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But can he coordinate frequencies across adjacent blocks?

Major League Baseball prankster Kris Bryant gets a dose of his own medicine, courtesy of a mouthy “sound guy.”

Hall of Fame curve ball, bush-league boom technique:

New Adventures

“The Last Day of Bove’s Cafe” — A documentary about sense of place

Much to my own great surprise, I’m about to make my first attempt to step out from behind the camera op and move to that position just to the side of the lens.


The details of my love affair with the State of Vermont are material for a different post, but for now I’ll say a major partof that love is the “lost in time” quality it possesses — and to a certain extent, even prides itself about. One of the prime examples of that is Bove’s Cafe in Burlington. Opened in 1941 by Louis and Victoria Bove, it’s been serving up plates of simple, delicious spaghetti, meatballs, and other Italian staples through three generations of the Bove family, in a small room that’s barely changed a bit since the 50s. It’s a living connection to an earlier era — almost a time machine.

And it’s about to close.

When I found out they were shutting down the cafe to concentrate on their growing business of jared sauces, my inner preservationist kicked in hard. I had an immediate urge to capture every bit of the cafe I could while it was still “alive”, so to speak. So I reached out to a few friends, put together a small crew, and committed to the attempt to capture the ephemeral.

It’s one heck of a quick learning curve I’m attempting to ride. It will interesting to see just how much I’ve absorbed from many the directors and producers I’ve observed over the years.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear any stories you might have about Bove’s. No matter where you’re from, if you have memories or stories about Bove’s you’d like to share, plese come to the cafe on December 23rd, and share them with us on camera. You’ll be contributing to Burlington’s cultural heritage and (if I do my job right), helping us all come to a deeper understanding of our emotions regarding “sense of place”.

UPDATE: view the project brief

Music week at the Brattle Theatre

From Friday, November 14 to Wednesday, November 19th, Harvard Square’s long-standing, still-standing, beloved film institution, The Brattle Theatre brings us the “Reel Music Film Festival”, featuring some new music documentaries combined with blasts from the past. Two in particular stand out for those locals of a certain age who are microphonicly inclined…


The 78 Project is on a journey across America to make one-of-a-kind 78rpm records with musicians in their hometowns using a 1930s Presto direct-to-disc recorder. With one microphone. With one blank disc. In one 3-minute take. Along the way, a kaleidoscope of technologists, historians and craftsmen from every facet of field recording – Grammy-winning producers, 78 collectors, curators from the Library of Congress and Smithsonian – provide insights and history. In Tennessee, Mississippi, California, and Louisiana, the folk singers, punk rockers, Gospel, and Cajun singers in the film share their lives through intimate performances, and find in that adventure a new connection to our cultural legacy.

Includes Live Presto Recording with Ryan Walsh of Hallelujah the Hills!

UPDATE: GO SEE THIS FILM. GO. NOW. It’s playing at the Luna Theater in Lowell for four dates this month, and the filmmakers-slash-engineers will be in person on the 15th. If you love music and you love recording, you will love this film!

Saturday, Nov. 15, 7:35 pm

Sunday, Nov. 16, 2:35 pm

Saturday, Nov. 22, 5:05 pm

Saturday, Nov. 29, 5:05 pm –


New York had CBGB, Boston had “The Rat” (1974-1997). A dank, dangerous cellar in Kenmore Square where bands from all over the world came to perform, artists and writers came to hang out, and fans of all stripes came together to create one of the most vibrant and vital music scenes in the country. This new documentary invites you to experience the stories and performances that made The Rat special, as told by the musicians who played there, the people who worked there, and those who came to support the scene.

Jeez guys, The Rat was indeed dank, but it wasn’t that dangerous — at least no more so than any other Boston music dive in early 80s (The Channel, anyone?) Being right across the street from my alma mater (The New England School of Photography) I availed myself more than a little of the food, booze and music on daily tap. For a brief period in the late 70s and early 80s Boston had the hot music scene in the country, and dozens of local bands would get signed to national contracts, be mishandled, and get promptly dropped. A handful would make it big and others would enter local legend, and all of them would pay their dues on a placemat-sized stage in a scuzzy basement near a famous ballpark.

And let me tell you, folks, if you’ve never seen “URGH! A Music War”, I can testify it’s a kind of trip you’ll never forget.

The Transformation of Lord Lorton

A study of the silent film leitmotif in action

One of the more impressive silent film projects I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with is the recording of Martin Mark’s score for Lady Windermere’s Fan, the 1925 Ernst Lubitsch version of Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name. [1] Aside from being a notable and striking representative of the mature end of the silent era, Marks put together a delightful score, one that I’ve found to have an abundance of rewards for those who study it. (And as a recording engineer, it’s almost impossible to avoid studying a score by default, due simply to the sheer number of times listen to it as you perfect the edits and check the mix.) I’ve found several instances in the recording we did in 2003 to be very good illustrations of the subtle craft that underlies silent film music.

One example in particular is a lovely case-study of how a leitmotif can be manipulated in surprising and powerful ways. The raw material is a small waltz by Frank C. Dougherty, bearing the strictly utilitarian title of “Waltz (For General Use).”

The raw material: Frank C. Dougherty's, “Waltz (For General Use)”

The first strain of the Dougherty waltz

Back when he was working at the Library of Congress Marks stumbled across it in a publication called A Collection of Descriptive Music for Photoplays. Many years later he got a chance to put it to work in “Lady Windermere’s Fan” as a theme for a secondary, yet pivotal character: Lord Agustus Lorton.

Lord Lorton spies Mrs. Erlynne for the first time

Lorton is introduced to us as a sort of comedy subplot — “…London’s most distinguished bachelor”,  with the adjective distinguished managing the trick of implying “older”, “perpetual”, and “somewhat less than dignified” all at once. Despite his high social status Lorton displays a shameless eye for attractive women, even those who aren’t Ladies with a capital L — women such as the mature, but still captivating Mrs. Erlynne, with whom he appears leeringly smitten at first glance, despite “polite” society’s ill-regard for her.


Labor Day Weekend at the Sound Mixer’s Petting Zoo


Today’s Celebrity Clapboard II


Click the pic for the finished piece.

Snake Charming

How to shorten a Sony headphone cable without surgery

Coiled cables — I hate them. They’re like snares, or invasive vines, or snakes. In theory they stay out of your way automatically. In practice they wrap themselves around things you don’t want them wrapped around and try to yank whatever it is you’re extending away from the extended position. When there’s two of them in the same bag they’re like mating snakes from hell — they will do their level best to wrap around each other into a tangled mess of inoperability. And they’re a reality, especially when you’re using gear that isn’t your own.

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are pretty much industry standard gear, and for good reason — they’re rugged enough, they fold up, and they do a good job putting a spotlight on the midrange where the dialog lives. They also have a pretty long strip of coiled cable at the plug end and an equally long strip of straight cable at the can end. If you’re like me you end up stuffing most of that coiled section into some dark recess of your bag, where it gets in the way of all the other cabling you might need to manipulate on the fly.

But now there’s a solution that doesn’t require surgery, drugs or complicated procedures. It’s safe, effective, reversible, and it’s available without a prescription soldering iron.


Today’s Celebrity Clapboard

Well, celebrity if you read the New Yorker, I suppose…


Merry Christmas from Sound Devices!

I’ve yet to find the time to finish off my million word review of the by-now-not-so-new Sound Devices 664. Heck, I’ve yet to even officially announce to the world I’m a proud owner of such a magnificent beast. But both those posts must be superseded by the news of the most wonderful nugget Sound Devices has left in our stockings this Christmas.

Upon release, the 664 was being marketed as a 6 input mixer/recorder, with each input recordable to a dedicated iso track. Each input also has a corresponding direct out jack. As a roughly $1500 add-on, the CL-6 expansion unit would convert those direct outs jacks to inputs, for a total of 12 inputs (6 with mic pres and 6 line-level only) and 12 iso record tracks.

Well… Merry Christmas to us 664 owners! Firmware 2.x now opens up those additional 6 inputs and tracks without the need of a CL-6. The 664 is now positioned as a 12 input mixer/recorder right out of the box, no expander unit necessary. It’s similar to the thrill of finding a $20 bill in the pocket of an old pair of pants — except that there’s another $1480 bucks in the other pocket.

Granted, without the CL-6 true fading on the six additional inputs can’t take place on the fly — one must set the fader levels using the input settings screen and the encoder knob. But I have run into a few situations where having a seventh or eight iso track that didn’t go to the main mix would have been handy. (In fact, sometime soon I need to share with the world the trick I used for adding seventh and eighth “iso” tracks to a 1.x firmware 664, which I guess can now be a trick for adding thirteenth and fourteenth iso tracks…) And if you do need 12 knobs to genuinely fade all 12 inputs, Sound Devices has lowered the price of the CL-6 to $1,185.

I know, I know… in this world it’s hard to believe you get something for nothing. But not only is Sound Devices designing and building great professional tools, they’re treating their customers better than almost any other company I can think of. I haven’t had a chance to give the new firmware a try just yet, but I’ll let you know the results when I do.

UPDATE: New firmware = rock solid, with improvements to the headphone and metering as well.

Mystery Movie

Sharp-eyed photographer Tom Waugh can spot sprocket holes where ordinary mortals see only fire and spectacle:

BurningFilmDoes Lighting the Olympic Flame Involve Setting Fire to a Piece of 35mm Film?

“Every two years, the lighting of the Olympic Flame amidst the ruins of the Temple of Hera is a pretty interesting performance. The torch is lit from the light of the Sun, using a parabolic mirror to focus the Sun’s rays on the fuel in the torch and set it ablaze… but what exactly is that fuel? By the looks of it, at least a small part is a piece of 35mm film.”

Gives fresh meaning to “burning through film”. But if this turns out to be some of the missing footage from Greed I’m going to be pissed