general

"Hello, World!": week 3

So, it's hump day of my third week of code school bootcamp, and ma synapses are burnin'. Week 3 day 3 corresponds to our third day of JavaScript, and this class is rapidly burning through the pre-learning that I've managed to accumulate through years of poking my nose into books, tutorials, free "crash courses" and digging through source code for snippets I could "borrow" for my own projects.

I do catch some flack in school for being ahead of the curve compared to a lot of people in the class, but I know it's coming from the stress everybody is under, trying to make sense of all this information that's being hurled our way. I know I would feel the same way were I in their shoes. And, it won't be long until I'm in territory just as new to me as it is to them. After all, we'll be starting Ruby in a week and 1/2.

In the meantime, I try to help out as much as I can, explaining logic and syntax for things I have a good handle on. Often, I find myself talking my way into a better or more efficient way of coding a particular solution than the one that I had already written in my own code.

🐤

Okay, time for a nightcap.

"Hello, World!": week 2

Writing now from near the end of week 2 of my Iron Yard coding boot camp, and I'm kinda feeling like this dude:

 TFW you've been coding for 9 days straight...

TFW you've been coding for 9 days straight...

My sister asked me how class was going, and I replied "My brain is getting fuller every day!", and that's kinda how it feels.  We've been speeding through HTML, CSS, command-line usage, flexbox, and HTML forms, and we've only had 9 classes! In the next 2 weeks we'll be getting into javascript, and after that it'll be on to back-end developing with Ruby.

More to come...

New Project: "Hello, World!"

Welcome back, folks. Today I'm starting a new project, which is upgrading my self. Today was my first day at The Iron Yard, a code school here in Indianapolis. The Iron Yard has campuses around the country, but in Indy I'm enrolled in the Web Development Career Path course, where, in 12 weeks, I hope to come out the other end with the skills to land a job in web development. 

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: Jason, you have a website! I'm reading it right now! Why the hell do you need a class?!?

Well, to be honest, right now Squarespace is doing the heavy lifting for this site. I type things in boxes and click this and that, and poof! these pages appear. Nobody is going to hire me to design their website in Squarespace. Not for any kind of meaningful salary, anyway. So, here I am! Picking up a new hustle.

Today was all about brushing up on some fundamentals, getting comfy with Terminal and the command line, and getting to know my fellow students. Everyone is really on board, helping each other out, and I get the feeling we'll all have each other's backs for the next three months and on.

More news as news develops! Thanks for stopping by.

Apologies...

Just a quick note to apologize, both for a lack of fresh content here, but also a preemptive "sorry!" for creating a musical ear worm. I'm not prepared at this moment to unleash it upon the general public, but I will soon. So, sorry! And, you've been warned.

Another chance to hear my work!

Hi folks! Coming up in September, people in the Ann Arbor area can grab tickets to see Liberty's Secret at the Michigan Theater! I really wish I could be in town to attend this screening.

 A candidate you can laugh at without crying for America •  photo by  Tripp Green  courtesy of Liberty's Secret

A candidate you can laugh at without crying for America • photo by Tripp Green courtesy of Liberty's Secret

For those that don't know or haven't been following, Liberty's Secret is a film written, directed, and composed by U of M School of Music, Theatre and Dance professor Andy Kirshner, who I met while I was getting my BFA. Andy and I have collaborated several times, and when he approached me to help him with the post-production sound on his film, I of course agreed! I worked on the sound edit while still in Los Angeles, and shortly after moving to Indianapolis, traveled up to Ann Arbor to mix the film in the Performing Arts Technology department's excellent facilities.  It also gave me a chance to work with fellow UM grad Dave Fienup, all-around nice guy (and Detroit-area sound guy, for all your sound production and post-production needs)! Dave provided foley for Liberty's Secret, and did a bang-up job.

If anyone is able to attend this screening on my behalf, please give my regards to cast and crew, and let me know how it sounded!

Chances to hear my work!

Hello again! I just wanted to let folks know about a project I worked on shortly before leaving Los Angeles, that I kind of lost track of - y'know, with all the packing and moving and everything - but I have noticed is making the rounds of festivals, showing up on screens around the country/world. It's called Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story:

Although the couple was responsible for some of Hollywood’s most iconic examples of visual storytelling, their contributions remain largely uncredited. Through an engaging mix of love letters, film clips and candid conversations with Harold and Lillian, Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Coppola and others, this heartfelt documentary chronicles their remarkable relationship and two extraordinary careers spanning six decades of movie-making history.
— haroldandlillian.com

Coming up, it's appearing at the River Run International Film Festival in North Carolina, at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film Village Recoleta Room, and back in Hollywood at the end of April, as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival: all the dates are here.

It's a neat little film, full of inside-Hollywood stories about a lot of films that you know. Check it out if you can!

This is embarrassing...

Hey folks! Long time no see!

Gosh, where do I start...?

Inspiration to put up a new post today actually came from something I discovered in ProTools 11 that I wasn't aware I could do previously - having multiple video files in a single session!  Now, it has always been a limitation of non-HD ProTools (previously known as ProTools LE) that you could only have a single video track in a session, and attempting to import another video file into your session would bring up a dialog box saying that the existing video had to be removed before importing a new video.

But, today, I was using the Import Session Data function to create a "super session" of tracks from a film I'm working on, and I selected the Match Tracks option in the import dialog, which attempts to map the tracks of the incoming session data to the existing tracks of the session to which you are importing. Lo and behold, it brought in the video track of the imported session, and laid the video down after the existing video, right where it should be! It's a ProTools miracle!

Does this work for you, too? If so, or if not (especially if not, I guess), let me know! File this under Pro Tip!

I'll catch you up on all the comings and goings of the last few months later, but for now, enjoy this little tidbit.

News!

Hello there! Yes, this thing is still on. To play a little bit of catch-up, here's the list:

  • designing at UCLA
  • moving!
  • looking for work
  • did I mention moving?

Okay... So, I'm doing some sound design work at UCLA, working with their MFA actors and directors. They have a class on devised theater, and the culmination of the class is essentially two original one act plays. The shows will open later this month, but as of now, here's what I've been doing:

Speaker Plot Section

I love designing shows at UCLA! They have great inventory (tons of Meyer speakers) and are super supportive of sound designers doing creative things.

Secondly, Hear Spot Bark will be relocating as of June 1st, to Indianapolis, IN.

Anything else?

What? Oh, yeah. I'm moving. Los Angeles has been pretty good to me for the most part, but it's kinda been tough the last couple of years.I've gotten to work on some really great projects, and with some really great people, but for the sake of my family, we're picking up and starting fresh in Indianapolis. So, if any of you loyal readers have connections that might help me, hit that contact link in the menu bar and let me know!

In other news, The Nightmare and Excess Flesh have been doing great in their festivals and screenings! I'll try to let you know if I see of any screenings in the future.

I'll try to check in on the site when the move is completed, and fill you in on all the great things happening!

Post Post Mortem

Heya folks! I'm out the other side for a brief moment, so I thought I'd toss a few words up on this screen, and catch up with the past few weeks.

As you may have noticed from my last post, The Nightmare was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival, and will be screening in a matter of weeks! We finished up audio post-production for the Sundance print just this past Sunday (January 11th). I've still yet to edit the dialog for the M&E mix (Music and Effects, a no-English mix for international distribution), which should be completed this week.

Next, a bit of a blast from the past: The last indie feature that I completed work on, Excess Flesh, has been through a re-edit, and as a consequence has been accepted to the SXSW Film Festival! What this means for me is I'll be getting an updated version of the film from the editor, and the previous mixed version of the soundtrack will need to be edited to match the newest version, and re-mixed with new and old material to patch it all back together.

I've also been in talks about two more potential projects in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned!

THE NIGHTMARE at Sundance!

So, I'm wrapping up the dialog and ADR edit on The Nightmare this weekend, while my cohorts are finishing up music and sound design cues.  Monday morning, we start the mix process, wrapping up (hopefully) on the 10th or 11th of January.  We'll have to be efficient, as The Nightmare is going to be shown at one of the world's most popular film festivals - The Sundance Film Festival!  Check it out on the schedule, and if you're in Park City, UT at the end of January, go see it!

http://www.sundance.org/projects/the-nightmare

Catch up

Oof. So... October happened.

Quick recap:

  • The play for which I did sound design and original music has opened at the VS. Theater in Los Angeles. It's called Completeness, by Itamar Moses, and it's a Los Angeles premiere! Go check it out, it runs until Dec 7th.
 Believe it or not, there are 6 speakers hiding in this set!

Believe it or not, there are 6 speakers hiding in this set!

  • I'm just over halfway through my first quarter of teaching an Audio Production class at Cal State University, Los Angeles. It's going pretty good so far, at least based on the test and homework scores I'm seeing.
  • I'm getting back into some more freelance editing for ASAP (Amalgamated Sound And Picture), cutting FX and dialog for animated shows, in particular an educational web series called "ABC Mouse."
  • This month, I'll begin working on a documentary feature called The Nightmare, directed by Rodney Ascher (directed Room 237). I'll be co-supervising the sound post production with Jonathan Snipes, who you may remember helped me complete the post on Excess Flesh, my last indie feature.
  • Also, looking for projects that are getting started in late December/early January. Let's talk!

More to come soon. Stay tuned...

Catching up on August...

...And yes, I realize we're already well into September.

So, the past month has seem many interesting items and developments. I've wrapped post-production on the indie film Excess Flesh, for which I was supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer along with Jonathan Snipes (also composer, sound designer). A very dynamic film, in terms of the sound track, and very non-traditional in a lot of ways. I had a great time mixing the film, which we did over 6 days thanks to Scott Jennings at Listen2 Sound. I'm confident the film can find its way into some festivals, so I'll let everyone know when that happens and where you can see the film.

Second, I'm going to be teaching a class this fall at Cal State LA. A fellow TFT grad from UCLA is an assistant professor at CSULA, and asked me if I would like to teach their Intro to Sound class for their TV, Film and Media Studies department, and I obviously agreed! This will be my first foray into teaching a full course, so wish me luck! Lots of information to cover in what amounts to 10 weeks of classes, so I'll certainly have no shortage of material, as long as I've got willing students.  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Third: I'm currently sitting at the loverly Sweetwater's Cafe in Ann Arbor, MI, waiting to head over to the Music School on U of Michigan's North Campus, where for the next 2 days I'll be helping out friend and professor Andy Kirshner with his film sound class, as they embark on the post production sound for Andy's film Liberty's Secret. I'll be spending my time showing the students how to start the process of editing the sound for a film, going over tips, tricks, and techniques, and setting them loose. It's always nice to be back on campus here, and my stay will be too short.

More news to come, so come back for a visit!

Recording!

Whew! So, lost in the hubbub of 6-day workweeks and bouts of stomach flu has been almost 2 weeks! So, here's a brief recap...

You might remember that I've been working over at Fox as an Assistant Sound Editor on the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pre-sequel (sprequel?) on the 20th Century Fox lot.  Last week, we got to nab a Land Rover Defender, good and seasoned, from some on-set reshoots taking place on the studio lot, and do some quick recording.

 recording with fellow Apes editors Scott (L) and Jack (R)

recording with fellow Apes editors Scott (L) and Jack (R)

We strapped a trusty SM58 into the engine compartment, carefully tied a DPA lavalier mic on the rear bumper right above the exhaust pipe, and strapped a stereo pair of small condenser mics to the interior roof above the backseat, all running into a Sound Devices 788T. I also ran an Scheops M/S handheld pair inside for the onboard takes, while Scott and Jack, pictured above, had their own M/S pairs for capturing exterior passby's, doors, handles, latches, and other miscellaneous sounds.

We did run into a small problem, though. There's an auxiliary fan that kicks on intermittently under the hood to keep engine temperatures in check, but it makes for a lousy sounding recording of a great sounding engine. So, towards the end of a mildly frustrating recording session (it's tough to get good exterior recordings on a busy studio lot in the middle of Los Angeles on a Friday), we convinced the transportation department teamsters to disconnect the aux fan for another quick run-around with the truck.  Well, that went about as well as could be expected...

 our intrepid driver and a steamy Land Rover

our intrepid driver and a steamy Land Rover

Yeah, that thing overheated in a matter of minutes.  We did manage to get some decent onboard engine sounds, and some good doors and such. Hopefully enough to cover what the effects editors need.  And yes, the SM58 made it out of the engine compartment just fine. Of course!

Regardless, it's almost always more fun to be out with a few microphones and recorders than be stuck in front of a screen at a desk, so there weren't too many complaints heard (except to swear at the helicopters passing overhead).

Doodling

Just a quick little note before too much time passes here...

I've been on the 20th Century Fox lot this week as an Assistant Sound Editor on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, covering for a friend of mine who's off getting married this weekend. We've been doing a lot of ADR this week as we get set to start pre-dubbing tomorrow, and final mix later this month. I was sitting behind the ADR mixer yesterday while the session was going, and made this:

 

image.jpg

Like I said, doodles. It's funny to listen to a guy make chimp noises for an hour, but when played back with all the other elements, it sounds great. I'm looking forward to the finished product. 

Activity Recap

Okay, so things have gotten busy. I haven't been able to write as mu-

HOLY CRAP. IT'S BEEN ALMOST A MONTH.

Hm. Well, here's the quick 'n' dirty:

  • sound op for Geffen Playhouse's Slow Girl
  • Guest lecture at University of Michigan
  • Freelancing for Tom & Jerry and ABCMouse
  • Secured 2 weeks' work post-Slow Girl

Hoh-kay.  Now, the slow and... clean?

Slow Girl at the Geffen is drawing to a close. This will be the last week of shows, with 2 shows on Saturday and the Sunday matinee being our closing performance.  It's been a good, easy run, and the last couple weeks it's been neat having Annette Bening next door with her one-woman show Ruth Draper Monologues. 

Last week, I took a few days off from the Geffen to make a trip back to my alma mater, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance.  My friend Andrew Kirshner is a professor, and has been teaching Sound and Music for Film for the past few years, and invited me out for a second time to talk to the Performing Arts Technology students about what it's like to be a professional sound editor/mixer/designer/journeyman.

 Surprisingly nice Spring day in Ann Arbor, outside the U of M School of Music, Theater, and Dance

Surprisingly nice Spring day in Ann Arbor, outside the U of M School of Music, Theater, and Dance

As usual, the students were great. They asked good questions, and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. A few of them even joined me and Andrew at Arbor Brewing Company for some post-class libations and comestibles.  It was also nice to have some time back "home" in Michigan, spending some time in my hometown, seeing my younger sister and niece (who drove over from Chicago for the weekend), being with my parents for my mom's birthday, and catching up with old friends and relatives.  It's good for the soul.

But, these days no vacation is truly a vacation. I did have some work to do while I was away from my Los Angeles home, and that included doing some work on the current incarnation of Tom & Jerry. I've been freelancing as a sound editor for the company doing the post sound work on T&J, and believe it or not, I was working on the 2014 Christmas Special. It's a bit odd to have Christmas carols going through your head in April.

And finally, I had been looking to book some work, what with Slow Girl coming to a close and Tom & Jerry and ABCMouse not providing exactly full-time work at the moment.  Luckily, a phone call from my friend and fellow assistant sound editor 'Smokey' Cloud is providing me with a couple weeks' worth of work on the upcoming Planet Of The Apes pre/sequel.  It'll be nice to accrue some union hours again, and maybe my presence around the offices could lead to more work in the near future.  You just never know.

So, hopefully I won't have to write too many of these epic recap posts, but frankly, things are busy, which is good.

More to come...

ProTools Tip

Hey folks! Back with another ProTools tip for  you - this one I found through the Avid "Knowledge Base".  I was getting an assertion error -

Could not create a new document because Assertion in "/Volumes/Development/123191/ProTools/DFW/MacBuild/../Views/UMenu.MacOS.mm", line 1547.

- when trying to create a new session. Seems like a pretty major error to be getting, right? I thought so, too.  Anyway, a quick Google search for the text of the error yielded nothing, which is normally a bad sign. But, lo and behold, Digi- sorry, old habit - AVID's Knowledge Base to the rescue!  Holding down the N key while launching ProTools will bring up the Playback Engine dialog before ProTools finishes it's startup sequence. Who knew ProTools even had startup keys?!?

 Playback Engine dialog, right in front of the ProTools splash screen!

Playback Engine dialog, right in front of the ProTools splash screen!

For whatever reason, this solves the assertion error that happens when ProTools tries to create a new session when it's not in a familiar audio habitat.  This makes sense to me, because I just fired up away from my home studio and my trusty old Presonus interface.  This startup key will come in handy. Ever startup a ProTools session while connected to a network that has an AppleTV connected, and had ProTools freak out on you about sample rates? Well, here's a quick way around that.

Benefits of a Freelance Life

For the past 6 months, I've been a freelance sound editor and sound engineer/mixer. Previous to that, I've usually found myself working for one company or another as a full-time employee.  One of the great things about my work has been the ability to work from my home studio most of the time (for some reason, they won't let me mix a live show from home… go figure). There are a few reasons why this is so great, and though I don't have any specific empirical data to prove it, I feel like it's a much healthier way to work. 

First: I don't have a commute. Well, unless you count the walk out my backdoor, coffee cup in hand, into the garage and into my studio. Main benefit: time savings (anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes one-way). Secondary benefit: stress reduction. I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know, but people behind the wheels of cars are jerks. Yes, I'm guilty, too. I used to drive several different non-freeway routes through LA which added anywhere from 5-10 minutes to my drive just because there were fewer people on those roads. I can't tell you how much more relaxed I am not making a drive in rush hour traffic anymore. Of course, I could get a gig in the future that does require me to work at an office or studio lot, so I'll have to consider all the other potential factors that would go with a gig. Live sound jobs, of course, require me to travel to the performance venue, which can vary greatly in it's distance and time required for commuting.

Second: I'm not trapped by a clock. Main benefit: my most productive hours are my most productive hours. Sure, I keep pretty standard work hours, because the people I work for do, too, but as long as my work is done on time, nobody is watching to see that I'm working when I'm "supposed" to be working. It also has freed up my wife to pursue her passions of working with children (besides our own, that is) and her acting career. If she gets notice of an audition or shoot in the middle of a Tuesday, I can simply take those hours off to watch our kids (they're not in school yet full time), and shift my schedule accordingly, to find the time I need throughout the week. Again, as long as the work is done on time, I'm good. Secondary benefit: more physically active work day. Sound editors are generally stuck at a desk with a computer, like a lot of people are these days. The fact that I don't have to cram my work into 8 or 10 specific hours means that when I get restless or stuck on a problematic sequence, I can get up. Walk around. Go outside. Do some push-ups. Do something, anything, besides staring at that screen or that problem. If it takes a little bit longer, I can add that time on to the end of my day without a lot of downside, because again, I'm already home. I don't feel the need to shut down to beat traffic so I can be home at a decent time. Sure, sometimes I head back out to work after dinner, but the trade off is worth it to me. 

Now, of course I could write an entire post about the drawbacks to being freelance, and perhaps I will someday. Mostly it comes down to responsibility and the unpredictable nature of my business. Projects tend to not last very long, can be canceled with little notice, and are generally subject to the same economic whims as a lot of other industries. But all things considered, I'm doing what I love to do, I get to have a lot of fun to go along with the hard work, and a lot of people get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Creating a Unified Voice | Designing Sound

This article from designing sound.org (click on the post title), is a good starting position for this conversation. I've worked in a lot of different places, with different people, doing different things: video games, multimedia presentations, plays, musicals, television shows, and films (both indie and major studio).  In none of these capacities have I worked alone - always as part of a team. Working as part of a team will always have unique challenges, be they working conditions, personalities, quality of tools or material,s and size of budget.  We, as sound people, always seem to be fighting for elbow room at the creative table, fighting for more input and respect from older more established disciplines, like lighting, costumes and scenery.

There’s been a push to give sound a better seat at the creative table in each of our respective mediums. It’s not a new idea; it’s been sought for a long time. We seek to assert ourselves as story-tellers and artists, not mere “technicians”…to serve another’s vision without being subservient to the visual. We know that we can add to, and drive, the story…and we want that opportunity.
— Shaun Farley, designingsound.org

I like the point of this article. The way I see it, we have to first and foremost do our jobs to the best of our abilities, and let our work speak loudly. The quality of our work, of our storytelling, will get us into the conversation with those who recognize its power. We also have to remember that it's not our story, but the one that we're helping to tell.

In addition to designingsound.org, the source for this post, hat tip to the Tonebenders (tonebenders.net, @thetonebenders, and a great podcast) for pointing out the article. Check them out, too!