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Been a long time…

November 4, 2011 3 comments

I became a Mac user back in 2003, and I’ve never looked back. My love affair with the Apple has been rewarding and filled with an insane amount of creativity… But… I got my hands back inside a PC this morning (it’s a long story) and I have to admit – I’ve missed it.

I’ve done more than my share of self-builds back in the day, and I forgot how much fun it is to be in the innards of a computer. Yeah, call me a geek. I’ll cop to it.

Long story short, I have to get this particular PC up and running so that it can accommodate a PCIe capture card. However, upon closer inspection, it may not be up for the task of streaming HD video, let alone editing. Dell seems to have some proprietary stuff going on in there on the motherboard, so it may be cheaper to build a new one.

Lucky for my son, I don’t give up that easy, and like a puzzle that needs to be solved. I’m on it. The problem with that is, I now have the urge to build again…

Categories: Video

Shakin’ Stuff…

November 4, 2011 2 comments

After months of concentrating on video production, as well as trying pick a new DAW, I’m happy to say that I’m making music again.

The song “Vampires” was born out of usual frustration with the people and things that suck the life out of others on a regular basis, and NOT the crappy movie types with bad skin and tons of hair gel that women in their 40’s fantasize about.

But I digress, and that’s another rant filled blog entry all it’s own…

I realized that my approach to writing and production hasn’t changed much in awhile. With the exception of guitars, I normally do everything “in the box” (drum programming, bass lines, keys, etc) and that gets old. Just because one has 2000 drum samples, doesn’t mean you have to use ‘em all the time. And with that, the urge to stretch out and experiment with different mics and recording techniques took hold, and I figured the best place to start was with percussion.

There’s nothing like adding a little live percussion to a sterile programmed track, but the only percussion instrument I have is my Prince tambourine (and I’m not pulling that trophy off the wall), so I had to dig through my kitchen cabinet.

It’s amazing what you can do with a container of Sea Salt…

I’m now a believer. Playing it live (whatever it is) beats the hell out of programming it any day of the week. So grab something, put a microphone in front of it and shake it, strike it, or beat on it. Trust me…

BTW – Although Reaper is featured in the video, my DAW of the moment is Studio One by PreSonus – at least until Logic X comes out. :-) In all seriousness, Studio One is worth taking a look at. One of my heroes, Teddy Riley, gave it an extremely enthusiastic endorsement, and is largely why I picked it up. Teddy produced and mixed Michael Jackson’s posthumous album with it, and he likes it better than Pro Tools. That’s all I needed to hear. I’ll post my thoughts on S1 soon.

Now I have to get back to the business of slaying vampires…

WELY 94.5 FM

October 26, 2011 2 comments

There are days that I find myself repeating David Byrne’s lyric, “Well… How did I get here?”

Today, I find myself in Ely Minnesota, which is literally a stones throw away from Canada, on a radio station consult. I never thought I’d ever be this far north, but here I am, and it was a blast. The gig was to recommend a new and better workflow for the on-air folks – which is cool.

Personally, it’s a chance to feed my lust for all things gear and dig through a radio station. I will say that WELY is a cool small town station, and the staff is super awesome – extremely friendly and inviting.

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Categories: Music, Random

What to make of these…?

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

First, I will say that I did not come up with the following images by nefarious means. Last week, I was in several webinars – the first of which was for the release of PreSonus’ Studio One 2, and the second was a drum mixing seminar by Waves.

The instructor was using Logic, but upon closer inspection, this was no version of Logic that I’ve ever seen. Logic isn’t really “skinable”, although some have ventured into the code to tweak it. The instructor finished his presentation and opened the floor up for questions. I thought long and hard about asking, but held off. However, 20 minutes later, I was bursting at the seems and finally typed my question: “What version of Logic are you using?”

It hung there for about 30 seconds, then the moderator came on and said, “Well, that’s it for questions. If you want to watch this webinar again, it will be available at waves.com.”

I cannot claim that my questions about a seemingly beta piece of software brought the whole works to a halt, but it is an odd coincidence. Who knows? Maybe they were “out of time”…

What I do know is Mac Rumors posted screen shots of Logic X a few weeks ago (which I did not see), and they were removed as fast as they went up. I’m posting what I have because – A: I don’t know if it is indeed Logic X, and B: If it is, then it should not have been used in a live webinar by Waves.

Armed with that, and a huge sense of righteous indignation, I present what I grabbed. I’ll let you know if Apple comes knocking…

Categories: Music

Monitor Problem Solved. Thank You Internet…

August 16, 2011 5 comments

So it’s DVI, not HDMI… Why didn’t I think of that? Thank you internet…

Categories: Video

Good. Now Make It All Work…

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m really trying here with this blog thing. Can you tell? Good…

Went into IPR today with Tom to discuss the class with another staff member. We’re responsible for the lecture portion of the AV200 class, but the students get the lab from another instructor. This method presents it’s own unique set of challenges to navigate, but so far, we haven’t crashed the bus.

We did, however, need to peek over each others shoulders and share info. During the meeting, we had a chance to look in on a student lab. IPR has, what I like to call, the Audio 101 room, and it’s here that students get a crash course in signal flow. The room is a bare-bones setup with older gear (mixer, outboard gear, etc) that is completely unwired.

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Students are tasked to “hook it all up and make it work”. We came in just as a student was unplugging it all, so I didn’t get any pics of that, but it was still cool to see.

Audio 101 rocks. I wish I had a class like that back in the day. For most of the Instructors, it was OJT – all on the fly…

Mount Me…

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

When it comes to DSLR shooting and accessories, it doesn’t take much to get back in the swing of things. I’ve been away from the video end of the DSLR world in recent months, but now that I’m back, I find that my list of wants and needs is right where I left it.

Fortunately for me, I made a few good purchases last year – the Lilliput external LCD monitor being one of them. I’ve only used it a handful of times, but it’s served me well. There is an underlying problem with it and the T2i, as the HDMI connection will cause both the monitor and the camera to lock-up occasionally. When this happens in the field, I have to disconnect everything and start over. I’m not sure why this happens, and I haven’t invested the time to figure it out.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah… So, I have the H4n, and I need to mount it. I began looking at various mounting schemes online, when it occurred to me that I already had a mounting adapter in my possession – courtesy of the Lilliput. After rummaging through my extra gig bag, there it was. I pulled it off the monitor and before you could call me late for dinner, I had the H4n mounted to the camera.

The biggest problem I have now is how do I mount the wireless receiver to the current configuration. I’m leaning towards a velcro strap, but I’m way into esthetics for that.

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Ok… Let’s get greedy…

I now want to mount all of this crap (H4n, LCD monitor, wireless receiver, etc) to my ULTRAcompact™ Rail/Shoulder system – which is currently sitting in pieces in my closet. Ouch. I’ve had my battles with the ULTRAcompact over the years, BUT it seems like a good time to resurrect it – mostly because I now have enough gear to attach to it.

Some of the mounting screws are messed up (from changing configurations every 10 minutes), so I have to order replacement parts. I think it will be worth it. However, the accessory world for DSLR’s has changed dramatically since I stopped looking for stuff (ie – ran out of money), and there are a number of new tasty (better) mounts available.

My system works well, but like anything, could stand a few upgrades. I’d like to ditch the LCDVF loupe for a Zacuto Z-Finder, but yeah… $350 for a viewfinder… yeah… My only justification is that I’ve worn out my LCDVF. I’ve been through 2 magnetic mounting strips, and I’ve dropped the damn thing so many time in the filed that it can now be qualified as battle-damaged. I also hate wearing the strap for it around my neck, but I like being able to take it off the screen at a moments notice.

More than anything, I covet a red stripe lens. What I wouldn’t do or give for an EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM.

*sigh*

I can dream, right?

The Usual…

August 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The last 3 months away from here are what I now refer to as “the usual gap”. I start out with the best of intentions – you know, “I’m gonna stay on top of my blog…”, but we all know how these things go.

My blog output is high when the freelance is low, as I have a ton of time on my hands. So, if you follow the logic – if I’m not here, then I’m out there… working.

And so it goes…

I’ve been freelancing at FOX for the last few months. What started out as a 6 week temp gig helping out on a major operational transition, has stretched way beyond the original time frame. It’s not like I’m complaining. If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time.

After several lean months, the commercial freelance has picked up and I’m shooting spots again. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it. This wouldn’t be my blog (and I would be remiss) if I didn’t mention some gear, so I’ll now “brag” about my latest acquisition. For those with a weak constitution and easily offended by such things, please avert your eyes. For those that need to report, prepare to take notes. For everyone else, enjoy…

I picked up an H4n(ext) digital recorder to get better sound in the field while shooting DSLR. I’ve been dicking around with a hodge-podge kludgy system before this, and for the most part, I’ve been lucky. However, it was finally time to do it right.

I was asked about the difference between the original H4n vs the “ext” model. Well, from what I can tell it does 96k and has independent left and right channel level control (only after the 1.72 firmware upgrade). There may be a few other goodies, but if you really want to know – google it. I’m lazy today. :-)

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I used it two days ago while shooting spots, and all I can say is DAMN. What a difference. I really have to stop being so cheap. I should have bought one last year, but I’m hard-headed, and I thought my ghetto-rigged solution was a clever bit of engineering. Life is so much easier with the H4n – IF – in addition to rolling the camera, you remember to press the record button on it. Yeah, got burned on a few takes, but the talent was cool. Ok, they didn’t know. I said, “Those were good, but I know the next few takes will be EVEN better…”. Yeah, it sucks, but what are ya gonna do?

I’ve now turned my attention to getting a bigger gig bag. I’ve outgrown my Canon Gadget Bag, and I’m searching for an “all in one” solution. The bag must hold my camera, lenses, wireless pack, shotgun mic, small cables, batteries, laptop AND must be airport security friendly. I’ve looked at a few and they’re spendy, but I’ll narrow down my choices and submit them to my business manager. If she approves, then I’ll order one.

Let see… What else?

Landed a great gig at The Institute of Production & Recording (IPR) co-teaching the AV200 Field, Dialog and FX Recording class with Tom, and I think that’s pretty cool.

All this, and I’m still doing the public television thing. It’s all a bit much, but hey, work hard, play harder.

I leave for an extended vacation in 8 days – after I finish editing…

Decisions, Decisions…

May 3, 2011 2 comments

I’ve been conducting my own personal digital audio workstation shootout for months, and I have to say that there is no clear cut winner. Logic, Pro Tools, REAPER and Live all bring something unique to the table – making it hard to pick just one app to work in exclusively.

Amongst the four, I find Ableton Live to be the “utility” player. I would never mix a song in it (sorry Ableton junkies), but it’s unique session view layout and workflow make it a good songwriting app. If you’re suffering from writers block, it’s hard not to get the juices flowing in Live. It shines when paired with Logic, Pro Tools or REAPER via rewire – if your into that.

—–

Logic has been my main app since 1999 (after leaving Sonar) and what can I say? I love it. It was difficult to learn, and after all these years, I only truly know about 60% of the program. I’m constantly learning new ways to work in it, and am amazed when I do. As I’ve said before, it’s the most bang for the buck out there – with it’s sample library, quality effects, scoring and mixing, it’s the full monty. Are the built-in effects Waves quality? Nope. Would anyone other than a qualified mix engineer be able to tell? Nope. Can you make a high quality out of the box recording in Logic? Yep – if you know what you’re doing.

—–

Pro Tools…. Ah, the de-facto industry standard. I would guess that 10 out of 10 songs you hear on the radio were mixed in it. I didn’t say recorded – as any program can be used for that, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that it was FINISHED in Tools. It’s hard to be taken seriously if you do not own it, or have a firm grasp of how to use it. I love it for editing. There’s nothing better. I even like mixing with it – not as much as Logic (which I find more intuitive), but Tools is hard to beat. That’s why it’s the Gold standard.

Midi composition is where it falls short, and while version 9 has made incredible strides in this area, it’s still a bit cumbersome. Again, Logic wins here. Another strike against PT in my world is stability. I get loads of errors when I run the hardware buffer lower than 256 samples, and the RTAS engine can be flaky with some plugins. PT can sometimes have a mind of it’s own. One day I can record a song from start to finish with 40+ tracks, and the very next day, it struggles to play back 3 tracks without errors.

—–

After all of that, I will say that REAPER has really stirred something in me. I have that same love/hate that I had with Logic back in ’99. Let’s be frank – it’s a convoluted, overly techie, laborious, monster of a program. There’s probably a key-command to defrost a pot roast, bake it at 350, and serve you on odd Sunday’s of each 3rd year after a quarter rotation around the Sun. It’s that deep. However, it’s the most bloat free, quality piece of music code that I’ve ever seen. Weighing in at only 36.6 MB (OSX version) installed, it’s footprint is so small that you can run it from a SD card or thumb drive. That’s crazy. Logic is 6 DVD’s worth of data, and can take 2 to 3 hours to install (depending on your computer). Heck, a typical Pro-Tools install download is 5 Gig (zipped).

REAPER doesn’t include samples or loop libraries, scoring features or a ton of effect presets. It’s not a suite per se, but it is a very capable no-nonsense DAW who’s rapid development is driven by it’s loyal user base. It’s not uncommon to submit a feature request (or bug report) today, and see it implemented/fixed days (even hours) later.

If I had to describe the app in only a few words, I’d say: kludgy, clunky, immense, customizable and powerful. The fan boys will tell you that the customization is the key. You can make REAPER behave the way you want it to. Don’t like the menu structure? Change it. Mixer layouts? Yep. Track and Project Templates? For sure. I spent an hour customizing and creating templates, and can go from launch to recording in 2 mouse clicks. The other hosts don’t come anywhere close to that. REAPER is also skinable, and a huge array of user created themes are available – even one that makes REAPER look just like Pro-Tools. I’m currently using the REACTION v4 alpha theme, which is similar to the Logic experience. Maybe that’s why I’ve been “getting” the program in recent weeks. I’ve also made good use of the Groove3 training videos by Kenny Gioia. They were instrumental in explaining the quirks and more esoteric features of the app.

So what does it all mean?

If I got a paid songwriting gig tomorrow – I’d reach for Logic. It’s what I know, and there’s not much I can’t do with it. Experience with the program counts.

If I had to edit/mix a huge project – I’d reach for Tools. Compatibilty is the name of the game, and the project will transfer to any studio in the world – just bring a hard drive with your files. A caveat: The HD version is 1000 times more stable than the native version. If I could afford the HD option, PT would be my DAW of choice.

If I had writers block or was hired to do live tour support – I’d reach for Live. Period.

For every other scenario, there’s REAPER. I’m learning it, and having a blast. The first few months caused me to pull my hair out, but now that I’ve streamlined the app, it’s fast becoming my go to. Who knows how I’m going to feel 6 months from now. There are grumblings that Logic 10 could be just around the corner.

As I stated at the top, there is no clear winner here. Each has their place, and I’m glad I have them all. At the end of the day, they’re all just tools.

Now, it’s time to go make some music….

Here’s vid of a potential bug in the v4.0alpha that I submitted to the dev team:

Some National Shine…

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

CBS Sports used the Gravity video as a cold open for the Duke/Miami game near the end of this year’s NCAA season, and I think that’s pretty cool. I got an email from Dan Knight about it, who then turned me over to his management for fulfillment.

They inquired about the tech specs – format, frame rate, etc. The video was shot with my HF-10 – 1920x1080i, 17 Mbps, AVCHD. “Gravity” was my first (and only) experience editing AVCHD natively in Adobe Premiere, and it was a nightmare to say the least. In CS4’s defense, it was more about the AVCHD than anything else. My computer was barely able to keep up with the highly compressed video in it’s native state. In reality, there’s a lot to love about Premiere (so much so that Apple had better take note), but I found that I’m more comfortable with the Final Cut Pro workflow.

CBS wanted the full frame output file (minus text), so that’s what I sent. Like everything these days, file exchange was handled via the “cloud” (Dropbox) without issue.

I actually missed the live airing on TV, but Dan’s manager requested a copy of the clip from the network, and they obliged.

Another fun and unique experience…

Categories: Video
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