Entries in advice (17)
In this 5 part series Robin Vincent helps those wanting to buy a Windows machine find the best machine for the job. In part 1 he looks at the heart of the Windows PC the processor, in this seconrd part he talks about the important consideration of noise in a recording studio.
It’s remarkable how much noise we’re prepared to put up with from our computers. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a machine room in which to stack up all the noisy gear then computer noise can be seriously detrimental to your creative environment, not to mention your state of mind. You don’t have to put up with it. If you need a system that’s going to give you every ounce of power then some noise may be inevitable but let’s look at ways in which we can minimise it so that ideally it sits somewhere below our studio noise floor.
There are three main sources of noise in a PC: cooling fans, PSU and hard drives.
You’ll find cooling fans on the CPU heatsink, often in the front and back of the case, and usually on the graphics card if you have one. The CPU is the hottest part of the system and so any cooling solution is designed to pull heat away from that area. This is usually some sort of metal heatsink on which is fixed a fast moving fan to pull the heat away or to blow cool air upon it. Case fans act as a way of bringing cold air in and blowing hot air out, ideally in a single direction. High performance graphics card have a GPU which also gets very hot and requires its own cooling. So that’s potentially a lot of fans trying to move air about as quickly as possible. The noise you hear is not that of the fan’s mechanism (if your fan squeaks then it’s time to replace it) but rather of the air being moved.
There are two factors that dictate the amount of noise a fan will make – size and speed. The smaller the fan and the faster the fan the louder the noise will be. Larger fins on a fan will move more air so you can use a 120mm fan running slower to move the same amount of air as an 80mm fan running faster. So, what you need to move the maximum amount of air with the minimum of noise are large, slow moving fans. There are all sorts of factors involved in fan design in terms of efficiency and noise but the key ones are rotation speed measured in RPM and airflow measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM).
If you are thinking of going it alone running your own studio or as a freelance engineer, or already have a new creative business, then I want to share with you the most valuable piece of business advice I was ever given.
It flies in the face of our get it fast culture we live in, but I can testify that this advice is true.
Here it is, write it down and don’t forget it.
“People over estimate what they can achieve in 2 years and under estimate what they achieve in 5 years.”
I’ve been involved in several start-ups, some for profit and some as not-for-profit and this rule has applied every time.
The first 2 years of your idea are going to be hard. You are going to find it hard to find clients, partners, or even get anyone to respond to your emails or phone calls. You are going to work longer hours than you ever thought possible and wonder if it is all worth it.
My advice is to work hard, stay focussed and keep going - then in 5 years look back and see what has happened - every time I’ve done this I look back in amazement and wonder.
Running a business is not the 100m sprint it’s not even a marathon, it’s hundreds of marathons. Results rarely come quickly, but keep going and don’t give up and see what you can do in the long game.
Voiceovers (VOs) are one of the hardest things to record, because there are lots of gaps between syllables and words and problems with the room acoustics as well as noise, both electronic and acoustic, are going to be very obvious so do the best you can.
1 - Script Style
Writing for reading, for either off the page or off the screen is a different style to writing for listening. the real test is what it sounds like not what it reads like.
2 - Preparation
Get the right information from the client, as well as a copy of the script, don’t share a script, you need to be able to mark up your copy of the script ready for the edit session.
3 - Mouth Clicks
Mouth clicks can be a real problem in VO sessions. Have water available but suggest the VO artist only takes sips. The other solution is for the VO artist to eat some apple, a tart apple like a Granny Smith tends to work best so have one ready just in case.
4 - Backups
Have at least one backup. Don’t just depend on Pro Tools. Record onto another machine as well so if Pro Tools does fall over you still have the session. Afterwards, make sure you backup the session onto another drive too as well as the cloud.
5 - Delivery Format
What format does the client want it delivered in? 48/44/1 sample rate, 16 or 24 bit depth etc. How are you going to deliver it?, CD, hard disk, pen drive, or via the cloud using services like Dropbox, Copy or Gobbler.
See part 2 for the remaining 5 ways to improve a VO.
Holger Lagerfeldt is a Danish Grammy nominated and Multi-Platinum certified mastering engineer, but you might want to add to that ‘all round good guy’ as he is offering a PDF on audio levels completely free.
In the document he addresses the most common questions asked about recording audio in the digital domain, he offers solid advice and debunks some myths. Subjects include;
- Metering in the DAW
- How to avoid overloading a plug-in
- How to avoid overloading your mix buss
You might be new to recording on a DAW, you may be a seasoned professional, there’s something for everyone in this FREE PDF on Levels in Digital Audio.
Source: Logic Pro Expert
Our friend Michale Carnes at awesome reverb company Exponential Audio has posted this note on their Facebook wall.
This week, Apple released a new version of OSX. It has many benefits and looks like a winner. Apple is urging users to upgrade quickly. The price of ‘free’ makes that very attractive. Many of you may have already done so. For those who haven’t, allow me to advise caution. Apple has tested this system intensively, and I’ve tested with a Beta version myself for a while. But version 1 of any operating system will always have problems that don’t show up until after release.
I have had a handful of problem reports from early adopters. Whether these are bugs in my plugins, bugs in workstation programs, or growing pains with ‘Mavericks’, I can’t yet say. But if you can, give me a chance to investigate. I’ve just moved my primary development system to Mavericks so that I’ll have a better chance to spot any issues. I’m sure the entire developer community will be busy over the next month or two. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two rapid updates from Apple. That’s usually the way this works.
If you decided to take the plunge already, I hope your system is running smoothly. If you’re hanging back, please watch my website as well as the sites of other developers you may depend upon. Thanks for your attention!
I found this snap (on thr left) recently of me playing my Yamaha SG guitar into my Tascam 244 Portastudio. It’s in the attic bedroom I had at my parents home circa 1983. In those days my recording system was not much more than a couple of guitars, my Tascam cassette-based 4 track, a pair of Realistic speakers, a Sony Hi-Fi amp and some effects.
30 years on I have more than I could ever imagine to record with and my journey has been an amazing one, having worked with some of the most talented people in the world and travelled to some amazing studios too. When I posted this picture on my Facebook page one person asked “Did you know at this age you would be helping 1000s of musicians around the world to get better in their production?” The simple answer is no, but what I did say is “Not at all, I think it’s remembering what it felt like starting out that inspired me to run the blog. Never forget where you came from.”
So if it were possible for me to give the 16 year old Russ advice now, here is what I would say.
It’s the dream of most people, give up the day job and work for yourself making money from recording all day, be that a composer, music producer, engineer, dubbing mixer or sound recordist.
However, speak to some people who try and before long they wonder why they have no money, even though they have the gear and the talent - it may be because it takes 5 things - miss any of them and you may not make it.
On Saturday we ran a survey to see how users were responding to the release of Pro Tools 11, you can see the results so far above from, click here to vote.
As is inevitable when a new product is shipped the internet lights up with opinion and counter opinion about the validity of a new product, Pro Tools 11 has been no exception. Of course opinions are like buttocks, we all have them but that doesn’t mean we should always get them out in public, however we thought we would take the most common reasons people are suggesting one should not buy Pro Tools 11 and respond to them with our own advice.
- “A lot of plug-ins are not ready”
That’s a relative statement based on what plug-ins you use. If you are someone who uses the stock plug-ins then you are ready to go. If you are someone who relies heavily on third party products, particularly virtual instruments, then you are correct, right now most of the large VI companies have not shipped working 64 bit AAX plug-ins. You have 3 options, use Pro Tools 10 and 11 and get the best of both worlds, host them in Vienna Ensemble Pro or wait until all plug-ins you need are ready. We have good relationships with all plug-in manufacturers and know that many companies will be shipping in days or weeks. If you want to see where most companies are then check out our AAX database for timing and any cost implications of AAX versions here. We also have a post with a list of plug-ins tested and working in Pro Tools 11 here, this is being updated hourly.
- “It might have bugs”
There’s no “might” about it, every piece of software on the planet has bugs, some more than others. Are there show-stopping bugs? Not that our team have come across, but there are annoying bugs which will start to get ironed out as CS releases come over the next weeks. What we ALWAYS say and will reiterate again, we’ll use caps to underline the point IF YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PROJECT DON’T UPDATE, it doesn’t sound different, it simply has better workflow enhancements.
- “I understand iLok has issues”
This is true, there have been some issues with iLok syncing on their new platform. It is perhaps unfortunate that Avid released Pro Tools 11 in the middle of the iLok issues and perhaps not wise to do it on a Friday either. We know for a fact that both PACE and Avid staff have been working all weekend to iron the issues out. What we will say is that the scale of the iLok issues are not as great as some would have you believe in terms of how many users are affected. What is true is that those who have been affected have been dealing with major headaches, in other words it’s been a huge problem for a small number of people and not the other way around. In our most recent survey around 8% said they were having technical issues when trying to update to Pro Tools 11. If you have any concerns about downtime then our best advice is to wait until you feel more confident and have a space in your working calendar to be able to deal with any issues that may occur - typically this would be around 72 hours to be on the safe side. Check out the helpful articles from Mike on dealing with iLok issues here.
- “My version of Pro Tools does everything I need”
Good, carry on using it - again we will reiterate there is no sound difference in Pro Tools 11, to get this you would need to improve your hardware with either Pro Tools HD Native or HDX. If your system works then carry on using it. One of our favourite business expressions is “profit is what you don’t spend” If you don’t need any of the features in Pro Tools 11 then don’t buy it.
- “I can’t afford it”
Don’t ever get into debt trying to keep up with the relentless stream of new products hitting the market, only buy what you can afford for your studio. If you are short of money and want to make great sessions then check out our FREE plug-in database and Russ’ series on “Mixing With FREE Plug-ins” from Groove 3.
- “There are other DAWs that do things Pro Tools doesn’t”
If you think there is a better DAW on the market then buy it. Many of us use Pro Tools because it works for us and is the standard that all of the studios and engineers we work with also use, this makes it essential for our workflow. When it comes to who makes the best DAW, the best DAW is the one that is best for you.
- “I’m not sure I need it or will like it”
Download the FREE trial, it can co-exist on your machine with Pro Tools 10, take it for a test drive and see if the workflow enhancements really help.
- “I hate Avid”
We suggest you move on then. If you have issues with Avid and can use other products then vote with you wallet, we are not here to change the mind of those who don’t like Avid, we are here to support the users who just want to get the best out of Pro Tools.
At Pro Tools Expert we are Pro Tools fans, of course we are! Our team love Pro Tools 11. However you need to make choices based on your needs, budget and workflow requirements.
We hope this post has laid out all the possible scenarios and given you helpful advice in what to do.
With the recent announcement of Pro Tools 11 and our inevitable reporting, some users staying on legacy versions of Pro Tools may wonder what our intentions for future video, editorial and podcast content are.
The Pro Tools Expert team appreciate that some users either do not wish to upgrade to a new system or cannot afford to upgrade.
Rest assured, it is our intention to continue to offer advice and tips and tricks (including videos) and answer podcast questions for owners of legacy systems. NEW USERS PLEASE NOTE - this is an independent community site offering tips, tricks, tutorials and advice, for product support related to your purchase please speak to your dealer or Avid in the first instance.
Mike here - In addition to us here at Pro Tools Expert continuing to support legacy systems, it may surpise you but Avid do too. They will provide legacy software updates for 3 years and they will offer legacy hardware support for up to 5 years. So no one is forcing you to upgrade if you don’t want to. As I have said before “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. If your PT7 system is doing all you need it to do that is fine, if you are finding it no longer does what you need it to do then consider what system will do what you need.
We know that some time soon that Pro Tools 11 will be announced, offering users 64 bit processing and we think a heck of a lot more. We make it very clear on numerous podcasts that there is no need to upgrade to the latest version of any software. Many users are still happily working in legacy versions of Pro Tools as far back as version 6. If your version works and is doing everything you need then you don’t need to update.
However many users will want to take advantage of the new power and features that a new version of any app can bring. However to make sure you have a pain free transition here are 5 ways to prepare for an upgrade.
- Make Time
It may sound low tech, but the first thing you need to do is make sure you have time to do something as large as change to a new version of Pro Tools. Below we will tell you the technical stuff, but these things can’t be rushed. If you have a diary full of work then our advice is wait until you have a natural downtime in your work before even considering this transition. Remember the work you have now is not reliant on having Pro Tools 11, so why upgrade now? Right now I have a list of things I need to do in my studio which includes rewiring, installing updates, repairing stuff, but that will have to wait until the clients who pay for it all have had their work delivered. Ignore this advice and you may repent at leisure.
- Do Your Research
Make sure that your hardware, other applications and plug-ins will work. You can check our AAX database to see where the various vendors have got to in this process, although you will see many essential VIs are not even close to being ready, so make sure you don’t install a version of Pro Tools that kills your workflow. Each week on the Pro Tools Expert podcast we give the latest news on hardware and software issues.
- Back-up, Back-up, Back-up
I was shocked to read on a recent forum of a user who was backing up their computer simply by dragging files to another folder, this is not a back-up, this is a copy. The only way to ensure a real back-up of your machine is a full clone of the drive, there are many apps on the market that do this, some of them free. Check out our support page here for more information. On a Mac I use Carbon Copy Cloner, but select the one that suits your needs.
- Upgrade Your Machine
Some of you will do research that leads to the fact that you need a new computer, to be honest who ever needed a reason to buy a new computer?If that’s you then make sure you buy one that will last a few years. Don’t buy a computer for the needs you have now, but for the next 3-5 years. One tip, if your going to max out a computer it is often cheaper to get the memory and drives elsewhere - just do your homework. Some of you will not need a new computer but there are a number of things any working musician/studio will always need more of; memory and storage. If you haven’t maxed out your memory then take time to see how much memory you can add to your machine and add it - 64 bit will mean that Pro Tools 11 will be able to access all that lovely memory for your VIs and processing, so make sure you feed the beast. Storage has never been cheaper, consider upgrading your system drive to an SSD and getting some external storage to use for your sessions, samples and a place to back-up to. Remember if you are going to back-up your entire studio then it will take at least the amount of storage that is already being used - in my case that’s around 12TB.
- Sell Some Stuff
I have always had a policy of trying to fund any expenditure by selling gear I don’t use, rather than getting into debt. Look around you studio and ask when you last used some of the stuff you have. If you can’t remember the last time you used it then you probably don’t need it. This stuff is meant to be used not moth balled, of course if you have a vintage 1956 Fender Telecaster then don’t sell that… unless it’s to me!
So in summary if you are one of those people who is considering an upgrade to Pro Tools 11 then make time, do your research, back-up, upgrade and if you can do it in a way that doesn’t mean spending money you don’t have, then do it.