I can work on your project.

Find me! Call DAP at 214.350.7678 or email rene@dallasaudiopost.com. Also check out echocollectivefx.com for custom sfx, and tonebenders.net for my podcast.

Thursday, December 29

2011 retrospective

This will be my last post of 2011.  I figured I'd do my list of things that I've learned this year, which will be kind of stream of conciousness, so have fun with all of that.

Things I've learned this year:

  • the sound community is amazing
This is more true than I knew coming into the year.  In this year I've had the great honor of executing a successful kickstarter project, launching a successful sfx website, running a successful blog, and meeting up with dozens of truly gifted and inspiring sound artists.  None of that could be labeled successful without the consistent and selfless moral, emotional and financial backing of this incredible sound community.  That trolley kickstarter got over 50 backers, the sfx website sold more than I could expect in its first 48 hours, and this blog gets hundreds of hits per day - all of which completely humbles and inspires me.  I love you guys, and I gain so much from what you put forth on a personal and professional level.

  • Building an sfx website is hard
In the last few months my coworker Brad and I developed and launched the echo | collective website,  and it was a mammoth effort.  On top of conceiving of and creating all of the sound effects, video, metadata and licensing content, we had to develop an entire web presence inclusive of the logo, web layout, url, wordpress template, photography, website copy, email account, soundcloud acount, vimeo account, twitter account, ecommerce account, and amazon s3 account for file hosting.  Its not rocket science, but its a ton of details to get right.  Going through the process has given me huge respect for the others in the field that do this at a high level.  If it were easy everyone would do it, and it aint easy.

  • Twitter is awesome
I've been on twitter since Aug of 2010, but it was really this year when I started feeling the full potential of what twitter can do.  I found myself constantly interacting with people that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to converse with.  Twitter became my primary news source, my primary update source, and my primary window to the internet as a whole.  Its a pretty beautiful thing that I was very skeptical about before I joined.

  • DPing is hard
A year or two ago I picked up a Canon 7D and set about learning how to shoot with it.  I read voraciously and shot and shot and shot until I started getting results that I became happy with.  After working myself to a spot where I felt that I was consistently getting good results, I took on my first director of photography gig on a short that a few friends and I produced.  I had no idea how in over my head I was.  Its one thing to look at a naturally lit situation and say "ok, I want a shallow depth of field so I'll shoot F2 at 800iso with a neutral density filter here because that's what the light allows for" and its entirely another to have a really good grip asking which F stop and ISO I would like him to light for.  I felt like I was giving him safe answers and maybe not necessarily creative ones.  As much as the photography and recording disciplines are analogous, they are still clearly endeavors that take lifetimes of their own to master, and I feel like it was conceit more than naivety that caused me to think I'd be any good at DPing anything.  In the end I'm very happy with the final results, but still kind of harrowed by the experience.  I may have to do it again.  :)

  • quad is awesome
I've had something of a revelation in the last few weeks after experimenting with some quad recordings.  I really like it.  I realize how niche quad recordings are, and how certain things are just totally useless in quad, but the things that work in quad really work in quad.   I feel like I never want to record ambiances any other way.  Recording things in quad and then placing them in the speakers is a similar experience to when I first recorded something at 96k and pitched it down.  I love it.

  • My line audio CM3s are awesome
I really love these mics.  I'm sure that comes across in this blog, but the sentiment is true.  They sound very expensive, they fit anywhere, they weigh nothing,  and they're not some mainstream mic that everyone is using.  After recording so much stuff with these things I'm very seriously eyeballing that quad LDC that they make as well.

  • very good stealth rigs are difficult to build
I still haven't succeeded in achieving the holy grail of top shelf sound quality coupled with utter stealth transport and proper wind protection, but I feel like I'm getting close.  I think the CM3s will be the key on the mic side because they are ridiculously small (and IMO they sound better than the DPA lavs) but the trick will be mounting them in a hat with proper wind protection and running cables down to a recorder.  I'm convinced it can be done, I just haven't polished this off yet.

  • cross discipline study is huge for developing one's aesthetic
The two steps to making good art are to have a good aesthetic and to have the technical skills to execute work within that aesthetic.  I've known for a while that cross discipline study is important to developing aesthetic, but this year I really had a chance to dive into photography and writing in ways that influence the way that I develop and study sound.  I also became a much closer student of people that design for a living, and have found a huge well of inspiration within them.  

  • the better I get at what I do, the more work it takes to get my work up to par
seriously, it doesn't get easier.  It just gets harder and harder to meet one's own standards.  That feeling I get when I reach them is really nice though.

So there it is.  Here's to a great 2012.

Tuesday, December 27

Christmas Day recordings

Every year for about 6 hours there's a magical time when downtown Dallas sits empty and motionless, and the opportunity for unique recordings presents itself.

In anticipation of this event I asked a question over at social sound design about what to record, and got some good answers.  Top of my list were the church bells at the Cathedral Guadalupe downtown, and some impulse responses of the various spaces downtown.

I've also been itching to test out my quad ambiance rig that I'm going to be using for future ambience sfx library recording.

The rig is two Schoeps CMC6.MK4 mics in the front and two Line Audio CM3s for the rear, each in ORTF.  The mounts are just 3 stereo bars interlocked to one another.  All of that ran into an SD 552, then into a 744t at 24 bit, 96k.

On Christmas morning I headed out at about 7am and set up camp near the church. There was no wind, no traffic, no people.

I knew from the church's website that Spanish mass started at 7:30, so I rolled in this position from 7:20 until about 7:45.  I got some really great birds here, and while there was almost zero traffic anywhere near me, the movement from the highway traveled throughout the city and still made up the majority of the sound of that place.   The bells didn't ring though, so I popped a balloon for an impulse response and considered my next move.

I decided to pack up and try another locale, but first I went into the church and asked about the cathedral bells.  The people inside told me that the bells would ring around 9am, right before the English mass.

Armed with that info, I changed positions to right in front of the cathedral bells and rolled again, this time from 8:45 until about 9:20.

 Plenty of interesting ambience of people walking into the church, but no joy with the bells.  My mics were aimed at the cathedral, so the traffic bys that I caught were interesting in that the perspective shifted the cars from back left to front left as they rode by.  There were still very few civilian vehicles in the city, but the busses were starting to pick up.  It was difficult to find an opportunity to pop a balloon for an IR because I didn't want any of the extra movement that was going on to taint it, but with some patience I found my spot and got my IR.  When I was convinced the bells weren't going to go I packed it up and moved on to another part of downtown.

This locale was great because it was really isloated from both the bus routes and the highway traffic.  It also had some flag jingling potential nearby, but the lack of wind made that pretty irrelevant.  I decided to position the mics for traffic bys nonetheless though, and aimed the rig so that traffic would move by left to right in front of the array.  It was now 9:30 or so and traffic in the city was beginning to pick up.  The balloon IR here was nice and washy, with fewer reflections than I expected in this locale.

After about 20 I picked up and headed across the highway to deep ellum.

Again, I got my IR out of the way early by finding a dead spot in traffic and popping a balloon.  No cars passed in front of my mics in this location, but a few passed on the perpendicular streets to the left and right.  Again, the busses were the primary sources of traffic, and when they were done I was able to go 5 minutes at a time between vehicle sightings.

So in the end I got a few really interesting IRs in quad, I got to test the quad rig out, and I got some uniquely quiet city sounds - all before noon on christmas day.

For the payoff, here are some of the sounds that I got.  First, the IRs in the order presented here in the blog:

Those are the front channel only, but they're pretty illustrative of what I was able to get.  Not perfect, but not ruined either.

Next are the front and rear wide ambiances from the first photo.  If you want to hear them in quad, then download them, line them up your DAW, and route appropriately.  I boosted gain here by 10db from the level actually recorded for internet purposes, but no other processing has been done.

Finally some traffic that I caught at the main street location. This is a much longer clip with some really interesting things going on.

Despite all of the action going on in these clips, I was easily able to get a solid 5 minutes of non-movement sounds from each of the locales I recorded.  It really just sounds like the traffic wash in the background of the clips, but I have tons of it now.


Friday, December 16

the launch of echo | collective

After several months of development my coworker Brad and I have finally unleashed echocollectivefx.com on the world.

We decided to enter what is a pretty crowded indie sfx market, and we didn't make that decision lightly.  There are many very very good libraries and indie guys out there, and our goal from the outset has been to rise up to the level of the guys that are doing this the right way.

It took a fair amount of learning on different platforms to pull it all together.  This was the first wordpress site that I've ever built, so there was a learning curve there.  This was also the first site I've built with online purchases, so I had to learn the ins and outs of that whole paradigm. 

On top of that there was all of the content creation, documentation, marketing materials and file hosting.  To further complicate things, we decided to launch with 5 full products and 5 freebies.  Oh yeah, and our full versions had dozens of fully fleshed out Kontakt instruments as well.  There is tons of room for human error in this process, and everything required double and triple checking to avoid stupid mistakes. 

We actually ended up launching the site a day behind our target because I had to troubleshoot a download issue with our flagship product, the forgotten zither, and my website host was undergoing a ddos attack to its severs while I was trying to solve the problem.  This caused me a lot of stress because I really hated missing a deadline (even if no one knew about it).   I was determined to get everything up, tested, and triple checked before announcing the site to the world though, so I swallowed hard and pushed the launch back until I could get every product re-hosted and double check all of the downloads again. 


Despite all of the newness and craziness we had an incredibly successful launch.  Designing Sound did us a tremendous service by posting a feature with a Q and A, and many of my twitter friends supported the launch with compliments and retweets.  We also got plenty of love from the soundcloud digital music crowd that Brad travels in.  Also the site didn't crash and all of the links did what they were supposed to.

An event like this fills me with gratitude for my lot in life, my friends and the support of the online audio community.  I'd like to take a moment and specifically thank a few people who influenced the success of the site and the launch:

Michael Raphael - Michael is one of those top-shelf recordists who has always lent me his ear and lets me bounce all kinds of crazy ideas off of him.  This thing would not have launched as well as it did without his input.  He's been eternally supportive of the ideas and endeavors we're putting out.  His stuff rocks, go buy it.

Tim Prebble - Tim is the guy that constantly comes up with interesting and useful things to record and put out there.  His is the the highest level of stuff in the sfx market, and his advice and mentoring have been invaluable.  He's also the gold standard with regards to promo vids.

Miguel Isaza - Miguel runs designingsound.org, which has become the daily must-read site for sound designers of all stripes.  His support both with this launch and other things has been invaluable, and his platform is unmatched.

Varun Nair - Varun is an editor at designing sound, and did me the tremendous service of testing our Kontakt instruments out in the wild.  He's got other stuff brewing as well....

Paul Virostek - Paul has been posting a very good series on launching a library which I've been reading and re-reading voraciously.  This guy knows his stuff, and he's incredibly generous to put that stuff out there for guys like me to learn from.

Samuel Justice - Sam bought the first library.  This makes Sam the man.

I'd also like to thank all of the twitter peeps who retweeted the launch and the good good people who actually jumped onto the site and bought something.  I'm filled with gratitude.