who knows?
There are nicely machined holes in the Temple. With bigger holes for cables to find their way neatly and cleanly to where they need to go.

The Joyo power supply goes on the bottom, attached with two of the small Temple pads. That means the little thumb screws for the power are actually on top. I have moved the power supply around so that it would be in a reasonable place.

Top view of mess with missing pedals. And yes I tried to cram way too many on one little board I know this.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


There aren't that many science fiction movies which actually get me lost, but the criminally underrated Infini has some moments where I'm just confused. I get that we have to make the reactor think it's going critical in order to get command override but... what is on that conveyor belt? No idea.
But it doesn't matter.
We're seeing off the set here aren't we?

The movie has a strong script, is well-acted, and was obviously made for several million dollars. It looks great. Sure, they use the same armor we used in Prometheus Trap, but they have awesome space helmets and some decent weapons. The aesthetic design is there. Even the computer interface is a nice meld of Alien, and 2001 (flat panels), and straight up hexidecimal (even though he claimed it was binary but, you know, space insanity will do that to a fellow.)
Rebecca Kush made me watch it. She said I had to drop everything and watch it right now. Which is better than when she told me that I had to watch Luther because she kept hitting me every time she said how yummy Idris Alba is. So, fewer bruises this time.
Her point was, it's a Pandora Machine - like film. And it really is. Ensemble-like cast. Fog. You know. That stuff.
I cannot fathom the movie making money. But my goal is to make movies that look this good but for under $50K. That's reasonable, right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Have I mentioned recently how offended I am that my refurbished MSI Dominator is the fastest machine I own?
I'm offended because my Mac Pro isn't completely paid off yet. And the Dominator was only $1300 from eBay.
So offended.

Making a sand material in Blender. I have no idea how to apply a material to an object. So I have no idea how to attach nodes to a material. The whole thing confuses me beyond all reason.
Credits are Due is an After Effects script for doing end title credits.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pedal Party

See the thing is I rather like playing without pedals -- through a long guitar cable -- directly into an amplifier. Typically this feels to me like I have more of an intimate control of the way the amplifier speaks back to me as a guitarist. This may be completely psychosomatic and without regard to reality. But it does feel that way.
But even with the Kemper it's somewhat impractical to be completely pedal free. Huh. Now I say that but thinking about it all my recordings are guitar-cable-amplifier. Hmm...
But in any case for live work things are different. And the big difference is that the guitar hits a buffer. Now thesedays having a hard-wire-bypass in all pedals is very popular. But as soon as one pedal kicks in, the game is all over, you're buffered.
Which typically is a goode thinge. The buffering keeps the signal from being dragged down by each effect. And the fact is I'm not sure you can hear the thing I was complaining about there at the top of this post. It may just be that one can feel it. And maybe it's all psychological anyway.

And the fact is that sometimes one really wants some effects. Especially in a live situation. I find that with the City Samanas and Diatomaceous Earth I want to have my very sweet MXR Carbon Copy analog delay. I feel I might find that I want to use an Electro Harmonix C9† (and by extension a Strymon Lex Leslie emulator*). The other thing I find critical to playing live with a mostly clean sound (especially when I'm playing with Greg Bartus) is an attenuator so I can "turn down" while playing rhythm parts.**
But what else? I'll tell you what else. I don't want to deal with Velcro. It's icky and yukky. So what does one do? Most pedalboards are all about Velcro. But there are some non-Velcro options.
One can use Bicycle chain links in order to screw the pedals down into or onto your board. This dude has a post all about that.
  • Now you can also buy special links specifically for this purpose.
  • Pedalboots is an Austrian company that makes boots for a variety of pedals. I'm not 100% sure if one can actually buy them in the US.
  • Pedalock makes special "boots" for MXR, Boss, and Wah-Wah pedals.
But as far as I can tell there's only one manufactured pedal board which is made for machine screws. Those are the Temple Audio boards. The irony is that they have their own mounting system -- which looks pretty cool (even if it does involve putting sticky stuff on the back of your pedals) but it would seem would also work with the above boots and links.

†A B9 is shown here because the site I put this together with did not have a C9 picture. Also note that a compressor before the C9/B9 is something you want -- even if you end up not wanting to have a compressor in the rest of your guitar sound.
*And optionally a mixer so that I can choose how much of the Lex I want in the signal because sometimes, you know, you just want a little bit of Leslie in your sound and not have the whole signal go through the Leslie. You know you want this.
**Fun fact, the Morley optical volume control has a "minimum volume" knob which does exactly that. And here I was thinking I was the only one who needed this control.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Links and Noise

This does not promise to be an exiting blog post. Nay. It is a bunch of notes from my little mind. And open tabs on my browser. Anybody ever notice how low the keyboards are mixed in most Grateful Dead songs? Also, a song called "Cool Colors" which City Samanas does a version of There is a whole website dedicated to building your own MIDI pedals. This SSL compressor kit looks kinda cool.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Scalular Egyptology

The "Egyptian Scale" is a minor scale but instead of a perfect forth you go up to the tritone and then there's a p5, minor 6, and major 7.

Zoom F8

The Zoom F8 is an 8-input portable recorder with time code for a thousand dollars.

Now let's face reality, nobody actually needs timecode. But people love seeing timecode slates on set with their pretty numbers going around and around, so you may as well sync to something. Traditionally that extra feature on a portable recorder (having timecode) jacked up the price like crazy.
But the Zoom F8 has a huge feature set for a cheap recorder. There's even a switch for a slate mic and tone. 8 inputs all go to different tracks. You can even control the sucker with your iPad. That's a lot for a thousand bucks.
This thing is designed for what is a relatively small market which has been dominated primarily by Sound Devices and Zaxcom. Does this mean everyone will have to drastically lower their prices?
Maybe we'll end up selling our Tascam and get one of these. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Pixel Plow

So I did an analysis of how much it costs me to render. I was surprised about how expensive it is. And now I am rethinking my experiment with Pixel Plow.
Pixel Plow is the cheapest rendering service for Blender 3D. Cheapest by far. And it is super-duper fast. Even at the slowest speed it is way faster than my fastest GPU accelerated machine.

Unless I put my i7 with Quadro4000 GPU in a place where electricity is "free"*, it's actually fairly inefficient for me.

Now in order to do that I'd certainly have to get Logmein Pro which is $250/year.

And all that brings me back to Pixel Plow.

They make it relatively easy to render with them. The frames come down to you automatically as they're created. And now that we're in 4K it makes a much bigger difference to get those frames done so that a fellow can get to actually finishing the dang movie (whichever movie that might be.)

So today I am pro Pixel Plow for big renders.

*The morality of such use is up for grabs but those places where one has/does pay a single rate for electric no matter what the use does/do exist.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Back of the Envelope

If a frame takes exactly one hour to render in Blender (in 3D)*
If my computer's power draw is 240 Watts**
If electricity is $.31/kWh***

Then each frame costs about $.0744 (a little over seven cents).

Our movies must look this good at a minimum from here on out.
That's more than I thought. A thousand frames is nigh on $75 in electricity costs alone.  We do several thousands of frames of CG animation. And then rendering out all the movie and such, it's actually several hundreds of dollars.

*Renders take all kinds of different time. At 4K I'd say an hour a frame is about average, even optimized. Some are more, some are less. The one I've got running now is 49 minutes a frame.
**That's what the big i7 with the Quadro4000 video card is drawing. That does not include the monitor (which is usually off during a long render).
***This was the commercial rate at my studio, not my home (where my i7 is right now). The home rate should be something less. But add to this any additional fan or air conditioning I might have to/want to run when this computer is running.