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Not Fearing the Reaper…

April 30, 2014 1 comment

Another post about keeping things simple. I guess it’s an on-going quest of mine.

Got a call last week about a mixing project (one album, with 2 more in the pipeline) and after a meeting with the artist management, I was given a Pro Tools session to do an “audition mix”. I began the process in Tools – cleaning up tracks, adding crossfades, etc – but after a few days, I realized I could work much faster in Reaper, so I consolidated and bounced everything out.

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Once I got all 43 tracks in Reaper, I color coded stuff, consolidated a few more parts and began mixing. It’s been awhile since I’ve had this much fun working. The music was already in stems, so I had to live with instrument elements that were printed during recording, but I was able to tame a few items with EQ, and live with what I couldn’t fix. Overall the music was mixed down well, so I didn’t have to fight too much with it.

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In keeping with my “keep it simple” theme, I only used a few effects: DMG’s Equilibrium is on just about everything, as is Rob Papen’s RP-Delay, Reaper’s ReaComp and Cytomic’s The Glue for compression, Valhalla’s Vintage Verb, NI’s Driver (for distortion vox effects) and Auto Tune.

Didn’t really want to use Auto Tune, but there were some tuning issues that threw things off in the pre-chorus – and – if used sparingly, it helps to blend (or glue) background vocals together.

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Finally, I used T-Racks for a quick and dirty mastering. That’s it. No need to agonize over it. In fact, recently, I cleaned out a ton of un-used plugins on both of my machines and dug into the ones that I really like. The result – in just a few hours, I had something that was ‘radio ready’, and hopefully, the client will like.

I was really impressed with Reaper’s performance. The final mix contained 92 effects and utilized 62% of my MBP’s processor – that’s right, I did the entire 36 track mix on my laptop. No need for my monstrosity of a Hackintosh. That’s how efficient Reaper is. I did most of the mix at a buffer rate of 64 (which I normally set for tracking virtual instruments), and only kicked it up to 1024 when I needed to add Auto Tune on 24 tracks.

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I’m not gonna bash Pro Tools, because it’s great at what it does. That said, I work faster and more efficiently in Reaper, and as we all know, time is money.

If I go on to mix the full album, I’ll use Tools to convert sessions over to Reaper and finish there.

A quick note on my latest purchase – the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is a phenomenal piece of gear. My Apogee Duet has served me extremely well, but has seen better days and I simply needed more inputs. I was a bit hesitant about the purchase, as there are a number of reported problems with it on the PC side, but it’s been rock solid for me on the Mac. I took it out of the box, plugged it in, and after automatic firmware update, it hasn’t flinched. A solid performer and a great purchase.

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There’s nothing here that a good mix engineer doesn’t already know, but I’ll say that keeping it simple allowed me to work not only faster, but smarter. I followed my instincts and that’s always a good thing.

I’ll let you know if I get the gig….

Categories: Music, The Word

Pro Tools 11 and the plugin Monster…

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Just a quick note on some great customer service I received from a software developer today. I’ve just begun a 30 day trial of Pro Tools 11 and there’s a lot to like about it. After 4 days of trying, I haven’t been able to break it. The only negative so far has been with plugins. Avid dropped RTAS and is now only rolling with 64 bit/AAX, and for some, this has been a huge issue. I made the 64 bit jump this summer and dumped most, ahem… *all* of my old legacy 32 bit VST/AU plugins, and thought I had made it through this process unscathed. However, I’m still coming up short in the RTAS to AAX department.

VintageVerb

I discovered a few painful “gotchas” during this eval period, but one of the biggest was ValhallaDSP’s Vintage Verb. Love, love, love it. Silky smooth and all that. I didn’t realize that I was missing it until I went to use it today.

Doh!

So, I shot the dev an email – #1, to let them know how much I love the product, and #2, to ask when an AAX version would be available. To my surprise, Sean responded no less than 5 minutes after I sent the inquiry. Not only that, he sent me a link to a beta AAX version to try. He asked that I let him know if I have any issues, as well as providing me another install of the previous version “if things go totally crazy”.

This is why, more often than not, I’m giving my money to smaller online developers. It’s much harder to get anything from the “Triple A” of software (Apple, Avid & Adobe), let alone a response within 5 minutes and beta version to try.

I try not to come across as a shill in my blog – Ethics Statement: I do not work for any of the companies I rave about, nor am I paid in any way for said raving – but I do like to spread the word on the stuff I use and find helpful.

Today’s rave – ValhallaDSP. They make good s**t, and provide stellar customer service.

Hey, the Zeiss Guy is here…

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Holy Crap! I almost forgot this thing exists. I remembered it only because I stumbled onto the WordPress app while searching the App Store. I guess the larger question is, do people still blog? They must, as I find myself frequenting a number of photography blogs as of late, but I digress…

Yep, its been more than a year since I last posted, and believe me, a lot has changed. I survived a move deeper into the suburbs, my oldest heading off to college, and oh yeah, my family has grown by 3 — in the aforementioned move deeper into the burbs.

So, what have I been up to? Well quite a bit work wise. Some of it good (incredible actually), and some not so, but you live and you learn. Anywho, what I’m excited about is my newest piece of glass. Yes, I said GLASS — get your minds out of the gutter.

While out celebrating Chick Fil-A’s entrance into the Minnesota market, I found myself at National Camera Exchange in Maple Grove, and low and behold, I see a used Zeiss 28mm lens in mint (E+) condition. The guy behind the counter said in all of his years there, he’s never had a used Zeiss come in. He isn’t the only one. I’ve only seen a few here and there on Ebay, and never on Craigslist. Simply put, Zeiss owners, by and large, keep them.

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I’m not going to get into the why of a Zeiss. If you’re a shooter, then you already know the brand is highly regarded in still photography as well as video. Plus, glass is highly subjective and personal – like religion, politics, Star Wars and Star Trek. It means different things to different people. Based on what I’ve read online, I’m a lens snob, and the Zeiss name means something to me — and I’m OK with that.

I had them put the lens on a 48 hour hold so that I could think it over. My buyers remorse is well documented, and the price tag was well outside “impulse buy” territory. The fact that I dreamt about the lens that night must have meant something. So, after a day of internet research and much justification (it’s an investment, tax write off, “buy once-buy right”, blah blah blah), at the 11th hour, the boss and I drove back to Maple Grove to procure it. The deciding factor was reading Ken Rockwell’s wonderful blog entry “How to afford anything“.

I laughed as each employee looked at it lovingly (and with envy) while placing it on the counter —- “Hey, the Zeiss guy is here”, one of them said. Zeiss Guy? I kinda like that. National Camera’s policy is all used merchandise must be in the case (and available to customers) for 30 days before it can be purchased by employees. Clearly they weren’t happy to see me. As an employee, I would have been counting the days. Yep, sucks to be them. I can imagine some sort of gladiatorial style contest between employees for any unsold stock that possibly ends in ones death, but again, I digress…

In any event, the lens is spectacular. The colors, stunning. It’s a MF lens, but I’m a video guy, so I’m no stranger to focusing manually, and actually prefer it. I’ve also put my head back in the books to learn all of the glass in my bag. Every lens has a sweet spot, and no two camera bodies are alike. So, it’s been all about the fundamentals for me. There’s a huge difference between video and photography, and it’s easy to mix up some of the concepts — for example, shutter speed is everything for stills, but by and large, a fixed value for video work. I’m a video guy first, photographer second. In fact, I would not consider myself a photographer at all. I know a few highly skilled photogs, and am in awe of their talent. Again, they’re two different disciplines that happen to share a few concepts, similarities and in the case of the DSLR, gear.

As I learn more, the better my video looks. Imagine that? Remember the rules:

1. Know where your stuff is.
2. Know what your stuff does.
3. Don’t break your stuff.

I’ve been hammering rule #2 hard as of late, and I figure a little RTFM never hurt anybody, right?

Categories: The Word

Been a long time…

May 28, 2012 Leave a comment

December 23rd??? Really? That was my last entry here? 6 months ago?

Wow. What the hell?

Ok, seeing how it’s yet another holiday that I’m stuck at work, I guess I have time to play catch up. I’ve been super busy (to say the least) and freelance has been very, very good to me.

The highlights:

December/January:

– St. Oalf Choir Holiday Concert shoot for TPT

SNS goes HD!

– Recording sessions with Talia

– Xmas vacation out East (Happy Birthday to me)

February:

– Shot a music doc for local band

Fitness On Request shoot

– “Stay-cation” in town

March/April:

– “Bloom Where You’re Planted” doc/shoot

– Shot and cut “We Found Love – LIVE Arrangement” video

– Audio engineer @ TPT (trained in for pledge drive relief)

– Maryland/Florida vacation

May:

“Pete Hegseth for Senate 2012” promo video for GOP Convention

– Pre production for 2nd Fitness On Request shoot

– Home studio additions and upgrades

June:

– Fitness On Request

Darnell Davis Concert shoot.

– Lifetime Fitness shoot

Whew… One thing I’ve learned from the above list is that I vacation a lot, and I make no apologies for it. My motto is – work hard, play harder. My current work cycle is that the freelance funds the vacations, and that’s alright with me.

In fact, I’m currently working to fund the next big vacay as I type this, and next week promises to be no exception. I’ll be technical directing Fitness On Request shows during the day, while mixing TPT pledge at night.

Hell, the only reason I have the time to write this entry is that I brought the wrong hard drive with me to work and I can’t edit SNS. I’m almost 2 episodes ahead.

Tomorrow is more FOR pre-pro and a site survey for the upcoming concert shoot. I’m looking forward to that. It’s always a treat being around musicians with great chops (and those church boys have chops… yessiiiirrrr).

Anywho – I’ll post some pics from some of the above events so this place doesn’t seem so cold and empty.

Randomly selected six month review in photos –

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Categories: Music, The Word, Video

2011…

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I personally think they’re a waste of time, effort and resources. I prefer the Nike slogan – “Just Do It…”.

So, with that said, I’m hitting the ground running in 2011. My album, “Love and Acrimony” is complete, and I’m currently running through the administrative process – copyrighting, ASCAP and ISRC registrations, CD Baby and iTunes distribution, etc. These tasks are boring and time consuming, but I’m an advocate of protecting one’s work as much as one can in our “New Media” age.

I’m also going to begin cutting “When I’m Not With You” that was shot between Christmas and New Years in Chicago. I’m extremely proud of what we did. I’m almost afraid to work on it, because the edit has to do the project (and the song) justice. I’ve organized and grouped all of the shots, and all that remains is to sit down and cut it.

This also marks the 1st time that I shot a music video with assistance. I’m used to working alone, but it was so much easier having the extra help. The shoot was not without some mild difficulty, as my help was also a principle in the video, but we got through it. This was due to excellent pre production and scripting. We developed a shot sheet prior to shooting, and stuck to it faithfully. This opened us up creatively after we had all of our shots. I can’t say enough for pre-planning and production. Total production time was about 4.5 hours over two days.

On the tech end of things, I’m really in love with my Canon 50mm 1.4. It’s taken a while to warm up to it, but now I can’t imagine shooting video without it. I love my Tamron for stills, but the 50 is where it’s at for capturing moving images.

I said that I wasn’t into resolutions, but I guess I will resolve to get one Canon “L” series lens this year. Oh hell, I’m on a roll now – another resolution is to continue to push the bounds of what is possible with a DSLR (or an iPod for that matter, as the video these babies is incredible).

Here’s to 2011…

This is now… a thing…

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I borrowed the title of this entry from a recent episode of Family Guy, where they poked fun at a failed Fox show. Stewie breaks the 4th wall and says, “Let’s all pause and remember that this was… a thing…”

That’s how I feel about my CD project, sans the negativity, as I’m mixing. My thought midway through the process – Holy crap, this is now a thing. I’m actually mixing my album.

I’ve only been working on it for years…

Yes, after many stops and starts, bouts of writers block, perfectionism run amok, and at times, a genuine lack of interest, I’m about to send a collection of songs into the wild. I’ve never labored so hard, for so long, on any one thing. It’s not perfect, but it’s now or never. A powerful Jedi once said, “Do or do not. There is no try”, and I’ve adopted this simplistic, yet powerful mantra.

It really hit me after I did a crude cover mock up in Photoshop. It’s been said that visualization of a goal helps bring it to fruition (and I’ve been visualizing like a mf’er lately), but seeing the cover helped bring the whole thing to life. By the way, thanks for pictures Neza and Kelli…

My crude attempts at cover art

Everything is falling into place. I have just two songs left to work on, and I expect to have all of the music mixed and mastered in the next 48 hours. I’ll then turn my attention to finishing the cover (with some professional help), and if all goes well, shipping for duplication by the end of the week.

I now have visions of receiving the coveted box from Fed-Ex, iTunes availability, shooting a music video in Chicago, and ultimately playing live.

Is it perfect? Nope. But I’ve kept the cringe factor low. Will the next one be better? No doubt. But before that, Mystical’s project needs some attention.

This is now… a thing…

Categories: Music, The Word

Stay At It…

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Wow, my last entry was quite technical in nature. Well, this is primarily a blog on television production, so it is what it is…

However, I thought I’d switch gears today and talk about the importance of persistence, and the all important follow up. I can’t go into specifics, but I had an opportunity come my way several months ago. We entered into a loose negotiation (of sorts) via email, but nothing came of it.

I was cleaning out my inbox earlier this week, and found the email. Without thinking, I sent a nicely worded follow up. Two days later, I got a response that said the original opportunity remains up in the air, however, my services could be used in another capacity.

That speaks for itself. You never know where the opportunity is going to come from, and nothing should ever be written off.

Stay at it, and keep at it…

Categories: The Word, Video