Feeds:
Posts
Comments

VR Audio Wormhole

vr-lead

I have become obsessed by immersive audio for VR…(that’s not me in the picture by the way)

I’ve fallen for the hype and assault of every soothsayer and taste-maker’s claim that VR, /AR etc will have a big impact on ‘the way we see the world’…Zuckerman, who bought Occulus for a hefty multi-billion $ deal claims that

“VR is the next major computing platform that will come after mobile.” 

So, as an audio engineer, mixer, producer I’m very interested to see the impact this will have on my world.

I am promised by many that the future of audio is immersive. This means that sound will need to be mixed with the considerations of headphones and most interestingly, head tracking.

Most engineers (or audio students) worth their salt will understand the way that the ear perceives directionality of a sound. Through the clues of inter-aural time and level differences as well as the subtle Head Related Transfer Function of an individuals head and pinna. As mix engineers working in stereo, this hasn’t been a factor worth fussing over. But now…

There are many many audio plugin, software and hardware manufactures rushing out new products that allow the music creator or mix engineer to create a realistic 3D environment in headphones, that reacts to the head movement of the listener to mimc a true acoustic space. It’s bonkers and witchcraft.

(Perhaps, the mix engineer of the future will mix stereo as an afterthought in the same why I might check mono compatibility.)

If you are keen to discover what I’ve been looking at, I recommend:

The main conclusion I get from this foray into VR world is, everyone seems to be making it up as they go along… there are no standardised work flows, no easy implementation across all platforms or browsers. It’s still the wild west…but that’s today. Tomorrow something else will be released which will be better. And next week, something else.

Get in quick.

 

 

Advertisements

MelbourneTradeShowPostcardG’day cobbers!

I’m organising this awesome event on 24th September 2016 at SAE Institute, Melbourne

The idea is for all of the big audio software and hardware manufacturers and sellers to congregate in one place and show off their latests goods. It coincides with the beginning of trimester for new SAE students so is a great opportunity for the exhibitors to promote their educational pricing (has Daddy given you some money to spend!!?) Open to the public – and it’s free!! (though you must register)

So far we have…

plus stands by Music Victoria, HearSmart, Tom Larkin’s Studios In The City, Mute Audio (Hearing Protection) and Future Music Industry Network

Get your tickets from http://melbourneaudiotradeshow.eventbrite.com and sign up to the Facebook event page to get up-to-date news of the event.

I’ve just finished watching the movie “Good Vibrations” about a small time record shop owner in Belfast during “The Troubles”.

An enjoyable watchable  film with a charismatic protagonist and engaging story arch backed up with an authentic punk soundtrack…but….

i’m left wondering how much is true and how much is bullshit.

This is mainly because I’ve been seriously scarred by the recent Alan Turing biopic “The Imitation Game” where 99% of it is Hollywood fantasy designed for the multiplex retard.

Despite Alan Turing’s real story being truly amazing, the filmmaker thought it needed spicing…”by ‘spicing up’, I mean ‘making up’.. ( do some research but it’s really poor)

Now I’m not stupid and I realise that a true tale may need a little bit of sugar to make it palatable for yr man in the street but it would be nice to know exactly how much is a porky

Growing up I enjoyed “The Birth Of The Beatles” (You know, the one where Nick Cotton plays George Harrison) and who didn’t love “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story)

These days it seems that a meal needs to be made (when a snack will do)

I suggest when you watch such a tale…have your smartphone at hand and research the true story….

45

Despite my youthful demenour and spritely appearance I will, in fact be forty-frigging-five at the end of this year.

This number means a bit more to me than forty or fifty. It may be because I read Bill Drummond‘s book (45) and many of his ramblings resonated with me. (In the same way his Manual did)

I feel like I should do something “special” to celebrate the fact I’ve made it this far. (If for some reason, I have a hideous accident,  heart failure or fatal gardening incident prior to December, feel free to laugh at this in my atheist wake.)

In a pseudo-celebration of this arbitrary anniversary, I propose the following:

  • I will collect 45 seven inch singles. they will all mean “something” to me. I will play them at my 45th birthday party.
  • I will make a recording that will feature 45 of my friends, colleagues, associates and artists who I have worked with. The recording will feature acoustic guitars and vocals only and sound a bit like the drones of Glenn Branca – for no reason other than ‘limitations are nice’.

I also like that fact that ‘forty five’ sounds a bit like ‘fortified’.

(Expect a phone call soon…)

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about my hard-line stance on the analogue vs digital thing. I think I’ve mis-judged a few things.

The thing people are looking for is not necessarily the analogue thing. It’s the real thing. And analogue is perceived as real; whereas in reality analogue had no option- there were no alternatives, it just arrived first…

If you look at the list of Top 10 films from this year– the majority of them are sci-fi/fantasy/comic-book turds.

A bunch of them are of the “dystopian” wankery variety.

Today there’s a common notion that as a people, we are fucked.

Maybe we are.

The antidote to this is fantasy.

Nothing is real anymore.

Airbrush

After FX

Filter

CGI

I am not talking about film

“Real” film-makers like my personal favourites Mike Leigh or Woody Allen are seen as freaky alternative stuff.

Mainstream cinema-goers expect to be fooled. If I’m not lied to and fucked with I feel conned.

Music.

I wonder when the last piece of music that was recorded without being fucked with.

(Fucked with=pitch and time manipulation.)

Porn.

It’s the equivalent of the 70’s bush.

And the normal sized member.

Will there be a backlash?

I guess historically, an art movement opposes it’s parents.

The folk movement of the early 60’s – anti Rock’n’roll pop

Punk defeated prog-rock.

Grunge beat hair-metal.

Can someone please take the helm (and I don’t mean old 60’s/70’s/80’s rockers disillusioned with the status quo- by status quo, I don’t mean 60’s/70’s/80’s rockers – oops this is getting a bit Mandelbrot….)

This hot discussion topic has been a long time coming…
It’s a subject dear to my heart – mainly due to the serious amount of bullshit that surrounds it- particular in the wake of Grohls ‘Sound City’ and Young’s fucking ‘Pono

Analogue and Digital. Which is superior….? ”Oh man, the warmth, the warmth, the warmth!!!!

I feel lucky that I got to straddle both worlds (it’s the only thing I do get to straddle these days…) I grew up as an assistant and engineer using tape and made the transition to using Pro Tools in the late 90s and early 2000s.
To be honest, it took me a while to be convinced by Pro Tools. One of my main motivations for being an audio engineer was Steve Albini (Pixies, Jesus Lizard, PJ Harvey) who, still to this day, exclusively works in the analogue domain (for reasons I’ll discuss later…)

My first exposure to Pro Tools as a recording tool was a painful affair.
A producer who I was assisting (shall I name him??), who was a right boring bastard was spending literally ALL FUCKING day editing a keyboard part on his new Pro Tools system…. this producer (who is an amazing guitarist for an early 80s punky funky band) was nudging audio around by milliseconds. For me, this kind of anal manipulation stops being music and enters the world of model making- obsessive for the person doing it, but hell for anyone observing, and at the end of the day who really gives a fuck. (Oh boy- I just used “anal manipulation” in a sentence…. the Google search visitors are going to be mightily disappointed!!)

This Pro Tools experience tarnished me for years…. what I didn’t appreciate then was that Pro Tools is essentially a really fucking cool tape machine…. with an amazing feature…. APPLE Z.

When working on 2” analogue tape we were restricted to 24 tracks (23 really, as time-code was often striped on 1 track for automation or sequencer synchronisation.) One reel cost a couple of hundred quid for 16 and a half minutes of recording time.
Lets compare this with the 1 Terabyte hard-drive I just bought for $100 and compare the data storage!!!

Editing takes has always been possible. I.e. if an artist has recorded a few takes of a song and likes the verse from take 1, the chorus from take 2 and the banjo solo from take 3…if this is on analogue tape the engineer SIMPLY marks out all the respective regions using a white china-graph pencil and using a razor blade and editing block slices up the tape and re-arranges it the correct sequence sticking it together with some Sellotape, vinegar and brown paper…a major operation.

If upon doing this he realises he’s sliced a bit too much off the front of the kick drum or the reverb tail sounds odd, it’s MERELY a case of rummaging around in the offcuts and splicing back in a few centimetres of tape. This is clearly silly. This operation on Pro Tools would take a fraction of the time to audition…and there is always the wonderful UNDO function ☺

There is something romantic about the notion of being restricted to 23 tape tracks but in the cold light of day when the vocalist wants to sing 50 takes and compile from his greatest hits- digital non-destructive editing is clearly the winner.

“But what about the sound!!!”…

I always ask my students…”which captures the truest representation of the signal coming from a microphone…analogue tape or Pro Tools?”
Invariably they say analogue- but this is not true…
Analogue tape and in fact all analogue circuitry introduce a subtle distortion that is not present on the microphone’s signal…digital doesn’t do this. It’s a completely different argument as to whether this introduced distortion enhances the sound or not. Personally, I am a fan of this distortion- but I am a fan of most distortion. This addition of harmonic content can be replicated in Pro Tools using outboard FX or the multitude of plug-in distortions that do an pretty fucking good job of fooling me anyway. (Decapitator!)

“But digital is just a jagged approximation of the analogue sound unless you record at very high sample rates”

No sir- this is not true. 44.1Khz and 16 bit is actually fine as a listening format- there are arguments for recording and processing at slightly higher bit depths (and maybe sample rates) but I can point you towards the science if you don’t believe me…. crikey next you’ll be telling me the Nazis are forcing us to listen to music at 440Hz.

Vinyl records are a nice possession to own and file away alphabetically in an IKEA shelving solution- I have a collection myself…but….there were many many shit records made on vinyl. And plenty of good shit released on CD. I guarantee you that most people listening to vinyl in the 60s and 70s had appalling sound-systems (with stupidly thin vinyl cos the price of oil was so high…damn arabs)

So….Steve Albini and a few other analogue purists have an interesting argument with regards to the longevity of today’s digital formats. We could easily be saying in 20 years time…”A Wav…! What is a wav and how do I play a Pro Tools 11 session on my Samsung organic computer- does anyone own one of those old Apple things?” – but I guess we could argue the same against tape (it doesn’t last well unless its stored in the right conditions…)

To conclude- all I can say is, we are in an era when we can take advantage of both worlds. The filth and distortion and romance and nostalgia from analogue tools, but the convenience and flexibility and non-destructiveness and ground-breaking-ness of the latest digital audio workstations. Essentially – use both- do your research- and stop regurgitating arguments cos your favourite rock-drummer turned front-man releases a documentary….

Yo! Yo! Yo!

I’ve not posted round these parts for a while- all the action has been over at my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GarethPartonProducer)- so follow me there if you want regular titbits.
It’s been a fine year so far…
Finished the Lowtide record which has now been mastered…coming soon.
Also getting close to finishing a new long player by former Candle records heartthrob, Anthony Atkinson & The Running Mates
I’ll be heading up to the hills of Sassafras again shortly to make a start on an album for a reincarnation of another Candle records band. I’m enjoying setting up to record in a house with portable gear as opposed to watching the clock in a recording studio…

My newish studio Los Bomberos (www.facebook.com/losbomberosmelbourne) is fantastic. It’s a collaborative space with some topnotch gear in a former Firestation. (Hence the name) It’s a mixing space that I’ve been craving after for a while.

The gear-minded amongst you will salivate at the equipment list which include- Neve/Api mic pres, Genelec/NS10 Monitoring/ 1176, Shadow Hills, Coles, Josephson etc…

Here’s a spooky 3D panorama.