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.

Sunday, February 19

on aesthetic and effort

I was GTD and listening to the audio nowcast today and they had Dave Pensado as their guest.  (AudioNowCast ep 115)

He was great throughout, but at about the 37 minute mark he really layed down some knowledge.  It was so clear and lucid that I marked it as it was playing back and came back later on today to transcribe it, so here it is (emphasis mine):
I noticed that guys that I respect so much that I admired their abilities, they didn't get get good because they tried, they got good because they couldn't help it.  The just couldn't help working 25 hours a day while everyone else is out getting laid...

There's something about our profession that's just special, and I know that's a chauvinistic thing to say, but we call came up the same way - hard work and at some point the harder we worked the luckier we got, that old saying, and that creates a certain camaraderie amongst us, you know? 

You'd think we'd all be jealous and envious, and there is that element in our profession, but by and large what you see on the show is genuine love for this profession…at any cost. 

I mean we've all sacrificed.  Family…health… everything for this.  And we'd do it again knowing the outcome.  Its just so much fun you know...

But making records and the creative process is, we talk about all of the technical stuff all of the gear…but at the end of the day they're selling their taste and taste is a function of your life's experiences.  If you're Donald Trump's son it's hard to sing the blues authentically.  And we're a product of our life's experiences and I think that's why some of the people are so fascinating because they've had some incredible life's experiences and that creeps into your work and I like that.

-Dave Pensado

And of course that's really reminiscent of the Ira Glass quote that came out a little while back (and circled the internets quickly):

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
-Ira Glass

I find both thoughts to be incredibly lucid and IMO, the common threads between to two thoughts are that

  • taste is formed through life experience, therefore the more one experiences in life the more refined one's taste may become.
  • refined taste raises the bar on the acceptability of our own creative works
  • the better one's taste the harder one must work to achieve acceptable results
This all may be very self-evident, but I think its interesting how clearly two completely different sources can articulate the same fundamental concept.  I also think that this concept mirrors my own personal experiences.

An allegory to this would be that heavily observing and consuming the art of others may not be the straightest path to a well-developed aesthetic.  Instead, doing things like traveling, learning new skills and meeting new people may actually develop one's aesthetic more quickly.  This is because going out and actively experiencing life forces us into situations where we examine and measure ourselves more often, which is really the key to defining the things that we like vs the things that we don't.

I feel like I have some travelling to do...

Tuesday, February 14

execution vs scope

I recently played through a couple of platformers that I found in the app store, and had a subsequent twitter conversation that got me thinking.

First off, the two games I played through were Rochard and Limbo.

Here's a taste of each:

Both games were inexpensive on the mac app store.  Limbo was $10 and Rochard was $6.  Both were relatively quick playthroughs - about 3-5 hours each.

The main similarities the two games had were the narrow scope, the low price and the high level of artistic execution.  (Here's an excellent interview with Martin Stig Anderson who did all of the sound design and score on Limbo.)

Immediately after having reveled my way through those two works I had a conversation with the voice producer of a AAA game in real life, and then a subsequent conversation with AAA game sound designer Mike Niederquell on twitter.

The end result of both conversations was what I think is an important (though obvious looking) conclusion:

The resources needed to execute art on a high level rises disproportionally with the scope of the project.

This is because good art takes time, and lots of iteration and refinement.  Every new weapon, gameplay parameter, or other artistic cog in need of creation requires time and expertise to develop, iterate, reject, recreate and revise in order to arrive in the end at high art.  This is doubly true in complex mix environments where implementation is at least as intense as the creation of the audio asset.

3 hour platformers are not AAA games.  They're casual games, and they require far fewer resources to execute.  They also cost far less money to create and bring to market.  But when you compare the level of the art achieved in those smaller games to some AAA titles you'll see that when you can over-allocate artistic resources by limiting scope you can really achieve something special.

Now, this is not to say that AAA titles cannot achieve the status of high art.  I think games like Battlefield 3, Red Dead Redemption and Bioshock have proven where the art can go in a large scope game given the proper resources. 

This is really just to say that sometimes the best way to up the quality of the art you're trying to achieve is to limit the scope of the project, even when the budget is bigger than that of a 3 hour side scroller.

Monday, February 6

death of the D50?

So a SSD thread today brought to my attention the apparent death of the Sony PCM D50.

I commented in that thread, but I figured I'd elaborate here.

First off, this may just be a weird Sony play to phase out the D50, since it still seems to be listed as available on the pro website:

With that said, its a stark reminder that these things exist at the whims of massive multinational corporations and can be taken from us at a moment's notice.

I can guess what's happening: the PCM M10 is eating up up all of the D50s sales.  Its $200 cheaper, the mics sound better than a lot of the non-D50 market, and the battery life/recording media options are actually superior to the D50s.

IMO, handheld recorders are all about the built in mics, and that (along with the battery life) is where I feel the D50 run circles around the rest of the market.   The primary function of a device like this is to make a good impromptu or low profile recording using the built in mics.   If the D50 is indeed on its way out, I think its a shame because I feel like the D50 is the only handheld recorder in the sub 1k range that has very good internal mics. 

This is not to say that the mics are particularly quiet or neutral (because they're not), but they do a better job than the others in the market at getting something that sounds good and usable in a variety of contexts, and they'll beat the M10's internal mics in most applications.  I've made tons of recordings with my D50's built in mics, and used them in countless projects.  The device is particularly useful for stealth crowd recordings.

In a larger context I'd pay a heck of a lot for a handheld recorder that was made up of Line Audio CM3s for mics, a Sound Devices front end like the mixpre, and an interface and battery life like the D50.