Inside Out

Get an uncensored look at our products and the people who make and use them.
  • Discover Mixing and Recording Tips with Ken “Pooch” Van Druten


    How can you set your mixes apart from others? This re-occurring question is one I have battled with and know it’s one that you ask yourself every time you sit down behind a console. So of course this was central to my train of thought when I recently sat down with award-winning live sound and recording engineer Ken “Pooch” Van Druten. He has apparently found an answer to this elusive question, which is why he has mixed for some of the biggest names in music, including Linkin Park, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Guns N’ Roses, and Earth, Wind & Fire, who stand out among the crowd.


    So what was Pooch’s answer? Tune in to our “Concert Sound with Ken ‘Pooch’ Van Druten” webinar on Wednesday, March 6, at 10 a.m. (PT) / 1 p.m. (ET) to find out and learn how Pooch’s distinct approach to mixing is aligned with a goal we all share—to have a great show night after night.



    During the webinar, you will have the chance to:


    · Gain insight into Pooch’s systems and workflows

    · Learn techniques through actual tour show files

    · Get answers to your mixing questions and more


    I know I benefited from my chat with Pooch so take time to check out the webinar and join us in the discussion afterward.


    Laters everybody,


    Robert Scovill Out

  • Are You Experienced? First show!

    It was rough going into it, but we finished the first show of the Experience Hendrix tour. I flew to this show in Bethesda, Maryland, straight from a two-week tour of Japan and Southeast Asia with Robert Randolph and the Family Band.


    The norm for this tour is to have a production day or two to get everything “tour-worthy” and do extended sound checks with all of the artists. Not this time! I had a 20-hour flight from Indonesia to New York, followed by a five-hour car ride to Maryland. To say that I was jetlagged is an understatement, and it took a toll on my nerves. So after getting as much sleep as I could, we headed off to load in.


    Fortunately, the crew is all the same from the last few Experience Hendrix tours. These guys are the best—not only are they great techs, but they’re all terrific musicians as well. My monitor engineer for the tour, Mike Ronkainen, and I have been doing the tour together for 3+ years now, so we know the gig really well. The schedule for the day was to load in at 8 am, sound check with all artists starting at 2 pm for four hours, and then start the show at 8 pm. Thankfully, I’d had two shop prep days in Saratoga, NY, with 8Twenyfour Productions—the audio and backline provider for the tour—and they sent two top-notch techs to help get us up and running.



    Now that everything was in order—trucks at the dock, bus in the lot, crew on site—we went inside and checked out the stage for the show tonight. My nerves dropped again. It’s a symphony hall, a perfect acoustic hall, designed for no amplifiers whatsoever. I worked in a place like this when I was a younger, and it was great until you turned on the P.A. The house engineer explained that about four seconds of reverb was designed into the room, and there are plexiglass baffles over the stage, steering the stage sound into the audience. After a mild nervous breakdown, the house engineer said he could tighten up the room sound by moving curtains—and the plexiglass could go away. That just left the huge cave-like room.



    For the tour, we have a wall of guitar amps that stretches 50 feet across the stage and looks like a Guitar Center showroom. Fender, Marshall, 3 Monkeys, and many, many more—all on 11! Let’s just say that loud stage volume is an understatement! I started picking microphones for all of the instruments on stage. Some artists come with their own microphones due to their endorsements, but for the most part, I pick what I think will work well, and I generally stay with what we have used on past tours to keep it consistent. My theory over the last few years has been to keep it simple—a few boutique microphones, but for the most part guitar amps get a Sennheiser e906. Some artists ask for a Shure SM57, which I’m fine with. That mic has been around for 40 years—if it ain't broke, don’t fix it!


    Jonny Lang brought a Shure KSM9 for his vocals and a KSM313 ribbon mic for his Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb. Brad Whitford brought something that looks like a SM58, but it’s not (no one will tell me what it is—it has no markings) for his 3 Monkeys amp. Eric Johnson brought two vintage SM57s (the Unidyne III type) for his two vintage Marshall 100 watt Plexis and vintage 4x12 cabs, and I provided vintage Sennheiser MD 409 U3s (my personal favorite mic) for his stereo early 60s Fender Twins. Buddy Guy has two sE Voodoo ribbon mics on his Blues Box amps. Robert Randolph gets two e906s, as does Kenny Wayne Shepherd. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rojas use Audix i5s. Mato Nanji gets an SM57, while Dweezil Zappa goes direct out of his Fractal Axe-Fx.



    For the most part I use one mic per player unless it’s a stereo rig, as we are limited to one VENUE Stage Rack (48x16x8 AES outs), and the monitor console has 56 I/O. I have an additional eight-channel preamp at FOH (with my VENUE Profile System) for room mics and a few other inputs.


    Bass guitars get Radial DIs—Billy Cox uses a passive JDI, Tony Franklin gets an active J48, and Scott Nelson gets the new Firefly Tube DI and a Beyerdynamic M88 on his cab per his request.


    Bootsy Collins has three inputs: low, mid, and high. The low is a send off of his sub-bass send, which routes to the subs, while mid and high go through a JDI Duplex—these signals have the effects on them. His rig consists of two 8x10 cabs and one 2x18 sub—just a little bit of stage volume! The other players use an 8x10 each. We have one acoustic DI for Jonny Lang.



    Chris Layton’s drum kit gets an Electro-Voice RE20 in the bass drum, Sennheiser e905s on top and bottom snare, e904s on toms, a Neumann KM 184 on hi-hat, and a a pair of vintage AKG C414 for overheads. Chris is really going for the Mitch Mitchell sound, so all of the drums are tuned really high and open. Drum tech and sometime drummer in the show, Mike Musburger, does a great job at helping me get the right sounds. Drummer Tim Austin, who is with us for the first six shows, gets my standard mic set up: a Sennheiser e901 and e902 for the bass drum, e905 on snare top and bottom, e908D condensers on toms, and KM 184s on hats, ride, and overheads.


    For vocals, I use Sennheiser e935s set on two radio frequencies. I use one for the main center vocal, three wired on stage left and right, one for Robert Randolph, and one spare. The only other vocal mics are Jonny Lang’s KSM9 and a Shure Beta 57A for Keb’ Mo’. I really enjoy the e935s, as they give me everything I need and don’t pick up much stage volume. Room mics for the recordings are Neumann TLM 103s, stage left and right, and a matched pair of KM 184s in an XY pattern at the mixer.


    After all of the mic setup and patching, we were finally ready for sound check. Most artists showed up around 2 pm-ish, and I started with the Pro Tools-recorded show from the last Experience Hendrix show in May 2011 (using Virtual Soundcheck). The drums and basses came to life pretty quickly and then I got 15–25 minutes with each guitar player.


    I started by flattening out the EQ, then worked on each guitar channel for a few minutes until they started to sound like what each player was giving me from the stage. About 30 minutes into the sound check, I noticed that what the house engineer had done to the room had really tightened it up, and the decay time had shortened up by a massive amount. My nerves were slowly calming down (the jetlag was still a bit of a problem), so after a 3+ hour sound check, I got a quick bite to eat and had some time at FOH to go over the set list and program some snapshots for delay and reverb changes. Later, the crowd filed in—good crowd—a sold out 1,800 “sound baffles.”



    And then finally, show time! The first song is “Stone Free,” with Billy Cox on bass and lead vocal, Eric Gales on background vocal and guitar, Mato on guitar, and Chris "Wipper" Layton on drums. In one minute, all of my fears were gone with the mix sitting nicely, with good clarity and a nice round tone.



    As the three-hour show went on, it got better and better. By the encore of “Red House,” I felt really good about the first show in a large cave-like concert hall. No one died, and I got a few "Hey, good job soundman" compliments. The best praise I got was from my mentor and business partner Matt Elie, who gave me a big hug and said the sound gave him chills. So much for all of my worrying on the long flight in, the car ride, and first look at the room! To quote the great Tom Petty, "It's not supposed to be that good."


    Quack out!


    Also see

     • Part 1: Are You Experienced?



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  • Got VENUE? Solve Church Mixing Challenges with VENUE Tech Notes

    Whether you’re mixing large vocal groups, faced with acoustically challenging spaces, or looking for timesaving solutions to tackle common mixing tasks, we’ve got answers. Check out our series of VENUE Tech Notes, designed to help house of worship engineers successfully resolve common issues and achieve the best mixes possible, quickly and easily.


    Mixing Choirs with VENUE. Download PDF.




    Mixing Worship Vocal Teams with VENUE. Download PDF.




    Using VENUE Events to Streamline Workflows. Download PDF.



  • New team meets Sibelius’ UK community

    As part of Avid’s continued commitment to Sibelius and its community, head of development Bobby Lombardi and director of engineering Randy Fayan were in the UK this week to meet with customers, revealing plans for the product, its development and support.


    The guys, who were also joined by Sam Butler of Avid’s UK support team at Pinewood, held a series of positive meetings – with Audio Network at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, the Musicians’ Union, Music Producers Guild, British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and the Music Publishers Association. One key topic discussed was the benefit that would come from closely aligning Sibelius product development with Avid’s successful Pro Tools and Media Composer development teams.


    The visit marked the first stage of the new team’s plans to build on the existing relationships with Sibelius’ incredibly passionate UK user community. The team outlined the plans to engage with users more regularly, collect feedback and ensure that the community knows how devoted Avid is to the continued success of the product. Also, they explained the planned investment being made to the Sibelius line of products, as well as the series of upgrades recently announced.


    In addition to the UK visit, Avid is also delivering improvements to the Sibelius support structure - from feedback and development ideas from UK customers to becoming more visible and open to discussion through the Sibelius Blogs on Avid Community.


    As part of this initiative, the last 12 to 18 months’ worth of blogs from Sibelius blog - the independent site for users of the software - will be added alongside three new guest bloggers, David Tobin, John Hinchey, and Robert Puff. Bobby Lombardi will also be a regular contributor with blogs updated weekly from w/c 15 October with Sibelius, music composition or music notation related news and comment.


    Also, there will be an increase in communication on support and development from the Sibelius development team across online communities such as Sibelius Feedback Community (similar to our Pro Tools Feedback Community, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.


    If you have any further questions on Sibelius, please contact Bobby Lombardi, Avid audio product management.


    In other Sibelius news, Avid is currently running a promotion on Sibelius 7 upgrades, which are discounted by 25% until 31 December.


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  • Are You Experienced?

    Greetings from the 2012 Experience Hendrix tour. I’m Sean Quackenbush, the FOH and recording engineer, and this is my fifth EH tour. When not on the road with EH, I can usually be found with pedal steel guitar player Robert Randolph & the Family Band.


    So Avid asked me to write a blog about the EH tour... Let me be honest up front: I wasn't the best student. I have been playing with audio from the time I was 11 years old. I spent more time in junior high and high school playing with makeshift PA systems that were older than I was! Needless to say, English and grammar are not my strongest features (as my wife often reminds me).


    On one of the greatest albums ever made, Jimi Hendrix asked, "So, are you experienced?" As a soundman, I think, sure! I’ve been on the road and mixing for 15+ years, in some of the best halls all over the world, and have worked with some of the greats! But Jimi Hendrix is a name that everyone knows, with music that everyone knows, and a guitar tone that everyone knows... Your parents know it, we know it, and generations going forward will know it! In an age where most musicians’ careers are over by the time they are in their early twenties, Jimi still lives. And to any musician or music fan, he is it—the guitar god... The man who changed EVERYTHING!



    For anyone who saw Hendrix (and can remember), I am jealous! That being said, patrons of the Experience Hendrix tour have the highest expectations of how the show needs to sound, which is a lot of pressure. We all know the records... Axis: Bold As Love, Are You Experienced, Band of Gypsys, and, of course, Electric Ladyland. These recordings still hold up to the test of time with new generations discovering Jimi's music everyday.


    I first heard Jimi in my father's woodshop as kid helping my dad. It was on one of those old record players that you would stack the records up and, as one record finished, another would drop. Right in the middle of Bob Dylan and Harry Chapin, this record would come on and mess you up. “Purple Haze” to an 8-year-old was like nothing I had ever heard before, and hearing dad talk about seeing him at the Aerodrome when he was in high school was the just the coolest thing ever. It was like I had joined a special club that only a few cool people were in. But I digress...


    Back to the sound thing...


    The patrons of the Experience Hendrix tour are from across the board—people who saw Hendrix, kids, guitars fans, musicians—just the widest extreme of folks you have ever seen. All with one thing in mind: to get experienced! So I am equipped with my usual tools of the trade…


    My Nerd Tech stuff:


    1. My trusty Avid VENUE Profile System (my go-to axe choice)

    2. A large box of microphones (many makes and models, but several by Sennheiser)

    3. My Pro Tools|HD 3 system (running Pro Tools HD 8.1, because I’m still on an old Power Mac G5)

    4. Smaart System (I am on PA of the day for this run)



    New for the 2012 tour:

    Waves plug-ins and a new friendship and mentor in Eddie Kramer. Yep, Eddie Kramer! For those of you know who Eddie is, cool! For those of you future engineers and mixers who aren't familiar with his work, I suggest taking a look at his Wiki page credits and prepare to cry. Eddie not only made all of those classic Jimi albums, but he was also one of Jimi's closest friends. Eddie is one of the reasons that I started doing sound, and is a true hero of mine.


    As a sound man, Eddie is one of the greatest resources I could have. I may not have Jimi physically here with me to let me know how he feels about the sound, but I do have Eddie to give me tips on how these records were made to somewhat re-create the sound in a live situation. In my opinion, I’m not sure if you would want to, or even be able to, completely re-create perfection. But that's the best part of live audio—it's happening right now and there are no second chances!


    The other big thing that I should point out is that this is a tribute tour. We may not have Jimi, Noel, Mitch, or Buddy, but this is where it gets cool. We have Billy Cox, who was not only in the Band of Gypsys and played that incredible Woodstock set, but he grew up with Jimi and served together in the Army.


    As for the rest of the line-up, here is just a sample of who else is playing on the tour:

    Chris Layton, Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Jonny Lang.


    As you can see, we have a great group of musicians as part of this tribute. If the tour is coming to a city near you, I would definitely recommend coming to check it out! Tune in next time for a report of the first show of the tour.




    Also see

     • Part 2: Are You Experienced?


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  • Avid’s Commitment to Sibelius


    Dear Sibelius Community,


    I’ve been following closely the outpouring of concern on forums and social media about Avid’s commitment to Sibelius. It’s clear that many people are deeply worried about the future development of the application given that Avid has announced plans to close the Finsbury Park office, subject to employee consultations, where the majority of the development had taken place.


    There is nothing more important to our success as a company than the passion and commitment of our users, so I hope an explanation of our decision can help increase your understanding as we make this transition.


    First and foremost, I want to personally give my assurance that Avid is deeply committed to developing Sibelius moving forward. Our plan is to integrate Sibelius development more closely with the rest of Avid's audio development teams in California, and I’m confident we can leverage our innovative development teams and continue to raise the bar in the future.


    We understand that music professionals worldwide have come to rely on Sibelius, and we fully intend to continue to develop and innovate the software line. We are very aware that this community has a special relationship with the Sibelius development team, and that relationship is just as important now as it ever was. We plan on working closely together with the professional community of Sibelius users to develop the world’s best notation program.


    I know that the passion currently being expressed by users is a testament both to the hard work and to the dedication of the Finsbury Park development team. We soon hope to be able to share more specifics as we continue with the transition. We appreciate everyone's patience until we are able to make those announcements.


    I look forward to reading your comments, and for your continued support moving forward. We are committed to earning your continued respect with every future release of Sibelius.




    Martin Kloiber
    VP, Product & Solutions, Audio
    Avid Technology, Inc.


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  • Dear Sibelius Community

    You may have recently read about the sale of M-Audio—Avid’s consumer audio brand—to inMusic. Our press release announcing the news states “Avid will concentrate on core markets where its deep domain expertise, track record of technical innovation, and strong brand offer the greatest opportunity for success.” It’s important to note, music notation software is firmly seated among those areas of concentration at Avid. That’s why the Sibelius brand and product family remains with Avid.

    In addition to the M-Audio news, you may have also heard that our office space in Finsbury Park (UK) is being closed down. This office closing is part of Avid’s larger strategic reorganization, and while it does impact members of the Sibelius team, we’d like to stress that this should not in any way be considered a diminishment in our commitment to Sibelius.

    We’re very proud of the innovative features found in Sibelius 7 as well as Sibelius First. I’m personally looking forward, as well as our professional audio product & solutions team, to serving your music notation needs, including composition, publishing and music education.

    Thank you Sibelius community—you make us great! And it would be great to hear from you. We’re listening, add your feedback as a comment on this blog post, or email us directly at [email protected]. Also, be sure to connect with our Sibelius experts on Facebook as well as our Help Center forums.




    Martin Kloiber
    VP, Product & Solutions, Audio
    Avid Technology, Inc.


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  • Real Amps Cranked

    If you’re reading this blog, then most likely you love the sound of a cranked guitar amp pushed into that sweet spot of power tube distortion and speaker breakup. At least I sure do! When I started working on the Eleven amp models, it was very enlightening to hear the isolated raw sounds from actual vintage guitar amps, because I was mostly used to hearing the mixed and processed guitar sounds on records. Sure I owned a Boogie Studio .22 combo amp, but even those measly 20-something watts were plenty loud to get the neighbors or police banging on my door, so rarely did I venture beyond preamp distortion territory.


    I found that much of lore surrounding these vintages tube amps is true. They actually do have ghost notes, swirl, speaker breakup, sag, and various other “grungies”, which are not necessarily obvious when listening to the produced sound on a record. When listened to in isolation it’s amazing how much more grunge is actually audible.  But I would say all of this contributes greatly to the character of these amps.  I also spent quite a bit of time listening to raw guitar tracks extracted from Guitar Hero-type video games. When listening to the isolated tracks sometimes I thought the sound was a bit harsh and thin, but I was often blown away by how awesome the tone was when I unmuted the backing tracks. It’s amazing what a difference context makes.



    I would guess that these days, many guitarists have never heard the raw unadulterated sound of a cranked vintage tube amp, so I thought it would be helpful to post some audio clips of our vintage amp collection. At our Avid offices, we have a pretty good studio setup with excellent sound proofing, so cranking amps is no problem. Keep in mind that these clips have the amps mostly set to 10 for maximum distortion, and no attempt was made to dial in “good tone”. Unless you are Eddie Van Halen and like everything on ten, these clips more illustrate how not to set your amp. :) But they really do show off quite clearly what these amps are capable of. Also, these clips don’t use exactly the same mic positions we used for the Eleven modeling, so if you do a comparison with Eleven it’ll be a bit apples-to-oranges. Maybe in a future blog we will do some real A/B tests, but that takes a little more work to set up.  All of the following clips are as straight as they come—guitar signal into amp into mic with no effects or other processing applied.


    I’ll start out with our AC30. This amp was a former coworker’s who, over the years, owned six AC30s. This one was his favorite. You can definitely hear the speaker breakup in these clips. And in the first clip especially, you can hear what is often referred to as “swirl”, which is a phasey, fuzzy distortion for lack of a better description. Also, another good example of a massively overdriven AC30 is Sex Type Thing by Stone Temple Pilots.  If you get a chance to listen to the isolated tracks (from the Rock Band video game), you can even hear the amp "drop out" a couple times, apparently due to power supply sag.






    In this clip, we really tortured a poor old Tweed Bassman. Not sure I would ever want to drive this amp so hard, but we had fun trying. The amount of speaker breakup, swirl and just plain grunge is over the top. I added another version with less gain, which maybe is a little more realistic use case.





    Next up is a Blackface Deluxe. The first track really shows off swirl and speaker breakup. For the rhythm guitar track, I added another version with less gain for comparison.  






    These Plexi tracks have it all going on. You can hear ghost notes in the lead guitar track (especially at 2 seconds). Ghost notes sound like an out-of-tune note mixed in at a low level. This is caused by modulation from the power supply’s 50/60 cycle hum. Also, listen for sag, swirl, and speaker breakup. Other obvious examples of heavily overdriven Plexi amps are AC/DC's Let There Be Rock (available as isolated tracks on the Rock Band video game), and of course Guitar Hero Van Halen edition has tons of great examples.  Pearl Jam’s Alive (available on Rock Band) is also another amazing example.





    Being a more modern amp, the JCM800 has a lot less in the way of speaker breakup, sag, and ghost notes. Very interesting to compare with the Plexi.





    In this Tweed Deluxe clip, I mainly hear speaker breakup.  Neil Young’s Rockin' in The Free World is great example of a heavily distorted Tweed Deluxe.



    And now for one last clip, which is of a Blackface Twin. This amp has a lot more headroom than most amps of its day, so it doesn’t distort nearly as much though it's set to 10.






    PS: The audio samples in this post are available to download as .WAV files for the highest sound quality.


  • From Student to Professional (Part 4)


    “Movies are made in the editing room”


    In Parts 1-3 of this blog series, I discussed how Fixation matured into a much larger project than I had anticipated, and some of the struggles that we encountered while filming and starting postproduction. Part 4 will go into more detail about the postproduction process and how re-recording mixer Jon Greasley and music composer Paul Cristo helped me to fine tune the film.



    Once all of the footage had been imported, it was extremely intimidating to look at all of the video thumbnails that represented the hours and hours of footage. I figured the best way to start editing would be to jump into a sequence that I knew would be a big part of the film: the interview and freestyle riding with the members of the bike shop iMinusD. Located in San Jose, iMinusD specializes in freestyle fixed gear riding and is one of the largest distributers in California. I wanted this section of the film to feel young and up-beat; riding freestyle fixed gear tends to attract a younger crowd, and I wanted to edit this sequence with some hip-hop, quick cuts and with the juxtaposition of the pre-interview. The interview inside the bike shop is supported with some intense music to make the audience feel as if what was coming would be serious and thrilling. Then when the riding began, I switched gears to an upbeat and fun hip-hop track. This part of the film is actually the original edit; it was never changed and ended up making it to the final cut. The crew and classmates actually got together at the end of that week for a pre-screening and a first glimpse at my “Cinematic, intense, beautiful, exciting, and artsy” vision. The sound of, “Oh, that’s what you meant” arose from the audience—the mixture of composed string music and freestyle fixed gear riding isn’t something you see every day.



    Fixation is not just about one style of fixed gear cycling; the film follows: messengers, bike polo players, Olympic athletes, city riders, freestyle trick riders, and regular people who just ride their bikes for pleasure. With each section, I wanted the different cyclists to have a unique feel; I wanted the music and the editing to match their style and personality, both individually and as a representation of the city where they ride. A great example of this is the sequence with John Gabriel. He rides throughout L.A. as if he is the only one on the road. While filming, John rode through the busy traffic and streets lights with such ease, and I wanted to portray that with the music, video edits, and sound fx. It seems that the most affective piece was what Jon Greasley and I came up with for his SFX and atmosphere noise. Because John rides as if nothing is around him, I wanted it to sound the same way that it looked: with a light hum, the simple sound of wind gusts, the swooshing effects as he rode by cars, and most importantly the sound of his pedaling. The traffic noise, people talking, and cars honking was all turned down to make the audience hear the experience the way that John sees it.


    Jon Greasley and I met while working on a project for Avid Students. We were both hand-picked from the L.A. Film School to do a project with Avid for the NAMM convention that was held in Anaheim (along with Director of Photography Justin Gamboa). I quickly realized how strong Jon’s passion was for sound mixing, and how his reputation had grown throughout the L.A. Film School. We got along well during the Avid project and once we returned to L.A., I asked him to join the Fixation team. His commitment went beyond the project’s original finish date and he put in so much of his own personal time to make sure that it ended up perfect. He fixed audio interviews, managed all of the sound fx, mixed and really added some great personality to the film. I had never planned for so much post work, with sound or music. I honestly don’t know of anyone else that I could have trusted with this film, and am grateful to have brought Jon on board as the re-recording mixer.


    Now returning to the editing process; when it came time to edit the section with the velodrome, I was torn because I wanted to cover it as a live event; I wanted there to be a competition with a final winner, but the events and footage that were shot just did not support that approach. So instead, I tried to take the audience into this competitive world of velodrome racing by adding a scored piece of music by Paul Cristo. Paul Cristo was recommended to me by cyclist John Gabriel and is someone that I don’t know what I would have done without. I searched endless websites for scores that I thought could fit the film, but found nothing that even compares to the abilities of Paul. I’m a huge fan of film scores, which also makes my taste very particular and apparently expensive. It was a privilege to work with a composer on a film that I had directed, to not only communicate with him how I wanted the film to feel, but also to have him express those feelings with music. I had so many big-name composers floating through my mind as inspiration, and what Paul did with the small amount of time and a small budget was amazing.


    Paul created a score for the velodrome influenced by former sports movies, in scenes of: desperation, winning goals, and game-time struggles. The focus and determination you see in the cyclists’ eyes told a story of competition and determination. We didn’t need a podium to know that these guys were giving it 100%; there is so much excitement seeing the pack of riders staying close, pedaling together, and competing. I didn’t focus on any particular cyclist, or even go into detail about who won the races—this section was about the amount of work, skill, respect, and strength that goes into velodrome racing.


    As I mentioned before Justin Gamboa worked with me as an additional editor on the film. I often turned to him for input and even asked him to put his own style into a section, ensuring that everything was kept fresh and exciting. He put in so many more hours than he had originally anticipated, and with all the set backs there was no way that I could have had this film done without him.


    I knew I wanted to create a 20-minute version of the film, to meet the deadline for graduation. There was no way that the 40-minute version could be completed in time, and I wanted my friends and family to know why my wife and I left them all to live out this dream. I didn’t want them to watch a clip or trailer; I wanted to have enough done so that they could get a sense of the amount of passion and dedication that I had put into this film. I edited practically every day in efforts to make sure this happened, and the screening and graduation went better than I could have imagined. The look on my parents’ faces, and the expressions of friends was that of, “we knew you could do it, and now I know why you moved out here.” After graduation, I continued to film and edit for 3 more months. I would edit back at school or even from my living room. Most of the L.A. portion was edited during countless 10pm-5am sessions—for some reason my motivation and creativity strived during these hours. Because I continued to make the film after graduation, I decided that I did not have to categorize Fixation specifically as a “student film;” this is why in some festivals Fixation was accepted as a student short documentary, and in others it was classified as just a short documentary.


    In Part 5, I will talk about the finalization of the film, what I did with the various screenings and festival submissions, and the film’s signing with producing rep company Circus Road Films.




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  • From Student to Professional (Part 3)


    You can’t make a documentary without a team.


    Parts 1 & 2 discussed how Fixation began as a short film to be shot in a single weekend, but then developed into a much larger project, consisting of 17 shoot days and a 40-minute final product. The crew members were all new filmmakers, trying to make a film that went beyond a simple graduation screening.



    Everyone that came on board this film was told from day one, “I want this to be more than a project that we show to our friends and family. I want this to be a cinematic outlook on this form of cycling, while displaying the cities as beautifully as possible.” Immediately following that statement, I would have to comment on how we had no money; none of us had ever made a documentary before, and this would also be my directorial debut. On that same note, many who saw the trailer for Fixation automatically assumed that I was part of the culture and that I just wanted to make a cool video with my cyclist friends. Clearly, that is not the case. Fixation is a true documentary that allows the audience to discover what these individuals are all about, something that I was able to also discover while making this film. I had no agenda to exploit fixed gear cycling, but instead to explore it and do so without the overpowering negativity that I had seen toward the culture in recent years. Fixation was never meant to be “hardcore” or to display how crazy cyclists can be; this documentary is about the people who ride, why they ride and why it has become such a large part of their lifestyle.


    Now, back to getting the crew to be a part of this project. It is true that everyone in our class had to participate in a project to meet the requirements for graduation, but I never felt that any of my crew members were there to put in the “required” time. Everyone that worked on Fixation believed that they were helping make a project that they would enjoy watching themselves, while providing their skills both collectively and creatively. The film school requirements were as follows: to work a set number of hours, within a 50 mile radius of Hollywood, and on a thesis that would shoot for 4 days. Fixation shot for 17 days, in 5 cities (Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Long Beach) and stretched over 350 miles along the California coast. Some cities we shot with full crews of 7, while others were shot individually (i.e. Santa Cruz, which consisted of myself, my camera and Nick Hart).


    While filming Fixation, the crew drove countless hours up and down California; we slept in hostels, crammed into my parents’ house in Livermore, and drove through L.A. traffic on a motorcycle. The hard work was also being done for no income or profit, and the crew even contributed some of his/her own money to see that everything would get accomplished. You can’t make a good documentary without a good team and people that are willing to give it their best for the project— the Fixation crew did just that. I knew once we had graduated there would still be so much editing, promoting, marketing and most importantly producer duties, left for myself to handle. I was determined, however, and would do the tasks willingly to make sure that the film didn’t just end up sitting in a box in my apartment where no one could see everyone’s hard work and efforts.



    After all of the struggles and learning curves amongst the crew and filming a documentary, the film still needed to be edited. Well, in addition to being very poor at watching dallies, I had not transferred any of the footage to MFX media files--an open file format Avid editing systems use to store audio, video and metadata. Justin Gamboa and myself prepped two Avid Media Composer Nitris DX machines to start editing Fixation as soon as we thought the filming had been completed. The first two weeks of the editing process were rough. Alongside the importing came computer crashes in our lab, hard drive failures due to computer ejecting malfunctions, and RED footage corruption because of the Beta RED Cine-X program. Media Composer is so well designed however that even though the computers had their own issues, the software allowed us to re-link, batch capture and make it relatively simple to restore files and get our sequences back up and running. I woke up at 6 AM and left the editing bay no sooner than 7 PM each day that the footage was being imported. And if the security guards would let me, some nights I stayed even longer.


    During one memorable session, my hard drive would not eject properly, and I finally had to just physically remove it; well, this caused the hard drive to crash—completely. This is an exact case of what not to do; do not wait until the project is “all finished” before you start importing the footage. This crash cost me 4 days of importing. Had I done it periodically throughout the shoots, I could have saved myself those two weeks of just watching an import status bar go across my screen. Remember, this was my biggest project at the time, so dealing with this much footage was a new endeavor. Once everything had finished importing, we had over 2 terabytes of MXF files for Fixation, and most of this I had never seen before. With a ridiculous shooting schedule, side work and school, I never found the time to sit and watch every second of the footage until this moment. It was extremely intimidating to start watching and so many questions were floating in my head: What if the story I thought we captured wasn’t really described in the footage? What if it looks bad? We had shot so many different people in so many locations, what if it all just looked the same and everyone said the same thing?


    As I started watching the footage, I realized how many hours it was going to take just to simply filter through what was usable, what interview materials I could use to capture the film’s vision, and what simply needed to be tossed out. This is exactly how the editing started: with bins of footage that I felt told the story and footage that did not.


    The first big thing that I realized during the editing process was that I had filmed some interviews with single speed freewheel cyclists, not fixed gear. Originally I was going to use it to compare and contrast between to the two styles, but ultimately the footage just did not support the argument. The lack of passion and explanation from the characters or people that I met forced me to eliminate the interviews with cyclists that road freewheels. Though it was difficult to make the decision to throw out so much material, it was also at this moment that Fixation turned into a documentary about fixed gears—not in preproduction or while filming, but rather in the first week of editing. I made the decision that the story I wanted to tell was not as strong with free wheel section included. Along the way, many scenes would get cut, some interviews would only get sounds bites, and perfectly good cyclist shots through the city of LA would get tossed. In the end, I used the footage that brought the most insight and information to the audience.


    Part 4 of this blog will discuss the rest of postproduction and how I continued to edit Fixation while working as a professional editor, post graduation (where there were no more time restrictions or deadlines). Also, I will go into detail about working with re-recording mixer Jon Greasley and music composer Paul Cristo.




    Also check out the trailer:


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