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  • Posts Tagged ‘yesss’

    Kepler lovers, get comfy


    2012 - 04.04

    The Kepler Space Telescope, which I was riffing on a while back was supposed to run out of funding this November.  Well, stock up on popcorn exoplanet hunters because the show is going to keep going for a long time!  As of today, NASA has extended the mission to 2016.  Yes, that’s right.  Pass the salt :D

    Updated Jams in the Microcosmic Reel to Reel


    2012 - 03.17

    It pleases me greatly to violently rip the tablecloth off of two steaming hot electronic compositions which are now available for your aural enjoyment. They’re sort of polar opposites; one is very long, deeply complex, and took maybe a year to complete, and the other is under 4 minutes, and took maybe 4-5 evenings tops. Still, I’m proud of them both for different reasons.

    Sorry mobile viewers or RSS readers, you’ll actually have to view the site in a desktop browser in order to listen. Hit the play button between the spinning reels on the menu above and skip to tracks 2 and 4. If you don’t see it, navigate here and you should get it.

    Track 2 in the player is called “To Feel Good” and it’s a composition created over the course of many months of collaboration with my awesome friend Vincent. We used Reason and some Carl Sagan quotes from Cosmos to make this epic, meandering jam that refuses to quit. Out of everything I’ve ever done with Reason, this one may just take the award for longest and most complex composition.

    I’m seriously, really delighted with the outcome and proud of “To Feel Good”. Vince made excellent, large contributions here, and together I think we made something colossal! Definitely check it out. Obviously it’s the apple of my eye, so I’ll just stop hyping it up and let you listen.

    Track 4 is entitled “Bullshit Prickly Pear Soda” and it’s the first morsel of sounds worth sharing from the new Impulse 61! As much for my own sake as anything else, here is some reflection on the compositional process for BPPS, which reveals my typical production workflow as well as some new benefits from having the Impulse around:

    It started as a jam between myself and my buddy Luke who had come to visit. We used the drum pads to tagteam this beat, taking several passes to add elements one by one. That’s actually a pretty nice way to create a beat, since it gives you time to listen and you can be thoughtful about how what you’re adding fits into the existing rhythms. Second, Luke added the bassline. He was like “I don’t know what to play!” and I told him “just play anything man, it’ll sound cool!” Aaaaaand success.

    The third element was the synth which is introduced over the bassline, countering the space it fills. I ended up varying the last part of it just to keep things mixed up, much later in production. The fourth element was the nintendo-sounding square wave synth, which only interjects at the end of each loop. This element filled the remainer of empty space left by the main synth and the bassline. The more I listen, the more electronic compositions I find employ such framework: use sparse elements and have each one fill its own individual space, with no overlap. It’s a good formula.

    The very last thing that got added was the thick, constant 16ths rave-sounding synth that comes in last. Up to this point, everything was composed while just looping the same 4 bars over and over. The vast majority of my Reason compositions follow that formula; looping a phrase and adding elements on top, then arranging it all later. Arranging pretty much just consists of copying and pasting in various combinations until you’ve got a buildup, a plateau, a breakdown, maybe a B-section (this jam’s got one, which I added later), then a return to the A and a wind-down. Add some cymbol crashes and maybe some buildup sounds and bam, done.

    Having the impulse handy, I then did a few extra passes through the entire tune, automating various knobs and sliders as it played back. I was fairly shocked by just how much that adds. And sure, you can do that with the mouse, or “draw it” in reason, but the human element of twisting knobs adds something that mouse sort of… filters out. I definitely plan to do more of that going forward. This is only trial # 001!

    File these under “yesss”.

    μC Bicentennial


    2012 - 03.12

    Well here we are folks, blogpost # 200. It’s nice milestone to be hitting!

    Hmm, pressure’s on, better bust out something cool… how about a photo I took…… of the moon?? 

    Shot with Canon 100-300mm @ 300 and cropped (1:1 original resolution shown). 1/125th @ f/11 ISO 100. w/ a Canon T3i. Mirror lockup and ten second delay on the shutter. Phase based autofocus (through the viewfinder). Light enhancements in CS5.

    It occurred to me that I’d never taken my 100-300mm zoom outside on a clear night at tried snapping shots of the moon at the long end of the lens. What you see here is a 100% resolution crop. So this is the max resolving power of my erm, best refractor, at the moment, coupled with the T3i’s max 18MP setting. I’d say it came out pretty well.

    And speaking of new phases, I will be moving soon! Which means a whole lot less time on the computer and thereby a whole lot less time available for posting on here for a while. Fortunately I’m way, way, way behind on posting my Primo Vino Art, so there will be a bountiful explosion of images for you photography nuts and oenophiles. I intend to schedule these posts in advance, so while I am busy shuffling boxes around there will still be a steady stream of things to look at.

    Speaking of things to look at, some of you may have noticed that the header image at the top of this blog has been changing recently. I happened upon a really sweet little piece of code that allows you to setup a directory full of images, and then randomly display any one of them. Currently there are 4 different header images that appear at random. Over time, I intend to continue expanding this until there’s like 10-20 different ones. Eventually the background may become randomized as well. Variety! It’s the spice of life. And we all know spice expands consciousness.

    Feels good to hit 200! Cheers people!

    A sampling of Nebulae from Other Galaxies


    2012 - 03.03

    A week or so ago I sent a brief letter to mister Phil Plait, aka the Bad Astronomer. I read his blog about every day and it’s almost always got something of interest to me. The letter was:

    I keep thinking about something you said on Bad Astronomy. You were talking about the Orion Nebula, saying how it’s so large and vibrant that it would stand out to observers from another galaxy who were looking at the Milky Way. That got me thinking: are there large nebulae in other galaxies that we can see, as ‘standout’ features? The biggest picture I’ve ever seen of another galaxy was Andromeda, and I looked for an equivalent of M42 in M31, but I didn’t spot much. Are there any well known examples of large beautiful nebulas in other galaxies?

    And he replied:

    Actually, yes. Look online for image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is lousy with nebulae. Also NGC 604 in the Triangulum Galaxy. One of my favorites!

    So let’s look at those things he recommended! We’ll start with NCG 604.  Since this one is actually located inside of a distant galaxy, I think it qualifies best as what I was originally thinking of.  First off, check out this sweet 25 hour “amateur” capture of the whole Triangulum Galaxy:

    If you didn’t spot NGC 604 already, it’s the large pinkish area straight below the two large yellow stars at the top of the picture.  The appearance of NGC 604 seems to vary a lot depending on what wavelengths you look at.  This one from Hubble is my favorite:

    I did a little reading based off Phil’s suggestions and found out that all the Nebulae I’ve been digging are called H II regions, for those who are ‘in the know’. As you might guess, this name refers to a concentration of ionized hydrogen gas, H2. Get the full lowdown on wikipedia, it’s a good read.  But back to the gawking.  Checking out the Large Magellanic Cloud, the biggest standout Nebula is the Tarantula, which is actually the most active starburst region in our local group of galaxies. Accordingly, it’s mondo-luminous. If the Tarantula Nebula were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, it would shine as bright as the full moon in the night sky. Think about that! It would cast shadows; you could possibly read by that light at night. Jeez.

    Also really sweet in the LMC is LH 95, another incredible-looking nebula where stars are being born.

    Just for a little perspective, here are some distances:
    Large Magellanic Cloud: 160 thousand light years (w/ Tarantula Nebula NGC 2070)
    Andromeda Galaxy (M31): 2.6 million light years
    Triangulum Galaxy (M33): 3 million light years (w/ NGC 604)

    Far out, maaaan. It’s cool to check out those starburst regions as parts of other galaxies. A brief blurb from wikipedia worth repeating:

    From a viewpoint in the LMC, the Milky Way would be a spectacular sight. The galaxy’s total apparent magnitude would be -2.0—over 14 times brighter than the LMC appears to us on Earth—and it would span about 36° across the sky, which is the width of over 70 full moons. Furthermore, because of the LMC’s high galactic latitude, an observer there would get an oblique view of the entire galaxy, free from the interference of interstellar dust which makes studying in the Milky Way’s plane difficult from Earth. The Small Magellanic Cloud would be about magnitude 0.6, substantially brighter than the LMC appears to us.

    One more to leave you with, N90, in the Small Magellanic Cloud:

    If you dig this, then check out what else awaits under the cosmology tag.

    Space Is The Place: The Carina Nebula


    2012 - 02.08

    Today in totally mindblowing space images, NGC 3372, aka the Carina Nebula, as captured by the Very Large Telescope in Chile.  Click to see the awe-inspiring 4000 x 2727 version; although the interwebs are abuzz with this image, I had a hard time finding huge-size versions, which was part of my motivation to post it here.  Also, if you wanna go whole-hog, check out the 13092 x 8926 version on ESO’s website.  WOW.  If you like the picture, do read the wikipedia article, as there are several neat facts about the nebula.  Foremost of which is that although the southern-hemisphere-only Carina is not as well known as its northern cousin, M42 (the Orion Nebula), it’s actually bigger and brighter.  For observers in the Andromeda Galaxy, this baby would be one of the standout features of the mysterious, nearby Milky Way.  And what a stunner she is:

    Soulive in Star Filtery Glory


    2012 - 01.23

    Ok, I lied, there are more awesome videos from Bear Creek.  In the clip below, I set the player to start at 7 minutes in (you can do this by adding &start= and then the number of seconds to the embed code), so it jumps straight to the awesome part with the wicked star filter action. Feel free to rewind if you dig these styles! Man! Just look at that guitar! It’s magically delicious!

     

    Sea Bass. Mutant. Sea Bass.


    2012 - 01.21

    Oh man, I cooked this sea bass on the weber grill and it was seriously unbelievable.  I put it in the indirect heat so I wouldn’t have to flip it, due to the scallions on top.  I think that’s how I’m going to grill all my fish fillets from now on.  Outstanding flavor and juicy.  so.  good.

    Yes those are the Chronos PCBs in the background, along with Dijon honey mustard.

    The Microcosm of Bear Creek 2011, Captured via Photography


    2012 - 01.13

    Okay, at long, long last, here it is. All of my favorite shots from Bear Creek. Grab something to drink, put on some tunes, and get comfortable before you dig in! And don’t forget that fullscreen button! There’s too much hotness here to even describe, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Turn on the titls (click “show info”) if you want some IDs on who you’re lookin at. Enjoy!

    Project Chronos begins, and my slider shooting from Bear Creek 2011.


    2011 - 12.31

    This post is going to be a wild mashup of things, all of which I’m pretty excited over.

    The fangled contraption below is something film geeks will recognize as a “slider.” Not a slider in the White Castle sense, but a smooth rail that moves a video camera from one point to another.

    As it is shown above, the slider is equipped for video use. I’ve built a set of legs attached to ball-head tripod mounts which allow it to be positioned in a wide variety of configurations. There is also a shoulder mount, and an extra grip for one-handed wrangling. This is essentially a customized version of the DIY slider described at ZaZaSlider.com, meant to be an improved version of the Glidetrack Shooter slider. Any filmmakers who feel inspired by these shots, you can create the same thing yourself by reading up at the ZaZa website and ponying up maybe $250-350.

    For anyone who’s curious, I’d comment that this thing is somewhat impractical for shoulder-mounted use. Yes, it works; the hand grips are comfy and the shoulder padding keeps it from getting fatiguing. Yet… it’s just heavy and big. Even made of lightweight aluminum, a one meter slider is a lot of bulk to double as a shoulder rig, and on the flip side of that coin, anything smaller than a meter is getting into the territory where it’s not enough length to get a decent looking slide. So can you have it both ways, a slider AND a shoulder rig? Eh, sort of.

    Shoulder rig ho-humming aside, the slider does work great. The following video shows it in action at Bear Creek, which was the first time I put it to considerable use. The video also shows a good amount of Steadicam footage, shot on a Steadicam Merlin which I rented for the fest. It was a terrific amount of (photo-dweeb) fun to use these both!

    These shots are a compilation of cool videography from the festival grounds and miscellaneous shots that wouldn’t logically fit into any of the New Mastersounds or Lettuce videos I posted before. I still have more stuff to sort through… I haven’t even posted the Soulive yet!

    I learned quite a bit in doing these videos. Number one lesson was slide SLOW. It’s best to push the slider from its base, and keep hands off the camera itself. Wind can also jostle the camera around. A tougher ball head on the carriage itself may address that issue. Right now I have a pistol-grip Sunpack head on it, which certainly isn’t the paragon of build quality. As for the Steadicam, I was surprised to find that the Merlin was not nearly as well constructed as I expected it ought to be. For $800, I assumed it would be a piece of finely-crafted, impeccably-machined precision. It was not. Given, I was using a rental unit, which probably had been subjected to rough ‘n’ tumble treatment, but still, the joints had wiggle, the bottom counterweight could be bumped or moved in and out, easily throwing off the balance, and worst of all, the quick release plate only loosely held onto the steadicam itself. In the wrong situation, I could see a camera getting dropped by that quick release. Yikes.

    I also learned that 30fps is NOT fast enough for quick pans or fast steadicam moves. I defintitely regret not shooting in 720p/60fps, as some shots were blurry messes at 1080p/30fps. I believe it is due not to the framerate itself, but more to the fact that each frame of your movie is actually an exposure of 1/30th of a second when you have low/medium light and video autoexposure is enabled (you could shoot manual but that’s a lot of monitoring and adjusting, when you could be thinking about framing instead). 1/30th of a second is not really fast enough to prevent camera blur, even at wide angle. If you had very bright light, you could might get away with 30fps modes as the autoexposure would be forced into a faster shutter. This is something I need to remember, moving forward as a videographer.

    It was super fun to use the Merlin, and it did pop out some mondo-sweet footage. When it works, it SINGS. But after seeing this thing up close and in action, I don’t think there’s any way I’d pay more than the price of my SLR for one. Maybe in 2012 there might be a DIY Steadicam build. But that’s looking far ahead. I digress. Back to the slider:

    In addition to duty as a hand-powered video slider, I’m also planning something very ambitious for it. There’s a section on OpenMoCo.org (short for open source motion control systems) called “Project Chronos”. It adds a stepper motor’s super slow motion capability to the slider so that you can do timelapse while your camera moves, like they do in all those super sexy timelapse videos–only for a fraction of the price compared to commercial systems that do the same thing! When I saw this existed, I knew I HAD to build it. This is going to require a lot of soldering, troubleshooting, emailing, and above all, patience. I’ll do some periodic updates on the progress as I go along.

    For the boldest and most tenacious of readers who may be interested in attempting their own Project Chronos, mastermind Chris Field has pictures, videos, circuit diagrams, Arduino code, and finished product samples all online for your consideration. I have also began a build thread of my progress over at Timescapes.org for anyone who wants to read the gory details. At the moment I have built two PCBs as pictured below. The blue one is actually a kit with very comprehensive assembly instructions online which made its construction relatively simple. The green PCB is the Chrono-specific circuitry and still a work in progress. More posts on this as it develops.

    Also, soldering shit in my free time makes me feel like a badass. Maybe it’s the smoke, or maybe it’s the hardcore nature of building your own circuits. Busting out my resistor collection and putting it back to use felt really good. I said to my girl; oh yeah, these resistors aren’t just going to sit inside a box forever, these have got a cooler destiny… ultra-sweet timelapse!

    Bring on 2012!

    Masterful Grooves from the Mastersounds at Bear Creek 2011


    2011 - 12.01

    And now, onto my favorite guys!

    When the New Mastersounds took the stage on Saturday night, Simon announced he was “rather cross” that they had just arrived that afternoon, missing out on the previous 2 or 3 days of the fest. He almost seemed worried like the action had been going on without them, going on to say, “well, there’s really only 24 hours left, we’d better make the most of it!”  Maybe this contributed to the sense of urgency, as the fellows from Leeds proceeded to deliver an excellent performance that night.

    But, as I’m terrifically excited to tell you, you don’t have to take my word for it!

    As a public service reminder, remember to hit 1080p to see all the nose hairs and sweaty follicles in their unbridled-tears-of-joy-inducing-funky-ass glory.  Yessir, I filmed all that, edited it, and synced it up with the audio captured by a sweet taper who goes by the handle “kluyfrtliu”, as available for your own listening pleasure here.  The audio in here also has my own little secret sauce on it, because compressors.  QED.  There may be more on the technical side of compiling all of this in the future…  But for now, onto the music.

    One thing that took me off guard about the Mastersounds–even despite the fact that I’ve seen them, I don’t know how many times now, more than ten–was that Pete Shand’s bass playing seemed positively fast and ferocious. Maybe it was the soundsystem at Uncle Charlie’s Porch Stage? As a side comment, I have to note, this stage is one of the best-sounding stages I have ever listened to, indoors or outdoors, anywhere. I remember in 2010 being completely blown away by the sound quality there. This year it seemed absolutely top notch, but maybe not quite as good as last year? Perhaps high expectations took something off the top?

    On Sunday evening’s show Simon Allen was wearing silver shirt covered in sequins and skintight shiny gold pants. Pete Shand was wearing jeans and a navy blue sequin-covered tube top. Perhaps he had lost a bet or something?? (Or maybe Simon just gave him that and said here, wear this. Those guys are silly guys.) Joe Tatton had on a sparkly silver cape with a little red top hat and Eddie Roberts was dressed curiously normal.

    Marco Benevento came up for a rawkus guest appearance on the organ, in which he pounded on the keys with hands raised high, doing some neat rhythmic comping and trading solos back and forth with both Eddie and Joe who came back on stage towards the end of Marco’s stint. I’d give that my vote for best guest appearance of the fest, just for the fact that he came on stage and just *took over* for a good 5 minutes or so with that wildly energetic outburst. When the tune had finished Eddie leaned over to the mic and opined, “That was fairly ridiculous.”

    The tunes from their new album “Breaks from the Border” incorporate a lot of group vocals, and work well at the live show; better than they do at home on the stereo I’d say. They played an extended and enjoyable version of “Can You Get It?” which felt great when the refrain came back in at the end. I was hoping for the afrobeat-flavored “Walk in These Shoes” but no such luck. It would have been cool to see Eddie take that afrobeat-style solo in which he uses this crazed, thin-sounding guitar tone, typical of afrobeat but out of character for Roberts. Maybe they used special equipment to achieve that sound, and avoided it in concert for lack of the right gear.

    I admit, sometimes I wish they would throw me for a loop more often: by putting in a key change at the peak of a solo, or slipping in more choreographed, seamless transitions between their songs, or by changing up the form and adding new sections to their old compositions, or just by crafting compositions that are slightly more complicated. I do have to be careful what I wish for here though: The Mastersounds sit on an excellent piece of real estate between the extremes of “soulful” and “cerebral”. They’ve got plenty of little syncronized rhythmic toss-ins and unison hits to keep the structure comfortably away from a bland 12-bar groove formula (maybe I take these for granted, simply because I know when they’re all coming?) but they keep things playful and simple enough to just relax and enjoy, rather than overly-complicated phrases of through-composed musical pedant-ery that practically require drastic musicianship on behalf of the listener to really even grasp–that’s the cerebral extreme, as embodied by any number of advanced jazz cats. There’s absolutely a place for that in my music collection. But I GET the Mastersounds. I can explain what they do and my ear can follow right along as they go. That’s part of the appeal. There’s no musical snobbery here , but neither is it pedestrian. Thinking myself through it out loud here (and guilty of indulging in exactly the kind of pedant-ery I was just disparaging!), that’s pretty much right where I prefer my tunes.

    In any event, I’d say the Mastersounds still retain their crown as my favorite band, and this two-night performance was another reaffirmation of their excellence. Their silly stage banter remains endearing, Eddie’s vintage-sounding guitar tones range from smooth enough to groove mellow on “Fuji Rock” yet boisterous enough to get crazy at the apex of “Thermal Bad” while his wah pedal wizardry, improvisational dexterity, and unique picking style provide plenty to study; Joe’s Rhodes and DL4 spaceouts put me in a blissed out mood, while bursts of quick finger work on the B3 can perk up my ears to dig inside those dense phrases; Pete’s bass playing is speedy and right on time, providing some infectiously danceable breakdowns when guitar and organ drop out; and Simon has an impeccable sense of swing, coupled with a deep bag of catchy fills and relentless reserves of energy to keep driving the jams ever onward.

    *  *  *

    Thank you for perusing!  If you enjoyed this review, there is a high probability you will also enjoy this mix of semi/obscure 70’s funk I made from old records I found at the local store.  Alternately, check out all posts tagged “funk” for more Bear Creek and music coverage.