The Big Think

October 30, 2006

Houseiversary

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 4:48 pm

Five years ago today we closed on and moved in to our current house. Has it really been five years? I had to replace a piece of rotted kitchen window trim today, so I guess so. Amazing how time flies.

October 29, 2006

Score

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 11:18 pm

When I was studying music in college, one of my favorite things to do was to go up to the music library at Baylor and check out orchestral scores. I’d sit and listen to the recordings and follow along in the scores. There is no better way to learn how to write than to sit at the feet of the masters, and next to being a copyist (a duty I’ve had the privilege of executing), following a score while listening to a recording (or better yet, to a live orchestra), is Schooling with a capital ‘S’.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do this since my Baylor days ended. Scores are expensive to come by-roughly $50 for a good one. I’ve often dreamed of getting a small collection together slowly so that one day I might have some of the great ones around for reference and learning.

Erin returned from visiting her family in Houston today. While she was there, her father filled her trunk full of legal-records-size boxes. When she brought them home, I carried them in, wondering what he had given us. Upon opening the boxes, I was shocked to discover his gracious, unbelievable, wondrous gift. This man, who spent the better part of a century as a sought after choirmaster and conductor in Houston, had given us his entire collection of orchestral and choral scores. Faure’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven Masses, Wagner, Berlioz, Puccini, Bach. On and on and on. For some of the works there’s just the full score, while some of the packages have the individual part sheets as well, complete with markings by the performers. I just got off the phone with Erin’s dad, gushing my profound thanks for his generosity. It’ll take me several hours to catalog the prizes that are there and make a full list (which I’ll post here), then I’ll embark on the task of tracking down a recording of every piece in the list. I’m giddy.

It may seem silly to someone who doesn’t understand the profound impact music can have, but as I type this I have tears in my eyes. What a treasure trove.

Fall Back

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 1:07 am

It happens every year. I’m all excited about the extra hour of sleep from the clock readjustment and I end up squandering it because I simply can’t go to bed. There’s just too much cool stuff to do and see. I wish you could bank time.

Remodel

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 12:02 am

One of the things I’m looking forward to after the current Sing season is over is a full-out gut and rebuild of my home studio. I’ve been working out of extra bedrooms of wherever we’ve been living for as long as I’ve owned my business. Because of money and time considerations (it’s not easy to shut down work and take everything apart for an extended period of time), I’ve never had the kind of environment I’d really like. Since we bought our house 5 years ago I’ve been working in a 200sq ft enclosed loft on the second floor of our house. It’s a bit of a drag since I’m right across the hallway from the master bedroom, but it’s a decent size for an arranging studio.

Unfortunately, priorities have mandated that other stuff get focussed on first (paint downstairs, bathroom treatments, curtains, etc). But now we’re to the point where I can put some serious time and effort into my workspace. Yesterday I had a tracking session here with Storme and a voice actor named Adam Creighton. Adam and I met quickly at a party a few months ago but didn’t remember each other very well. It was good to get to work with him a bit. We got some great audio reads out of him and comped together a very smooth and natural track. I was happy with the results. The session was a narration for a thanksgiving project, and I was able to get a good recording out of my Sennheiser mic, but it was only after very careful positioning and blanketing of sound sources and ambient reflections (windows, big glass pictures, noisy computer fan, etc). It just reinforced to me how much I need to have a basic vocal/single instrument booth for single mic tracking. So I’ve gone back in and revised my remodeling plans to include a small corner vocal booth. Basically, I plan on walling off a corner of my studio into a 10 square foot or so space, and then doing a number with the sound insulation. That’ll keep the studio noise out and all but the biggest truck rumbles should be eliminated. Plus, it’ll make the place look more like a studio than the current “mostly empty extra room with a big pile of equipment” look that I have going now.

The vocal booth means more building than I anticipated, and it’s a big step up from the tool closet I built in the shop a few years ago, but it’ll sure help things out. And after we move, the vocal booth will make a nice closet in this otherwise uncloseted room. Jan had the good idea today of wiring up an LED light to keep the heat out (thanks, Jan). I probably won’t duct A/C in there because of the noise. Besides, I can cool off the room before I close the talent up in the box. Gotta also work out some kind of window arrangement so the talent can see out, and so I can see the monitor and control the computer from inside if I have to do foley work in the box. Hmm… I wonder if it should be bigger for foley? What about headphones and talkback? Lots to consider here.

One other thing: I plan on also rebuilding all of my furniture and selling this black Raxxess desk. It’s been good to me (and is in great shape), but it no longer fills my needs. I’m a big fan of an ergonomic environment. I feel that a well designed workspace is hugely important during those long, long days in the saddle. So the desk is getting a complete makeover and the mixer is getting a custom case. This’ll be a fun challenge. But the biggest challenge will probably be the vented, ducted, active cooling case I plan to build for my Mac. It’ll be a box-within-a-box design. It’ll have FOUR 22.5db, 120mm fans pulling air through a series of ducts and directing it to the computer. My goal is to have the computer be the same temp in the box as out. But even with all the airflow from the new fans, I still plan on the computer being totally silent. My machine right now puts out probably about 45db (estimating here). Normal conversation is about 60db, and you cut in half for each 6db you lose, so it’s about like a semi-whisper at my deskside. So why do I plan on building the box? Total Silence in the Studio. I think I’m becoming obsessed.

Between the studio remodel and the location audio equipment purchase, there’s some major financial commitments in the next few months. I’ve reached a point in the career when I think I need to revamp some studio stuff. Lots of my equipment has been good to me, but much of it is dated and that needs to be addressed. Part of the game, I guess.

Oddly enough, I got a call this morning from a panicked director. They are shooting a short this weekend and their sound guy walked off the set and took his gear with him. The director was freaking out because the whole shoot could be ruined (unless they decided to make a silent film). I understood her predicament. I mean, you can’t very well shoot a film with the on-camera mics (this is rule #1 and is STILL broken occasionally. I’m amazed when it happens). Unfortunately, when I gave the director my day rate he countered with a rate that would have left me with a ridiculously low profit following two sunrise-to-sunset days. And I got the impression that my preferred position would have been as a “much appreciated volunteer”. I’ve lost my capacity to be surprised when someone asks me to work for free. 16 years in music and audio, three college degrees, tens of thousands invested in equipment, and some directors still don’t understand that it’s worth it to get a good soundman. I politely told the director that anyone worth getting wouldn’t be cheap (especially under the circumstances), and anyone who would work for free wasn’t worth getting. Someone like that would probably cost them more in the long run (though not always). It’s hard and expensive to fix audio mistakes in post. And when you have a crew and actors standing around, and a whole weekend of planned shooting about to go up in smoke, you’re not in the best position, you know? Felt sorry for the director, thinking that the project ultimately wouldn’t live up to their hopes for it. I just hope he realizes why. I guess that’s a lesson every director learns once. Hopefully only once.

October 28, 2006

Non-Neutral

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 4:08 pm

What a freaking joke. I’ve never been lied to so blatantly.

I like what Craig Newmark has to say about it:

As Craig “craigslist” Newmark put it, imagine if you tried to order a pizza and the phone company said, “AT&T’s preferred pizza vendor is Domino’s. Press one to connect to Domino’s now. If you would still like to order from your neighborhood pizzeria, please hold for three minutes while Domino’s guaranteed orders are placed.”

via boing boing

October 26, 2006

Sounds

Filed under: Audio,Music — jasony @ 11:29 am

I have a studio full of midi modules. All told, I probably have 4000 sounds at my fingertips. Unfortunately, most of the equipment is circa 1995. The tech was good for its day, but I can still tell that the instruments aren’t real.

Sampling/playback technology has gotten MUCH better in the last decade. Witness this. What’s most amazing is that these samples are all played back on the host computer (not on an external, midi-triggered keyboard or sound module). Theoretically, all you need is a fast laptop and a USB midi keyboard and you could do all the recording on the road. With a $3000 investment I could get rid of my studio and 10 sound modules entirely. Actually, that’s kind of depressing.

Still, I want this sound library so much it’s embarrassing. No can do, however, until I update the rest of my studio.

October 25, 2006

Speechless

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 8:47 pm

18 months ago Scott Adams (the cartoonist behind Dilbert) contracted a condition known as Spasmodic Dysphonia. In short, the part of his brain that controls speech became disconnected from his vocal chords. This happens occasionally, and in most cases results in the victim losing the ability to speak (though singing and rhyming are okay for some weird reason). Until now nobody has ever come back from this condition and regained their ability to speak. Scott was able, through much effort, to successfully “remap” his brain and can now speak mostly normally (though for how long is unknown).

Scott has an interesting first person account of his experience here.

Skidboot

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 12:23 am

This is wonderful.

October 23, 2006

Star Struck

Filed under: Science,Space — jasony @ 2:45 pm

Interview with an Astronomer.

Big Dig

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 8:13 am

Panama votes for some major canal upgrades. Apparently contrary to opponents wishes, this 5 billion dollar, two year project will make worldwide prices lower and standards of living higher. Yes, it means Wal-Mart will be even cheaper, which is a mixed blessing, but if you’re not used to even a Wal-Mart standard of living, this is good news. Can’t wait to see the “how they did it” shows. Anyone need an audio guy for one? 🙂

October 22, 2006

Pigskin 2006

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 11:03 pm

Sorry for being thin-posted lately. I’ve just returned from my annual trek up to Waco to perform/direct Baylor’s Pigskin Review (the winners from last February’s All University Sing). It was a good show. Pigskin is always nice because the band knows the music and the performers aren’t stressed about the competition (it’s like an All-Stars game: everyone wants to be nominated, but nobody wants to actually play).

Working on Sing right now for this February. I think it’s going to be a great show.

October 14, 2006

Timeline of the Future

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 3:40 pm

I’ve often wondered how long it would take for every trace of our civilization to evaporate if we all suddenly disappeared (or, less creepy, just decided to leave). I figured it would be a million years or so. Here are the actual (approximate) numbers.

Now That’s My Kind of Garage Sale

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 3:33 pm

Erin and I got up at the unholy hour of 7am (well, I had been up for 4 hours already, but that’s another story) and went to REI’s annual garage sale. They sell all kinds of stuff there. It’s mostly returns that they can’t re-shelve (GPS’s that don’t work, or watches with busted bands, or shoes… LOTS of shoes, that got returned). There were about 100 people in line in front of us and they let us in 25 or so at a time. By the time Erin and I got in we thought all the good stuff would have been taken, but there was still a lot left over. I have been needing new shoes and my personal preference has always been hiking boots. Also, we’ve been wanting to get Erin some hiking boot to go with the rest of our backpacking kit. We both got a pair (very, very lightly used… almost indistinguishable from out of the box new) but Erin scored the best deal by far (that’s an understatement). We had been hoping for a so-so middle of the road pair for around $75, but she managed to find this pair for only $50 (normally $180). I got a $160 pair of not all-leather boots for $50 as well.

Oh, and I also got a pair of really comfy slip-on Merril hiking shoes (normally $80) for only…. $1.83.

The best part (well, next to the shoes at those incredible prices) was that the teeming mass of humanity was really cool and didn’t consume itself while we plowed through the piles of stuff. There was quite a bit of esprit de corps with folks keeping an eye out for the sizes of the stranger next to them, pointing out where they’d seen things you mentioned wanting, etc. It was a really great time.

REI has the sale once or twice a year, whenever their warehouses fill up with stuff they can’t sell. You have to be a member to get in (a one-time fee of $10), but it’s totally worth it.

We now have two complete sets of all camping gear (packs, bags, pads, etc) and can pick up and go at a moment’s notice. Joy! As soon as it cools down to where we can use our uber warm bags we’re going to hoof it over to Enchanted Rock for a few nights.

October 13, 2006

Foley

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 4:13 pm

Well, this is getting positively recursive. Storme posts about out Foley session the other day. Hey, I wonder if he’ll link to this post about our Foley session? Then I can link to that. 🙂

Graphic

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 1:54 pm

Free online graph paper generator. Lets you generate all kinds of cool graph paper, including hex-shaped paper if you’re still into paper-based RPG’s (and who isn’t!).

Perfect for your next crazy project.

October 12, 2006

New Kid on the Block

Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 9:45 am

Welcome to Storme and Lee’s new blog. Their production company, Eleven72, is one year old and roaring along. I’ve had the pleasure of working with these guys for a few years now. They’re “big picture” people who are want to do good work and do it right. After being involved with some truly hack-level projects, it’s great to work with guys who really get it.

There’s not much at the blog right now except a short welcome message, but check back for their updates. I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Oh, and if you’re in ministry (Robert? Greg?) I can recommend their film “Fear”. Had a friend of our in tears. Eleven72 is offering it free through the blog for a short time. It’s really worth it!

Completion

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:34 am

5 ways to get things done. Good stuff.

Get a Life

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 8:14 am

From TUAW:

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports that the glass Cube Apple erected earlier this year on New York’s tony Fifth Ave, dubbed Apple Mecca by many of the Mac faithful, is offensive to Muslims due to the Cube’s resemblance to the Ka’bah (aka The House of Abraham). The report goes on to say that there’s a genuine belief that the design of the store was specifically meant to provoke Muslims and cites other contributing insults such Apple housing “bars” that sell alcoholic beverages within the Cube structure and it being open 24/7.

Puh-leeze.

The M Man!

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 7:55 am

Hand drawn British Superhero!

October 10, 2006

Called on Account of Rain

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 7:31 am

Well, bother. I woke at 6am all ready to have a day crammed to the hilt with work (I’m a little behind on my incredibly ahead schedule). Rain. Lots of it. So I rolled back over to nap until it went away, then I could get up and hit the wet day running. The only problem was that it didn’t go away. Instead, I got this (page will eventually update and make this post irrelevant).

Why not work when it thunders, you ask? Because, even with all of my equipment plugged into very expensive UPS’s and surge protectors, I’m still skittish about using it when the angels are bowling directly overhead. One bad bolt and my entire livelihood goes up in crackling smoke. Heck, if one single part of my studio got blasted (not that lightning would be so discerning) I’d be in for a week of irritating, work-stopping delays. When the fireworks start I make it a point to take a rain delay. Guess today is one of those where I sit waiting for the otherwise much-loved rain to pass us by.

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