Update for April 2013, New Toys

Hello everyone, this update has been a long time coming, and due to the pressures of work, has had a tortured entry into existence. Woo, my head is spinning…

So, I have just wrapped on the feature Play it Safe, directed by Chris Pahlow, and featuring the most elongated production schedule you will have ever seen, although it wasn’t all bad. That came back to back with my first overseas job in New Zealand, recording sound for the Toi Whakaari New Zealand School of Drama, where it was a pleasure to work with and for Ryan Alexander Lloyd the DP, Nathaniel Lees (one of the Directors), and Catherine Fitzgerald, our producer. What was not so much of a pleasure was the process of getting and using an ATA Carnet to get my equipment across. Boy, I tell you, if you thought Airports were bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. The customs officials (who, mostly knew what it was) were pretty good natured about processing Carnets, but the attendants at the check in counters usually reacted with either suspicion, bewilderment, and, oddly enough, a sense of being offended, when I pulled one of these out and asked about processing procedure (in fact, one lady was so taken aback she told me to visit the Customs office, which was actually after the check-in gate and refused to contact them ahead to see if she had any idea that what she was doing was completely nonsensical). And if you thought excess baggage was expensive, you haven’t seen anything yet. ATA Carnets, while a deposit, typically go for half of what you equipment value is worth. So… for me, after undervaluing it (just slightly) it still came out at about $4000 for 3 months of use.

On the upside, as this busy schedule comes to a close and I begin to focus more on my PhD, which, even at over 2 years away, is forever at “crunch time”, I did manage to snag myself a new field recorder (although Sound Devices staunchly maintains that this is more of a mixer than a field recorder), a Sound Devices 664, the new flagship of their location mixer range, and displacing the 552.

This replaces my aging, but faithful, and mostly kooky Fostex PD-606 as my primary device (although I will still need to pop it out for recordings requiring greater bit depth, and possibly cart work), and boy is it a stunner. Getting past the shock of a new interface, I have to commend Sound Devices for creating a recorder that is A.) Suitable for my meat cleaver hands B.) So intuitive that I was basically in full control after the first 3 takes of the day (although I did do my homework, and tested out workflow beforehand). One thing I did have to get use to though was the hardwired pre-fader sends to ISO tracks, taking out one of the gain steps (not really a true gain step as it’s still using the same process as the trim, it’s just significantly more refined) I usually use in mixing Post Fader, although that isn’t such a big issue I suppose. Fantastically, it perfectly fit into my Petrol Deca bag, which was typically too large for most of todays tiny dedicated field recorders (but I seriously dislike Porta Brace bags). One question I do have for anyone that might know, however, is, with Sound Devices recorders, is unity level typically 30% louder than typical talking RMS? I found myself pushing the trim a little more than I felt comfortable with in terms of remaining headroom.

Now onto updating my wireless! Although, I am still a tad concerned about the direction bandwidth allocation is going.

That’s it for now, Chum signing out!

Life of Pi… In response to Nick Schager of The Village Voice

This is a brief response to the review of the 2012 film Life of Pi written by Nick Schager of The Village Voice, which can be found here.

“Wow… and this is why the last person who should ever review a film is a film critic…

Cynical to the core. You have seen the embodiment of so many images that they have become simulacrum in themselves, and everything is nothing more than a cheap photocopy of some murky cliche in the bowels of your mind.

You seem to shun the bare beauty of the film and reduce them down to the either the derisive and/or most simple textual descriptions leaving out the sensory palate that is presented to the viewer.

The source material demands it, but I do agree to some degree that the narration can, at times, spoon-feed sentiment, but it is not without some restraint, and the visual narrative beautifully reinforces the brutality versus beauty counterpoint of solitary survival within the film.

What I gleaned from the film was not that it beat the importance of the films story into my skull, like a ham handed message film, possibly about war, possibly about Nazi’s, or possibly about human rights movements, might have. Instead it reflected upon the viewer the constraints they place upon their own imagination, invited them to wear their rose colored spectacles and escape into a world that impressed upon the viewer the continued value of storytelling as a mode of communication.

I do not write this to specifically criticize your review, only to offer an alternative for you and others the contemplate. Much like the situation with the Japanese bureaucrats within the film, it is a choice between the stark and brutal, or the beautifully improbable. In either case, the truth is unique to each individual.”

Redesign and relaunch

Well, it has been some time since I last posted on here. For quite a while I toyed with the idea of dropping my website, seeing as I was no longer actively engaged in film production, for which this website was predominantly for. But, alas, I have a hoarding problem… So, instead, I have redesigned the website to represent a more personal focus.

I hope you continue to enjoy viewing it, and I hope to have some more general posts coming in the near future!

Chum, signing out.

Hiatus from Film Production

Due to university commitments, I have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from film production, until such time I can commit the necessary time to make it worthwhile again. I will still be available for consultation and equipment hire.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, I hope all of the projects I have been involved with reach audiences far and wide.



Codecs, Compression and Loudness

Just quickly thought I would post this presentation by Thomas Lund of TC electronics who neatly describes the current situation of mis-managed loudness/peaking and the detrimental effects of codec data reduction (which begs the question, with the amount of bandwidth we now have available at our disposal, is it really necessary?). Well worth a watch, and it sheds a new light on the state of the music production industry. Thankfully, broadcast audio, which has typically been more rigorously handled in production has not suffered as much (although it is creeping in).

PressPausePlay and the changing landscape of art & media industries

Just tonight I read these two blog posts, which passionately put forward two opposing points of view about the current problematic situation of monetizing intellectual property (IP) and piracy of it, caused by rapid development of technological circumvention, and, in Demonbaby’s view, the stratifying business practices of major recording labels.

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide.
Letter to Emily White at NPR All SongsĀ Considered.

Both have valid points, and both go to great lengths to rationalize their position. These brought up the memory of a recent documentary I had the pleasure of viewing (now on Vimeo) called PressPausePlay, made by the same people who were behind the Academy nominated documentary Om Natten.

Tonight, I suppose, after going through all five stages of grieving my position within the changing landscape of the media industry, I came to the realization that all of the quibbles, the fights over the IP rights, exploitation of them that has been complicated by the ontological difficulties presented by the Internet, and the massive changes in the production and distribution of media, point toward one important trend.

In the last two decades, we, as a society of consumers turned creators, turned co-creators and re-creators (with the rise of social media and the easy proliferation of remix culture) of media products, have had and are continuing to experience a fundamental shift in the way we interact with culture.

Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter defined this process in 1942 as creative destruction. Most vividly experienced during the industrial revolution, it refers to the obsolescence of either means of production or whole industries due to technological advances.

Creative destruction has traditionally related to analogous advancement and subsequent obsolescence. The invention of one machine that was directly more efficient than its predecessor. Its function and parameters were limited (as well as its physical footprint). Generally, its operators would either reskill, drift into niche industry sectors emphasising nostalgia, or fall out of the industry altogether, however, there was generally a continuity as to the kind of skills involved, physical labour made more efficient by machinery was generally less physical labour etc.

However, the explosion in mediums has created an environment of information saturation and virtualization, and for the first time in history, has created a situation where the mysticism of monopolies in knowledge requiring specializations (i.e. think about real estate agents versus the now common, accessible and relatively easy to understand real estate and valuation web sites), no longer matters – whatever you need to know can be found in some form or another in books, television or interactive media. Combine that with virtualization (think DAW’s. These did not exist less than a decade ago) and the “end of history” efficiency in mechanized manufacturing, which has democratized knowledge and means of production, and we find ourselves in our contemporary position. A position of saturated creative markets that creates a noise that is impossible to rise out of, the acceptance of mediocrity with historical forgetfulness (which is no longer vetted by closely guarded covens/industries), and, a higher barrier to economic success, which leads to the devaluing and, hence, disincentivising the participation within these industries (typically associated with the manufacture of cultural capital).

How you view this is up to personal opinion. It is a time when you have open to you the possibilities to create whatever artistic artefact you wish, easily. It is a time when you have nigh unlimited methods to express your own individuality. But it is also a time where everyone is also doing the same, and success, which requires scarcity, is, itself, scarce.

So, the question is: while you can show the world who you are intimately, and like never before… Does anyone really care anymore? Or is everyone as self-obsessed as you are?

Sigh, Fairfax…

This will be a very quick post as I have so much on my mind, but I am pretty sure there is very little that needs to be said, apart from a few key points, that would illustrate what is wrong with news vendors in our contemporary late capitalist society.

On the 18th of June, Fairfax Media, publishers of one of the last broadsheet format newspapers in Australia (The Age – even with declining quality of journalism, it is still the most accurate and unbiased paper you can get in Melbourne), announced 1900 impending redundancies, the tabloidisation of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, the closing of the Tullamarine printing press, and the monetisation of online content.

Here were the immediate consequences and results of this:

  • Fairfax shares rose from 60c before the announcement to just under 65c after it.
  • Fairfax will save over $200 million per year by 2015
  • Greg Hywood’s address contained this phrase verbatim, “…we believe that they are in the best interest of Fairfax, our shareholders, and ultimately the majority of our people. They are necessary to ensure Fairfax retains its position as a leading independent media company and a key voice in our markets”

All sounds hunky dory, right? Correct me if I am wrong, and it is probably a little late in the game to bring this up, but I thought that the primary goal of a healthy serious news broadcaster was to act, in some way, as society’s watchdog/man. In no published article was I able to find any discussion about the runaway dilution in the journalistic integrity of media vendors.

I would go into a long diatribe about the corruption of information etc. But, as I said earlier, this will be a short post and I am sure reading the above will already clue you in to what my thoughts are on the matter, as well as yours. Just one thing. How are you going to act in the best interests of your shareholders and your people, while still remaining independent, Fairfax media? 19.99% of your shares are owned by Gina Rinehardt. That is 0.01% of controlling share before she is required to make a takeover bid. No, not an editorial influence at all…

ADDITIONAL: News Limited also announced impending redundancies and the closure of nearly 75% of its regional operations today.