03 August 2009

Dragnet! I Mean, Zaxnet!

Coffey Sound in LA will be having a demo from Robert Kennedy on Zaxcom's Zaxnet technology on Wednesday, August 5th.

Also, donuts!

07 July 2009

Inglorious Bastard

Usually if there's a seminar or industry meeting about pro sound, it understandably takes place in New York or L.A. While this is all well and good, it doesn't do much for the rest of us who don't live in the major markets unless someone takes it upon themselves to shoot and post it online.

This time around, Advanced Broadcast Solutions is offering free educational sessions inventively named "Understanding the Bastard Child of Broadcast" to folks here in the Pacific northwest. Snip, via Creative Cow:

“Audio never seems to get the respect it deserves, but it’s an essential part of television production,” said Mark Siegel, President of ABS. “With recent advancements in digital technology, audio has also become more complicated than ever. Our ‘Bastard’ tour is designed to help industry professionals stay current with audio technologies and techniques.”

The educational sessions will provide instruction on 5.1 monitoring, mixing and encoding, and creating the highest audio quality in facilities. Additional topics will include dialnorm and loudness issues, as well as the recent developments in the wireless spectrum. Program content is designed for broadcasters, but all video professionals are invited to attend...

The ABS “Understanding the Bastard Child of Broadcast” tour schedule is:
Oregon Public Broadcasting, Portland, Ore. (July 20)
KEZI, Eugene, Ore. (July 21)
KOBI, Medford, Ore. (July 22)
KSPS, Spokane, Wash. (July 24)
KCTS, Seattle, Wash. (July 27)
KBTC, Tacoma, Wash. (July 28)


06 July 2009

AES Updates Website, Adds Social Networking; Still Won't Friend Me

The venerable A.E.S. has revamped their 12-year-old website (that's 147 in internet years), adding more interactive features and media content. Snip:

"We have dramatically revamped the AES electronic library, which includes over 12,000 scientific papers published in the AES journal or presented at AES events over the past sixty years. The site has streamlined countless tasks ranging from becoming a new member to discussing Journal articles and interacting with your local AES section..."

"The new www.aes.org site provides some fantastic new social networking features with direct links to committees, Facebook-style member profiles and a highly sophisticated publication search engine" AES President Jim Anderson concludes.

"The social stuff is off the hook: you can totally 'mic' a friend to see what they're doing at any given moment, like making a sandwich or catching up on their Tivo backlog. Or, you can 'fade' a member if they turn out to be a hater, whatevs," he continued. "Thanks for the add, dude! Late...". Anderson then made an awkward hand sign of some sort and ambled off.

{Extra points to whomever can distinguish what was made up in the above.}

Link, via Pro Sound News.

01 July 2009

The Iceman Cometh...No, Wait, I Guess It's Just Randy Thom

Michael Coleman's next clip in his ongoing series for Mix Sound For Film Profile Series is up, this time talking to Randy Thom about sound design for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" Sound for Film Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.


Transducers 2: Revenge Of the Ribbon

Today, engineer emeritus Dave Moulton walks us through some basic facts about transducers, in this case microphones, and their impact on recording audio:

Also, you should know, microphones don’t detect sound the way our ears do – they lose a LOT of auditory information. A couple of lossy quirks of microphones, vis-a-vis our auditory system, need to be noted. They dramatically affect the way we use mics.

Quirk number one is that microphones cannot distinguish the angle of arrival of various sound artifacts (as our ears do), so that all artifacts are merged into a single wavetrace that does not contain directional information. At the same time , the spectrum of that wavetrace is affected by the inability of the microphone to detect frequency equally in all directions.

Quirk number two is that microphones cannot integrate sound artifacts over time and sort them by phase (as our ears do), so that all early reflections (profoundly useful spatial cues for us humans) end up being interference effects for the microphone.

The net result of these quirks is that a great deal of sonic information that us humans use to make sense of the sonic world around us is lost at the microphone. The two-dimensional map of energy over time that comes down the mic cable is NOT a reasonable representation of the aural information that we humans use.

This is all academic until you get on set, and an inexperienced producer or director will wonder why sound needs another take because of an airplane they couldn't hear, or why they need to hold the roll because of a nearby leaf blower. The mic will hear all, in a much different way than our ears (and more specifically, our brains) do; what seems like a negligible noise on set becomes insurmountable once it hits the mic diaphragm. Understanding how the mics work is tantamount to understanding how lenses capture light: you can do more with them when you fully realize their capabilities and limitations.


30 June 2009

Nerd Is the Word

Beyond being a sound mixer, I am an unrepentant film nerd. My tastes range from big-budget spectacle to experimental indie dramas; often I describe my primary filmmaking influences as "the two 'Bergs: Spielberg and Soderbergh".

As noted previously, I also have a thing for outmoded media technology. Recently, the three met in a planet-melting trifecta when Steven Soderbergh came to a roadshow screening of Che at Cinema 21 here in Portland. There was a Q & A after, where he fielded questions ranging from the political to the technical (this being one of the first full-length features shot on the RED).

Sitting down on the job: Soderbergh braves the crowd of cinema hipsters.

Beforehand, though, I was able to spy Mr. Soderbergh on the street, as he gamely and patiently signed autographs. Thinking there might a chance for a signature, I'd brought my Criterion Collection laserdisc of sex, lies and videotape. Soderbergh, eyebrows raised, held the box for a moment before noting, "There are things on here you can't get anywhere else."

Sadly, he's right. As technology continues its relentless forward march, occasionally there are extra materials (either from licensing issues, or worse, market disinterest) that aren't ported over to the newer formats. The CC laser contains a deleted scene; '89-era interviews with Soderbergh; and the script (which is also available in a wonderful book). But the most interesting is a black and white 16mm short film, entitled Winston. I always find a filmmaker's early works fascinating, as you generally find the seeds of certain visual or narrative themes that recur throughout the rest of their career.

Now, with more Soderbergh!

So, yeah, that's a particular favorite of mine. And while I'm not usually one for autographs, this one is pretty near and dear to my geeky little heart. (After he signed it, he quipped, "There. Now it's worth ten dollars.")

19 June 2009

Tet-ro, George...

Today's goodie comes to us courtesy of Michael Coleman, part of his ongoing series of videos on sound-for-picture for Mix Magazine Online (he has a dedicated channel on Vimeo that you can subscribe to here).

In this clip, re-recording mixer Pete Horner talks about the soundscapes created for Francis Ford Coppola's upcoming film, Tetro.

Please to enjoy:

"Tetro" Sound for Film Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

(And yeah, the title's a bit of a leap for a lame joke, but cut me some slack; this is pre-coffee bloggage here, people....)


06 June 2009

Einstein Was Probably One Of Them

Oh. Hey.

Remember that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? When all those people that had been missing, some for more than thirty years, and then suddenly they're returned by the "benevolent" aliens who had forcibly abducted them, and they're dazed and disoriented, and they have, like, all of this catching up to do, having been gone, and out of touch, and waaaay out of town, for the aforementioned thirty years? Remember? With the Carlo Rimbaldi puppets and the sunglasses and the swelling music score and Lance Henriksen in a non-speaking role as one of the government agents?

Yeah, it's kind of like that....

So, yeah, I'm back. Besides the rather trying task of finishing up the post mix on Everyman's War (why did I choose a war movie as my first feature-length post project?), I also took on another feature as Production Sound Mixer. My second full feature, Golf in the Kingdom was shot on location at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the coast of Oregon. Caddyshack quotes abounded, as did the unpredictable weather. We were pounded by wind and rain and by the occasional errant golf ball, but we survived.

The temperamental Oregon coastal weather...

The movie was shot on the RED ONE, so we opted for double system with dumb slates. We rolled a Sound Devices 744t in a triple mirroring mode, which meant that we were always recording audio to three places: the internal hard drive, the internal compact flash, and an external bus-powered Lacie Rugged firewire drive. At the end of each day, I would make an archival back up to DVD-R, then hand the Lacie over to DIT Sean Rawls. Sean would then do a drag'n'drop of the day's audio onto the same hard drive as the picture files, and then ship that drive to post. After a few discussions with the DP and post, it was decided that we would shoot and cut at 23.976 frames per second, and then pull up the entire film to 24 frames at the DI stage. This meant that we would keep our sample rate at 48 khz, since the frame rate wouldn't change between shooting and cutting.

Boom swinging was shared between Creed Spencer and Eric Goldstein. We employed a smorgasbord of mics, dependent on gear availability (low-budget show) and the needs of the scene. Exteriors were handled by Neumann KMR-81 and Sennheiser 416 short shotguns; wireless duties were split between Lectrosonic 200s, 187s, and Sennheiser G-2s. Sanken COS-11 and Countryman EMW and B3 lavs fed the wireless.

Invisible boom pole: Creed Spencer rocking Bandon, OR

Considering the fact that we would be traipsing across open golf courses, I bought a beefier cart for the show: the Rock N Roller Multicart with a top shelf option and pneumatic tires. While it lacks the lip of a Magliner (convenient for attaching clamps for hanging cables), we made do, and the cart got us where we needed to go.

A camera, a cart and a stump

This was my first film gig with name talent. Being professional about that sort of thing means minding your manners and simply going about your business, which I managed to do for the most part. But, at one point, I had my head buried in the cart trying to work out a technical issue, and Malcolm MacDowell completely ambushed me by politely introducing himself, causing my brain to completely blank itself like a shaken Etch-a-Sketch. I finally muttered, "Hello, my name's Christian," to which he replied, "Are you sure?" My boom op found it a lot funnier than I did.

Welly welly well. From left: Tony Curren, Julian Sands, Mason Gamble, David O'Hara, and Mr. MacDowell.

At any rate, I'm back, and will be posting more consistently, though I ask you to bear with the first few, which will involve a lot of not-so-news as I clear my "to be blogged" folder.

Stay tuned.

24 March 2009

Post Toasted

Still alive, sports fans. For the past few weeks, I've been up to my neck in a post project, doing the sound mix on the WWII film Everyman's War. I have to say, it's been interesting to do post work on my own production tracks. I firmly believe that knowing post can make you better in the field.

This is my first post mix for a full length feature, as well as my first 5.1 mix. I'm running Soundtrack Pro, and despite the occasional quirks, it's been handling things rather well. A full post-mortem of my travails will be forthcoming.

I'm solo on this one, doing the work of what is typically a department of two or three people. This has made for long days and weekends spent in the post cave, with little time to devote to other things, like writing this blog and turning 35. And dealing with writing things like "I just turned 35...". {new demographic sigh}

But, this being a tech/nerd blog rather than the typical public diary, I will spare you the nitty gritties about what I'm wearing, eating, listening to, etc. (that's what my neglected Twitter feed is for...ostensibly), and dive right in to a recap of things that happened that you probably already know about, but I feel deserve mention anyway.

First up, a couple of updates from yonder Trew Audio:

Remote Audio's Boom Cable System with Talkback - now available for the Sound Devices 442 Mixer

Now, even 442 users can gossip and talk smack about those pesky "actors".

Next, another installment of Trew Audio Flow, with Glen Trew taking the reins himself with a missive entitled Yes, We Should EQ On Set. Snip:

Many production sound mixers are reluctant (afraid) to use their EQ. Often, this stems from indoctrination early in their careers by discussions with post production mixers. “Don’t turn the EQ knobs… I’ll do that stuff later” (read this again with reverb added for effect). But the fact is that under-EQ-ing (not using the EQ controls enough) is an improper use of EQ every bit as much as over-EQ-ing is. If there is any use for a Sound Mixer’s fear of the EQ controls on their equipment, it is to motivate the Mixer to be as mindful of not using the controls enough as they are of using them too much.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I tend to agree that really heavy EQ/mixing should happen later, in an acoustically treated environment, away from the heat of battle. Of course, I've never done post work with tracks provided by someone with Mr. Trew's years of experience, either; I'm sure I'd probably amend my opinion after such a project.

At any rate, this is how I roll (literal zing!) in the field: I high pass most everything at around 80 Hz to do away with any residual boom rumble or to ameliorate the "chestiness" inherent in lav mics (due to proximity effect and placement), but that's about it. They keep hiring me, so I must be doing something right. Maybe it's my minty fresh breath...

Speaking of post, they recently announced the winners of the Sonopedia Sound Design Competition. To recap:

In November 2008, Post Magazine and Blastwave FX teamed up to sponser the first SONOPEDIA Sound Design Competition. The challenge was to create a 30 second sound design narrative using any of the 40 sound effects that was available to download free from Blastwave FX. The winner received SONOPEDIA™ - 20,000 HD sound effects on a 250 GB Glyph hard drive. The competition was judged by Academy Award winners Richard King, Randy Thom, and Lon Bender.

Yours truly made it into the top 20 (apparently, bribery is still quite effective). Here's my entry, entitled UFO Factory Tour:

And that, as they say, is that. TTFN, kids.

12 February 2009

You Bring the Wireless, I'll Bring the Beer

This just in from Coffey Sound:
Zaxcom BBQ Lunch
Saturday Feb 14, 2009
Anytime between 11:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
3325 Cahuenga Blvd W.
Hollywood, CA 90068

Zaxcom and Coffey Sound invite you to view the release of two new Zaxcom products and a very exciting update to the Deva and Fusion mutitrack location recorders.

1.) The TRX992 single channel transmitter is a single device solution for wireless boom pole transmission, IFB return, headphone monitoring and backup recording.

2.) Fusion 12 is a 100% solid state recorder that records 12 isolated tracks for a mix of up to 16 total analog and digital inputs.

3.) The Deva/Fusion Display upgrade offers a significant improvement in visibility in all lighting conditions. The new display is 3 times brighter and higher contrast than the existing Deva/Fusion display. The new display can be installed in any existing Deva 4,5,5.8,16 and Fusion at any Zaxcom dealer.


03 February 2009

Laserdisc Is Dead As Disco; Beta and 8-Track Both Send Regards Via Western Telegram

As an unrepentant film nerd, I have to say I'm a bit sad to hear it said aloud: Pioneer recently announced that they would officially end production of laserdisc players.

Laserdisc has always has a special place in my heart. For a considerable time, it was the highest quality consumer video format available. It offered about 400 lines of resolution (roughly double that of VHS), increased color bandwidth, and due to being an optical format, didn't wear out with repeated viewings. Here, let's let Devo (!) explain it better for us:


Later in its life cycle, laserdisc came to be the first consumer video format to offer digital sound, initially in the form of two 44.1 kHz, 16 bit PCM tracks, and later 5.1 surround sound via Dolby Digital and D.T.S. Finally, the home viewer could enjoy near printmaster quality audio in their home theater.

Due to its increased visual quality, there emerged a market for remastering old video transfers of classic films. Boutique companies like Criterion sprang up, raising the bar for home video releases by insisting on letterboxing to achieve proper aspect ratios, finding and offering other content like outtakes and deleted scenes as "extras", and utilizing the spare analog audio channels to offer running commentaries on the movies themselves. Essentially, everything that we've come to take for granted on DVD and now Blu-Ray was introduced first on laserdisc.

Laserdiscs always kind of felt like the vinyl of video. It shared the same 12" form factor, allowing for bigger cover art, as well as a more satisfying tactile experience; when you hold a movie on laser, it has a heft and solidity. It just feels a little more special.

Boxsets were something to behold. They were called "coffee table editions", being about the same size as a large photo book. Since everyday consumers weren't their target market, studios could take more care with the production of their boxsets, packing them with material to appeal to die-hard aficianados. One of the best I've seen is Universal's Jaws: Signature Collection, released in 1995. It addtion to a remastered transfer of the film, it included a new 2 hour documentary, a CD of the soundtrack, and a paperback copy of the novel.

Now Jaws-ier than ever!

Lasers never enjoyed the success in the US and Europe that they did in Japan. You couldn't record to blanks to time-shift TV like you could with Beta and later VHS. Consequently, prices for both players and discs never fell from premium levels.

Enter DVD. Despite being compressed, it offered a component signal, eliminating the decoding artifacts that plague composite formats like VHS, Beta and laserdisc, as well as anamorphic video, allowing it take advantage of widescreen displays that were starting to appear in the marketplace. (Laserdisc actually offered anamorphic video first, in the form of "squeeze LDs", which never caught on in the states). DVD was smaller, lighter, cheaper; it was also digital, which was fast becoming market-speak for "better".

Lasers became relegated to Ebay and collectors. For years, it was the only way to get high-quality letterboxed versions of the Indiana Jones trilogy, as well as the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars films. (It's still the only way to get a widescreen copy of the original version of THX-1138.)

Most will tell you that an analog, standard definition format could never hold a candle to a digital high-def one (even though laserdiscs were the first platform to offer a high-def video format to consumers, in a variant known as MUSE Hi-Vision that was sold in Japan). They're most likely right, but the home video market wouldn't exist as we know it today without lasers. The extra quality set the bar higher than VHS, and brought the enhanced viewing experiences of widescreen, surround sound, and archival extras to the homes of film fans for the first time.

Sigh..Watch, now they're gonna tell me that they've stopped making parts for my Kloss Nova Beam Front Projection TV:

You Like Listening To Me! You REALLY Like Listening To Me!

2009 Oscar noms for sound are in:

Best Sound Editing
• The Dark Knight - Richard King
• Iron Man - Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire - Tom Sayers
• WALL-E - Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
• Wanted - Wylie Stateman

Best Sound Mixing
• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Mark Weingarten
• The Dark Knight - Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
Slumdog Millionaire - Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
• WALL-E - Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt
• Wanted - Chris Jenkins, Frank A. MontaƱo, Petr Forejt

Why they still insist on breaking up editing and mixing, I'll never know.

Link, via Pro Sound News.

BEC Bows Hot Shoe Mount; Manolo Blanik Reportedly Not Losing Sleep

Via Trew Audio, Pro Location Sound, et al:

BEC has introduced a hot shoe mount that mates their custom-fitted wireless receiver sleeves to smaller-format camcorders. The mount is a standard hot shoe post, with four mounting screws to hold any of BEC's existing sleeves.

The folks over at Trew Audio have put together a hand-dandy demo clip. Please to enjoy:

BEC Horizontal Hot Shoe Demo from Trew Audio on Vimeo.

MSRP: $70.00


12 January 2009

Lyre, Lyre, Pants On-Well, You Know...

Rycote's new Lyre clips are now available in upgrade kits, for use in existing mic suspensions. Snip, via Trew Audio:

There are 2 basic upgrade choices: Lyre webs along with a suspension-appropriate mic connector (i.e. a Connbox or XLR mic tail); or a set of Lyres only....

Installation of either upgrade option is very simple as the Lyres and the Connbox mount to existing threaded holes in your suspension bar. With these upgrades, Rycote is providing a great opportunity to acquire the latest suspension technology for your Modular suspension system at a very reasonable price.


"Good evening Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press..."

[Walter Winchell Voice]

By steamer and clipper alike, your faithful reporter has finally returned to his post, armed with the latest and greatest in news pertaining to sound-for-picture. Let's see what's hot off the ticker, boys:

First up, we have veteran sound mixer Dennis Maitland, talking about his trials and tribulations as a pioneering mixer, tussling with the likes of Jackie Gleason over at CBS. Who knew ol' Jackie had such a blue streak?

Next, we have two different takes on the Sound Devices CL-8 controller. Nick Huston over at Gotham Sound only got his mitts on it for about an hour, whereas whippersnapper Sklyor Morgan from Trew Audio was able to set a spell with the contraption. The word on the street is that eight is pretty great, if you can fork over the clams.

Stay tuned, folks. After this message from our sponsors, we'll be right back to dish on the dames from high society in swingin' Manhattan. Here's a hint: Dorothy Parker and the gang from the Algonquin got into another tizzy with the bartender over their sizable tab. When confronted by the manager, Ms. Parker was overheard to say, "I'd settle up, but that would involve standing up." Zowie!