Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pro Tools – Shortcut of the Week (2009.06.29)

Pro Tools is a strong multi-track editing program, but unless you’re willing to drop some change on a custom keyboard, it can be tough to learn all the keyboard shortcuts.  I’m featuring one a week in an attempt to highlight the tricks I find most useful.

Half-Speed Playback: Shift+Spacebar

Half-Speed Record: Command+Shift+Spacebar

Half speed playback mode is very, very useful to me when I’m trying to figure out timing issues.  Often I will hear something that seems off, but I can’t quite put my finger on the issue.  Half-speed playback usually makes it too apparent that the kick drum is lagging, or that it’s actually the guitar hitting late.

Half speed record is a different beast.  I haven’t used it much, for the same reason I’m so interested in it.  Recording a passage at half-speed, though it may be easier on the performer, results in audio playback one octave higher than recorded.  This isn’t useful for all music, but sometimes may help you get just the sound you need for that odd passage.  An example of this are some of the drums on Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  One suggestion would be to try playing a passage down an octave, but recording it at half speed.  The music will end up in the intended range, but won’t sound completely natural.  Try it and see!

SMH-CD

Previously I wrote a little about the Blu-Spec CD - a red book CD burnt with a shorter wavelength blue laser.  In theory, the digital signal on the Blu-Spec CD should be less prone to errors in playback.

The SMH-CD is a very similar idea: a red book compatible CD created through a new process to reduce errors on playback.  In the case of the SMH-CD (Super High Material CD), the base material is a special polycarbonate plastic designed to increase the transparency on the data side of the disc.  The increased transparency means less distortion on the signSMH-CDal read by the laser, and a more accurate playback.

I can’t find any SMH-CDs for sale, and there’s very little information about them on the internet.  It looks like Prince’s catalog was reissued in Japan at some point in this format, and there’s substantial debate about the sound quality of the manufacturing process.  If you know anything else about this format, toss it in the comments!

Clarity Track by Track

Clarity Live

Clarity Live

One of my favorite records, by far, is Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  I know every note, from the organ and snare drum opening of Table for Glasses to the last loop in the perfectly evolved Goodbye Sky Harbor.  I was able to get tickets to see them on the Clarity X10 tour at the House of Blues in Boston, and I’m glad they’re releasing a live album from the tour.

I was poking around on their website the other day and fell into a gem: a track-by-track set of notes and comments by Jim Adkins (guitars, vocals) and Zach Lind (drums).  Among the highlights are the inspiration from Low for the opening, the drum machine magic in 12.23.95, and the epic drum production of Goodbye Sky Harbor (two tape loops, one speeding and one slowing!).

Clarity Track by Track

Pro Tools – Shortcut of the Week (2009.06.22)

Pro Tools is a strong multi-track editing program, but unless you’re willing to drop some change on a custom keyboard, it can be tough to learn all the keyboard shortcuts.  I’m featuring one a week in an attempt to highlight the tricks I find most useful.

Fine Tune (Fine Adjust Mode):  Command+Click

Quick tip this week: this is a really useful mode if you find yourself mixing with a mouse.  If you’re adjusting faders, plug-ins, or automation parameters it can save you some real headaches.  Fine Tune mode makes the mouse a lot less sensitivity, so that you can control the parameter much more precisely.

Journal of the AES - May 2009

The May AES Journal just dropped, and there are a few articles that look intriguing.  The first is a measure of objective speech intelligibility that will work with perceptual coding algorithms - definitely something needed since STI fails with perceptual coders.  They recommend some amendments to the ITU standard to handle the perceptual encoders.

There’s an article discussing the optimum bandwidth for AM and FM broadcasting.  For speech and classical music listeners preferred lower bandwidths of 5-7KHz - it seems that the lower bandwidth reduces noise from nearby channels.  For listening to ‘highly compressed’ music, like rock, most listeners could not tell the difference between 7 KHz of bandwidth and 10 KHz of bandwidth… interesting.  I’ve been observing the same thing recently: many people just don’t pay attention to the content above 8 KHz.  It’s a shame - I think that’s my favorite part.

For loudspeaker designers there’s an article about the impact of heating in the voice coil of speakers, and the impact it has on sound level and damping.  The result, as expected, is compression of the output, but the frequency response was also impacted by the damping changes.

Journal of the AES - May 2009

The 127th AES Convention is going down October 9-12, 2009, back in Javits Convention Center in NY!