I wonder how many people see the introduction of Digidesign's ICON [April 2004] as the complete failure of computer-based editing and mixing? We have had analog mixers for decades and digitally assisted mixers for quite a while. When computer-based mixing came along, instead of breaking ground, all we ever saw on our screens was a drawing of the analog mixers we already owned.
Sure, the image was familiar, but the model was also inherently limited. A handful of faders couldn't be grabbed at once without grouping them. Knobs couldn't be turned, so we learned to type in values. Now that the limitations of the audio console onscreen have been fully discovered, Digidesign (and others) have offered us a true regression — back to hardware. Are we really that limited in our imaginations that we can't devise a new and wonderful way to take better advantage of what computers can offer us?
MIXER VS. MIXER
Dear Chris Arbisi,
What you don't know about making the Grammy® Awards happen could fill the Staples Center. You ask [in “Feedback,” April 2004], “With technology so advanced and productions so well-practiced, why do we still experience major flaws in our audio productions?” At the Grammys, the crew was given four days to put together one of the largest live TV music shows ever. The Broadway musicals you compare this to have months to prepare, they do the same show over and over again, they're not in a sports arena and aren't broadcast live on TV. They do not have multiple bands, do not have speeches from celebrities and do not have 30 TV cameras.
Let me inform you as to the true magnitude of the music portion of the Grammys: [It featured] 14 bands, none of whom have less than 40 mics onstage, some having upward of 80. It was mixed simultaneously in both stereo and 5.1 surround. There was sometimes less than three minutes between musical acts for an entire band's gear to be rolled out onstage and plugged in. Each band and its crew get to rehearse their act only once or twice in four days. Additionally, there is an entire part of the show that is not music that also needs to be rehearsed in the same four days and has its own massive audio requirements. I won't even get into the cameras, lights, sets and talent issues that arise.
Some of the very best engineers and crew in the world work on the Grammys every year. Every year it gets more complicated, and every year they are given less time to put it together. I am insulted by your comment that these people “can't run a mixing board.” If you had any idea what you were talking about, you would know that there is much more to putting on a show like the Grammy Awards or the Super Bowl than just running a mixing board. The very same crew has been successfully making this show happen year after year, and you show them no respect for getting it right nine times out of 10.
Without realizing it, you've heard these engineers mix literally hundreds of TV shows. They do it every day. They are without a doubt the best in the business and they get little recognition for it. If you think you or anyone else could do better, I suggest you give it a try sometime.
Max Feldman and audio crew
Grammys and the Super Bowl
Shure has always enjoyed the exciting talent and production delivered through the years by the annual Grammy Awards. The technical difficulties experienced at this year's show were a disappointment for many viewers, but to clarify comments referenced in the letter from Mr. Arbisi, Shure was not involved with the production errors of this year's event. Though audio equipment manufacturers often provide equipment to the production company, the setup and operation of such equipment is handled by the audio pros hired by the production company.
I agree with Mr. Petersen that it's often very chaotic when an event of this grand scale is produced, and there's limited time to ensure everything is perfect. We all hope that next year's Grammy broadcast will be free of technical gremlins.
Director, applications engineering
LITTLE DISC, LOTS OF EXTRAS
With the record industry hurting in overall sales, it seems odd that two articles in the March issue never mention that bonus [tracks] exist. First off, the incomparable Ken Scott was interviewed in “Classic Tracks” in regards to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album. I purchased the 2003 multichannel SACD 5.1 mix a week prior to receiving the March issue. Ken Scott executed this incredible 5.1 mix! Never was this mentioned in the article, though. I know “Classic Tracks” is about original sessions, but if you're talking with the original engineer who also just remixed the session for discrete surround sound, why not mention and promote that, too?
Secondly, in “Cool Spins,” the long-lived progressive rock group Yes had its Going for the One remastered CD reviewed. This article never mentioned the fact that it's been remastered with more than 30 minutes of bonus material, which took almost as long to mix as the original recording. The industry is trying to give consumers additional materials in the form of high-bandwidth discrete surround and additional bonus tracks, and not mentioning these points isn't helping the future growth of the industry.
A few years ago, I took a trip to Thailand where I hiked into the hill country to record the sounds of nature. While I could never entirely escape the occasional chainsaw or the sound of some distant villager's AM radio, I did find some very quiet places. So quiet that I could not only hear my blood pulsing through my ears, but for the first time, I discovered that my watch's second hand made a noise as it ticked off time. It was an amazing experience and made me realize how many details in our lives are missed because of our overstimulated, inherently noisy environments.
I hope Paul Lehrman's article “In a Silent Way” [March 2004] gets more people thinking about silence as something instead of the lack of something, and to recognize silence as an experience worth preserving. The Nature Sounds Society (www.naturesounds.org) thinks of quiet places as endangered habitat, and I encourage anyone interested in the preservation of these places to look them up.
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