Monday, December 31, 2012

SNR Playlist #4 King Animal

On our last podcast, Jon and I talked about bands selling out. Mainly the difference between selling out to the man, and selling out stadiums. For a minute, I think I was trying to nail down what album I would cover, when I got enough time to do some research and write another playlist segment. It was in between Cee Lo Greens new Christmas album, and Soundgardens new(ish) album, King Animal.

Clearly I chose the latter. I've loved Soundgarden since I was a little kid and figured out how to tune the radio to the local rock station. Most of the Superunknown singles were still on the air in regular rotation at that point, but what really caught my attention was 'Blow Up the Outside World'. It's still one of my favorite songs by them, and in general, to this day, I love the stuck in a cavern vocals, and the typical super ballsy Matt Cameron drumming, Chris and Kim's guitars, and the opposing/walking bass that Ben Shepard had come up with. 

I was pretty wrecked when they called it quits. Way more wrecked than when Rage broke up. Soundgarden was a little more musical for me, and I'm a sucker for good song structure. I'm more of a pre-pro guy at heart than I would like to admit most time.

Over the past few years, there have been hints, and they've released a few compilations, which were good, but not what I wanted. I wanted another rock and roll album. A real album. Something that reminded me that good big rock and roll wasn't totally dead. The Foos are amazing, but I wanted something to help them out. 

Then it happened. Studio rehearsal shots with all the guys. I about lost it. I didn't listen to anything but grunge for almost a month. Thankfully my wife didn't mind too much. I guess it was better than math rock.

Anyways, lets get to the album, and out of my child/adulthood dreams.

The opening track 'Been Away Too Long' is just what an opening track should be; big, ballsy, and angry. The second track is what literally got me head banging in my car, until the back beat kicked in. 

Goosebumps, a nervous twitch and me roaring "Yeaaah!" followed. 

I was pretty impressed to find out that Ben Shepard had written the music for it. Having cycled through about a dozen bands, and a ton more songwriting sessions that I've sat in on, it's pretty awesome that the bass player wrote my favorite song on the album (we're not always just the worst guitar player in the band).

Let's get over to the technical side of things, before I go through every song on this thing.

Back to the selling out thing. They sell out stadiums. For days on end. That is all.

They've all obviously got the money, so why not do this album the best that they could. And, personally, I think they did. The best for them, and their music. Yeah, everyone goes to JJP or CLA to mix their stuff, but they wanted a more raw, more... Soundgarden sound, if you will.

From the start of the recording process, they went Sam Hofstedt. He worked on Down on the Upside, and other stuff for them. Not to mention Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Deftones, you know, just little guys mostly.

The project was recorded at Studio X in Seattle. Which makes me happy to know that they're still ok with where they came from (not selling out like total douches)

The A room there is set with PT7 HD3, and all processed with an SSL 4000 64 channel desk, and pretty much all top of the line stuff, as you would imagine. Here's a link to the gear PDF for all of the super nerds like us out there. Studio X A room Gear  

From there they took it to Joe Barresi to mix. Mr. Barresi has also covered a killer range of albums, from Tool's 10,000 Days, to The Spiderman 2 soundtrack, to Tom Petty. Dude has some sick chops. He's totally on the top 10 list of my favorite mix engineers of all time. Joe also mixes on an SSL 4000 desk, because, well, they don't call it the hit maker for nothing, 

Now, I've mentioned Sterling Sound before. It's where most big productions get mastered. For a good reason. They're the best. The mastering engineer was a guy by the name of Ted Jensen. His album credits are in the thousands. He started out with Hotel California by The Eagles and worked with some other stuff like Billy Joel's Piano Man, and Green Day's American Idiot.

As I'm continuing to listen to this album, while I'm writing this, I can say that there isn't a single thing that I would change, anywhere in the process of this recording. A lot of the time, I'll hear at least a couple things on big albums, that I would like to hear a little differently, and most certainly I always kick myself when I get a finished product back, and get a ton more ideas for things I could have done differently. Not this time. I even like the few little timing issues, and off note slides, that may or may not have been left on purpose. Yes, I'm aware how much production goes in on something like this, but I love that there's still nuances of imperfection in there, to let you know that it's not all programmed and replaced. It's what rock and roll is about kids.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

SNR Podcast #29 - 12/30/2012 - Home Studio

This week hosts Jon Dayton and Anthony Kosobucki are joined by Matt Mackiewicz. The group talks about home studio steups and methods, delving back into the bad old days of cassette four track machines and working forward. As always you can catch the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #29 - 12/30/2012 - Home Studio - Jon Dayton, Anth Kosobucki and Matt Mackiewicz talk home studio from cassette four track on up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

USB Interfaces

After the post the other day about getting your first USB audio interface I got a few requests about specifics. This is also coming up constantly on nearly every forum you care to look at. Here are the two that I recommend for starting out.

The first is the ART DualPre. It can be had new for $79, I got mine on eBay for less than $50 shipped. It's a little better than a real no frills model. In fact, it's got quite a few frills which in most cases will more than make up for the fact that the mic pres are a little noisy.

On the front it's got a pair of combination XLR/quarter inch connectors for accepting mic or line inputs and a gain knob for each. On the back it's got a headphone volume knob and a blend knob so you can listen direct off the pres for zero latency monitoring, hear what's coming back out of your DAW, or both. In addition to the 1/8" headphone jack there are a pair of mono 1/4" jacks for connecting studio monitors.  The only odd thing about it is that when you're monitoring direct from the pres you hear channel one in your left ear and channel two in your right. It can throw you a little but I have found it very useful.

Another nice feature is the power situation. The DualPre is bus powered which means it can get all the juice it needs right from your USB port (even enough for phantom power to run condenser mics). But it's also got a slot for a nine volt battery and a jack to accept a twelve volt wall wart. These are pretty common and can prevent issues if your computers USB ports aren't quite doing the job. When not powered by USB there's a button on the back to power the unit down and save the battery.

In addition to all this it can be used as a stand alone headphone amp which I've done several times. The use of adapters is often required depending on the needs of the performer. It's a matter of what you feed to each channel and thus into each side of their headphones.

Another nice option for those just getting started out is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. For less than $150 you can get one brand new which includes a plug-in pack that's worth nearly as much as the unit itself. Connectivity is similar, dual purpose inputs on the front (with line/instrument switch for better impedance matching of 1/4" inputs), headphone and monitor outs, etc. For the extra money what you're getting is a pair of really outstanding Focusrite mic pres. As a company they've been making outstanding pres for ages, some live guys even take them on the road because they prefer them to the ones in their Midases. Now they're focusing heavily on the interface market and we reap the benefits.

Either one would be a fine choice to start out with, although my advice of "save yourself some trouble and buy your second one first" holds true here. A few extra dollars nets you a really nice interface and some great plug-ins to boot. It can also be tempting to want to get something with more inputs but if the budget is tight you can always start with two and then either use ASIO4All on a PC or the Mac's built in aggregate device options to gang more interfaces together. Both work well and will let you piece together a home studio with ease.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rein Those Faders In

I've got a little trick for you today that I sort of stumbled on to. I don't like to admit that it's because I'm slightly lazy that I found this one but that's the case and it's working out so I'm sticking with it. It has to do with the way you set up your gain structure. My laziness has to do with the distance between where my palm rests when standing at the Midas at work and the comfortable spot the faders come to rest when my hands are in position. It's generally somewhere around -5. The faders wind up there and when I sound check the next band I adjust the trims so that they can generally stay parked there. This works out for me for a couple of reasons.

The first is that some of the musicians on stage need rather a lot of level going to their ears and having the trims set a little higher lets me get to where they're happy before I run out of knob on the aux sends. The second reason is that I believe it gives me less noise at the outputs when I mix like this.

Less noise? But aren't you just trading 5dB on the fader for 5dB on the trims. Not necessarily. The faders are acting as pads when they're below unity, they only actively add gain to the path when you push them above that. You can check it out on your own mix and see (although results may vary). Next time you've got a clean setup set the trims on a couple dozen channels to unity and then push all the faders up to unity. Now grab something straight and push all those faders up to +5. Hear that hiss? That's what I'm talking about.

So holding back a little on each fader not only gives me a little bit quieter mix, it means that I've got that much more fader left if something does really need to get boosted. Face it, if all your channels are above unity there's not that many dB left before you run out of track.

So there you have it Brethren on the Knob and Fader. I'm going ahead and floating this one out there without empirically testing it. I'm hoping to hear from some of you with results of your own and we'll see if this actually holds up or if it's just some audio hogwash (like so much of the stuff that passes for wisdom on the boards). Let me know.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mid Side Mic Technique

This isn't a proper Project Movie post but you can check the rest of those out with the link if you're interested in the big picture. As I lay out in the audio (MP3 link below) we had a chorus of a dozen voices in a semi circle around a figure eight mic with a pencil mic right on top of it. You record just those two things and then in mixdown you double the figure eight track, flip polarity and pan the two tracks out. In the stereo image the left side is the pencil mic plus the figure eight and the right side is the pencil minus the eight. You can decide after the fact how wide your stereo image is. 

Some people don't like this technique because it feels "too stereo". But in this case that was what we wanted. We were trying to create a chorus of angels so if it sounds a little unearthly that was fine for this project. The nice thing is that you can just pan things in and out until it feels natural to you. Another benefit of this method is that it sums perfectly to mono. You loose the stereo-ness of it but there's no information lost due to phase cancellation. So it's a great choice if your final destination is TV or computer speakers which are generally stereo these days but usually so close together that there's little or no stereo image.

So here's a little lesson in M-S where I lay out the mixdown process for this piece which will shortly wind up on the DVD.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Little Christmas Present

Today I'll be putting my feet up with the rest of the country and enjoying a little time off in the bosom of my family. One of our holiday traditions is to watch "A Christmas Story". It's become almost as essential to the season as trimming the tree or singing "Silent Night" by candle light down at church. I ran across this article the other day about the source of that great story. Here it is. It's not a new line array or that new digital console you were hoping to find under the tree. Just a little peek behind the scenes, which is where all the good stuff happens as all the Brethren of the Knob and Fader know.

To all our readers, we wish you a joyous season, no matter your race, nationality, beliefs or what have you. Enjoy the day, and the story.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

SNR Podcast #28 - 12/22/2012 - Mixdown

This week your humble hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki both have mixdown on the brain and share their thoughts on the subject. Keeping tabs on a high track count project is easy with the right techniques. Routing and automation are your friends. As always you can check out the YouTube right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #28 - 12/22/2012 - Mixdown - Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki bring out the tricks that make handling a high track count project.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Giveaway [UPDATED]

[EDIT] I was just informed that the link below just lead to another picture of the plugin. Sorry to have misled you. The link is now correct. 

I know we said we were going to just be posing on weekdays for a bit but since there was a bit of slacking going on this week due to day job stuff I thought I'd drop this little tidbit. Waves had some cool giveaways back around Thanksgiving but we didn't get a chance to pass those on. So here's one from Native Instruments. I'm interested in the distortion plugin (pictured below) in particular although that's not all they've got up for grabs.

Distortion is often thought of as something to be avoided at all costs unless you're a guitar player. The fact is though that in small amounts it's something that can really make a mix. That great "analog" feel that people rave about is distortion caused by saturating transformers, tubes, tape heads and the like. It can produce gorgeous overtones that take something from sounding normal to sounding sublime. Then there's the route you can take that winds its way through break-up, saturation, and finally ends up in  total shredding destruction!!!

So without getting into a bunch of examples I'll just leave you with the link and encourage all you Brethren of the Knob and Fader to pull this out and experiment with it while you're off for the Holiday. Then next time you're neck deep in a project and running out of ideas you'll have a little distortion at your disposal. This could come in handy whether you mix jazz or dubstep and anything in between.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Project Movie: Part Eight - Building A Mix In The Studio

Here we are promising you daily posts and then not delivering. It's only because the Holiday madness persists. My task this week was to mix down all the tracks we took from the live events last week. This is yet another post in the Project Movie series so if anything I say here doesn't make sense just take a look back at some of the other posts.

We had thirty-two tracks from each of three performances as well as a couple of the full company rehearsals that we made to test out our methods and to have around for insurance. At a couple points one or the other of the recording computers would glitch. With everything played to a click track though that meant that we could swap tracks in from other performances to build the best tracks we could. 

The first step was to get rough mixes up for the three performances. I merged the two sets of tracks in to new identical sessions for each night. I tamed a couple things down that could have caused trouble but otherwise I just made three sets of "all faders up" mixes and posted them in the office Dropbox for the rest of the team to evaluate. 
After a couple days we had our pics for what the best performances were and I set to work on building yet another session. This one had the same layout as the rough mix sessions so I could just open things up in new tabs in Reaper to cut and paste. There was one other session for a single number. We had a choir of a dozen women around a mid-side mic setup. We were planning on comping together one good pass from the three nights but once I lined everything up I hit play and fell in love with the thirty-six voice choir. With a little careful lining up of the starts of phrases and some automation fading out final consonants when they didn't line up we got a really cool mix out of it.

Now that I had my final mix session I tackled the hardest stuff first. The opening number and one other one were very sparse. I took about two hours to get a violin, piano and string pads to all sit nicely and fill up the space. The rest of the night was full rock band so it had to be big. After that I got down to business on the remaining songs.

My advice would typically be to start with everything up about half way, then get the vocals dialed in, move to the kick, then relate it to the snare and bass, and slowly fill in tracks until you have the whole mix built.  Also, it's a good idea to start at the biggest point in a song and get that right, then build backwards from there so you don't run out of room. 

I had an advantage on this project though because I had already mixed two band rehearsals, three dress rehearsals and three shows. I knew the material pretty well and I just went at it like I did the live mix. I started with a little tweaking on stuff that really needed it but then I just set out mixing with all the faders up. If I EQ'd the kick or the bass, I did it in place. Soloing is good for fixing a little trouble here and there but everything you do affects the whole mix so you should work on things while you can hear how they interact. 

Another thing I'd like to stress is that it's good to be careful about when you start in with your automation. I like to mix until the faders can pretty much stay where they are and everything is sitting pretty well in the mix. Then I'll engage the automation to start to make things live and breathe. I like to switch each track over to read mode as I start to put automation in. If you're in trim/read and you grab a fader that you've already automated you can really get yourself into trouble. You can still do it but you'll have to make the conscious choice to switch modes.
Time management is pretty important. I'm they type that will just mix and mix and mix and never be done with it. If I got to a point where I was getting into details that were really tiny I stopped myself, gave the track a final listen and just printed it. That's what listen backs are for. You need to get your head clear of all the repetitions and come back with fresh ears before you mix any more.

After a full day in the chair I had every song mixed down but one and only stopped then because I had to go mix a rehearsal. The following morning I finished it up and later that day I sat down with my boss to hear everything with fresh ears and get some notes.  With a few things to touch for each song and a couple overdubs to take care of I'm finally down to the home stretch on this project. 
Just a final word here. "Overdubs?" some of you are saying.  Yes. It's done on live projects. In some cases it gets pretty ridiculous, like a Thin Lizzie live album where they just kept the kick and the crowd mics. In our case we were able to fix problems that came up, little mistakes and such by flying in part or a whole track from another performance. In a couple cases though there just wasn't any fixing it so we'll do a quick punch in here and there.
In a few weeks we'll have all the DVD content together and the duplication finished. After the initial run we'll post the project on Vimeo and I'll get a link up so anyone who's interested can take a look at what we did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear SNR: Recording Interfaces

On the message boards the most common question asked is "I'm just getting started. What audio interface should I buy for my computer?"  or some variation on that theme. All the gear snobs inevitably have a lot to say about high buck options and the way one mic pre sounds compared to another. The simple fact of the matter is this. It doesn't matter.
You're new. At best you've got more than one cheap microphone at your disposal and probably something atrocious for speakers. You could spend all you want on something with super duper mic pres and dual pump action A/D converters but it just won't matter. If you're green you haven't got the chops yet to properly work over the stuff you're capturing anyway so you may as well not break the bank getting it in there in the first place.
You're at the stage in your career where you just need to absolutely murder some projects in order to get better. So go ahead. Your best investment at this point is your time. Learn how to get that second hand SM57 positioned to get the most out of it when you record your best friend's solo acoustic version of the latest A7X tune. Find out the limitations of gain structure while you make awful board recordings at your mate's rehearsal space. Buy a condenser mic and find out just how hard it is to get good sound out of the world and into a computer.
It gets better.
After a while you'll find that you know the limitations of your gear. You'll know this because you'll be better than the gear will allow you to be. That's when you know you've made a quantum leap and you're ready to get something that's better than you are again and start working up the next rung of the ladder.  But you can't make good multi-track recordings until you can make good one track recordings.

That's the reason that in every studio in the world, no matter what kind of highfalutin, multi-thousand dollar mics they have in their locker, you'll always find a humble 57 or two because people who've learned their craft started there and know exactly what they're good for. 

So to the younger members of the Brethren of the Knob and Fader I say: Don't spend more than $150 on an interface and then get out there and ruin some music! Go ahead. That's what it's there for! Save your money and invest your time. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Drum Mics - The Glyn Johns Technique

I've known about this little trick for micing up drums for a long time but rarely ever use it. I grew up in the era of big production and the idea of getting drum tracks or doing a show with fewer than ten inputs made me squeamish I guess. 

It's a simple setup. Take two condenser mics, preferably large diaphragm, and place one roughly over the rack tom, about head height, aimed at the snare. Place the other one, same height, roughly over the floor tom, also looking at the snare. Done.

You can mess with the panning to control stereo width. You can use a kick mic or not. You will always get a great drum sound with very little work. You get better separation of the cymbals because of the spacing of the mics, but a very tight image of the snare because they're equidistant from it and both aimed at it.

I tried it out on my drum overheads in a live setting and loved it there too. I used to be pretty happy with an X-Y or A-B setup, but the asymmetrical Glyn Johns technique trumps them all in my book. Here's a video of the man himself explaining things to a group of young Brethren of the Knob and Fader.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

SNR Podcast #27 - 12/16/2012 - Holiday Wrap Up, Mic Techniques

We're finally back to podcasting after the long Holiday production hiatus. Hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki got right down to business with a wrap up of all the production that has kept them away from the blog and podcast. Then followed up with a review of the 12-12-12 concert, covered some mic tricks and techniques and covered a few other random odds and ends in there as well.  As always you can check out the YouTube right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

  • SNR Podcast #27 - 12/16/2012 - Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki do a Holiday production wrap up, review the 12-12-12 concert and cover some mic tricks and techniques.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kick vs Bass - Sidechain Solution

I've heard some engineers recently talking about the kick and the bass always being in a fight and one of them having to win. That struck me as kind of a foreign concept until I started working at my current gig. The subs are pretty small and have a limited amount of power available to drive them. Frequently the bass would have to win out in order for everything else to sound right and I'd make do with mostly beater sound from the kick. It was a shame though because every time I heard the kit by itself I always thought it sounded pretty darn good (even if I do say so my self).

I had resigned myself to my fate and hoped that some day we'd revamp the system. Then I finally landed on an idea that's used a lot in mixing records, particularly dance records where both elements have more of a lead role than they do in other types of music. Using the side chain on a compressor on the bass channel. 

Side chaining, for those not familiar, is a method of making a compressor respond to something other than the signal going through it. Normally, signal goes in and gets split. Half of the signal goes through a detector that tells the compressor when to engage based on the settings you've given it, and the other half is processed and fed back into the console. Using the side chain allows you to use something besides the signal being processed to engage the process.

For example, in my case, I could take a direct out from the kick channel and feed it into the side chain of the compressor on the bass. Whenever the kick hits, gain is reduced on the bass channel, effectively making some space for the kick to come through in the mix. How much space is determined by the settings I choose. Go too deep or too long and it will be obvious and sound bad. But get the settings dialed in right and the kick should just come through nicely in the mix without sounding like it's punching holes in the bass line.

One further benefit of using this technique is that if your drummer and bassist aren't always exactly together, if the kick is coming up through the bass on downbeats it will obscure that tiny bit of difference by being higher in the mix. The bass is still felt and still present, but with the kick controlling it rhythmically you get a tighter performance.
Tune in next time Brethren of the Knob and Fader, when maybe I'll remember to write about how to use side chaining to de-ess a vocal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Project Movie: Part Seven - Recording the Live Event

I know it's a lot of posts lately about the recent movie project but I want to get it all down while it's still fresh and today's post has some importance for other applications as well.

When the time came to put our show up we had a pretty good input list going and wanted to get every last bit of it recorded so we'd be able to mix down all the live music and actors' performances for the DVD. (If you're just showing up now check out the rest of the Project Movie posts here)

We didn't have an ideal setup but we used what we had. Coming through the Midas Legend 3000 at front of house I had twenty-four instrument inputs, four vocal inputs, a set of choir mics, lavs on the actors and pastor, and a backing track. To get it all in the box I had at my disposal a Presonus StudioLive 24 digital mixing console with Firewire out and a MOTU 896mk3 Firewire audio interface, good for another eight analog ins as well as digital, which comes in later.

For our first full rehearsal I routed the first twenty-four channels of the board to the Presonus via direct outs on the channels. This gave my assistant good control over the gain structure of the recording to prevent overs and make sure nothing came in too cold. The Firewire connection brought it into a MacBook and we recorded in Reaper. The MOTU interface handled the vocals and backing track (we re-recorded it so as not to have to worry about sync as much in the final project.) and brought those inputs into a second MacBook running Reaper.

At the end of the night after two full run throughs we went back to review the tracks. This involved importing the audio from one of the sessions into the other and lining things up. This was easy to accomplish but we found that once we had done it, there was considerable lag on the part of the vocals by the end of a ninety minute pass. Something in the neighborhood of fifty milliseconds. Not wanting to chop things up and line every song up we got to thinking.

What to do? Well, the MOTU has lots of options for bringing in digital audio. S/PDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT, and Toslink. The problem was, the Presonus only has Firewire out. The MOTO can accept an external clock, but the Presonus is again out in the cold. It is possible to bring Firewire audio into the MOTU as well, but not as many tracks as the Presonus had.

The final answer was a simple piece of RCA cable. The Presonus has a S/PDIF out option for sending two selectable tracks of audio. I selected the L/R mix and ran it to the S/PDIF input of the MOTU. A few knob tweaks later I had the MOTU looking to the Presonus for time code and all was well.  Mostly.  The MOTU was actually the better option for clock signal but the Presonus only has digital out.

In the end we got good results. The vocal tracks were lagging less than one millisecond after a ninety minute pass. I have no way to measure the jitter but I'm assuming that since the predominant method of playback will be TV speakers for the final product that only the dog will notice if there is any.

Well Brethren of the Knob and Fader. I hope that info comes in useful some day. As the home recording market continues to grow, ganging multiple interfaces together is a more and more common practice. Just having them slaved into the same DAW on the same machine might not be enough to save you in every situation. Always keep an eye on the clock!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The One Click Trick - Using Inserts as Direct Outs

It comes up every now and then that someone needs a way to take individual tracks of audio from a mixer into a recorder but there aren't enough outputs to do it and the console doesn't have direct outputs. There's a little trick you can use, in a number of ways, to get the job done.

If the console has insert jacks you're in luck. An insert jack uses a TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) connector to send audio out for processing and receive it back on the same jack. With a Y cable the audio path uses the tip to go to one TS plug that feeds signal into a piece of outboard gear and the other TS returns signal on the ring. They share the ground. 
By inserting a TS plug into the insert jack just to the first click. That takes the send signal and effectively makes it a direct out. If you have Y cables on hand you can use those, the send branch is your direct out and you can just ignore the return. Some consoles have send on the ring and return on the tip. Older British desks especially. So make sure you check into this first. In a lot of cases though you've just taken a direct out without interrupting the signal in the channel.

Sometimes it's worth it to make up special cables to insure a better connection, especially if it's for frequent use. A cable with a TRS connector at the mixer end and a TS connector for the recording device at the other made from shielded instrument cable is desired. At the mixer end, solder a jumper from the tip to the ring of the TRS connector. This allows the jack to be fully inserted which is more secure and will not interrupt the audio through the channel. The TS jack on the other end functions as a split.  This is the way to go if your desk uses the old British convention as well. Here's a simple diagram:

Mixer End                                                                                    Recorder End
T_________________White Wire_______________________T
S_________________Black Wire_______________________S

The last thing to remember is that inserts are most commonly located immediately after the mic pre. While larger consoles or ones intended for recording will often have an option to have direct outs be either pre or post fader, on a smaller console there's just one place to get the gain right and not as much opportunity for fine tuning. At home or in the studio this isn't as much of a problem as when you try this out on a gig. The FOH guy may or may not want to cooperate with you on gain structure as his job is to make the show sound good, not keep your clip lights off.

One final thing to mention and this is a pet peeve of mine. Lots of people who start to build their own cables will use black for the signal and white for the ground/shield. While this is correct if you're wiring a house (In North America anyway) audio wiring generally follows the convention for low voltage systems. In those systems the ground is black and signal wires are the rest of the colors. This makes it a lot easier to keep track of things when some of your cables are black/red and some are black/white. Only when you run into the odd red/white cable do you need to make a choice and stick to it. It's important to stick to the system because when you're making quick repairs in the field, especially at a live event, reversing the polarity will have an effect on the signal, sometimes a pretty big one.

That's all for now Brethren of the Knob and Fader. Keep those questions rolling in. We'll be starting up with new podcasts again this week!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Project Movie: Part Six - The Big Finish

It's been a while since I've been able to post anything, largely because of the movie project. Things got pretty hectic in the last few week of post production work. So it's only fair to start things back up with a look at what's been filling up my days and nights lately.

The last Project Movie post was about the first few days of shooting. That was where the trouble really started. On those first few days I was putting into practice all the things I had been studying for nearly a year. The problem was that I didn't do enough testing before we hit the locations. I wasn't recording hot enough. I could hear the lines in my headphones but there wasn't enough there to pull the dialogue out of the background noise and mic pre hiss when I got to mixdown later on. The first four days were some real marathons, with very little sleep in between. It was on the last day that I really should have spoken up more and gotten the actors to raise their voices. But I was tired and things were taking a long time already. It was a lapse in judgement I won't soon forget.

Later on when I had cut video to work with and started pulling up the tracks I had to process things so heavily that they started to sound really unnatural. I worked and worked and no matter what I did the audio from the DSLR cameras still sounded better. That lead to ditching most of what we had recorded and going with just a single room mic that had less self noise than the others and going to town on it. 

I massaged the gain structure to within an inch of its life. I got a noise reduction plugin that was basically a glorified expander but with a pretty good algorithm for isolating dialogue. After many many tries I finally had something that was presentable, but not what any of us wanted it to be. It was a hard lesson but one that was worth learning. In a way I'm glad that's all it was. It was really my first stab at doing full production sound for a movie and the majority of it turned out all right. But a little more preparation on my part could have avoided it completely. Another couple of scenes needed some ADR to get up to par. That took a few tries as well and seemed to work out better. Nobody caught on that we had done it. If there had been just a little more time we might have gone after the other scenes. But with one of the lead actors being out of town it just wasn't going to happen.

Anyway, I'll be able to do a better job on the next one. On to the live event.

The movie that we made was to be part of a larger live production. It started and ended with a live actor on stage and there was some live drama in the middle as well. One of our house bands was on stage the entire time as well to score the whole thing and provide full song numbers over some of the scenes that advanced the plot without dialogue.

A set piece was built. The band was crammed into a corner of the stage. We lit the whole thing with lights that weren't in use for a regular service because we had a couple of those smack in the middle of the run as well. I came up with an input list and made it all work with the mics, channel space, processors and recording capabilities that we have. Throw in a pinch of haze and dry ice fog to make it all look extra heavenly and there you go. (I'll grab some photos and a sample of the audio for the next post.)

We ran for three nights, pulling in video of some of the live sequences and thirty-two tracks of audio to mix down. In the end we'll get it all on to a DVD to distribute right after Christmas. Last year we had an audience of about 2000 over two nights and had about 300 DVDs go out. This year we extended to a third night and had 4000 come to the live event. That's not staggering in mega church terms but it was pretty good for us, especially considering how busy people are during the holidays.

I'll skip all the spiritual stuff and just leave you church guys out there with a final thought. Our church has been looking for a way to reach out better. There's already a church in town that does big concerts and another that focuses on seminars and special events. We took a look around and found that we had all the raw materials to make a movie within our own congregation and decided to try and move in that direction. It's not like we're known as the "Movie Church" now, but that wasn't the point anyway. It's about using the talent that you have on site, even if that means doing something that's not the norm for a church. Think about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And.... We're Back

An end has been declared to major Christmas operations. We get our big production up early in the season so that people are free to attend and so that our staff and volunteers are free to celebrate with their families when the time comes. Except that things don't ever really let up for production people. If you've been following along with the Project Movie posts here's a little update.

A few weeks away from opening, the dialogue of the film just wasn't right. I had studied all I could but I should have done more practical testing and when the time came on set I should have insisted on better takes from the actors. Some of our most tender and significant scenes were just a wreck. It was a pretty serious crisis and I'll cover more of it when I wrap up the series. What it meant for me was that an already hectic part of the year got even more hectic.

Fortunately it was saveable though and eventually we got down to the business of incorporating the movie with live action on stage and a live band to score the whole thing. All this in front of an audience. Rehearsals were intense. Interference from a nearby sports stadium was an ever present problem. Updates and adjustments to the show were constant. 
And then we had three terrific runs.

I have a couple days off to recover before heading back into the fray. A lot of people on the project were worried about Post Show Letdown. I've been immune to it for quite a while but even I had my doubts as to whether it would strike this time. It didn't. Funerals pop up that need tech. Clients call that need a spot of location recording. Oh, and my kids haven't had much time with me for the last month and they kind of miss me. Not to mention that the multi-track recordings from the live events need to be mixed down for the DVD. So far I'm not feeling the slump.

As I was helping the lighting guy strike his gear we got to talking about how we relate our stories to kids that say they want to get into the business.  Well, the pay isn't spectacular, the hours are daunting, the challenges frequently seem insurmountable and nobody really understands what it is that you do. But every once in a while... you get a good one. A gig that will stand in your memory long enough to keep you at it until you get another good one.

I'm pretty fortunate to work in production for my day job. I work with wonderful, creative people day in and day out. So I guess for me they're all good ones lately. But this last weekend I got to be part of something really spectacular. A true gem of a show. Something that went way beyond digital audio and video, beyond sets and makeup, beyond story and script and music. I got to work on something that was greater than the sum of its parts.

OK, OK, enough of the sappy stuff. Tomorrow I'll get back on the grind and start in with the technical stuff again. Thanks to all who made contact during the hiatus. That really meant a lot. We'll be looking to hear from you all now that we can get back down to business as before. We've got a few topics to address and some ideas for fresh podcasts. Feel free to start sending in questions again too. We love that.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

SNR Podcast #26 - 11/10/2012 - DAW Control

Here's another one from the vault that got left behind in the Christmas production rush. I vaguely remember talking about Steve Slate's new touchie big screen DAW controller. There may be some other stuff in there too. So with no further ado, here's the last forgotten podcast before we get back on track to bring you fresh talk (nearly) every week. As always you can check out the YouTube right here, or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Quote of the Day: Show Day Worries

"The only bad news that I have... is that there is no bad news..."
                                                        - Trevor Kaufman

Dang... that is bad news.

SNR Podcast #25 - 10/25/2012 - Digital vs Analog

Jon Dayton here, your humble host, nearly back from a too long hiatus from the blog and podcast. As Anth said in his post yesterday we're closing in on the end of our murderous holiday schedule. I finally got the two previously recorded podcasts processed and ready for your enjoyment. This first one was so long ago that I can't even remember what we talked about. I just remember already being tired even though it was only October. So here it is, from the vault. As always you can check out the YouTube version here, or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Time is Coming

If we even have any readers left at this point, this weekend, and more specifically the 9th of December signifies the end of the Christmas production season for Jon and I. At least for the really big, time/soul consuming stuff. We've got a couple podcasts in the bag and will hopefully be getting those up soon. In the mean time, I'm sure we'll get a podcast up about how the productions we worked on went, and hopefully have some cool stories to get out. In addition to that, I got to demo the new Mackie iPad controlled console, which I'll work on a review for shortly. Other than that, I hope you guys have some more questions for us to answer. We'll need some help getting back on a roll. 

Thanks for sticking with us.