Friday, June 29, 2018


8dio has some nice sampled orchestral instruments.

Vocalign has a $150 version. But so far I think I don't have any real sync issues on the ADR in our next movie.

Focal. They make some headphones. They're about $1500. Seems like they sound pretty good.

Garritan Personal Orchestra.

Wanna find the frequency of your tinnitus? Or, if you have really good headphones, where your hearing actually kicks out? Yeah. No. But yeah.

I had to compose a short piece as an entry assignment to the graduate program at Thinkspace. So this is what I did.

Monday, June 25, 2018

My notes

Arrange for percussion in the same way you do for the rest of the orchestra, top, middle and bottom or foreground, middle ground and background. Think of percussion in layers.

This was the actual Castrol Oil spot I did the brief to. I'd have only gotten a "pass" on that.

I still think mine is better.

Masque has a whole series on wireless microphone rigs for actors in theater. None of them are pretty.

I'm working on a SSATB for a Pushkin poem. It is a mess.

Zebra is a software sythesizer by u-he.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Standards for delivery for learnings

By default, I would give them 24bit 48kHz stereo WAV files, but make sure to ask first.

In your cue sheet, label the column that has the location of 2-Pop's as "2-Pop" or "2-Pop Location"

So if your music actually starts at, you would put a two pop at, exactly two seconds before the start of the first frame of the picture.

You then put the timecode as part of the file name and then there can be no confusion


Many composers just give the editor the start time of the audio file without putting a two pop on the front whhen they're delivering cues like this. I often put the timecode as part of the file name to stop it getting lost or separated.



Now we have music that is

1. At the correct sample rate
2. At the correct bit depth
3. In the correct audio format
4. With the correct sync mark or two pop on the front


I would always send a text file with the upload or enclosed with the package. It should include:

Your name, address and contact details.

The name of the production, the production company and the producer it is intended for.

The technical details of the files i.e. 16bit 48khz AIFFs.

And the date or version number to avoid confusion.

If your music is received by a busy post-production house, they might have dozens of things on the go at any one time so your stuff could easily get lost.

So you covering sheet should look something like this:

Composer: Jim Farmer
Big Bad Music Company
14 Acacia Gardens
London W12 9RJ
Tel: 020 8740 1234

Project: 'Florida the Sunshine State'
Production Company: Elgin Productions
Contact: Peter Swain

24bit 48khz AIFF files

Music - Final Mixes 15th March 2015

1 Opening Title 10:00:00:00

2 Crime in Paradise 10:04:00:00

3 Capital City Money 10:06:00:00

4 Closing Titles 10:08:00:00

More important than life itself

In future every time you submit an assignment I expect you to do something like this. If you don't, your work will be returned unmarked. I know its boring and mundane, but if you don't get into the habit of doing it professionally you will eventually run into big trouble.

Check frame rate
Be sure picture is running at the same speed as the frame rate


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Writing to a Brief

Nick Bye has a one and a half minute film for Titanium Oil that needs music.

It's a new, high tech oil which has a lot of clever, high tech molecular chemistry gone into the creation of it.

The premise of the product was to create an oil that can cope with the aggressive, high pressured nature of a modern engine.

The film represents the strength of the oil, but to make it sexy, attractive and interesting. It shows a dancer, wet head to toe in silver paint. She represents the engine. She walks into a large cavernous space with lots of lights and atmosphere. We aren't sure if she is a human or a machine, until she lifts her head and the camera zooms in on her eyes and we realise she is machine. We see cogs and mechanics behind her eyes. She launches into an energetic, spikey, powerful dance. It needs a strong rhythm which sounds like a cross between an engine, clashing metal, noise, heat and pressure.

We cut to inside her eye amongst the cogs, where the titanium molecules of oil are now lubricating the mechanics. We zoom out through CG graphics back out of the eye and we see that the dancer is now gold. She is now dancing in a very fluid, sexy way.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


We require you to write a piece of music that starts as suspense for the first 30 seconds before turning into an action cue for a further 30 seconds. The action section should build to a climax by the end.

For all programmes we welcome mature students who may not have formal qualifications. Responsibility for the assessment and accreditation of non-certified prior learning, including experiential learning, lies with the Programme Director and Course Manager.

Students must include a short covering letter that includes;
  • Applicant’s name and email address
  • Applicant’s technical resources; DAW and main sound libraries so ThinkSpace Education can take this into account.
  • Any other information the applicant feels may be relevant.
This covering letter should be as a text file or Microsoft Word document.
Applicants should follow the instructions online to upload their portfolio and covering letter.


If applicants are applying through a non-standard route and wish other professional experience to be taken into consideration, they must contact the Course Manager who will outline what additional material may be required. An interview, on the telephone or via Skype may be required in addition to the portfolio.

What we will require will be:
  • First degree graduation certificate
  • Scan of your passport photo page (or equivalent photographic ID with your address)
  • Two recent official documents or invoices confirming your current address
  • Certificates, including IELTS, confirming any other qualifications you are relying on to support your application
  • Two references, at least one of which should be an academic reference where appropriate
Audio Files: When submitting audio files, please convert them to MP3 at 128 or 250Kbs. Unless specifically required to do so, do not send in WAVs AIFFs or other uncompressed audio formats.

Text: You can send in your reflective journals, assignment commentary or any other written work as a PDF, word or Text file.

Video: Where video files are required, output your movie as QuickTime movie or .MP4 file at the same frame rate as the source material. We do not accept windows media files. You should aim for around 10-15 mbs a minute. A tutorial on how to format and compress your video files is available on the website.


Indicative Reading


Cooke M (2008) A history of film music (1st edition). New York: Cambridge University Press
Hill J and Gibson P (1998) The Oxford guide to film studies (1st edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press
Karlin, F. and Wright, R. (1990). On the track. 1st ed. New York: Schirmer Books.
Rona, J. (2000). The reel world. 1st ed. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books.
Adler, S. (2002). The study of orchestration. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton.
Jones C and Jolliffe G (2000) The guerilla film makers handbook (1st edition). New York: Continuum
Monaco J (2009) How to read a film (1st edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press
Jacob, G. (1940). Orchestral technique. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, G. Cumberlege.
Mancini, H. (1977). Sounds and scores. 1st ed. Greenwich: Northridge Music Inc.
Piston, W. and Piston, W. (1955). Orchestration. 1st ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Read, G. (1979). Music notation. 1st ed. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.
Rimsky-Korsakov, N., Shteinberg, M. and Agate, E. (1912). Principles of orchestration. 1st ed. Berlin: Edition Russe de Musique.

Required Viewing (for both Film Music in Practice Modules)
American Beauty. (1999). [film] USA: DreamWorks SKG: Sam Mendes.
Batman. (1989). [film] USA: Warner Bros: Tim Burton.
Casablanca. (1942). [film] USA: Warner Bros: Michael Curtiz.
From Russia With Love. (1963). [film] GB: Eon Productions: Terence Young.
Gladiator. (2000). [film] USA: DreamWorks SKG: Ridley Scott.
Gravity. (2013). [film] USA: Warner Bros: Alfonso Cuarón.
King Kong. (1933). [film] USA: RKO Radio Pictures: Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack.
King Kong. (2005). [film] USA: Universal Pictures: Peter Jackson.
Lawrence of Arabia. (1962). [film] GB: Horizon Pictures: David Lean.
North by Northwest. (1959). [film] USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): Alfred Hitchcock.
Psycho. (1960). [film] USA: Shamley Productions: Alfred Hitchcock.
Skyfall. (2012). [film] GB: Eon Productions: Sam Mendes.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. (1980). [film] USA: Lucasfilm: Irvin Kershner.
The Adventures of Robin Hood. (1938). [film] USA: Warner Bros: Michael Curtiz.
The City Lights. (1931). [film] USA: Charles Chaplin Productions: Charles Chaplin.
The Dark Knight. (2008). [film] USA: Warner Bros: Christopher Nolan.
The Godfather. (1972). [film] USA: Paramount Pictures: Francis Ford Coppola.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (1966). [film] IT: Produzioni Europee Associati: Sergio Leone.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. (2001). [film] USA: New Line Cinema: Peter Jackson.
The Mission. (1986). [film] US: Warner Bros: Roland Joffé.
The Pink Panther. (1963). [film] USA: Mirisch G-E Productions: Blake Edwards.
The Social Network. (2010). [film] USA: Columbia Pictures: David Fincher.
There Will Be Blood. (2007). [DVD] USA: Paramount Vantage: Paul Thomas Anderson.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Faith. And a new faith.

My faith is still crisis-y regarding preamps.

Maybe the whole theory that the accumulation of subtleties in multitrack recordings is what makes the very small differences in preamps important is actually correct.

I'm tempted to test this in a way that has one scientific flaw. But just you watch. I'm gonna do it anyway.

If you run a microphone into more than one preamp at the same time, you're loading down that microphone and it doesn't behave the way it ought to. So that's why preamp tests on the Interwebs are always one microphone:one preamp.
But uh. Modern preamps are made to bridge. And when one actually runs the numbers, the loss and weirdness of running a normal modern microphone into multiple preamps actually ain't that much. So I am going with the notion that one can record to more than one preamp simultaneously. There is a science-loss here because there is a mathematical difference. But it's worth trying because until we get robots who will exactly replicate all moves on all instruments, it's all we've got.*

1. Install and register Samplitude, Sibelius, and the most recent version of ReWire (the one that comes on the Sibelius CD is fine)
2. Start up Sibelius on its own, go to the Play > Playback Devices dialog, select Audio Engine Options and, if the "Repair" button in the resulting dialog is enabled, click it[Drew's note: I believe this option has been moved to another place in the latest version of Sibelius.]
3. Shut down Sibelius
4. Start up Samplitude
5. On the VST/DirectX/ReWire page of the Options > System dialog (which is inside the Effects group of pages), tick the box that says "Activate ReWire"
6. Restart Samplitude
7. Open a Samplitude project, and create/select a MIDI track
8. With the MIDI track selected, go to the MIDI panel (by default this is on the left of the screen, under the Track Editor); from the "Out:" drop-down menu, select New Instrument > Rewire > Sibelius
7. Sibelius should now start up (and Samplitude will give a warning message if you're not using ASIO)
8. Open your desired score; if you're using Sibelius Sounds Essentials you'll probably want to leave it a while for Sibelius to load all the required sounds. Now starting playback in Samplitude should also start it in Sibelius.
9. If you want to record Sibelius' output onto a track in Samplitude, choose a stereo Audio track, and, in the "In:" drop-down on the Audio panel, choose Instrument Outputs > Sibelius Mix-L Mix-R

More tests forthcomingwise. 

*So far those robots only exist on pianos.

Thursday, June 07, 2018


Rightmark makes audio testing hardware which is interesting, and there's a free version.
Izotope RX for post. Way not free.
My ears have been clogged and it's really irritating. I've got these drops, but I may just go have them irrigated. Bleh.

FFT images of my three Oktava 012 mics with hypercardioid capsules aimed at an air purifier.

Oversampling in digital equalizers.

I am super irritated with  2.6 (or so) kHz. All my life the harshness of parallel walls or sopranos or something in this region has really bothered me. And other than notching it with a multiband compressor I just don't know what to do. Sometimes I think "Egads! Is that sound really happening in the space?" And... it is. Ugh.
I don't know why it takes me so many years to finally "get" what's bothering me. I have a specific memory of hearing a soprano sing at the little barn-theater at my high school and being bugged by it. I remember touring with the Wooster Group and being irritated by it once the volume got too loud. We could pull frequencies out, but it would get too muffled. Of course at the time all we had were sloppy Klark Teknik 31-band graphic eq's. So you could make the sound right when it was loud, but then when you got quiet again the sound was very muffled. It sorta sucked. A narrow-band de-esser might have worked but I don't know if there were any commercially available ones which went down that low (this was the early 90's.)
Anyway, I want some nice corrective eq's or something in the way of a phase-coherent hand-limited and frequency-variable compressor (without makeup gain.)
For classical music I'm really digging the preamps in the Zoom F8. I know, an unpopular opinion. But they're really great. There's just no inserts or EQ's available.
The new version of the F8 let's you record to your computer and to the SD cards simultaneously.
I would b interested in knowing what the preamps on (say) a Midas M32r sound like.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Tempest in Post

The Washington Post reviewed the production of The Tempest I composed for.

An irony is that the above teaser for the show uses music which I wrote that didn't end up in the show. Anyway, I got "Andrew Bellware’s atmospheric music complements the now-funny, now-sinister pageantry." I'm both sinister AND funny.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Pro Audio is Malarkey

Or: grousing for fun and profit.

The stereotype of sound guys is that they're lazy jerks. Just because that's true doesn't make it so, of course. But yeah.
One problem is the sheer amount of religion in sound. It's virtually impossible to do a real A/B comparison that's double-blind. But it can be done.
Firstwise is the infamous Sound On Sound preamp test where they could really do a double-blind listen to the same source. Remember this one? It's the one that showed that the cheap $300 ART tube mic preamp and the cheaper Mackie VLZ preamps to beat out Neve, API, and SSL. Yeah. That one.

Over at JWSound a poor user dared to test the Rode NT5 against the Schoeps MK41. Foolish mortal, he. (And don't get me started on how the nominal competence level of the production sound mixer is so far below average studio intern as to simply be embarrassing. I mean, they as a group have zero clue about what they're doing and the kind of audio they/we do is very simple. Not always easy, but always simple.)

And then there are these blind preamp tests.

I did a really un-scientific test of my three Oktava 012 mics with hypercardioid capsules.

You know something's up when the fear of a double-blind study is so great that people try to deliberately skunk the results.  Remember Ian Shepherd's test of humans vs LANDR and Aria machines?  (I know, it wasn't his test but he did work on it and I can't find any links to it now.) Well it turns out the "blind" listeners were super-affected by comments other people made. So the differences between man and machine weren't really all that significant (although they were there... we think.)

I have a notion that much of the actual differences in audio gear is that equipment has become on average vastly better than it used to be. A/D converters, for instance, are much better now than they used to be and that's true of mic preamps and analog signal paths as well as microphones themselves. I do have a great deal of difficulty caring about the difference between a U87 and a Rode NT1. I just... I don't care. An EQ will do whatever it is you need to an NT1 to make it a U87.
There's still differences between microphone types. So big-diaphragm multipattern mics have that big dry sound I like so much in live sound reinforcement (warning, danger, that is a radical opinion in and of itself, nobody else uses them that way.) And small diaphragm condensers will tend to sound the way they sound (very broadly speaking, I hate the off-axis nonsense of most all small-diaphragm other than Schoeps or Oktava, but I challenge you to distinguish in a recording which is which.)

Lost Faith

So I'm more than willing to admit that I'm going insane. I just need to put that out there, up-front and so on.
But I'm having a crisis of faith in preamps.

I have a pair of Neve 1272's (modified by Brent Averill.) I liked them better than the old 1073 I had (I know, let's just list this as apostasy #1). But although I've gotten some great guitar sounds with them, I've really started to prefer the Lindell preamps. So, I figure, maybe as I've gotten older I've been feeling more API than Neve. That's fine.

So the other night I was recording Russian Chamber Chorus with my Zoom F8 and I figured I would use Lindell preamps. Because, you know, more better, right?

No. No, not at all. There at the time I hated the sound of the Lindells on this ensemble. Hated.
Let's review. I have a custom ribbon microphone in the air above the conductor, and a pair of spaced Oktava 012's with hypercardioid capsules in the sweet spot in the audience where we get a "bloom" of the sound.
There's also a backup microphone on that stand with the ribbon. Oh, and the ribbon has a cloudlifter on it.
Now while I was recording it was immediately and imminently obvious that the Lindells were not as detailed and nice for this material. Counter-intuitively, however, when I got home I couldn't tell the difference between the Lindells and the internal preamps on the F8.
Which is odd because you'd expect that differences would be more apparent listening on Sennheiser HD 600's or my Blue Sky system. So why how what wut? How could something be so obvious in the field but not under more controlled conditions?
Well, on location I'm using lower impedance headphones -- Sennheiser HD 280's. And the F8 does not have the world's best headphone amp. So at first I thought that maybe the TRS line inputs took a different path for monitoring off the F8. That doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe it's because of the phase relationship between the line inputs and the mic inputs and the actual sound which was bleeding into my headphones from the actual singers?
I have no idea.
But in either case, the F8's preamps are very tres excellent for classical music. Does this mean I should just get rid of the Lindells?
Well, maybe not. Maybe for rock and roll the API-like sound of the Lindells is better. What I noticed was there was less "air" and less detail. But for a fat blues guitar, that might be just the ticket. I don't know.
I do know, however, that the Neve's which I'm not using probably need to go to someone who will love and make records with them. Because I'm not.
So today I recorded RCCNY with a pair of ART Pro MPA II tube preamps. In the field I could not tell the difference between the ART's and the internal preamps to the F8. So I figured "At first, do no harm" and recorded the concert with the ART's.
Listening back to the rehearsals where I was switching between the ART's and the internals can I hear a difference? Uh. Maybe? It's not a big one. And it's certainly under the threshold of placebo effect. So I'm not super into lugging the ART around.
For classical music it seems that the internal preamps to the F8 are more than fine.

But wait. That's not all. 2.6kHz. It drives me nuts. Wait 'till next time.