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AES 123rd Convention, New York

"Inside the Convention ..."

Mel Lambert's special reports for "The AES Daily"

AES Daily VIP Edition: At The 'Super Bowl'

VIP EditionWith the 123rd AES Convention entering its final preparation stages for our downbeat at the Javits Center on Friday, October 5, I recall fondly the words of that irreverent fellow Englishman Ian Dury, whose song "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3," summarizes - maybe ironically - the successes of those human endeavors that are our myriad papers sessions, workshops, seminars and companion exhibition. Not one to mince his words, Dury - once described as "Elton John mated with a battering ram" - wrote songs that were a sunny mix of rock, funk, reggae and music-hall badinage. His anthem lists a litany of incidental observations and leaves it up to the listener to sort out their juxtapositions.
   For those of us who have been attending AES Conventions for more than a handful of years, the component events are not-to-be-missed. While there might be no specific reason why you need to gather in the company of your peers, there's no denying that we all come away greatly enriched by the experience. Sure, gear junkies will find the exhibition a perfect occasion to examine the latest and greatest recording and production tools from all of the household brands. But it's often surprising how we might overlook the rich program of technical papers, hands-on seminars and the superb workshops that are organized for our delectation.
   "The 123rd looms as one of the most exciting and information-intensive events in our 59-year history," says AES Executive Director Roger Furness. "The Committee has developed a far-ranging and extremely contemporary program with workshops, papers, tutorials, technical tours, Platinum, broadcast, live sound, student, historical and special events, all of which have all been focused on informing and inspiring our attendees."
   "These many elements that make the annual AES Show the 'Super Bowl' of Pro Audio take almost 15 months to plan and polish," considers committee chair Jim Anderson. Returning for his third consecutive turn as East Coast AES Committee Chairman, Anderson is a multiple Grammy-winning producer who recently achieved cult status among students at NYU's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music - which he chairs - by appearing on Comedy Central's Colbert Report with rock critic Anthony DeCurtis, Peter Frampton, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Henry Kissinger. "While our meetings rarely reach the levels of jocularity I experienced on The Colbert Report," Anderson offers, "it must be emphasized that Stephen Colbert is a professional satirist. The big laughs generated by our Committee are, for the most part, unintentional."
   Working closely with Anderson on the 2007 AES Committee are David Bialik, celebrating his 19th term as Broadcast Chair; Alex Case, Tutorials & Workshops Chair; Henry Cohen and John Kilgore, Live Sound Co-Chairs; Harry Hirsch, Historical Chair; Michael McCoy, Facilities Chair; Agnieszka Roginska and Veronique Larcher, Papers Co-Chairs; Lou Manno, Technical Tours Chair; and Alan Silverman, Master Class Chair.
   "Each year this Committee is challenged to raise the bar beyond standards set by previous conventions," Furness concludes. "Amazingly, the diversity of the events, the numbers of attendees and exhibitors and the overall level of quality actually does increase year after year."
   I'll be back for the On-Site Editions with news of Daniel Levitin's keynote address, Live Sound Events, Master Class Programs, Education Panels, Workshops, Tutorials, Technical Tours, Platinum Producers sessions and more.

AES Daily Day #1/Friday Oct 6 Edition: Reasons to be Cheerful

Day 1Today looks to be getting busy, so I'll move quickly to what I consider to be essential Convention highlights. The noon opening ceremonies are an excellent opportunity to focus on the Society's considerable achievements, with presentations from executive director Roger Furness, president Wieslaw Woszczyk and convention chair Jim Anderson. The Keynote Address from McGill University's Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music, will address a number of "How's" - How can we be musical experts by age five? How does music affect our emotions? How can we be math smart but lack musical aptitude? And the biggie: What is the true impact of powerful music on the human brain? Whew, come and find out more.
   Be sure to check out today's series of Exhibitor Seminars from That Corporation, Renkus-Heinz, Audiomatica, Klippel and Flex Acoustics, plus producer Henry Ott's Master Class, sagely entitled Audio Interconnections - Dispelling the Myths, and providing essential lowdown on cabling, grounding, balancing and shielding issues to ensure reliable operation in any EM-laden environment, yet without also being a potential source of interference.
   Two Workshop Sessions are worthy of consideration. Trends of Storage Technologies for Audio Recording and Mastering, chaired by Kimio Hamasaki from NHK Research Labs will review next-generation storage for emergent high-density/enhanced data-rate audio recording and mastering systems, while 5.1 Mixing Do's and Don'ts, chaired by George Massenburg, with real-word contributions from Frank Filipetti, Crispin Murray, Ronald Prent and Jeff Wolpert, will spotlight techniques for preparing surround mixes without necessarily resorting to "faux 5.1" processing tools, even when multichannel originals are available for remix. Sage advice, indeed.
   And don't overlook the Tutorial Session entitled 7.1 Mixes for Blu-ray And HD DVD: Workflow from Mix to Encode with Ronny Katz and Jeff Levison from DTS, which will consider strategies for surround-sound music and film production, progressing to single-bitstream encoding for a variety of multichannel release media. In addition, Training Session Seismic Changes: The Landscape of Film and TV Music, moderated by Joe Carroll from Manhattan Producers Alliance, will consider the technical and economic factors transforming music for TV and film.
Digidesign C24   Finally, for all us Techno Geeks, what new developments can we expect to see? Digidesign (booth 701) will show the new C|24 mid-format/24-fader control surface for Pro Tools|HD and LE (shown right), which uses the firm's high-speed Ethernet-based protocol and includes 16 low-noise mic/line/DI preamps, each with high-pass filters, plus a 5.1 surround monitor section; Steinberg (booth 826) will unveil Nuendo 4 with new features for studio recording, post and live recording; Fairlight XynergiFairlight (booth 142) will spotlight the remarkable Xynergi Media Production Center (shown left), in reality a programmable controller that features self-labeling key switches capable of displaying full-color images, animated icons or text - the
combination provides intelligent control during complex production chores; Roger Nichols Digital (booth 776) will showcase the new SPL-izer DAW plug-in, an FIR frequency-splitter that creates multi-band buss signals for routing to aux or instrument tracks for separate processing; Soundfield (booth 851) will introduce the DSF-3 Digital Surround Decoder, which provides a complete all-digital surround microphone system with post-production options; Allen & Heath (booth 136) is launching the useful ZED Range of small format, USB-equipped mixers for studios and live performance, bundled with Cakewalk's SONAR LE; and AMS Neve (booth 700) will unveil the new Genesys expandable analog recording console with DAW control and which, at a base price of $50k, looks set to put a scare into SSL.
   I'll be back tomorrow with details of other not-to-be-missed sessions, technology offerings and more.

AES Daily Day #2/Saturday Oct 7 Edition: Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 2

Day 2A busy day ahead, so straight down to business. A pair of Technical Sessions within the Applications in Audio session are on my calendar: Digital Audio Processing on a Tiny Scale: Hardware and Software for Personal Devices with Peter Eastty from Oxford Digital Limited, will consider the development of chips and GUIs for low-power/small size systems with real-time DSP control; and Enhancing End-User Capabilities in High Speed Audio Networks with Nyasha Chigwamba and Richard Foss from Rhodes University, will look at a Plural Node Architecture for Firewire-capable systems that involves a client-server implementation via TCP/IP and based on work of the AES SC-02-12-G Task Group.
   This evening's Legends of Nashville Sound, moderated by Jim Kaiser, will provide an overview of The Music City's recording facilities, starting from 1940s radio stations and Castle Recording Studios, taking in live programming from The Grand Ole Opry and the influx of major labels. Owen and Harold Bradley's "The Quonset Hut" opened in 1954 as the first business on Music Row; RCA Studio B, built in 1957, remains the oldest Nashville studio. Come hear how the place has kept the faith through rich and lean times. And producer Michael Brauer's Master Class, tantalizingly entitled Mixing - From Rough Mix to "Yogi," will deal with the human aspects of audio remixing. How do you work not only with the track elements, but also with the needs and personalities of the band, manager and A&R? How indeed!
   Two Workshop Sessions are worthy of consideration. Surround Contribution for Radio and TV, chaired by Jon McClintock from APT UK, will cover networked 5.1-channel technologies, while Interactive Audio and Human Perception - Can We Connect Knowledge with Practice? chaired by Renato Pellegrini from Sonic Emotion, Switzerland, will explore the design of interactive spaces and review established techniques for generating virtual environments. Aside from gaming and simulators, telecom and related consumer products make use of interactive systems such as head-trackers, game-controllers and joysticks.
   This morning's Platinum Producers with Ed Cherney, Hal Willner, Jack Joseph Puig and other accomplished individuals. will explore the creative, technical, business and career-management challenges in today's music industry, while a fascinating Lunchtime Keynote from Charles Limb and Patrick Donnelly will consider the origins of Beethoven's Deafness, including recent evidence of mercury poisoning from hair-restorative products. The 19th Annual Grammy Recording SoundTable, entitled Good Times: The Enduring Legacy of NY's Power Station Studios, will feature a who's-who of engineers and producers that worked at this landmark facility.
   During today's Live Sound Seminar, three sessions are worthy of attention: Sound System Alignment and Acoustic Measurement - Understanding and Using The Tools Available To Achieve Better Sound, chaired by Sam Berkow from SIA Acoustics, will focus on practical applications and users' experiences in a real room; Large Scale Multichannel, Multi-system Wireless Design, Deployment and Operation, chaired by James Stoffo, will discuss how to implement big wireless systems within RF-challenging environments; while Whitespace Status Report: The Current Outlook For License-Free Broadband "Whitespace" Devices in the UHF TV Spectrum and How We as The Entertainment Industry are Preparing ... kinda says it all.
 AEA R840  My TechoRadar tells me that Audio Engineering Associates (booth 544) is showcasing the interesting R440 and R840 Active Ribbon Microphones (pictured right) which, essentially, are phantom-powered versions of current models, while retaining the characteristics of wide bandwidth, effortless dynamics and low noise. Come hear for yourself
   Finally, Hot News from the Floor - Harman Professional's various brands (booth 408) have a slew of new offerings, including the AKG Elle C hand-held mic aimed at female vocalists, the new Lexicon PCM96 stereo reverb/effects processor, JBL's VRX9000 Series of Crown-powered cabinets, new software for the Soundcraft Vi Series consoles, and the remarkably clever Studer Vista 5SR live-sound consoles with new mechanical constructions, redundant backups and thermal protection. And check out the new hand-crafted Dell PCs that GC Pro (booth 904) will start offering next month, with optimized features for music creation.
   I'll be back tomorrow with a final look at essential sessions and workshops, plus my Pick of The Show.

AES Daily Day #3/Sunday Oct 8 Edition: Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3

Day 3Where are all these people coming from ... and why are they always in front of me at the Starbucks concessions? This convention looks set to break a few attendance records, so I'd better get to it. Today offers a predominance of enveloping sessions, literally and figuratively. Surround Sound: The Beginning, 1925-1940, presented by sound designer Robert Auld, will comprise an assessment of the medium's origin and early work at Bell Labs and Disney, while for Surround Sound: Quadraphonic Sound in The 1970s - Recording Classical Music, Auld will be joined by Andrew Kazdin, Charles Repka and Max Wilcox, to consider four-channel/quad sound for the home which, if you can believe it, resulted in no less than five competitive disc formats. Makes Blu-ray versus HD DVD looks like a walk in the park.
   The Workshop Session Evaluation of Surround Main Mikings for Classical Orchestra, chaired by Mick Sawaguchi from Pioneer Corporation, will report on the interesting findings of an AES Japan Surround Study Project that analyzed 15 different combinations of main and ambience mic setups that were recorded to Pro Tools|HD. Each setup will be auditioned during the presentation; participants will be invited to comment on the results. This afternoon, industry veteran Ken Hahn from Sync Sound will host a Master Class: Advanced Ideas and Techniques in High-Definition Surround Music Postproduction for Film and Television, whose title says it all. I predict a lively Q&A session.
   The Broadcast Session Audio For HDTV: Dialnorm, chaired by Andy Butler, will allow Mike Babbitt from Dolby Laboratories and Tim Carroll from Linear Acoustic to duke it out again as they beg to differ about who's to blame for incorrectly implemented metadata and those annoying level jumps. Content providers cannot agree on how to correctly set Dialnorm; networks use different values for affiliate distribution. And there is no consistency at the station level. Might it be time for sanity to prevail?
   And so to my Top Three Innovations at the 123rd Convention from some of the smaller fry. In no particular order, I nominate Audinate, Bricasti Design and Qualis Audio. The Australian firm Audinate (booth 1205) has been quietly working on an ultra-low latency digital audio networking technology - known as Dante - and a very clever Zen automatic device discovery and system configuration protocol. Put succinctly, Dante enables simple plug-and-play networking of digital audio; it has already been licensed to Dolby and Lab:gruppen. A truly remarkable breakthrough.
 Bricasti M7  Bricasti Design (booth 148) from the minds of those clever chaps who brought us the classic Lexicon processors, have been wowing attendees with the Model 7 stereo effects unit (shown right), which includes no less that six Analog Devices SHARC Blackfin DSP chips for the heavy lifting, and produces results from its extensive effects library that ..Qualis Audio Auditor. well, have to be heard to be believed. A remote control is also under development. Not to be missed.
   Qualis Audio (booth 1251) has been working for a while on a new Auditor SPA-201 Surround Monitor Controller (pictured right), which offers useful analysis and control functions, in addition to automated monitoring of system nasties. As well as simulating a number of consumer SSL- The Shedenvironments, the system includes a neat readout that simultaneously displays surround, stereo and mono signal levels, including (deep breath) spatial and spectral distribution, plus conventional level and phase information. Bright minds at work here.
   And, finally, a tip of the Marketing Hat to SSL (booth 154) for the brash Shed of your Dreams, a Summerwood construction modeled on company co-owner Peter Gabriel's garden shed (pictured left) in which wrote many of his best songs, except that this one contains a fully functional recording studio. Prices start at $250K.
   If you have been, thanks for listening. See you in Amsterdam and San Francisco.

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