July 19, 2009

Sine Language – episode 116

This week, a short episode featuring a heap of positive feedback on the Integrate ’09 vendors episode.
Then, Bomar asked if he should buy an audio interface with some DSP that he can track through, or should he just record clean and use plugins later,
and David McKeitch brought us up to speed on his indie-film tracking project.

Oh, and a reminder that there’ll be no podcasts at all next week, as Cath, Max and I are away on holiday.


July 12, 2009

Building the pod – episode 135

This week, a couple of listener e-mails answered.
For those wanting to hack into their registry for import/export of keyboard shortcuts, the address you’re looking for is:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Adobe\Audition\3.0\Prefs\Keys\en_US\

For anyone wanting to learn more about Mastering, Brad Blackwood’s forum is here.

Then, a quick look at the Quick Filter.


July 9, 2009

Recording interviews with field recorders

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve recorded several interviews at 2 different trade shows. Those interviews have ended up in episodes of both Shutters Inc and Sine Lanugage.
In the wake of this, I’ve had a couple of enquiries from listeners as to my technique for recording interviews on flash-based field recorders like the Zoom H2.
These listeners have commented that they never seem to achieve the same level of results as I have managed, and have asked for some insights.
So, I shall endeavour to outline the pitfalls as I understand them.

First off, tempting though it may be, do not record to mp3!
Remember, mp3 is a lossy format, and we don’t ever want to save production audio (clips which still need further work before release) in a lossy format.
And for that matter, don’t record at 16 bit wav either.
No, your preferred option is to record 24 bit wav.
Yes, it will chew up your memory cards quicker, but memory cards are really not that expensive these days, so carrying a couple of extras shouldn’t represent too much of a burden, either physically or financially.
If your recorder of choice does not offer 24 bit wav, then fall back to recording 16 bit wav instead.

Secondly, your recorder SHOULD offer a choice of microphone gain sensitivities.
The Zoom H2 offers low, medium and high.
Low will turn the sensitivity down (useful for really loud sources), medium is what it sounds like, and high turns the sensitivity up (for really quiet sound sources).
I have found that the medium setting usually works well for these trade show interviews, but obviously, judge each on a case by case basis.
Remember, we are recording at 24 bit, so we don’t NEED to peg the meters at zero!
Peaks of -20dB to -12dB are just fine!

Third, if your recorder of choice has a headphone output (I don’t imagine there’d be any which do not, but you never know), then absolutely have some form of monitoring with you when you are recording.
This may be a set of lightweight street headphones, or even a decent set of earbuds.
Me? I use my trusty old Sennheiser CX300′s, with just one earbud stuck in one ear.
The reason for that is that through that ear, I can hear what the microphone is picking up, and through my other ear, I’m hearing the world around me.

Now, because you are monitoring (via your earbud) what the microphone of the recorder is hearing, you are able to move the recorder around as necessary througout the interview to make sure the talent stays ‘on mic’.
Now, you might be thinking that people aren’t going to like having a flash recorder stuck in (and moving around in front of) their face.
I would contend that if they have agreed to do an interview, then they are probably going to be ok with it.
My technique is to hold the recorder at chest height between myself and the talent.
That way, you SHOULDN’T get any plosives (pops), but the mic should be able to hear the talent fairly well, while keeping the ambient noise reasonably under control.
If you talent is a very soft speaker, then you may have to move the recorder closer toward them, and that may feel a little uncomfortable at first.
If the talent keeps backing away from the mic, stop the interview, explain to them that you NEED the mic that close in order to hear what they are saying without being drowned by background noise, then recommence the interview.
Thing is, MOST of the time, the person you’ll be interviewing is from the marketing department or the sales team and they generally don’t speak that quietly!!

OK, so now you’re back at your desktop (or in your hotel room working on your laptop) and ready to edit and mix.
Drag the files into your DAW of choice.
DO NOT go and normalise the waveforms!
Remember, they’re 24 bit files, so it’s all good.
In your multitrack (which is also mixing at 24 bits or higher, right? RIGHT??), lay up your interviews where you want them.
Adjust the gain so you’ve got peaks around -20dBFS to -15dBFS off each channel. At this point, you should have NO processing on your master output.
Put in some per channel automation to keep each interview roughly in the bacllpark in terms of output level. You don’t have to get too finicky with it, just ‘in the ballpark’ will be good enough at this stage.
Now, if your final audio piece is going to feature other pieces of audio as well, I’d suggest setting up a submix (buss) for just the interviews to go through.
Then, slap a peak limiter across that buss with an output level set for -15dBFS, and the threshold set so that you’re getting about 4-6dB of gain reduction on that peak limiter.
Then, AFTER the peak limiter, put a compressor with a moderate attack (~20-30ms), moderate release (~100-150ms), a medium ratio (3:1-5:1) and again, enough threshold to give you another 3-6dB of gain reduction.
Your interview submix should now be exhibiting tightly controlled dynmaics, but not sounding squashed.
Go ahead and mix it in with all your other audio bits so that everything sounds roughly equal in apparent volume.
Slap a peak limiter across your master output, and you should be cookin’ with gas!
Have fun!


June 14, 2009

Sine Language – episode 113

In ep 113, a bit of a discussion on patchbays,
Michael Rooney’s AATranslator software,
Peachey wanted to know about how to lay out the audio for a film mix,
somebody liked my Muggshot commercial and wanted to know about de-breathing techniques,
the Loudness War awareness campaign is reaching mainstream (with a Facebook group supporting an end to the madness),
a new album WITH dynamics caught me by surprise,
and Yuli Mitsner alerted us to a Mac app called Max (which sounds like the Mac equivalent of dbpoweramp) for converting audio files from one format to another.


April 19, 2009

Sine Language – episode 110

In episode 110, Tim Cumings is happy with his USB mic pre-amp from Centrance,
Geoff Hankerson was concerned about the proximity of the drinks fridge to my studio, as well as being slightly miffed about the dynamic range in DVD audio when watching movies,
Justin wrote to ask about the different types of reverb and how to find the right one (something which I need to speak further on, perhaps next week),
Here’s a few links to check out:
Wiki article on the speed of sound
Wiki article on reverberation
Wiki article on acoustic absorption
and Jay wrote back about his perceptions/opinions on home theatre speakers.

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March 15, 2009

Sine Language – episode 108

This week, I discuss a couple of e-mails traded back and forth between myself and Karl Cooper, who asked about all the usual suspects…. tracking levels, compression, signal chains etc.
Which of course led me to talking (again) about this thread at prosoundweb.com :)
Next up, in an effort to get further through the backlog of Christmas/New Year e-mails, I cover another message from My Man in Hollywood, this time responding to some of Jim Addie’s comments from a previous episode (is this getting convoluted, or what?) on theatre speaker systems.
MMiH provided this link to show us all what serious theatre speaker systems look like! Thanks mate.
Then, something a little off the usual beaten path… Tommie Kelly wrote to tell me about his daily web-based comic strip Road Crew.
Well worth a look!
And to wrap it all up, a couple of e-mails from Jim Weishorn enquiring about dither, an oft-neglected piece of audio-nija trickery.


February 15, 2009

Sine Language – episode 105

We’re back!
The new studio, whilst not complete, is certainly functional.
So, this ep begins with a bit of a chat regarding what the last 6-8 weeks has entailed.

Then into the meat of it:
An interview with Nick Dika (Product Manager and PR guru for Izotope) about the just released version 4 of their great mastering plugin, Ozone.
If you are interested, they have a fully-functonal 21 day trial version available for download.
Also, make sure you read the pdf on the mastering process.

Then, it’s on to some e-mail, including a lengthy one from Jim Addie about the nature of VU meters, and the benefits of having a fast-attack-fast-release compressor early in your mixdown chain….
This is rather timely, as I have recently read a piece by Mike Stavrou espousing a technique which is almost identical… and which challenges everything I have always believed (and subsequently advised my listeners) regarding dynamics.

Then another e-mail, this time from another Jim, asking about:
a. external plugin processing cards (like the TC Powercore, SSL Duende and UAD-2)
b. third octave pink noise mp3 files, and
c. audio over gigabit ethernet.

And finally, an e-mail from Ron Eastwood asking about USB turntables and cassette decks,
the legal mumbo-jumbo you hear at the end of radio commercials,
plus some tips for me on geography!


December 7, 2008

Building the pod – episode 127

In ep 127, we start (one more time!) working our way through the effects menus of Audition 3, starting with the ‘Amplitude and Compression’ submenu items.


November 23, 2008

Sine Language – episode 102

This week, Greg Anderson sent in a voice comment of his own “radio war story”,
Jim Weishorn wrote to ask for more info on subtractive eq,
Alexander Williams* (no relation) wrote to ask about processing audio for live streaming (as opposed to pre-producing content),
…which led me to again remark about having VU meters rather than just peak program meters (PPM’s), and a great free VST plugin VU meter is the Modern Meter,
and then Jim wrote again asking about home theatre… setting up speakers and subwoofers and so on.
After I finished mixing this episode, I realised I didn’t really finish answering Jim’s questions, so consider this ‘part 1 of 2′.
And talk about freaky… in the very week I talk about my Energy 10.2 subwoofer, the damn thing decided to die on me! About an hour after I recorded this ep, I realised that the sub wasn’t working. After some investigating, I came to the conclusion that it had died. I took it to 2 different stores to be checked, and they both deemed that it was dead, too. So, I’m taking it to a friend’s place today for him to have a look at it (he MIGHT be able to fix it). But if he has no luck, looks like I’ll be buying a new sub in the next week or so.

* BTW, I love Alexander’s tag line for his streaming show:

“Like a morning show. Only interesting. And at night.”


November 16, 2008

Sine Language – episode 101

Filed under: !Podcasts,Compression,Expansion,Filters,Gating,Peak and RMS,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 10:52

This week, “Big C” asked about combatting air conditioner hum,
Tim Cumings sent in an audio sample of a Skype interview he conducted (pre and post eq),
Greg Anderson wrote to say that he’s launched his Atomic Time Keeping podcast on the world (Onya, Greg!)
He also wondered about mp3 encoding… mono vs stereo.
Then, I heard from Jeremy James, author of the podcast novel “The Veingel”.
Jeremy explained some of his workflow, and I offered some ideas on same… namely, downward expansion vs gating, broadband compression vs multiband compression, and so on.
A large part of what I had to say came back to getting as much done as possible NON-destructively in the multitrack environment.
Also, for those who are looking for a good, low-cost alternative multitrack recorder/editor, try out Reaper. It’s free for non commercial use, although they would like you to pay a small donation! Check it out, nonetheless.
Plus, Bruce’s new toy (which should arrive in the next day or so)… the Safe Sound Audio Dynamics Toolbox.
Can not wait for this little puppy to get here!


November 9, 2008

Sine Language – episode 100

Yes folks.
Believe it or not, we’re finally here!
The building of this video has been an absolute labour of love…. I’d estimate that it’s taken me about 20 hours of work to complete!
Maybe, that’s partly my inexperience at producing video podcasts, but hopefully, when you watch it, you’ll see where those hours went.
In an effort to ease the load on my hosting company’s servers, I will be setting up a torrent feed later tonight.
Check back here later for a link to the torrent file.
There’s also a copy of the file at YouSendIt, plus the copy here at audio2u.com.

To download manually from audio2u:
sl100.mp4 280MB

From YouSendIt here:
sl100.mp4 280MB

If you want to download a copy of the final mix of the song (featuring a couple of extra tweaks I did later), grab that here:
Fear of Holding On – 320 kbit joint stereo (13MB)

Towards the end of the podcast (or is that vidcast?), I mentioned that I would make the individual instrument tracks available to anyone who wanted to have a crack at mixing the song for themselves.
Drop me an e-mail and I’ll send you the link to download the files.
Just be warned… that’s an even bigger download than the mp4!!
The tracks are 32bit mono and total about 1.1GB!
The download will be in .rar format, so you’ll need an archive utility like WinRAR (or similar) which is capable of unzipping a .rar file.


August 31, 2008

Building the pod – episode 125

This week, a bunch of listener e-mails to answer.
First up, we heard from Bomar in France. After editing and mixing this episode, it occurred to me that this really should have been in Sine Language rather than BTP… oh well, sue me!
Bomar mentioned (among other things), a microphone which is alledgedly capable of picking up the sound of an ant’s footsteps.
Unfortunately, the site doesn’t appear to have any audio samples of this awesome feat.
Mmmmmm, sorry Bomar, but please forgive my scepticism! :)
Bomar went on to talk about field recorders, which led to a discussion on ‘auto gain control’ circuits (and why I don’t like them).

Next up, I received an e-mail from Ken at Bear Creek Studios who alerted me to a piece of software called Mediasweeper.
This looks really nifty, although I do need to spend some more time with it.
What it is designed to do is to look at your Audition .ses files and show you a list of which assets (read: wav files, mp3′s, avi’s, whatever) are referenced by the session file, and then allow you to either move all those files, or delete any wavs in the project folder which are NOT referenced by the session file!
If it does as promised, this will be a God-send!
Unfortunately, there’s no help file with it.
When I’ve spent some more time with it, I’ll report back.

Then, Wayne Montle wrote to tell me about Pamela, a piece of software which sits in between Skype and your DAW of choice.
What it does is allow you to split your outgoing audio (your voice) and your incoming audio (the person you’re talking to) into a left/right stereo signal so that you can later edit your Skype call with split tracks.
For those with soundcards which don’t offer that flexibility natively, this could be a huge blessing.
Thanks for the tip, Wayne.

Finally, I received an e-mail from Patrique Osborne who was concerned that I was advocating the growing of marijuana in episode 124!
I had a good laugh at this.


August 17, 2008

Building the pod – episode 124

Filed under: !Podcasts,Building the Pod,Dynamics processor,Expansion,Gating — Bruce Williams @ 20:56

This week, a discussion on handling noise within your home, prompted by a discussion I had with Luke Stapely on Facebook.


Dynamics processor, with no ratio of compression or expansion Dynamics processor, with no ratio of compression or expansion. Click image to see full view.
Dynamics processor with text box for finite input and output value entry Dynamics processor with text box for finite input and output value entry. Click image to see full view.
Dynamics processor acting as a downward expander Here, all values above -30dBFS will pass through the dynamics processor unhindered. All input values between -30dBFS and -50dBFS will be attenuated according to the steeper slope of the blue line. All input values below -50dBFS will be attenuated as well, but not as radically as those values ABOVE -50dBFS. Click image to see full view.
Dynamics processor acting as a gate Here, all input values above -60dBFS will pass through the dynamics processor unhindered. All input values below -60dBFS will be completely silenced. Click image to see full view.

Grab the Antress Modern Expander dll here. (1.2MB)


June 8, 2008

Sine Language – episode 090

This week, all those e-mails I was SUPPOSED to answer last week!
Most of which were relating to my comments about the “lip mics” that the sports broadcasters use.
Bruce McKinnon sent in this link,
Scott Hess sent in this one,
Steve Mayfield sent in 2 links… one from my former employer, plus another one,
and Chris Harris sent in this link to the Coles site.
After all of that, Tokyo Dan asked about his Audio Technica ATH-30 Com Dynamic Headset which he’s not having much luck with.
Then, there was a comment from Jim Weishorn which I felt warranted sharing with the world… ratio and difference.
Semantics? Maybe. But a good topic for discussion none the less.
And that lead on to a discussion about downward expanders.


May 25, 2008

Sine Language – episode 088

Wow! What a big week!
In episode 88, a ton of feedback regarding microphones on noisy trade show floors and the like…
Scott Hess likes the Sennheiser HMD25′s, and the HMD280-XQ’s,
Tokyo Dan suggested checking out this video on YouTube, as well as this video on shooting video on a Nokia N95,
Dave King mentioned these headsets from Eartec, which look like your standard headsets that you’d get from AKG or Sennheiser, but Eartec say they will customise the circuitry for you upon request!
Then, Michael from New Zealand asked about matching RMS levels between his locally produced content, and material coming from other studios,
Jim Weishorn asked about multiband compression,
and we finished off with a discussion on the differences between MP3 and MP3Pro encoding.

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