SOUL ISN'T JUST A STYLE OF MUSIC
He was a friend of mine. Just days ago, I was using the present tense to describe my remarkable opportunity to work with one of the most legendary musicians ever born: Ray Charles.
In the studio, he was simply Ray or, as he laughingly referred to himself, the “Old Man.”
Though I use the term “friend” loosely, I call him a friend because he behaved like one — a good one — and he had a greater impact on people like me because of it.
In August of 1999, I moved into a little studio on Burbank Avenue. I had the great fortune to be moving in next door to Terry Howard, Ray's producer, engineer and longtime friend. My studio interfaced well with Ray's, so it was not long before I found myself helping [Howard] with some of Ray's audio chores.
Charles didn't need us in the studio just to get something done; he liked to have Terry and the guys around. He had full command of every knob and button in his whole studio. The genius of his music was matched equally by his knowledge and abilities as an engineer.
When we lost my father to colon cancer, Ray sent flowers. The card read, “He will be greatly missed. Sincerely, Ray Charles.”
I remember the Old Man as a friend, and he will be greatly missed.
Winter Springs, Fla.
WE DEFY THE SPEED OF SOUND
On page 72 of your June issue under “FixIt” [“Live Mix News”], it states that, “The speed of sound in air at 70 degrees is just under one foot per second.” Man, is that slow! Sound travels at about 1,100 feet per second, which explains the 9-millisecond delay per foot.
BIG NAMES, BAD LUCK
So the Grammy® audio crew only got four days for setup? Welcome to the real world, where most crews get little time for setup, soundcheck and rehearsal.
I don't want to undermine the great job these people do: As Mr. Feldman mentioned in his letter [June 2004], nine out of 10 times, these events [go as planned]. But I hate the way these “big names” are portrayed as the best guys in the business.
What these “big names” should be called is the “lucky ones” that for some reason (be it experience, a good manager, a friend in high places or simply because they are good at this) usually get to do great events with all [of the gear] they ask [for] and need.
A “big-name” crew is as vulnerable as the rest of us [to production glitches]. Don't make excuses — mistakes happen — they were simply overwhelmed by the production. That is what happens when most of us — the not “best guys” — have to make a stereo and 5.1 mix from the same console, which is not usually surround-ready, is without automation and has only a few processors, as well as a 72-input list for bands that most likely will not show up for soundcheck.
I agree that it is an insult to say that “they can't run a mixing board,” as Mr. Arbisi said, [April 2004 “Feedback”], but it is just as insulting to name them the “best guys” when the rest of us have to make little miracles every week without all of the toys, resources and gadgets — not to mention all of the pre-production time and budgets — that they usually get.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUDIO ADVENTURE
Although I did not see the Grammys this year or have any part in it, I also take exception to the comments made by Chris Arbisi in the April 2004 “Feedback.” I am a freelance audio engineer, primarily for live sporting events in Florida. A live remote broadcast can be one of the most difficult jobs an audio engineer will ever work on. It seems that Arbisi has been stuck in his nice, clean studio using the same console, patchbay, cables and outboard gear every day of the week.
He obviously has no live remote experience. He doesn't understand what it's like to work a college volleyball game at a venue he's never been to with a late A-2 who is actually a “studio” tech who doesn't know the difference between an IFB and an Intercom belt pack; or to show up to an event to find that the truck has a digital console that you've never seen before, a patchbay laid out and labeled by someone with no common sense, and with only two to three hours to make everything work before pre-production; or to show up at a spring training game at a facility that isn't pre-cabled, only to find that every cable on the truck was under six inches of water the day before.
I have heard of quite a few studio or live sound engineers “crashing” when they attempted to work on a live remote for TV. Most of the shows I work on allow us only five to seven hours [of preparation] before the event, [which] occasionally [means] having to learn new consoles and patchbays, and sometimes deal with poorly maintained trucks or less-than-adequate equipment. And while Feldman had four days to prepare for his show, and probably one of the better production trucks, that doesn't mean failures can't or won't occur. Something as simple as someone pulling a power cord to charge a cell phone or a stage manager handing talent the wrong backup mic [can do it].
I could continue for days on the failures I've seen on live remotes. Even with the best crew and equipment, some things are unavoidable. It's a shame Arbisi made his comments without knowledge of the field we are working in. My hat goes off to Feldman and his crew. No one notices the job we do until something goes wrong.
RECORDS AND RECORDINGS
With all of this talk about DAWs and format-exchange standards, let's not forget to standardize the one variable we actually can control: the proper labeling of media.
Please label your hard drives, CD-Rs, DVDs and AITs! [Otherwise, engineers have to wonder whether the disc you sent was] Retrospect or Mezzo? Nuendo, Logic or Pro Tools? Which version? How many process cards? HD or TDM? What is the sample rate and bit depth? Mac or PC?
I get projects from around the world, and for some reason, it is always an adventure to figure out what is on the tapes. These projects come from superproducers, respected commercial studios and home studios.
It is important to label your media properly so that when it arrives at its destination, the engineer does not have to “test” it in every drive and system — and, in 20 years, when you need to gain access to your files, you know what system and studio to book. That saves everyone time, money and aggravation!
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