July 30, 2008

How Netflix is Killing Hollywood

Let's face it computing power is increasing exponentially. It used to take hours to rip a CD and encode it to mp3 (we're talkin 10 years ago), now you can rip and encode an album in about 5 minutes, and the bottleneck is the CD-Rom DRIVE. It can't read the CD fast enough to feed the processor. Now that's power.

Well now it takes a few hours to rip a movie from a DVD to your hard drive. I think you see where this is going. In 5 years the process I'm about to describe is going to kill hollywood the way it's already killing the RIAA. But unlike the RIAA, hollywood has a chance to fight back, at least for the foreseeable future. I'll get to that later

In order to make it super, extra easy to understand I'm breaking this down in to simple easy to understand (but not to ever ever follow) steps.

How a Pirate uses Netflix to Kill Hollywood
  1. They Download some DVD Ripping software

    Shiver me timbers, This may be illegal in your country! Then again, since when has that stopped a back stabbin' pirate like you?

    For Windows there's Magic DVD Ripper, it's not free but hey you can always pirate that too ;) there's plenty of torrents.

    For Macintosh, I know you would probably rather buy the movies from iTunes anyway, but just in case you're feeling a bit scurvy, or yeller-bellied, there's MacTheRipper to be had.

    For Linux, DVD::Rip is good and has lots of options to tweak. For a simpler approach, try AcidRip.

  2. They Rip all the DVD's they own

    Ye begins yer journey with soft, ambiguous piracy. Yes you're making a copy (on the computer), but it's for archival purposes, right? This is probably still legal.

    But now that you've got digital copies of all your DVD's, your pirate's hunger intensifies!

  3. Avast! Ye must go on account with Netflix

    For $16.99/month ye, the evil video-pirate, may acquire 3 DVD's at any given time. Which is convenient, because it takes about 3 days to get the next DVD from the time you mail one back. That means you can rip a new DVD every day and never miss a day. 30 Titles a month ain't bad (it's only about 50 cents per DVD).

  4. They share the bounty with their mates, in secret

    When ye use encryption the pirates code is safe (usually). It's not bullet proof but it really is an invasion of privacy if your ISP starts trying to hack the encryption on your internet traffic. Comcast is already being punished for similar offenses.

    Ye setup a filesharing server! Filezilla has a windows ssh server, which is easier to use. Otherwise there's the original OpenSSH server which runs on EVERYTHING.

    For yer mates, Filezilla offers ssh (a secure protocol) clients run on any platform. Then WinSCP for Windows, Fugu for Mac, and if they're a linux user, they'll have no problems.

While it takes hours to rip a DVD right now, you can rip the data to your hard drive in about 10 min and do the encoding overnight. In the next 5 years though, we're going to see this time cut down just like we did with music. Especially with the parallelize-able nature of video encoding.

Each time you double the number of processor cores, you effectively half the time it takes to encode video.

(source: codinghorror.com)

The only way the MPAA can fight back is by increasing the resolution of the video. Each time they double the height resolution of the video - which is approx the difference between dvd (480p) and blue ray (1080p) - you need 4 times as long to process it.

I think that when the time it takes to rip a movie is 10 minutes or less, is when people will start ripping and swapping video the way they do with music. The MPAA can only hold off the pirates a little longer... I'd say 5 years, 7 at most, and only if blueray catches on as a movie format.

July 29, 2008

Clarity - What's in (a) Cadence?

So my friend Matt and I argue about the meanings of words all the time, kind of like Richard Stallman and... well... just about everybody else. This is an unfortunate side effect of ambiguity in musical language.

So I'll be doing these little posts about conflicting definitions as I discover them. Hopefully someone will find them helpful.

Here's a bit of Clarity for the word Cadence:

This word has a strong tie to music, but there are several other meanings; Wikipedia's disambiguation page for 'cadence' has over 20 entries!

Here is the musician definition (if you're classically trained at least). From wikipedia:
In Western musical theory, a cadence (Latin cadentia, "a falling") is a particular series of intervals or chords that end a phrase, section, or piece of music. Cadences give phrases a distinctive ending, which can, for example, indicate to the listener whether the piece is to be continued or concluded. (read more...)
In other words, a cadence is how a phrase ends. It's what makes it feel like it's going to continue or that it's complete, and it's one of the first things you learn about in a music theory class.

The literary meaning of the word cadence is related, quite different. This can come up if you're working with a lyricist who knows a lot about writing, and literature. From the UWC writing center's website:
Cadence: the natural sound pattern created by the spoken word
I'd venture to say that the music theory definition is far more commonly known, especially as evidenced by the fact that wikipedia has only the following definition for the literary term, and an entire page dedicated to the musical term:
(speech) A fall in inflection of a speaker’s voice, such as at the end of a sentence.
A Google search for define: cadence returns similar results. Leave it to grammar-bot to know only the most obscure definition of a word! Damned higher education ;)

July 24, 2008

Online music collaboration

In my group of friends there is a bit of an inside joke about starting side projects. All of us are in at least 20 or 30 hypothetical side projects, but really only have one or two active musical endeavors at any given time (with tim as a notable exception).

So I was wondering what the state of online music collaboration websites is. Are there any good ones? Ok... so I realized I should google before I ask... just like you should think before you speak. Kompoz.com is a very cool site.

Basically you just upload a song idea, and then either send it to a friend (or make it available to random users) to add to, and it keeps track of each new version of the song so you can go back.

Then I noticed a developer API. Hot damn! So I got to thinking I could start adding extensions... like adding an inaudible noise pattern to the audio files before the song starts as a homing beacon. Then when the song gets re-uploaded it can sync the two and remove the old track leaving just the stuff that was added. Then it would be like a community multi-track program.

I also noticed the site also doesn't have much support people who want to use it for writing songs among a consistant group of people (say a band *wink*). I could possibly hack together something that makes it more useful to bands for closed collaboration.

Another idea I had that I thought would be cool is if they linked up with the Last.fm api and allowed you to import your music taste into your profile.

Anyway let me know what you think! Talk to me baby... I need your sweet, sexy ASCII text to facilitate communication between us so I can understand what you think about this topic which we are discussing!

July 22, 2008

Crooked Mixing...

Today is game day!

Harris left a comment on my last post asking if I could post the project files to my song Crooked, so could practice his de-noise powers on it. I thought to myself, What a wonderful idea! So today is game day.

The name of the game is Crooked Mixing, because you'll have to apply some pretty crooked mixing techniques to tame that noise!

Rules of Crooked Mixing:
  1. You have to use the noisy track.

    The noisy guitar mic (the Nady CM88) must be within 6dB of the volume of the other guitar mic. The easy solution - the solution you should use in a real life production situation - is to just mute the CM88 and use a digital reverb instead. That's just no fun.

  2. You have to tell us how you did it.

    You must provide the strategy, and a short description of the general path you took to get to the finished copy.

  3. You have to use the raw tracks.

    I included my processed tracks as well as the raw tracks. No cheating people.

That's all folks! Here are the raw tracks...

All files, Processed and raw: rar , zip
Just the Raw Files: zip

You can also just look at the individual files

Here's how I did the vocal processing:

The guitar processing was just EQ and a little haas effect.

Good luck everyone!


Just in case your faith in my nerdiness was faultering...

BANG! There it is!

...by the way, that's my newly unwrapped copy of The Pragmatic Programmer. Fresh from amazon.

Also, here's a nice pic of the progress of my drum hack. I've got about an hour of work left. It doesn't look like you'll be able to use the midi functionality while you're playing the drums in-game though. Oh well.

The world just can't handle how cool I am. I'm expecting a comment from you >:-|

July 20, 2008

Noise vs. Air Conditioning

Today I was faced with an interesting dilemma; re-record a track, or deal with the noise I inadvertently picked up.

I think that if you do pickup a little noise during a take, you should consider the take as if the noise isn't there. Is it a great take? just ok? could you do it the same over again? better?

If you can do it better, or the same. Throw it out, eliminate the source of noise and just do it again.

But what if you can't do it again? You tried for half an hour and never nailed it just so again? I say keep the take with the noise. Of course there are degrees to how abrasive the noise is, so use your best judgment.

In the end, the recording I was working on just wasn't that important and I was pressed for time, so I kept the noisy takes. I was also going for an indie low-fi sound, and I considered adding some extra noises to the song as well to further the mood. If you're interested, you can check out the song.

July 11, 2008

Album-a-Day: Cooler than a daily fav-album

My buddy Tim brought the concept of Crap Art, and more specifically, the Album-a-day, to my attention. Man was I missing out...

I have to say, this is something everyone should do at least once - like driving until you run out of gas, or staying up all night to watch the sunrise.

Album-a-day is not a site where a favorite album is highlighted each day. No... it's something far more interesting than that. Album-a-day is when people write, and record an entire album in 24 hours. It's an exercise in creativity.

Here are the rules, right off the main site:
  1. It must be written, performed, recorded, post-produced, etc. all in one contiguous 24-hour period (preferably with no sleep break in there).
  2. It must be at least 20 minutes or 30 songs. (many short songs tend to work better than long songs which drag on forever, trust me.)
  3. Your band may have multiple participants, but they should not work on different songs simultaneously. (So just one song being worked on at a time.)
  4. No ideas from before the chosen day! This means covers or reinterpretations are not allowed.
  5. No out-takes! If you start a song, finish it and put it on the album.

I have a few qualms with the rules (who really wants to listen to 30 songs that are less than 45 seconds each?) , but it's still an awesome idea, and totally worth doing.

Plus, you can video tape the whole thing and add it to your parents' home video collection as a kind of cute prank. I know... I'm a little weird.

A few tips to make it go smoothly:
  1. Set up all your gear, and recording stuff the night before, so you can focus on writing during your precious 24 hours
  2. Get a friend to stop by a few times throughout the day with a video camera, and (regular) camera to help you document how awesome those 24 hours were. It is a home video right?
  3. Don't be too much of a perfectionist or you won't finish
  4. Try new things, make it interesting
  5. Have fun!

Ok, I know the 'have fun' part was a little campy, but it felt right.

So, do an album-a-day, let me know about it, and I'll totally drop you a link :) It's a good way to get some tracks up on the myspace too.

July 10, 2008

Rockband, delays, and comics

It's been busy around here! I've started modding a rock band drum kit to be a midi controller. The hack is almost done. Also- coming soon: backlit drum pads!

Here's a cute little comic to hold you until I finish this hack...

July 3, 2008

Don't Limit my Compression Man... It's Not Evil, Just Misunderstood

Everyone is talking about how horrible the compression fad is (yes... that's 10 different links).

Every mastering house has a rack full of limiters. compressors and exciters to make your songs as loud as humanly possible, and there's definitely a bit of mania to it. but...

I for one welcome our dynamics reducing overlords.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should squash every little clip of audio like a roach, there are definitely some things that deserve the high fidelity bestowed upon them by the audio gods - classical, folk, acoustic. Even indie rock can benefit from remaining in it's unadulterated form.

But in the age of surreal performances, artificial instruments, and the "Radio mix", I don't see a huge problem globing on the compression as just one more layer of distortion.

After all, if the end listeners like it, isn't that what we're really going for?

Even if that's not enough of an argument for you, the Mastering Engineer's job is to make your music sound as loud as possible without making it sound worse. After all it's a proven fact that the average person perceives a louder song as sounding better.

Of course you can argue that if you just turn it up, it sounds better without the compression, but I have personal experience that this is not necessarily the case...

Heavy, brick-wall limiting (compression on horse steroids), changes the tone of the music, not just the dynamics. After a lot of top 40 listening, many people grow familiar with this tone, and begin to expect it. Anything without that "hyper-squashed" tone doesn't sound professional to them.

I don't know about you, but I like to make a slick, professional first impression. Don't you?

edit: I would have left this as a comment but there are already about 30 comments, and I want to make sure people see it. So I learned 3 things today:
  1. Audiophiles hate compression as much as I thought they did.
  2. Sarcasm is in fact, dead on the internet ;)
  3. You really can get a bunch of blog traffic by pissing people off.
With that said, maybe I should start a feud that divides the internet using population in half... comments? ideas?

July 1, 2008

Making your own tools

You've probably heard about people making their own tools, and you've probably used a few of the more information-centric ones on the internet.

Well here's my question to you: What kind of tools would you like to see available on my website?

I've been itching for an interesting project to work on, so let me know what you'd like.

Here are a few ideas:
  • Delay calculator
  • File Converter
  • Midi-file to notation converter
let me know (or if you just like one of these ideas, say that)

© 2008 Jim Robert