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Bring in the Noise
by Thad Brown
YO, HOW MANY BITS YOU GOT PUNK?
The big buzz these days in the world of audio software is 24-bit audio recording and mixing. It seems everybody is announcing 24-bit versions of their programs and support for 24-bit files in their effects. In a sure sign that this trend is for real a few of these programs (sit down before reading this) are actually SHIPPING. The big boys in this particular sandbox are, not surprisingly, the two long term high end companies, Digidesign (mostly mac) and Mark of the Unicorn (mac only). Digi started 24-bit support with version 4.1 of Pro Tools, and Digital Performer 2.4 (get it?) is now shipping with 24-bit audio standard. Opcode and Steinberg promise 24-bit upgrades soon, and more editors are jumping on the bandwagon.
The interesting thing about this is that there is still no even vaguely economical way to get a 24-bit audio file other than record a 16 bit file in an app that will do some DSP and export it as a 24-bit file. 24-bit analog to digital converter still cost as much as a car, and a better car than I have ever owned, mind you. Digidesign and Apogee both make 8 channel 24-bit A/D converters that cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and a few companies have digital only cards (mostly PC only, but notable exceptions out by Lucid and Sonorus) but you still have to get your analog signal to 24-bit digital audio, and I haven't seen any cheap way to do that yet.
MOVIE SOUND: OBSERVATIONS
An ill advised choice at the video store left me with a copy of "Mimic" in the VCR last night. In case you missed this particular piece of cinimatic majesty, it's about a bunch of genetically mutated cockroaches that had been living in the subway tunnels of New York City since they were put there by bug expert Mira Sorvino. When they were put there they were real little and were supposed to die out quickly, but now they are like eight feet tall and doing REALLY gross stuff to unsuspecting people in the subway tunnels. This got me to thinking, which one of the following is too terrifying to face:
OK, seriously, this has something to do with audio and macs. A good deal of audio work done on macs that is NOT multi-track music production can be loosely termed "sound design." Incidental film music and sound effects are a big part of that, and much of what they do is the most "computer" audio there is. It's "computer" in that it is not made to sound like something in nature, but has to sound like things that nobody has ever heard. Picture yourself going to work as a film sound designer, you sit down in front of your snazzy G3 (and you almost certainly would be working on a mac) with tons of sample libraries, synths, synth programs, and other sound gear. Some producer guy with a pony tail and a receding hairline sits down across from you and says, "OK babe, you're in subway tunnel, right? It's a subway tunnel in New York, right. Now, there's this giant mutated cockroach, I mean huge, like eight feet tall, weighs 300 pounds. OK, now the cockroach is attacking, killing, and eating this twelve year old kid, right? What's that gonna sound like?" That's what lots of mac audio professionals do all day.
Next time you are at a movie, take a few minutes and try to concentrate on just the sound, not the music, but the real and "fake" sounds used in movies.
My original post talked about Reality, a PC only sofware synth. It is a new and different critter, but those of you interested in mac software synths should ckeck out the very cool Metasynth and a new software synth from Bitheadz the AS-1. The Meta has an amazing GUI and supports a number of synthesis methods, and the Bithead synth looks like a very attractive old analog synth emulator for those big fat dance bass lines and such.
MORE BAD SOFTWARE NEWS
Ilio is a great sound library and sample CD vendor. Their "Heart of Africa" CD is a favorite and well used sample library in my Powerbase. Recently, they have been pushing a new app called "The Groovemaker" which looks like real cool dance/drum loop generator. The GUI is incredibly modern and unique, which I have really enjoyed in the PC demo I downloaded. I PAID for this thing for the mac when it came out and was told that it would be "two weeks" until the mac version shipped, the PC version was shipping then. That was a few months ago. The sales folks have been very apologetic and answered all my emails quickly, but it's sad to see that they are sufficiently unconcerned about the mac market that it hasn't arrived a few months later.
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