A breakthrough! A breakthrough! I have been doing some experimenting with my recording rig, as described yesterday. Today it seems that greater success has come.

Running the newest version of Pro Tools – version 10 – hasn’t been without issue on my Macbook Pro. Although not recommended, I had been running an audio test from the primary (and only) internal drive. It was just easiest that way, but an error message continually popped up during playback: “A CPU overload error occurred. If this happens often, try increasing the H/W Buffer Size” in the Playback Engine Dialog, or removing some plug-ins. (-6101)” With RAM maxed out at 8 GB and this machine not yet being a relic, it seemed something more was going on than the 5400 RPM drive simply not being able to keep up.

I changed Pro Tools settings multiple times, changed back and forth between 1 and 2 host processors, unplugged and plugged all the connections back in, and then something clicked. The newest part of this system I have been dealing with is the Aggregate I/O. For those unfamiliar, it used to be that Digidesign-branded hardware had to be connected to your computer to open the Pro Tools software, and that hardware also acted as the sound card… so speakers/headphones hooked up to it. Now an iLok is used, which is basically an oversized USB thumb drive that holds all your licenses and allows a user to open the software. This also allows you to use either the previously mentioned Digidesign hardware OR you can now use your computer’s internal sound card. Shabam!

What fixed this whole “CPU overload” debacle was taking away the aggregate setting and putting the focus solely on the externally-connected Mbox 2 (via “Setup” -> “Playback Engine” in the PT menu). It never occurred to me before that perhaps more-than-necessary processing was going on, due to sending signals to two sound cards.

Also, for good measure, I have hooked up an external, 7200 RPM hard drive to the Mbox 2, as the Macbook Pro only has one Firewire port, which is being used up by the Mbox 2 itself. I finally have a setup that isn’t clunking out every 15 seconds…. sooooo, if anyone else runs into a similar scenario, hopefully this gives you a solid starting point.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it below! Also, check out the music I’ve written/recorded on Pro Tools here: https://leavingcelestia.wordpress.com/music/

Spending the day troubleshooting…. I recently upgraded my primary audio software from Pro Tools 8 to PT 10. Unfortunately, I have long been stuck in this cycle of writing, editing, and mixing music on an archaic setup, which is centered around an old Dell XPS computer running Windows XP. Growing up using both Windows AND Apple computers, I can tell ya that they both work great for simple tasks… but once you get down to business, Windows systems are completely inefficient while Macs take the gold medal.

With Pro Tools, a lot of things are happening at once. You have things moving and scrolling in the mix and edit windows, plugins are doing some processing, and information is being consolidated and sent to the sound and video cards. Windows XP has just never been able to handle those tasks well while running Pro Tools 8. The output emitting from the speakers randomly becomes completely distorted and is only solved by either 1)stopping and restarting the playback 5, 6, 7 times, sometimes more or 2)getting into my settings and changing how much information the computer buffers before it’s translated into an audible signal.

Being a little behind the times here computer-wise, Pro Tools 10 isn’t supported on my old XP system, so I just have it installed on a Macbook Pro… well, the MBP doesn’t have two, big fancy displays to show what’s going on in both the edit and mix windows, so I keep going back to Pro Tools 8 to work with. Well, today I just had enough, as I kept running into that distorted signal roadblock over and over and over again, while mixing a song called “Don’t Look Down.”

I moved the project over the Mac, and the process of setting up an audio interface just isn’t as easy as it seemed it would be. If there is a weakness I have when it comes to all this techno-nerd audio world stuff, it’s dealing with signal routing, bussing, and optimizing auxiliary channels. Mixing boards are complex creatures, and I impressed many-a concert goer when I was standing behind a 40 channel sound board, fresh out of high school nearly about a decade ago. It kind of looks like the cockpit of the space shuttle, but you learn… and then technology changes.

What really trips me up is digital routing. I never had to deal with MIDI addressing, syncing a dozen synthesizers to do different tasks all at once. Only once did I program a light show via DMX addressing, and I just typed in the codes the lighting director relayed to me. And only a handful of times have I had to route a digital audio console. I have a feeling more of that will be coming soon, though, as some plans are in the works.

But as for now, it’s time to play around with PT 10 a little more. I will update if I make any breakthroughs.

Music Evolved

12/29/2011

So much has changed in the music business in the past decade alone. That’s not really news to anyone, but it’s so much more than just the distribution model being turned on its head, for which I am extremely grateful. I remember being 13 and being so frustrated by $18 CDs at Camelot Music. (Does anyone happen to remember when Camelot was one of five music retailers charged with price-fixing?)

By the time Camelot had become FYE, I had sworn off buying new CDs completely, only picking up used ones from the independent record shop across the street. And when they didn’t have what I wanted, I swapped CDs with friends and also broadened my music tastes by scanning the dial on the radio, discovering blues, jazz, and even classical. On a small scale, I adapted to make things work for my situation and, on a much larger scale, adapting is the very thing that the music industry hasn’t been able to do so well. Or so it seems.*

Realistically, since the pressing of the first compact disc, technology was in the works that would someday displace those retailers wanting to charge an extra five bucks for liner notes and a jewel case. Looking back, it seems that no one really believed CDs were dead at the dawn of the 21st century, except for Apple….and Napster.

If you fast-forward almost a decade later, in case you aren’t aware, things have also dramatically changed for the musician. A lot of major studios have shut their doors for good because cheaper technology has allowed musicians to record at home, rather than having to optimize $100,000 sound consoles that always look so cool in trade publications. These days, a very basic, but effective, recording setup can be had for a couple thousand dollars.

So now, the musician-entrepreneur can record at home, pay a nominal fee to an aggregator, who then passes submitted music along to sites like Amazon and iTunes, and you then hope, through self-marketing and sheer talent, that someone takes notice.

Of course, the market is certainly more flooded than ever, since digital distribution is now so simple and inexpensive, when compared to the $1000+ bands previously had to pay for the initial, professional pressing of every album they self-release. And speaking of albums, even that whole concept is in danger. As we consumers have greater freedom to pick individual songs to purchase, a whole lot of junk gets weeded out that otherwise would have ended up as “filler” on a album. On the other hand, art increasingly becomes just a commodity when it gets picked apart to be recategorized to fit someone’s “workout mix” on an iPod, as an example. On the other, other hand, the proliferation of radio in our lives is hardly debatable, and no one has ever seemed to mind that radio has always been single-driven, often pulling only the strongest songs from an album. So it all just comes full circle.

No doubt, this whole world is changing, as the focus of business becomes all things digital. It’s an interesting time and, despite all the problems/challenges this complex world faces, it’s also more exciting than ever to see what advances in sciences and the arts the world will come up with. Stay tuned, and let’s enjoy the ride together…

So… I just got a new Kindle Fire from the bosses and VIPs at work! Such an awesome gift that they gave to probably 200 people overall. Pretty amazing, actually. So the learning curve begins. I don’t have an iPad to compare the Fire to, so it’s safe to say I am a “noob” to the world of tablets.

First off, the Kindle Fire has a beautiful display. It’s amazing how sharp and crystal clear picture quality has become in a short time. I once had a Powerbook, which was then eventually displaced by a Macbook Pro. I remember the first time I started the latter computer up after it arrived at the front door and being totally blown away by the stellar images that machine produced/still produces. The Kindle Fire has that kind of picture quality…

Now we get into the guts of the device. I get the bookshelf look on the main page, considering the Kindle’s rise from being just a plain ol’ e-reader to being an on-the-go, full fledged (not the best description) tech device. But the bookshelf is kinda clunky. The apps most recently opened are shown on the top shelf of the bookcase, and you flip through to find the want you want, like flipping through the pages of a….book. Since you are flipping through icons, to open one, the icon has to be laying flat, and you have to tap it just right. Otherwise, you will get options like “remove from device” or, now with the Fire’s update, “remove from carousel.”

I have streamed videos on YouTube, and the wifi connection seems fast, reliable, and the graphics still look awesome while in motion. I don’t plan on storing many videos on this guy, though – if at all – due to the 8 GB, non-expandable memory. These days, that just isn’t a whole lot. And there is just something that doesn’t feel quite right about storing everything on cloud services. How are you gonna trust that Amazon – or whoever – is going to keep your stuff around for perpetuity?

This little device is pretty cool overall, but it still has a long way to go. Downloading and installing that much-needed OS update was really difficult to install. Also, Project Gutenberg books won’t open in Kindle format… for those who don’t yet know about this, P.G. is a huuuggeee list of public domain (aka “the classics) source for free books… stuff that Amazon tries to charge you for because they can. Also, I downloaded my first app today on the Fire, and it was a big source of frustration. I couldn’t get the Yahoo! Mail app to download, and it was only giving me a “cannot open” error. As it turns out, you HAVE to input your credit card info on file with Amazon to download even free apps. Totally crappy. So that’s the reason the Yahoo! Mail app “cannot open.” And while on the topic of the Yahoo! Mail app, it’s probably less useful than just logging on to your email via the browser. There was no “sign out” button to be found, and there was no chat or SMS messaging to be found anywhere….so I uninstalled it. It’s gone and probably won’t ever return.

It’s funny how, at first, people were predicting the Kindle Fire would be an “iPad killer,” then it came out and everyone took a step back and said “ohhh, the Fire wasn’t designed to be an iPad killer.” It can be a useful tool, yes, with some getting use to… but don’t expect it to guide your way to the moon. If the Kindle Fire is what you can afford right now and a tablet would enhance your life, get it. But the most important point from my perspective is this: I bought a Macbook Pro for professional use. It’s an expensive machine that I originally purchased for data management/video transfer for a TV show, and now I use it to run pro audio software… but it’s frequently taken over by my lady, so it’s also become an expensive word processor/email sending device. I was excited about the Kindle Fire, as it seemed really cool, and I had also hoped I would be able to claim my laptop as, well, mine….. but that hasn’t happened. So, at this point, it seems a laptop in simpler to use and the Kindle Fire still has a long way to go.

I like to watch football…lot. College football doesn’t really get my adrenaline flowing so much, though, because it’s impossible to keep track of what seems to be an infinite number of teams. Identification becomes difficult, and locations seem too broad-specific. Here is an example of what I mean: you have University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, and Western Kentucky football programs. Who knows what other Kentucky prefixes or suffixes that particular state also offers. Then you have people talking about “O.U.” Is that Oklahoma? Ohio U.? Perhaps Oregon? There is just too much to think about, rather than enjoying the greater simplicity of 32 teams that are almost all associated with major cities.

On the other hand, Sundays become complicated when you don’t cough up the $400 it takes to subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket. My viewing experience is pretty limited with TWC’s basic high-def package. In fact, on some Sundays I am almost convinced that Los Angeles just hates football. There just isn’t any other logical explanation when the local Fox affiliate airs the pre-game show, then cut to golf rather than showing, ya know, the game.

Also – and I’m sure it comes as no surprise – but the west coast likes to show west coast teams. I didn’t grow up following any of those clubs, so west coast-exclusive matchups become passive viewing in my household. And in those cases, I tend to just automatically favor the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog story when there is no other interest involved….. but existing in this rather unfortunate time in history, we are all subject to watching players like Tom Brady sit back in the pocket all day long, eating a sandwich and drinking a glass of Chardonnay, while waiting on a receiver to get open. We all know that, once the Chardonnay is gone, BRADY IS PROBABLY GOING TO END UP PASSING TO WES WELKER, SO COVER WES WELKER! And therein lies the problem: our armchair logic becomes infuriating when the defense on the field disregards the telepathic messages we send, and we watch Wes Welker and Tom Brady connect for yet another touchdown. How boring to watch winners keep winning.

With all this rationale and time spent, this sport isn’t good for my health, I am realizing. My interest in hoping to watch the Goliaths of the league be brought down brings out the profane negatives, which supersedes the things I should really be appreciating. Football is fun (sometimes), but it isn’t REAL for all of us. It’s only real for the guys on the field, abusing their bodies every week, and for the staff traveling with and supporting these players. For everyone else it’s some level of hobby.

The real point of all this is that I let it become frustrating, and I just need to chill out sometimes. I got sucked into fandom a long time ago, and it’s funny to think about how much I hated football until playing it, starting in 4th grade.

I am only an observer now, and this is my time to create my own, new reality. The obstacles standing between me and my goals are there and really exist, and my energy and focus needs to be on that. After all, we all must remind ourselves that the defense on the field isn’t going to listen to us, so what they do (or fail to do) is out of our control. For as long as we are passengers on the ride, we sometimes need to take a break, take a second look at the things we once noticed and appreciated, and to just stop for a moment and smell the freakin’ roses.

An Old Poem

12/03/2011

“Silt”
by Justin J Kilmer

I waited for your warmth
for so long,
Like a child playing
under a blanket
to hide from the cold winter night.

Night after night
day after day
I waited for you
Hoped. Prayed. Wished.
Finally you were mine
The time was right.
I crawled inside
your mind
and fell,
asleep.