Billy Simons’ Album

Billy Simons recently released his new album, Music from the Motion Picture, which I had the great pleasure of engineering with David Stillman, who also produced and mixed the album.  Dave posted quite a few photos of work on the record on his blog,

<a href="">Alive by Billy Simons</a>

My primary task on the project was to edit the drum tracks and then time-align subsequent tracking sessions via Pro Tools 8′s new editing feature, Elastic Audio.  Without digging too deep into the technical end, let me just say that Elastic Audio is one of the most revolutionary editing tools to come out since non-linear editing.  Essentially, it allows you to stretch, move, quantize, mangle,  and time-align audio graphically.  This makes the task of tightening up tracks much easier than the old method, where tracks were cut into sections, aligned with the time grid and then pasted back together.

Keller Editing

Keller Editing

It’s so easy, in fact, that at first glance it seems as if you could simply shut the monitors off, align all the Elastic markers to the grid and then walk away, confident that Pro Tools’ razzle-dazzle logrithms have time aligned-your audio with no compromizes in fidelity and no digital artifacts inserted into your painstakingly tracked sessions.

You would think this.. and you would be dead wrong.

When initially tasked with editing the drum tracks for Billy’s album Pro Tools 8 was fresh of the presses and there wasn’t a lot of good A/B-tested best practices available on how to approach sensitive instruments like acoustic guitars and vocals using Elastic, particularly from a fidelity standpoint.  I watched a couple Youtube videos to figure out where all the controls were and dove in. (more…)

Mark Mulcahy Session

Mark Staring Folks DownI had a great session with Mark Mulcahy at the Academy Studio last week.  We had some fantastic musicians and more munchies than you could shake a stick at… should you care to shake a stick at munchies.  Mark played with Miracle Legion and a group called Polaris, best known for the music for the Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

On the scene were guitarist Dennis Crommett of the Winter Pills, multi-instrumentalist David Trenholm, guitarist Peyton Pinkerton and engineer Scott Amore of Inner Space Sound Labs.

It was an interesting session because Mark has been working on this record for over a year and this was the first time he had recorded with us.  Scott had to bring all the sessions on a fire wire drive.  We were a little anxious about the data situation because all the existing Pro Tools sessions were recorded in LE 7.8 and we are running HD 8.

I figured the safest thing to do was to copy all the sessions onto a local drive and then create new HD sessions, importing the pertinent session data from the copied LE files.  This way, the original sessions on the external drive were untouched and we had a backup of the originals on our drive.  In the event something happened to the external on the way home and there were issues with the HD sessions later on, we could always revert to the sessions as they existed before the Academy Session.

David Shreds

David Shreds

This added redundancy, of course, required a good deal of transfer time plus the tedious import time. All and all, it took about an hour to set up.  Scott was an enormous help in setting up mics and Hearback stations while I imported all the data and got cue mixes up and running, such that by the time the data stuff was done we were pretty much ready to rock.  I do wonder if it would have been more efficient to simply create new HD sessions and import the session data from the LE sessions on the external drive.  Probably would have saved us about 45 minutes.

Favorite signal chain of the day; without question, it was the  Electro Voice RE20 Microphone > Avedis Audio MA5 Preamp > Avedis Audio E27 EQ.  We tracked sax through this and it sounded pretty dern’ awesome!  Runner up was the Charter Oak Tube Mic (I believe model# SA538, serial#25) > Avedis Audio MA5 Preamp.  I was tempted to strap the E27 onto this chain but, after some careful listening, it became apparent that it really didn’t need much frequency manipulation.

Keller probably checking his emailIt was a fun, challenging session with some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.  Hopefully, I can work with all the folks again.