thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Design

Marantz’ CD Recorder. Old dog. Same good tricks.

Besides the Mackie 1402-VLZ Pro mixer that we occasionally use for quick drum mix in the studio, Marantz’ CDR-630 is probably another studio hardware that’s been with me since the hay day.

The Real Plug & Play
Does Exactly What It Says On Box

image

Unsurprisingly though, it’s still a worthwhile investment today considering it’s now more than 12 years old. (And still running great!) Comes handy in a recording studio for both quick demo mixdown, mastering and duplicating. If you don’t have time to boot your PC or can’t afford for it to hang while recording “on the fly”, simply switch on the CDR-630, put in a CD-R/W audio disk, select your input option and press record. No waiting for a window to open, no egg timer, no colored beach ball – just press a couple of buttons and you’re off!

Works awesome for duplicating CD demo or transferring DAT / MidiDisc audio with the CD Sync function from the built-in optical input with selected digital player. Multiple of these units can be “Daisy Chained” optically if you need to produce large numbers of demos. All in all, a good investment for the amateur recording musician or professional alike.

Now go hunt for one on eBay quick! Best be generous on your bid. There’s still some folks who adore this old tech. Especially after reading this blog. ūüėČ

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Become More Efficient With USB 3.0

Today’s laptops and computers include at least one built-in USB 3.0 port. In comparison to its USB 2.0 predecessor, USB 3.0 offers some great advantages – particularly for photographers.
 

“What are some notable differences between USB 2.0 & 3.0?” Well, let’s look at some facts.

Workflow Speed: 

USB 3.0 is capable of transferring data ten to twelve times faster at speeds up to 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), compared with USB 2.0 speeds of 0.48 Gbit/s (60MB/s).

Workflow Efficiency:

USB 3.0 can read and write data simultaneously, in comparison to 2.0 where data can only be directed one direction at a time.

Power Management:

USB 3.0 draws less power from your laptop or desktop computer, letting you work longer in the field without needing a recharge.

Equipment Sustainability:
USB 2.0 accessories are fully compatible and swappable with USB 3.0 ports, and vice versa.

Due to USB 3.0’s seamless backwards and forwards compatibility and ten time increase in speed capability, it has become the new standard for photographers who are in search of a smoother, faster workflow.¬†Using a USB 3.0 memory card reader and computer, photographers are transferring two hours of HD 1080p video in 26 seconds, almost 10,000 images in less than a minute, and 2000 MP3 files in less than 13 seconds.


Super Sennheiser September

It’s been a great month of getting new toys in this September. After a quick projection on the work in progress, we’ve acquired a list of mics needed in the studio to get the field job done. And you’ve read it – all of them happen to be from Sennheiser.

Sennheiser EW122p G3

We started our month with the Sennheiser wireless lavaliere EW122p G3 series. The frustration from not being able to mic up an interview clearly due to the fact that that last project was in a crowded space helped us make this decision to pick up a wireless lav. The main difference with the EW122p is that it comes packaged with a cardioid ME4 mic. Some folks reckon it might be a hassle to use a directional mic on a lavalier system, but I want to be able to direct the capsule to the talent in a controlled space. If I know that I will be capturing audio from the talent in the open but not in a sit-down-interview situation, then the ME2 mic (an omni) would do best. We got in the T+R packs along with spare BA 2015 batteries and the optional L2015 Dock Charger that should enable us to transmit continuously.

Sennheiser MKH 416 p48

This one is the industry standard. The go to mic that Hollywood or ADR studios would use to make overdubs. It’s a phantom powered hyper cardioid shotgun mic thats been used for over 2 decades and trusted by many ENG works.

I’ve heard so much about it and in fact never planned to buy this mic. Never thought I’d be able to afford one really.. But I got really lucky and found somebody here in Holland that was selling it at a pretty affordable price after giving up an old hobby of sound collecting.. Pretty strange I thought that he used the MKH416 which is mostly best suited for collecting dialogue for TV. No rules in audio they say..

I tested the mic thoroughly when I was there to collect it. I had my Roland R-26 close to be sure that it is able to power the 416.. This way I’d also be sure that my R-26’s circuitry works fine with the mic. It’s the only way that this mic can be powered. Interestingly the guy selling it had a¬†Fostex FR-2LE CF Field Recorder, so we’re happily comparing gears over microphones and tea.. yes microphones.

One conversation led to another, so I asked I asked since he was into ENG and EFP, what else does he have in his collection.¬†At this point he was reluctant, but he finally said he has this vintage shotgun that he is actually didn’t intend to sell. Didn’t intend to sell?? What does that mean.. What was it he had? A pristine 20+ year old combo still-in-box Sennheiser ME80+ME40 with a working K3U preamp.

The ME80 have been a workhorse for some documentary producers. The newer version of this mic is the ME66 which uses the K6 preamp instead of the K3. Click on picture to see what folks of Gearslutz think about it.

Sennheiser K3U pre with ME80 + ME40 Capsule

Wait. Isn’t that the original electret that’s replaced with the new ME66+K6 module?? Yep. That’s the holy grail… I’ve actually read about these. I didn’t know I’d stumble into one.. while purchasing the MKH 416.. what luck. But was he planning to sell it or not was the better question.

Since it was there, I asked his permission to test both mics (or 3 mics considering that there’s the ME40 cardioid capsule there too). And I loved them both!! Instantly with the ME80 you could tell that its got a long throw of pick up. Not as warm as the MKH416 but its clear, crispier in its higher end peaking at 8KHz thus giving it that brighter response. But if you’ve seen the difference in this mic to the newer ME66, that’s where it gets interesting.

With the ME66 you need to use it in close proximity or the mic is not going to pick up frequencies from 2Khz and above. But that’s not the case with this ME80 which has an even response throughout the 10dB difference. SO which one is better you think? Well depends.. If you need sound rejection from the rest in the crowd, keeping this mic close to the voice will keep it isolated while rejecting the background noise further away from the mic. But for Field Recording, the ME80 will give you a gorgeous response in all registers.

The accompanying data sheet (published in 1987) reports the following specifications:

K3U:
Electrical impedance: approx. 130 ohms

ME80:
Frequency response: 50 – 15 000 Hz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 5 mV / Pa +-2.5 dB
S/N ratio according to DIN 45 405 and CCIR 468-2: >67 dB

The most important difference between the K3/ME80 and the K6/ME66 is the much higher sensitivity of the ME66 (50 mV/Pa vs. 5 mV/Pa). Thus, the ME80 would require a quieter preamplifier. The equivalent self-noise level of the K3/ME80 is about 6 dB higher than the K6/ME66. The specified S/N ratio of 67 dB corresponds to an equivalent (CCIR
468-3 weighted) noise level of 27 dB (which would be about 16 dBA)

Why yes, you guessed it. I ended up coming home with a bunch of mics. I have to thank Han for trusting me to take over his precious collections. I’m sure he had more in there but I wouldn’t be ready for Schoeps CMIT 5 U. This is bad enough for now.

I’m looking to see if we should enable customers to rent out this mics.. But if you really do need them while in Holland for your shoots, do drop us a note about it.

Next blog will be about our new upgrade for a friendly mixer for both Audio and Video – Avids MC Control v2, the Artist Series


Bluetooth Speakers

Almost here. Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker

I finally backed on something I liked on¬†kickstarter¬†last Christmas. Since I’m always in search of a good mini speaker(s) to lug around when I travel, I figured there’d be something in there that could improve the way we listen to audio coming from our smartphones apart from being attached to cords of headphones and such. Notice how I said audio and not just music? You see, music this days are primarily still mixed in stereo (and I say so coz music engineers rarely do Mono testing compatibility this days) and if your hardware only supports Mono, chances is that you’re only listening to the Left channel of the audio mix. I sure hope that’s not the case with the product we’re gonna be talking about here..

Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker

I’ve been using Singapore-produced¬†X-Mini Max II where ever I roam; to the beach, the park, in Bali, on the boat or just right in the living room with an iPad to listen to webcasts. But last Christmas, when I saw the design from John and Vitor… I thought it’s about time I try something untethered, and a pretty looking one to boot.

What John van Den Nieuwenhuizen said about their design made me want to try their speaker out.

‚ÄúRadios and speakers are often large and obtrusive, we created the HiddenRadio + BT Speaker using simple, unassuming, intuitive design so it can be loved in any home.‚ÄĚ

This is true.. The thing that never got emphasized though is that this radio is an FM based receiver. So I don’t know if it’d receive all stations when you bring it with you across different hemispheres. In Europe the stations are spaced at 9kHz intervals, and in the US they use 10kHz spacing. Most modern radios won’t let you tune between these spacings. Since there is no AM then no problem.¬†Smartly enough, the unit uses simple 2-button Up/Down Scan function to lock on to any good FM transmission available. You’d have to guess what station you’re listening to as there’s no LCD indicator on the frequency you’re on.Thus the name is true, there is a ‘Hidden Radio’ built into the Bluetooth speaker.¬†Something to add about the FM radio, you’d have to plug in an external FM antennae for better reception. Curious why they didn’t use the knob itself as a brushless antennae.

THE LOUDNESS WAR AND IT LOOKS METALLICA

The Bluetooth Speaker would crank audio up til just over 80dB . Pretty loud claim for something its size. There’s a video comparison on the audio quality compared against well known Jawbone speaker. But seeking deep into HRBS site, there’s no where in tech specs that they mention the speaker’s range for Frequency Response.¬†Proprietary 360¬į sound diffuser.. that’s all that’s written under Audio Specs.

No buttons, just one giant knob to lift and turn. The higher you lift the cover, the louder it gets. That simple? Not so.. Two things..

ONE..

I’m curious how the mechanism is designed for this to work smoothly. They claim that it should be effortless to lift the lid without having to hold the base. There’s gotta be some sort of gummy rubber placed on the base to create friction from the base to spin as you turn the top cap. And if I’m right, then you’d need a little practise to actually do the twist-to-turn-on-and-raise-up-the-volume functionality. Eitherwise it’d be a grab and turn like what I saw on SlashGear’s video review. And notice how the lid is twitsted clockwise to lift? Its counter intuitive on how we always twist anti-clockwise to open a lid.

TWO..

Its a gimmick I think. If you don’t turn that knob all the way up, the sound is bound to be muffled. Looking at the picture again, you see that the speaker grills sit all around under the knob casing. You don’t adjust the volume of a speaker by blocking the face of the tweeter or cones do you? Even when you lower down the volume, that speaker cone needs to be free and unblocked to continue reproducing the full frequency range of audio that you’re listening to. So I’m curious how they’d overcome that issue based on their design. I believe you just have to keep it wide open to get the full range and adjust audio from the playback device. If this falls true, then there’s a huge design flaw against the aesthetic idea. Well even I fell for it!

With AirPlay enabled on the iOS device and paired via bluetooth, HiddenRadio will now appear as one of your external audio device. Switching speakers is effortless.

Hidden Radio Select

Built-in battery is claimed to give about 15hrs of play time. Which I hope is made easily replaceable when shelf-life is reached. I can’t even remember what their final decision was.. as to whether a wall plug would be delivered with the product or not.

Looking further into the design itself I think all is good except for two critical items..

ONE: They forgot to add in a microphone. Kinda defeat its purpose if you have to run back to the phone to speak and listen back via HRBS.¬†It should work fine for Skype and FaceTime video chats fine as you’d have to be close to your phone for video framing anyhow, thus using the mic on mobile device is inevitable.

TWO. I wish they had a Call Answer or Call Reject button. Think about it. It’s almost a ‘speakerphone’ but you can’t talk into it or stop the phone from ringing when somebody dials in.

WHAT ABOUT QUALITY AUDIO

Alternatively, if you’re looking for quality speakers that offer wireless bluetooth functionality which focuses on sound quality as well as functionality apart from clean looks, checkout¬†Soundmatters’ foxL v2.2 speakers. Claimed as worlds best bluetooth stereo speaker, which comes with a hands-free microphone that enables better speakerphone / conferencing. And with no surprise, foxL also comes with one-touch answer/reject/end-call button. Batteries lasts only about 8 hours it makes sense as you get full fidelity stereo sound. Shame I only learnt about Soundmatters’ foxL after pledging for HRBS! Aarrghh!!!

Shame that I cannot do any audio comparison of Foxl against the HRBS right now. But come the time, you bet that I will do back-to-back referencing on the audio spectrum from HRBS. I sure hope it stands to its competitors even if its not a stereo speaker.

We’re just days away before receiving our Hidden Radio and Bluetooth Speaker here in Holland.. and with the new announcement of iPhone5 yesterday, audio is triumphantly one of the most focussed enhancements in recent comm tech developments. High Fidelity audio is the way forward. Not just about being wireless. Not just about sitting pretty. For now, we wait, see and listen.


Adidas vs Puma in the European Soccer Finals 2012

If you just saw that painful loss Germany suffered playing against Italy during the semi-finals to the European Cup, you would probably feel the loss the team felt. It’s a long rivalry, not only based on the sport of football but also on the brands who sponsored their jerseys. Germany wears Adidas. Italy wearing Puma. What’s the significance? A plenty actually.

The greatest sports rivalry is not Man U v Liverpool, or Ghana v Nigeria or Kotoko v Heats of Oak or Usain Bolt v Tyson Gay, or any other of those playground “my team can beat your team” fairytales listed on ESPN or Sky sports. No, the greatest sports rivalry revolves around two siblings: the brothers who created the companies Adidas and Puma.

In 1924, in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, two brothers started a shoe business. The older Rudi was a veteran of the Great War. The younger, Adolf or Adi, as his family called him had used their mother’s large washroom to start making shoes in 1920, out of whatever materials he could scrounge.
They named their company Gebruder Dassler Schulfabrik. According to Sneakerhead.com, the brothers had 25 employees and were turning out 100 pairs of athletic shoes a day by 1927.

Dassler Brothers logo

Dassler Brothers logo

In the early 1930s, Dassler began designing shoes for specific sports. Dutch athletes in the 1928 Olympics wore Dassler shoes, and sales went up the roof.

In 1936, the brothers hit gold literally: “Competing at the Berlin Olympic Games, American hero Jesse Owens won four Gold medals wearing Dassler shoes. During the Games, almost every member of the German Football team wears Dassler shoes. In total there were seven Gold and five Bronze medal winners wearing Dassler shoes at the competition. Additionally, athletes wearing Dassler shoes shattered two world and three Olympic records.”

Adidas Dassler
Adidas Owen Dassler
Puma Atom

If you know history, then you know what happened next. Company profiles are a bit vague on the brothers’ wartime activities, but sneakerhead.com claims the Nazis seized the factories. Bookrags.com says that while older brother Rudi was drafted into the German army, Adi ran the business and produced footwear for the soldiers. They fell out during World War II, probably over political differences, and founded rival firms. They refused to work together any longer.
Rudi moved across town and across the river to open his own company, and then named it PUMA. That same year he introduced the ATOM, his first soccer or football boot. The West German National team wore it during their first post-war match, and player Herbert Burdenski scored the team’s first goal while wearing the Puma ATOM.
Adi Dassler named his company Adidas, of course. He’d developed the 3-stripe logo in 1941, and registered it as Adidas’ trademark. In the Helsinki Olympics of 1952, Adidas shoes reigned: Czech runner Emil Z√°topek won three gold medals wearing Adidas: the 5000 meter, the 10,000 meter, and the marathon. To top it off, his wife Dana Ingrova took the gold in the women’s javelin event also wearing Adidas shoes.

The brothers never reconciled, or even spoke to each other again. As for Herzogenaurach, it split down the middle. Adidas and Puma were the biggest employers around and everyone was loyal to one brother or the other.

In an interview by Frank Dassler, grandson of Rudi, who said, “There was an Adidas butcher and a Puma butcher. If there was a chance to avoid being in the same class as another Adidas person, from the Puma perspective, then we certainly tried to avoid this. Certainly, the restaurants were split, so there was a typical Adidas hotel or Adidas restaurant and the other guys didn’t want to go there.” Frank Dassler also raised some eyebrows in the town by working for both Puma and Adidas.

Rudi succumbed to lung cancer in 1974, leaving Puma to his son. The family sold the company in 1989. Adi died in 1978, and his son took over Adidas till his death in 1987. Even in the Herzogenaurach cemetery, their graves are as far apart as possible.

Since 2007, Puma has been majority-owned by PPR, the French luxury goods maker that also owns Gucci. Adidas Group is much more widely owned, with no individual shareholder having more than 5%.

But in September this year, both Adidas and Puma decided to put their rivalry past behind them and join forces towards peace. The 60-year-old feud was ended when employees from both companies shook hands and then played a football match in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, where both are based. The match was the first joint activity held by the two companies since the brothers left their shared firm in 1948. Don’t ask me who won because there were no actual winners. The match ended 7 Р5 but the teams were not split into Adidas and Puma Рwith both sides made up of staff from both companies. Adidas boss Herbert Hainer played as a striker for the winning team, which also included Puma chief Jochen Zeitz in goal.

I’m not a keen admirer of Puma designs, so I guess if I lived in the town of Herzogenaurach you would know where my loyalty lies. Unfortunately the closest I come to Herzogenaurach is Stuttgart- Wangen, right in the mist of Mercedes and Porsche.

Not to forget. Spain will be wearing Adidas. Against Puma dorned Italians.

– Original post available from Ghanaweb


StikMotion at its best with Vincent Tetreault – Toys of War

Couple of months ago, we were excited to learn about Vince’s stop motion project. His goal was to remake the Gears of war’s TV commercial directed, by Joseph Kosinski, using stop motion. Today in a silent announcement, it’s finally done and boy is it good!! So good! I think the replacement soundtrack by Brett McCoy brought the whole scene together – uncanny. Here’s the original version with Bad World, or just skip it to Vince’s version further below..

Of course for us, the making-of is just as interesting, if not more.. Through Vince’s blog you ‘hear’ how the director works himself through obstacles faced on set to various sequences. The set and props for each one was amazing. You almost forget that these sequences are shot out of photographic frames.. one picture at a time. I don’t know the fps speed used but it looks really smooth for stop motion. Eventually you learn how committed and dedicated Vincent is with his workt. The last few sequences in sight, where he starts moulding and customizing the set up for Corpser, showed in his blog post, that was insanely good.

We all know Stikfas figures are an amazing addition for an expressive subject to macro photography. But it certainly pose new challenges when used for stop motion. In the right hands however, strong silhoutte from this faceless figures are more than enough to replicate humanoids expression through sequenced movements. Vince made it look so easy in his set.

We want to thank Vincent for bringing us along in his journey. I think stop motion film makers have patience of steel! You have to see it for yourself.. And read the complete making-of at Vincent’s Stop Motion Project if you’re interested about the production scoops.

CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!! CONTEST!!

Before you leave. Why not try your luck and compete in a Contest which Vincent’s organized online. You could win a signed DVD by the man himself!! All you need to do is show a thumbs-up or capture whacky facial expression of yourself with the wallpapers that you like from his blog. I might take a crack at that I think. ūüėČ

Standing ovation and applause. Toys of War is amazing!!


iPad Launch Screen Test Image

For some reason I cannot seem to get this simple launch screen up proper.. Shouldn’t be too difficult I thought.

Trying to get this into the Launch Screen Image for iPad viewers..

I finally decided to not use Onswipe.. On Safari with iOS5, it became real ugly. In fact Safari on iOS mobile looks much better now with Tab browsing enabled. Thus enjoy the blog as how it should be..