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.

Thursday, December 12

The Creative Process

I feel as though this entire conversation can relate directly to sound design, client relationships, the caliber of the studio you work at, the creative process.  Just an amazing conversation.   Take an hour and enjoy.  :)

Sunday, July 14

fun with pzms

I've had access to a nice pair of crown PZM mics for several years, but only recently have I really been running them through their proper paces.

My interest was really piqued a while back when I decided to mount one to the license plate of my motorcycle and take it for a drive.

The fact that the mic could go 80mph with zero wind noise and capture that much punch and detail really impressed me.

Later on, we had a gun recording roundtable on Tonebenders featuring Charles Maynes and Frank Bry.  Charles spoke very highly of the PZMs in his rig for capturing punch and low end there as well.

With all of that in mind, I took the mics out a few times in recent weeks to really get a feel for how they would react in a few different situations.

The first test was the explosive percussive impact test.  Every fourth one of my coworkers lights off some giant mortar style fireworks at his lakehouse, and this year I decided to bring the pair of PZMs and just run those exclusively.

here's what it looked like:


That's cool. Here's the unprocessed recording:

Then to hear the boom I used some parallel limiting to make it much louder, and eq'd some more low end into the crushed channel. The main takeaway for me is that the PZMs really have super fast transient response, and very tight low end response.  They really don't require any wind protection even outdoors in moderate conditions, and they caught a surprisingly small amount of the reverberation in the space out at the lake house.

The next test was to run out and get some ambiances with them.  For both of the following recordings I had the mics on the ground about 8 feet apart.

First up was a residential neighborhood at about 8 am on a Sunday. I eq'd out some of the low end to reduce the traffic rumble, and left the high end untouched.

Second was some rain out by a business park.  similar eq to reduce traffic rumble down low.  high end untouched.  Mics were vertical against a wall.

In both of these cases I got what was a very detailed but not very binaural sounding recording.  Very wide and flat compared to ORTF and XY techniques.

After all of this I certainly feel like my PZMs are underused in big percussive recordings, but I feel like I need to experiment more with placement to get the ambient sounding recordings working just right.  I could try jecklyn disk style back to back placement, but before I do that I need to place some of this stuff against picture and maybe try panning it around a bit in the surround field to see if I like what it's doing.

Thursday, June 20

Ishi - Mother Prism music vid

So, I shot and edited a new music video:

Here's the story behind it:

Ishi is the creation of one of my coworkers - Brad Dale, and his friend John Mudd.

A few years back I filmed their CD release party on a whim and the video turned out very well.  In the interim they've refined the look and sound of the band, and they have a heck of a following in the DFW area.

For the release of the new CD, they asked me back.  I was a little hesitant at first because I know how much time and effort it takes to produce something that looks good, my edit rig was coming apart, and at first I felt I could only commit to shooting the footage.  Once I got the footage in place I was intrigued again though, and I couldn't resist putting an edit together.


The entire video was filmed on my Canon 7D through my 50mm 1.4 lens.  I went handheld 100% with zero lights.  I used the cinestyle flat color profile from Technicolor to shoot with the widest latitude since I knew it'd be a dynamic looking show.

On the day of the shoot I was given full access to backstage, the stage itself, and anywhere on the floor of the Granada theater.  My plan was to spend the time during the opening act backstage shooting the band hanging out and getting ready, and then to hit the floor and shoot the fans prepping up and getting beers.  That worked out great, and I got a number of very intimate moments from the band that ended up making the final cut.  That was also the time I got coverage of the facepainters outside as well as the exteriors and the marquee.

Once the show was underway I knew I had at least two songs that I wanted full coverage of from the perspective of John singing - Mother Prism which eventually was the one used, and Slowly But Surely.  Mother Prism was requested by Brad because he felt it would best represent the show, and Slowly But Surely for me because it was my favorite album on the new disc.

I spent a fair amount of time actually onstage with the band shooting crowd and cool moments over their shoulders, and it was here that I got some of the killer shots of Becky singing into the light and Rocky jamming on the guitar.  Brad was much more difficult to get coverage of during the show because of where he was positioned on the stage, but in the end I got just enough.

Getting the band's faces from down on the floor was much more difficult.  The crowd was standing room only and bunched into a huge knot down the middle.  My attempts to get down low and shoot up at the band generally just resulted in me getting beat up and shooting a bunch of shaky cam that I only kept very small parts of.

After the show was over, I parked by the hallway where everyone was walking out and just shot a 13 minute take of fans streaming out after the show. I got some of the really cool moments of happy people from that one shot.

By the end of it I had shot 40 gigs of coverage, used two batteries, and drank three beers.


The edit took a couple of weeks of on again off again work, but in the end I'm very happy with it.

Step one was to log all of the footage.  I just did this in the finder, naming all of the clips something logical and putting stars in the names of the clips that I really liked.

There were some clips that were straight away triple star clips and I knew they would be from the moment I shot them: brad popping up from behind the console during soundcheck, Rocky hugging his dad, the band having a moment before going on stage, the closeup of rocky noodling on the guitar, John's dark back walk with the lightup glasses, and a few others.

Other shots just turned into cool things through serendipity: the silhouetted girl with the butterfly wings perfectly overlapping Rocky clapping in the opening shot, the slowed down shot of Becky turning and singing, catching John playing drums on a perfect beat in a different song that I could overlay onto this one, the big blue and purple blooms that happened near the end, the perfect framing of one fan's cell phone cam on Becky dancing, etc.

The last few touches had to be manufactured a bit: the balloon popping right on the climax of the song was speed ramped into place and then had the color cranked to death at the moment it popped.  The marquee needed a focus effect to make the ISHI part stand out.  various speed ramps and shifts were done throughout to make things hit the beat that were filmed during other songs that night.


I edited entirely in Adobe Premiere CS6, and it was my first experience with it - having come from Final Cut 7.

The transition was seamless and very intuitive, and I really enjoyed just drawing opacities across the clips and weaving them in and out of one another on the timeline.  I did almost zero color correction, just cranking up the contrast and adjusting brightness throughout.  I really liked working with the native footage that was shot and not having to convert, and titles were very simple to do the way that I wanted to.


In the end I had a blast.  I enjoy shooting these types of things on occasion, and the band put on a hell of a show.

Monday, April 29

quickie editing and navigating in protools vid

After a twitter conversation last week I decided to shoot a quickie video covering something that wasn't discussed - how I tend to navigate around in protools without constantly zooming in and out.


Monday, March 4

living vicariously - my friends trip to mexico

go ahead and hit play, then listen while you read.

Last month my friend Mario took the whole month off and traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for a vacation.

Before he left, he generously offered to take one of my recorders and roll some audio when he was down there.  Now, Mario is a brilliant chef but he's got about zero experience rolling audio so when he made the offer to take some gear down there with him I figured my Sony PCM M10 would be the best choice for a few reasons:

- The M10 has top shelf battery life.  I figured he'd need to change batteries one time max for the whole trip, and that's if he was recording a TON.  The more likely scenario was that he wouldn't have to change batteries at all.  Battery life on this device is the best of any that I own, and far superior to most others on the market.

- The M10 has the most storage.  It has 4 Gb built in, and another 8 on the micro SD card that I have in it.  The storage also rolls over seamlessly from the internal to the SD card with no user interaction required.  Thats an advantage it has over my PCM D50, and over many other handheld recorders on the market.

- The M10 doesn't require wind protection.  Sure, if it gets up to 15 mph or so it'll blow out, but south of that the built in wind protection works fine.  That can't be said of my D50 or of most other devices with exposed electret condenser mics.  In fact, my D50 often requires wind protection indoors, since even the slightest AC gust will blow it out.

- The M10 is about the size of an iphone, and can easily fit in a pocket.  Its about half the size of the D50 or H4n.  

-The M10 costs about $200.  If it gets destroyed for any reason I won't feel too hard of a loss.

So low maintenance, high capacity, super portable, and moderatly expendable.  I have higher resolution rigs obviously, but this is the only one I could really send out in this capacity with a non-audio guy as the recordist.

And oh man did Mario deliver.  I've only posted a small compilation of some of the stuff he brought back to me, but it really was impressive.  Mario took great pride in his recordings, he just nailed his gain structure and technique, and enjoyed taking some time in the various locales to just sit and listen to what was going on around him.

This horse was pulling a cart that rode on the railroad tracks.  He had pretty good speed too!

Great peacock recording right at the outset.

That's Mario on the right.

Even the traffic ambiances had a smattering of jungle creatures in them.  I love it!

I couldn't be more happy with how it went, and I'm super impressed with the quality that the internal mics on the M10 were able to deliver.

When an opportunity arises, you have to be ready to seize it.  The process of sorting out and listening through all of his recordings from that trip is one of the most enjoyable things I've done all year.

Thanks Mario!

Tuesday, January 1

happy new year!

a little gift on new years - turn your speakers up so the voices sound right, and you'll get a feel of how loud the fireworks were. :) at the beginning of this year I set a goal to blog once a week for the whole year - and I fell short of that. The launch of tonebenders made some of my blog ideas redundant, but I think it'll help re-define what I do in this space a bit.

here's to a happy 2013!

Monday, November 19

movie review: Skyfall *spoilers*




srsly.  don't read this if you don't want spoilers.




ok.  This is my quickie review of the latest Bond flick: Skyfall.

Now, for reference I do my absolute best to avoid any and all media involved with any film I plan to see before I've seen it.  This means that I never saw that trailer or any other than the teaser before actually experiencing the film in its full glory.  I also never read a review, and I purposely stayed as far away from the film's online presence as I could.

I do this for every big film that I plan on experiencing fully in the theater.  I find it gives me a much better overall experience.  As an example, that trailer has probably 6 or 8 things in it that I sure didn't want to see before seeing the movie in context.  It gave away so many interesting moments that I have no regrets about avoiding it.

 I'm currently avoiding any mention of Lincoln until I see that one as well.  :)

I saw the film in Imax at the Northpark AMC.   While this theater isn't "true" Imax - its certainly impressive.  Utterly perfect digital projection, probably the second largest Imax screen in the DFW metroplex (second only to the true Imax screen with film projection at the Webb Chapel Cinemark) and a truly capable and well calibrated sound system.  Stadium seating, ample foot room, and we sat dead center about 1/3rd of the way up.  Tickets were $16 each.  As a theater experience this is close to as good as it gets.

So first off, overall impressions:

I felt that this was probably the best Bond film I've seen.  I certainly haven't seen them all, but I'm sure I've caught at least 80% of them going back to the Pierce Brosnan days, and this one is easily the best I've personally experienced.  I like Daniel Craig as Bond, even though I don't like him as much in almost any other role.  He brings a certain self-loathing to Bond that completely redefines the character in my opinion, and in a good way.  Its far more believable that Craig's Bond would get the girl and kill the bad guy than Brosnon's (or even *gasp* Connery's) would in my eyes.

(That said I hated the poker enough in Casino Royale to write off the whole flick.  That film was a complete insult to poker players everywhere, and Bond was not only written as an awful poker player in the film, he was a complete dick at the table as well.)

While Skyfall started fast - as Bond films tend to - it didn't launch at the flat out breakneck speed that some in the past have.  The opening action sequence was punchy and interesting, but not so massive that it overshadowed the rest of the film.

(Another aside - I thought that The Dark Knight Rises suffered from this.  The sequence where Bane hijacks and destroys the plane is probably the high point of the film, and it happens in the first 20 minutes)

The opening credits were typically epic - as Bond opening credits tend to be.  They hit all of the classic Bond marks - silhouetted women,  guns, tombstones, 2d graphic styles, and general avant garde imagery.  I've seen others complain, but I personally really like Adele's take on the Bond theme, and I won't apologize for that.  For opening credits to be that memorable after the film is over is an achievement in my opinion.

Once the film was off and running I thought the pacing was excellent throughout.  It never felt long or drug out, nor did it feel too short by the time the film was over.  The last third of the film was certainly loud and pretty challenging, but even then it didn't have that "when will this end" moment that most of the final battles in the Transformers films end up at.

Javier Bardem was an excellent villain.  Again, the pacing of the film revealed him at exactly the right moment.  Not to early, but not so late that you didn't get a good sense of him before the final encounter.  I think he should take on something more heroic in his next role, given how huge his No Country For Old Men and Skyfall performances have become.

There were certainly plot holes though (many of them typically Bond).  *spoilers*

Spies probably know better than to run from their pursuers in the dark while waving a flashlight.  Bond would have had his insides liquified by three or four of the explosions that he supposedly survived.  Hacking computers doesn't work that way.   Helicopters can't sneak up on you.  Two tanks of propane can't blow up a massive mansion.  Putting it all on black does not imply that you don't care about the money, it only implies that you're trying to double it.  Also, you aren't likely to get a gun into a casino of that stature, and if you do you're unlikely to walk out after only facing three people and making a bet.  The other assasin certainly wouldn't have brought his payment with him to the jobsite.  If a coworker shot you on accident and let the other guy get away, it'd be pretty hard to get rescued by a stranger unless that coworker just packed up and left.  Fire extinguishers don't have that much foam in them. Car doors don't stop bullets.


From a sonic perspective I thought the mix was excellent overall - with a couple of exceptions.

First I'll say that I felt I heard every word clearly - though I'll reiterate that I watched this in an excellent Imax theater that was clearly calibrated out well and running the film at spec.

I'll state again that everything I heard was 100% top shelf minus the couple of small things I'll list here:
  • There was a moment in the opening sequence where multiple car wrecks were happening simultaneously with big score moments, and I think they could have stood to clear out some space for some of the car wreck elements that were taking up room on the screen but getting lost in the mix. 
  • There were several moments in the latter half of the movie when the score contained a heavy brass section and was pushed loud enough to crowd everything else out.  I'm about positive that this was a director's choice (as well as an arrangement thing) rather than a mixer choice, but the end result clashed in the final mix.  It just felt like that typical thing where both the composer and the designers are trying to go to 11, but there's just not room for both to get all the way there. 
  • There was very minimal ADR in the film, but in the few spots where it was needed (helicopter scenes etc) it was pretty blatant and not always synced well.  I understand that these actors probably had to be wrestled from their various exploits around the globe to get the ADR cut, but it felt as if they were told certain lines were good enough before they actually got there.  Probably only 4 or 5 lines that looked like this, but boy did they.
  • Daniel Craig clearly speaks much more softly than the others on the set with him.  Again, I was in a very good listening environment there at Northpark, but boy howdy I heard that noise pumping on him every time he spoke.  In fact, it felt more like they were gating and editing around the noise on his lines than pumping Cedar or anything.  No one else seems to have suffered from that.  Its also possible that they were burying lavs a little more deeply in his costume than the other characters, but that can't really account for the big discrepancy between his dialogue and that of the others - especially on the very quiet soundstage moments.  I think his suits were noisy as well, which couldn't have helped. 
  • Those are American sirens.  I'm pretty sure zero percent of this film took place in the USA.
With those out of the way, I'd like to add a few more kudos to the sound crew:
  • The weapon sounds were probably the closest I've come to the feeling of an actual gun being fired in proximity to me.  Kickass field recordings of the guns being fired, and they were mixed LOUD, but somehow not painfully.  Bond fired his weapon indoors on multiple occasions, and in each case the sound of the gun in that space felt spot on, which I know is incredibly difficult to pull off.  Nothing felt exaggerated, but all of it felt very big and very real.  Probably one of the finest weapon sound achievements I've seen in film.
  • Ditto the explosions.  The edit and the mix decisions really did those explosions some good when they were unexpected and out in the clear, but they really did give a genuine feeling that you'd get if you were in close proximity to that kind of explosion.  My wife and I both jumped out of our seats in a couple of key moments where they surprised us with a bang, and despite coming out of my seat and looking around I felt as drawn in during those moments as I ever have in a film.  Those things felt REAL.
  • Vehicles were kickass, rare, screaming down the road, and as impressive as it can get.  The team recording them must have had a field day.   Ditto the extensive helicopter sounds.
  • Punches and kicks felt the appropriate size in relation to the weapons.  Not massive, but still very satisfying and intense.
  • BGFX from locations around the globe were deep, intense and clearly very accurate.  
  • There were three massive sound events - the opening car/bike/train chase, the train dropping through the subway station, and the final asault on skyfall.  All three achieved what they were going for, but only the train dropping through the subway really tipped all the way into "that has to be exactly what that would sound like" territory for me.  It was just flat out impressive, and even more so for me given that I didn't see it coming.
  • kudos to the production sound crew for scoring a place in the opening credits.  Well deserved IMO.

 that's all I've got.  I'd recommend it for sure.  Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.