Episode 161 – Welcome aboard, Doc!

This episode, we welcome Doc Goldstein on board as co-host!
Doc and I chat about his background, and where we see this podcast going from here on out.
We also got a great question from Dave King about PC noise in a recording environment.
I also came across this handy infographic which explains the difference between audio compression and data compression.

Also, who knew? The depths of the ocean are quite noisy!

I came across this interesting quote from TapeOp #115 regarding the transfer from audio master tape to vinyl:

“The tape machines that were used to play the master tapes were fitted with an extra pre-listen head over to the left of the regular head stack. This head would sample the audio slightly before the regular playback head. The signal would be filtered and used to determine the speed of the leadscrew motor. This allowed the groove spacing to open up just before loud passages and close down during softer passages.”

Speaking of TapeOp…. They’ve just launched a new podcast!

And I’ve now launched a Sine Language Podcast page on Facebook. If you haven’t ‘liked’ it yet, head on over there and do so! Feel free to post questions and comments there, or e-mail us at our new e-mail address (mentioned in the podcast, and at the closer). That e-mail address will reach both Doc and myself.

Also mentioned in this ep, Mick Rooney’s fantastic AATranslator software.
Mick runs a project studio in Sydney’s western suburbs, called Suite Spot.
In the podcast, I mistakenly said “.com.au” but it’s actually just “.com”, if you’re wondering.

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Reason to believe

“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog
by the highway in a ditch
lookin’ down kinda puzzled
pokin’ that dog with a stick.
Got his car door flung open
he’s standin’ out on Highway 31.
Like if he stood there long enough
that dog’d get up and run”

Reason to Believe – Bruce Springsteen

 

OK, couldn’t resist that, given that Bruce is in town this week, and I saw him play for the zillionth time on Thursday night.
But there’s a reason for that quote.
You are probably thinking right about now that this podcast has faded for the second time, and that it wasn’t coming back. That it had become the proverbial dead dog lyin’ in a ditch.
Well, I’m here to announce that I’m poking it, and it is in fact, about to get back up and run.
As Shutters Inc listeners would no doubt attest, the “2 heads are better than one” philosophy works.
I mentioned late last year that I was kicking around the idea of bringing a co-host on board for Sine Language as well. And as fate would have it, the contributor to this podcast who always had to guard his identity, and who went by the nickname “My man in Hollywood”, has now retired from the industry.  But he still loves “talking shop” as much as I do, and he has expressed a willingness to come on board as co-host!
I’m super excited by this! You have no idea!
We’ve been nutting out the details over the last week or two, and it is my hope that the next episode will be out in… well, I don’t want to jinx it, but let’s just say, it’s not far off!
And it will be the moment when I can introduce him to you, and when we will jointly have the opportunity to lay out the roadmap for where Sine Language will go in the future.
His quote, upon reading the draft of this post…

“I would just say that I’m looking forward to the podcast and I expect that I will have to stay up on my toes to keep up, but I’ll do my best.”
#pumped

Episode 160 – Manga-inspired audio

This week, Ernie wrote in to follow up on last episode’s e-mail.
Rob wrote to me to thank me for an e-mail I’d sent him a couple of weeks back.
He also included a link to this Italian song, which is pure gibberish intended to sound like English.
And then it’s on to another Dissection.
This time, a commercial from about 5 years ago, which was intentionally written and produced to sound like it was inspired by Manga comics.

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Episode 159 – Gain staging

This week, Ernie wrote asking about gain staging.
And Steve wrote to say:

a) he loved the Dissection (that’s good… there’s another on this ep!),
b) like Rob, he also hated the Pono, and
c) to ask my opinion on what’s driving the renewed interest in vinyl.

Rob also wrote to say he was impressed with the idea of the Dissection segment.

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Episode 158 – The initial Dissection

This week, Rob wrote to discuss the high fidelity audio needs (or lack thereof) of the smartphone media-consuming market.
And I introduce a new segment to the podcast called The Dissection.
If you find this of value, let me know.
Each episode, I will take a commercial I’ve made, and pull it apart, let you hear all the work parts, and then slowly reintroduce all the processing, plugins, automation, eq and whatever else until we get back to a final mix.
My intention is to share my workflow, my thinking, and my techniques behind creating radio commercials. Hopefully, this will be of benefit to the listener who wants to either:
A) follow in my footsteps (What? Are you crazy?),
B) create their own podcast intros and outros,
C) edit and mix audio dramas,
D) anything else that requires a multi-layered audio approach.

In this episode, it’s an ad for a paintball business. As well as breaking apart the mix, I’ve taken a bunch of screen grabs so you can see what settings I had where, and how stuff was routed.
All of this was done in Steinberg Nuendo 4.5 (software which is now about 7 years old, because my employer won’t upgrade it…. a rant for another day).

A primer for mixing a song (for non-audio engineers)

I have a mate who does rough mixes to send to me, prior to me doing a ‘real’ mix later on. His mixes always come to me with red lights all across the board, so I wrote the following as a guide to setting up a rough mix. Yeah, he’s a guitar player.
And before we move on, if you want to share this, please do. All I ask is that you attribute it to me. Thanks!


First off, understand that the reason we record and mix in higher resolutions than 16 bit is so that we don’t have to peg every meter to the ceiling. And there’s a very good reason for NOT wanting to peg every meter to the ceiling.
In an analogue console, you have hundreds of amplification stages…. mic preamps, channel faders, EQ boost/cut knobs, subgroup faders, the master channel faders…. all of these are amplifiers.
And an amplifier ALWAYS has one point (and one only) where its signal-to-noise ratio is optimum. And that point is what we refer to as “unity gain”.
Any point below unity gain means that the noise level is the same as at unity gain, but the signal is lower.
Any point above unity gain, and the amplifier circuit is starting to distort. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but many times, it’s not.
Now, the thing about the digital domain is that there is no headroom above 0dBFS. You hit zero, and you clip. Plain and simple.
So the benefit of 24 bit mixing is that we can build our mix lower on the meters, and not actually sacrifice any bit depth.
Every “bit” in our wordlength equates to 6dB of dynamic range. CD’s use 16 bit audio which equates to 96dB of dynamic range (vinyl has a range of about 70dB, studio-quality analogue tape had about 60, cassette tap about 45).
At the risk of this turning into an epic (if it hasn’t already), you should build your mixes starting with drums and bass peaking NO HIGHER than -20dBFS. You start there and bring in the next element to such a degree that it neither overpowers, nor is overpowered by, the drums and bass.
And you keep repeating that process. Bring in each new element so it just sits nicely in the mix.
If you follow this approach, you’ll end up with a finished mix which will most likely be peaking around -6dBFS (obviously, this depends on how complicated/dense the arrangement is), at which point, you slap a peak limiter across the master, set the output for -1dBFS and then apply as much threshold (to the limiter) as is needed to bring the whole mix up to 0dBFS.
And if you did it right, you will never need to go back and nudge the drums or bass higher.
If you find yourself doing this halfway through, or near the end of, the mixing process, then you’ve obviously introduced an element somewhere down the line TOO LOUD. So rather than pushing the drums or bass higher (more than likely to be heard over your guitars), pull the guitars back. That kind of perpetual ‘fader creep’ is what leads to you maxing out your faders, and having red lights all over your mix.
And if your mix only peaks at -12dBFS…. so what?
At 6dB per bit, you’re still effectively mixing at 22 bit resolution, which means you can STILL truncate to 16 bit without losing ANYTHING. And if you’re mixing at 32 bit, well….
Just some stuff to consider when you’re next assembling a rough mix. 🙂

Episode 157 – The value of music

This week, Izotope has set up a training ground for audio engineers called the Pro Audio Essentials.
Even as a 30 year veteran of this stuff, it makes for a good refresher/reality check! I highly recommend you check it out if you are interested in any form of recording or mixing.

Rob weighs in with a treatice on the imaginary value of music.
Links included:
Spotify payout rates to artists
Tidal on shaky ground?
The 27 Club

Then there’s these headphones. Full disclosure, I’ve never heard a pair. But based on what I just read, I don’t think I need to, either.

Karel asked about what the differences are between 1/4″ tape and cassette tape.
And finally, a public shoutout to Rowan for his assistance on a wiring issue I was having.

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Public Service Announcement

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you would by now be aware of my loathing for all things Apple.

Well, this just solidifies it.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

“When I signed up for Apple Music, iTunes evaluated my massive collection of Mp3s and WAV files, scanned Apple’s database for what it considered matches, then removed the original files from my internal hard drive. REMOVED them. Deleted.”

If you’re an ITMS subscriber, I suggest you read the blog post I just linked to. I would seriously go postal if this happened to my music collection.

Episode 156 – The benefits of distortion

This episode, a little late now, but still worth a read… Rupert Neve’s touching tribute to Sir George Martin.
I get on my soapbox about the (in my opinion) incorrectly-referred-to “phase switch”.
This week, I was alerted to this unbelievably amazing video, which you need know nothing about. Just click the freakin’ link and be done with it, ok? 🙂
Last episode, I promised to post links to some audio of Ray McGregor, and then promptly forgot it. Whoops. My bad. Rob sent me this link to an aircheck of Ray on 4IP, a radio station located just outside of Brisbane.
That piece of audio is part of a larger playlist of Ray’s work, which Bill Weaver created on Soundcloud. The pieces that I would have linked to are part of that playlist.
Rob Bettla introduced me to Sony’s Project N,
the Future Lab (also a Sony property),
and the LG Tone Infinim (a similar product to Project N).
And then I get onto a bit of a discussion about drive and distortion, and what they can do for your mix (in modest quantities).

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Episode 155 – From Nervana to MQA

This week, a company called Nervana plan to bring you some headphones which will promote the release of dopamine in the body, whilst you’re enjoying your toons.
Some guy with waaaay too much time on his hands built this amazing hand-cranked marble-powered music machine, which he calls the Wintergaten.
Mobile phone manufacturer HTC in conjunction with Meridian Audio has just shown off (at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) a new audio coding algorithm called MQA.
And Rob opened up a discussion on the future of voice talent; both flesh and blood, and canned.
Links included:
Voice changing algorithm
I am not a robot.

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Episode 154 – False Surround Dictatorships

This week, I had a follow up e-mail from Ernie re: location recording for his video naturescapes,
Rob wrote another epic titled “False Surround Dictatorships” about the disparity between the R&D dollars spent on 3D video as opposed to any kind of 3D audio (links at the end of this post),
Steve Hope asked the following, regarding podcast mastering levels (which may very well inspire a forthcoming episode of SL):

A question without notice. When you are producing your podcasts what is the maximum level you mix to in dBFS. For instance for TV broadcast the standard is line up tone -20dBFS, maximum peak level -10dBFS (some say -12dBFS) However with podcasts there isn’t a broadcast chain so what are the standards you use?

Chad is of the belief that he will have finished the final graphic edits to his movie in the next week or so, and that there will be a screening in Seattle sometime early in March (just a couple of weeks away).

I have been spending a bit of time writing answers on quora.com and have now achieved the status of “One of the Most Read Authors” in the subjects of ‘Audio recording’ and “Acoustics’ (where I am currently ranked #7 for both).
My most recent diatribe was this sub-Bettla-worthy analysis of why .wav is superior to .mp3.
And finally, a thorough explanation of just what Bit Bandit is. The free and pro versions are now both available in the Googe Play Store. And if I’m not mistaken, they are available in the iToons Music Store as well (to be confirmed).

 

Rob’s links:

HTC Hive
Oculus Rift
Google Project Tango
Magic Leap
Google and GoPro
Video from inside the cockpit of a jet fighter
Lytro Immerge
Logitech g35
Razer Kraken 7.1

 

** Addendum **

After I’d written up these show notes, James advised me that the website for Bit Bandit is live now. You can find it here. Please give the free version a go, and if you think it’ll be useful to you, dig deep for the $2 for the pro version. 🙂 And please pass the word along to any of your audio engineering friends! Cheers.

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Episode 153 – Who’s responsible for the Loudness War?

Happy New Year!
This week, I came across this blog post, highlighting the 50 best free VST plugins of 2015.
Along the way, I talked about the plugin Ambience from smartelectronix. One of the best algorithm-based reverbs I’ve come across (not that I use them much these days; I mostly stick to convolution reverbs).
Plus I received an e-mail from Ernie (who we haven’t heard from in ages).
Ernie wanted to know who was responsible for the Loudness War,
whether or not I’d ever come across another 2 track editor as feature-rich as Adobe Audition,
and whether I had any tips on picking microphones.
Ernie likes to record video ambience tracks, and included a link to one of his creations.

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Episode 152 – Compressor design topologies

This week, a “just-in-time” e-mail from Rob Bettla reveals his difficulties with deciphering Aussie slang,
his interpretation of the sound of a piece of 4″x2″ (via his soundcloud account),
the Japanese engineer with a few patents to his name, including how to make speaker cones out of wood (see the pic),

Wood speakers

and the Top 25 list of audiophile-grade home hi-fi speakers.
But I was surprised NOT to see Duntech Sovereigns on that list.

And then it’s on to my skype call with Christopher Dion of Quantum Mastering in Quebec.
In July of this year (2015), Christopher wrote a great article about the different compressor design topologies, which I came across when someone posted a link on the Reaper forum.

Here’s a brief re-cap, but I do highly recommend you read Christopher’s article…

VCA:
Stands for “Voltage Controlled Amplifier” and its compression behaviour is based on PEAK, with fast attack and release.

Opto:
Much slower response time than a VCA design. If the detector in the VCA design sees the exact signal, the opto will see an ‘averaged-over-time’ version of it.

Vari-mu:
The transfer curve is far from being linear. That means that the louder the input signal gets, the harder it is going to be compressed (compression ratio increases as the input signal level increases)

FET (Field-effect transistor):
The slowest attack time available on the FET is usually faster than the fastest attack time on a variable mu.

Here’s a couple of similar articles about design topologies:
Tangible Technology, and Sound on Sound.

Plus I found this page which describes a bunch of well known (and some obscure) compressor plugins, and the type of analogue hardware they are each designed to model/emulate.

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Episode 151 – Questions about ‘audio for motion picture’

This week, I answer a couple of e-mails from both Rob Bettla and Greg Anderson, regarding the move to audio for motion picture.
I WAS going to cover the compression discussion as well, but decided at the end that I’d leave it until the next episode.

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Episode 150 – Working on a movie

This week, iZotope is teasing the forthcoming release of Ozone 7,
plus RX5 (their awesome noise reduction suite) is out now.
Ever wondered what a close-up view of a needle tracking on a piece of vinyl might look like? Well,  wonder no more!
Interestingly, during this video, the guy talks about a format I’d not heard of before called a ‘Capacitance Electronic Disc’… apparently an analogue large-disc video format.
Plus I talk through the process of what I’ve (so far) done on Chad’s short movie.

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