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Analog = Cables…mixing outside the ‘Box’

Well, it’s been a while since my last post, and mostly, it’s been because I’ve been struggling with the old necessity of analog that I had conveniently forgotten: You have to wire the whole damn thing up. I say struggle, because, whoa man, cables and copper ain’t cheap. I know this, my day gig is in telecom and I have seen the ebb and flow (though, more flow…) of copper prices and the impact to cabling. My struggle is, of course, when it’s coming out of my own shallow pockets, and the cost of cables are more then the cheap, vintage, hand-me-down gear that I have gotten for my little audio experiment.

I had gotten my two, Original ADATs for $50 CAD. Nylon fibre TOSLink cables are cheap enough, but to enjoy the 8 in X 8 out times 2 – ADATs, that’s 32 wires, when an 8 channel snake costs between $25 – $80, depending on length. So if I want them in my rack, under the old iMac, it’s going cost me a fortune. Though I hesitate, because these are old bird devices that will need a lot of cleaning and constant attention, so pulling them out and putting them back into the rack feels like the future of running anything out of the ADATs. I guess, it’s part of my goofy experiment. Plus, I want to take advantage of the Mackie 24-8, not as a mixing wonder-box with it’s fabulous EQ or bus ribbon problems *eye roll*, but because it does offer some routing options, out of the box.

I also have two Alesis 3630 compressors (no, I’m not an Alesis fanboy, they were cheap and I liked using them back in Audio School on drums!), with 2 channels X two units, so that’s 4 ins, 4 outs, and 4 sidechain (though those use insert cables), so at a minimum without keying I’ll need an 8 channel snake (then save up for the 4 insert cables). Marry all of this with my Digidesign 003 and it’s own 8 X 8 (I feel the Alt and Aux’s are a bit deceiving), I will need a grand total of:

  • 16 ADAT channels
  • 4 fibre cables (though the 003 only has 1 ADAT in, 1 ADAT out)
  • 16 Digi003 cables
  • 8 cables for the compressors
  • any other outboard gear AKA goofy ideas??

Feels like a lot. To be honest, I didn’t consider the wiring nightmare of cheap, vintage, used gear until I was holding said gear in my hands and when I looked at the back went “Oh…right…” I have been so spoiled with VST’s / AAX’s and virtual instruments, grumbling when they go on sale that they still cost as much if not more in total than the DAW. That said, I feel like the cost of the wires has been worked out on the cost of the plugins, and manufacturers know this.

Til next time!

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2021 – A Year for Vintage Experiments

If the pandemic has taught me one thing, being in lock down has had me thinking more and more about our experiences and lives outside of the virtual digital realm. For most of us, stuck in the house all day in one form or another, it has forced us to live, work and amuse ourselves virtually online. It’s not a tough ask, we’ve been doing so for many years, and the dirt path of the interweb in the late 90’s early 00’s has now evolved into the instant gratification and capability all of the dot-com bubble companies had promised. But with everything else limited, I might argue that we are hugely missing the tactile touch of our regular lives, the smell of coffee at a cafe, chatter of a pub, hugs with friends, opening the door for strangers to an office tower…these things Zoom just can’t replace. Let alone concerts and movie going, the experience just isn’t the same.

I speak about the obvious, you all have experienced the same thing as me, but one way for my emotional well being to cope has been to start building a retro-lab for music making. I know many would think I’m crazy, but finding some old retro recording gear with buttons that use tape instead of hard drives, has found some new appeal. ADATs (and the 16bit, original black units!), old outboard compressors and gate / limiters, and on the hunt for some weird outboard effects stuff, married to my clunky, problematic (thank you ribbon cable issues…), mostly used as a literal desk Mackie 24-8 mixer…one thing that became clear was my need need for cables (and lots of them) as well as some DeOxit to clean these neglected game changers from the 90s. I’ve subscribed to the Roland Cloud, and have slowly amassed a lot of VSTi / virtual instruments, which sound way too clean and neat through my Apogee or Digidesign / Avid digital boxes. That said, I felt being able to run channels of an 808 through 90s 16 bit glory would give me exactly that creamy / crunchy difference that would more closely emulate the limitations of the original hardware. Unbalanced outputs even!

Though I’m sure for the moment it’s just a phase, it’s certainly been giving me something to look forward to, and go on the hunt for information on Qwant (sorry Google) or for gems on eBay and Kijiji, finding sellers who are happy to see the gear go to a good home, but with a raised eyebrow in suspicion. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up and it will find a new lease on life” I reassure the masked person I’ve met in the parking lot for the exchange, while passing dollar bills still tacky from being wiped down in the all too familiar hand sanitizer.

Who knows, either I’ve discovered a new toy hobby to tinker with and find some groovy vibe for…or else, watch for my yard sale in 2022!

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Mechanic’s Car

Have you noticed…as a creative (well, I call myself that very loosely) that you are the worst person to showcase your stuff, even though your job is to showcase the stuff of others? I’m sure I’m not saying anything you all don’t know…the old joke about the state of repair of a mechanic’s car, surely applies too to the royal Us in film and music. The part I struggle with is balancing the business of things with the actual muscle that goes into putting art together for others. I get so focused on time, budgets and people, I often forget to take a little time out for myself, to celebrate the small victories along the way. We’ve all been there, the shoot was to end at 11PM, and it’s 2AM, and your job as ‘set-dad’ is to keep everyone’s spirits up, even when you are dying on your feet. You hate it; I hate it…but after the fact, the burning eyes of that late night shoot seem to fade, and you have another small victory under your belt. Sure, you have to be considerate of the crew and cast you are directly trying to maneuver through a difficult way-past-your-bedtime-we-should-have-cut-you-loose-hours-ago (and NOT make those crazy late shoots your MO or Norm!)! However, when you have to, celebrate with a small victory lap…even it means updating your website with some pics and vids of that awesome shoot you had!

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gettin’ the engines back online…

Been hard at work doing preproduction planning for some exciting new films, including some post production audio work.  Stay tuned!