I wanted to post about the cool second-generation crystal microphone today BUT NO IT’S ALL STUPID AND NOISY AND I DON’T KNOW WHY but it sounds like either a really bad cold solder joint (please be that) or a bad transistor (@&*$&!!! special orders please don’t be that) and I don’t know which.
It’s too bad because I came up with a nice little jury-rig jig (say that five times fast) and so the backplate of the housing came out really well and I was looking forward to showing that off. Fingers crossed this is some sort of Surprise It’s Easy! fix – that would indeed be a surprise, to be honest about it, but a pleasant one.
In the meantime, enjoy this video of Overwatch players in custom game mode making some genuinely gorgeous Genji Beams. These are effects created by lining up opposing teams of Genji players opposite each other, in continuous-shot-deflection mode, and hitting them with various weapons. The shots bounce back and forth between the teams, and you get some really neat graphics interactions. It’s pretty cool and occasionally hilarious. Enjoy:
Anna and I have been in arguments with Y U MAD SIS Trump voters about why we’re, shall we say, unhappy with the election results. Here’s a good post from her about that:
Ever wanted to hang out in the Slytherin common room, or Gryffindor’s, or any of the other houses? Or, maybe, on a balcony in Rivendell? Madam Vastra’s arboretum, perhaps? Or maybe a snowy day in Skyrim?
Well, y’can’t. But I did just stumble across an ambient sounds site that will let you make the room you’re in feel a bit like those places might, by creating the right audio environment. It’s called Ambient Mixer, and it lets you set up your own environmental soundtrack, as well as both play and modify those set up by others.
It’s pretty neat – it works by playing public domain sound samples that you can set up to loop, with things like placement and randomisation so it’s not just the same 120 seconds or whatever over and over again. So occasionally you’ll hear someone through the room, or pages in a book might turn, or the fire might make occasional other noises, the wind will pick up outside, or you’ll hear a hawk – and so on.
In some cases, it works really well to turn off any of the specific instruments if present (like the ‘spirit cello’ in Skyrim) and play it along to the soundtrack album, if one is available. I’m doing that right now, combining the Skyrim snowy day ambient audio with the OST, and it’s astonishingly effective.
It’s fun to play with, and certainly soothing. Also, it’s reminding me real hard right now about how much I miss Skyrim and am looking forward to the PS4 remastered version coming out soon. Because damn, that was a great game.
Several months ago, I saw online a prototype of a sampling synth with waveform editing and a uniquely cool physical user interface. I don’t remember whether I blogged about it at the time or not, but I certainly talked about it on social media and such.
It’s not so much that it does anything you can’t already do; you can do everything it’s doing with a modern digital audio workstation, for example. But the physicality of the interface looked delightful, and that sort of thing really, really matters in instruments. Including synths. It made sample synths look fun to play in a new dimension – one far more instrument-like than I’d seen before.
I wondered at the time if they were looking for a commercial application, to build them to sell. But if they were, they’ve ditched that: it’s gone open-source. Not just source code for the software, but instructions and 3D CAD files if you want to build one yourself to their physical specs.
Admittedly, the case-build instructions are… a tad sparse. But that’s half the fun, right? Component-wise, it’s basically a cakewalk. (Silly me thought the waveform display was some fancy custom thing HAHAHAHAHAHA NO IT’S A STANDARD LCD MONITOR BEHIND A FRAME HAHAHAHAHA etc. But that’s the smart way, so.)
Anyway, yeah! Project!
h/t: Klopfenpop for the link
Well, that was neat – the “warmup” storm was the big one, the big one swerved north at the last minute and weakened, mostly missing us, and then surprise-collapsing over Victoria. Still, we did lose power and were offline most of a day, so if you missed Friday’s post about recovering damaged recordings – a bit of a geek-out, really – that’s what happened.
I took advantage of the unexpected uptime to finish up that project, by the way. It was interesting, and I learned stuff, like usual. The condition of the tape (and damage in the recording) varied all over the place, and arguably too much even to try to split it up into a million shards. Though there was a lot of this kind of crap:
This is one phrase of lyrics
That’s a combined automation of level and compression ratio. Here’s what it looked like over a larger area, about 3/4 of the way through. Yes, meaningfully more got added to this:
And the sad thing is, that’s just me trying to attain listenability throughout. I’m not trying for “good” – that isn’t attainable, but less noise and less distortion and fixing dynamics over time, that I can do.
Some of the tape wasn’t really that bad! I mean, it’s a 23-year-old cassette recording made on some sort of portable device set on what sounds like two different autolevelling schemes – it changes once when the recording was stopped briefly, I suspect the operator changed modes and I really wish they hadn’t – so “not really that bad” comes with a lot of caveats. But still, not that bad. Lots of hiss, lots of tape rumble, small dropouts, and so on, but not unintelligible. Fatiguing to listen to over time.
Here’s a short sample of “The Crawl,” early on, direct from the tape. Hissy, some sort of mid-band distortion that isn’t too bad in short doses (but really gets annoying over time), off-centre sound placement. But otherwise not that bad. You can hear stuff.
So I ripped the hiss off, did some work to improve dynamics, pulled out what I could of the distortion, threw on EQ to bring back out the low end, re-centred and smoothed it a bit, and here y’are.
Then there are other sections. After that mode switch got thrown, the whole recording got weirder. “The Profiteers” was particularly bad. Here’s the original. I know the lyrics and I still can’t make them all out here. But I can in the restoration. It’s not good, but you can make things out. This is where I needed that whole stack of plugins I talked about on Friday.
And just as importantly – and something short samples like the above won’t give you – it’s listenable over time. Some of these problems are really hard to tolerate over the two hours of this recording. They’re not bad in short doses, but they grate.
Like, the original seems to have more high end, right? But it’s not real. Eventually your brain figures out it’s just hiss, with your audio centre filling shapes into it, and it’s wearying. In short comparisons, the brightness is attractive, and the restored version sounds kind of dull in contrast at first – but as with light, your ears adjust to recordings, and that goes away with listening.
Similar are all the damn-autolevel-to-hell level changes. They’re not necessarily so bad in short doses – some of those are like punches to the face, but most aren’t. But even with that, EVERYTHING REALLY LOUD PUNCTUATED BY surprise underlevelling is also wearying.
So the restoration maybe doesn’t sound good, on any kind of normal scale – but I got it to the point where, particularly on laptop speakers, it sounds pretty okay. I can listen to it. Occasionally – just occasionally – it even sounds musical. And there’s enough there there to remind me how much I miss this Great Big Sea.
There was one thing I couldn’t fix though, no matter how I tried. And that’s during “Excursion Around the Bay,” wherein early in the song, some fucker orders espresso at a George Street bar. And so you get that espresso machine foam blast noise right in the middle of a verse.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. YOU WANT COFFEE, GO TO STARBUCKS.
Gods damn you, espresso man – gods damn you.
An Open Letter to the Creators of Disney's Live-Action Feature Film 'The Legend of Mulan'
A white merchant's business brings him to the heart of a legendary Asian conflict -- he unwittingly helps save the day while winning the heart of the Asian female. Am I describing the plotline of the Netflix series Marco Polo? No. I'm describing the spec script that Disney bought for its live-action feature film, The Legend of Mulan, which is projected for release in 2018.
As an Asian American person in the industry, I am furious after reading this script. I am writing this letter anonymously so all the fans anticipating this remake will know how problematic it is in its current form. We must urge the creators of Disney's live-action Mulan to reconsider the story before the film goes into production.
Watch this. No, seriously, watch this, the transition masking alone will blow your mind. It’s a Disney fan AMV, and it’s got something from pretty much every Disney animated picture since 1989, plus a few others, and it’s great. You will feel happier after watching it.
Friday night, a bunch of the Lair went out to see the Seattle Symphony and Chorale do Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, and 1) holy crow, what a marathon for the performers, I mean damn, and 2) that worked surprisingly well as an art form. Also, the soloists were great.
I know that soundtrack better than I realised, too – I kept picking up small differences in performance, mostly breathing points with winds. There’s a bit towards the end with tin whistle that I don’t know how you do without a breath, and my suspicion now is “you don’t, you do it in post.”
Of course, as soon as we got to Boromir at the Council of Elrond, the entire room exploded in laughter, as was inevitable. DAMN YOU INTERNETS
I also picked up this monster in the gift shop:
And posted on Twitter, “YAY! I’ve found a whole way to be annoying!” and then played bits from Lord of the Rings all the way home. But after playing around with it a while – really, it’s not so much an annoyatron. It’s more a harmonica with a keyboard. That maybe could still be super annoying, but it will, nonetheless, be musical.
Sadly, it’s not chromatic – it’s C-major only – but it’s more flexible than you’d expect, and you can get a bit of vibrato out of it. I have no idea what if anything I’ll ever do with it, but it’s a legit addition to the noisemaker collection.
George (the cat), though, really hates it. So I guess it’s still an annoyatron for some of us. Poor kitty. 😀
This is a good article on field recording. I don’t mean that in a technical sense of the mechanics of field recording – it’s not a DIY or howto article – but in the aesthetics and the artistic intent.
Here’s an example track they included; it’s really neat. Give it a listen.
This is kind of a guest post, a sharing – with permission – of a list of female-fronted metal bands that Decibel magazine can’t seem to bother talking about. It was assembled specifically in response to both an older article ranking bands, and a more recent idiotic article claiming that “social justice warriors” are destroying the underground metal scene. (Other metal magazines and websites are not impressed either. See also.)
So, courtesy Ian, let’s go down this list of 65 female-fronted metal bands of at least equal quality to their d00d counterparts. Why don’t you know the majority of them? Editorial choice. Period.
From A to F we have: After Forever (symphonic metal, Netherlands), The Agonist (metalcore, US), Amaran (power metal, Sweden), Amberian Dawn (symphonic metal, Finland), Angtoria (blackened symphonic metal, Sweden), Arch Enemy (death metal, Sweden/Germany), Asrai (gothic metal, Netherlands), Astarte (all female black metal, Greece), Ava Inferi (art/doom metal, Portugal), Battle of Mice (post-metal, US), Battlelore (power metal, Finland), Beautiful Sin (power metal, Belgium), Benediction (gothic metal, UK), Birthday Massacre (Hot Topic metal, US), Blood Ceremony (doom, US), ChthoniC (black metal, co-vocals, Taiwan), Delain (pop-gothic metal, Netherlands), Diathra (doom/gothic metal, Belarus), Doro (power metal, Germany), Eyes Set to Kill (metalcore, US), Eths (nu metal, French), Epica (gothic progressive metal, Netherlands) Evanescence (pop-goth metal, US), Eyes of Eden (symphonic metal, Germany), Fairyland (symphonic speed metal, France)
F to L: Firebrand Super Rock (heavy metal, Scotland), Forever Slave (symphonic gothic metal, Spain), Gallhammer (terror-doom/black/crust metal, Japan) The Gathering (Progressive metal, Netherlands), Holy Moses (thrash, Germany), Kittie (alt.metal, Canada), Flyleaf (nu metal, US), Hammers of Misfortune (doom, US), Iwrestledabearonce (spazz metal, US), I:Scintilla (industrial rock/metal, US), In This Moment (metalcore, US), Jarboe (unclassifiable, US), Jex Thoth (extreme doom, US), Julie Christmas (alternative metal, US), Kylesa ( female guitar/ vocals, sludge, US), Lacuna Coil (pop/death metal, Italy), Landmine Marathon (death metal, US), Leaves’ Eyes (symphonic metal, German-Norweigan), Lita Ford (glam metal, US), Ludicra (shared-vocals/black metal, US),
And finally, M to W: Madder Mortem (progressive metal, Norway), Made Out of Babies (post-hardcore/noise metal, US), Melencolia Estatica (one-woman black metal, Italy), Nashville Pussy (camp peckerwood metal, US), Nightwish (symphonic metal, Finland), Octavia Sperati (gothic/doom, Norway), Otep (nu/feminist art metal, US), Penumbra (gothic-progressive metal, France), Pythia (heavy metal, UK), Rolo Tomassi (mathcore, UK), Saros (death/doom, US), Sirenia (symphonic metal, Finland), Subrosa (unclassifiable, US), The Devil’s Blood (Satanic classic metal/rock w/ female vox, Netherlands), The Project Hate MCMXCIX (Sweden, melodic death/art metal), Tristania (symphonic doom/goth metal, Norway), Unsun (pop-goth-metal, Poland), Within Temptation (symphonic metal, Netherlands), Walls of Jericho, metalcore, US).
A nice little bit of fun on Friday. You’ll see, pretty often, illustrations of gears for some sciencey or engineering-invoking illustration or logo, and they’ll be all shiny and pretty and stuff, right?
Problem is, those gears can’t turn. They’re wedged together. Play with it in your head, you’ll see one gear is forced to turn in two directions at the same time, and of course can’t.
So Numberphile – who has a youtube channel – decided to come up with some three-gear systems that actually work. They’re really cool. Enjoy:
There’s a webcomic called Dumbing of Age that I like quite a lot (I have all the books and supported the latest Kickstarter) and search for “tiny baby hand” in today’s strip’s comments and that might explain:
…but, y’know, no promises. XD
Two interesting bits I saw online, posted for your enjoyment:
1. The Dark Art of Mastering Music, a neat article on the subtle art of mastering an album, and, linked from that article, you’ll find:
2. Sequential alternating of a song from Metallica’s Death Magnetic track, “That Was Just Your Life,” as released on CD and from elements released for Guitar Hero. To my mind, this comparison actually makes the CD version sound less out of control (and relatively less bad), by not levels matching the vocals against each other. But even this way, you can see how the Loudness War mastering makes everything kind of horrible once you get past the instinctive “loudness is better” first impression.
I mean seriously, look at this. DYNAMIC RANGE WHAT IS DYNAMIC RANGE?
Honestly, what a mess. The CD version of the waveform looks like a sausage. I’ve told the mastering engineers I’ve worked with: don’t do this, I don’t want it. And while I do tend to mix loud (particularly on ragier tracks like Pee Police) I simply do not play this game.
I’m hoping the slow decline of the earbud (and the rise of over-the-ear bluetooth headsets) will bring this – the Loudness War – to an end.
It may only mean something to the music wonks reading, but I don’t even run a compressor on the master bus. I do run a look-ahead limiter, to prevent the occasional spikes – which can result from my lack of over-reliance on compression – from clipping, but that’s a completely different animal. If it’s kicking in enough to notice it doing so, I consider myself to have screwed up the mix and go back and fix it.
But what do I know, they’re the ones actually making a living at this – somehow – while I’m all here with my day job. XD
Due to reasons, I’m scanning my old science fiction club’s old newsletters, and one of them mentioned a series called Captain Z-Ro, which the editor watched as a kid, and nobody else seemed to remember existing.
This is the hard stuff. I am serious, this is kind of amazing. Not good, don’t get that idea, but… wow.
Captain Zero’s Laboratory
Captain Zero in his lab. Golly!
See also: Colonel Bleep. I kind of unironically like some of the design in Colonel Bleep but wow it’s not good either. XD But at the same time, they’re both swimming in that weird retro cliche charm. If Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars had actually been a period TV show, it would’ve looked kind of like this.
I’ve only got a single day pass for ECCC this year, I thought I had other things going on and I didn’t – well, I kind of do, but not exciting fun show things, the most fun I’m having is building a special pickup for the octave mandolin so I can loan it to some else for a show. Maybe I’ll maybe talk more about that later.
BUT! I’m going tomorrow. I’ll be 1990s Shadowcat, if all goes well, as I have no reason to believe it shouldn’t. I had a Shadowcat costume back in the way, but I haven’t worn it in years for Reasons, and also I’m making it better, so that’s fun.
So, yeah – ECCC Saturday! I hear rumours of a PDX Broadsides ninja show. See you there!
okay, now 2016 can suck it. Sylvia Anderson is dead.
In the States, everybody knows Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, but the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson collaborations spanned decades as well, new series after new series, some of the most amazing, crazy, quirky, modernist epic madness you’ve ever seen.
And the thing is – because sexism, everybody thinks of Gerry as the only mad genius, but I got news, he wasn’t. Sylvia was slugging right in with him. She had a career after they broke up. And the important part, the part people don’t know unless they dig into all this, is…
Sylvia was the one who made their worlds work. She was the one who sold you on their modernist futures, who put the pieces together so they breathed, and even when it was the supermarionation (puppet) shows – no, especially when it was the puppet shows – it was her aesthetic that made them live.
Thunderbirds without Sylvia, without Lady Penelope? Impossible. Captain Starlet without the Angels? Ha!
Sylvia Anderson was a vast creative force on the puppet shows, the creator of every grace note, every beloved quirk. Such a sad loss.
— Paul_Cornell (@Paul_Cornell) March 16, 2016
Yeah, you want to see the difference Century 21 shows with and without Sylvia? Compare series one of Space: 1999 with series two. That’s when they separated, between those two years. They were already fighting pretty badly in year one, so it’s not always their best work, but I will goddamn well stack up “Voyager’s Return” or “Dragon’s Domain” or “Mission of the Darians” against anything that came out of Star Trek and look pretty goddamn good, thanks.
And then look at the train wreck that is Series 2 and know, that’s without Sylvia. Don’t discount her. Ever.
And now she’s gone. Not, I suppose, “before her time,” even though she was still working as a voice actress last year. She was turning 89 later this month; that’s where you really start to lose even the more durable of people.
But I don’t have to like it.
So long, Lady P. Thank you. It’s been marvellous. Well done. Well done.
eta: I made my Tumblr blog a Sylvia Anderson fan blog for the day. Here are the posts. I may add more.
Anna and I had a big worldbuilding session last night. Well, not so much worldbuilding – more world plotting, for The Free Court of Seattle book three, the follow up for Faerie Blood and Bone Walker.
A nontrivial chunk of the “how things work” this time is coming from me. I have solved multiple major problems here. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a prose writer. I’ve tried; I’m not good at it. But I can certainly make lives difficult for characters and I can certainly figure out how to make it make sense; I am serving as executive producer in charge of fucking shit up for Anna’s characters here, and I love it.
And the best part is, see… the last album, Bone Walker – we’ve been calling it the soundtrack for the series, but people assume it’s really for the first two books, since that’s what’s out. And I’m quite sure readers who listen to “Something’s Coming” think it’s about the start of Faerie Blood, book one. We encouraged that a little bit, I admit, putting it at the start of the album.
But the reality is, these assumptions are wrong. “Something’s Coming” in particular is serving multiple masters. I’ve been saying “thematic spoilers ahead” since the beginning. I’m pretty sure that washes off people, but you’ll find out how much foreshadowing I did in book three – and how much of a “related work” (in the Hugo sense, as in eligible this year, aheh) Bone Walker (the album) really has been.
I cannot wait for that to happen.
I mean, obviously, I have to – wait, I mean – because Anna’s only in outline mode now. But… yeah. I know how this all goes down, you don’t, sorry. This is gonna be so great. 😀