Sine Language - a weekly discussion of audio production techniques, acoustics, etc

Some recent listener feedback

Bruce, I can only say, in my opinion, that the services you are providing are greatly appreciated.
J. R.

I value your podcast. As much as I love TWiT, I wish they had you engineering their audio :)

Oh man... I just came across your site for the first time and listened to this podcast episode, Bruce, and I'm afraid I don't have enough time in the day to listen to all this great info!
I'm excited to get started, though.
Keep up the terrific work!

Just a quick note to say that Episode 86 of Sine Language where you address Meredeth's questions about the "Loudness War" was absolutely brilliant!
You cleared up a number of questions I've had bouncing around in my head for quite some time in regards to compression and limiting.
Thanks to you, the world is becoming a better sounding place.
Curtis Dingy Room in a Nowhere Town Podcast

September 13, 2009

Sine Language – episode 119

This week, Jim Addie hits us with “War and Peace – part 2” on the way dynamic volume adjustments are made on playback in home theatre receivers,
and Ernie asked if I could put together some thoughts on recording and processing the voice, so consider this the first part of a 2 or 3 part series on that.
Jim also provided a link to the Orban processor used for real time loudness adjustment for TV broadcast.

September 3, 2009

The Donate button is back

Filed under: Building the Pod,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 22:00

A few people have been calling for the donate button to be re-instated on

So, it’s back!
It’s up there in the top left hand corner.
So, if you’re feelin’ the love and want to say “Thanks for the podcasts”, then a donation of whatever amounts suits you wil be gladly accepted, and hugely appreciated.

Thanks one and all!

August 30, 2009

Sine Language – episode 118

Filed under: !Podcasts,Ambience,Loudness,Pro Tools,Sine Language,Sound design — Bruce Williams @ 20:22

This week,
The forum is open. And a big shout out goes to Mike Wills for helping with some of the background tweaking,
Bomar wrote to ask about the sound design elements I use for the intros to my podcasts (or at least, the one at the beginning of Shutters Inc which sounds like the Batmobile),
Somebody (apologies for not remembering who it was) wrote to remind me of the “portabooth”, a home-made solution for recording in ambient spaces without picking up said ambience,
J.R. also wrote in to tell us about the Reflexion Filter made by sE.
J.R. also wondered if anyone else is having dramas with getting Pro Tools 8 to play nicely with Windows 7,
and finally, Jim Addie wrote an epic e-mail about loudness meters, in all their various forms.

Some links that relate to that discussion:

Durrough meters
Fletcher Munson curves
CBS Labs
ITU-R BS.1770
The Orban meter that Jim mentioned
THX Loudness Plus
Dolby Volume
Audyssey Dynamic Volume
Audyssey Dynamic EQ
and finally, The Frank Foti/Robert Orban white paper I mentioned toward the end of the podcast.

August 23, 2009

No podcasts this week

Filed under: Building the Pod,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 21:27

Sorry one and all.

Shelton is up north conducting more Creative Photography workshops, hence why there’s no Shutters Inc.

And as for Sine Language, I’ve just been busy, slack, unmotivated, insert favourite adjective here. Sorry.
Next week for sure.

August 20, 2009

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?

Filed under: Building the Pod,Photography,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 23:50

Following is a post that I have just posted on the National Trail blog.
I’m copying it here for various reasons which may or may not be obvious.

Hi all,
My name is Bruce Williams.
Just after the National Trail was set up, my mother suggested the idea that we both plan to ride the entire length on horseback.
Mum had loved horses all her life, and had owned one when I was a kid. I also had a pony when I was younger (7-8 years old).
I got back into riding lessons in preparation, but for some reason, the goal of riding the trail never came to fruition.
The scope of such an undertaking was not lost on me, but I think that perhaps Mum realised that it was maybe just a bit more than we could have handled.
Anyway, that was then.
This is now.
Mum is no longer with us, I’m in my 40’s, and still love horses, even though I don’t currently own one.
And it turns out that my son, Max (now 9) also loves riding.
So, I’ve been re-kindling the idea that Mum had back then.
I’d still love to do it.
I know it’s not going to happen overnight.
Yes, both my son and I are going to need a LOT of experience before undertaking such a project.
I know that.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned in 40 years, it’s that to achieve a goal, it needs to be written down.
So, rather than just write it down in a diary somewhere where I’ll forget it, I’m putting it out there on the interwebs for all to see.
This IS something I want to do before I die, and I WILL do it.
Probably not for another 10 years or so.
I have some obstacles to get over, like:

* Owning a horse or 6 (well, duh!)
* More riding experience
* Planning the support vehicles and someone to drive them.
* The financial side of things… what do you do for an income while you’re spending close to 2 years in the saddle (it took Dan 21 months, right?)
* And some more riding experience :)
* And there’s probably a whole bunch of other things too.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi, introduce myself, state my goal, and I guess get my mind thinking about it all.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve had too many goals in life that I didn’t take seriously enough.
Too many things that I wanted to do/achieve, but didn’t because I didn’t put enough energy into it/them.
And this is NOT going to be one of those….
… Springsteen just popped into my head… “is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?”
Anyway, where was I?
Yeah, this is NOT going to be one of those ones that got away.
If I keep posting here, keep reading about other people’s experiences on the trail, keep it all in the front of my mind, rather than allowing it to slip away, then maybe it’ll have a better chance of coming true.
Sorry if I’ve crapped on for too long.
If anyone wants to help keep me motivated, please feel free to drop me an e-mail (listed below).
I’d be happy to talk with others who have done it, or are planning it.

So, there you have it.
For those of you who know of my passion for photography as well, it is also part of the plan to photograph the entire journey and to publish a book of that experience as well.
Like I said, there’s a lot that needs to be planned.
But you gotta start somewhere.

August 9, 2009

The sign of things to come

Filed under: Building the Pod,forum,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 18:38

Hey gang,
Sincerest apologies, but there are no podcasts this week.
Shelton had a full on week, and so that is why there’s no Shutters Inc.
And me?
I’ve been slaving away behind the scenes at trying to set up a phpBB forum.
It’s been a week of VERY late nights and has precluded me from recording.
“Priorities!”, I hear you scream.
Well…. yeah, but this is going to be in your best interests too, y’know! I mean, c’mon! Cut me some slack here!
The plan is this.
Within the next couple of weeks, I will be opening up a subscription-based, members only area on
To begin with (and please note I said “to BEGIN with”), the members area will be targeted more toward the audio side of things (ie the Building The Pod and Sine Language listeners).
There will be the forum, but there will also be video tutorials posted on a monthly basis. I may also consider the idea of live Q+A sessions.
I will confess that at this stage, I’m still not sure what to offer the Shutters Inc listeners in the way of premium content.
I don’t think we need ANOTHER place to store and display photos online! I think there’s currently about 35,435,356,687,057,180^2 sites for that already! :)
I shall keep thinking about this as we move forward.
Any suggestions? Send ’em my way!
In the mean time, I am going to open the forum up to everyone, right away.
This gives you a chance to get in early, bag your favourite username, and decide on whether or not you think it’s going to be worth hanging around for, once the walls go up.
What’s it going to cost you once the walls DO go up?
A$29.95 for 6 months.
A$54.95 for 12 months.
Yes, PayPal will be accepted.
Some people have already commented that they wouldn’t pay to be on a forum.
I completely understand that.
My intention is that you come for the premium content, but you stay for the forum. It’s a kind of ‘value add’, if you like.
So, that’s my take on all of this.
Go sign up.
Give me your feedback.
And start posting!
The all new forum is here!

August 8, 2009

Do you know php?

Filed under: Building the Pod,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 9:08

I require the services of someone who knows php.
If you know how to tweak php code and have the time to help out, I’d love to hear from you.
Drop me an e-mail at the usual address, or flick me a message on Facebook.
Thanks in advance.

August 3, 2009

Rule #1

Filed under: Building the Pod,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 10:47

Don’t go messing about with your wesbite’s configuration until you’ve spoken with someone far wiser than yourself when it comes to such matters.
For those who experienced the glitch this morning, my apologies. Will endeavour to make sure this doesn’t happen again!
For those who have no idea of what I’m blabbering on about, as you were. Move along people, nothing to see here.

August 2, 2009

Sine Language – episode 117

This week, Chris Bartlett asks about cloud computing and how that might affect the DAW market into the future,
My man in Hollywood replied with some more info on film track-lay procedures and definitions,
and then Chris Bartlett wrote in again, first to comment on how being a home recording enthusiast is a bit like being a heroin addict, and second to ask about home recording space acoustic treatment.

July 28, 2009

Sunrise panorama revisited

Filed under: Building the Pod,Panorama,Shutters Inc,Sine Language,Tabourie Lake — Bruce Williams @ 22:08

OK, here it is, as promised.
A slightly reworked version with the horizon straightened (photoshop made some weird decisions when it overlapped the various component images), and some subtle cloning across the waves to try and smooth out the irregularities there.

Sunrise panorama - v2

Sunrise panorama - v2

July 27, 2009

Some more shots from Tabourie Lake

Filed under: Building the Pod,Shutters Inc,Sine Language,Tabourie Lake — Bruce Williams @ 13:09

July 20, 2009

Sunrise at Tabourie Lake

Filed under: Building the Pod,Landscape,Panorama,Shutters Inc,Sine Language — Bruce Williams @ 19:32

We got here Saturday arvo.
Yesterday (Sunday) morning, Max and I went down to the beach to shoot the sunrise.
What a vision we were treated to!
What was that Shelton? Find the light… and something something?
BTW, don’t look TOO close! There’s a few “glitches in the matrix”, so to speak.
I’m going to re-work this when I get home.
Sunrise at Tabourie Lake

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 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!

July 7, 2009

Sine Language – episode 115 (Integrate ’09 vendors)

In episode 115, I caught up with some of the exhibitors at Integrate ’09; a pro audio, video and lighting trade show in Sydney.

00:00:44 Ben Sneesby – Bees Neez Microphones
00:02:48 Andy Eastwood – Dynamic Music
00:07:59 Mick Wordly – Mixmasters
00:19:37 James Hicks – Oceanic Distribution
00:22:46 Ben Redzic – Lightsounds
00:25:04 Joshua Fielstra – Native Instruments
00:31:55 Steve Vranch – Yamaha
00:35:26 Maxwell Twartz – Technical Audio Group
00:39:50 Leon Hart – Amber Technology
00:44:22 Filip Saelen – Amber Technology
00:52:02 John Fuller – Sound-Music
00:55:14 Brian Zolner – Studio Connections Australia
01:07:23 Greg Cato – Major Music Wholesale

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