Letters to Mix

DON'T GIVE YOUR DRIVES THE DEEP FREEZE I was just reading the December 2005 issue article by George Petersen, Safeguarding Sonic Treasures, and had to

I was just reading the December 2005 issue article by George Petersen, “Safeguarding Sonic Treasures,” and had to write. On the first page, he mentions a suggestion by Steve Smith of putting drives in “the fridge” for safe storage. I think this suggestion should be retracted: Your readers risk total data loss by doing this, depending on how they interpret the suggestion.

I have worked in the storage industry for 20 years or so, and now work as an engineer in the external storage group of a major manufacturer. Drives that fail after being stored for a period of time without use usually fail as a result of one of the heads sticking to the media surface. The media surfaces of more recent drives are specially coated and/or textured to help prevent this. I don't have the experience to know whether this is still an issue, but if I were to resort to storing my HDD as a means of data protection and my data was critical to my business survival, I would use 2.5-inch HDDs rather than 3.5-inch — and not in the fridge! These [HDDs] typically have ramp loading: The heads are retracted and lifted off the media by a ramp structure. They also have a much higher shock tolerance because the media cannot be damaged by physical contact of the heads and media in handling.

Putting the drive in the fridge is basically creating a worst-case environmental test for a drive. By rapidly taking a drive from a low-temperature environment to a higher-temperature one, you will get condensation on everything inside. You then spin the drive up and the heads will hit this condensation, lose flying height and damage the media and/or head(s). This would be true of 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives. The thermal stress itself is enough to cause physical changes in mechanical components and electrical connections.

RAID is a difficult subject to briefly cover, but this is the best solution for those situations where data is this critical. Run the drives continually in the RAID solution, which manages itself if a drive goes down. Take out the bad drive, replace it and move on.

Drives are shock-sensitive, ESD-sensitive and chemically sensitive, so find an ESD bag to put your drive in or wrap it in aluminum foil first. Do not drop on the table from any height. Silicone and some common solvents or adhesives can damage the media. Seal the drive in something that will not have these chemicals.

Do not put your drives in the fridge with the milk and bacon, or worse yet — ice cream!
Barry Klein

First of all, Steve Smith never recommended storing drives in the freezer, but mentioned the “drive freeze” as a poor-man's last-minute means of resuscitating a stuck hard drive. As Smith relates in the article, a non-responsive drive should be turned over to a data recovery professional, but not everybody has thousands to spend on such services. Of course, the best remedy is to make sure your important sessions are backed up on different media — optical and magnetic — stored in several locations.
— George Petersen

Thanks so much for hitting the mark in your “From the Editor” (December 2005). Poor choices often kill a project; dead before it breathes. I am often hired to remix projects that were recorded at “budget” studios with inexperienced recordists (not really engineers at all). Trying to fix these projects at the mix stage is really not a wise use of financial resources. The recording process does not start at the “fix it in the mix stage”; there really is no such stage.

Clients are better off working at facilities with engineers who invest themselves in the project, whether they are house engineers or freelancers. As engineers, our names are on the projects — we must best represent the music we are hired to record/mix, as well as our own beliefs and integrity. And as you say, with the current state of the industry, deals on studio time at great rooms are out there if you look.
George Walker Petit
Freelance engineer/producer


I've heard that theater Green Rooms are green (“Live Mix News,” January 2006) because early theatrical lighting was gas light; gas lights cast a yellow-green glow. Having green in dressing rooms helped get makeup right. The green cast was supposed to be hard to get people to look “right” onstage.

I saw this on a BBC show called Connections five, 10 years ago. I often work in theater and enjoy finding out where all the weird nomenclature and traditions come from.
Ottawa, Ontario

I've mostly heard this term in live theater. There the origin seems well known. Yes, the Green Room is where the actors wait for their entrances, but it is also where they get paid (the green).
Peter Kurland

Paul D. Lehrman's article “Marketing to Myself” (“Insider Audio,” February 2006) was an amazing summary of the condition of the recording studio and the marketplace today. For us “older analog-grown” studio owners, his comments on the so-called liberation of digital, freedom of the Internet and the end of studios as we know them rang like the hook in a song with more than one chord or drum machine rhythm.

Our first studio in Chicago was in the lower level of a coach house. We pushed out a beat-up truck, locked the bullet-ridden garage door and became a 4-track facility, with a 3440, some beat-up Olson electronic mics and a window air conditioner. That was 1978.

For the next 20 years, we grew, [got] better mics, a 9-foot grand and made lots of jazz and blues CDs. But around me, the music industry shrank: fewer bands, no income for analog tape charges, the influx of rich yuppies that make big money and raise taxes.

As the equipment presented more freedom, the little 4-track studio became an ancient system. So we have moved again, this time to rooms with windows, away from the “death quiet” of digital. We still use digital, especially since I never cut off one of my fingers with a razor blade on a late-night ½-inch edit. Only now we wait for a new generation of musicians that actually play and compose with humans and dreams. And that is after 28 years. We don't need higher sampling rates; we need higher forms of music.
Bradley Parker-Sparrow
Partner, Sparrow Sound Design
Partner, Southport Records

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