Retro Digital

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"Analog is more beautiful than digital, really, but we go for comfort."
Anton Corbijn


There's been a growing trend over the last several years to bring back the sound of classic analog gear, such as compressors and amps with vacuum tubes, ribbon microphones, and even reel-to-reel tape. Let's look at how old school charm is finding new love.

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Hello From Mars

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"The rockets came like drums, beating in the night."
From "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury


Walter Gripp is the last man on Mars. All the rockets to Earth have launched without him. One evening in a deserted town, he hears a phone ringing. This creepy scenario from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles has captured the fascination of science fiction fans for decades. The reader wonders, who could it be? The scientist wonders, what would it sound like? We're about to find out...maybe.

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Time Travelers

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"Shh! Listen! Someone's coming! I think -- I think it might be us!"
J. K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Imagine if we could time travel without changing history. If we could go back 50 or 100 years would people view our technology as magic? If we were visited by time travelers from the future, would their technology be magic to us?

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Pots & Pans: Cooking Up Stereo

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"Cooking is like music: you can tell when someone puts love into it.”
Taylor Hicks

The transition from mono to stereo music recordings in the late 1950s had its challenges. Find out how Rudy Van Gelder and other recording engineers worked out the details.

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The Loudest Record!!!

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"Every crowd has a silver lining.”
P.T. Barnum

126.4 I think that's what will be inside a little oval sticker that I'm going to put on my bumper. I see "26.2" bumper stickers that marathon runners proudly display. Colorado mountain climbers have "14er" stickers. A lot of dads are number "1." Then what's so special about 126.4? It used to be a number for Kings, but now it's a number for Cats.

Before I start to sound like a broken record, let me back up and tell this story from the beginning. Team Cornett wanted to raise the profile of UK Health Care and their close association with UK Athletics, so they came up with a plan to get the attention of a sports crowd. There's no better place for a hyped up crowd than Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington. With nearly 24,000 people, its been known to get really loud in there. It would be the perfect place to try and break the world record for the loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports event. And what basketball game would have the biggest and loudest crowd? A made-for-ESPN-TV marquee matchup: Kentucky versus Kansas.

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Laser Listening

Laser Listening

"The key to this plan is the giant laser. It was invented by the noted Cambridge physicist Dr. Parsons. Therefore, we shall call it the Alan Parsons Project."
Dr. Evil
Austin Powers

Here's something that will blow your mind and make you paranoid at the same time. Someone can listen to your conversations in your house or office from hundreds of feet away using light. The "light" is a "laser," and it's bounced off a window pane to detect sound vibrations. It's hard not to imagine Dr. Evil, played by Mike Meyers, air quoting "laser" when we mention that word. The theory was first proposed in the 1940s, but had to wait until lasers were actually invented in the 1960s to gain traction. By the 80s, the Cold War had us and the Soviets spying on each other using "lasers."

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A Siren's Song

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“Square in your ship's path are Sirens, crying beauty to bewitch men coasting by;
woe to the innocent who hears that sound!”

by Homer in The Odyssey


I live on a busy street. My house sits roughly between three hospitals - all with helipads and emergency rooms. That's good for me if I have a really bad day, but my poor cat thinks wolves are after her whenever someone else is having a really bad day. I'm talking about the incessant sirens going up and down my street. And they seem to be getting louder – they penetrate my windows and brick walls with even more ferocity than ever before. It turns out that I'm not imagining this, because some emergency vehicles are now employing something called "low frequency system," or LFS. I call it "Loud F*@#$%^& Siren."

In addition to the regular high yelp of a siren, you may have noticed a lower yelping sound that seems to penetrate your car and go straight through your chest. That emergency vehicle has a secondary siren system that emits powerful omnidirectional bass tones from about 200-400 Hz. In this range, sound is "felt" more than heard - up to 200 feet away. These frequencies can penetrate auto glass and metal, wood and brick buildings, and human flesh and bones.

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Is the Mix Tape Back in the MIx?

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"I used to judge the quality of music by whether I could make a 90-minute cassette and not repeat any artists."

John Hughes


What? Another old audio format is making a comeback? Yessiree! If you want to be hip, then dust off your old Sony Walkman. But like me, you've probably dumped all your old cassettes along with your floppy disks and Trivial Pursuit. These days, my pocket can carry the same amount of music that drawers and drawers of cassettes can. But there are people who want to drag this once noble king of convenience from its analog obsolescence.

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The Rebirth of AM Radio?

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"I hate modern car radios. In my car, I don't even have a push-button radio. It's just got a dial and two knobs. Just AM."

Chris Isaak

Maybe you haven't noticed, but AM radio has pretty much sucked the last twenty years or so. Maybe you didn't notice because you weren't listening. A lot of people aren't, and the FCC is out to change that. The FCC? You bet – this isn't your father's FCC. We're so used to hearing "FCC" and "restrictions" in the same breath, that broadcasters were pleasantly surprised last October when the FCC announced an "AM Revitalization" initiative.

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The Sonic Snuffer

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"I throw more power into my voice, and now the flame is extinguished"

Physicist John Tyndall, 1857

There's been a recent breakthrough in fighting fires - using sound waves to extinguish flames. Since 1857, scientists have known that sound waves could put out a flame, but they weren't exactly sure why.

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Analog Rules!

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"As so much music is listened to via MP3 download, many will never experience the joy of analog playback, and for them, I feel sorry. They are missing out."

Henry Rollins

There's a growing trend in the music business - recording to reel-to-reel tape. Wait, I thought we got rid of that when we went digital. The truth is, it never went away. Much like the recent boom in sales of records and film, reel-to-reels are gaining new fans and bringing back old ones.

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Broadcast and the Hearing Impaired

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"I hope I inspire people who hear. Hearing people have the ability to remove barriers that prevent deaf people from achieving their dreams."

Marlee Matlin


Did you know that more than 37 million Americans aged 18 or older have some kind of hearing loss? And 30 million Americans aged 12 or older have hearing loss in both ears? With a media-rich society, that makes listening to narration, dialog, and speech in general difficult for them. Before 1972, anyone hard of hearing had to watch television with the volume turned up.

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Bong, Bong, Bong.

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"If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners."

Johnny Carson

Eighty-six years ago, three musical tones, "G-E-C," were played on a fledgling network of radio stations. What started as a technical cue for local stations, has become an instantly recognized trio of notes woven into the American identity.

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Double-Naught Spies

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"They number girl spies different. She's what you call a 36-23-36."

Max Baer, Jr. as "Jethro Bodine"

Double-Naught Spies

This month, the new James Bond spy movie Spectre will be released. It's the 24th film in the long-running franchise based on Ian Fleming's novels. "Hot Dog!" as Jethro Bodine would say. James Bond and all his gadgets were hatched from Fleming's experiences while serving in the British Navy Intelligence Division during World War Two.

Gathering intelligence during any war requires innovative and clandestine communication techniques, especially deep within the enemy lines. In the Revolutionary War, invisible ink and garments on a clothesline were tools to send secret messages. The Civil War saw women disguising themselves as nurses, slaves, and even soldiers to gather and smuggle information. During World War One, the human body itself became a vehicle for secret messages via invisible tattoos.

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Podcasting Revisited

Podcasting news

"Podcasting - I swear to you - on its worst day, the podcasts are better than our best films. Because they're more imaginative, and there's no artifice, and it's far more real."

Kevin Smith

Podcasting Revisited

Modern podcasting has now been around a little more than 10 years now. The roots go back much further, into the 1980's in fact. The idea of subscribing to an internet-delivered audio service dates to the early 1990's. But it wasn't until portable devices, such as the iPod, came onto the scene that it really took off. History shows that portability drives popularity – the battery-operated radio, the portable record player, the audio cassette, and the funky 8-track. I remember the iPod being described as a digital "Walkman," even though poor Sony already had moved beyond the cassette into portable digital players.

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That Magic Sound

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"Science is magic that works"

Kurt Vonnegut

That Magic Sound


Researcher Dr. Diana Deutsch at UC San Diego has been studying the psychology of sound since the mid-1960's. Her findings illustrate how people can hear musical tones wildly different from each other. These "illusions" can cause great disagreements between listeners, even highly trained musicians. And interestingly, one group of stereo illusions has right-handers and left-handers perceiving them differently.

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Shhh! Be Quiet!!!

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"If a tree falls in the forest, and hits a mime, does anyone care?"

Gary Larson

Shhh! Quiet!

Have you been hiking lately? Where'd you go? Red River Gorge? The Smokey Mountains? Yosemite? In the last 10 years, have you ever experienced a place devoid of all human sounds? Gordon Hempton, an Emmy-Award-winning recordist, claims there are less than a dozen places left in the continental U.S. that are "quiet." Hempton defines "quiet" as a natural environment that has no human-intrusion sounds for at least twenty minutes.

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The Fancy Pants Announcer

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"In radio, they say, nothing happens until the announcer says it happens."

Ernie Harwell
Legendary Detroit Tigers Announcer

The Fancy Pants Announcer

There was a time when Americans who wanted to sound important and upper class spoke with a half-American, half-British accent. They call it mid-Atlantic, presumably because the accent lands somewhere in the middle of the ocean between our countries. It was dominant in movies, on radio, in theaters, and on early television. Today, it sounds pompous. Some early practitioners were Franklin Roosevelt, James Cagney, Orson Wells, and Katherine Hepburn. Some more contemporary holdouts were William F. Buckley, George Plimpton, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

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Voice Talk

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"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."

Maya Angelou

Voice Talk


There was a recent study* that tried to understand how audio quality affected the perceived quality of the human voice. The researchers understood from the beginning that the results could be highly subjective, but they approached it using measurable methods. While tallying up the results, they were surprised by one finding they weren't attempting to measure. But it's something we in the advertising and production business already knew.

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3D Sound on the Right Track

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“Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”

Will Rogers


3D Audio on the Right Track


It's said that when an early motion picture was first shown to the public, women fainted and men ducked from an approaching train. The director made a bold new decision that would alter the course of filmmaking for the next century. Instead of just placing the camera in front of all the action like an audience watching a stage, the director moved the camera to a new position - within the action - to create perspective. That’s been happening in filmmaking ever since. But the same has been happening in sound as well. And now with emerging technologies, virtual 3D sound is now here.

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Get in the Groove!

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The new generation is discovering what the old generation stopped loving - LPs. LP sales are the highs they’ve been in 22 years. Records aren’t just for hipsters anymore, everyone, including the older generation that gave them up, are groovin’ to them.

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The Color of Sound

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What if we could see sound? Aside from graphical representations of sound like waveforms and meters, we can't just look at an orchestra and see sounds flying out of the trombones. I wish we could watch the beautiful tones flow from Itzhak Perlman's Stradivarius. But we can - sort of.

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Heads, Tail, Grooves, and Needles

Most of you reading this know us at Dynamix for creating new sounds with new technology. But did you know we also like to resurrect old sounds? Just twenty years ago, magnetic tapes and records were standard formats we worked with everyday. Now, they're just "antiques" and items taking up space in a closet. But many people are discovering (or re-discovering) analog, and they want it in digital form. For many years, we have been helping people resurrect old recordings by transferring their tapes and records to CD. Many of these analog recordings are of family, but others are important historical archives. Read More...

Book Knowledge

Audio books, or what used to be called "books-on-tape," are gaining in popularity now that listeners can easily download them to their portable listening device. In the old days, you had to fumble with a box of tapes or CDs. Now, thanks to software like iTunes, you put a whole library in your pocket. The ease of getting an audio book is exponentially easier with on-line stores like iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. Just like the print market, there's an audio book for just about anything. If you want a book for self-help, do-it-yourself, travel, humor, history, etc., it's out there. And the line between audio books and audio programs is dissolving. Read More...

Tools of the Trade

Okay, this is not a gear-geek column (but you fellow geeks can find a little tech talk in the next section "Dynamix Tech Notes"). But rather, a primer on why and how we make our choices for certain audio production equipment. As a part-time educator, I'm often asked by budding filmmakers, "What kind of equipment should I buy?" It's often paired with "How much will it cost?" It's a valid question. Read More...

Turn it Down!

The volume is getting turned down on television commercials. What does that mean for you, the producer or advertiser? Well, you can still scream all you want, but you just won't be louder than the latest installment of a Fast and Furious movie. The CALM Act (The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, 2011) that President Obama signed into law last December mandates that TV stations and networks reduce the volume of commercials to match the program level. Read More...

BOOM Go the Fireworks!

Independence Day reminds me about fireworks. Which reminds me of explosions. Which remind me of sound effects. I'm not necessarily thinking of sound effects when I'm watching fireworks, because I'm usually in the moment. But we've all experienced that anticipation of waiting for the next explosion when we see a faint streak of light climb up to the heavens and hear a little bit of the sizzle from the propulsion. A momentary silence...and then BOOM! Ooooh! Aaaah! Laughter, applause.
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And Down the Stretch They Come!

A jam-packed field. Each running neck-and-neck trying to lead the pack. The whole mass moving toward the finish line with breathtaking speed. Finally it ends, but it's too close to call!!!

No, it's not the Kentucky Derby. It's an overcrowded commercial with too much information that's been crammed into 30 seconds. Read More...

Teamwork

With the recent college basketball championships engulfing our March, it's easy to see what it takes to make a winner: teamwork. Okay, I know it sounds cliché, but it's the same in production. If a coach only relies on one player, then the team will eventually fail. Everyone sees the other players just standing around and "phoning it in." What would you think? "Good player, but this team could be so much more." What about "Good video, but it could be so much more." Read More...

Bending Music

Most productions that go through our studios at Dynamix have some kind of music. It can be a jingle, custom, or library ("needledrop") music. A jingle can be great for branding your client over the long term. But, it's usually the most expensive item in your production budget, sometimes the only item. If you're producing a film, custom music can give cohesiveness to the soundtrack, but can also be expensive - sometimes as much as 15% of your total budget. That's why many projects that have a quick turnaround or tight budget lean towards using library music. Read More...

Replacing Dialog in Videos

Replacing dialog in video and film has come a long way since Clint Eastwood had to dub dialog for his spaghetti westerns. Whether it's noise in the original track, a changed or new line, or even a different performance, replacing dialog on programs and films is commonplace today. Read More...

Recreating the Sounds of the Civil War

Being in the "Horse Capital of the World," we surely have enough experience to know that a horse sounds much like it did 150 years ago. However, back then a horse's role was very different than today. In a new documentary, "Unsung Hero: The Horse in the Civil War," produced by Witnessing History, LLC for HRTV (Horse Racing TV Network), the role of the horse in the American Civil War is explored in-depth with rarely-seen photographs, documents and artwork. To a sound designer's delight, there are simulated battle scenes, troop movements, and other war action. Read More...

Dynamix Connect With the World

One often overlooked service that Dynamix Productions provides on a regular basis is ISDN (see below for a more detailed explanation). It's a real-time digital audio connection that allows two or more studios to deliver near CD audio quality to each other simultaneously. We regularly connect with other studios around the world for voice-over sessions. Read More...
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