Saturday, September 08, 2007

Resurfacing from the Studio

Well, I feel quite bad for promising some blogs last weekend, and then not delivering. My 3 day weekend turned out to be a little busier than I expected, and then this week was spent catching up at work since Monday was a holiday, and I lost a day in the 2 week per episode Taylor’s Attic production schedule. I ended up working two 12 hour days this past week to get back on track, and did a little work today. I was actually going to be recording sound effects at home tonight, but there is a huge thunderstorm, a challenge when you are tracking quiet elements such as clothing movement. Basically, in each episode of Taylor’s Attic, we have to record some ADR. I’ve mentioned about this before, and if you don’t remember, ADR stands for audio dialog replacement. In a show like Taylor's Attic, we replace audio for one of two reasons... (A) the audio captured on set was not ideal (B) we want to change or add a line (For example, the puppet characters may be responding while the main character is talking). The need for these additional voices is often hard to predict before seeing the finished “locked” video. In the case of replacing Taylor’s dialog, I have to re-record everything that would be happening on set had he been acting those lines out. This means, I have to re-record clothing movement, walking, and whatever else the scene may call for. So, that’s what I would be doing right now if there wasn’t thunder cracking outside my home studio window.

Developing a Small Business
Over the last couple years, I’ve been working to upgrade my studio so that I am able to effectively produce custom music (and possibly much of my next album) at home. Tonight, I finally ordered some acoustic paneling for my 10 x 13’ composing/mixing room. If you’re interested, you can check out the 24 x 48 x 4” panels I ordered at I picked up 8 of them. Unlike some of my friends who record a lot of live instruments, I work with a lot with samples. The reason? Well, for what I’m shooting to do (that is, produce custom music for tv, film, games, etc.), this is the most cost effective method. Why pay a live bass player $250 for a 3 hour session, when you can buy a killer library of bass samples which you can use over and over on different projects, all for about $200. The reality is, in many cases, most clients couldn’t tell the difference between a real player and a sample of a real player triggered via a MIDI keyboard (at least, with many instruments). Obviously, there is something to be said about real players. I don’t think samples will ever completely replace the live band in the studio, but samples are an excellent tool for many applications. Sometimes, samples are simply used as a sketch pad for composers to create orchestrations and arrangements. These sketches can later be replaced by the real thing, if so desired, and if so afforded. I understand that the incredibly famous motion picture composer Hans Zimmer (He wrote the music for Gladiator, Mission Impossible II, Batman Begins, and two-thirds of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Click here for an interesting interview) uses samples to write his master pieces. In many cases, the samples are later replaced with a live orchestra, but I’ve heard rumor that this isn’t always the case. Apparently, he sometimes only replaces the samples on a movie’s main theme, and secondary background scores are left to orchestral samples. (The following may be greek to some of you, but read on... it will start to make more sense shortly.) Currently, here is a list of some of the sample libraries I am using: East West Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra Gold Bundle, Native Instrument’s Akoustik Piano and B4 II (organ), fxExpansion’s BFD drum sampler, Native Instrument’s Battery 3 drum sampler, Chris Hein’s Guitars, Gforce Future Retro Pack, Spectrosonic's Atmosphere, and East West StormDrum (large percussion). I am running the majority of these samples (and some other samples) on a Muse Research Receptor Pro in conjunction with Apple’s Logic Pro 7. I also use a couple Waves plug-in bundles for compression, EQ, etc. My next purchase will probably be a new Mac which will be the brain of my studio. For the time being, I am still using a laptop for much of my work at home. (Eventually, I'd like to post pictures of my studio, as well as a few clips of some of the custom music I've been working on.)

Why Custom Music?
Why am I going the direction of custom music production? Well, throughout the last couple years, I have had more opportunity to work on custom music (Taylor’s Attic, The Truck Driver Movie, and some other side projects), and I’ve just realized that it’s something I really enjoy doing, and it is something which can be relatively lucrative. One of the major differences between composing custom music and recording bands is this... most companies who want custom music are more equipped to pay for your work vs. the up and coming band who is having plenty of trouble just paying their rent, and covering their next meal. Most bands are pretty poor... unless they are working well paying side jobs, or are under a good record deal... and in that case, they probably aren’t going to be coming to you (the small business guy), but will instead be going to someone with more credentials (although that doesn’t mean those people are necessarily more talented or more qualified than you).

So, I guess it’s all in God’s hands, as is everything. We can only make the best informed decisions with what we have, and leave the door opening to God. Come January, I should be finished with my work on the second season of Taylor’s Attic. I really have no idea what work will hold for me after that. I’m assuming there will be much more audio and music work to be done in other areas at the tv station, but I am also trying to think long term. I’ve really been attempting to build my resume and just see happens with the experience. Although Taylor’s Attic is silly and ridiculous (as it should be, being a kid’s show), I find that many of the techniques and skills I’m learning now could easily be applied to a more serious television or film project. In some ways, I wonder if I am like David training with the lions in the field. I hope so. I can’t predict the future, but I really don’t think God would take me this far with the climax of my career landing me as an audio/music producer for a puppet show. I just try to do my best with whatever I touch because I figure it all comes back around at some point, Lord willing.

Other News
For those of you wondering if I’m ever going to produce a new album... I may be starting the process this fall.

Still no word on the release of The Truck Driver movie, which I wrote the music for. Apparently, the director is still waiting on the final audio mix of the movie. Hopefully, the film will be coming to a theatre sometime this year!

Getting ready for my trip to Germany to visit my sister early October. Trying to sharpen my knowledge on Europe.

You can now read all the blogs published during the making of my 2004 album Backstage Pass at

Well, the thunderstorm has stopped, but now the crickets are blaring!