Summer Shoot at Mt. Washington

I’ve just started the summer portion of the Mt. Washington film shoot. I hope to write more later about how the mountain is different in the summer than the winter.

Here’s a photo of my audio gear in the corner of an office that was very kindly provided for our use. It’s followed by a shot showing the omni mic I rigged onto the strap of my recording bag. I was hoping to have a true Mid-Side setup this time around but couldn’t get the figure-eight mic I needed. This setup isn’t ideal but it gives me a different perspective on everything I record. (I’ve got two inputs on my recorder so might as well use them both.) The brown fuzzy is a DIY wind screen made from fake fur.

Sedition Edition

Here are some recordings and photos from my June 19 show at Sedition Gallery in Sydney, Australia. The performance was part of the Left Coast Festival 2010.

The first set consisted of duo improvisations by Holland Hopson, fretless banjo and  electronics with Mike Majkowski, double bass.

Holland Hopson & Mike Majkowski; Photo: Terumi Narushima

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 1.mp3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 2.mp3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 3.mp3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 4.mp3

Next was a wonderful set by Kraig Grady, just tuned vibraphone and Terumi Narushima, just tuned pump organ.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Grady Narushima.mp3

Holland Hopson & Mike Majkowski; photo: Terumi Narushima

Mt. Washington Pt. 2: Rime

January 11: Summit Weather

  • High temp: 5 F
  • Low temp: -2 F
  • Average Wind Speed: 46.7 mph gusting to 72 mph

A foggy day with visibility down to 1/16th of a mile. The observatory reported zero hours of sunshine for the day. Perfect conditions for rime ice. We could hardly step outside without it accumulating on our clothes and, of course, our gear.

rime ice recording rig

My recording bag covered in rime ice. My headphones were unscathed since I wore them under my balaclava (and hat (and parka hood)).

I brought out my contact mics to record the sound of rime accumulating on them. The best spot I found was attaching them to the windward side of a wooden sign post. Here’s an excerpt:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

rime_accumulation.mp3

Listening to the entire recording one can clearly hear the frequency of the resonant ping sounds increase as more ice accumulates. I suspect the ice accumulation reduces the surface area of the contact mic or otherwise stiffens the transducer–in a manner similar to a drummer increasing the pressure on a drum head and thus causing the pitch to rise.

Here’s a recording of an ice-covered chain squeaking in the wind. The squeak is less metallic than I expected, sounding more like rubbing ice cubes together.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

squeaky_chain.mp3

Here’s a photo of the chain (taken on another, much sunnier day). Yes, this chain appears to be preventing the building from blowing off the mountain. The story I heard is that the chains were an important part of the original building. When they rebuilt the structure, chains were included as an historical and decorative element. There were times when I could have used a chain or two to prevent me from blowing away.

Jackie and I covered in rime ice after our contact mic recording expedition.

Mt. Washington Pt. 1: Going Up the Mountain

I’m back home from the Mt. Washington shoot where I was so busy I never posted any updates. So I’ll be posting news of the trip many days late.

Here's all of my audio gear packed up and ready to go.

January 9: We all gathered at Jackie’s house, threw our gear in the van and drove to New Hampshire. Jacqueline Goss was the leader of the crew: video artist, writer, director, producer. Jesse Cain: cinematographer. Dani Leventhal: talent. (She hates that word, but after spending the better part of a week together I think it fits just fine.) We spent the first night enjoying the comforts of the Appalachian Mountain Club Joe Dodge Lodge. Jesse unpacked and assembled the camera so we could begin shooting first thing in the morning.

Jessie and Dani checking out the focal length on the 135mm lens

January 10: First thing in the morning we met our ride up the mountain (snow tractor!) at the Auto Road and took a minute to shoot a few establishing shots.

Mt. Washington (the summit is obscured here--it's just behind the peak on the right)

On the way to the summit we stopped just above the treeline to shoot a few more scenes. I loved seeing the stunted krumholtz trees that are just visible in the lower left corner of this photo.

Jackie and Jesse on the Auto Road

Late morning, we arrived at the summit and quickly unloaded our equipment. Visibility was good, and since we didn’t know whether we’d get clear skies again Jackie and Jesse and Dani peeled off to shoot some scenes that didn’t require sync sound while I took a look around the observatory and organized our gear.

Summit Weather:

  • High temp: 1 F
  • Low temp: -5 F
  • Average Wind Speed: 45 mph gusting to 62 mph

Here’s an excerpt from the first day of recording; a scene where Dani knocks the rime ice off a sign. These sounds are indicative of winter weather on the mountain: wind envelopes everything, so even rather violent actions produce only faint tinkles of ice.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

knocking_rime_off_sign.mp3

Salad Bowl Hemi Speaker #2

I recently completed my second salad bowl hemi speaker. (See info on the first one here, including links to the Princeton and Stanford laptop orchestras which provided excellent guides to construction.) My second speaker followed the design and construction of the first very closely, with the substitution of Polk Audio DB401 speakers. The Polk speakers were significantly cheaper than the Infinity speakers. I haven’t directly compared the speakers, but I remember the Infinity speakers to be heavier and louder than the Polk speakers. The frequency response of both seems very similar. I do prefer the mounting tabs on the Infinity speakers to the broad flange on the Polk speakers. When mounting them on a hemispherical surface, the Polk speaker flanges don’t lie quite as flat (er…curved).

Here are some photos I took during construction.


This is the bottom of the speaker. I simply scribed the circumference of the bowl on a piece of 1/2″ plywood and cut out the circle using a jigsaw.

Salad bowl with speaker holes marked and taped

Salad bowl with speaker holes marked and taped

Here’s the bowl with the position of each speaker marked and taped. If you look closely you can see a small red mark at the center of each circle. I used a string attached to the center of the bowl to mark the center of all the equatorial speakers. The tape is simply to prevent the bottom of my jigsaw from scarring the surface of the bowl.

Salad bowl with holes drilled for jigsaw blade

Salad bowl with holes drilled for jigsaw blade

Next I drilled holes in each speaker cutout large enough to fit the blade of my jigsaw.

Salad bowl with speaker holes

Salad bowl with speaker holes

Here’s the bowl with all the speaker holes cut. It’s easy to crack the salad bowl after removing so much of the material, so take care with all subsequent drilling and cutting.

Detail of cut used to enlarge back of speaker opening

Detail of cut used to enlarge back of speaker opening

One result of working with the elliptical geometry of a hemisphere is that the back side of the holes we cut is slightly smaller than the front side. This might prevent your speakers from sitting flush against the surface. I only needed to trim a few places from the back of each circle to get the Infinity speakers to mount flush, but I had to cut the entire back edge of each opening in order to mount the Polk speakers.

Finished hemi showing knobs and connections

Finished hemi showing knobs and connections

Here’s the finished speaker. (I know, I skipped plenty of intervening steps! I was having too much fun putting all the pieces together to stop and take pictures.) The volume knobs (one for each stereo amp) are on the left. In the middle is the power connector. On the right is a 6-conductor Neutrik connector for all the audio signals.

Finished hemi on top of subwoofer

Finished hemi on top of subwoofer

A front view of the finished speaker. It’s sitting on top of a Sony subwoofer I picked up at a yard sale. The two together have a nice R2-unit look. I’ve set the crossover fairly high (around 300Hz). I expect I’ll back it down after some more listening tests.

I’ve already performed once with this hemi. So far, the biggest problem I’ve encountered is having the amps cut out on me when the input levels get too high. The Dayton amps seem to have a protection circuit that shuts them down when they’re driven too hard. It’s better than having the amps blow up, to be sure, but a bit of a drag having the audio suddenly drop out. Sending the low frequency signals to the sub seems to ease the load placed on the hemi amps. I’ve also been experimenting with limiters and high-ratio compressors, but I haven’t yet found the silver bullet. I’ve only scratched the surface of spatialization possibilities with this setup, and I’m looking forward to working with it even more.

ASAC Presents Area C, Mudboy, Holland Hopson

I’ll be playing in a show presented by the Albany Sonic Arts Collective featuring Area C and Mudboy from Providence RI.

Thursday April 16 @ 8pm
at the Upstate Artists Guild
247 Lark St.
Albany, NY

Area C + Mudboy + Holland Hopson Poster

More info after the jump… Continue reading

10% True

I found some images in an archive from an old project of mine called 10%. The idea is to take 10 well-known (likely copyrighted) photos and slice and dice them together to create 10 new images. Fair Use laws recognize the right to use a portion of a copyrighted work under certain conditions, though that portion is rarely explicitly stated or agreed-upon. 10% takes this Fair Use provision to its illogical extreme. See the rest of the images after the break.

#2 of 10

#2 of 10

#8 of 10

#8 of 10

Continue reading