Audio: The Movie
Tracer Technologies, based in York, Penn., is probably best known for its DC Six PC-based audio restoration, noise reduction and enhancement software, though the company also offers products ranging from the Flat Phono Preamp to a 24-bit/192kHz soundcard. Last summer, Tracer added an unassuming DVD to its line—Audio: The Movie is a clear-eyed tour through some audio basics (and some advanced stuff, as well) in about two hours.
According to Tracer’s VP of marketing, Jeff Klinedinst, who helped develop the disc with company president Curtis Crowe (who also wrote most of it and is the narrator), the DVD was born out of a live course that Tracer has offered for some time. “We’ve been doing forensics training for our DC Live forensics product for about the last five years,” Klinedinst says, “and we get a whole mix of people, from FBI agents to private detectives to private citizens—anybody who does audio forensics comes to these trainings; it’s a pretty intensive course. We’ve also had guys who have owned recording studios for 35 years come in. Anyway, the very beginning of our class, the first day, is a basic audio course—here’s how audio works. And we were just blown away that every time we did this, several guys would come up—many of them seasoned veterans—and they’d say things like, ‘I’ve been using this or that term for 25 years and never knew what it meant until you just explained it.’
“Now, most of our business is audio restoration and enhancement,” Klinedinst continues. “If you’re a person who wants to preserve your old record collection and take the time to take all the noise out and put them on CD, you probably have a life-long love of audio—you have a certain commitment there. We have a huge number of customers who buy our restoration products, so we said, let’s do something that teaches these guys about audio. Let’s put out something that explains this material so anybody can understand it. Because when you get into the science of sound, it can involve some pretty complex math. Instead of doing that, let’s explain it in sort of basic, apples to oranges terms. It’s something Tracer’s always been pretty good at, and it’s something Curtis [Crowe] is particularly good at.”
Crowe lays out the material in short, easily digestible chunks. The visuals are extremely simple—it’s based entirely around stationary clip-art, not video—but at least it keeps moving and doesn’t distract much from the Crowe’s droll and always illuminating commentary. “There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles; it’s not going to dazzle you with its production values,” Klinedinst says with a chuckle. “This isn’t something you’re going to want to grab a box of popcorn for and love every minute of it, but if you want to learn audio, you’re going to be smarter when you’re done with it. When I hear someone like [noted audio writer] Craig Anderton—a guy I really respect; I’ve known him for 20 years—say, ‘I actually learned something watching the DVD,’ that makes me feel good.”
Among the topics covered over the DVD’s eight chapters are sine waves and complex signals, frequencies, understanding loudness and dB measurements, and the world of digital audio—bits, sample rates and sampling, etc. Two hours doesn’t sound like much, but an incredible amount of information is imparted in that time. It seems like it would provide a nice overview to students just getting into audio, or it could work as a refresher course for more established pros. A short demo on Tracer’s Website (www.tracertek.com) gives a broad outline of the approach of the DVD.
Finally, Klinedinst reveals, “We’re also working on one right now called Audio Restoration: The Movie, which will be a little more specialized. It’s for anyone taking old vinyl and tape and putting it on CD, and not even necessarily using our products, but any products—how the filters all work, some of the very specific issues that come up in that kind of work.”
Hopefully, in future installments of “DVD Watch,” we can discuss some of the other available audio education DVDs, such as Down 2 Earth Audio Resources’ Live Audio Basics course, designed for sound reinforcement engineers. Stay tuned!