Thursday, September 30, 2010

The FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor - A Love Story

As a mixer I find myself an unwilling participant in the "loudness wars". I have been mixing since the late 70's and have spent most of those years being hesitant to even add more than a touch of compression to my mix buss. But as the times have changed and my work has moved more into the pop and urban world I've found myself having to make my mixes more competitive on the radio. My clients also have an expectation of the mixes having a certain loudness as they're checking their reference mixes. No amount of explaining to them that it will be louder after mastering makes any difference - they want it loud now! And I've come to accept that for most of my clients the mixes DO need to be loud. So I've started to incorporate more heavy handed limiting into my mixing process from the get go so that I can control the final results better. But so often I'm fighting against the limiter and it's shredding harsh sound. And I've been frustrated with the lack of flexibility of most of the limiter/compressors I've tried. How can I get my mixes loud with out destroying the detail and dynamics I've slaved to bring out?

Enter the Slate Digital - FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor. You will not believe this thing! The first time I tried it out I had the the same feeling I had the first time I tried out a Distressor or my Orange amp which was - "I'm going to use this everyday"! I thought that it sounded like my mix, but louder. And I was just trying out the presets! There is a 'constant gain monitoring' button which by-passes the auto gain function of the plugin and matches the plugins output gain to the gain before the plugin signal. This allows you to turn the plugin off and on with out affecting the volume, thus a enabling you to objectively hear what it is doing to your mix. That right there is what really sold me on the FG-X. It really preserves my mix while making it louder and punchier (remember to turn the 'constant gain monitoring' button back off of course).

There is a slider called ITP, which stands for "Intelligent Transient Preservation", which is the algorithm at the heart of this beast. It goes from a 'smooth' setting to a 'hard' setting. It is analyzing the incoming signal and making adjustments to how it is going to do it's thing to the signal. Which is what's very different about this plugin, it's not a static process. I can't explain all the technical details about how it works, but just be assured that moving that slider up and down allows you to fine tune the process. I find that I end up with it closer to the smooth side.

The metering is pretty awesome too. It's very easy to see what's going on with large VU style and bar graph meters.

I have always felt better about buying gear that had lots of knobs. My thinking has been that I'm getting more functionality for the price out of a piece of gear. Take my Avalon 737sp for instance - it has 16 knobs and 14 buttons. At $2,250 that works out to $140.62 per knob. However my Germanium, which goes for $1,138.50, and only has 2 knobs comes to $569.25 per knob (ok... different kinds of pre's, and I do like the Germanium, but I like to have options). Well the FG-X has plenty of knobs and buttons. 9 knobs and 15 buttons to be precise. That's $33.33per knob, not counting the buttons!!!! What a deal!

There is so much more I could write about the FG-X, but I really think you should head over to the website and download the demo and see for yourself. There is so much flexibility available that you will be able to get whatever you need. This is a must have for any in the box mixer or mastering engineer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Well, I obviously haven't been blogging. A lot has happened. I noticed the date of my last post and realized that it was about then that my Dad went into the hospital for surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He was supposed to be out in 3 days and instead was in pretty much a coma for several days and eventually had to be moved to a nursing home.

Now I'm not going to go on a rant about doctors and their inability to communicate with each other regarding their patients, how you can feel pressured into following a procedure when it is not really necessary, how the doctor who is responsible for my Dad's condition wouldn't return phone calls or how next time I'm in a hospital for any reason I will be taking notes and pictures of every detail. But I will say it was the beginning of the end. My Dad was at a nursing home for a while before my Mom could take him home. She was able to care for him for a while but eventually it became impossible because he couldn't swallow anymore. We moved him to a hospice for several days where I stayed by his side until early one morning he took his last breath.

But this is not a blog post about sorrow or blame or anything like that. My Dad had Parkinson's disease (possibly triggered by exposure from agent orange in Vietnam). It was going to kill him eventually. The botched surgery just sped up the inevitable. What I wanted to write about is how my Dad's last days made me feel.

I do feel sorrow. But I can't say I've mourned yet because I've worked almost everyday since he died. My sister say's it will come. But for now I mostly feel grateful. My father was a great dad. He never gave me a hard time about anything (except my long hair) and tolerated all those band practices in the basement. I also felt lucky to be sitting at his side, alone, at the end. I can't really explain it. He was there when I was born. I held all my 3 boys when they were born and I was the first person my boys saw in this world. It seems fitting that I was with my Dad when he left this world.

The other thing I feel or think actually is that I should be following my dreams. Just before my Dad went into the hospital I was at his house and he walked out of the room to ask me to help him get home (he would get confused like that a lot). I walked him back into his room and explained to him that he was already home. He got really embarrassed, but it got him talking. He told me stories of his time in college, meeting my mother, being a dad. But mostly he talked about Vietnam. He told me things he had never told me before. And what I realized was that my Dad had done everything he had set out to do in his life. Not many people can say that. But he did it.

So now I have a different perspective as I move forward. I see things a little differently than before. And now that a little time has passed and I've gotten through a few challenging projects in the studio it's time to get back to the world.

Please stay in touch with your parents and loved ones.

Follow your dreams.