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October 24, 2013 / Randy Coppinger

Shaun Farley’s AES Convention Take Aways

I recently had an email exchange with my friend Shaun Farley of designingsound.org. His list of AES Convention “take aways” was so insightful I asked for permission to post them here.

Alex Case
As always, he runs a great presentation. I’ve seen him speak multiple times; occasionally on the same topic over different years. Every time, I come away with some little nugget. It isn’t always necessarily something he says directly in his presentation. Sometimes the simple things he points out takes you back mentally… making you think of the tools in a way you haven’t in years. Going back to that headspace, with the perspective that I have now, makes me think of some new approach to try out when I get home. If anyone is headed to an AES conference in the future, and Alex is presenting… go. He’s also got his own website which is worth checking out: http://recordingology.com/

Film Sound Mixing
There’s a big stir-up brewing over the practice of mixing for film and the standards associated with it. People are starting to look at the X-Curve more closely, and determining that it’s too broad to apply it across the full spectrum of theaters. There’s also some serious discussion going on over the playback volume in theaters. Film mixers are, justifiably, aggravated that theaters aren’t screening films at the spec their supposed to. They’re turning everything down by as much as 10dB on a regular basis. There are two culprits outside of the re-recording mixer’s control. The first is trailers. This is probably the main reason everything is getting turned down. Trailers are louder than the films they accompany. People complain, and the volume gets turned down. Either the standard for trailer loudness is being ignored, or LEQ-M just doesn’t cut it. A subset of this problem has to be the trend over the last 10 years to include actual commercials before the trailers. This isn’t something I’ve heard batted around yet, it’s my own speculation. I highly doubt that the same people who are mixing trailers or films are also mixing these commercials. So that’s the second potential culprit. Film mixers don’t want anything approaching television standards. They want the freedom to create art as they see it, and I agree with them. I think the first task that needs to be addressed is the loudness levels of accompanying programs. The second task is to get theaters playing back at the spec they’re supposed to be. If things are then still too loud, that’s when we can start talking about the volume of film mixes in an informed manner.

Sound for Picture Track
This was refreshing in some ways. I think a lot of people were hoping that they would get to go in and learn all of the techniques that the “pros” use. Instead, what they got was a lot of people talking about the decision making process and emphasizing the story-telling aspect. That’s what I was more interested in hearing. So I’m glad it turned out that way.

Sony PCM-D100
This looks pretty interesting. It has a number of improvements over the D50 (higher res audio, mics and preamps with a controlled response out to 40k, etc.), but it also has a significant price point. It will probably cost around $800 retail when it comes out in January. A lot of people are lamenting the lack of external inputs on the device. They have a point, considering the price. It’s simply a purpose-built handheld recorder. It will blow away everything else on the market in terms of quality, but it’s functionality vs. price-point will probably prevent many people from running out to grab one once they’re on the market.

For more convention presentations, photos, audio gear, etc. see: 135th AES NY Roundup

Shaun Farley ponders

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