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.
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…
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.
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.
I can dream, right?
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.
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?
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…
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:
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…
Every now and then, while walking the halls at work, I stumble upon something cool. We produce a lot of original programming here, and given that, we work with a number of local artist (musicians, authors, painters, performers, etc).
Today I came upon the audio setup for “Minnesota Originals” (MNO – for short). The music segments for the show are usually done in bulk – recording and taping 8 (or so) bands over several days. The performances are then edited with accompanying interviews and spread out over the course of a season.
Of course the audio setup caught my eye, and after a brief run through by Joe, I was allowed to take a few pics.
It’s a round-about way to record bands, but the setup offers a high degree of options for post. Eight discreet channels are recorded directly into Final Cut, so the editor has options for a rough mix while cutting. In addition, the audio is mult’ed to a separate system (through a MOTU/DigiMAX combo). Those tracks then get mixed by Joe in Pro Tools after receiving picture-lock from the editor, and that mix is re-synced in FCP for the final line cut.
It’s a round-about way to go, but it ensures that show will sound great for air.
I get to “look over their shoulders” for the next show taping. Now that is cool…
I’ve been shooting a spot for a local pizza shop in the northern suburbs. I did cover shots last week, and stand-ups yesterday. The client couldn’t have been more gracious and accommodating, and the taco pizza they made for me was spectacular – perks of the job.
Our pitch man was running late, and after setup, we kibitzed about all things pizza. The client began recounting the lurid tales of the delivery business – a pizza man confessions of sorts.
While I’m not going to recount them here, I will say, there are all kinds out there. I was amazed by the number of people that answer the door with little or no clothes on. I mean really… Who orders a pizza and doesn’t bother to get dressed when it arrives?
The client was quick to point out that it’s never like you imagine it – your Angelina Jolie types always answer the door fully clothed – so my hopes of becoming a delivery-man-for-a-day were quickly dashed. They didn’t have stats, but it seems to be a guy thing – in that guys are more likely to answer the door in some weird & strange manner. I find this odd, but not surprising.
It did get me thinking though… With all of the reality shows out there, I’d love to see a series on the trials and tribulations of a pizza delivery person.
Hmmmm… Maybe Dominos might let me do a few ride alongs, you know, “Cops” style.
I love what I learn on the job…
I was bored and needed a distraction, so I made this…
An original recording mashup of Sheila E.’s “A Love Bizarre” and The Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up” done Minneapolis style. The version is not yet complete.
Produced & Recorded by Terry Gray
All instruments & Voices by Terry
I’m a sucker for ergonomics, and I’m constantly trying to improve my comfort level while working.
As my gear has expanded, I found myself outgrowing my workstation. There wasn’t enough room for both computers, mice, controller, drives, keyboards, etc.
So it was off to IKEA, the most magical place on Earth, for a new desk. Because IKEA stuff is modular (and all kinds of awesome), all I had to do was buy a new table top, and use the legs from my current desk.
My work area has expanded and there’s now room for everything. I still have some ergonomic issues to work out – I need a new (bigger) trackball mouse and a chair with arms. There there’s the matter of exact placement, but it’s coming along. Having everything in one place is worth it’s weight in gold.
The 1st rule of Reaper alpha testing is: Do not talk about Reaper alpha testing. Yes, it is indeed a public alpha (that we shouldn’t be discussing), but there are a growing number of sites singing its praises. Count me in as a +1.
It’s funny how at some point on the journey of learning, you go “Ahhhhhhhhhhh… Now I get it…..”.
I’m beginning to have more of these “a-ha” moments with Reaper, and I must say, it’s a pretty slick program. I’ve also realized that some of my early complaints are actually due to bad plug-in coding, and NOT Reaper itself.
I still maintain that Reaper’s learning curve is steeper than it needs to be, but with each new alpha, it gets easier to use. It’s also fun tracking its development, and the two way communication between users and the devs at the forum is second to none. I only wish Apple, Ableton and Avid did the same. I just noticed that all of those companies start with an A.
My “wow moment” so far has been the sheer number of plug-ins that can be loaded. Native Instrument’s new Reaktor Prism is an insane processor hog that taxes Ableton Live and brings Pro Tools and Logic to their collective knees (with buffer settings 128 and lower).
Reaper doesn’t break a sweat with Reaktor 5, and I was able to load that with Battery, Sampletank and several KORE Player instances. All played nicely together with Reaper, reporting only 7 to 12% CPU usage. That’s stupefyingly cool.
I’m still very much at home with Logic, but grow more attached to Reaper with each update. I keep telling myself that it’s still in Alpha (with several bugs), but the final product could shake the DAW industry. That’s not hype.
I’ve said it before – Logic remains the best bang for the buck out there for what you get, but consider that Reaper 4 + Native Instruments Komplete 7 (virtual instruments) and Waves Gold (processing effects) would be a power house setup and all you’d ever need.
The total cost of that package would be around $1100 retail, and you could certainly go without the Waves package – it’s just nice to have. Taking that into account, Reaper and Komplete 7 are roughly the same price as Logic Pro 9, and at this point, offers more flexibility.
Exciting times indeed…