Category Archives: Entertainment

Something to smile about.

I am incredibly near sighted … And have been so, as far as I know, all of my life.
Oddly … This was not discovered until I was in the second grade!

The human body is very resourceful and will try to adjust to make up for any challenges it encounters. In my case, with my vision being somewhat less than perfect, my hearing seems to have jumped into overdrive. The amazing thing to me is that this adjustment was not noticed until I was seven. Life was just normal!

Getting eyeglasses was huge. Wearing glasses sucked! Tickled the nose … Hurt the ears, but, oh the sights! … Trees had leaves! Facial expressions were a new phenomenon to me and television suddenly got a lot more interesting … At least until the novelty wore off!

It has taken several decades to realize that not everyone heard the world the same way I did. When 20/20 vision was handed to me as a little kid I did not immediately stop using the hearing skills I had developed. 

What skills you might ask?

Well … Have you ever been to the beach on a hot summer day?

 
It is a wonderful way to get away from the heat, and if it were not for all the other people trying to do the same thing, finding a place to set up the family blanket and beach supplies would be pretty easy.

Imagine yourself there … The sound of the waves crashing along the shore and the gulls overhead. Go down to the water and close your eyes … Now, add the noise of all those people. Not being able to see more than a couple of feet in front of you is going to make getting back to that blanket a bit more of a challenge.

My solution to the problem, that I did not know existed, was to just run up and down the beach yelling “mom!”. When I heard her I would know where she was … Blanket, cooler and sun tan lotion … and I would go … Normal!

Aside from being a very nearsighted and loud kid, it seems that I was incredibly skinny. All knees and elbows as it were, and if I have understood my mom correctly, with my ribs sticking out!

When she heard me she did not immediately yell back. She was afraid people would know who was responsible for starving this poor child, When I ran by she would answer loud enough for me to hear her, but not much more.

Echo locating? 

Hmmm … Apparently I was more than just “blind as a bat” … And perhaps things were not quite so normal after all.

Fortunately I wound up falling into a profession where my “ears” would be an asset. For the last thirty plus years I have been working in the entertainment industry as an audio engineer … A sound guy … And being able to pick sounds out in a crowd has been incredibly handy!

I love sounds … All sounds … Even that “teeth on the chalkboard” screech of a sound … I still cringe … But I do love it!

It has been a lot of fun learning how sound behaves, finding ways, tools and tricks for making things louder, occasionally a lot louder! More often then not, most people are not aware of what things coming off the stage I have made louder. 

To me the ultimate goal is making it louder without it sounding louder …creating the illusion that there is no amplification at all. Surprisingly, it turns out that it can still be loud without the audience minding that it is loud.

The right microphone used in a certain way with a high fidelity sound system can leave the audience wondering if there is a sound system there at all.

Now close your eyes again … This time the noise and mayhem of the beach is replaced by something you might not expect … You are at a concert and an artist is on stage … And you hear them, not the sound system.

If you are like me … You may find yourself smiling.

An Argument for Analog?

An Argument for Analog … 

Why Not! 

Technology has been screaming along in the audio world … Taking full advantage of materials and manufacturing techniques undreamed of when I first started turning knobs … Producing amazing microphones and lighter and lighter loudspeaker systems … And heading in directions I could not have imagined. 

The amount of control available these days is mind boggling! I have tried a few of the digital mixing boards and been impressed with the sound quality and some (but not all) of the bells and whistles available to the modern sound engineer … The clarity is amazing … Leaving me sometimes wondering what is missing!

Neat stuff … But I have decided to not make that Great Leap Forward …. I will continue to do what I have been doing all these years … Listening … And then turning knobs … 
Sometimes lots of knobs!

The amount of brain power I seem to use in listening seems to take full advantage of what the old brain is capable of these days … I am beginning to suspect it does a lot more than I had been aware of. The variables involved in the physics of a musical performance can be approaching the infinite … With different types of sounds coming from different places at different times … And then bouncing around the room to complicate things even more … Talk about mind boggling!

I am currently working on the Boston production of the Urban Nutcracker with a rather straight ahead control system.

The mixing board is a small format analog desk where I am using fifteen input channels to run the show. 

The mixer is “driving” a monaural speaker system and two monitor zones. To do that I have access to 482 knobs and switches on the mixer … And perhaps another 300 or so on the outboard processing rack.

In today’s world it is a bit of a luxury having direct access to all of their functions any time I would like to change something and I find not having to spend time looking for / getting to a particular function invaluable.

There seems to be a perfect time and place for a digital mixing console … I do not get to work on those types of events.

My world seems full of the less than perfect … A lot of unknowns with the occasional surprise being thrown at me during a performance … Analog rules in those situations.

The time spent getting to a particular control page on a digital mixing console to react to the changes happening on stage can be excruciating … And there can be a lot of changes happening on stage!

Being able to efficiently change different things with each hand quickly and fluidly would be a futuristic luxury in the digital world … I have had the tools to do just that for the last 35 years or so … And I am having a hard time finding reasons to give them up.

That said … I do love being able to take an I-Pad out on stage during sound check to fine tune monitor mixes … But sound checks are not always possible … And time … Well … In my world there is never enough! 

Someday there may be a hybrid technology … But until then … If I am going to need to do something quickly … 
                       ANALOG PLEASE!!!