28 October 2008

Zaxcom Says, "Screw 11, We're Going To 12."

Zaxcom, makers of fine digital audio gadgetry, have recently introduced the Fusion 12 Multichannel Recorder/ Mixer.

The Fusion 12 is a twelve input, eight output mixer, with a full twelve channels of recording capability. Like the original Fusion, it is solid-state only, allowing for lighter weight in addition to increased battery life. The two Compact Flash cards will record simultaneously to provide built-in redundancy.

"Our new Fusion 12 blends the rugged durability and performance characteristics of a solid state recorder with the maneuverability of an in-bag audio mixer and recorder," said Glen Saunders, president of Zaxcom. "Also, there's a button that will play an MP3 of Danke Shoen, but you'll just have to guess which one." [Part of the above was made up. -Ed.]

And, since the first-gen Fusion was whining about feeling left out of everything, Zaxcom engineers rolled their eyes and gave it two extra channels, bringing its total to ten. Original owners can upgrade for free.

Link, via Studio Daily.


16 October 2008

White Space Invaders


I'm trying my darndest to stay abreast of the labyrinthine changes going on with the 700 MHz spectrum and its white spaces (witness the new RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog).

But honestly, it boggles the mind sometimes. I'm approaching things from the perspective of an audio professional, but the issue is so much more far-reaching than our industry alone. Rapidly, it is becoming one of internet access, gatekeeping, and the major carriers scrambling to put the genie back in the bandwidth bottle, even though we, as tax paying American citizens, own the spectrum ourselves.

Recently, the FCC approved a proposal for free nationwide wireless broadband, but in the AWS-3 band, which resides around 2155-2180 MHz. I've stated before that I think that every person on earth should have free, wireless internet access provided to them, and this proposal is a definite step in the right direction. It would be content-filtered for kids (adults can opt-out), and tiered in terms of speed: low-speed for free, high-speed for a fee.

The carriers, of course, are getting a bit itchy. If this plan reaches the intended penetration levels, it would seriously threaten the status quo. After all, why would someone pay for something they legally get for free? Ultimately, it would force their hands to either offer true broadband that the rest of the developed world enjoys (rather than the trickling faucet we're now being gouged for), or lower their prices.

But whither the 700 MHz band, that unlicensed spectrum that TV, film, sports events, live shows and houses of worship have all built themselves upon? Some is being allotted to first responders, with little argument from anyone. But the rest is still up in the air, no pun intended. Seeing as how a national internet initiative was given the green light in another band, you'd think we were out of the woods, but not so. Already, the FCC has outlawed the further sale of any new wireless microphones in those blocks.

I said before that I'd be perfectly willing to sacrifice that spectrum if it meant open internet access for low-income people. But since the current proposal is in a totally different band, the 700 Mhz white spaces are going to be put to use (primarily by AT&T and Verizon) for a new generation of wireless devices (iPhone et al).

While a schmancy mobile internet device can be a good thing (indeed, I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on a G-1), it certainly isn't the same as providing a public service like net access to the general public. The already crowded airwaves just became standing-room only, which will force the aforementioned industries to adapt, at great cost, which, of course will be passed on to the consumer. For TV, this most likely means more commercials; for live shows and sporting events, higher ticket prices.

The 500 pound gorillas here are the major carriers. The coveted spectrum is an untapped market for selling lucrative data plans to existing mobile subscribers, though it ultimately seems a bit short-sighted. A medium is nothing without content, and the carriers have just caused the content creators' baseline costs to rise.

For example, one of the most appealing things about reality television (which could not exist without dependable wireless microphones) is the incredible margins; it's dirt-cheap to produce. If this kind of cash cow goes away due to increasing technical costs, all content is going to go up in price. This, in turn, will mean increased licensing costs for the carriers to access that content, which means that data plans either remain at their initial price points and become less profitable (unlikely), or they become so expensive that customers are put off. Sure, people will always want email and SMS, but a real time-suck like watching TV clips online is what keeps the data meter running.

On the other hand, this may encourage a return to more scripted fare by the networks (which, while modern production styles still require wireless, a handful of actors on a set for short takes is a far cry from the "wire everyone and roll" MO of reality). This paradigmatic shift could provide an outlet for new talent and ideas if the industry goes back to the narrative storytelling upon which it built its foundations. It may foster a return to more substantive content, rather than the cotton candy ephemera that dominates today.

One can always hope.

Article round up:

Free WiFi? That's So 22nd Century

FCC Clears Free National Internet Plan
America May Get Broadband For Free, But Porn Will Cost You
AWS-3, white spaces clear initial hurdles but will they survive?

FCC, Wireless Providers at Odds Over Plan for Unused Airwaves

FCC set to vote on white-space issue Nov. 4

In Spectrum Auction, Winners Are AT&T, Verizon and Openness

Soundtrack Pro Tempore

Two Soundtrack Pro items today (although, I have to say, the honeymoon's almost over for me. I've been having numerous issues with nearly daily crashes and other assorted weirdness. As a fellow postie mused, "It's more like 'Soundtrack Prosumer'." There's still a lot I like, so I've got my fingers crossed for STP 3.0).

First up, from geniusdv.com: Spectrum View in Soundtrack Pro.

In Soundtrack Pro, we're all used to seeing waveforms when we open up clips. But there's another perspective on the sound that, while it's a little more scary at first, can be almost as useful once you figure it out. You can separate some sounds from others, spot areas with funny spikes that don't show up in the waveform, and even copy and paste specific sounds from within a flat clip. With practice, you can even begin to recognize the "fingerprints" of individual words. They call this view ... Spectrum View.

Next, via LarryJordan.com: Reducing Noise in Soundtrack Pro 2.

One of the exciting features in Soundtrack Pro is its ability to reduce background noise.

Notice that I said "reduce," not eliminate. If you need to remove a sound, you'll need to re-record the audio. If, on the other hand, you just want greater separation between your speaker and the background, this tool can do the trick.

Well, back into the trenches for me. I've got a twenty minute mix that's been dogging me for months. You won't best me, Soundtrack Pro! [shakes fist to the heavens]

Neutrik Intros Unisex Connector, Making Barrels Obsolete; Donkey Kong Shopping Resume Around

Called the ConvertCon (not to be confused with the "Conversion Convention '08"), the connector utilizes a sliding collar, allowing it to mate with either a female or male XLR.

Other features include an improved strain-relief collar and a durable zinc shell.

I wonder if it's truly cost effective for high-volume cable makers to change over, since barrels, while essential, are usually needed only once in a while. Personally, I think it's brilliant; when you're bagged up and run'n'gun, the last thing you want to do is add weight with a full "goody package" of adapters.

Via Post Magazine.


15 October 2008

Why So Sibilant?

Via Post Magazine: MPSE Sound Show to look at Dark Knight Soundtrack.


The MPSE Sound Show (www.MPSE.org) returns to Hollywood on October 27th, with a sonic exploration into the world of this summer's Batman movie from Warner Bros. Pictures, The Dark Knight...

Excerpts of the movie will be presented with special "pre-dub" mixes to illustrate the variety of elements used to create an environment of serious sound...

The MPSE Sound Show will take place at 8:00pm on Monday, October 27th, and will be held at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre in the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood...

Present will be sound designer Richard King, music editor Alex Gibson, and composer Hans Zimmer.

See, it's stuff like this that frustrates me about not living in LA. I made my choice, based on a life/work balance, among other things, and I'm happy here in PDX. I just wish the powers-that-be could cut through the Gordian Knot of licensing to be able to post video of events like these on MPSE's website for the rest of us (or offer it as an extra on Blu-Ray, hint hint...).


funny pictures
moar funny pictures

06 October 2008

The Interview Recorder Blues

Skylor Morgan over at The Trew Audio Flow reviews the JK Audio Bluepack audio interface. Snip:

The BluePack is about the same size as a production intercom style belt pack. The bottom panel has a XLR mic input for a dynamic interview microphone such as the Electro-voice RE-50B...

The Bluetooth system allows pairing to any cell phone with Bluetooth 2.0 capabilities. The bandwidth of a cellular phone is only 3.4 kHz, however, with a professional microphone, preamp, and monitoring system the user instantly improves the audio quality before it goes through the cell phone compression...

Radio remotes and television news reporters find the most obvious uses for the system. In the world of radio, dialing via an analog phone line for sports, remote promotions, etc. are diminishing if not completely gone...

In situations where wireless duplex intercoms are not available, the BluePack is a relatively inexpensive solution for production communications...

MSRP: @ $495


04 October 2008

Sound Devices CL-8 Available Soon; Still Waiting on Clever Pun Title

Via Trew Audio: The Sound Devices CL-8 is now available for pre-order.

The CL-8 is a mixing panel extension for the 788T, adding the big operator-friendly fader pots of the 442 to the recorder, as well as two aux recording tracks, bringing the total track count to ten. They say it's cart-friendly, but the boxy form-factor seems like it would be better utilized in a bag. Snip:

The CL-8 provides rotary faders, high pass filters, limiters, polarity switching, and mute functions for each input. With the CL-8's associated firmware upgrade the 788T also adds two pre- or post- fader aux recording tracks for more versatile tracking needs. Above each fader are three buttons, one each for limiter, high-pass, and polarity...
A slate mic function and headphone solos are also added.

The CL-8 mounts with screws and interfaces with the 788T via a standard USB cable. While this makes finding replacement cables in the field a no-brainer, it does raise a concern about dislodging the cable while run-n-gun, as the USB isn't a locking connector like the XLR. Time will tell if this becomes an issue or not.


03 October 2008

Pro Tools 8 Announced

Via Modulate This:

At first glance, the most noticeable new feature in Pro Tools 8 is its striking user interface, which has been stylishly enhanced with a more modern color palette, as well as higher-contrast text and graphics. This redesigned user interface frames a dramatically expanded set of creative tools and a host of features for music creators, editors, mixers, and post production professionals. All the key Pro Tools functions that users rely on are still right where they should be, but enhancements, such as dockable Editor windows and a configurable Edit window toolbar, make it easier to navigate than ever before.


01 October 2008

Sound Effects Contest (Michael Winslow Not Eligible)

Via Post Magazine (unnecessary exclamation points theirs):

The SONOPEDIA™ Sound Design Competition

Attention all sound designers! Post Magazine is teaming up with HD sound effects library publisher Blastwave FX to sponsor the first SONOPEDIA Sound Design Competition. Everyone from game audio designers to feature film mixers will have a chance at winning SONOPEDIA, The Encyclopedia of HD Sound Effects.

Register now!

• Download 40 free sound effects by Blastwave FX
• Design and submit a 30 second sound design narrative
• Award-Winning judges will select the Winner
• The Winner will receive SONOPEDIA™ - 20,000 HD sound effects on a 250 GB Glyph hard drive.

Judges will include Randy Thom, Lon Bender, and Richard King. Entrants must register on the Post site, and will have until November 14th to turn in their mix.


P.S. A little of Mr. Winslow for those of you who are rusty on their Police Academy canon: