TV Timecard and Sound Report Writer apps

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tax Brackets Simplified

A few people seem to not have understood the concept of tax brackets in my previous post, Make A Profit Or Quit Freelancing. And that's ok, we aren't all trained the fine art of the US Tax Code, including myself. However, you should be familiar with the basics and that includes what exactly a tax bracket is.

Let's take advantage of the available resources from the world-class educational institute Khan Academy to simply explain this concept. They do a great job of explaining it, and rather than have me try to regurgitate their points just watch the video below. Just remember, you are never in just one tax bracket. You are in the highest one that your income allows, and also all the lower ones in that range of your respective income.



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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Make A Profit Or Quit Freelancing

I recently came across this great blog posting by Vincent Laforet from a few months ago that does a pretty good job of explaining how to come up with what you should charge. Although the part about your "tax bracket" is a little misleading, everything else is pretty much spot on. The bottom line is to know what you should be charging per day in order to make a profit. He explains in detail below.

There are four letters out there (an acronym to be exact) that have the potential to literally shape your future as a creative, and to determine whether or not you will be able to stay in business long term.   
As simple as this formula is, and as basic as it will appear to you once I explain it, I am constantly surprised (shocked to be honest!) at how few people pay attention to this simple number.   Even veteran freelancers don’t seem to know what their daily C.O.D.B. number is.    
C.O.D.B stands for "Cost of Doing Business." Basically it’s a number that represents what it costs you to operate your business for every day that you work. 
On a basic level, you add up all of your purchases and expenses to run your business, as well as your salary (I suggest you add your salary, but some people don’t)  and divide that by the total number of days you expect to work each year.    That will give you a number that is the MINIMUM you must make each day to BREAK EVEN.    If you make more per day on average than your C.O.D.B., you are profitable.   If you match your C.O.D.B but work fewer days than what you're expected, your business is in the red, and your on a path to being out of business…
What has amazed me time after time is how few of my colleagues know what their number is, and how that in turn makes it very difficult for them to grow their business over time – let alone what to charge their clients.
You should know this number by heart as it should help you determine the minimum rates you need to charge your clients on a job per WORKING day, to stay solvent as a business.   Keep in mind that if you get paid per SHOOT day – and don’t get paid for treatments, conference calls, research, prep and post – you need to cover ALL of those days in your SHOOT DAY FEE of course.    In other words, if you get paid 3 shooting day rates, but you actually worked a total of 12 days between pitch, prep, shoot, and post – you need to QUADRUPLE your DAY RATE (or daily C.O.D.B. day rate) to break even for those 3 shooting days you are actually being paid for.
So here’s how you calculate it:
You can start on a spreadsheet or with a simple piece of paper, or here’s a link to an Excel Spreadsheet I’m putting up for you to fill out on your own with your own expenses, categories, and desired salary.
Start by listing all of your business expenses per year, your cell phone service, the gear that you buy, the repairs, the insurance, etc.  Think about EVERYTHING you buy for your business on a yearly basis.   And if you buy a camera for example, divide that by the number of years you expect to have it in service, the same goes for a computer, and add that final number to your spreadsheet.
Then don’t forget to add the salary you pay yourself – this is critical.   The salary is something that should be able to cover your rent, clothing, utilities, etc.   Oh and don’t forget about taxes on that salary you’re giving yourself.    If you need $3,000 to live on a month, remember that that’s AFTER taxes.   Depending on your tax bracket you should add the correct tax percentage on top of that to determine the salary you need to pay yourself each month BEFORE taxes.  
Once you get a little more advanced, I suggest you put some additional categories in there:  such as retirement money, and savings.   We’re leaving that out for now – but you shouldn’t!   Oh:  and while freelancers don’t generally pay themselves when they take vacation time… consider taking that into account at some point too…
This might be getting a bit complicated for some – so below is a visual breakdown that I put together.   I added a bunch of categories on there, many of which you may not have/use in your own business, but I wanted to err on the side of adding too much so that you can see how quickly things can add up.   I also picked a "standard" salary and expenses (there is no such thing) for someone working in a mid to large city in the U.S.
To some of you these will be exorbitant numbers, to others this will be very low.   It’s all relative.   Frankly I made quite a few up.  As long as you get the principle we’re good.   $70K is a darn nice salary in many parts of the United States and definitely the world.   If you live in New York City on the other hand… it’s difficult to live on such a salary for many due to the high costs of living and exorbitant real estate.  If you have a family with children  $70K is difficult in many parts of the U.S.   It seemed like a good salary goal to use here for those reasons.
The numbers below assume you work 200 days per year.  The average full-time person works 260 days not counting vacation/holidays (5 days a week times 52 weeks.)   But very few freelancers work back to back 5 days a week – 200 is more realistic.    That’s what the "daily total" is based on in the chart below.    Truth be told… when you consider the amount of days we DON’T get paid for on a project… 100 days a year of "paid" day rates is probably more realistic for many of you… so you can go ahead and double most of the numbers below if you find that that applies to you.
The graph assumes you buy yourself a professional video camera that you will use over 2-4 years (depending on the price) before it becomes outdated, as well as lenses, accessories etc.   It’s very difficult to guess what everyone spends – but the point here was for me to add as many categories of things we tend to "forget."   We are all well aware of our big purchases, but we tend to forget how small purchases and monthly expenses quickly add up.   We easily forget about CF cards, cables, hard drives, subscriptions let alone business meals.
I’ve added a salary of $70,000 a year here, and I also snuck health insurance in there as well (this will most likely be part of your PERSONAL not business expenses of course but I’m trying to keep everything as simple as possible for now.)   That means that you’d have just under $4,000 per month to live on depending on your federal, state and local taxes which vary of course.
I’ve added little things like holiday cards, stationary, and the costs of promotion in there as well such as cutting a new reel every year.   I’ve also added a personal project in there that you do once a year, just to give you an idea of setting money aside for that as well.    I’ve also gone ahead an assumed you have a business vehicle in there.  You obviously will have to deduct only part of the vehicle you use for business and what part you use for personal if this not a vehicle purely used for business of course.


Continue to the rest of the article...

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Build a Successful Career in the Film Industry

I came across this article by Robert Hardy over at NoFilmSchool.com that provides some extremely helpful advice for anyone in the film industry. His single most important piece of advice? Build a good reputation. He then goes on to give a few examples of things you can do to improve your reputation like always be on time and have a good attitude.

I agree wholeheartedly with his advice. You can have all the fancy gear and the highest skillset, yet still no one wants to work with you. Is it slow for you right now? Maybe it's not because there isn't any work; maybe it's because your an eternal pessimist. Some of these attributes will be tough for some freelancers to change, but give it a whirl and see what happens. The worst that can happen is that you end up turning down more work. Check out the full story for more details.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Sound Devices 633 Info

I wanted to put this quick reference guide to any questions you all may have about the Sound Devices 633. This is pretty much just a collection of a few videos and articles.
  1. Article with a first glance at the unit from Trew
  2. 20 Questions with Trew
  3. Article with a first glance at the unit from Gotham
  4. Forum discussion on JW Sound
  5. Video from Trew (below)
  6. Video from Gotham (below)





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Saturday, November 23, 2013

FIRST LOOK: Sound Devices 633

My wife and I bought a pop-up camper a couple weeks ago. We've always wanted some sort of RV and finally settled on this efficient design. It's awesome. It's super easy to tow with my Acura MDX and it won't break down in the middle of nowhere. It folds up into this super-compact design for storage, but expands to two king beds and a little kitchenette and everything. If someone could make a mixer that does the same thing, that would be amaaazing! Turns out Sound Devices did just that.I got my SD 633 this past Thursday and was ready to put it to work the next day. The job was a series of commercials featuring 9 people in front of a green screen; mostly singles and some doubles. Below you'll find a stream of notes that I was able to keep throughout the day.

In the bag:

  • Ch. 1 - Line level
  • Ch. 2 - Line level
  • Ch. 3 - Mic-PH
  • 1 SRb, Switch Mode, Backlight=Always
  • Power distribution with BDS v2 and one nearly fully charged NP-L7S
  • Petrol PS601 bag
Let's first establish that this is a very powerful piece of gear that has used the evolution of the 664 to really hit the ground running. Almost all the software updates that have been made to the 664 have been implemented in the 663. 

When the 664 came out, I was most excited about the headphone jack being on the left side of the unit. You see, all of our headphones that have a single cable connection are always on the Left headphone. It makes perfect sense for the jack to be on the left. Well on the 633, it is on the right side of the unit. What makes the placement of the headphone jack even more perplexing is that the AUX 3 & 4 jack (output) is on the left side with all the inputs. Oh, well...Keeping with the ports on the unit, I still don't know why they use USB Type B. USB Type A is much more common for keyboards. The adapters needed really clutters up the media door area. However, this is nothing new, as it was all an issue on almost every other model they produce. 
There's no noticeable RF spray, either (B19 SRb)

I have particular appreciation for the redesigned gain knobs. The silver gain knobs on the previous models had a white indicator line, which was nearly impossible to see in dim lighting. Now they are black, making a stark contrast and easy to see. The PFL switches operate a little differently, too. They have a 3-channel mode and a 6-channel mode. When in 6-ch. mode (on by default), the PFL switch activates the channel menu AND PFL function in one direction. If you can recall, the 664 you PFL left to get the individual channel menu and PFL right to PFL. The 3-channel mode on the 633 works in this way. I, personally, would prefer to only have to switch the PFL once for each channel to access everything. The PFL function also only PFLs one at a time, unlike the 664 which forced you to stack the PFLs and listen to multiple pre-fades at once and de-activate them as needed. The 663 operates like a traditional PFL, allowing you to listen to one channel at a time. I didn't see an option to change this, either. I wish the 664 would gain some of these PFL functions.If you've used a 664, then this unit is like picking up where you left off. All the shortcuts are pretty much the same. I use a small handheld wireless keyboard, found here,to input my metadata and all of my shortcuts that were programmed on my 664 are identical to the 633.

SD is really pushing the PowerSafetechnology, and I have to say, it is quite incredible when you do need it. PowerSafe™ provides the user 10 seconds of internal reserve power and shuts down the unit properly. In addition, the 633 also took a note from the 7-series with its power distribution and automatic source selection feature. It has an ON/OFF switch and automatically chooses the power source unlike the manual INT/OFF/EXT switch on the 664. It's much easier to deal with and one less thing to think about than having to select internal or external power, or even powering down the unit. I actually have quite a few slim L-mount Sony batteries we use for homemade batt sleds for our Zaxcom RX900S units that I put on the 633. They aren't too heavy or bulky. I don't plan on actually needing them for primary power, but ya never know. I'm not currently using any internal AAs. That's just a little too much redundancy for me.

On this first day, I did a runtime test using my battery rig. In short, my single NP-L7S lasted 6 hours, 51 minutes. It was fully charged about a week ago and had since been left off the charger, so it wasn't quite 100%. As mentioned previously, my power was affected by the below settings.
  • Ch. 1 - Line level
  • Ch. 2 - Line level
  • Ch. 3 - Mic-PH
  • 1 SRb, Switch Mode, Backlight=Always
  • Power distribution with BDS v2 and one NP-L7S at 95%
There really wasn't anything too surprising in these results, honestly. I believe I get similar results with my 664. I'll put that to the test next time just to see. You'll find a chart of the runtime test below.





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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Not To Suck

A showrunner that I've worked on several shows with/for posted this on Facebook. A friend of his wrote it and it should be the duty of everyone in production to read it. And yes, I completely agree with the line for sound guys.
  • Hey sound guy…never interrupt a take. I don’t care about the plane. Stand somewhere where we can make eye contact. We’ll figure it out from there.

Read it here: How Not To Suck by Joe DeVito


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

ProductionHACK: DIY Bongo Tie

I was on a shoot the other day and didn't bring one of my regular bags that had my Bongo Ties in them, so I came up with this quick solution to hold down my R1a to the camera. Obviously it's not as versatile as an actual Bongo Tie, but I had to get all MacGyver on it somehow. Better yet, just bring your Bongo Ties next time.

Grab a single rubber band with a single paper clip to make a firm hold

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WAV Goodbye To File Corruption

location sound mixer dallas, tx
They say that power corrupts. I had never really given that much thought until my 788T froze on me a few days ago. At the end of a 1 hour, 8 minute clip, my unit ceased to function. Running firmware v3.0, I incurred the fatal (Please power cycle your unit) error. I pressed the power button and it immediately blanked out. I didn't have to remove external power or anything, which I found odd from previous lockups. I turned the unit back on and everything worked like normal. While doing my sound report at the end of the day from the CF card, I noticed that the take that incurred the error did not import into Wave Agent. I inspected the file itself and it showed a correct file size of 3.53GB, but the duration was 00:00. "Uh ohh," I thought to myself, "This can't be happening." So of course I went to my INHDD to access that recording and it showed the same information. My file was corrupt. Absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. Or does it?
location sound mixer dallas, tx
Corruption at its finest

I tried to playback the file in every piece of software I had available, including Finder Preview, VLC, FCP, Audacity, and many more. Every playback attempt resulted in the same result – failure. I had to deliver the news to my EP that we lost all multitrack audio for the single most tense and important scene in our episode: The Reveal of a Catfish. We checked out what audio we had in every on all 9 cameras, which are all camera mics except for our primary A-cam, which had wireless camera hops with a 2-ch. mix from me. We knew that the first 45 minutes or so we did not have the mix on A-cam because we were shooting car-to-car, which doesn't use A-cam, and then also we had some sort of a hop transmission error (that's another story in and of itself). Our show is "sooo documentary" that 6 of the 9 cameras we use don't have any XLR inputs, and only one channel of the others had any sort of external camera mic mounted. Our options were severely limited. Our EP decided to send all the footage off to be cut together and see how bad it would sound. In the meantime, others were working on trying to repair or restore the WAV file somehow, including myself. I researched a few pieces of software that had a good reputation in repairing various formats of audio, but at the end of the day none of them worked. We also were in the process of getting the actual CF card to a data analyst as another option. This was a little outside of my area of expertise, but it was also my responsibility as the Sound Supervisor to ensure that we have proper redundancy so that we don't lose anything. As far as I was concerned, I covered my ass by recording simultaneously to both internal hard drive and compact flash, not to mention sending a 2-channel mix to our A-camera. Turns out, that wasn't good enough. I failed the people that trusted me the most with their production, and that is what I felt terrible about. Our delicate content isn't something we can simply re-shoot like most shows. It was never even a consideration.

I sent Sound Devices the setup file, with which they confirmed that it wasn't operator error in terms of machine settings. We were in Michigan at this point and it wasn't terribly hot. I was certain overheating wasn't the cause either. Regardless, it failed and I wasn't sure that it wouldn't happen again. I've experienced lockups or other recording errors with various units, but they always preserved the take without any corruption. Now I was concerned that it was going to happen again before I could get a replacement. The point is that this can happen to anyone, anytime no matter how much you take care of your gear or prepare yourself.

After a much deserved tame verbal lashing by my superior after finding out how little I was personally involved in the repair process, I was hard pressed to find a solution to this mess. I started with a program called Sample Manager, which I found as a batch audio processing and export tool. It also has a great diagnosis and repair function built in. I was actually quite optimistic that I'd be able to repair it as I went through the process. It would find and error and present a couple of options on how it would repair it. One thing led to another and the end of the road was the grab you see to the left, saying "The audio file cannot be repaired." Oh, well. On to the next.

One of Sample Manager's suggestions was to use a file editor to modify the file. So I started looking into available file editors, also called HEX editors. These will basically give you the ability to edit the metadata that codes the WAV file. Sample Manager suggested xED, but I also found HxD to be good software for this purpose as well. It turns out that WAV files are relatively simply constructed, which is one reason they are so reliable and popular. One Creative Cow discussion led me to a fantastic pool of information on the architecture of the WAV format compiled by Standford, found here.
location sound mixer dallas, tx

This was a little too advanced and time consuming for me to tackle in one night, so I continued looking into other options. One search on "repair corrupt WAV file" led me to a feature of Audacity that allows it to import raw data into the program. It's designed so that Audacity can read virtually any kind of uncompressed audio format by only using the data sub-chunk of the file (basically the audio itself, not everything else that packages the audio into a readable file format). So I gave it a whirl by doing just 1% of the file since it was so long and OH. MY. GAWWD. It was a miracle from above. It read all 9 tracks in my PolyWAV file!! They sounded pristine as I had recorded them. When I played the file back, it felt so good. I remember the words of when I started recording. "Have you tried this yet? It's soo good. You're gonna love it!" The cast member was offering some amazing dessert that our lunch location gave him. Hearing this audio in this condition and not on a GoPro camera mic gave me the chills. I was ecstatic! I closed out the project, created a new one and imported 100% of the file length. After 10 anxious minutes the process was complete. Every second of the audio was there on all 9 tracks. None of the metadata was there though, but I wasn't too concerned with timecode and track names at this point. Three of the tracks were recognized as stereo PolyWAV tracks, but I just left it all as is. I listened to the newly created files, renamed them to their correct names and then batch exported them as new MonoWAV files uploaded to my server IMMEDIATELY. Demo embedded after the break.



I could have gone one step further and added the timecode and recompiled in Wave Agent, but I cut a few of these corners primarily because it was 4am at this point. Uploading 4GB over shitty hotel internet speeds was already cutting it close before we left for the airport at 9am later that morning. I sent the e-mail notifying Post and everyone that had been involved on finding a solution, including my EP. This was such a relief for me. I knew it wasn't my fault, but it was my responsibility. I am just happy to have taken the burden off of my EP, who could have been in deep water had he delivered sub-par audio on his watch. I have since started putting my Zaxcom TRX900AA (for 2-channel camera hops) into loop record and taking that 2-channel mix as yet another backup. When it's on, it automatically records everything. It's a nearly fool-proof way to get another backup without much extra trouble. If aalllllll of this fails, then we have bigger problems anyways.

Nothing is guaranteed in life except death and taxes (ahem...Wesley Snipes), and that includes digital audio files. I'd rather be lucky than good any day. And that, my friends, is the story of how I still have my job.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Expendables Just Got Easier

Umm...no. Moleskin, not Molefoam!
Getting started on a new show with a new crew usually takes a little getting used to. People are different and experience levels vary drastically in the reality segment. This includes PMs, PCs and their minion PAs that fetch us our expendables. Earlier this season on Catfish, I went through 3 attempts to get me the correct moleskin. It's amazing how things can get lost in translation when you need a very specific item. I finally got around to making a PDF, found here, that makes the selection process as idiot-proof as possible for a PA to identify and purchase exactly what I need without making 3 trips.

I give visual examples of what the correct item looks like in retail packaging as well as providing examples of the incorrect item(s). When possible, I provide model numbers or other indicators that will help the person make the right decision. Since providing this document to the proper personnel, I'm batting a thousand. It should be mentioned, however, that this particular document is based on my personal preferences. Some people may prefer rolls over strips or what have you. The point is that having something like this for you will simply make everyone's life a little bit easier.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Whip It Good

This IFB antenna now sits atop the vehicle
I do a lot of car-to-car stuff for Catfish and finally have a great solution for our needs. I typically just drop the bag in the trunk of our compact SUV, pot up the car plants and let everyone listen in on IFB. This "auto-pilot" method works best for us because our cast will sometimes travel along without us, so having the bag in another car wouldn't work on a consistent basis; not to mention all the extra antenna rigging I'd need. We are much too fast paced for all that. Having said that, I would still only get mediocre results when listening in on IFB from another vehicle. That's what prompted me to find a better solution for a situation that happens several times on a daily basis.

Just gaff the cable down, and BAM!
I have tried a dipole mounted inside the car before, which proved about as useful as the existing whip on my T4 -- sometimes worse. I finally came across a magnetic remote whip antenna from Vark Audio, the Mag Mount, that is designed specifically for this purpose. I use a Lectrosonics T4 250mw transmitter and Lectrosonics R1a receivers. I simply disconnect my bag whip and connect the BNC from the remote whip. Getting the antenna outside the shell of the car is the most important key to get maximum range, but having it atop the car helps as well. The car itself acts as the ground plane needed for the whip antenna. This thing is a big breakthrough for me and has proved to be one of the tools that allows me to have one less thing to worry about. On a related note, it's time for some Devo.

It's super easy to install and holds up well to the wind

When I drop my bag, I just replace my bag whip BNC with this guy

For reality shoots, this thing is practically invisible

You really can't see it here

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Sound Devices 788T & 664 Wireless Keyboard

The Sound Devices mixer/recorders are fantastic tools, but they lack a user-friendly keyboard for metadata entry. They do, however, come equipped with a USB port for keyboard access. The 788T has a standard "A" type USB port while the 664 has an annoying "B" type USB port. After a decent bit of research though the forums, I found this little guy to be the perfect fit for me. It's the 2.4GHz Rii Touch N7 Mini PC Laptop Keyboard. It has a physical on/off switch, LED backlight and "clicking" feedback. It also has an auto-sleep feature that will power down the unit until you press a couple buttons to turn it back on. It boasts a rechargeable 810mAh internal Li-Ion battery, chargeable via USB. The 664 allows for pre-programmed shortcuts and the 788T even allows for some user-programable keyboard shortcuts. You will have to use an A-to-B adapter for the 664, but it will plug right into the 788T without a hitch. Make sure you get the 2.4GHz model and not the Bluetooth model. The SD unit may not give enough power to the receiver with the Bluetooth model. See my link below for the correct model.

I also use the back of the keyboard to write my frequencies on since there is no handle on the Petrol 607 bag(!). The touchpad is useless for this particular application, but I've found a use for it when streaming movies on my laptop in my hotel room. Just plug it in and you've got a pretty sweet remote control!

For about $35 you'll be up and running in no time. Even if you do have a CL-WiFi, this is a good backup.
This should give you a good idea of the size

It's very slim; fits pretty much anywhere in the bag (by my SRs)


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Antennas and Toothbrushes

I never quite thought that whip antennae and toothbrushes would ever be relevant to each other, but it turns out they have similar shapes. That's important because there is a much bigger market for toothbrush cases than is for antennae. So with that in mind, I went out seeking an easy-to-use and -store case for my whip antennas when traveling on the road. And look what I found...a perfectly sized toothbrush case!
Closed and contained

Ready for business


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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Return of the Cicadas

For everything I hate about cicadas, I actually know nothing about them...other than the fact that they are the noisiest insects on Earth. Samuel Orr is trying to educate the world on these creatures by creating a 1hr. documentary, of which a preview full of incredible time lapses is below. He has a Kickstarter project up for a few more weeks to help fund his venture. I backed him for $20 and I encourage you to also put in for this very well done project of passion.



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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Creating a Thunderbolt Compact Flash Card Reader

I currently work on a reality show called Catfish: The TV Show on MTV. It is my second season on the show and, needless to say, we all learned a lot the first go-around. It is a truly unique production with a very specific set of challenges...mostly in the camera department. The nature of the show demands the use of a variety of cameras, and with that, a variety of recording mediums. On any given day, we can have up to a dozen different "cameras" using different media types like XDCAM, Compact Flash, SDHC, MicroSD, and even directly to hard drives. One of the biggest challenges of the first season was managing all of these mediums and taking the time to ensure proper organization and data backup. The main thing that was holding our crew back was transfer times from these cards to our location backup master drives and shuttle drives that are sent back to post-production daily. I also wanted to shave a few minutes off of my daily dump as well. As we all know, technology is always advancing it it couldn't have come at a better time for our show. The advent of Thunderbolt technology gives us remarkable transfer speeds to and from external card readers and hard drives. LaCie makes some excellent Thunderbolt-enabled hard drives that we use on location. The internal SDHC/SDXC card reader found on current MacBook Pro laptops provides sufficient transfer speeds, as does a USB 3.0 reader. Unfortunately, we reached a choke point with Compact Flash. There are plenty of USB 3.0 and FW800 readers out there, but we wanted to take advantage of the capabilities of Thunderbolt. After some research we found there was really only true solution on the market for Thunderbolt CF readers and that is the Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter by Sonnet, but it has been discontinued. Even still, it technically isn't even a Thunderbolt card reader per se. It is a Thunderbolt to SATA deck and they produce several widgets to adapt to the SATA port, one of which is a Compact Flash port. Lame. I'm sure there is a reason why the supply has yet to catch up with demand for a Thunderbolt CF reader, but I don't know it and I'm too impatient to find out...so we created our own. And you can, too, for UNDER $150! 

Thunderbolt Compact Flash card reader in all its glory 
I found essentially the same parts out there on the intraweb, and after a few tests from different manufacturers finally came up with a Thunderbolt Compact Flash reader that's worth a damn. All can be purchased on Amazon.com right now for a total of $143.14 (as of 4.15.13). The items listed below are the exact items that I purchased. There are several variations out there, so to achieve the results listed at the bottom of this page, I recommend you just jump for these. I had so-so results from other units that I bought and tested; particularly the SATA to CF reader.


Small gap between the CF reader and GoFlex
The weak point is the SATA to CF adapter. There are several SATA to CF readers to choose from, but I chose this one because A) it actually recognized the CF card, unlike some others, B) it is the fastest out of the ones we tested, and C) it is the least exposed to the elements. I think most of these are supposed to be mounted internally somewhere, but this works well enough for our purpose. There is a small gap on the bottom once everything is fully installed, but there is enough give in the connector to where it hasn't noticeably affected the physical integrity of the unit. This can also easily be fixed by adding a permanent support underneath it. See the chart below for transfer speed tests.


The Koozie Case
I also found that a folding neoprene koozie is the perfect traveling case for the GoFlex and CF adapter. Besides, you can never have enough koozies when you're on the road.

Here are some other CF adapters that I tried and others I found. Some were successful, but slower, and some just plain failed. I wouldn't recommend any of these items unless you're in the market for a longer Thunderbolt cable.
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Show My White Space!

A while back I found out about a great little app called 'Show My White Space!' It's from a company called Spectrum Bridge Inc. and aims to enable universal spectrum access. It's super easy to use and does only one thing, but very well...and it's FREE! In short, you simply open the app and it finds your location automatically. You can edit or search other cities if you like, but just tap 'Show My White Space!' and BAM, it brings up a list of available and unavailable channels in the chosen area.

There is also a handy frequency chart to tell you the frequency range in each channel. You should still go through any frequency coordination and scanning on-location that you would normally do, but if you have to choose between which blocks to use, this should make for a rather easy decision process. You may not like what you find, but now you can easily obtain the information from the palm of your hand.













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Monday, April 1, 2013

Wireless goes Batteryless

From the Fanatics in New Mexico comes another beastly invention...the WXLR, a solar-powered wireless transmitter. Around this time every year it seems like these guys have something groundbreaking that hits the market.  Now that your show will save hundreds of dollars on batteries, you can get that raise you've been asking for!

Rio Rancho, NM – April 1, 2013… Lectrosonics is introducing the world's first solar-powered wireless microphone transmitter, the WXLR. The new transmitter is based on the idea that today's solar cell technology is sufficiently advanced for use on portable electronic devices. The new WXLR was based initially on the previously introduced WM water-tight transmitter. 
Being fanatics, Lectrosonics engineers aimed to simplify the design even further and make the housing even more bullet proof by eliminating the battery compartments and associated doors altogether. While discussing solar power as a potential option, one engineer realized that solar insolation is almost exactly 1 kW per square meter or 0.65 Watts per square inch in full sunlight. Solar insolation is the available power from the sun that strikes the earth's surface after atmospheric losses.

For the full article, go here. Also of note, today is April 1st, 2013.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Walkie Softie

The standard surveillance headsets and remote microphone that come from the rental houses leave a lot to be desired in their performance. I've always hated how someone will talk over the walkie in a 20mph wind like they're in a vacuum. You can never hear yourself, so it's easy to not know that you sound like garbage. I took the liberty of dressing up my personal walkie mic with an extra fuzzy overcover stuck on with Top Stick to prevent those nasty Texas winds. After a few compare and contrast blow tests, other people on set have noticed a difference. So now they can all hear me fine, but if we can just get those producers to follow suit...

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Friday, March 8, 2013

664 in a Bag


I own a Sound Devices 664 and use the Petrol 607 for a custom fit bag. There are several good, and not so good, things about the bag. I'm just going to leave you with a quick tip for solving one of the drawbacks of this bag. The bag has a major flaw in its stability. When you set a fully loaded bag on a flat surface, it has a tendency to tip forward. A tragic flaw when you recall the primary purpose of a bag is to keep your gear safe. Well I tried some Velcro along the front side, but when you harness up the bag pulls up (because of lack of rigidity in the frame like previous models) and creates a void along the front frame.

The void on the top of the CL-6 allows the bag to rotate out

So when the bag has a lot of use, it will pull off the Velcro that lies across the top. So I added a small amount at the two corners and that seems to have done the trick. In fact, this seems to have reduced the protrusion. The bag now lies flat against the CL-6 and doesn't fall forward.

Velcro strips on the corner will make your Petrol 607 field-ready

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Friday, March 1, 2013

You're Freq'ing Out, Man!

When coordinating several wireless brands across several blocks, I always find myself browsing the intraweb for a single list of frequencies in the different blocks of each brand. Not everyone makes it as easy as Lectrosonics. I personally own wireless gear in Lectro blocks 19, 21, 22, and 27 and Zaxcom block 25. Occasionally I'll come across some Sennheiser GX wireless that I'm not sure about. Well I finally got around to making a spreadsheet that has all of this updated info on one PDF. Feel free to put it on your phone, tablet or desktop to keep handy for the next time you need access to everything at once. I found one somewhere a while ago, but it was wrong. It had Lectro and Zax wireless using the same frequencies. They, in fact, use different frequencies for different blocks. I've done a pretty good job on verifying all of the data, but if you see any errors please let me know so I can update the sheet. Links are below of all the sources I used for the data.

NOTE: Revised version updated on 3.17.15 to include wideband blocks from Lectrosonics and Zaxcom.
Click the logo to download the PDF


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Friday, February 1, 2013

How To Skin A Mole

Are you potentially interested in seeing the least interesting video ever made? Well, you've come to the right place. Seriously though, cutting moleskin doesn't seem like a difficult task, but have you ever had a PA cut your moleskin for you? They somehow manage to cut a perfect square out of a rectangular sheet of moleskin. I decided to share my technique with the world, however unexciting it may be, and it doesn't involve drawing a grid or folding of any kind. You only need your eyeballs and a pair of scissors (and moleskin of course!). This is based on the packets you will find at your local CVS or Walgreen's and will net you 108 pieces of moleskin per packet. Enjoy!



Follow up: I've had a few people ask me how I actually use this on the lav. See pics below.
Flattened bottom gives you less "warping" of the shirt

Moleskin Sammich (dubbed by Jack Cline)

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