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New video production: Medieval Times In China and Beyond

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

A DVD production I’ve been working on for some time has just been completed for a company Teaching For Thinking, that provides multimedia resources primarily for high school instructors, .

It’s called ‘Medieval Times In China and Beyond’ and is part of a 2 DVD series about Medieval History. Here’s a trailer:


Medieval Times In China and Beyond on Vimeo.

We found some fantastic resources for this video online in the way of images and video. I included some of my own photos from travel to India!

I appreciated how instructors now wanted content that represented not only North American and European History, but from around the world, particularly in China who was creating many inventions the world heavily uses and relies on while Europe was engaged in progress stifling religious conflict…

Where is the music industry going?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I’ve been hinting at a big venture I’ve been involved in and working hard on with my partner Roshena Huang for some time now, even though haven’t said much lately, but i’m ready to start talking more about it. It’s the relaunch of my record label, Pro Soul as a totally reinvented company… more on that later. First though, why exactly did we have to reinvent the company? Because the music industry is drastically changing as is more than evident these days.

So where is it going? Well, no one can really predict the future, so we can really only guess. As Andrew Dubber has said, Anyone who says that they know where the music industry is going is either a liar or a fool. Either way, ignore them.

We DO know what the future of the music industry WON’T be. The future will not be the past.

That means if you’re doing what you were doing ten or even five years ago, you are simply not relevant in the music business! If you are not undergoing an aggressive period of radical change, completely redesigning your business from scratch in this industry right now considering where things are going, then your in trouble, just like the big guys.

So that is what were doing with Pro Soul Alliance – aggressive, radical change and complete redesign. And it’s a lot of work, but it’s also very exciting and different, stay tuned!

Feature film ‘Sweet Amerika’ featuring my sound design released

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

A feature film I worked on last year, ‘Sweet Amerika‘ was released last week in theatres across Canada. It will further be released in the UK and across Asia, then on DVD in a few months. It’s a multi cultural drama  based on real events about a Sikh grocery store owner who is kidnapped and tortured by four Americans who mistake him for a Muslim.

We went to see it in the theatre over the weekend, and although I was pleased with how the sound came out, the sound in the old theatre we saw it in was so bad that it ruined the experience. 2 Channels instead of one, terrible old speakers, weird, compressed audio with a lack of dynamics, and a dark, dingy screen made it a disappointing experience. I have blogged before about how I’ve been doing more film work because of the declining quality of music playback devices, so it was kind of ironic that it sounded so bad. I heard it’s playing in a good theatre now, so I’m tempted to find out what it really sounds like.

I could go on with all kinds of stories about the massive amount of work and trials involved during the process of doing sound design on this film, how Maria’s screams and non dialog audio had to be done in my studio despite ADR being done previously, and how other location audio had to be used because ADR was never done for other key scenes, but I would have to write a novel to talk about all that.
And even though it was a very impactful experience in many ways, It’s a year later, and I’m done with this chapter of my life, so check out the many decent reviews of the movie out there, and see it if you can.

I look forward to the next film project being a better production, and playing in theatres with great sound.

Poor Quality Sound: Now Standard!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

In my last post I talked about how the quality and natural dynamics of music is being destroyed through digital software technology that allows unnatural processing of audio.

But there is a much greater threat to the quality of audio that has been the subject of my thoughts for some time now: The way we listen to sound.

Back in the 1970’s the quality of sound recording technology, production techniques and playback systems reached a pinnacle with some of the most incredible music and sound humanity had ever known, and this became further fine tuned in the 1980’s. Brilliant, rich full spectrum sound that went beyond the range of human hearing, but influenced the richness of the sound through frequency harmonics that enhanced what we could hear with our ears.
Two things initiated the downward spiral that has led us to where we are today: The Walkman and the CD.
Very briefly, the walkman influenced music lovers to listen to music on crappy little earphones, and the CD chopped off audio at 20kHz without researching the influence of harmonics above that hearing range on sound we do hear. This is why vinyl records really are better sounding than CD’s in many ways.
From there, the convenience of sound gave way to clarity, and quality until we come to the present day world, of massively widespread use by the majority of music and audio listeners of terrible sounding MP3’s played on the worst possible sound producing devices humanity has ever experienced: earbud iPod headphones, computer laptop speakers, and cel phones! And this doesn’t even begin to cover the music and production tools and techniques prevalent with the trend of do it yourself computer production.

To a producer like myself who has spent over a decade mastering the subtle art of trying to perfect music and sound, this trend is devastating to say the least. And if you ever compared how music sounds on a really nice hi fi stereo system (you know like the ones they used in the 70’s) with a computer laptop speaker, it would make you nauseous. You lose something like 80% of the sound! But that introduces another problem- people don’t really know what sounds good and what doesn’t, maybe because they have become so used to listening to terribly reproduced sound, in my humble opinion and experience.
(Just as a benchmark, and cost is by no means an accurate measure, if your speakers cost less than $500, they are probably cheap garbage that sounds terrible!)

This has brought up all kinds of questions for me with regard to what I do as a profession… Why create great sounding 24 bit 96kHz audio if it is going to end up at 80% of what you created? For the 20% of people that like good sound?
My only answer is to become more involved in the film industry side of audio production as a sound designer, since at least sound is formatted and reproduced in higher fidelity than with music. So that is what I have gradually been doing. A film I worked on last year is hitting the theatres in September here…

I truly feel for the future of music in an environment where it is so under appreciated. It makes me wonder what the future holds for someone in a profession like myself and wether or not there will even be the need for professional producers and engineers if no one can really appreciate or notice their efforts.

For those of you reading this who don’t really know what I’m talking about, you don’t know what your missing!

The way audio was meant to be heard...