Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cutting Vinyl At Abbey Road

With vinyl sales increasing every year, there's obviously a new-found interest in the format. Here's a a great video that shows a vinyl master being cut at none other than Abbey Road Studios.

Of course what you're seeing is the a totally up to date process using the current state-of-the-art, but it's really not all that removed from the way discs were cut 50 years ago. It's only a bit more refined.

If you want to learn more about cutting records at Abbey Road during The Beatles heyday, as well as a lot of other interesting Abbey Road-related stories, check out Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust, which is the memoirs of Beatles engineer (and Bowie, Supertramp, Devo, Kansas, Missing Persons, etc producer/engineer) Ken Scott.



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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

9 All-Time Bad Tech Predictions Again

crystal ball graphic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
As we approach the 1000th post and 1 millionth page view of The Big Picture Blog, I thought I'd repost some of the more interesting posts from the beginning when there wasn't much of an audience. This one is just as interesting today as it was a bit over three years ago.
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The prediction business is always like walking a tightrope over a waterfall. You're a lot more likely to fall off than make it to the other side. Here are a few of the most egregious forward-looking flubs of the past 112 years, courtesy of Info World:
  • "Everything that can be invented, has been invented." - Charles Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, 1899
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943
  • "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." - Darryl Zanuck, executive at 20th Century Fox, 1946
  • "Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years." - Alex Lewyt, president of Lewyt vacuum company, 1955
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977
  • "Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse." - Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, 1995
  • "Apple is already dead." - Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft CTO, 1997
  • "Two years from now, spam will be solved." - Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 2004
  • "The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a mouse. There is no evidence that people want to use these things." - John Dvorak, noted tech writer and columnist, February 1984.
The interesting thing about these predictions is who made them, as not many of them are lightweights. Let this be a lesson on being careful about making predictions. They sometimes come back to haunt you.
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Overcoming The Self-Production Blues

deadline clock graphic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Self-Production is simultaneously one of the most difficult things to do in music, and perhaps one of the easiest. Every artist hears what their music should sound like in their head (that’s the easy part), but it’s sometimes difficult to get it to actually sound that way when it comes to real-life recording. That can lead the artist to overwork a song until it’s limp like a dishrag, or overproduce it so it has so many layers that it sounds like there’s a 30 piece band backing you up. Indeed, it’s difficult to get it to sound somewhere in between where your project is both exciting and vital, and still meets your vision.

One of the biggest problems with a creative artist is going in circles. This means that the artist has so many good ideas that the production is never finished. As soon as a version is complete, the artist thinks, “I think the middle 8 should have a ska feel.” Then after that’s recorded he thinks, “Maybe the entire song should have a ska feel.” Before you know it there are versions in 6/8, speed metal and reggae (and maybe more), with each one just sounding different, not necessarily better.

If this is what's happening to you, there are two words to keep in mind to help you out of your rut.

Instinct - Usually, the very first inspiration is the right one, especially if you’ve gone through more than a couple of different versions. You’ve got to repress the urge to keep changing things and learn to follow your initial instinct. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tweak or perfect what you’re doing; it means that you shouldn’t make a right turn in a direction that goes against your initial inspiration.

The exception to this is if you think it might be cool to have multiple different versions of the song available so you can give the alternate versions to your core fans as an exclusive gift. Then, a wholesale change in direction can actually be particularly useful.

Deadline - One of the biggest problems with producing yourself is the fact that your project is usually open-ended time-wise. As a result, you end up with the “project that wouldn’t end” that keeps going for years (no exaggeration here).

The surest way to keep that from happening and to actually accomplish something is to set a deadline for the project’s completion. Many people do their best work on deadlines because they don’t have a chance to second guess themselves. The final product may not be 100% of what you want, but remember that it seldom ever is, even with all the time in the world available to finish the project. Save yourself some heartache and impose a deadline on yourself.

If you're interested in some more production tips, check out The Music Producer's Handbook. You can read a few excerpts here.
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Monday, April 2, 2012

De-Reverberation Made Easy

Zynaptiq Unveil graphic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
One of the dreams of post engineers has been to find a device or plugin that allows you to strip the reverberation from a sound. Dialog or effects recording with unwanted ambience eventually have to be replaced, costing time and money, and a music track swimming in too much reverb can turn into a muddy mess. Now comes an announcement from a company called Zynaptiq regarding a Mac plugin called UNVEIL, which they say accomplishes real-time de-reverberation and "signal focusing."

By using artificial intelligence, UNVIEL claims to be able to not only strip the ambience from a sound, but to add more of the natural ambience back into the sound, as well as attenuating some of the components that cause a sound to be "muddy" or masked.

I've not yet played with UNVIEL, but if it works as claimed, it could immediately find a place in the plugin lists of DAWs everywhere. Not only would it be invaluable for post, but during a mix as well. Instead of adding artificial reverb to a mix element, it would be great just to be able to adjust the natural ambience of the element itself. That means, of course, that you have to record the sound well complete with some natural ambience in the first place, but that's a topic for a different discussion.

Check out UNVIEL at the Zynaptiq site. It's just $259USD and a free trial is available. Let me know if it works as claimed.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

DIY Recording Gear

Do It Yourself graphic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
One of my favorite new sites is DIYrecordingequipment.com, a true DIY site that is somewhat of a clearinghouse for all sorts of record gear mods and projects. It's the brainchild of Peterson Goodwyn, a drummer and recording engineer who discovered that building your own gear can be a lot cheaper than buying it.

The site has 244 DIY projects that range from rack gear for the 500 series racks, compressors, equalizers, guitar amps and pedals, controllers, mics, mic preamps, gear modifications, and DIs, summing amps, and interesting effects.

DIYrecordingequimpent.com has a number of pages designed for the DIY newbie. A DIY jargon page, a guide to passive electronic components, newbie friendly DIY projects and a DIY tools store are all excellent places to begin, if you've not ventured into the world of electronic tech before.

Do It Yourself is near and dear to my heart, since I grew up with my hands inside a guitar amp, and later a recording console and tape machine, eventually getting a degree in electronics so I could do a better job following the electrons around the recording studio. I don't do much tech stuff anymore, but I appreciate the ethic involved. Of course, this is how all the lovely boutique mic pres, compressors and guitar amp companies that seem to be everywhere these days came to pass.

There's nothing more satisfying than building your own gear, even it's as simple as just cables (the simplest of all DIY projects). Check out diyrecordingequipment.com. It's very cool.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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