Barcus Berry Planar Wave Contact Mic Review – part 1

Ok so after some prompting, this is just going to be some initial feedback on how I’m finding the Barcus Berry contact mic & preamp to use, as I havent used it enough yet to come to any definitive conclusions, such is my workload with the imminent temp mix…

In terms of sound quality; the preamp is excellent – very low noise, even under high gain situations and the fact it runs off phantom power is just brilliant!! No more worrying about how fresh the 9 volt batteries are… Compared with my Trance Audio preamp (admittedly now an old/non-stock preamp) I would say the Barcus Berry is noticeably quieter in the bg noise stakes..

I found the actual piezeo contact mic unit a little fiddly to use, but I am getting used to it… At first I thought it made contact with the vibrating object the same way my Trance Audio one did, but compare the two units in this photo, Trance Audio on left & Barcus Berry on right:

With the Trance Audio contact mic element, I apply double sided sticky tape directly to the element & stick it to the object, whereas with the Barcus Berry the sticky tape is applied to the two brass bridge pieces which surround the element & these then transmit vibrations to the suspended contact mic element. Is there a difference in tone between the two elements? I imagine there is, but without having two identical preamps its hard to ascertain…. Heres a few recordings I did with dual contact mics, Barucs Berry is left, Trance Audio right:

download sword scrapes mp3
download oven rattles mp3
download bowed cymbal mp3

Its hard to judge & compare the sounds as the placement on each object was not identical eg sometimes I would have one contact mic at each end of an object… but my conclusion so far: the Barcus Berry is really high quality & I suspect I will order another of their Planar Wave preamps & use it with the Trance Audio contact mic element… I’ll post some more sounds in part 2 in a few weeks, when I get time to try them both on some acoustic instruments eg Gheng zu, zither, piano etc…

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Favourite Film Scores

This site has a list of its Top 100 film scores, but there isnt one on that list that I would include in my top ten… So what the basis for deciding what makes a top film score then? As with the Oscars it beats me, but it made me start thinking about my favourite film scores…
So if you had to name your 10 favourite film scores which would you include?

Heres ten of my favourites, as evidenced by frequent plays in my iTunes:
Tony Takitani by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Gerry by Arvo Part
Punch Drunk Love by Jon Brion
American Beauty by Thomas Newman (didnt realise he had scored WALL.E!)
Amores Perros by Gustavo Santaolalla
Traffic – Cliff Martinez
Apollo – Brian Eno
Fargo – Carter Burwell
Amelie – Yann Tierson
Me And You And Everyone We Know by Michael Andrews

Beauty being in the eye & ear of the beholder, whats some of your favourite film scores?

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Ok – I have a major temp mix starting in 6 days time, there are more VFX unlocked (latched is the optimistic term) than I can count on ten sets of fingers and yet, there is progress… but the progress tends to be mostly in my uber-PT session, which is now totally max’ed out: 256 tracks, 192 voices – the PT session file is 22MB! I also have a conform/reel rebalance pending prior to the endless onslaught of VFX updates, which as we all know need a tweak before they are bedded into the cut = another conform… its madness, in that glorious, do far more than should-ever-be-possible way…. So I think this is my way of saying the quality of my posts in the next 2-3 weeks are going to be somewhat compromised, until the mix fixes/final vfx updates are implemented… So heres a few random links that have tweaked my browser recently:

A contact mic capable of recording ants footsteps: Sanken MO-64

Passive aggressive notes – many of which remind me why I am so happy to never have to flat with anyone else ever again…

Incredible listening devices – I want my own #2!

The birds of Hollywood: An unnatural history

Banned musical instrument causes insanity!

Soviet Synth Museum (oh and check out Olga – a virtual Soviet Synth!)

The joy of boredom

Cinema redux – movies displayed as a single image

5 Easy Steps to Output Dolby Digital from Quicktime Player

A lovely nostalgic collection of cassettes!

Another good ProTools tips blog: Sound Design Down Under

Just what we all need for those idiots who use their cellphone as a weapon of their own oblivious humiliation:

A worldclock where you can watch in real time as births outnumber deaths…

Calibrating your Subwoofer

Digital Needle – A Virtual Gramophone

‘Music as a Gradual Process’ by Steve Reich

No Fortissimo? Symphony Told to Keep It Down!

Harry Partch’s Instruments

And lastly, I love these weird loopy old photos

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We have a map of the piano….

I’m borrowing the name of a great tune by the icelandic band Mum for this post, not because its about them but because it is about the piano…. On Sunday I’m going to a film at the NZ Film festival called “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037″ and it looks incredibly intriguing – my mind buzzes thinking about what a talented film maker & cinematographer could do with this subject matter!
Borrowing the blurb from the Festival Catalogue: “There is no more engrossing subject than man at work. The proof… is in [this] chronicle of the production of a single Steinway concert grand – a nine-foot beast that requires a plank the length of an anaconda, a year of assembly, and a small army of blue-collar technicians whose skills are as minutely focused and compartmentalized as a safecracker‘s… Testimonials from a variety of pianists… describe and demonstrate the variances of sound inimical to each Steinway, among the last of the hand-crafted pianos. But they‘re distractions from the drama in Steinway‘s Queens factory, where a single slip of a ‘pizza wheel‘ wire stretcher or an imbalance of a few thousandths of an inch could ruin a $25,000 instrument. Director Ben Niles and cinematographer Ben Wolf scrutinize each step… offering moments of fixated strangeness and wonder… As a study of stubborn artisanal tradition in the ProTools age, Note by Note is a stirring symphony of specialized labor.” — Jim Ridley, Village Voice

Check out the movie website and/or watch the trailer:

Ok and just to continue the confusion, heres a live video of Mum playing aforementioned track at the Liquid Room in Shinjuku:

ah the restraint, beautiful!

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We Love Foley Artists!

direct youtube link for iphone/ipod touch

people that use ‘LOL’ all the time do my head in, but that really was LOL!!!!

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