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Thread: "Because of..." or "In spite of...." Another philosophical question.

  1. #1
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    Default "Because of..." or "In spite of...." Another philosophical question.

    "Because of..." or "In spite of...."

    That's what I was pondering this morning.

    I'm a big picture engineer. I won't spend 30 minutes getting a sound on the hi-hat. To me, the big picture is more important. Getting the players comfortable and getting them to the job of making music.*

    And yet, I can be as obsessive and microscopic as anyone. I spent 20 minutes on one song writing individual gain changes to a gaspy singer's vocal track because the huge breath intakes were so distracting from the words.

    And those pickup notes in the harp that are really low (in frequency and volume) before the run in bar 87? I'll pull them up 20 dB to make them speak.

    The intonation on that oboe part in the woodwind sextet in bar 20? That one Db is really sharp. I'll fix that.

    And the chair squeak in the ring out at the final sustain in flute mic? It's really tiny and most people will never notice. I will. I'll go after that. Even if takes five minutes to fix.

    So, I guess I'm wondering if my clients choose me because of that tendency that I have or do they just put up with me in despite that tendency. I prefer to think that they choose me because I *do* understand the big picture but I really care enough to want to get rid of those things that are potentially distracting. I guess one man's "distracting" is another man's "humanness."

    I guess it's just a matter of thresholds. What bothers me vs. what will bother someone else. I know that I frequently catch and fix problems that others aren't even aware of. I hope that my mixes don't feel cold and sterile, like all the imperfections have been whitewashed out of them.

    It's all a matter of balance, I guess.

    I do know this, however. My clients appreciate the fact that they can send me a project, one that has a big ol' list of problems that they'd rather not be reminded of, and when they hear the mix they think "Wow. He did THIS with THAT?" I know that because I hear it frequently.

    I had one client call me "the Cavalry." He said "I send it to you when I know it's hopeless and it needs to be rescued." I guess that's a good thing. ;-)

    *-Disclaimer: I will bring a session to a halt when it's clear that I'm not going to get what I need to fulfill a client's vision. On a recent session, we went from doing "overdub strings" to an orchestral sound with nothing BUT orchestra. It needed a completely different sound. So I had the second engineer set up a different pair of mics on the run through because it was clear to me that I couldn't get what I needed from the setup I had chosen. It was inconvenient and uncomfortable but the memory of the time spent adding the mics would fade into memory long before the inappropriate sound of the miking on the strings that would have lived forever on the record.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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    My thoughts would be that they choose you because you have a proven record of putting out great sounding material. Folks are willing to put up with lots of eccentricities for a final product is just what they hoped for or better. It sounds like you also have a reputation for being a mixing magician, which is probably one of the best compliments you can have. Someone has to be the guy that "if he can't make it sound good no one can."
    Jeremy Fox
    Adam's Voice

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    Quote Originally Posted by WileE. View Post
    My thoughts would be that they choose you because you have a proven record of putting out great sounding material. Folks are willing to put up with lots of eccentricities for a final product is just what they hoped for or better. It sounds like you also have a reputation for being a mixing magician, which is probably one of the best compliments you can have. Someone has to be the guy that "if he can't make it sound good no one can."
    Well, I like to think my list of eccentricities is short. Maybe others wouldn't agree. ;-)

    I do have one that I know of. I like my pencils sharp. Really sharp. "Is that so wrong?"
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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    Sometimes it feels like doing things right can be considered eccentric.
    Jeremy Fox
    Adam's Voice

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    Quote Originally Posted by WileE. View Post
    Sometimes it feels like doing things right can be considered eccentric.
    That's what I like to tell myself. ;-)

    I've been known as "demanding." While that's not a moniker I ever aspired to, I'll do what it takes to get a job done right. I do know what it will require to do something well and I will expect no less than that, from myself or those around me. I'm no harder on others than I am on myself. Maybe that's too demanding.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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    OK. So here's an example that just came to mind. I was doing an orchestra session with 36 players at a huge studio here in Nashville. The PT system was acting very flaky. VERY flaky. It crashed twice during the first 1.5 hours. With a group that large on the floor, it's costing the client about $3000 an hour. Plus the client was in from out of town and had one day to do all the orchestra recording. Ten songs in three sessions. That and the fact that these players have to be booked a month in advance so if we miss this window, it's not a small deal to do it again another time. And the number of rooms where we can accommodate groups this size are not many. Basically, it has to happen now. And the cost of it not happening now is not something I care to consider. It's just not optional. Just setting up to record a session like this costs a thousand dollars with 30-40 man hours before the players even show up, whether anyone puts anything on tape or not. Did I say "mission critical?" Yea. It's a big deal.

    So when the PT system started acting up (fortunately I was backing up every five minutes so we didn't lose anything, at least not more than the one currently-recording pass), the second tried altering several settings and the problem did not go away. I made it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that there would be a completely different computer here by the time we returned at 2 PM from our 1 o'clock lunch break. I was not unkind but it was non-negotiable. Having the computer go down and take the client's project, or even a single song recording, with it was not an option.

    In Nashville, that is a big hurdle but not insurmountable. (This was a 64-in, 64-out, PT HD system, a rental as it turned out.) To the studio's credit, and I give them COMPLETE credit for making this happen, we had a replacement PT computer in there by 2 PM.

    Is that demanding? I guess so. Is it unreasonable, given the stakes? I'll let you decide.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WileE. View Post
    Sometimes it feels like doing things right can be considered eccentric.
    When a woman is demanding, they call her a ____. I wonder what they call me, since I'm not a woman. ;-)
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3daudioinc View Post
    When a woman is demanding, they call her a ____. I wonder what they call me, since I'm not a woman. ;-)
    Can we make guesses? In public?
    John Whitmer

    "They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday."
    --Robert A. Heinlein

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3daudioinc View Post
    I like my pencils sharp. Really sharp. "Is that so wrong?"
    I use one of those Parker mechanical pencils, never have to worry about sharpening pencils again.
    Tim Julian
    The Colour Field Recording Studio
    ____________________________

    "What d'ya mean more dynamics? We're playing as loud as we can!!"

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    It is in my contract that the client MUST provide a single-sided xerox of everything for marking-up. I use a different color gel pen for each take-- circling the problems in the score. In this way I can tell if all the problems are covered, and also use a take sheet to indicate the title, measures covereed in that take, and comments. We also start with take one and go straight thru to take 3 thousand (just joking) to avoid multiple take 17s (or whatever).

    With fancy consoles the talkback (esp take numbers) is recorded-- I simply let the mics capture the action.

    Rich
    Rich Mays
    309 Gloucester Rd
    Savannah GA 31410
    912-484-8451
    www.sonarerecordings.com

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