Back to the ol’ Mixing Board

I made one of the worst mistakes I could when it comes to mixing the last few songs: I compensated my listening areas with EQ when listening to these mixes. What I failed to realize was that while they enhanced my tunes, they hid the real problems behind the colour. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice how bad the problem really was until I started turning it all off with all of the Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp tunes, because they were sounding great without it, both in my car (remember the ASL?) and on my iPod. Both of them were compensating the bass, but it was masking the really big problem of that I applied too much annoying mids and not adding enough bass on my own. The EQ’s did a great job of getting rid of the mids, while pumping up the bass. However, once I turned the EQ’s off, it popped out like a sore thumb and my tonality sounds no better than a lovesick Canada Goose!

So, I was faced with a choice: live with this monstrosity, or learn from it and just re-do the mixes. Hopefully, it was easy enough to tell that I couldn’t live with it. So, whenever I didn’t have to put together a slideshow for our weddings, I would re-train my ears to hear just how things sounded with the Jeremy Camp and Casting Crowns on my monitors. I wanted to analyze piece by piece just how my monitors were interacting with their songs. Once I felt confident that I was ready, I then pulled apart I Wanna Be… and discovered where I went wrong.

The source of half my problems with that song was with the bass guitar. I compromised on it in both the tone and the playing. It felt awful and I let it go. Well, not this time. Where I played it with my fingers before, I grabbed a pick and played it. I also spent a couple of hours just looking for the right sound that I could use. It had to be the right amp modelling and sound both heavy and even. After finding the tone, I managed to record the new bass part in one take. It sounded great all over and I was happy. Task one done.

Task two was to get it sitting in the mix a bit better, so I added some limiting to it and some tube excitation to the low end, thus adding some 2nd harmonics. It sat in there easily and doesn’t rattle the room. I compared this to my favourite Jeremy Camp tunes and they were right in there. I then brought up the kick drum and tightened it up again. Now it sounded like a a song. I then added a little trick I learned from Sound on Sound Magazine: I split the bass and added a noise gate on one of the channels which was fed by the kick drum. This made the bass pump on the verses. The song was right where I wanted it.

I then noticed that the guitars were way too muddy and scooped. I removed some of the low end mud and pumped up the mids and sent the guitars hard left and right and widened them in their respective zones. Now they sound much bigger as well as out of the way of the vocals. For the vocals, I am running them through a distressor emulation set to NUKE and 3rd order harmonics. As well, I changed the EQ emulation on it.

Now, it’s starting to really sound like the song I wanted. However, the true test will be when I can listen to it on my iPod as well as in my car. That’s when I will see if I have really learned from my mistakes!

Grain of Beauty…

Somehow, I have fallen in love with grain in my photos all over again. There’s something about grain in a photo that just attracts my eyes to it. Joelle and I have even started to incorporate it more and more in our wedding shoots. It gives the pictures a degree of finesse that a digitally clean shot can’t always provide. It makes me look at it and go, “That’s a picture!”

With all of the megapixels that I have to play with, and all of the detail I get in all of the pictures, I find it easy to let go of some of it and let the grain fill it in. Don’t get me wrong… I love a clean digital shot with crystal clear details and vibrant colours. But, I feel like I am just starting to realize that it is not always the be all and end all for a picture. Especially in a wedding shot, I am finding that some grain brings back some of the character and all of a sudden, the shot becomes a WOW! type of shot. I even saw this in my shots that I took in England. I felt that a lot of my London shots we not all that interesting to start. Then, I started putting some grain and even some antiqueness to the pictures that originally looked boring and all of a sudden, there was life in the pictures.

Of course, with every technique comes the responsibility of knowing when not to use it. So far, I have been fortunate enough to be able to look at a pictures and determine whether or not to apply things like grain. I would hate to take a great picture and simply trash it. But for the others, give me a little grit and I will fall in love with the shot. It’s almost like you can touch it. That to me is the beauty of grain.

Rampant Daemons and Panicky Kernels…

Sunday night, both of my computers had problems… funny enough, however, their differing symptoms were the results of the same cause. The more serious one was my main Mac Pro. It was destined to shut off at 1am Monday morning. According to the logs, at 1:10am it went into kernel panic and was like that all night until I got downstairs at 6am. The fans on the unit were blowing like a 737 getting ready to take off. Fortunately, it seemed to survive and serious meltdown (as I am typing on it right now).

My MacBook Pro also had a problem with its fan… it was going rampant, though not from kernel panic. It was writing continuous logs to my hard drive, due to the syslogd daemon running wild, taking up almost all of one CPU core. After temporarily disabling the syslogd daemon, and removing the gigabytes of garbage that it was writing, I then proceeded to look at the system logs of both units and found a similar problem: remnant software that was supposed to be uninstalled by the manufacter’s uninstallers didn’t remove everything and they left stuff in key system areas that the system was not only waiting for, but erroring out over.

It took me all night last night to go through the system logs to find the frameworks and startups, that should not have been there, and remove them. Once removed, I brought back the syslogd daemon online and everything purred like a kitten. I even got a ton of disk space back from that. If anything, the developers are to blame along with their QA depts. They are supposed to come up with the test cases for these things and to make sure that everything satisfies those tests. Developers have to be their own QA’s as well, so that everything runs smoothly. Otherwise, you have users like me ranting about how crappy your code is and how I would not infect my system with another piece of your garbage. Their crappy workmanship cost me a night of having to go through their crap without getting any of my own stuff done.

The key to a good sound in the car…

Ever since I bought my Toyota Corolla, I have generally enjoyed the sound of the car stereo… until I play a CD or hook up my iPod. Yes, the radio sounded great and I enjoyed the ride into Toronto listening to the radio. However, since I “discovered” music on demand, I couldn’t get enough out of hooking up my iPod into the car and playing it.

However, the loudness wars really took its toll and everything was coming through as nothing short of WWIII. There are a lot of music casualties, as you may have read in my previous blog. Even worse was finding some of my favourite Christian Artists fell victim to the loudness wars. I’m not going to boycott their music because, other than the fact that I like it, they deserve to be heard. The thing is that they’re probably not going to get re-mastered… they may be stuck with what they have. Thus, they will sound like bombs dropping in my nice little Corolla.

My previous solution was to use the Bass Reducer EQ setting on my iPod. However, I didn’t want to keep doing this as I moved from car to headphone to whatever. It was nice, but it wasn’t the answer…

That is, until I discovered a little setting in the car that changed it all. There’s a feature in the car radio called ASL, or Automatic Sound Leveller. It’s function is to supposedly adjust the loudness as the car goes faster or slower, to compensate for the road and wind noise (if you have the moon roof open). The thing is, it’s not the volume that it’s adjusting… it’s the bass frequencies. No treble is getting adjusted, thus it is not truly adjusting the volume. It is no different than the old loudness control that was on my ol’ Technics stereo. It made things seem louder, but all it did was bump up the bass frequencies, which by nature are not very loud despite the amount of energy they carry.

Once I turned the ASL off, I got a controllable sound that actually sounded like music and didn’t wreak any further havoc on the victims of the loudness wars. It also opened my eyes up to how my own music was sounding in the car because I was fooling myself with all of that bass as I was driving. I know that it is going to force me to re-evaluate my last 6 or so mixes because I can now hear everything clearly and my mind is no longer clouded by the ASL in the car. ASL may be nice for the radio, as the frequency spectrum is actually limited. However, it is not good for CD’s and iPod’s where the frequency spectrum is not limited. If you want better sound with your music on demand, turn the ASL off! You may be glad you did.

Thrown to the wolves…

It seems like today is nothing more than the aftermath of yesterday. If anything, I’m feeling battered and bruised… but not from the day’s events themselves. I’m more feeling like this from being thrown to the wolves by Joelle. I mean, c’mon, does she honestly think that I went out to deliberately put a stone chip in the windshield? I feel like crap enough from the day, and all she can do is rip a strip off of me over a stupid stone chip. Ain’t that character!

It makes me wonder what’s going to happen when she gets into an accident with the van… whether I will try to be as forgiving as the time she got into an accident with the last van, knocking the back bumper clean off. Or, will I simply turn my back on here and treat her just like she did to me… over a stone chip! Only problem for me is that I know it’s not right in my heart to do so. Makes me wonder what’s in Joelle’s heart at the moment.

All I can say to Joelle today is that I hope you choke on the scripture you’re teaching your study today. I hope the words you read tie up your tongue like a noose. I hope every letter weighs down your heart like a slab of lead. I hope it hits over the head with the force of a giant Torah! You dare throw me to the wolves and then preach the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ!

Like a Jenga Tower of Calamities!

Today has been nothing but a curse from the moment I woke up and I knew it then. It was just one thing after another and it wouldn’t let up. Starting right from the moment I woke up:

  • I went to grab my lunch from the fridge and WHAM!… a tub of Bocconcino falls to the floor, creating a crack in the tub and causing all of the liquid to leak out onto the floor.
  • I go to fill up my water bottle and the ice falls to the floor.
  • At work, I am refactoring my code and all of sudden, everything stops working. It took me almost 2 hours to fix all of the libraries.
  • I find out from from one of the other developers that our application was supposed to work a different way than the artwork that was supplied to us. As a result, I had to re-code the functionality of my qualifiers.
  • Going home, a stone hits my windshield out of nowhere, causing a huge stone chip in it, requiring repairs.
  • Joelle blames me for the stone chip… she seems to think that I deliberately went out and drove into it. How nice… the perfect wife!

It’s like, what the hell is going on today??!!

The only real thing that kept me going was singing along to my favourite Jeremy Camp tunes while the enemy was using my ass as a dartboard! That’s right… I said ass! I’m in a bad enough mood right now and if you’re offended by it, then you were stupid enough to read this far.