Three Days of Music Technology Going Bang
Well, if I wait any longer to post this, it will be totally out of date, so I will just write something and let Gypsy come in later, scold me for not even telling her I was doing it, and peppering this blog entry with tags and all the photos she’s been waiting on me to post. Sorry, Gyps.
Saturday morning’s performance in Second Life for the 11th Birthday celebration was a blast. The one thing I always try not to worry about is sudden changes in audience size from act to act; as it turns out, the lady on before us was one of SL’s most famous and successful performers, a pianist with a lovely voice, and her fans weren’t going to stick around for ambient electronica. But we had a good crowd and got some tips in the tip jar, and I consider the event to have been a success.
Well, mostly. As it turns out, I worked out a clever way to have Gypsy, who was helping with the staging and so forth, say hello to the audience despite the latency gap: I called her on Skype and patched my iPhone into my mixing desk, so when I asked her to say hello, she was heard doing it without the huge time delay that one gets when streaming. The problem is, I left the iPhone on while I was playing, so I could communicate with her seamlessly in real time… and her recording software recorded every mutter, grunt, and obscenity I uttered while fighting my recalcitrant rig through the show. So much for a spotless capture of the experience from the audience point of view. Oh, well, I have recordings from the board that we will edit for machinima purposes, and hopefully this will result in a video or two to share with you all eventually.*
The other thing I discovered was that with the latest update to Second Life’s client software, my old MacBook running Snow Leopard now can’t handle SL any more, so I was forced to use my streaming machine to run SL at the same time. Surprisingly, it worked beautifully… so much so that I decided to start appearing in SL every Sunday while doing my radio show. My SL headquarters streams from StillStream anyway, so people could come there as avatars and listen in, or just go to the StillStream chat room as usual.
The first experiment, this past Sunday night, was a huge success — I moved my show an hour earlier (it now airs at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific on Sundays) for reasons I’ll explain later, and therefore opened up a slot for my colleague John Tocher to return to the airwaves Sunday night with his program “Grove of Whispers”. Sundays were John’s favorite nights and he’d sacrificed them without complaint when I came back, and I am glad to have him follow my show and to have him back playing on his favorite night of the week.
But that led to another thing… at the end of my show, one of my listeners asked, “Mike, why is there no more reverb on your signoff?”
I blinked. There is TONS of reverb on my signoff… it’s my trademark. And at the beginning of the show, when I open a can of seltzer and drink from it amidst a huge cloud of reverb! I could hear it in my headphones… I’d been hearing it since I came back on the air… and here was this person saying, nope, no reverb. Just long awkward pauses.
Sure enough, asking around the next day, everyone who listened to my show confirmed that there was NO REVERB, even though I could hear myself drowning in it.
So! Go to the Phonic website, download the PDF manual for the Helix Board 24 Universal, flip to page 55, and dive into the mixer’s block diagram, with Gypsy following along and trying to understand which bits were inputs and which were outputs and which were buses (brave woman, trying to learn this stuff!)… and I discover that my oh so clever feed to the streaming interface from the mixer was being taken from a subgroup output that had no access to the Aux returns. I could hear all the reverb in the mains… but the mains weren’t being streamed.
This led to last night’s streaming session, the third in a row… this one to an audience of one, as I fought with the studio’s wiring and tried to get a proper monitoring system working while Gypsy patiently listened to a test stream and texted me back with a constant stream of “too soft”, “too loud”, “hearing you in the left channel”, “hearing you in the right channel”, and on, and on, and on…
My solution was a horrible kludge: a broken 4-channel Behringer mixer, an inline attenuator box, and fourteen cables doing the work of eight… but now I can hear myself without latency, check the stream to make sure it’s not buffering, mute the speakers and only listen on headphones while doing voiceovers to avoid feedback… and in the rewiring process, take my main studio offline for weekly radio stuff to save wear and tear on my vintage gear yet have it available for instant use should I want it. (Well, almost instant. 3 minutes?)
And now, after three days of fighting techno-gremlins, I’m taking a break. I’ll be seeing you all in Second Life and on StillStream this coming Sunday, and by God you’ll hear the damn reverb on my voiceovers! Until then, have a quiet, safe, and happy holiday weekend.
*Or I could distribute that original audio for the right price. Atomic City HQ could do with the funds to get a nice new dress for me – for business reasons, naturally. Scold you? Of course not! I think holding you to ransom is much more classy.