Letters to Mix

Author:
Publish date:

BEHIND THE MUSIC

The DVD [Standing in the Shadows of Motown], with all its related significance to our industry, places a great burden on journalists to get things correct and give credit where it is due. This project was recorded by Kooster [McAllister], but he had nothing to do with the immense feat of the post-production and mixdown work that was done by my good friend Ted Greenberg with Clive Taylor. Ted received the Grammy™ for mixing and producing the soundtrack CD. Ted's Herculean efforts delivered something worthy from the Funk Brothers out of some very marginal material. Let's face it: These guys were way past their prime, some with serious medical conditions; Mr. Messina hadn't played since the early '70s.

Gary Myerberg-Lauter
Chief engineer/director, technical operations Cello Studios L.L.C.

RONSTADT & CO.

Thank you very much for your kind mention of the Linda Ronstadt jazz-standards project for Verve Records [August]. I'd like to offer these corrections:

  1. George Massenburg is co-producing the album with me, as well as providing his legendary engineering talents.
  2. Although principal recording is complete, we have not yet finished the album. Tracking and some vocals were done at Clubhouse. The remaining vocals and selected overdubs were done at Georkel Studios in Nashville (George's studio), as well as at the Site (Marin County, Calif.) and at Jim Brady Recording Studios in Tucson, Ariz. Mixing was done in September at Georkel.

In addition to the stellar rhythm section you mentioned, such jazz luminaries as David “Fathead” Newman, Roy Hargrove, Joe Lovano, Steven Bernstein and Plas Johnson provided solos and horn parts.
John Boylan

THE DEAD: AHEAD

I was surprised that you did not mention my part in your “Recording the Band” article (July 2003). I was the first to regularly record shows for the bands I worked with. I diligently kept the very first work I did with the Grateful Dead in 1966 and covered every single band that stood in front of my microphones.

Back in the '60s, I bought and paid for my own recorder and all of the blank tape. Sometimes, I only had cassette tape — no money for reels — but still made my sonic journal on cassettes. Taping was not a part of my job as mixer. The Dead did, from time to time, listen to the tapes after shows in the early days — it helped us all get better at what we were doing — but they paid no real mind to it until Bear's Choice [a Grateful Dead live album recorded by Stanley in 1970 and released in 1973] showed that my diaries might have some commercial value. The Grateful Dead never helped store or keep my tapes safe until they later added the taping into the soundman's job description — after I was gone. Today, my tapes are stored in the Grateful Dead vault.
Owsley Stanley (Bear)
Queensland, Australia

CHIP WISDOM

The recent “Bitstream” column on the new crop of 64-bit processors from IBM and Intel raises a number of interesting and complex issues, especially for practical recording-industry types who are trying to decide whether or when to spend their very real money on a potentially beneficial, exotic new technology.

By coincidence, the August 18 issue of InfoWorld (www.infoworld.com) contains a detailed overview of the Apple G5 processor that will be extremely helpful to interested readers. To summarize its findings, as well as my own experience, consider the following.

First, while the Apple Power Mac G5 is certainly quick and elegantly designed hardware, its raw hardware computational capabilities and architecture are way ahead of current software packages' ability to make use of them. Mac OS X, in its Panther rev, is and will remain a 32-bit OS for some time, which tends to obtund some of the potential advantages of a 64-bit architecture. Application vendors such as Adobe have been even slower than the OS vendors to exploit multiple-processor workstation hardware. The full advantages of 64-bit data paths and addressing space may take three to four years to realize in practice, especially from vendors recently stressed by a costly conversion to OS X.

Second, all fast processors generate lots of heat. The “Bitstream” article might give the impression that heat was somehow an Intel frailty because of the company's focus on processor clock speed, as the writer abruptly departed this topic with a segue to a piece of PR puffery from Adobe about the glory of 64-bit data paths. In reality, just like any similar WinTel box, the G5 has several fans (reported to be mercifully quiet) and elaborate heat-transferring engineering, as the PowerPCs generate lots of BTUs, too.

Third, regarding performance, in the Info-World article, Apple states that single G5 processor systems are actually slower than the corresponding single-processor Pentium products. Much of the quoted 40% improvement in floating-point operations would disappear if Apple compared the dual-G5 to current dual-Pentium-based products from, for example, HP. These boxes, with current-generation chips and fast buses, use the same PCI-X, AGP 8X Pro graphics adapters, gigabit Ethernet, etc., that the Mac does. However, Apple's extension of fast FireWire to industrial-strength RAID arrays is certainly noteworthy and a technology to watch for audio producers, as are the implementation of its truly high-end memory buses and I/O adapters.

Apart from specs, the main thing to keep in mind is that general-purpose, mass-market, low-cost CPUs such as the Pentium and Power-PC are really not that well-suited for performing the vector or array computations that dominate the FFT filtering and convolving functions used in audio signal processing. Specialized processors will speed up these tasks, but almost inevitably, their performance improvements apply only to a very narrow range of applications. It's a frustrating situation. In the end, there's no free lunch.

In choosing a new computer, I'd start out with the lower-cost notebooks first and then wait until your workflow requirements prove the need for more performance. (And, of course, make sure that your OS and application software vendors have more than vaporware in place to take advantage of any new architectures.) Certainly, for those working in the DAW space, the range of choices is like never before. Even the best HP and Apple G5 workstations are still cheap by historical standards, and current notebook price-performance levels are truly remarkable.
Nicholas Bedworth
DigitalDirect Corporation (Maui)