19 March 2008

When It Rains, It...Well, You Know

Apparently, I have been living under a bigger rock than usual.

Right on the heels of the Zaxcom Fusion* come two other combo units, both from legacy names in the film sound biz and all aimed squarely for the same market.

First up, the Nagra VI. The Kudelski folks enjoy a well-earned reputation for pretty much defining modern production recording with their 1/4" reel-to-reel decks. I'm embarrassed to admit I've never used one myself, but from all accounts, they were built like tanks, if tanks were built like beautiful watches. Snip:

It offers six independent analogue audio inputs. Inputs 1 - 4 are equipped with traditional NAGRA microphone pre-amplifiers for dynamic and phantom +48V microphones...
The NAGRA VI records to a 120GB internal 2.5" hard disk. An extractable compact Flash card is used to record a copy of the audio tracks depending on the users track selections. The NAGRA VI allows approximately 20 minutes of 6 track 48 kHz 24-bit recording per GB of available disk / card space.

Next, the Sonosax SX-M32. A fairly common name on the audio cart, Sonosax won a Techinical Achivement Award for creating the SX-S in 1983, a veritable workhorse mixer for film recording. Their foray into the ENG/EFP looks just as interesting. Snip:

# Electronically balanced Mic/Line Input, XLR connectors
# 48V Phantom for Mic power
# Pre LF Cut for rough wind conditions - PAD - Phase reversal
# Input trim on the front panel for easy Mic Gain adjustment, retractable
# Sweep LF Cut, retractable
# Mix routing by PAN Pot
# Stereo and MS linking of channel 1/2 - 3/4 and 5/6
# M/S Decoder
# PFL for rapid channel monitoring
# Limiter on each channel
# Stereo AUX Input assignable to the MIX or to Track 7&8
# Electronically balanced Line Outputs, XLR connectors
# AES Digital Out, 44,1 and up to 192kHz@24bits
# Integrated 8 Tracks Recorder on Hard disk and CF Card, with specifications similar to these of the MINIR82

Since this writer is on the lower end of the Wechsler Scale, it thankfully doesn't take a genius to see that all of these units are clearly aiming for Sound Devices' territory: highly portable (ie "baggable"); rugged, high quality builds; four tracks-plus recording capability; and stereo mixdown for a camera feed. Here's hoping that the market opens up and prices come down a bit.



*A Fusion sample is on its way here, and a review will be forthcoming.

06 March 2008

Petrol PEGZ-1F Eargonizer Audio Bag

Choosing an audio rig is about as personal as shopping for shoes. You need something both functional and comfortable. You need something that will hold all of your necessary gear securely while allowing unfettered access. And as with most things that blend the technical with the creative, the tool becomes an extension of the operator. A well designed bag and harness keeps things close and open, while bearing the load comfortably during a full day's work.

Those of us who do not have tentacles in place of regular arms will certainly appreciate the PEGZ-1F Eargonizer from Petrol. Petrol has enjoyed a well-earned reputation for making some of the more MacGuyver-style gear bags on the market; the 1F is no exception.

Essentially a re-design, the 1F has one critical difference: the cable access ports have been moved forward, away from the operator's body. Rather than having the mixer against you, it also is mounted forward, providing better ergonomic access for those who need it. (It must be said, for those of us out there who spend more time lifting pints than pounds, not having your meters blocked by a rolling gut counts for something.)

Observe, class.

The 1F is constructed of the same rugged blue ballistic nylon and high-visibility orange fleece lining as the rest of Petrol's product line. Upon first glance, the bag is identical to the previous model. It's only when you actually mount a mixer that you can see the well-thought out differences.

In addition to moving the mixer forward, there are also new triple d-ring mounting points across the top, allowing you more flexibility to rig the bag on a harness, distributing weight more efficiently. Trust me, after a 12 hour day bagged up and on your feet, your back will appreciate even the slightest comfort adjustment.

The new d-rings (not to be confused with E-Ring, which was cancelled due to bad ratings).

And finally, there is a larger, transparent window across the removable top flap. Not only does it allow you full visibility while keeping the bag's contents covered from rain and dust, it also had a dual-zippered system that can re-size the flap on-the-fly. The system can be configured to allow even the most ham-fisted of you to get both hands in the bag to adjust faders or change out batteries, all the while keeping the gear nice and dry.

The 1F keeps the other features that made the first one so useful, including a whole bag of hook and loop dividers and pads, allowing almost infinite variability to meet just about any configuration you may need. Smartly, the designers included two internal cavities sized for NP-1 batteries, keeping them out of sight and out of the way. The bag comes standard with two of Petrol's very nifty wireless pouches, that are designed to clip on the bag at a variety of locations, including the harness, should you need to move a receiver up the body a bit to gain clearer reception.

The super-secret battery compartments.

But the bag may not meet everyone's needs. I generally go out with a 442 and two or three Sennheiser G2's. The wireless are pretty small and light, compared to, say, Lectros, so the 1F covers me just fine. However, should you need space for more receivers, and /or a recording deck (the majority of my paid work is single-system), then you may wish to consider a larger bag up the line, or another manufacturer. As of right now, the 1F (the smallest of the line) is the only one available with the forward-mounting option.

Using the PEGZ-1F on a recent HGTV shoot with DP Christopher Nolan.

Pros: Usual Petrol build; extremely customizable internal wiring structure; more ergonomic forward mounting of mixer; exterior mounting pouches for wireless.

Cons: may be too small for over-the-shoulder double-system, or larger numbers of wireless receivers.

MSRP: $283


05 March 2008

And I'm All Out Of "Snap" Jokes...

Audio Ease's Snapper is a new audio utility that streamlines a lot of the grunt work of audio post: locating, transcoding and track-splitting happen directly in OS X's finder (sorry, Mac only right now), without having to open a separate app. Snip, from multimediashooter.com:

When you select an audio file in the Mac Finder, Snapper immediately appears right beneath the current window, showing you the wave form. In the Snapper wave form you can select a part of the sound file and:
• drag it out, to create a new file.
• upload it to your Pro Tools cursor.
• turn the selection into an mp3 file.
• split stereo files into separate .L and .R files or vise versa
• convert to mp4 and attach it to an email in one go.
• export to AIFF, WAV, BWF, mp3, or m4a.

But the demo video must be seen to be believed. Very, very fast and simple. If only all DAWs were this lean.



Today is apparently Zaxcom day here at the offices of sync.sound.cinema (and by offices, I mean the beat-up easy chair I bought from Goodwill for seven bucks ten years ago).

The big Z just announced that they are now shipping their new 16-track recorder, the Deva 16. Snip:

The Deva 16 provides fault-tolerant, multi-disk recording with automatic file recovery to safeguard audio even in the event of an unexpected power failure. The system provides eight analog mic/line inputs with 48V phantom power, four additional analog line inputs, eight analog inputs, and eight digital direct outputs...

The unit records to three internal storage mediums or directly to an external FireWire drive without the use of additional computers...Audio pros can refer to the Deva Sound Report, a new feature that generates an Excel file of all metadata that was entered during production.

And yes, I checked: the unit will make you coffee in the morning.

Link, via postmagazine.com.

Zaxcom Fusion Mixer/Recorder

Zaxcom, makers of high-end digital recorders and wireless, have introduced the Fusion Combination Mixer/Recorder. Snip from coffeysound.com:

Zaxcom's newest product, the Fusion, offers the cumulative functionality of an 8 channel ENG mixer and portable recorder by offering the proven technology of the DEVA in a smaller more affordable package... Fusion features 8 analog inputs via full-sized XLR connectors and 8 AES digital inputs via a 15-pin D-sub...These sixteen inputs can be mixed to 4, 6 or 8 record tracks (upgrade option) using the 8 assignable fader knobs on the front panel.

At $7995 for the basic configuration, it feels a little spendy for the ENG/indie market, but considering the features and capabilities of the unit, the price feels reasonable. It's also interesting to see so much horsepower in such a compact chassis; the Fusion looks like it could free up a good chunk of mixing cart real estate all by itself.

Recently, they held a demo at Coffey Sound to introduce the Fusion (video clip below courtesy of Coffey Sound). Please to enjoy:

Link to Zaxcom product page.

Link to Coffey Sound Catalog page.