For some reason, I’ve rediscovered Ableton Live. It’s a fun program and it takes me back to my days of composing on old hardware (workstation) sequencers with independent track looping. When computers ushered in the “new era” of composition, I went linear (track based) and never looked back.
I picked up Ableton Live several years ago, and other than to help with the occasional bout of writers block, never really took to it. Loop composition is fun and inspiring, but I’m too analytical when it comes to the rest of the production process, and it’s a well known that Live isn’t (always) the best finishing program. In that regard, Logic, Pro-Tools and Reaper have served me well.
That said, the good news is the folks at Ableton have improved Live greatly, and with version 9, I find myself using it again. This newfound usage was bolstered by NI’s Maschine, which has me “performing” again (pushing buttons, twisting knobs and moving about) instead of mousing around the screen.
This weeks exercise was about getting Maschine and Live to work together. It’s a convoluted process, but once you get them talking, it makes for an awesome and creative working environment. However, this is not without it’s issues. Since Maschine is now functioning in a dual role (controller and performance tool), and it can only do one at a time, you have to switch this “hybrid” functionality back and forth, which can be a pain while working.
So, I got it all working on Thursday, and after patting myself on the back for my ingenuity, set in on Friday to work. However, overnight Live was upgraded to version 9.1, and after upgrading, the two no longer wanted to play well together. Not sure what happened there, and I lost a day troubleshooting, but whatever…
These new issues were rendered moot when I discovered touchAble 2. It’s an iPad app (natch) that effectively recreates Live’s user interface for the touch screen. Suddenly the need to get Maschine and Live talking again diminished rapidly.
The $24.99 download was quick to my iPad Mini, and after an even quicker download of the server control app for my MacPro (and MacBook Pro), the app was talking to Live.
Kudos to touchAble’s design team. The app is extremely intuitive. I was able (no pun intended) to figure most of it out without online help. I won’t go into the specifics of it here. If you’re interested in it, please check out the app’s youtube page – it contains the full specs on the info tab.
I don’t usually get excited about this kind of tool, but great tactile control enhances the Live experience tenfold. Anything that keeps your hands off the mouse and on an instrument is great for composing.
Holy Crap! I almost forgot this thing exists. I remembered it only because I stumbled onto the WordPress app while searching the App Store. I guess the larger question is, do people still blog? They must, as I find myself frequenting a number of photography blogs as of late, but I digress…
Yep, its been more than a year since I last posted, and believe me, a lot has changed. I survived a move deeper into the suburbs, my oldest heading off to college, and oh yeah, my family has grown by 3 — in the aforementioned move deeper into the burbs.
So, what have I been up to? Well quite a bit work wise. Some of it good (incredible actually), and some not so, but you live and you learn. Anywho, what I’m excited about is my newest piece of glass. Yes, I said GLASS — get your minds out of the gutter.
While out celebrating Chick Fil-A’s entrance into the Minnesota market, I found myself at National Camera Exchange in Maple Grove, and low and behold, I see a used Zeiss 28mm lens in mint (E+) condition. The guy behind the counter said in all of his years there, he’s never had a used Zeiss come in. He isn’t the only one. I’ve only seen a few here and there on Ebay, and never on Craigslist. Simply put, Zeiss owners, by and large, keep them.
I’m not going to get into the why of a Zeiss. If you’re a shooter, then you already know the brand is highly regarded in still photography as well as video. Plus, glass is highly subjective and personal – like religion, politics, Star Wars and Star Trek. It means different things to different people. Based on what I’ve read online, I’m a lens snob, and the Zeiss name means something to me — and I’m OK with that.
I had them put the lens on a 48 hour hold so that I could think it over. My buyers remorse is well documented, and the price tag was well outside “impulse buy” territory. The fact that I dreamt about the lens that night must have meant something. So, after a day of internet research and much justification (it’s an investment, tax write off, “buy once-buy right”, blah blah blah), at the 11th hour, the boss and I drove back to Maple Grove to procure it. The deciding factor was reading Ken Rockwell’s wonderful blog entry “How to afford anything“.
I laughed as each employee looked at it lovingly (and with envy) while placing it on the counter —- “Hey, the Zeiss guy is here”, one of them said. Zeiss Guy? I kinda like that. National Camera’s policy is all used merchandise must be in the case (and available to customers) for 30 days before it can be purchased by employees. Clearly they weren’t happy to see me. As an employee, I would have been counting the days. Yep, sucks to be them. I can imagine some sort of gladiatorial style contest between employees for any unsold stock that possibly ends in ones death, but again, I digress…
In any event, the lens is spectacular. The colors, stunning. It’s a MF lens, but I’m a video guy, so I’m no stranger to focusing manually, and actually prefer it. I’ve also put my head back in the books to learn all of the glass in my bag. Every lens has a sweet spot, and no two camera bodies are alike. So, it’s been all about the fundamentals for me. There’s a huge difference between video and photography, and it’s easy to mix up some of the concepts — for example, shutter speed is everything for stills, but by and large, a fixed value for video work. I’m a video guy first, photographer second. In fact, I would not consider myself a photographer at all. I know a few highly skilled photogs, and am in awe of their talent. Again, they’re two different disciplines that happen to share a few concepts, similarities and in the case of the DSLR, gear.
As I learn more, the better my video looks. Imagine that? Remember the rules:
1. Know where your stuff is.
2. Know what your stuff does.
3. Don’t break your stuff.
I’ve been hammering rule #2 hard as of late, and I figure a little RTFM never hurt anybody, right?
If there’s one constant that I can count on is my need for change. That, and my need for a good workspace. I’ve tried almost every configuration imaginable, but nothing has made me happy for any real length of time.
My last config was nice – until the headaches started. Most likely the result of sitting far too close to a 42″ LDC display. Talk about your space cadet glow (I felt warm a lot). Yep, it looked great, but was bad in practice.
This brings me to today’s entry. I was listening to NPR yesterday while on my way to a freelance gig, and the conversation headline was, “Is sitting too much killing us?”. Ok, I’m “King of the Sitters”, so they had my attention. The guest was a doctor that wrote at length about how we’ve become a sedentary society, and how that is killing us slowly. [Follow the link for a list of risk factors]. The story also featured anecdotal interviews with office folk that have transitioned to standing on the job.
I began to ponder this and realized that I sit 90% of the day. Most of my jobs involve monitors, computers and a chair. Given the fact that my freelance gig yesterday was field sound – the rare gig where one stands for a few hours with a field mixer and boom mic, it really brought the radio conversation home.
Combine all of that with my constant need to change my home setup, I found myself at it again. This time with the standing workstation concept in mind. I had my Mother’s high-top table in my garage, and it’s the perfect size to put my gear on and work while standing.
I clam-shelled the MBP and put all of my drives on the bottom shelf. I’m now limited to one monitor, but I’ve found the high resolution screen of the Macbook was getting harder to read (even with glasses) – yes, it sucks getting older. I actually prefer the (lower resolution) single 22″ monitor. The Oxygen49 keyboard, FaderPort and trackball/mouse all fit perfectly.
Two hours later, I had everything cabled up and operational, and I’m currently typing this while standing. In fact, I’ve challenged myself to stand while working for the month of July.
Can I really go 30 days of standing?
Realizing that’s a tall order, the table is part of a set with two stools, so I can sit if I have to, but they’re not made for comfort, so I won’t sit on them for long periods.
We’ll see how I do this month, and more importantly, we’ll see how I feel and if standing makes a difference.
December 23rd??? Really? That was my last entry here? 6 months ago?
Wow. What the hell?
Ok, seeing how it’s yet another holiday that I’m stuck at work, I guess I have time to play catch up. I’ve been super busy (to say the least) and freelance has been very, very good to me.
- St. Oalf Choir Holiday Concert shoot for TPT
- SNS goes HD!
- Recording sessions with Talia
- Xmas vacation out East (Happy Birthday to me)
- Shot a music doc for local band
- Fitness On Request shoot
- “Stay-cation” in town
- “Bloom Where You’re Planted” doc/shoot
- Shot and cut “We Found Love – LIVE Arrangement” video
- Audio engineer @ TPT (trained in for pledge drive relief)
- Maryland/Florida vacation
- Pre production for 2nd Fitness On Request shoot
- Home studio additions and upgrades
- Fitness On Request
- Darnell Davis Concert shoot.
- Lifetime Fitness shoot
Whew… One thing I’ve learned from the above list is that I vacation a lot, and I make no apologies for it. My motto is – work hard, play harder. My current work cycle is that the freelance funds the vacations, and that’s alright with me.
In fact, I’m currently working to fund the next big vacay as I type this, and next week promises to be no exception. I’ll be technical directing Fitness On Request shows during the day, while mixing TPT pledge at night.
Hell, the only reason I have the time to write this entry is that I brought the wrong hard drive with me to work and I can’t edit SNS. I’m almost 2 episodes ahead.
Tomorrow is more FOR pre-pro and a site survey for the upcoming concert shoot. I’m looking forward to that. It’s always a treat being around musicians with great chops (and those church boys have chops… yessiiiirrrr).
Anywho – I’ll post some pics from some of the above events so this place doesn’t seem so cold and empty.
Randomly selected six month review in photos -
Like my exhaustive over-long DAW shootout a few months ago, I’m now doing the same with my editing software. I’ve been a Final Cut Pro editor for years, but I gave Premiere Pro a shot back in 2009. Despite cutting a music video with it, and even liking some of the features, I found the CS4 experience to be clunky and buggy. It wasn’t hard to stay with FCP.
Flash forward to to the release of FCP X (and all that went with it), and a lot of folks are taking a serious look at Premiere again. I’ve begun playing with the new version and I’m amazed that I can pull T2i footage off the card, right into Premiere – no transcoding needed. To be fair, you could do this in CS4, but it didn’t always work (at least for me).
With CS5, the Canon footage played with little effort on my MBP. Again, I’m taking footage right off the card – I haven’t added color correction, fades or attempted to composite anything yet.
For now, I’m getting reacquainted with Premiere, and thanks to lynda.com, and it’s training series for FCP editors making the transition, I’m digging it so far. If editing Canon’s version of AVCHD doesn’t bring my laptop to a crawl, I can see the benefit of switching to it. I can’t count the hours that I’ve spent waiting for transcodes. I often shoot several commercials in bulk over a few days, then edit over several weeks. I batch-transcode with Red Giant’s “Grinder”, and that experience can be like watching paint dry, not to mention the crazy big file sizes associated with converting to ProRes.
With the added benefit of Photoshop and After Effects integration, this could be a no-brainer. It will take working through a project to see if I’m my cutting in FCP will be final. (yeah, I went there…).
Amongst all of the other projects and stuff I have to get to, I’ve been trying to put together a PC for the purpose of capturing HDMI video for editing. I was given an old PC to resurrect, but after opening it up, the age of the machine won’t allow for it. I’m now locked into building a new system.
I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, so I’m researching the current crop of PC motherboards. The main requirement is a PCIe slot for the Blackmagic Intensity Pro capture card. I was given the card today, so I can spec out a board, chip, memory and case. As always, price is a consideration, which means this has to happen with little or no budget.
I have to admit – I’m more than a little intrigued by the Intensity Pro card, and can’t wait to get it into a system. If for no other reason than to see how performs. If successful, the info gleaned here may be useful on another project of mine. The box says that multiple cards can be installed to control multiple cameras, so it’s worth investigating.
It’s shaping up to be a fun side project. I’ll keep you posted on it’s progress…
I’ve been DAW hopping for most of the year, and have written extensively about it. I’ve grown tired of Logic and it’s extremely slow development. It’s competition (Reaper, Cubase, etc) have all surpassed it with new features and workflow improvements. Add the colossal f–k up of the Final Cut X release, and my faith in Apple has been shaken. Logic users are now holding our collective breaths to see if Apple will butcher it in the same manner.
While waiting for Logic X to arrive, I began testing the waters of the competition, and I spent 6 solid months with Reaper during the Alpha and Beta test cycles. The truth? I like(d) it a lot. Reaper is a powerful program, but I find that, at times, it can get in the way of creativity, mostly because of it’s power and sheer number of choices. An oft written refrain on the Reaper forum is “I just want to make music and not code a program”.
That brings me to Studio One. I was excited by it when it was released over a year ago. However, it was too limited at the time (no AU plug in support was huge for me), so I passed and took a “wait and see” position.
Thankfully, PreSonus dropped a bomb 2 weeks ago with version 2 of Studio One. The biggest selling point for me was the Melodyne integration. Melodyne is THE ultimate in pitch correction software. It will correct damn near anything without the dreaded T-Pain effect (unless, of course, that’s what you’re after).
I’ve been a Melodyne user for years, but I often reach for Auto Tune because, frankly, I’m lazy. Melodyne requires some work, and a small dose of music theory. In short, you can do more harm than good if you don’t know what you’re doing. The bigger Melodyne issue for me is with the plug-in itself. It runs “in tandem” with your DAW, making file management tricky. It’s easy to lose the pointers to your corrected files if you work with multiple drives.
To solve this issue, Celemony created the ARA protocol for Melodyne and partnered up with PreSonus. ARA provides internal two way communication between the plug in and the host. The bottom line is it’s now easier to use. If you’re not interested in S1, but want the Melodyne integration, fear not. The ARA protocol will appear in other hosts early next year. PreSonus is getting the head start.
As you can tell, I’m a bit excited about S1, and I’ve been test driving it a great deal. Yesterday, I decided to use it for voice over recording and audio sweetening on a commercial spot I shot recently. Let me say that the workflow for video post is well… awesome is the word I’d use… It’s much faster than Tools, Logic and Reaper.
In the screen shots above, I dropped a reference cut into S1. Imported the audio. Opened the Video window. Set a level on the FirePod and within seconds was recoding my VO. After some EQ and compression, I had it pushed back into Final Cut. I did the final mix in FCP, but next time I’ll mix the entire spot (music, VO, and sound effects) in S1 and print the final mix there.
It’s never been so easy… I haven’t even touched on the music aspects yet. I’m sold, and Apple had better bring the pain with Logic X, or I’m staying with S1. I’ve already transferred some Logic songs to S1 to mix, and I like what I’m hearing.
As always, your mileage may vary…