Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fall In Love With Fall

The Guess Who sang,
"No time for a summer friend
No time for the love you send
Seasons change and so did I
You need not wonder why
You need not wonder why
There's no time left for you
No time left for you"

They were telling us that people's feelings change like the seasons and you'll often get left behind. In my head I know we've all got to come to grips with the fact that we can't control that. The seasons change, whether we want them to or not. Oh, I can stubbornly wear shorts and a t-shirt, but it's not going to stop the snow from falling. I can refuse to remove my ice skates, but the lake is going to melt anyway.

I know it, but I'm still the doofus who's always walking around in June with ice skates on. Silly me. One of these days I'll get it through my thick head, but for now I'm optimistic enough to think that if I keep them on long enough, the lake will freeze again.

(Confused yet? Don't worry about it. I never make sense at midnight.)

Seasons do change. Until I was an adult, I never really understood this concept. After all, growing up in Southern California, we never had seasons. Well, in all fairness, I guess we knew it was winter when we'd wake up and there'd be dew on the car windshields and we had to wear our windbreakers.

But it wasn't until I moved away that I saw the change of seasons. That's one of the things I've really loved about living in Oregon and Wyoming and now Indiana.

Of course, Cheyenne's got the reputation of having just two seasons: winter... and Frontier Days. But truth be told, I enjoyed many a spring day there. And certainly the three days of fall that happen before all the colorful leaves blow into Nebraska are quite lovely.

And it probably goes without saying that Oregon autumns are beautiful to look at.

But people, Indiana's got everybody beat when it comes to this time of year. My oh my, how I wish you could see what the last three weeks have looked like here.

I took some pictures today, but they're pitiful representations of the truely gorgeous color all around. I almost didn't post these because they just pale in comparison.

So do your best to imagine. And enjoy. I'm headed to bed.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Alrighty, folks. It's done. I've never had such a test as this. Grueling is the word that comes to mind. My arms are sore from typing, and my brain is numb. How did I do? It takes weeks to grade these things. There's 15 of us, and it's a pretty involved process. So I won't know for quite awhile. But overall, I would be surprised if I didn't pass with 80%, and it may even be closer to 90%.

My phone is off, and my computer will be disconnected from the internet for probably most of the weekend. If I do anything indoors, it's gonna be to make some music with all the cool new free software I got (the first five of the six things on this page) and use the Lexicon Omega I borrowed from work to record some guitar. I wouldn't bet on it, but it's always possible.

Talk to you in a few days, folks!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cram Chowder

Hi all...

A VERY quick hello to all, and to say "sorry" to everybody who's emailed, mailed, called, and texted in the last three days. I am very far behind, and spending a long night studying for tomorrow's huge test.

I finished my system design today. I'd publish it to impress you, but I don't want to be giving the answers out on the internet for the class who'll have to do it three months from now. Suffice it to say it is pretty involved... and now it's finally done. Yay!

There's so much more to learn and commit to memory tonight. I will think about trying to catch up by Sunday or Monday, but no promises. I'll definitely need some decompress time afterwards.

I'm pretty sure I'm one of only two guys in our 15-student class who's over 30. As you might expect, some of the guys plan to go out and get hammered in celebration. But as all of you know, that hasn't been my way for many's the mucho years. (A tip of the hat to my mom for coining "many's the mucho." What a great term!)

So, my decompression will probably consist of driving around, sleeping in, walking the dog, sitting under a tree, getting sun on my face, finding some new wonderful part of Fort Wayne I haven't see, etc.

What I really want to do is bring my camera out and get some shots of fall, which is approaching at a stunningly rapid pace. I can't even begin to describe the beauty here.

In summation, please don't be offended if you haven't heard from me personally by the time next week starts. I really don't want to be indoors much at all for three days. Now back to the books...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ack! Too Many Acronyms!

Hi all...

Well, the votes are in, and for the most part, people by and large don't want to hear too much about Sample Rate and Bit Depth and other stuff like that.

So, what I think I'm going to do fairly soon will be to split my blog into two. One will be for my personal life and happenings, and the other will be for gear reviews and concepts dealing with recording, live sound, music, etc.

This will not happen before Friday, 'cause that's when my big test is. If you're the praying type, please pray for me. It's pass/fail, and I've got to get at least 80% to pass. Too many people have told me, "Oh, you're smart. You'll do fine." Rest assured, having a good head on my shoulders is not going to make a bit of difference with this content. Many of these things are brand new concepts to me, and there's a bazillion acronyms to learn. TDM, DTS, USB, AIFF, VST, LFE, DAW, SMPTE, RTAS, DAC, EBU, AES, GSIF, ASIO, AC3, LSB, S/PDIF, THX, and VITC to name a few. (Do you know what they are? Answers at bottom.)

Last night, I memorized a list of plug-ins, since I missed a couple questions on the last quiz about them. In addition to knowing what they do and how they work, I also have to know which ones are Native and which are TDM. Otherwise, it's like selling Mac software to a Windows user. Nobody's happy and you end up looking like an idiot.

Anyway, since you're probably not interested in that stuff, there's not much else to say. My cupboards were bare so I went grocery shopping last night. Dakota is healthy. I looked in the mirror this morning and realized I really need some sun. The weekend is supposed to be clear and in the 70's, so I think he and I will spend our days investigating some of the local parks. Who knows? If I don't pass, we might be living in one of them soon... ;)

Alrighty, folks... Be well. Do good work. And keep in touch. (If you got that reference, you are a very special person in my book.)

Time Division Multiplexing
Digital Theater System
Universal Serial Bus
Audio Interchance File Format
Virtual Studio Technology
Low Frequency Effects
Digital Audio Workstation
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
Real Time Audio Suite
Digital to Audio Converter
European Broadcast Union
Audio Engineering Society
GigaSampler Interface
Audio Stream Input/Output architecture
AC-3 (better known as Dolby Digital)
Least Significant Bit
Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format
THX (standards from Lucasfilm)
Vertical Interval Time Code

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Just A Sample

I keep getting e-mails asking me what I'm up to. Well, I went to the assistant pastor's house today to have lunch and watch the Colts vs. Jets game. It really was a great game down to the last seconds. I've never seen anything like the final play: seven or eight lateral passes. It looked like a children's game of Keepaway. Hilarious, and very exciting.

I'm coming to grips with a lot of things, and realizing what my future does and does not contain. Life's doors are all ahead of me, with none behind left open. It feels tragic, but that's probably because I find comfort in predictability, and here there's none.

Other than that stuff, I'm studying like mad to pass next Friday's test. Since I learn things better when I prepare to teach them, I thought I'd write an essay on Sampling Rate, which contains many concepts I've had great difficulty in wrapping my brain around.

So, if you're interested, read on...

Sample Rate

A sample is a digitally recorded piece of audio. Samples are acquired by feeding audio signal into an analog to digital converter (A/D converter).

One of the biggest factors affecting the quality of the sample taken is the sampling rate. This is the number of times per second that the A/D converter captures the amplitude of the audio wave coming in. The faster the sampling rate is, the more accurate the digital representation of the audio wave will be. Increased sampling rates demand more processing speed and storage space while arguably offering no additional benefit, other than a higher frequency range.

Samples themselves do not carry frequency information. They merely capture the amplitude of a waveform at any given time. The rate at which the amplitude changes is what we hear as the frequency. It is analogous to the individual cells of a cartoon. None of them move, but as we are shown them one after the other, we perceive motion.

Since a human’s ear can only perceive frequencies up to about 20kHz (20,000 cycles per second), we really only have need to accurately sample up to that frequency. According to the Nyquist Theorem, the greatest frequency that can be captured is half of the sample rate. Therefore, an A/D converter operating at 44.1kHz will not be able to capture a frequency beyond 22.05kHz.

Any frequency above this which is fed into that A/D converter will begin to produce undesirable results, a problem referred to as “aliasing.” Therefore, it is necessary to filter out all frequencies above the Nyquist frequency.

This filtration is easier said than done. In a perfect world, we could have an audio filter that maintained perfect pass-through of every frequency below the Nyquist, and total rejection of every frequency above it. If this were possible, we would not need to extend the sampling rate of our A/D converters beyond 40kHz, twice the rate of human hearing. But because filters with gently sloping characteristics are much easier to create than filters with sharp cliffs, we utilize a higher standard of 44.1kHz. This is also why we have continued to extend sampling rates to 96kHz and even 192kHz.

Because sampling reads amplitude at moments in time rather than taking a continuous progression, we end up capturing a blocky, stair-step wave rather than a smooth, sinusoidal one like the original audio.

These tiny inaccuracies are eliminated when we turn the digital back into audio by using a reconstruction filter. This low-pass filter smooths the stair steps back into a continuous wave to reconstruct the original wave.

Note: This essay was edited a bit after consultation with my instructor.

Alrighty... Well, if you're still reading, you're either very technically-minded, or starved for decent reading material. I spared you the diatribe on bit depth. Maybe we'll cover that in a day or two... :)