300 Frames per second.

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stutterI remember being very young at the movie theater looking at how the fast moving pictures created the illusion of motion. As the projector accelerated, the pictures came to life seamlessly except for a few shots that at times seemed to be stuttering. This is something that troubled me, and as always I needed to know what was it and why was it happening.

With time and observation I came to realize that the stuttering happened on pan shots. The faster they the DP panned, the choppier the movement. At this point it was not hard to decipher that at 24 frames per second, a full screen change would be more prone to perception than a static shot with few areas moving, hence the stuttering effect. Later in life while becoming an audio, video and film professional, I learned the seven second rule and how to deal properly with frame rates and their effects.

Now transitioning to HD, we are moving away from the NTSC standard of 29.97 fps to a more film-like 23.97 bringing back the old stuttering and seven second rule to a higher resolution screen and sharper images producing an even more evident choppiness to the motion.

The seven second rule states that an object in frame takes seven seconds to go from one edge to the other when panning. In any case, far from anything technical about it, here’s a story.

A producer from an agency I don’t usually work for came to me in absolute panic! -What has your editor done with my commercial?- He asked. There are few things our experienced editors can do to destroy a commercial in a controlled post-production environment. So I walked in the room to asses the situation. The producer was complaining about choppy motion in certain shots of the commercial, I assume at this point you know what he was referring to. He blamed everybody and everything, from the editor to the monitor to the light in the room. That’s when I had my flash back to that movie theater in Spain. Needless to say that at this point our experienced editor who already explained things patiently was ready to chop some producer’s head.

I took my time to explain the situation along with the seven second rule at no use. No explanation would bring peace to this tortured soul that escalated the problem to proportions unknown to logic.

Happily produzzilla settled for some interpolation not without destroying Tokio in the process.

There is nothing more harmful than the ego, it will make you blind, def but unfortunately not mute. The things said on an ego trip can never be taken back, be mindful of your ego. Tame the monster and make this world a little bit better.

From now on, we only shoot at 300 frames per second.

Image rotator with jQuery

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I got a request to rig a very simple website, not much bells and whistles. We needed a nice and simple menu system that was easily done with css, a contact form with PHPMailer and and image rotator for the landing page.

I decided that jQuery was probably the way to implement this, so make sure you include jQuery in your project. jQuery is great for its simple and powerful syntax, so in matter 10 minutes the image rotator was created. Here is how I did it.

First I layed out the html to have some elements to work with:

<div id="imageRotator">
    <div class="current">
        <img src="images/home01.jpg" width="941" height="510">
    </div>
    <div>
        <img src="images/home02.jpg" width="941" height="510">
    </div>
</div>

The code created two <div> tags inside another <div>, the inner divs is where the <img> are going to be contained. Note that one of them has the class “current” assigned to it, that is the image that will be visible and top most after we write the css for it.

Then the css:

<style type="text/css">
    #imageRotator {
        position: relative;
        width: 960px;
        height: 510px;
    }

    #imageRotator div {
        position: absolute;
        z-index: 0;
    }

     #imageRotator div.previous {
         z-index: 1;
    }

    #imageRotator div.current {
         z-index: 2;
    }
</style>

The css is pretty self explanatory here. First the divs containing the <img> tags are set to a position of “absolute” to make them stack on top of each other. #imageRotator and its child divs can be styled in any way you see fit. The trick is done by defining #imageRotator div.previous and imageRotator div.next. One is applied to any div inside #imageRotator with class “previous” in it and the other one is assigned to any div inside #imageRotator with class “current“. The previous has a z-index of 1 and the current has a z-index of 2 hence positioning “current” on top of “previous” for visibility. The rest is up to jQuery.

Then the javascript:

<script type="text/javascript">
    $("document").ready(function(){
        setInterval("rotate()", 5000);
    });

    function rotate() {

        var curSlide = $("#imageRotator div.current");
        var nextSlide = curSlide.next();
        var fadeTime = 1000;

        if (nextSlide.length == 0) {
            nextSlide = $("#imageRotator div:first");
        };

        curSlide.removeClass('current').addClass('previous');
        nextSlide.css({opacity: 0.0}).addClass("current").animate({opacity: 1.0}, fadeTime,

        function() {
            curSlide.removeClass('previous');
        }
    )}
</script>

The javascript defines three variables, curSlide which holds the visible div, nextSlide that holds the upcoming div and fadeTime that is the fade time between slides (not the pause).

With the “if” statement we check to see if we reached the end of the divs, that is we are at the last div inside the “imageRotator” div. If it is the last and there is no next then we set nextSlide to point back to the first div. Then simply remove “current” from curSlide and add “current” to nextSlide with a bit of animated opacity. See jQuery documentation for this.

Then all we have to do is call the rotate() function when the documet loads at regular intervals using the javascript function setInterval() which takes a the name of the callback function, in this case “rotate()” and the interval in milliseconds, in this case 5000.

    $("document").ready(function(){
        setInterval("rotate()", 5000); // This is the speed for the image rotator in milliseconds
    });

The result can be seen in the landing page.

Choir Session DePauw University – Purple Songs Can Fly at Zapboombang.

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Some time ago I had the great pleasure of working with Anita Kruse during my time at Zapboombang for her project Purple Songs Can Fly. Composers, producers and singers from all over the music business came together to write a song with the children for the children. Written, arranged, and produced in two days, the name of the song “It’s out there waiting“. I didn’t do much at that time for my role was to make sure the studio was up to par to perform all the sessions. Andres Levine was the producer and Edmundo Gomez the engineer.

As I phase out of working for corporate monolithic companies making music for relentless commercial efforts, I really wanted to do something more meaningful for me, so I gave Anita a call.

Anita was as welcoming as always and after some time I was able to arrange and mix one of her songs. Later she gave me the incredible opportunity to get a bit more involved and that’s how I became a little part of this wonderful effort.

image001We got together with the DePauw University School Of Music Choir and Gregory Ristow (the choir’s conductor and arranger) for the first time on January 14, 2014. I had prepared a simple piano track and click to be able to sync the singing to the future track and Gregory brought his beautiful choral arrangement. After editing my reference to his arrangement and dropping the tempo down we where in business.

_MG_9933As the choir started rehearsing their parts, everyone at the studio dropped what they where doing to come to the recording room and listen first hand to the beautiful sounds they where producing. The feeling was energizing, inspirational, peaceful. So as soon as they ran through the piece a couple of times, we started the recording. As an engineer producer there is nothing sweeter than having a perfect source to record, and in the perfect environment too. Zapboombang’s studio A is the perfect place to record this type of ensembles. The room is big and flexible turning from a bright tight room into a quiet one with the addition of simple gobos. These boys and girls had it together, just a couple of microphones and press the red button.

We took five hours to record the song, that was because I wanted to double parts and make the track a bit beefier. We made two full passes and then overdubbed section by section, bass, alto, tenor and soprano twice to create a stereo image. The track sounded beautiful, now is my turn to clean the tracks a bit for those inevitable paper shuffles.

_MG_0025

I love making music and being part of something bigger than me.

_MG_0085

From Left To right, Anita Kruse, Alex Lopez Negrete, Gregory Ristow and Matias Lanzi

Thank you Alex Lopez Negrete and Zapboombang Studios for donating Studio A “Oceans” for this session.

Starcake album 2013-2014

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So, I got summoned to record Starcake. As an engineer/producer this cant be taken lightly for a lot of work goes into making a record. It was subtle at first but we decided to set a date and we Drums1did it. The studio was booked to start setup on a Friday evening. Mainly set up the drums and the microphones around it, and yes make sure it’s all gets to tape.

I had spoken about this recording with super Mundet! (Edmundo Gomez) , he pledged his support to the project until the end! So he is engineering and I am producing, my work has suddenly being reduced in half, I became the unwanted assistant.

We started pre-production in my home studio a week before the recording where we locked a basic form of the songs to a click track. This was done in reason that can later attach to the ProTools session via rewire. This click track will later conduct the band through the different takes with the exact same tempo and tempo changes. This allows for time correction of the recording in case it is needed, useful to fix drum tracks or adjusting timing in different instruments.

The main focus when recording in the studio was to get everything we could live, the piano, the drums and bass in order to take advantage of the space and the great equipment Zapboombang has to offer. Everything else will be overdubbed at a different time.

BarryWe got great results, the drums sounded great, Barry played a DW, maple five piece and the microphones where sublime in the hands of Mundet!, over all we had a great time. We even went for Vietnamese sandwiches, what else can you ask for?

After the weekend, the tracks came back in incredible condition. The sound was pristine and fat, so we proceeded to clean the tracks. Find the right takes and splice them in, correct any time fluctuation and clean punches and unwanted noises. This process usually optimizes my session quite a bit because this is where I remove all silence and unwanted useless audio. So two birds with one stone. It is crucial to fix all timing issues at this stage for anything else overdubbed with this timing will be harder to fix as you keep adding instruments to the session.

Now with clean tracks we can proceed to overdub the bass and guitars.

GonzaloWe did the bass in a couple of weeks, one song every night or more if we had energy. We obviously skipped some days during those weeks. We used my Focusrite ISA pre amp to control Gonzalo’s five string Warwick. For some reason Mundo’s Neve module was scratchi.

Once the bass is recorded, we can proceed to recording guitars. For this Mundo is the right man, he’s got a great collection of guitar gear from amps to cabinets, attenuators, fx and more. Not to mention his surgical ear and guitar production experience. So he sits with us providing the colors and textures we want to hear and suggesting cool effects. After drum recording, this is one of my favorite things to do, build the guitar tracks.

This can be a very daunting experience for the guitar player who is used to perform his part as a continuous performance. For this process we record part by part choosing the final sounds and creating stereo images for most of the parts. So each song can easily take between 2 to 4 hours of guitar work. We end up with at least 12 to 16 tracks of guitars.

 

Making music

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I love to work as a producer/engineer making music, it’s been a while since I don’t engage into such activities. Funny enough it is the work that brings me the most smiles and comfort. Whether it is a record a commercial or a film, it never feels like work, just fun. So now that I am free lancing, I decided to include fun and meaningful music work into my schedule. I made myself available to a great initiative called Purple Songs Can Fly, where I work on the tracks for the children to sing on and have the pleasure to meet many like minded music and charity oriented minds. On January 2014 we will be recording the Texas Medial Center Orchestra at the National Center for Human Performance with the help of our friends from Zapboombang Studios.

I also started a project that it has become tradition among a group of friends, the Starcake Album. Starcake is a musical group created some 6 years ago (don’t quote me on that) of witch the members are long time high school and college friends, so we get together every couple of years to produce a record written by the lead vocalist and guitarist Edmund Pantuliano.

This time around I adopted the roll of producer and Edmundo Gomez the roll of engineer, something that makes me really happy for Edmundo is a great engineer and has a passion for making music. The intention this time was to make a cleaner record with a bit more punch than the current inception. So lets see how things come out, we are currently in the process of overdubbing guitars.

So my eyes are open, I hear beautiful music, I want to record it.

 

Commodore 64, 8 bit sound.

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I was very lucky as a child, my interests where always out there and they always prompted me to research and think out of the box. I was never very good at school but I am very good at learning what I’m interested in. As a result, I became a self taught engineer working in the audio and video industry.

My parents always supported my science and electronics interests by providing me with anything I needed to experiment and learn. My mother will bring all types of broken appliances found in other people’s trash for me to analyze. My dad was kind enough to supply me with a keyboard for my musical inclinations and a computer for my programming interests. Little did I know that the computer my dad got me was the first to include in its guts the must advanced analog sound chip at the time, the MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID (Sound Interface Device) chip.

So a couple of years ago I decided to get a bunch of these little computers and harvest the SIDs inside of them. That’s when the fever kicked in, back to the C-64 docs and the SID specs. I wrote various programs that took advantage of the SID chip, it is always great to go back to program this little machine in assembly, fun, fun, fun. That is all good for fun and programming but the more I listen to it, the more I thought that the quality of the sound achieved was far from being a clean professional synthesizer. The Commodore 64 is famous for dirty sound output, this is created by interference of the RF modulator component in the board as well as a wide open audio input on the chip. So I started looking for options.

One of the great options I found is the SAMMICH SID, this little device was designed by Wilba in Autralia, he has many cool designs. The SAMMICH SID is a dual SID chip synthesizer running on a MIDIBox system. But this little box is also a bit dirty. So I had to choice but to start tweaking my beloved C-64. Of course I went to ebay to get me another one I could work with, take it apart and destroy it if necessary. This old machines are not very happy with modifications so I didn’t want to kill my working C-64.

The cool things about these machines is that they are very simple to understand and all information, manuals, compilers and schematics are widely available with a simple search.

So these are my stories about hacking the Commodore 64!

First things first. After playing with the chip programatically, I created a simple program that access all settings of the SID chip and played a simple melody. This was not very useful other than allowing me to explore the different characteristics of the chip. Then I found a great solution for control. The MSSIAH SID MIDI software by 8 bit ventures. This cool little program turns the C-64 in to a full featured analog synthesizer and sequencer with a MIDI input. This is the perfect solution for control. I also noticed that ATARI made a sound cartridge with some of these features but without a MIDI input. Now all I had to do is deal with the audio portion of things.

The MSSIAH also supports the addition of a second SID via chip select for stereo purposes or the use of 6 oscillators, 3 per chip. This is done by piggybacking two chips in the same SID socket of the C-64 using the SID2SID circuit board also manufactured by 8 bit ventures.

— To be continued —