Tuesday, August 22, 2017

been too long…

Wow. 2011. I didn't even realize I'd started this thing yet in 2011... well, makes sense, that was the year we got a "dynamic" website (which I think is what they call "a website" these days). That was probably the tail end of the blog-necessity trend for business, as "dynamic" websites took over the blog-only platforms like this one. It was probably about the same time we started on the facebook and the twitter, too, so a lot of our blog-like energy went there. And, hey, now we're on the instagram!—although neither of us has it installed on our phones and we can never remember the password for posting from the desktop on Grambler, and I suppose instagram is over by now.... Snap chat? Well... having trouble getting enthusiastic about that one, and it's probably getting a little stale, too.

Anyway, here I am. Back on the old Hear Kitty Studios blog. I also added our joint gmail account as an author so Kat can post here, too, although she's not as much into staring at computer screens when we aren't working on them doing audio. She's a great writer, though, so hopefully I'll convince her to contribute in some way. I think we might start using this platform a bit more. Maybe an occasional movie review (seem to think I did one of those for The Hurt Locker—yup, I did, see? I found the link and everything), something about a book one of us just read, a podcast we listen to, whatever....

Stay tuned. Wait... maybe I should get one of those test patterns they used to have on TV overnight.... or how about the American flag? Remember that?


Thursday, July 28, 2011

under the hood

I'm working around under the hood on our new web site, which is based in WordPress. Wowie zowie it's confounding to me. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those many things that is really easy to use once I scramble up the learning curve, but that curve is feeling pretty steep right now. I can use the site like a blog easily right now, and it's great for that, but I'm trying to get into customizing the style, adding a few pages, etc, and that part is really blowing my mind today. And yesterday. Stay tuned, though, because I'm due for a breakthrough pretty soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FCP continuing to eat Avid's lunch?

I just read a relatively reserved blog about Final Cut Pro X, as demonstrated at NAB. It's easy to find a lot of enthusiasm about Final Cut Pro X just by googling Apple NAB, whereas if you google Avid NAB you don't get nearly the same kind of flood of enthusiasm about anything they're showing in Vegas this week. It leads me to wonder whether Avid is poised to get left in the lurch again by Apple, just as they have an opportunity to gain some ground while Apple and Adobe duke it out.

I don't really know, and frankly don't really have a direct stake in that race because it's mostly about video editing software and video manipulation tools. It seem that no matter what Apple or Adobe do, they haven't made any kind of dent in Pro Tools in the professional post-audio world the way they have in comparable video facilities. I suspect that's because they're not really trying. When we first saw Soundtrack Pro debuted at NAB, I leaned over to Kat and said "they are going to do to Pro Tools what Final Cut did to Avid." We only placed a small bet on that in the form of investing in Soundtrack Pro 1.0, but we also got a Pro Tools LE rig at about the same time because at the time Soundtrack couldn't import OMFs. Fast forward however many years, and we still have the same Pro Tools LE hardware, have upgraded the software from 6.whatever to 7.4 and bought a new Pro Tools HD rig which is also running 7.4. Oh, yeah, and Digidesign was purchased by Avid in those years, too--that's important. (We'll get around to 8 or 9 one of these days--undoubtedly before we upgrade Soundtrack Pro to anything.) For awhile Soundtrack got opened now and then when we wanted to do some noise reduction, which has always been the most appealing feature of Soundtrack to me, but we've since bought some tools (by Izotope and Waves) which blow doors off the internal noise reduction in Soundtrack Pro, so we're not using it for anything these days.

But here's where it does matter to me: the rise of Final Cut Studio has coincided with a declining willingness to ever lock picture and as this happens, post-production workflows become dependent on integrated tools. If Soundtrack Pro could do audio half as well as Pro Tools, this might be moving us in that direction, but it doesn't seem as though Apple has any interest in developing Soundtrack Pro in that direction. Whether they do or not, my preference would be for Avid to regain some market share (and respectability in the cutting edge video post world) so they could develop some tools to allow us to integrate our work with video departments who are unlocking picture when we're halfway through dialog editing. So far, all I've seen out of Avid at NAB this year is a slick video about how important their customers are to them, and a guy in a goofy jacket demoing the latest Media Composer.

Meanwhile, Avid acquired Euphonix last year (Best. Acquisition. Ever.) and I haven't even seen any exciting news in that department coming out of NAB. Are they showing something exciting which just isn't getting as much press because it's not Apple? I hope so. I've switched audio tools before when Pro Tools shocked and awed Waveframe, Sonic Solutions, Fairlight, etc, etc, and took over as the Kleenex brand. I can do it again if Avid isn't going to compete in the integrated post-production model. I'd rather not, though, because Pro Tools rocks.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3-D or not 3-D

I just read an interesting blog post entitled The Myth of 3-D Immersion. Evidently, this particular blog post is a follow-up to another one which received so much response (overwhelmingly negative, I gather) that the author felt compelled to come back for more.

Now, I'm a sound person, and have my own bias on movies which is unashamedly audio-centric. I believe an audience will tolerate weak visuals, bad lighting, poor shot composition, etc, far more than they will sit through bad audio. If they can't understand the dialog, or if they have to really concentrate to hear the words over the background noise, it's over. If the lead actor's fill light is too low and makes the hero look like a jackal, they'll keep watching (and listening).

So, that's my bias. It should come as no surprise that I view 3-D in movies as far less important than a good surround sound mix. Done well, 3-D can enhance my enjoyment of a movie, but it won't make a good movie great and it won't make a bad mix sound good. (On the other hand, a really good mix can make a good movie great for me because it puts me in their world and I respect that even if I didn't especially like their world.) Done poorly, 3-D is just annoying and distracting. (Of course, surround sound done poorly can be annoying and distracting, too. I think of the early days of 5.1 mixing when they just felt compelled to place sounds behind your right shoulder just because they could. Generally, making the audience look away from the screen is a pretty good way to pull them out of their suspension of disbelief.)

Anyway, the core point of this blog I was reading which inspired all of this you're reading is this:
The introduction of 3-D technology can't be compared to that of sound, or color, or even stereo, as people like to do. And for a simple reason. We use these technologies to show more, to extend what can be depicted. These technologies enable us to increase the amount of information we can represent or put to work in film. And this is the stuff of story-telling.
And that thought leads to the paragraph which really inspired me to write this post:
Recall Marlon Brando's famous line, as Terry Malloy, in On the Waterfront, "I could have been a contendah!" You recall his facial expression, posture and movements, the line itself, the feeling with which it is delivered, but you also recall Brando's voice. You need sound to display the voice; you need sound for voice to be one of the elements in the composition making up the whole. Color similarly extends the working pallet of the director and so extends what can be presented to an audience.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on the subject of sound in movies: "half of what you see is what you hear." (Attributed to many, many film-makers, perhaps most famously to George Lucas, although it was probably said by Francis Ford Coppola first.) Now imagine if you could hear Brando saying something, but couldn't really make out the words because the microphone was pointed the wrong way or the scene had been shot in an actual moving car or the music had been mixed too loud. First, turn the sound off on your computer. Now watch it without sound.

Kinda dull scene, no? Go ahead, I know you want to, watch it again with the sound on. Better, isn't it?

I can imagine the scene colorized and I don't like it. I can imagine it shot in color and it would probably be just as powerful, but not necessarily any more than it is now. I can't really imagine conceiving of that scene in 3-D, but when I try, I don't see how it does anything but distract me from the scene. So I have to agree, sound was a more important advance in movie-making technology than 3-D.

What does get really interesting to me is thinking about how sound can play with 3-D in interesting ways. We've had something like 3-D audio for my entire career (in 1977, Star Wars was the first movie to use Dolby Surround, Jurassic Park in 1993 launched 5.1 audio in theaters, I started working in audio post in 1995), so I've been spending my whole career working with how to place the audience into a three dimensional space. I haven't worked on a 3-D project yet, though, and I'm looking forward to discovering how those two different 3-D spaces can interact and compliment one another.

Monday, March 21, 2011

we agree wholeheartedly

Michael Davenport, music supervisor and owner of Expressive Artists, just alerted us to this review of our work (and his) on Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer:
Luckily the film's lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is quite winning, especially from the very creative use of poppy underscore tunes, some evidently courtesy of bands the music coordinator for the film manages. There is also good, if inconsistent, use of the surrounds, including the many sewer sequences, which feature a lot of discrete channelization and good echo effects. The best overall sound effect is toward the end of the film when Darksmoke and Arthur have their final showdown. That sequence bristles with awesome LFE and the sound design is very effective. Overall, dialogue sounds great here, and the music is especially well done throughout.
(Quoted from http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Adventures-of-a-Teenage-Dragonslayer-Blu-ray/18666/.)

We're very proud of our work. (Sure, we'd rather not see the phrase "if inconsistent" in there, but we understand what they mean. We knew we had to focus our efforts on certain scenes to make those sections of the movie have the punch the filmmakers wanted. We would have loved to flesh out the movie throughout as much as we did in those key sections, but we had to pick out battles.) Kat certainly deserves the credit they give her for the "very effective" sound design on the final showdown and, in fact, throughout the film: she brought the dragons to life, and her Foley and background work filled out the reality. I'm very pleased to see what they said about my dialog work and the final mix. While we were doing the initial premixing in one of the "many sewer sequences" referenced in this review, I had the wonderful sensation of everyone behind me in the mix room leaning in closer as the suspense built and the mix surrounded them in the world of the sewer. We also agree with everything nice they said about the music, which it should be noted came from the combined forces of composer Mark Oates and music supervisor Michael Davenport.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best Sound Oscar 2010

We watched Inception in the studio the other night--the movie which won both sound Oscars this year. (While our video friends laugh at us for the picture quality, we like the sound. We're working on the picture quality, too. Stay tuned.)

It wasn't as clear a standout to me as a Best Sound Oscar as The Hurt Locker, but it sounded very, very good. The sound design was very good--interesting without being distracting--and that's what usually wins the Best Sound Editing Oscar. What really stood out as exceptional to my ears, though, was the final mix. It was really clean and clear and easy to understand; it was dynamic without loosing the quiet moments or blowing us out of our seats on the loud parts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

when it rains, it pours... and when it pours, we get wet.

Wow, what a week this has been... and it may be almost over, but it's not really close to over. We've been working most of the week--days and nights--one two feature-length documentaries, both with the same deadline, Friday, March 11.

The two projects really couldn't be much more different. We started last week working with the lovely and talented Scott Cervine on his latest, People v. The State of Illusion. This project is put together by, and features, some of the same people from What The #$*! Do We (K)now!? This one is a very provocative look at how emotions control how we perceive the world, and how our perceptions affect our state of mind. It's very inspirational and uplifting to work on, even when it's the middle of the night and our ears are starting to get weary from too much work.

The other project is called The Proving Grounds directed by Ld Dyksterhouse and it's about a Mixed Martial Arts training gym here in Albuquerque run by the inimitable Greg Jackson. We've actually had the distinct pleasure of recording Greg Jackson for an entirely different project, but that's another story. While on the surface, this is a very different kind of project, it is also very rewarding to work on, which is good because we've been putting a lot of hours into it, and it has some surprising similarities with People v. The State of Illusion. I'm not sure I've had enough sleep to articulate those similarities... perhaps you'll watch both of them and tell me what you thought.