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!

Hear Spot Bark's MPSE Nod

Fresh off the press today, the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) professionals group announced it's nominations for this year's Golden Reel awards, and Deadliest Catch was nominated for it's episode "Final Battle," for which yours truly was on the crew of sound editors! Huzzah! Official-looking thingy which used to be on paper here [pdf].  Congratulations for fellow editors Kevin Skaggs, Eddie Rodriguez, Selina Zakaria, Doug Kern, and Supervising Sound Editor Bob Bronow!

Follow up: ProTools & OS 10.9 Mavericks

So, almost a month ago I posted a link to an article noting that Avid had released an update to ProTools that supported Mavericks, but in the release notes it mentioned that co-installation was not supported.

As it turns out, I can confirm that, at least in a limited role, you can keep and use ProTools 10 (10.3.2, to be specific to my case) and use it while having ProTools 11 and OS 10.9 Mavericks installed.

As it turns out, ProTools 11 has a bug about importing AAF/OMF files. The only suggestion offered by Avid is to open the AAF in 10.3, save, and open back up in 11. Of course, you're not supposed to be able to do this in Mavericks, according to Avid. So thanks a lot, Avid.  But, you can get ProTools 10 to function in Mavericks, but be careful, as Your Mileage May Vary.

Carry on.

iPhone 5C/5S and iOS 7 Review from Daring Fireball

This is a fantastic overview of the new hardware and software Apple is unleashing in the coming days, including a great summary of why the move to 64-bit software is about more than just RAM access. Gruber writes:

The iPhone 5S and 5C

What I find remarkable about the 5S’s benchmarks is not that they’re the current top scores in the mobile world, but rather that they’re at the top despite the fact that Apple famously values the ratio of performance-to-power-consumption far more than performance in and of itself.

Apple doesn't do these types of things just because. There is a real, tangible benefit from it, and I'm confident we'll all see that benefit in the coming years and versions of iOS and the software that runs on it. 

I can't wait to get iOS 7 on my iPhone 4, and I can't wait to get my hands on an iPhone 5S. 

 

 

Back in the Freelance Saddle

Faithful Readers! 

As an audio professional, I suppose this day was inevitable, but after nearly 2 years as a veritable staff sound editor, I am back on the market as a freelance sound editor-slash-mixer-slash-designer-slash-engineer. 

If you, or perhaps someone you know, has any audio related needs, please feel free to pass on my name, address, phone number, email address... Check out the Credits page you might have noticed is linked there at the top of this page... Let's talk. I can help you. Really. Seriously, I can. 

Brilliant dialog fill method

This is great! The bane of dialog editors everywhere, and a great technique for patching those impossible-to-fill spots:

Unlimited Dialog "AIRFILL" to Fill your Every Need

Such a brilliant way to take advantage of convolution reverb processing, which was already an amazing tool.  I think I'm also going to dig out my copy of SoundHack and see if it's spectral shaping can be used to do the same type of thing, since I don't currently own a copy of TLSpace or Altiverb for ProTools. Though I do like to use Logic Pro's convolution reverb, Space Designer, perhaps I can create a bussing system in Logic to do the same thing, as this article suggests is possible. 

Thanks to Douglas Murray's guest post on designingsound.com!

 

Logic Pro X

Apple released Logic Pro X, the newest version of the pro audio software that is my go-to tool for writing and recording music. 

Here's a thoughtful first-look review from Jim Dalrymple of The Loop:

Logic Pro X is the best music software release I’ve seen from Apple in a while. They added a lot of pro features, but at the same time managed to make the app more approachable—that’s a difficult thing to do.

... 

Overall, Logic Pro X is a great release and for $199, you can’t go wrong.

I'm a little disappointed there is no discounted upgrade pricing, but $200 for pro audio software as feature-rich as Logic Pro is, ultimately, hard to be too mad about. 

The Development of a Song, Part III

Previously, part one and part two.

Welcome back!

When I last left you, I was contemplating lead guitar solos. I'm happy to inform you that my bumbling, rusty, slow and out-of-practice fingers have finally led me to something I'm willing to make public, as rough as it is.  This is where the loop recording and quick-comping (the process of piecing together a complete recording from little bits is known as "comping") features of Logic Pro come in really handy: I select a section of the song and put Logic into loop recording mode, which allows me to record the same section over and over, and Logic creates a list of takes, from which I can quickly assemble my favorite parts. Here is a small section of the guitar solo which I had comped together to give you an idea:

Three takes, used to 'comp' together a coherent solo take - click to enlarge

As you can see, I've used bits and pieces from these takes to assemble one large piece. If you listened to each take as a whole, you would hear they are all pretty different, and full of wrong notes, pauses, and general mayhem as I'm exploring the notes and phrases I like.

So, after I have that pieced together, I work on it some more, simply trying to get the notes into my fingers, find the transitions from phrase to phrase, and I re-record the whole thing, and you get this:

For the 1,000 ft view, here's what the session looks like overall in Logic:

Start Believin' Logic Pro Session - click to enlarge

If you click to image to see the full-size version, you'll see that there are actually very few comped sections now (they give themselves away by little vertical black lines in the track). I've re-recorded both rhythm guitar parts from beginning to end (to correct some timing and tuning issues), and only punched into a couple spots where I made a boo-boo.

So... what now? Well, the logical next steps are:

  1. Real Drums
  2. Lyrics/Vocals
  3. Cowbell
  4. More cowbell
  5. PROFIT!

Stay tuned...

Oh, hey, I almost forgot! Here's another little bonus track, as a little sonic treat for you loyal readers/listeners! This one's an oldie (it's so 20th century!) that keeps hanging around the back of my brain. I worked a bit on it recently, and this is the result. It's another work in progress, but here ya go:

The Development of a Song, Part II

If you're just joining us, part one is here.

Okay, folks, time to get you up to speed on what I've been doing the last couple days.  When I left you, I had recorded 2 guitar parts and had fleshed out the structure of the song: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus-chorus-chorus-end.

Simple.

Okay. I had some busy days at work, so I had some time off from the song, then I had some time to think about it, listen to it in the car, in headphones, on the laptop... Then, yesterday I got some time on my own to work with the song some more (I've got two young kids - this happens rarely!).  So, last night I added a bass guitar part and a simple rock organ part to flesh out the chords and harmonies a little bit, and expand the sonic palette a little bit, if you will.  Also, I got the copyright issues resolved with Soundcloud, so I'm going to test out their widget on this post:

You may notice that I've skipped a version number. I'm jumping ahead because one version was adding the bass and the organ, and one was re-recording the rhythm guitar part to correct some wonky timing issues I had from laying down the initial chord progression. You can visit my SoundCloud page to hear the intermediary. When I get an idea like this and I want to capture it right away, I usually just fire up Logic and start recording, just to preserve that burst of inspiration. Usually, that means just playing along with a click track. Admittedly, that's not an ideal circumstance for me - I tend to settle into a groove much easier with, at the very least, a drum track or second guitar track playing. So, I tend to go back and re-record parts once I have more elements of the song in place, because I can get more comfortable, and more accurate, with my playing.

Next up, I've begun work on a lead guitar part that helps build the bridge and leads into a solo for the verse section immediately following the bridge section. I'm still working on the overall shape of the solo, and of course polishing it all up so I sound competent. Stay tuned!

HEY! FREE BONUS!

Here's another song I've been working on for the past few months, with the working title "Transitions 2." It features a killer guitar solo by my friend and co-worker Doug Kern, who can do things with a guitar I simply cannot.

The Development of a Song, Part 1

This should be the first post in a series, I hope. I guess it depends on how far I take this song here that I've written.

I've been listening to the 5by5.tv podcast Amplified with Dan Benjamin and Jim Dalrymple, in which they discuss the various Apple-centric tech issues of the day/week, but also, they reserve a bit of time at the end of the show for talking about music, music tech (especially as it relates to Apple/Mac), guitars, etc... Jim is a guitar player, like myself, and he answers a lot of questions aimed at people getting into guitar playing and home recording for the first time. I was sort of hoping that I could do a little bit of that myself, as it relates to songwriting, recording, and building a new song from the ground up. This will be me-centric, as I can't really tell you how other people work. This is just how I usually do it.  On with the show...

So, I was noodling around on my guitar about a week ago, playing some chords, various progressions and changes, when I sort of stumbled onto the progression for "Don't Stop Believing," the 80's-riffic Journey anthem. When you get right down to it, it's a pretty simple, standard chord progression:

E, B, C#m, A, E, B, G#m, A

That's pretty much all there is to it. Add in a sweet guitar solo and Steve Perry's vocals, and you've got a rock anthem. And, as the saying goes, "good artists borrow, great artists steal." I took that chord progression, cut it in half, made the second half the verse pattern, and the first half the chorus pattern:

Verse: E, B, G#m, A

Chorus: E, B, C#m, A, B (I added that last B chord as a transition back to E)

I fired up Logic Pro (my personal choice for songwriting), laid down a rhythm guitar part with a basic drum loop, and voila!

FYI, the B chord is played a little differently rather than a straight barre chord. Here's the tab for what I'm playing (ignore the chord name on the C#m in the chorus - it's a C#m with a G# in the bass, Logic's tab features are cool, but weird):

Verse chords

Chorus chords

I sat with that, just like it was for a day or two, and when I had a chance, I came back to the song and added a second guitar part to compliment the first. The 2nd guitar plays the same chord shapes, just a complimentary rhythm in the verse, and doubling the chorus, adding some power and depth.

Then, a few days later, I was playing through the progression I had recorded, and decided I wanted to take the song somewhere slightly different, so I added a bridge section. This took some noodling around with chords, and I will admit, I think there's some Rick Springfield in there, and I definitely ripped off The Hungry Things "Jaime" part on the descending chords that take us from the E back to the A:

Bridge - first 4 bars

Bridge - 2nd 4 bars

The 3rd 4 bars of the bridge is the same as the 1st four, then the last 4 bars is A, B, E, A C#m, B, A, B.

The last thing I did yesterday afternoon was repeat a couple choruses at the end of the song, leaving room for a possible guitar solo or something, and added an actual ending, as opposed to a fade out:

Notice the click track that keeps going at the end... oops. By the way, I wanted to post these audio files on SoundCloud, since they have the cool widget for embedding audio, but they issued an automatic copyright takedown on the very first file that I posted, the seed version of the song, so I'm immediately kinda soured on the whole thing. If anyone thinks it's worth keeping up with SoundCloud, let me know in the comments.

So, in the next installment, I'd like to get the bass guitar in, possibly some keyboards, and start working on lyrics/vocals. Anyone have any lyrical ideas?

Dialog Editing Fail

So, you guys remember I work as a sound editor for TV, right? Right now, I'm going to pass on a little tidbit of editing wisdom for all you current or future editors out there, sound or picture. But especially picture.

Get ready. Here it comes.

 Dialog Edit FAIL

Dialog Edit FAIL

No, fair picture editor.

This doesn't work.

I will fix this for you, so you can put words into someone's mouth, but this does NOT work.

Carry on.

Apple's "halo computer"?

As a long time tower-style Apple user (G3, G4, G5, Mac Pro...), I love this perspective from Hypercritical's John Siracusa:

Why is this important? If Apple produces a new Mac that’s faster than any of its current models by leaps and bounds, will people suddenly buy it in huge numbers, choosing it over the laptops, tablets, and phones they prefer today? No. Is it because a very fast Mac can be sold for such a high price that its huge margins will make its profits significant, despite the expected low number of sales? No, that won’t happen either. Is a new, insanely fast Mac even guaranteed to make any money at all for Apple? Sadly, no.

So why bother creating a true Mac Pro successor at all? Good riddance, right?

I like where he goes with this article.

NPR's SXSW "Austin 100"

So, South by Southwest's 2013 version is going on March 8-17th, and as usual it's a treasure-trove of music and media. Lots of cool things going on. Also as usual, I won't be there, because work, life, money, and distance prevent me.  The cool thing about what NPR has put together is a hand-picked, 100 songs by 100 artists, six-and-a-half hour playlist from the bands of this year's SXSW music festival.

Even cooler is, it's free. For the next 30 days, you can download a .zip file from NPR's website. (Click the title of this post to take you straight there.)

Obviously, most people won't like everything in the list, but there's a really good chance you might find a handful or two of solid tracks, and maybe some jewels. The hope, then, is that you enjoy something enough to seek out and purchase some tracks or full albums from the ones you like best.  I'm gonna check it out.

Everpix - Cloud-based Photo Syncing & Sharing

I'm setting up my free trial of Everpix right now, as I type this. I was reading Daring Fireball, and while I don't always do what Gruber tells me to do, in this case I clicked through to their website because my curiosity was piqued.  I really like what I see so far, and I'll try to do a more detailed review-type post when I've had a chance to use the service for a while. Check 'em out for yourself.