Category: audio equipment

Keram Malicki-Sanchez at NAB 2009For those who follow my multi-platform output, you have invariably been bombarded with my output lately concerning the learning I gained at this year’s National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas and for that I almost apologize. But not really, because there is so much to talk about that I endeavor to cover new elements of it in each post or podcast or video or bulletin or tweet.

Which is kind of my point: last year the NAB glitterati were busy sweating and lamenting the bells tolling for TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, the record industry and all other antiquated media platforms.  This year however, we saw a revitalized community – aggressively interested in emerging platforms for communication of our collective stories and in innovating new technologies to address the zeitgeist.

At his opening day keynote address, NAB president and CEO David K. Rehr began:

“There is no place I’d rather be than right here…right now…with all of you.” Donning a sticker that read “I Matter” he continued:

“We are demonstrating that broadcasters are forging ahead…spurring innovation and creating multiple platforms to deliver our content from moving 3D into the home to incorporating FM chips in cell phones, to exploring all the possibilities of the Internet – we are planning for the future and seizing opportunities in this digital age.”

It’s Not A Recession – It’s A Reset

And though these words can be taken as cautionary, post-mortem and defensive, they were certainly not delivered that way. As author Dr. James Florida delineated later during the opening ceremony – we must consider that we are not going through a new Great Depression, but rather a Great Reset. Where once the economy was built on God-given resources like water, food, ore and wood, and then later the resource of human energy and labor post-industrial revolution, what we are seeing now is a new kind of economy built on that of the output of the Creative Class. What Juan Enriquez called Human Evolutis at TED. As the work of building and crafting is increasingly outsourced to China and India and other countries abroad, in North America the primary export is being that of the human mind itself – of imagination and ideas and creativity. This of course, is not to say that these do not exist abroad, but rather that the North American GDP is shifting the source of its wealth.

Ideas were found in abundance at NAB as CEO’s, Presidents, General Managers and inventors from such companies as Disney, Adobe, Electronic Arts met with independent directors, producers, post-production experts, radio broadcasters and content creators of every type and platform to exchange ideas and talk about what the world will look like and respond to over the next few years.

Mary Tyler Moore, Kelsey Grammer and Bob Newhart were all honored for their contributions to the television programming lexicon.

Henry Selick, director of Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline was interviewed about the development of stop motion and its marriage with new digital techniques.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of groundbreaking social analysis books Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers was interviewed before the NAB attendees by NAB President David Rehr.  He extrapolated his process for coming up with his book subjects and confided that one of his most powerful techniques was avoiding Google searches altogether; Google is essentially empty he explained, it is merely an index of what is on the Web but to go beyond it is to mine massive sources of information available that afford us remarkable insights on who we have been, are and will be especially when seen with our new eyes in this high-speed information exchange society.

The Jim Henson Creature Shop demonstrated their digital puppeteering system wherein one puppeteer controls a head and mouth and another the body via a motion tracking suit and capture grid.  Without any intermediate, they are able to create real-time 3D animation that captures all the nuances and gravity of a real moving body.  Rather than illustrate a variety of movements, they simply shoot another “take” and then use the best take as the final output (after a polish render in Maya).  I asked them whether we might one day see a turnkey system from Jim Henson Company but they reminded us that the puppeteer and experience with working with such technology is really the thing, not so much the computers, mo-cap stage and proprietary software.

Jim Henson Creature Workshop at NAB 2009

Lectures given in morning sessions were echoed in afternoon sessions, but now modified, expanded and reconsidered. By week’s end there were new consensus emerging about how to implement and innovate our proverbial campfires about which we sit and exchange our common experiences through this incredible life we share.

And now more than ever we are sharing it in ways we couldn’t have ever predicted or even imagined.

The Amazing Future of Broadcasting

Beyond all the pontificating – incredible products were on display – Autostereoscopic (which you will come to know as AS-3D) 3D TV sets -(meaning 3D screens for which no intermediary viewing glasses are needed), real-time video cameras displaying in 3D, super high resolution screens that add almost ten times the pixel count of existence HDTV screens, HD radio, FM tuners in all cell phones, HD movies on cell phones that run below real-time Flash based menus, technology that allows every word spoken within a video to be searchable, real-time holographic interview wherein the interviewee appears to be sitting or standing in front the interviewer in spit of any geographic disparity (think Princess Leia’s holographic appeal for help at the beginning of Star Wars except at a resolution almost indistinguishable from reality) and yes YouTube 3D.

Seminar topics ranged from When Will The Web Kill TV to How To Blog In 140 Characters to Alternative Reality Gaming, Second Chances in Second Life and the nature of Web 3.0.

You may have noticed one word popping up an awful lot in this article: “Real Time.”  Other popular keywords at this years convention were Home 3D and Metadata.  Metadata will allow every stage of the production workflow be indexable, searchable and integrated from top to bottom.

It was indeed an extraordinary week and I hope to share and unravel some of the ideas exchanged over the coming weeks and even months. In the interim, you can hear myself and my travel partner and co-host Aimee Lynn Chadwick giddily discussed some of our findings at my podcast


We Breathe So Brief

As with most songs, I had a chord progression on the acoustic guitar and had yet to fill in lyrics. In my head, there was clearly a female vocal harmony that played counterpoint to a pair of urgent closely harmonized male vocals.

One afternoon I had Jessica Hathaway come by to drop some demo vocals so we splayed out on the carpet and scribbled down stream of consciousness ideas for her to sing. Those eventually became the lyrics to this track which is heavily inspired by my love for the early 90’s wombadelic period that included My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless”, Stereolab’s “Transient Noise Bursts and Random Announcements” and Dinosaur Jr.’s “Green Mind.”

The second half of the track is a classic Blue Dog Pict-syled “garden section”; a voyage into the subconscious – visceral, dreamy and typically more jammy – inspired by David Sylvian’s “Secrets of the Beehive” and all the luscious, impossibly melancholic warmth that it rendered on vinyl.

As with almost all the songs, the drums were laid down by Ryan (Brown) at the backyard tracking studio in Burbank, and the acoustic guitars in the sauna at my parent’s house in Toronto. Peter Devlin, a true guitar hero, tracked the funky strat stuff on my parents’ porch one sunny July afternoon, as well as the Pink Floydesque licks in the latter half of the song, but the rest was far from conventional.

Wes Styles came by the (Chemical Light Factory) studio in Hollywood with his huge guitar pedal board and laid down three bass tracks – one that is pure grindy bass fuzz with octave pedal, one that is through his wah and chorus and became the primary “clean” bass track, and one that uses delays and flangers and an old Coke bottle as a slide to toss out random bass fx and swoons.

Before she moved to NYC, I had Natalie John stop by to track vocals and a trumpet solo which was later redone by Stewart Cole (a horn prodigy). Natalie’s vocals are still in the track and sound slutty and surly as ever. Brilliantly rendered. So much charisma.

I later recorded some vintage 80’s keyboard pads and after that some Ebow guitars through some amp sim plugin to create controlled feedback (guitar feedback is an absolute BDP/KMS staple).

After a couple of months of letting the track simmer I returned to track the electric guitars. This is a track that is different than any other on the record, but for its particular early 90’s-ness it is perhaps my favorite – reminiscent of “The Cost of Admission” off BDP’s “Spindly Light und Wax Rocketines” which may be the best track I have yet released, in my opinion.

I conferred with Josh Joudrie via MSN and webcam over the progression of the track and discussed methods for completing the sound canvass of the song.

Finally over the course of a week (during which my dear support friend Misa Cohen presided with tea, humor and wine) I tracked all the electrics on my trusty, highly customized Fender Strat same one I used on all the BDP records – yes Johhny Camden’s “Watson”).

All in all the song has over 24 guitar tracks. L, R and center channels for clean JCM 800 clean, crunch, power chords, MBV bends, and Princeton Chorus jazz leads. I then ran stuff through the McDSP plugins to rebuild everything I had ever learned from using the true analogue gear at Number 9 Sound in Toronto during Spindly and at Tone King Records during the Project:Ribcage era.

Essentially I built a signal path that pushed the guitars through an SSL console strip then into a Manley VariMu compressor, using a Urei 1176 to shape their transients, and then into a Neve 1073 or Avalon just for the tube stage, and then squishing it onto Ampex tape with a 100hz rolloff with a 6db boost at 100hz. Of course, every single track required its own treatment, but the end result is pretty colossal in its approximation to the old school Spindly sound. Despite all the influences, it really does end up sounding like nothing more than post-BDP. I guess it’s just the fact that everyone involved came from that school.

At any rate the track sounds almost like what I heard in my head that muggy LA day almost a year ago. I am stoked about unleashing it on the public. This song, for me, is just an indulgent throwback to the days when music existed for its own damn sake – to uplift, to throw up its arms and say “I have no idea what the fuck to do, but it sure feels good doing it.”

I thank Jessica for her inspiration and truly instinctual input – she and I have an irascible bond and it can be felt in the end product of this track.

Radical experiment
Lavender peppermint
Rainy days
Cloudy nights
Manta ray, iolite
Here’s the test
What’s your best
Can you rest
Never night
It’s my turn
Have I learned
Do I care
Take the stairs
Or just breathe
Or just bleed
Or just leave
Lifelike dreams
Lifelike fears
Lifelike deaths
History’s silhouettes

We breathe so brief
Release beliefs
That kill me slowly“