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Tag: sound


I rarely post any cinema experience here, but now I have to. I saw Dunkirk the other day and was thoroughly impressed with it. For many different reasons but obviously my main focus is almost always the sound.

First, let me confess, although I’m an overly sound obsessed person, I still think that certain moments in the movie are hurtingly loud. But this is the only negative thing I can say. The whole mix is exceptional and in my opinion the score is just fantastic.

Here’s a short video that explains a sound illusion called the Shepard tone.

While this of course enhances the experience and really makes everything more intense, let’s be honest, it’s a film. So this works as a whole. Film making is an art that comprise of many many different creative minds coming together to create something huge. The Shepard tone alone wouldn’t make much difference. However, used properly it’s just the right thing to use.

I also suggest to read this article in Business Insider: Christopher Nolan explains the biggest challenges in making his latest movie ‘Dunkirk’ into an ‘intimate epic’

I really recommend everyone to go and watch this. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, but still, it’s a masterpiece.

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Upgrading acoustics

If you ask any serious acoustician, she/he will tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect room. It just simply does not exist. There are too many variables involved, so even if you really start from scratch, hire the best of the best, and build your own place, it may be the most precise in the whole World, but it probably won’t be absolutely perfect.

Our studios are very well designed and treated, however, during the years we still find minor things that bother us, which might be corrected. Of course there is our B chain processing, but it is much better to solve all possible issues at the source, with the help of proper acoustic treatment, and use the B chain processing do as small as possible.

During the last and this busy year we’ve been gathering all our pet peeves about the rooms we mix in, and the time has come to consult a real professional. We’ve measured and tried to correct smaller problems ourselves, but there are a number of things that truly needs professional assistance.

Bruel Kjaer sound source
Bruel Kjaer sound source

Today the professional team visited our studios and made thorough measurements in many spots in all the rooms, measured near-field, mid-field, far-field and speaker responses. After they gathered all the necessary data, now they’re back in their trusty labs and drawing boards to come up with solutions which won’t break our budget, but hopefully solve the remaining issues.

Proper acoustic treatment is never really cheap, however, with a real professional you might end up with many cheaper trick that really works instead of your half-baked ideas that might cost you more without real result.

Our issues centred around the low area, 70 to 90Hz and around the 250Hz area. The surround room has the chance to be the “almost perfect” room, the others can become fantastic rooms too, but require a bit more work (and money of course).

The real world test for me is always the successful mixes I can produce in a room. With successful I mean the quality of translation to the outside world, be it cinema, tv, radio or earbuds. The other important thing is how accurate the monitoring in the room. Can I hear the difference in plugins? Does the small pan or other parameter changes clearly audible both in stereo and surround? Does it show the smaller but compression or noise reduction artefacts? If a big YES is the answer, then I’m a happy mixer.

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You gotta love live sound

You have to love it for various reasons. Although many have a love-hate relationship with it, there are many things we can learn from it, and it’s even more true if we are partly working in it. Of course I’m somewhat biased because although in full time I’m a post-production engineer I continue to work in live sound in a freelance basis. I gathered some of my experiences that may help post guys in achieving better results, because like it or not, although it is vastly different from post work it is still an adjacent industry working with sound.

You won’t find many similarities in these jobs but I’m certain that each can learn a few things from the other, even if someone really hate live sound. Probably these profoundly different workflows and situations give the real means that can help us to develop very useful skills in the other part of the industry.

Make decisions and stick to them

Probably the biggest advantage one can learn from some live sound work is how to make decisions in tough environments. Amidst the often frantic tempo of live sound gigs you simply won’t have time to contemplate on things. Your aim is to rapidly find the best solution even if you don’t have all the necessary information, even if the information you have is not accurate or not detailed enough. No one will wait for your well thought-out plans, and if you don’t want to make many people furious, you should really try hard to put things into the proper order.
But wait, how can I make such good decisions if the information I get is inaccurate?
Well, that’s the hard part which gets better if you gain more and more experience but only if you really pour yourself into the process. The plan don’t have to be dead accurate, but must be plausible.

The point is to learn to make serious decisions based on very incomplete information. How is it helping you in the post world?

It helps you to be very focused yet still very open minded about the upcoming problems you might encounter for example during a mix session. Obviously you won’t always have the right answer for the given problem, but as you gradually getting better in this decision making process, your success rate will go up.

Adopt, adapt and improve

Just as the famous scene from Monthy Python. I know it may sound confusing, but you have to be able to drop your plan at the right moment. I know that a few lines above I just suggested to make a decision and stick with it, and it’s true. But it’s equally important to develop your 6th sense and realise if something is not working or won’t work, so you need another solution. In this scenario if you cling to the wrong plan, you can ruin your chances very quickly. It’s really a double-edged sword. On one hand you need to make decisions and try to stick to them, on the other hand you should never forget the possibility that you might have chosen the wrong path. In this case the best solution is to throw out your bad plan, and as quickly as possible, choose another solution which would seem to work in the given situation.

I know it’s a bit vague, maybe even daunting, but in reality it’s not rocket science. If I want to really simplify this I would say: learn to be sober in frantic situations and learn to recognise and correct your own mistakes. That’s it. In my experience live sound is a very good learning field for this.

However quick shouldn’t mean rushed. When you’re in a tough situation which need to be solved immediately and you surrounded by sleep deprived, testy, nervous people, try to stay calm and focused. It’s easier to say than to do it, but again, with some practice you’ll become better at this. How can this really be any help in the post world?

In my experience every director, sound supervisor, etc. become more confident in your work if you remain calm and constructive even amongst the biggest challenges. Obviously this does not mean that you don’t care, quite the opposite: you must care enough to develop this skill so you can solve, or at least suggest possible solutions for the given problems.

Don’t afraid to fail

Again, live sound is probably the perfect training ground for this. Anyone who did many shows know that sometimes we fail. Maybe we have a very bad day, or the PA is horrible, or the venue is a nightmare and you don’t have enough time for soundcheck. At some point in your path, you’ll fail. The show will go on, you’ll feel very bad about it, but I suggest you to get used to it, or at least don’t be afraid of failing. This is very important. It’s never about your own ego. It’s about the gig, show, film, fx, production, etc. If you’re not willing to leave your ego at the door, than you’ve chosen the wrong industry doesn’t matter if it’s live or post sound.

No matter how big cliche: learn from your mistakes or fails. The question is not that how can you eschew any mistake, but how you treat them or what you learn from them. Honesty is the best here. Even if someone ridicules you for it. The worst possible strategy is try to hide, deny your fault or try to lay the blame on somebody else.

“My ego comes pre-shrunk”
Randy Thom

Be fast

Learn to be a fast pace operator. In order to efficiently solve problems or able to do a full sound check rapidly, you need to be technically prepared. If you struggle with the console, constantly adjust the wrong channel because you forgot to select the right one, you’ll be in a very bad position. This is very, very important in post production too. Learn the tools. If the equipment you try to use is an obstacle, then you need more practice. I realise that no one can know everything, but as in every job, there are basics, special workflows, shortcuts, general system knowledge. If you lack at some areas here, try to improve them “offline”. Even if it seems bitterly boring, practice even basic things until you feel that you would execute the task no matter what may happen around you.

It’s like language. If anyone try to learn a foreign language, there is a point where the person’s active vocabulary is smaller than the passive one. So while I understand an article for example, cannot eloquently tell the story to others, because my active vocabulary lacks. What should I do then? Practice, practice and practice. It’s the same in the audio world. Simply put, it’s not enough if you heard about Pro Tools, you must be able to operate it. And you won’t be able to operate it properly if you only tried it once or twice.

Remember it’s fun

Never ever forget that this job is tremendous fun. Really! Despite all the hard things, all the sleep deprivation and long hours. Consider these things:

  • you always learn new things
  • meet new people (clients, colleagues)
  • work on funny, serious, evocative, good, etc. material
  • you can be creative (actually you must be!)
  • always challenged so you won’t be ever bored

These are just a few highlights because there are so many it would fill multiple long blog posts. Grit is what makes you better day by day. Stick with the upcoming problems, put effort into the solutions and it will be good fun and a real good learning experience too. At least in my opinion of course.

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iOS apps for us, sound obsessives

I would like to recommend a few very useful iOS apps which helps me tremendously in many situations be it live or post production work. I assume I’m not the only one who use clever little apps in his workflow. In case you know some other, suggestions are always appreciated.


This is one of my very favourite one. It is a very serious tool with lots of options and possibilities. It is made by StudioSixDigital. There is a base app, and if you need more you can buy things inside the app through in-app purchase. SPL meter, acoustical analysis tools, speaker tests, generator, audio calculator and many more.

Obviously on its own, none of the iOS devices is good for serious measurements, but they are definitely good for some troubleshooting, and with some clever gadgets, they can indeed become more serious tools in our arsenal.

StudioSixDigital realised that these gadgets needs some help to really be helpful, so they decided to invent and manufacture some complementary device such as the new iTestMic. With this little microphone, you can perform quite serious measurements. Obviously it won’t outperform the most sophisticated instruments, but it is capable of doing very precise things.

The company ported the famous Smaart tools to iOS, and I have to tell you it is wonderful. Fast, reliable and very useable.

Live Toolkit

As the name suggests, it is more intended toward live sound applications. Made by Rockbaby, a very well thought out app which not only useful for sound guys, but for “light” guys too as it can show you the fixture sets, dmx address dip switch positions.

On the sound side, it provides a good converter for distance (meter-feet-ms-hertz), eq (bandwith-q), and weight (kg-lbs). The more sophisticated part is the ability to determine your limiter settings through speaker and amp parameters.

It is not an app packed with features, but still offer some very useful things, it’s fast and stable.

Backline calc

It is made by Audiofile Engineering, and as their reputation is high for a reason, this app won’t disappoint you either. One of my favourites actually as it is so useful.

What it does as a calculator:


  • note length
  • bar length
  • song length
  • beats to tempo
  • time to samples
  • compare tempos
  • change tempo
  • sum times
  • subtract times


  • note name to
  • midi note to
  • frequency to
  • wavelength to


  • frames to timecode
  • convert timecode
  • change timecode


  • compare power
  • compare voltage


  • distance to time
  • time to distance
  • SPL
  • panning


  • file size

In every function there are easily adjustable sliders, but with a double-tap, concrete values can be entered as well. The whole gui is very minimalist and very easy on the eye. If one thing I would like to be changed is to blend some calculation together, as sometimes it is harder to find the right calculator from the long list. But keep in mind that it is a free app!


Also made by Rockbaby, a very valuable app which helps to identify the safe frequencies for your wireless packs. Knows many devices, country regulations, you can define user groups, make different sets and save them for later reference.

I cannot count how many times I need an app like this during the summer festival season. Tuning the wireless sets to safe zones is very fast and easy with this little app. From this point on, you can check and/or retune your wireless mics or in-ear monitors after a few taps on your iPhone. It’s also comes very handy in theatre situations where we use many wireless equipment.


Today’s last app is also a very useful one in my opinion. MusicMath is a timecode calculator, a tap tempo utility, a length to delay to modulation calculator and a note-frequency-cents-midi calculator all in one little app. Made by Laurent Colson.

Touching the info (i) button anywhere in any calculator brings up the application’s help.

Every little built-in utility has some nice treat for the user. The timecode part has a history function, the tap tempo utility has a rounding function which can be handy, the delay part provides all the information you need after you’ve set the desired tempo and the note part provides different temperaments and diapason. Touching a note will play the note, so you can also hear the different tones.

You can have even more…

Of course the above ones are only a few recommendations which have been working for me exceptionally well, but as you know, the app store is full of applications like these. Before purchasing anything, I suggest to search the internet for information, reviews, and recommendations to be sure the chosen app will serve you in the long run. It is important even though these apps are very cheap for what they offer.

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Searching for the perfect handheld field recorder

I’ve been looking for the perfect hand-held field recorder for a few months now. I should define perfect. I know that there is no such thing as the perfect all-around field recorder. But for me, perfect would be that with low-noise, strongly built, good-sounding, stable. I know that the market is saturated with every kind of handheld recorders, so during my search, I’ve tried to test as much as possible. These are not thorough tests, some of them are more deep, some just a few minutes of playing with a candidate. Why handheld? This is the question I heard a thousand times already. Yes, I know a Sounddevices or Cantar, etc. with some high quality mics would be of higher quality altogether, but I think handhelds have strong advantages in many situations. As you live your life, both the personal and professional, I bet you like me, encounter fantastic sounds, but at that moment whether you don’t have the “big” recorders at your hand reach, or there would be no time for setting up a rig. This is even more true if you encounter the sounds in the personal life. I cannot always carry a complete mobile recording rig. It would be too big and not so convenient. While a handheld recorder can easily be carried around in my backpack without occupying too much space, and whenever I need it, there would be virtually no set up time needed, literally just point-n-shoot. These are the reasons why – this time – I need a handheld recorder. Of course quality still matters.

The candidates


The Zoom family:

I think I virtually tried all of them. Feature wise it would be hard to find more appealing offer. They come in every possible configuration, with multiple mics, with 4 track record capability, bigger and smaller, surround! version, etc. To be honest I was suspicious, because those tiny recorders offers so much that it’s almost impossible to believe. Specs tells you almost nothing, as every manufacturer in the market nowadays has pristine specs sheet, while in the real world we still get very different results from gear that seems almost identical on paper.

I was very excited to try any of these little things. My first “date” was with the H4N. After playing a few minutes with the unit, frankly I didn’t like it. It wasn’t bad at all, but I was disappointed by its build quality, and have found the menu very unwieldy to deal with. Remember, my aim is to grab the handheld out of my car or from my backpack, and start recording as soon as possible. Somehow the unit felt like a cheap plastic toy instead of a dependable sturdy recorder. I really tried to love it though, because the 4 track capability was so irresistible. I decided to give it a try sonically. This was the second time where I was displeased. This handheld is noisy. Even if you use the xlr inputs. It’s not that it’s unusable, but for me, it’s very disturbing. At first I thought maybe it’s only the headphone output, but later I’ve sadly found out that the noise is there on the recorded material. No matter how hard I tried to stay objective, the H4N is NOT for me.

The other models were better though. I really liked the small form factor, though when I tried to test them in different conditions, it turned out that the smallness here is danger factor. I almost dropped the tiny recorder more than once. Maybe it’s too small, or the plastic housing is slippy. After these causal tests I knew that these recorders are very affordable, but they are simply not for me.

What I liked about the Zoom family:

  • good price
  • amazing feature set

What I did not like in them:

  • flimsy built
  • noisy
  • inconvenient menu

The Tascam family

The second “family” I encountered was two nice Tascam units, the DR-2D and the DR-100 mkII. I met them with somewhat lowered expectations. After the first burst of tests with the Zooms I thought I might want things which are only exist in the bigger class of recorders like a Sounddevices. These two though surprised me. The layout of the units were much more friendly, I mean it is more likely my taste. Less clutter, less “fishing” in some menu, more focus on the recording. The build quality is better too. Even the smaller’s plastic case was better than the Zoom’s one. Specs, just as I’ve mentioned are almost the same so not really relevant. The smaller one is nice, but I need something more durable. The bigger brother looks fine, let’s try it! I tried it on a few sources, and again, the disappointment comes with the inherent noise. At this point I was considering another option, that is I am too sensitive to noise, maybe more than it’s healthy… 🙂 But the fact remain, it is noisy for me. That alone could kept me away from buy this unit, but then I saw that the price is higher compared to the other units I’ve tried. Not significantly, I would accept that if I’d be satisfied with the recorder.

What I liked in these units:

  • well built
  • more logical layout

What I didn’t like:

  • noise performance

The Sony family

These little so called tests were fine for one thing for sure. At this point I had a pretty good idea about the “perfect” handheld field recorder. Perfect for me of course. I was researching online reviews and tests and uploaded soundfiles. And after a few days, something caught my eye. Sony’s line of handheld recorders. Obviously the specs sheet was no different, but I didn’t expected to be. There are cheaper and more expensive options, so first I had to decide the price range. The biggest one, the Sony PCMD1 is out of range for more reasons. In my opinion it is too expensive for a handheld field recorder, and in fact that is so expensive that if you save a little more, you would be able to buy a Sounddevices recorder. And as I stated that for my needs now I need a handheld, I simply disqualified the D1 from my own little competition. Fortunately I’ve found many reviews about the other models. I could only try one of them, and frankly I really loved it. The build quality was fine, most of the controls are accessible on the front panel, so no need for inconvenient menus while you’re at THAT moment when you have to record, and the sound was fine. One thing I had to check though…you guessed right: the noise performance.

So, let’s hear the Sony PCM D50. One thing bothered me a bit. I heard that annoying noise through the headphones, but as I did my research, many wrote that the noise comes from the headphone amp, the recording is fine and not noisy. And that’s right, the recording is dead quite compared to the competition.

What I liked:

  • well built
  • quality materials
  • good sound
  • good noise performance

The negative:

  • a little too big
  • more expensive

Don’t want to bore you, I’ve ordered the Sony PCM-D50. As soon as it’s going to be here, I’ll write a follow-up about it.

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