Chennai Here I Come

Oh God, I don’t even know where to start.

I am a small fry at work.  The VIP fly out for business trips, not me.  I make good coffee and I write well.  I make sure that everything is recorded, which is kind of important to the bosses.  When I think of my job, I think of show biz.  To make sure that everyone look good, I prep them on what to say, what’s going to happen, and if disasters shall fall, I am here to do damage control.

It’s show biz.

Last week, inside a small meeting room, my boss and my director – whose next role is probably going to be a country CEO – freshly back from their long compliance leave and there I was giving them a run down of all-good-news.

The next in the agenda was their “VIP visit” to India.  OK, all the ground works have be done.  They just need to turn up, hope and pray that the team there has no screw-up, and if everything follow my script, everyone should look good.  They can travel.  And I’d love to stay where the good sun is – Singapore.

The director paused at the end of my briefing, looked at my direction, raised his eyebrow, and asked my boss, “Is Wilfrid coming with us?”

Uh-oh.

Before I even get my hands onto the Indian Visa, my teammates from the other side of the ocean have already called me and said, “Welcome to India”.

So I guess, Chennai here I come?  Time to give my dear friend Jann a call for a survival guide on my way to the airport tonight.

PS. I’ve written a whole week worth of blog materials over the weekend so it will be business-as-usual for my website.

Related Posts: Speed Touring Chennai Pt 1 – Pictures from the City

So We Jammed Again: Of Heavy Load and Long hours of Post Production (July 11)

If people can blog about baking cookies a hundred and one times and still read fresh, let me see if I can write something fresh for our jamming journal.

While waiting for our 2nd guest drummer to get back to us, we continue to explore the possibility and to learn from our 1st guest drummer Wieke.  Throughout the week, I have been reviewing the recording of our previous session and finding ways to improve.  My vocals really sucked last week so this time, I committed 20 minutes of vocal exercise in the morning and another set in the evening.  And I stayed away from caffeine the entire day.  That really helped and my vocals sucked less.  In preparation of this session, I have also called up the manager of Stone Jamz and requested for the bass drum pedal to be tuned because it hurt the foot of our guest drummer.  The manager has it replaced with a new one, which is kind of cool.  She gave us a very nice room for us to jam too.  Two thumbs up!

I weighted my gears.  20 kg in total.  That includes my guitar, the effect and amp processor, cables, recording device, my personal mic, the mic stand, and etc.  Mic stand?  That’s right.  I need a sturdy one to be freed from distraction.

Lugging that 20 kg gear through several blocks of building can be quite an exercise on its own.  I said to my guitarist Jason that I need to resume my weightlifting exercise.  I ain’t kidding.  I need a crew; our band needs a crew.  (Hey Selrol, are you there?  We need to hire our nEC crew.)

Since our unofficial band manager Selrol was not feeling well, I took up the responsibility as a designated band photographer.  As you can see, nothing as lively as hers.  Oh well …

OK.  Here is as far as I can go to stay general.  The next bit is more technical and for those who share the same hobby as mine, you may be inspired in some ways.  If you are already a pro, please feel free to share your experience.  I’d love to learn from you.

Technical Stuffs

As you may see, the above setup poses a challenge to our live recording.  And I will tell you why.

Zoom Handy Recorder H2 is a versatile and inexpensive device (below S$300) that in my humble opinion is a must-have for those who wish to record sound.  I was told by the sales assistant that when a container worth of Zoom H2 arrived last December, they were sold out in a matter of days.  Journalists and institutes order these devices by hundreds.  When I bought mine on the day of that silly incident I had at the Malaysia Custom, I was told that 500 units were delivered to an institute in the same morning.

H2 is capable of a front and rear surround sound recording – front stereo track at 90-degree and rear stereo track at 120-degree.  That is a total of 4 mono tracks simultaneous recording inside this tiny device.

The front of the H2 should aim at the vocal speakers and ideally, the drums should be placed at the back.  In this setting, we can’t do that.  Drums are also the only sound that is acoustic in nature.  That is, the volume cannot be controlled.  And since there is a limit as in how loud the vocal speakers can go without inducing the feedback noise, the drums are going to dominate the entire recording.

And that was preciously the outcome.

Previously I relied on the H2 to mix the surround tracks into stereo mode (which took 30 minutes per song by the way) and perform minimal post production work at my computer.  For this studio setup, I can’t do that because our challenge cannot be overcome by 3D panning.  Decreasing the front channel volume in order to make the drums sound softer will have the same effect on the vocals.  Our mission is to bring down the drums’ volume while giving more emphasis on the vocals and strings.

To answer that, I rely on different compression settings for the front and rear channels.  I have covered the technique compression extensively in one of my articles.  It’s time to put it to work and have the post-production work done at the computer.

I use a hard knee compressor for the front channel (click here to see the setting of ‘Drum Destroyer’).  By default, it has a +8dB gain boost, which is great to bring out the details of the vocals.  And it also comes with a 30 times hard compression that is perfect for general drums recording.  For the rear channel, I use my favorite “Vintage Neve 33609” (click here to view setting) and manually apply a +10 dB gain.  Mix the two channels together (with a -6 dB gain reduction) brings forth a much fuller sound.  The overall gain is hotter than any recording I have ever had.

It took me 12 hours to select the right materials and complete the post production work for 12 of our takes (outtakes included).  Different studio rooms may require different settings.  I reckon if we do jam in the same room again, the process will be much faster.

Related Blog Entry: No Eye Candy’s 1st Female Guest Drummer (July 4)

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army – It is 4,900+1 Against 4+1!

Absurd as it sounds, I have high anticipation on Hellboy II because of Pan’s Labyrinth and the rather hot Selma Blair.  Why do I think that Hellboy’s girlfriend is sexy?  I have no idea.  Perhaps because of some of the past movies she made.

When I read that in this sequel, it is Hellboy and his team meet the magical creatures of the ancient time, I know much of the good essence of Pan’s Labyrinth will surface.  And truly so, it does.  The movie watched almost like a fantasy experience and I believe the director and writer Guillermo del Toro’s unique vision and attention to details has a significant role to play in breathing life into these creatures.  I suspect in time to come, people will remember these concepts and visions rather than the storyline.

I often confuse between Hellboy franchise and the Fantastic 4 and X-Men.  Fire, checked; huge red character that punches like a tank, checked; us and them, checked.  And I think in this installment, there are more character development.  They crack jokes, troubled by emotions, get drunk, probably this human side has earned the movie a high rating along side with the beautiful created special effects.  Some of the scenes are in such a scale that mind blowing is the only way to describe.

Hellboy II has certainly raised the bar for comic book adaption.  Now, any film in the horizon is going to top this? 

The Bank Job – Nothing Like My Job For Sure (LOL!)

OK.  Bad joke.  I can’t remember the exact dialogue.  When I suggested to watch “The Bank Job” last week, my buddy TK was like, “Isn’t that your job?  9 to 5 is not enough and you have to watch it on big screen?”

Duh!

Cynthia couldn’t have put it better: Before “The Italian Job” and “Ocean 11”, there was “The Bank Job”.  If you have watched all of the above, you shall know what she meant.  And you know what?  If luck holds, we may have “The Brazilian Job” played by the same actor, Jason Statham.  It’s a sequel, that much I can tell you.

Now, check this out: British intelligence set up a robbery to gain possession of a safety deposit box containing incriminating sex photos of Princess Margaret.  How much of the story is true?  It’s impossible to tell.  The film producers claim that they have inside source.  Then again, this is UK you are talking about.  I always loved to read their sensational tabloids especially the weekend editions when I was a student there.  We need spice in life, we need to feed on gossips.

I love the rather complex plot of murder, corruption, and a sex scandal, and overlaid on top, a rather low tech bank robbery (it’s a crime committed in 1971 so what else do you expect?) that is not without its nail biting moments.  And I also love how this rather multi-dimensional storyline is being told with such fluidity.  Despite the fact that there are quite a number of characters and dialogues involved, each scene tells a concise piece of story that gels well with the next.  It’s not a movie that you can leave your brain outside the theatre, of course.  But it is not hard to follow either.

So is there enough chemistry between Queen of Troy (Saffron Burrows) and Mr. Transporter (Jason Statham)?  I think they are both fine English actors and if there was more passion between the two, even for the imaginary character of Martine Love that does not exist in the so-called true story, it wouldn’t be believable.

And the Excitement Continues (Nephew Nathaniel)

Let’s recap what goes on in July so far.  My band’s first female guest drummer, sister’s boyfriend proposed, 2nd book review at the McGraw-Hill’s website, nomination at Ping.sg, and – hold your breath – my nephew was born last evening and he has the same birthday as me!  Now, how cool is that?  Last night, during my birthday celebration, Cynthia told me that Julie might give birth on the 10th or the 11th.  I was secretly willing for a 10th.  Will and it shall happen!  Now, if you need some paranormal assistance, feel free to contact me.

My family is small so unless my own sister quickly fasten the pace of the production line (after she gets married of course!), so far I only have one niece Felicia whom I’ve met in Indonesia 2 years ago and now, baby Nathaniel.  I don’t really see myself as an uncle because, look, the age gap is not that significant, is it?  They are more like brother and sister to me.  I so see myself playing Monopoly or Scrabble with them.  I can certainly do tea party too and bring along brother Wilfrid’s own concoction of plastic muffins.

This is usually the time when people write something about the childbirth.  I am no expert of course and I hardly can hold any of such conversation with the young parents.  My idea of bringing up a baby – as some of my friends would have known – is to chunk him into a sound proof container or to equip him with an aqua mask.  I seriously value the sound of silence a lot.  Back to the childbirth process, erm … Cynthia told me that with one or two pushes, baby Nathaniel – like his elder sister Felicia – popped out of his mother’s womb in just over an hour of labor.  Nathaniel landed safely onto Mother Earth even before his dad Eric completed the paperwork at the hospital.  Is an hour or two of labor a smooth one?  I have no clue.  I stay in the cube farm eight hours a day pushing too.  I push out work every day.

OK.  It’s time to submit my household budget request form for that digital SLR camera that I have been dreaming of.  Now, I have one more reason to own that.  And maybe I shall start a tradition to celebrate my birthday with baby Nathaniel.