Count Me Among The “Stoned Slackers”

From the AP newsire:

The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly kept referring to “The Daily Show” audience as “stoned slackers.”

So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

Viewers of Jon Stewart’s show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch “The O’Reilly Factor,” according to Nielsen Media Research.

I’m not quite sure why Comedy Central was so concerned about what Bill O’Reilly had to say about the audience of “The Daily Show” since he is such a paragon of truth and objectivity.

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about my new Tivo is that it allows me to watch TV shows when I have time, not necessarily when they are on. And thanks to Tivo I’ve gotten back into watching “The Daily Show”. Bill O’Reilly is actually going to be a guest on the show on October 7. That will certainly be an episode to catch.

If you have a Tivo and you’ve tried to record “The Daily Show” you have probably encountered the problem that you often get 4 recordings of the same show since they don’t provide individual episode information to the Tivo guide. Here are some great suggestions for dealing with the problem. I use number 2 myself and I find that it works very well.

Movers Anonymous

Today I moved offices yet again. Boy, I sure am getting sick of playing pack-horse. My actual office just moved down the hall from the room I was in for the last two weeks. However, several editors were starting on a show today and we had to move a couple Pro Tools systems from the offices / storage rooms at Universal to Burbank. Four hours of manual labor plus several hours of assembling Pro Tools systems. Long day.

At one point we had to get a couch out of one of the rooms and move it into another. I flipped it up on it’s side and started to slide it across the floor. Dana, the other assistant, got a surprised look on her face.

“Look at you.”


“Throwing couches around…”

“I used to be a mover. Didn’t I tell you?”

It’s true. When I was in college I had a job driving a big truck, picking up students stuff on the East Coast and driving it to Chicago. I have moved way too many boxes, trunks, microwaves, and couches in and out of houses and dorm rooms. Plus I drove pick-up trucks for several years which meant that I was always the friend to call when someone was moving.

Hi, I’m Jon and I’ll be your mover today.

That’s No Moon

Ok, probably everyone has already seen this but I finally caught all of the animated “Star Wars: Clone Wars” that the creator of “Samurai Jack” made in conjunction with LucasFilm. It’s a series of twenty 3 to 5 minute micro-episodes. The series recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Programming of One Hour or More. Cartoon Network showed them all last night.

“Outstanding” is certainly the word the describe them. The animation is vibrant. The stories are fun. The action is exciting and the sound effects are straight out of Ben Burtt’s library.

I can’t understand what the deal is. I recently re-watched all of the original movies. Between those, the “Clone Wars” series and the “Knights Of The Old Republic” videogame, there is a large of amount of exciting material and great stories. How come the these two newest movies suck? It’s not like their aren’t people who can tell awesome Star Wars universe stories. How can the “official” ones be so bad?

I watched the “Return Of Darth Vader” documentary on the fourth disc of the new Star Wars DVD boxed set. I found myself getting excited about “Star Wars” again. I thought back to that night that my parents took me to see “Star Wars” in the theater. (You won’t get me calling it “Episode IV” even if it was always in the yellow text crawl. And while we’re talking about name changes, it’s just “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”. Ok?) I was nearly 4 years old and I had to pee really bad, but I didn’t want to miss anything. Finally I couldn’t hold it anymore and I ran out of the theater to find the bathroom during the Mos Eisley Cantina. On my first viewing I missed the now controversial Han–Greedo scene. But I’ve seen the movie possibly 50 times since then, I can tell you without a doubt that Greedo shoots first.

I remembered the Sunday after church when my dad sat my brother and I down and started talking about how he was thinking it was interesting that the pastor was talking about the good angels and bad angels. And how the bad angels were cast out of heaven and the strongest among them became Satan. And wasn’t that like how Darth Vader who used to be a good Jedi, turned to the dark side? And hey, who’s up for going to see “Empire Strikes Back”?

I remembered sitting in my third grade class the day after the “Time” magazine exclusive on the new third movie in the series. Several of us brought copies in and the entire class was passing them around looking at the pictures of the big slug guy and all those other monsters—kind of like the Cantina but even cooler. And Han. What was going to happen to Han? Last time we saw him he was frozen in carbonite. How was he ever going to get out? My friends, Eric, Dan and I were determined to get our parents to let us skip a day of school and take us to the movies so that we could see “Return Of The Jedi” as soon as possible.

After watching Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen train for their epic battle and the prop department create the new Darth Vader helmet, I found that my heart was racing and I was breathing hard. This could be really cool, right? This is it. This is where Vader, the ultimate bad guy, is born. I really hope that “Revenge Of The Sith” will capture the adventure of the original movies—the adventure that “Clone Wars” and “KOTOR” tapped into. Unfortunately, in my heart of hearts I don’t think it will and that makes me sad.

Dealing With SCSI Devices Without A SCSI Card

My recent experiences with doing almost all of my sound assisting on my laptop with an Mbox got me thinking about other things I could do to expand on that model. One big sticking point was SCSI. Firewire is awesome, but in the post-production sound world, SCSI is still king—if for no other reason than the Tascam MMR-8 and MMP-16 still deal exclusively with Kingston-style removable SCSI drives.

You can cut all you want on firewire hard drives or even on your internal—those SATA drives in the G5s are screaming fast—but you will still often need to layback you finished sessions to a SCSI drive for dubbing. Or you might get some SCSI drives with stems from the stage.

The idea of moving away from SCSI is even more tempting when you consider that PowerMac G5s only have 3 PCI slots. The old G4s had 4. This was perfect for 2 Pro Tools cards, a digital picture card and a SCSI card. What do you do with 3 slots? Go back to an expansion chassis? That’s a possibility. Run only a core Pro Tools system with 1 card? Also a possibility. But how about dumping your SCSI card? That’s a much cooler idea. Especially since RATOC makes a couple of cool SCSI without a SCSI card solutions.

I picked up both the FR1SX Firewire to SCSI adapter and the U2SCX USB2 to SCSI cable. So far I’m loving what I’m seeing. I’ve used the FR1SX quite a bit. It works perfectly with removable hard drives. You get speeds comparable to regular Firewire 400—about a gigabyte copied per minute. I’ve also used it with a DLT4000 tape drive and had slightly faster rates than I did directly through SCSI. It’s an old SCSI-1 device so it’s not particularly fast, around 85 to 87 MB per minute in Retrospect 5 under OS X. With the FR1SX, I was getting between 90 and 95 MB per minute. Different types of audio backup of different speeds so I wouldn’t count on it always being faster but I think I can easily say that it’s the same speed as SCSI. You’re not losing anything.

Under OS X, it’s perfect. You turn on your device. Attach the FR1SX. Plug in the Firewire cable and it’s available. A SCSI hard drive will mount up just like as if it were Firewire. You can even hot swap by unplugging and replugging the Firewire cable. The only problem I’ve seen it that it only supports one SCSI ID. So even though the carrier that I have it attached to has 2 bays, only the top one (the first in the chain) works. The FR1SX doesn’t support SCSI chaining. But if you’re just using it for laybacks or to copy off a SCSI drive, you probably don’t need more than one at a time.

I haven’t tested the U2SCX. I can’t see that it would be any different. The Pro Tools system I’m working on only has USB1 ports so it would be much slower (1.5 MB per second maximum through-put at USB1 versus 60 MB per second at USB2). But Aluminum PowerBooks and G5s come with USB2 so it could be very viable there. The webpage for the U2SCX says that it support SCSI chaining of 7 devices but it mentions that you have to be running the RATOC driver in Windows. I don’t know if they have a Mac driver and frankly I like the fact that I don’t have to install any new drivers in OS X.

If you are going to get one or both of these devices, it would probably be a good idea to kick in for the power adapter. They don’t need to be powered if your SCSI device has Termination Power, but it’s probably better to be safe. Another thing you’ll need is a SCSI adapter or two. Both devices have an HD50 Male SCSI-2 connector. You’ll want to pick up an HD50 Female SCSI-2 to HD68 Male SCSI-3 adapter for Wide SCSI drives and an HD50 Female SCSI-2 to Centronics 50 Male SCSI-1 adapter for any old devices that you might have.

You Can Call My Laptop, Popeye

From the Washington Post as reported in MIT News:

[Researchers] at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have used spinach to harness a plant’s ability to convert sunlight into energy for the first time, creating a device that may one day power laptops, mobile phones and more….

[They] discovered that protein building blocks called detergent peptides could be manipulated to keep the [photosynthesis] proteins alive up to three weeks while in contact with electronics.

If The Bard Had A Sweet Tooth…

…perhaps “Hamlet” might have been a little different:

To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the carb; For in that sleep of death what Twinkies may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal Ho-Ho, must give us pause; there’s the respect that makes creme-filled treats of so long life.

Oh yeah, and the maker of Twinkies has filed for bankruptcy. Thanks, Xeni, for the wonderful Twinkie death soliloquy.

Running Tape In OS X

You know how much I dislike Tape, the only program to print cuesheets for Pro Tools sessions, right? Well, I still don’t like it but I did get it running in Classic in OS X. (And finally getting it running really did prove what a piece of shit software it really is.) Here’s how:

  1. Download the latest version of Tape. (1.5.2b47 as of this post)
  2. Download a copy of Pro Tools Free if you don’t have a version of Pro Tools 5.x installed.
  3. Run the Pro Tools Free installer. If you already have Pro Tools 5.x installed you can skip to step 5.
  4. A folder called “Digidesign” will be created in the root level of your hard drive. You can put this where ever you like. Your OS 9 Applications folder would probably be a good choice.
  5. Run the Tape installer.
  6. Select “Cue Sheet (USB)” and click “Install”.
  7. Choose a good place to install Tape like /Applications (Mac OS 9) and let it do its thing.
  8. Run the installer again but select “OSX Support” this time.
  9. Choose the same install place you did last time.
  10. Open the newly-installed “Tape Folder” and run “Install OMS 2.3.8”. If you already have OMS installed and configured because you have a working Pro Tools 5.x on your computer, you can skip to step 19.
  11. This will put a folder called “Opcode” in the root level of your hard drive.
  12. In /Opcode/OMS Applications run OMS Setup.
  13. Go through the standard setup options for OMS, scanning the ports and whatnot. You will probably just end up with three items: IAC Driver, Studio Patches pgm chg, and QuickTime Music.
  14. Save this setup in an appropriate place like in the same folder as OMS Setup.
  15. In OMS Setup, select “Prefereces” from the “Edit” menu.
  16. Uncheck “When AppleTalk is on, ask about turning it off” and click “OK”.
  17. Quit OMS Setup.
  18. You can move the “Opcode” folder to your OS 9 Applications folder if you like.
  19. Go back into your “Tape Folder”. Open the “Utilities” folder and run “OSX Activator”.
  20. This will install HASP drivers for OS 9 and OS X.
  21. Drag “OSX Activator” to your Dock or put an alias to it on your desktop. You’ll be using it a lot.
  22. In /System Folder/Preferences/Tape Preferences Folder/Tape Translators, take out the Listener application and put it in the Tape Preferences Folder. (This is part of the full Post Utilities spotting program and not necessary for cuesheets. If you’re using the full Post Utilities, don’t do this step.)
  23. Restart your computer.

You are now setup to run Tape in Classic under OS X. Any time you want to actually run Tape, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Plug in your Tape dongle to an open USB port.
  2. Run Classic.
  3. Run the OSX Activator.
  4. Run Tape.

Rick Steele, the guy who wrote this wonderful program, told me that you had to set Classic to “Start Classic When You Login” in your System Preferences. I did a bunch of testing on my laptop and found that I didn’t need to do that. If your copy of Tape is only running in Demo mode after following the steps above, I would first try restarting your computer and doing the 4 steps above. If that doesn’t work, you can try setting the preference that Rick suggested and restarting.

The biggest problem that I’ve encountered so far is that it doesn’t work with older dongles. I don’t know at what point Rick changed the software on the dongle but if you follow all the steps above and my restart and “Start Classic” suggestions and it still doesn’t work then I think it’s the dongle. Rick told me that some dongles might have to be flashed to work. I’ve encountered 3 so far where this is the case. Only the one that I just bought from him 2 days ago works for me. (I know. I hate this program and I still spent money on it. Like I said, there’s no other option right now.) I don’t know what the process is for flashing the dongles. I don’t know if it’s something you can do yourself or if you have to send them to Rick. I emailed him about this yesterday and I’m still waiting to hear back.

One other point that Rick strongly suggested: make a copy of any session before opening it in Tape. As he said, “I don’t want to be responsible for my program ruining your session.”

I think you can see why I hate this program. The process that you have to go through to just to print out some lines and characters on some pieces of paper is utterly ridiculous. Having to not only have a full version of Pro Tools 5.x but also OMS installed on a computer that quite possibly doesn’t even boot into OS 9 (like my laptop) is the most retarded software requirement ever. This is obviously because he has two levels of functionality—cuesheets only and then the full spotting, assembling, yadda yadda mess. They need to be separated. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to print cuesheets on a computer with nothing on it but OS 9 or OS X and a print driver. Open the file, give it a name and editor, change some font settings and go.

And this whole business of having to reinstall the HASP drivers every single time you want to run the program is foolish. If you go to Aladdin’s website, the makers of HASP, you can see quite clearly that they fully support running Classic applications with HASP4 dongles in OS X. Soundminer and all the new Gallery software uses HASP4 dongles. The letters “HASP4” are clearly printed on them. Tape’s dongle says “MacHASP”. Obviously Rick is still using an old HASP development kit from 4+ years ago and is too cheap to upgrade to the latest release. Consequently there is only partial support for these dongles in HASP OS X driver and we as the tormented end-users have to rerun the installer every time.

And his warning about not wanting to be responsible? That’s utter crap too. When he told me this he actually said the problem is because Digidesign has released a buggy software development kit. Now I can’t speak to whether or not Digi’s SDK is buggy or not. But here’s a novel approach for your damn Tape code: open the file as read-only! And then if you want to give support for editing the text of the regions in the Pro Tools session, write a temp file to the drive for this. Never change the original! I’ve never had a single day of formal programming instruction and even I could have figured that one out.

Deus Ex Machina

Latin: god from machine.

From “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition”:

  1. In Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation.
  2. An unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot.
  3. A person or event that provides a sudden and unexpected solution to a difficulty.

I have to admit that I’m a bit torn by the ending of “Brilliance Of The Moon” by Lian Hearn. The first two books were so great that I leaped into the third one with gusto. Overall I still liked “Brilliance”, but I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth at the resolution.

On one hand I can understand the idea that for Takeo, destiny and prophecy were far stronger than his own desires and actions. I understand that Hearn has continually been setting us up for this ending by revealing the words of the prophecy to us, with the wise-woman telling him that all beliefs are the same, with the outcasts telling him that his life is not his own, with the ever increasing rumbles from the ground, and with the continual references to a higher power pulling his strings towards peace and justice.

But still, the “last minute earthquake that saves the day for both Takeo and Kaede when all hope is lost” is a bit much. Clever writers take a plot-governing device like a prophecy and find interesting and unexpected twists for resolution. This is not clever—it’s too contrived. I’m unpleasantly reminded of the “… and then the aliens come and save the day” ending to an otherwise excellent “A.I.”

There’s also something a bit too “Gift Of The Magi” for my taste when Takeo and Kaede finally see each other again outside the caves in Shirikawa. “Oh, her magnificent hair that everyone says is her best asset got burned off in the fire? Well, that’s ok because his right hand was horribly scarred and mangled. Ain’t love grand?!” Sorry, no.

I think there is also an extra level of frustration for me because Hearn had set the bar so high with the first two novels in the series. They were so good that I was counting on that level of excellence through to the end. I still like the book. I would still recommend the series. I just wish the ending could have been better.

I Dub Thee, Temp

Today is the first day of our temp dub. For all you non-movie-industry-types, a temp dub is a kind of mini-mixdown of the movie’s soundtrack at its current state.

The last thing that is done on a movie prior to sending it out to the lab to make lots and lots of copies for distribution to theaters is the final dub where all the various sound elements—dialog, adr, sound effects, backgrounds, foley and music—are mixed together in the presentation that you hear in the theater. The final dub on your typical Hollywood film usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete. (This includes a process called predubbing. I’ll explain that in more detail at some point in the future.)

Before a movie goes to the final dub, there are usually 2 or 3 temp dubs during the 2 months or so of sound editorial that usually last 3 to 5 days each. Often these temp dubs are done to get a mixed track that can be played against the current picture cut for an audience test screening, also known as a “preview”.

Obviously much less time is spent on a temp dub than on the final dub. Temps can definitely be described as “down and dirty”. For sound editors a temp dub always represents a delicate balance between providing enough material to give a good indication of the direction the dialog editing and sound design is going, and providing too much, making it impossible to mix it all in the alloted time.

Plus there is often a time crunch just to get all the material prepared for the temp. Usually a sound crew will have two or three weeks to cut the sound for the first temp. That means two or three weeks between seeing the movie for the very first time and having a rough cut done and on a dub stage for a temp.

During the temp dub, the mixers will create stems—usually four of them: dialog, effects 1, effects 2, and music. These are typically 8 track mixdowns of the appropriate sounds, the dialog stem includes the ADR and Group ADR, the effects 1 stem includes all hard effects and sound design, the effects 2 stem is usually backgrounds and foley, etc. These stems are then mixed together to make the printmaster that is screened with the picture in a theater.

After the first temp, the time allotted to prepare for the next one decreases. Usually a week for the second and then a few days for the third. This is because most of the work is simply conforming the stems from the first temp to the new picture and then adding in the material to fill the holes.

Of course during this whole process the picture keeps changing as the director, the picture editor, the producers, and the studio all give opinions on what should be in or out of the film. “That entire scene is too long and isn’t necessary for the story, let’s cut it.” Or “The actress is pretty good in take 4 but I think there is even more emotional impact in take 6.” Or “Let’s try putting the meeting between the characters in the restaurant before the party scene.” And on and on and on. So of course the sound crew is continually trying to stay up to date. And those conforms take time away from straight up editing.

It can be quite an involved process.