Archive for October, 2016

i clearly bit off more than i could chew

I wanted to make a Pharah (from Overwatch) helmet for Halloween. I’ve never worked with armour before, so I went to a workshop at VCON to learn the basics, and started trying to find a design online.

This … sort of exists? I one person who would let you download their pattern for “free” if you signed up to back their Patron for some level, which is not free, and kind of annoyed me. And I found another non-authorised pattern being listed for sale at £35. (Kind of smelling a scam there.)

So I started poking at it myself and wow yeah this is not easy, which explains the paucity of Pharah cosplay I have seen, because damn. I went through a couple of complete-failure papercraft attempts and decided, “okay, I’m gonna wireframe this, by which I mean, with actual wire.” And that got super-frustrating and SOLARBIRD ANGRY! and I kind of quit and then I picked it back up a little later and suddenly it kind of started coming together.


The liftable mask isn’t really right and also wants to be both larger and smaller to be correct at the same time, because fuck you CGI, but it’s… in the neighbourhood. And even wearable! It fits on my head! And stays on!

I cut a couple of papercraft element pieces using the wireframe as a pattern and they are very different to my straight-to-paper attempts, so I wasn’t even close before. I just don’t have an intuitive grasp of how bends in 3-space affect projections into 2-space I guess. So this really is how I’m going to need to do it.

Obviously it’s too late to finish this year, but I think I’ll keep working on it. I’d like to at least get the helmet together, right? That’d be neat.

ever wanted to just hang out in the slytherin common room?

Ever wanted to hang out in the Slytherin common room, or Gryffindor’s, or any of the other houses? Or, maybe, on a balcony in Rivendell? Madam Vastra’s arboretum, perhaps? Or maybe a snowy day in Skyrim?

Well, y’can’t. But I did just stumble across an ambient sounds site that will let you make the room you’re in feel a bit like those places might, by creating the right audio environment. It’s called Ambient Mixer, and it lets you set up your own environmental soundtrack, as well as both play and modify those set up by others.

It’s pretty neat – it works by playing public domain sound samples that you can set up to loop, with things like placement and randomisation so it’s not just the same 120 seconds or whatever over and over again. So occasionally you’ll hear someone through the room, or pages in a book might turn, or the fire might make occasional other noises, the wind will pick up outside, or you’ll hear a hawk – and so on.

In some cases, it works really well to turn off any of the specific instruments if present (like the ‘spirit cello’ in Skyrim) and play it along to the soundtrack album, if one is available. I’m doing that right now, combining the Skyrim snowy day ambient audio with the OST, and it’s astonishingly effective.

It’s fun to play with, and certainly soothing. Also, it’s reminding me real hard right now about how much I miss Skyrim and am looking forward to the PS4 remastered version coming out soon. Because damn, that was a great game.

hard, hard candy

I made a thing! It’s called a focus knob. It’s quite simple and normally you’d built it into an electric guitar as a guitar mod, but since I don’t have an electric guitar, I built it as a pluggable external box.

Basically a mild high-pass filter that serves to pull out ‘boominess’ from instruments, it puts a bit more of an edge on an instrument’s sound – the more you turn it up, the greater the change. As effects go – on my zouk, anyway – it’s pretty subtle. But it’s also the kind of shift that is multiplied by later effects added in, and changes how later-in-chain boxes like distortion pedals work.

As you can see from the instructions here, the wiring takes all of about 20 minutes’ time. But it’s good warmup for making a bunch of component upgrades to my Oktava 012s, and I already had all the parts from the Great Radio Shack Lootfest of 2014. Plus, hey, cool hard candy tin!

So I have a a HARD CANDY knob now. It goes from Hard to Candy. Yum. 😀

honestly, i’m just too strung out to blog much right now

I haven’t been posting much lately, and that’s because honestly, I’m just too strung out to do it. 18 days ’till the American elections, and while this is Cascadia, this is American-occupied Cascadia, so I can’t just laugh nervously and hope they don’t invade, they’re already here.

Leannan Sidhe sent me a new song a few days ago, and I’ve learned something: Ab (and all variants) are the Satan of chords for irish bouzouki – at least, in my tuning. It’s so much so that chord charts just skip over it completely. I was all, “…did I miss something? Is it in back for some reason?” NOPE IT’S JUST NOT THERE. Of course, I can come up with a few, but they’re stupidly up the neck and sound wrong in context, or they’re missing important things like, oh, the 5th.

Really, this is one of those cases where having very flexible fingers doesn’t make up for having small hands. Some five-fret reaches, I can just barely make. (See: all F chords.) Some four-fret reaches, though, I can’t – and while the “take G and make it a bar chord” approach is my best shot at getting an Ab that isn’t insane, well, yeah, it hurts.

So, anyway, yeah. I’ve been quiet, because stressed the fuck out, and it won’t be ending real soon. Mr. Trump is most likely going to lose, appears to know it, and appears to be setting up to denounce the result as fraudulent… all so he can corral, I dunno, 20 million of his hard-core alt-right supporters into his new television venture, which will, given what we’ve been seeing, become the new voice of white supremacy and overt misogyny.

It never ends, really, does it. It. never. ends.

This Is Neat: the Collidoscope

Several months ago, I saw online a prototype of a sampling synth with waveform editing and a uniquely cool physical user interface. I don’t remember whether I blogged about it at the time or not, but I certainly talked about it on social media and such.

It’s not so much that it does anything you can’t already do; you can do everything it’s doing with a modern digital audio workstation, for example. But the physicality of the interface looked delightful, and that sort of thing really, really matters in instruments. Including synths. It made sample synths look fun to play in a new dimension – one far more instrument-like than I’d seen before.

Collidoscpe v2

I wondered at the time if they were looking for a commercial application, to build them to sell. But if they were, they’ve ditched that: it’s gone open-source. Not just source code for the software, but instructions and 3D CAD files if you want to build one yourself to their physical specs.

Admittedly, the case-build instructions are… a tad sparse. But that’s half the fun, right? Component-wise, it’s basically a cakewalk. (Silly me thought the waveform display was some fancy custom thing HAHAHAHAHAHA NO IT’S A STANDARD LCD MONITOR BEHIND A FRAME HAHAHAHAHA etc. But that’s the smart way, so.)

Anyway, yeah! Project!

h/t: Klopfenpop for the link

not so bad after all

Well, that was neat – the “warmup” storm was the big one, the big one swerved north at the last minute and weakened, mostly missing us, and then surprise-collapsing over Victoria. Still, we did lose power and were offline most of a day, so if you missed Friday’s post about recovering damaged recordings – a bit of a geek-out, really – that’s what happened.

I took advantage of the unexpected uptime to finish up that project, by the way. It was interesting, and I learned stuff, like usual. The condition of the tape (and damage in the recording) varied all over the place, and arguably too much even to try to split it up into a million shards. Though there was a lot of this kind of crap:

This is one phrase of lyrics

That’s a combined automation of level and compression ratio. Here’s what it looked like over a larger area, about 3/4 of the way through. Yes, meaningfully more got added to this:

And the sad thing is, that’s just me trying to attain listenability throughout. I’m not trying for “good” – that isn’t attainable, but less noise and less distortion and fixing dynamics over time, that I can do.

Some of the tape wasn’t really that bad! I mean, it’s a 23-year-old cassette recording made on some sort of portable device set on what sounds like two different autolevelling schemes – it changes once when the recording was stopped briefly, I suspect the operator changed modes and I really wish they hadn’t – so “not really that bad” comes with a lot of caveats. But still, not that bad. Lots of hiss, lots of tape rumble, small dropouts, and so on, but not unintelligible. Fatiguing to listen to over time.

Here’s a short sample of “The Crawl,” early on, direct from the tape. Hissy, some sort of mid-band distortion that isn’t too bad in short doses (but really gets annoying over time), off-centre sound placement. But otherwise not that bad. You can hear stuff.

So I ripped the hiss off, did some work to improve dynamics, pulled out what I could of the distortion, threw on EQ to bring back out the low end, re-centred and smoothed it a bit, and here y’are.

Then there are other sections. After that mode switch got thrown, the whole recording got weirder. “The Profiteers” was particularly bad. Here’s the original. I know the lyrics and I still can’t make them all out here. But I can in the restoration. It’s not good, but you can make things out. This is where I needed that whole stack of plugins I talked about on Friday.

And just as importantly – and something short samples like the above won’t give you – it’s listenable over time. Some of these problems are really hard to tolerate over the two hours of this recording. They’re not bad in short doses, but they grate.

Like, the original seems to have more high end, right? But it’s not real. Eventually your brain figures out it’s just hiss, with your audio centre filling shapes into it, and it’s wearying. In short comparisons, the brightness is attractive, and the restored version sounds kind of dull in contrast at first – but as with light, your ears adjust to recordings, and that goes away with listening.

Similar are all the damn-autolevel-to-hell level changes. They’re not necessarily so bad in short doses – some of those are like punches to the face, but most aren’t. But even with that, EVERYTHING REALLY LOUD PUNCTUATED BY surprise underlevelling is also wearying.

So the restoration maybe doesn’t sound good, on any kind of normal scale – but I got it to the point where, particularly on laptop speakers, it sounds pretty okay. I can listen to it. Occasionally – just occasionally – it even sounds musical. And there’s enough there there to remind me how much I miss this Great Big Sea.

There was one thing I couldn’t fix though, no matter how I tried. And that’s during “Excursion Around the Bay,” wherein early in the song, some fucker orders espresso at a George Street bar. And so you get that espresso machine foam blast noise right in the middle of a verse.


Gods damn you, espresso man – gods damn you.

still here, so let’s geek out about recovering damaged recordings

Whelp, wave one/two are mostly past us, and so far, we’re still up! We had three short outages overnight, but nothing the UPSes couldn’t handle – the longest was about 10 seconds long, nothing actually serious.

Tonight could get dicey in the early afternoon; tomorrow afternoon, though, will be the biggest event. It’s a separate system, we aren’t in some kind of eye; Songda doesn’t have an eye any more, and is continuing to weaken. They’re thinking more “2006” than “1962” at this point, so those winds will most likely top out in the 90-100kph range.

Still, in 2006, we lost power for two days, and neighbours lost theirs for nine. So it’s still to be taken seriously.

I’m still working on a project for some people in Great Big Sea fandom, helping them recover a badly-degraded cassette recording of a concert from 1993. It’s… wow yeah, it’s a mess. Definitely one of those, “I’ve got this to the point where it’s… pretty bad! But here, listen to the original for comparison…” projects. I think I’ve managed to make wide sections of it listenable, in that you can make out lyrics pretty much all of the time now, you can hear choruses, the weird continuous rumble is gone, the particularly fierce for some reason tape hiss is gone, things like that. But damn, the distortion is pretty fierce at times. I’m pretty sure they were overdriving the microphone.

Here’s the plugin stack, from memory:

  • repetitive noise reduction (-18db)
  • low pass filter (more hiss)
  • high pass filter (rumble)
  • 10-band bandwidth-adjustable equalisation (with deeply gnarly settings, this was not a good recording)
  • multi-band compressor (to reduce crowd noise as percentage of signal)
    right about here it starts to sound like a normal, if low-quality, recording
  • second 10-band bandwidth-adjustable equalisation (basic general EQ)
  • second low pass filter (because asymmetrical EQ curves aren’t a thing)
  • standard compressor (oh look something almost normal!)
  • 20-band notch equaliser (fixing dents in the curve, I thought, “let’s try this” and it worked)
  • some very short-duration reverb to hide many remaining sins (waveform smoothing)
  • fast look-ahead limiter on master bus (kind of a circuit breaker, for peak protection, should do absolutely nothing) and done.

It’s kind of a lot. The automation in particular is pretty hilarious – the recorder had automatic recording level adjust and they used it (NEVER USE THAT) and I’m kind of undoing all of that the best I can. I’m also fixing dropouts, stuff like that.

(Seriously, never use automatic recording level, I’m pulling entire lines of songs back out of noise.)

If any audio engineer is reading this: I know. I know. But I can’t combine those EQ passes, I tried – the processing between them matters too much. And of course, this is a no-pay project, because it’s fannish – but I volunteered, and every time I do one of these things, I learn something.

Okay, now we’re getting more power flickers, so let’s post this while we can still echo it around. Adventures!

this is not my fault

So apparently we’re being one-two-three-ed by big, and I mean big for us, windstorms over the next week. High wind watch tomorrow, followed by Typhoon Songda (or the remnants thereof, which we’re still talking 75-80kph sustained winds on the coast), then maybe a Tuesday chaser.

And that’s if Songda maintains its current path and doesn’t shift south. If it does – hoo boy. Cliff Mass – a popular weather blogger in Seattle, he’s a research scientist at UW – is describing the Songda as “a highly dangerous windstorm with the potential to be an historic event” which would exceed the worst storm ever to hit here, back in 1962.

Plus, the timing is terrible – mostly, the leaves are still on the trees. That makes them giant sails.

So basically all that combines to mean we’ll probably have to bunker in, lose power, and end up offline for a while. Possibly several days, if Songda moves south a bit. The music page will stay up ( ) throughout, of course, and blog page echoes live here:

Livejournal (complete blog echo)
Dreamwidth (complete blog echo)
Tumblr (partial echo plus have I mentioned korrasami and overwatch?)

And, of course, there’s the band page on Facebook and my Twitter account.

Hopefully we’ll get lucky and it won’t be so bad. Nobody thinks of us as having storms, but boy howdy, we do this time of year, and this is looking to be a bad one – particularly as a combined wave. Wish us luck.

something very very wrong happened here

I will, when I see a good one, post about a nice Supervillain Lair up for sale. This is not that, but is still a listing that I’m posting because damn.

‘Unique one of a kind finishing completed by a professional!’ Yes, that professional, I am certain, being Kevin, from Desert Bluffs.

Something very, very wrong happened in Avon, Connecticut.

More suburban hellscape here

orycon concert

Hey, I got my Orycon schedule! I’m doing several panels and will write those up in a bit, but the concert is Sunday, November 20th, 12:30pm, in Mt. Hood.

I know that’s still a bit off, but that just means plenty of time to make plans, eh?

Return top

The Music