In my favorite book, On Photography (1977), Susan Sontag changed how I think about photography, and reality, forever.
A photograph is a freeze-frame, a thin discrete slice isolated and preserved out of continuous, relentless time. For me, photographs of people carry an inescapable sadness about them. This is because the real person will continue aging and changing, and will eventually pass away. But the photograph remains frozen, the visible traces of that once-present moment still as clear as when the photo was taken. Photographs remind us about the past, but they also invite us to romanticize the past. I find that looking at a photo taken at any time in my life creates a longing to somehow return to the exact moment when the shutter was pressed.
I am increasingly reminded how brief, transitory, and beautiful our lives are on this earth. I feel a sense of urgency that I must focus on doing things which really matter. Today someone asked me what I want to do with my life. I am still not sure if I have a single goal in mind, but to me the most important thing is to form and nurture deep, loving relationships with my family, my partner, and eventually – if life takes me down that path – my children. I also want to have a positive impact on the world – to provide tools through the creative output that I produce to allow people to lead better lives. I am gifted with a creative spirit, and I feel one purpose of my life is to utilize this gift, through software development, design, music, video, and photography to create products, works of art or interaction that people will enjoy using and experiencing, and will allow them to better achieve their goals.
-Geoff Peters, January 19th 2011
Here’s a question and answer about home piano recording from a friend on Youtube, which I thought might be useful to others.
How are you doing? Hope all is well in your part of the world. Things here are good! I am writing to ask your advice on something – if you have the time, please could you help me out with this? Would really appreciate it.
Basically I am doing some recordings at home, – for my YouTube, but also for myself. I have made an album of original music which I put up on iTunes etc. It’s okay, but the sound quality is just not very professional, and this is because I have a Mac, and a digital piano (some rubbish Yamaha DGX thing) and basically I record via audio cable, using Garageband. Up until now it’s been fine. But I wanted to take my recordings to the next level!
I have been listening to your efforts quite a lot, because I love your playing. And all of your recordings are super super quality. So, I was wondering, might you have any advice for me as to what I might do to improve my set-up?
I have sort of guessed that I really ought to go the home recording route, i.e. get a couple of microphones, and do it that way, rather than via audio cable. Am I right?
Thing is, I am on something of a budget so that is a consideration. I want to do an album of covers next, and my friend suggested to me that I just go to a recording studio. But they are very expensive in London, and it seems it would make more sense for me to buy the stuff for home use, since I am going to make a lot of use of it.
Sorry for all the waffle, and no worries if you do not have time to reply. But if you had any ideas for me I’d be very grateful. What I wanted to know centrally was, I guess:
a) do I need microphones, and if so, are there any you’d recommend? Is one enough, or must it be two, etc.?
b) do I need a proper piano, or can I get a good quality sound with just a digital/electronic machine, like what I use now?
c) any other info you could share!
Thanks so much for reading this, and best wishes to you
no problem… here’s some free advice
I find acoustic pianos always sound better than electric pianos, especially if they are well tuned. There will be no benefit to using external microphones unless you get an acoustic piano… the current way you are doing it is the best that you can do for an electric piano.
For micing my acoustic piano, I open the top and place two mics close to the sound board, to the left and right of center. It’s important to be equal distance from the sound board or else you will get strange stereo phase problems. Pan the left mic all the way to the left and the right mic all the way to the right. I find that the SM-57 mic (made by Shure) is really worth the money you will spend – they are quite affordable considering that they are also used in professional studios. You can always buy a cheaper mic but you’ll likely get a poorer quality recording.
You can also just buy one mic and record in mono, but I find stereo adds another dimension to the sound and is better for making into CD’s.
Regarding mic position, the best way to find a good place to put the mic is to use headphones and try playing keys at various volumes throughout the range. Keep making little adjustments to the positions until you hit the “sweet spot”. Also make sure that the gain isn’t set too high when you play loud or else you will get annoying pops due to clipping.
Check out some tutorials on home recording, I’m sure you can pick up some more tips too.
For an audio interface, you will need some way to plug in the mics into your mac. There are various kinds (I have a MOTU 8-Pre which has fabulous sound and 8 inputs, but this might be overkill for what you need). I’ve also used smaller units made by M-Audio that have only two inputs but excellent sound.
I usually like to apply some sort of Dynamics Compression to the audio. This partly flattens out the dynamic range, and makes the sound clearer and more vibrant. In Logic Pro there are some compressor tools that I play around with, but I am still figuring out how to do this. A good book on mastering audio is called “Mastering Audio” by Bob Katz.
Ok there’s some ideas…. good luck!
For the last 3 years I have been wearing contact lenses instead of glasses. I love them, as I found that glasses don’t look very good on me – and people now remark that I have beautiful eyes. Thanks people!
But in the last 9 months I have had chronic redness in one of my eyes – always bloodshot and irritated. This is really bad for one’s appearance and it was worrying me because I haven’t been for an optometrist checkup in a while. I was worried about the health of my eyes. In the mornings before I put in my lenses my eyes would be white and clear and then after an hour of wearing the lenses the left eye would become bloodshot and very red. This started getting only worse over the last few weeks.
I am using Acuvue Advance with Astigmatism which I usually wear daily for about a month, taking them out and cleaning them every night. I noticed that the first day after putting in a new pair of contact lenses, my eyes were white and clear the whole day. But the second day and subsequent days, my eyes would be red again.
In short, I found the solution to my redness problem!! I am so happy and I want to share it with you.
It’s simple – every month, at the same time that I throw away the old lenses, I now also throw out the plastic contact lens case and get a new case. It’s important to throw away the lenses and the case at the same time!! My lens case was contaminated and even if I put fresh lenses into the case, it would immediately contaminate the fresh lenses.
Who knew it could be so simple! Now I don’t look like a fire eye’d boy no more!
I had a neat idea as I was driving to a gig. I get really fed up with the recordings (stack of cd’s) in my car as I’ve listened to them so many times, and every time I listen to them, they are the same!
I thought, why not make a recording that sounds different every time you play it?
Sound crazy? Well, it’s really quite possible to do, and wouldn’t be very hard.
Usually when a band records a song, they might do multiple takes, say 4 or 5 takes. For certain sections of the song, such as an instrumental solo, it would be cool if it would sound different every time. The artist or recording engineer could “program” the song to play a different, random take for a certain section of the song, each time the recording is played, or combine together parts of any of the takes in a new or somewhat random way. A single solo section could be further broken down into segments, such as a certain number of bars, and each segment could be swapped in with a different take, as the music is played.
There are a bunch of extensions to this idea:
- if this is on a website, allow the user to save their particular performance that they heard, and share it with others (and rate them, etc)
- instead of a purely random choice of the takes, the user could give input into the choices such as “I’d like a really upbeat and lively version of this song”, or “I’d really like a version of this song with a longer sax solo and less Britney”.
-if the “intensity” of the performance was hooked up to a foot pedal (e.g. the recording would become more excited as the pedal is depressed lower, and more relaxed as the pedal is released) an actual live musician could play along with such a recording, while controlling the intensity of the background recording, and have the background music follow his/her performance.
Please – let me know what you think!! And please take this idea, expand on it, and develop something new, as I mostly have time to think these days and not implement something, even so cool as this!
Update, Sept. 11, 2010: I’ve created a player which implements this concept, and made it open source. Check it out at MultipathAudio.com. Includes an example song.
One thing I really love about digital media, and media in general, is the power to repeat.
Jazz musicians learn the language of jazz by repeated listening and transcribing of recordings. Writers learn from closely re-reading books, poems, or articles. Video editors and filmmakers learn from closely analyzing and re-watching TV commercials, short films, or movie scenes.
With basic TV, you can’t repeat – you have to blindly accept all the images that are being force-fed into your mind. Digital TV has given control to “Pause” live TV, and to some degree repeat.
Youtube is awesome because there is no limit to how many times you can repeat a video – just click the play button again.
Streaming radio annoys me because I find I really only enjoy a song once I have heard it 5 times.
Live concerts sometimes frustrate me – I find I don’t have the brainpower to remember or perceive all the complexities of a live concert, but if I had a video recording or even an audio recording I could absorb everything the artist is trying to convey.
Of course I love live music for the spontaneity and feeling the presence of the performers.
Without the ability to repeat I feel helpless. With it, I can master my role as an audience member in perceiving art and media, and truly improve my own ability to create.
The very same evening, I christened my green friend with the name of TonyFrog. So here is TonyFrog’s debut performance on video.
The rather “epic” classical music for this video was composed, orchestrated, and recorded by me, about 5 years ago. I used Cakewalk Sonar and the Edirol Orchestral module, along with my Yamaha P-80 keyboard hooked up to my PC via MIDI. I always intended for this piece to be used in a film, and its time has finally come! The credits music is another song that I wrote, an electronic dance music piece called Birds in the House that I recorded with my synthesizer (Korg MS-2000B) and mixed with some drum sounds from the Roland Virtual Sound Canvas (VSC).
The video was recorded in 60i mode and recorded directly into iMovie on a Mac using Firewire. I used a white balance card to calibrate the color settings (using the AWB button on my camera). I had to increase the Gain Boost on the camera to Medium because of the low light, and used the Auto Iris setting. I used iMovie to edit the footage and pick out parts which would go along with the music. Starting from the beginning of the music track, I edited clips to fit with the rhythmic and thematic changes in the song. I added a few effects such as a ripple and blur, just for fun.
Hope you enjoy the video!!
Until next time,
I am currently writing a short film (under 10 minutes). Meet Robo Robert. He’s an eccentric fellow who loves a good chip and defrag. Suprisingly well connected, RR plays chess, goes for walks, and even takes care of the mouse. Robo’s life is simple, but something is missing. Something electric. One day, RR goes to a park for a chat with Lindy. Their exchange will change his outlook forever.
(Actors and helpers needed – inquire within)
Mad TV is one of my favorite comedy TV shows. They are not afraid to explore touchy subjects such as racism, politics, class divisions, and commercialism, and they do it in an hilarious and smart way.
Here is a sketch where Apple’s Steve Jobs introduces their latest product, the iRack. It is a funny and astute commentary on the Iraq war, at the same time poking fun at the consumer culture and hype surrounding Apple.
This sketch is from MADtv Season 12, Episode 16.
The actors are:
Steve Jobs (Michael McDonald)
Announcer (Nicole Parker)
Audience members (Crista Flanagan, Jordan Peele, and Keegan-Michael Key)
I feel like writing down a few thoughts about Macs. So here goes:
I used to think that Macintosh computers were “dumbed down” because they only have one mouse button. (Well admittedly, you can use a PC mouse with a Mac if you want to use a second button). I remember the days of 386′s and Windows 3.1 when the Three button mouse was the coolest thing.
I started using computers on the first Macintosh (and even a bit of Apple II+ before that). Then I switched to PC’s and never looked back (so I thought) until a few weeks ago when I realized that I couldn’t record music anymore with PC’s – their latest firewire drivers (Vista) don’t work very well with my fancy MOTU 8-Pre audio interface.
So I bought the White Macbook; it cost around $1300 including tax from London Drugs. It made a very good first impression – everything worked instantly and I was able to get up and running really fast. And I love the design of the laptop: how it looks and how it “feels” when I use it. I am quite happy using the single mouse button for casual things, and then plugging in my Zero Tension ergonomic mouse when I am going to do some more intense clicking.