June/July Tonehaus News – Solstice Edition

Hello! You didn’t miss it! There hasn’t been a newsletter since May, so I’m sending out a special Solstice Edition newsletter! May was extremely packed. I thought the performing arts season was over for me, but then two big productions popped up last minute – a full livestream in house gig and a freelance gig at the cryptocurrency conference…forget about March…June was in like a LION! Did I mention a podcast with Lyle Lovett?

Freelance job recording some guys talking about music in the 90s.

I’m ready for summer, but fully transitioning into off-season mode, there’s one more thing. I’m super happy to announce I will be technical directing the Austin Symphony IMAG screens at the Fourth of July!

It is a THRILL! Our second time doing it, and this time with house gear: Tonehaus cameras, crew, and TriCaster, so that is really, really exciting. I’m looking forward to bringing all the concert-goers incredible close ups and details from the stage in real time.  I am currently in pre-production for that, getting the TriCaster and cameras set up in a way that completely different than when we tape and live-stream. The cool thing is that this system has so much flexibility that changing the mission so drastically really isn’t too big of a task. 

These people are enjoying the Symphony concert and fireworks. This time, we are doing the close ups on the big screens.

Since the last production, I’ve had the entire live production system on the bench. I’ve also reconfigured the live-production rack to include the audio processing that was formerly on the QuadRaven, eliminating once and for all any audio issues that may arise in livestreams. I’ve been updating firmware and adjusting settings. I am doing stress tests – intentionally doing everything ‘wrong’ – to suss out the problems that might pop up on location. Pesky little technical issues have no more places to hide and are being forced to rear their ugly little heads. At the start, it took about 30 minutes from a cold start to be fully up and running, but I’ve set a record at a blazing 4’33”! Now the trick is to repeat and repeat that.    

I’ve been seeing a lot of screens like this lately.

I will continue to throw hurdles at the system, plug things in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with the wrong settings to uncover as many failure points as possible and minimize them. Time is money, and moving fast is a big part of making your best interest my best interest. That means being lean and mean. This company was built with extremely little capital and lots of elbow grease, and in the past two years we’ve been churning out excellent work with extremely small crews. I suppose it’s in my nature to want to be better. The faster we can achieve our goals, the more we can keep invoices down. I’m annoyed when things go ‘wrong’ on location, but that is the essence of this work. It is absolutely to be expected. Ultimately, spending time working through the system and with pre-production enables a better end product.

I mean… yes, please.

Today summer is officially here! It is the off-season. I anticipate a few things happening: more production, more post production and more freelance work in FILM/TV and A/V.

If you ever use our five cam GoPro system, you can do it with the knowledge that it has been used on the set of House Hunters!

The main work I anticipate this summer is telling stories through video. Producing sit down interviews or capturing people on the fly in interesting locations, shooting the B-Roll footage to illustrate subject matter, and putting it all together in meaningful and compelling sequences. What are your stories? What are the message you need to communicate? Let video do the heavy lifting and then get it in front of the right people, over and over again. 

Paul, Carl and Bob

I have three projects currently in different stages of production that are telling stories (pictured above). You may be familiar with two of them, because they’ve been on the back burner for various reasons. First is Paul Klemperer. This is the story of a writer and jazz musician who leaned on his talents to help and comfort his parents as they aged. Now he’s using those techniques to share with those caught in routines of medication and doctors. This story explores how they can find enjoyment and fulfillment in their new reality. Second is artist and jazz performer Carl Smith. The story is introductory and biographical; the influences that shaped him and how he sees art and hears music. The third is the story of Bob Hoffnar’s Liminal Sound series. His creative use of the pedal steel guitar, technology and resonant frequencies in specific spaces allow audiences to shape their own perceptions of the performance. It’s affected by how they move about the space. As resonances combine and create new sounds, the experience encourages the audience to ask what is real and what is imagined, and perhaps consider what other audience members are hearing. Apropos of these times.  

A still from the music video “Piano” by Steinway Artist Esteban Alvarez.

In late 2019, Esteban Alvarez – an extremely talented Steinway Artist – came to me with a music video concept: a janitor who sits at a dusty old piano, plays, and imagines himself a star in a fantasy stage of lights. I directed the shooting of this video at Mozart’s cafe and the Steinway Gallery. The striking cinematography you see is the work of the brilliant David Lackey, who’s skills are behind many of our productions. I had intended to pass the footage to an editor, but Esteban insisted that I give it a shot, so please enjoy his interpretation of the classic Bebu Silvetti song “Piano,” released earlier this year. Read more about the shoot and see a gallery of behind the scenes.

Speaking of editing, I was asked by the fine folks over at Golden Hornet if I’d be able to distill the experience of the MXTX concert into two minutes. Challenge accepted. After a fair amount of creative collaboration, this is the promo

Austin Soundwaves at the Draylen Mason Studio Inauguration

Also in May, I was approached by the non-profit Austin Soundwaves to document their 2022 concert at KMFA’s Draylen Mason Studio. It was a huge honor to be entrusted with capturing this momentous event, attended by Draylen’s mom and family, and the generous donors Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge, largely responsible for funding the studio. I am inspired by the resilience and perseverance of everyone affected by this tragedy, and how they have risen to the occasion. It is sometimes difficult to accept the challenges our modern world gives us, but here are strong individuals making the world a better place despite everything. I am grateful to have documented it as well as some of the before and after events.

This beastly rack recently made its way from Olympia, WA to Austin, TX and found happiness in my studio.

The last bit of news today is about our QuadRaven audio recording package. As mentioned above, it was slightly reconfigured, but it still retains its original appeal: quick setup and strike, cost effective, and creates a robust sounding product that defies its simplicity. Operated by a single engineer, it offers a range of balance between the room and the music, a flexibility simply not possible with a stereo mic pair. I conceived of the system, but when I put it all together, it turned out to be far greater than the sum of the parts, with a sound quality that is quite remarkable, and far better than ever imaged. The heart of the system operates in analog – i.e., voltages. With some of the all time best sounding pre-amps (Benchmark) and some of the all time best sounding analog to digital converters (Genex), the QuadRaven delivers a classic and very refined sound that simply isn’t possible from the commonplace digital workflow. How is it possible? In a word – resolution. It is so high, it is hard to convey. With detail through 500MHz, it has 5 times the resolution available in the highest resolution digital. Let me say that again: the QuadRaven mixes the four mic matrix in a resolution FIVE TIMES that of the best PCM digital. (Generally, we work in 48kHz – which sounds great – so the QuadRaven is mixing the mics in a resolution TWENTY TIMES higher.) Think of the detail and contrast in an Ansel Adams photo compared to a shot from your iPhone. That is the kind of palette with which the QuadRaven operates. Hearing is believing; just ask anyone who’s used it!  

And now you’ve made it to the end of this lengthy newsletter. And your reward, should you choose to accept it, is a QuadRaven sound at half price through July, and if you want video as well, I’ll throw in the some GoPros on the house. HAPPY SOLSTICE!