Archive for the ‘studio’ Category

wifi progress, and a new show

Short notice show! I’m playing with Leannan Sidhe at Shoreline Community College’s Black Box Theatre on November 6th. It’s part of the Express Yourself Showcase. I don’t know what the rules are for audience admission – as in, whether it’s students and faculty ID required – but if you’re around, come watch the fun! There are lots of groups performing.

We’ve made some progress on the Lair’s wifi situation, particularly on the lowest level. We’ve gone from really quite a mess to something a lot more reasonable. To wit, enjoy some signal-to-noise ratio maps:

Minionland and Chudville had Really Bad Wifi

Minionland and Chudville have Much Better Wifi

Colder colours are noisier, blue is pretty bad, unevenness is generally not good. I’m showing signal-to-noise maps rather than raw-signal-strength maps because as long as you have enough signal to use, S/N ratios are much more important than raw signal power. A full-strength signal that’s 30% garbage is useless; a weak but audible signal that’s clean is just fine. So.

There’s less yellow super-hotspot area now, but you’re not going to get much throughput improvement between those strong green levels and the yellow. The evenness of field should help with reliability, of course – that’s lots and lots of yellowish green, which is pretty solid.

And most of all: no more blue. Blue in this software means problematic levels of noise. I was seeing S/N headroom numbers as low as 20db, and regularly in the low 20s; that’s not disastrous, but it’s not good. Now we’re reliably in the 40db range, which is a huge improvement. dB is logarithmic, so that’s not twice as much headroom, it’s 100 times the headroom. It’s a lot.

To get here, we’ve done a few things. One, we got seriously started on the RF noise suppression in the wiring through liberal use of filter units and ferrites. There’s still lots to do, but it’s a start.

Two, we moved the primary lower hub so that it’s as close to above the downstairs repeater as I could get without tearing into walls. (The location indicators on the display are wrong; it’s the software’s best guess, and it’s inaccurate sometimes.)

Three, I built a reflector for that primary hub to spread the signal around better on the ground level, the non-CHUD half of which is shown above. (The CHUD half is a secret.)

Also, we had to repurpose a functionally-useless AirPlay receiver as a second repeater, one level up. That repeater is not shown. It’s so that the main level would have somewhat reasonable coverage from the lower network, which is useful for people going up and down stairs.

So, yeah, there’s that update. It’ll be a couple of days before the next set of line filters arrive – I burned through most of through my useful stock – but that will hopefully help with the noise a bit more.

Then I’m going to poke some at the upper network – officially the “west” network, though both “up” and “west” are true – to see if I can get some better south-end coverage out of it. It’s unlikely, but I’ll try. Mostly, I’m happy not to have done it any measurable harm by adding yet another transmitter to the lower network.

Will this solve all our problems? I doubt it. I’ve already found that we shouldn’t be using our upstream provider’s DNS servers. Our servers don’t use it, why should our workstations? So I’ve gone back to using our own, and that’s already helped. But the big job, I suspect, is getting IPv4/IPv6 concurrency sorted. We’re running some IPv6 now, on workstations, and I’m pretty sure some of the stacks are… not entirely ready. And I’m not sure what to do about that.

So much overhead in running a lair, I tell you.

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

accidental discoveries

I have this big tall sound baffle I call “the monolith.” It was the first one I made. I play into it, and have people play into it, to minimise bounce when recording.

After Bone Walker was recorded, I moved it back towards the wall a bit to free up more space. Around then, I also noticed the monitor speakers sounded a little weird, a little… hollow? It was hard to describe. Failing to add two and two, I wondered if my monitor amp needed more work or something, but put it aside to think about later.

A couple of days ago I helped somebody with a sound engineering homework assignment on standing waves. Which made me think about this.

Today I finally did some math and HEY putting the monolith were I had originally put it, just because it seemed like a good place? Totally fixed a room mode problem*.

Let’s put that RIGHT BACK WHERE WE HAD IT then, shall we? And never move it again. Perhaps I will nail it down, as a reminder.

*: Two near-double nodes! One pair at 203 and 207hz (not actually so bad), another pair at 274 and 276hz (fairly bad). Moving the baffle back to the old location disrupts both.

resetting the art

Every so often I need to cut through clutter and reset things. My clutter tolerance threshold is actually pretty damn low – most people wouldn’t’ve called my studio cluttered, but it hit that NOPE! point for me and I had to reset it.

I know a lot of people thrive in clutter, particularly creative people. That’s never worked for me. I wish it did, I’d spend less time resetting studio spaces.

On the plus side, it was a good time to change around art. I rotate pictures and such in and out so I don’t get too tired of them. Korra and Toph survived this round, and even got frames, and the Utena art I found at ECCC finally made it onto the wall. Plus I built a little shrine to our favourite Russian Jaeger pilots. 😀

Bigger pictures at Flickr, like usual. Mostly useful for the panoramas, of course.

the usual shot

the far side shot

the shrine, in sepia, because the colour came out weird

underlighting makes everything into art deco

Plus there were actually a couple of things that needed repair, like one of the lamps turned out to have some bad insulation (if “missing” counts as “bad,” which I think is true in this case) so I fixed that and its stuck switch.

And those horizontal lines on the sound baffles? Those are part of the new wall anchoring system. I had a baffle come down while trying to put a speaker away, and that sucks, so I fixed it. Plus, that let me put like three support legs into the closet, opening up more space and getting rid of distracting visual noise. Here’s an comparison to the previous reset, with the above panorama cropped to match.


It’s not a big difference, but people other than me notice it when they walk in, so it’s enough for that. Other than the art, it’s mostly corners and shelves, really. And the closets. Those got a good straightening out. Really, if anything actually needed it? It was the closets.

does your microwave screw with your wifi?

Does your microwave screw with your LAN’s wifi signal? It might well. Depending upon your microwave and wifi, it could be pretty severe. In our case, the microwave would stop wifi in the whole west end of the lair.

This happens because microwave ovens can throw out a lot of radio interferences in the 2.4Ghz range, and that’s where 802.11b, g, and n all operate. Now, sure, you can upgrade your equipment to dual-band 5.0Ghz/2.4Ghz gear, but that’s annoying, and costs money, and a lot of your devices won’t upgrade anyway.

So I started thinking about how this could happen, because I know the requirements for microwave oven shielding. Microwaves ovens are basically grounded metal boxes – I saw someone jokingly suggest putting your microwave into a Faraday cage, but these ovens basically are Faraday cages, so that won’t help. Okay, yes, the glass front isn’t a solid sheet of metal, but that grating that makes it hard to see through the glass is there for a reason, and it’s reasonably effective as shielding.

Then I realised one part of the oven isn’t shielded. Typically, it’s not shielded at all. It’s the power cord. Which makes the power cord a transmission antenna for microwave oven RF noise.

Now, thanks to all the RF issues we were having with the studio wiring last year, I’d stocked up on things called RF chokes. They’re used to filter out radio noise. This is all very high frequency noise, so you need ferrite chokes, specifically.

Clamp-on ferrite RF choke

They cost less than two dollars. Basically, they convert the RF field coming off the cable into self-cancelling magnetic fields, which – pleasantly – don’t interfere with your wifi. You want a tight fit, because physics reasons.

So I clamped two tight-fighting large ferrites onto the power cable, one on each end, because for all I know the RF issues with our building wiring were making things worse. Also, we seemed to be having a lot of RF coming off that power cord. And we gave it a go.

The wifi hasn’t fallen over while using the microwave once since attaching those chokes. Not even once. We’re still seeing interference – and the resulting slowdown in net performance which results from that interference – but it’s dramatically reduced, and we no longer lose connections and even audio and video streaming keeps going. It’s still an impact, we absolutely see it in performance testing. But it’s no longer an impact that matters.

So, yeah. If you’re seeing this, give it a try. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than replacing all your networking kit.

a really good DIY on studio conditioning

So remember the guest post that Jeff Bohnhoff wrote for the Studio Buildout Series of articles I posted while building out my studio?

Jeff has his own blog now for his own studio, and yesterday he put up a really good and extensive build report on his latest round of studio room conditioning, including a lot of details on building really large and pro-style sound baffles. They look spectacular and if you have any interest in home recording or sound control in a room, you should go look at it. It’s great.

Advance Review Copies of Bone Walker went out last night and we already have an awesome surprise that I can’t talk about yet. But I will, later. so exciting

sometimes you just need the right inspiration

And in this case, the inspiration I need for these vocals is a psychopath who can throw lighting around like confetti. So I made a little shrine to Azula. I got the idea when I spontaneously added the line, “not you, Zuzu” in rehearsal.

“I imported it from the Fire Nation. They make the best red stuff there!”

Also, you might notice I moved the studio closer to the lava core for this track. Fire nation, j0.

Do you have a crazyspiration, or is that just a supervillain thing? You should get one. It’s motivational.

midi is still hilarious

Okay okay okay so I’m playing my way through fast scales over and over, while running the midi device selector up several dozen instruments towards the one I want, which means the instrument being played by the keyboard is changing constantly? And I let go of the “next instrument” button as I quit playing (on the tonic) and it lands on “orchestral strike.”


I could not do that on purpose if you paid me. XD

creative tricks musicians can't use but want to

I’ve just been watching artists and writers online talk about what they listen to or just generally have on in the background while they’re working. A lot of people are saying they are stimulated by that, it makes them more creative.

But I’m a musician, so I can’t do that for most of my creative time. I can’t have music on (because hi, I’m writing or performing music) and I can’t have a television on (because there’s no point, I’m watching the digital audio workstation), and I haven’t had much luck with spoken podcasts – I’m paying too much attention to the sound I’m working on and don’t get much of anything out of it.

But back when I was a visual artist, I could totally do that trick. I kind of miss it. Right now, I’m doing paperwork and stuff and have Anpanman on the background, which is about the right level of non-distracting stimulus.

I’d like something akin to that for the studio, mostly for when I’m doing tedious things like timing edits and comping. You know, the boring shit. But I have no idea what that would be. Anybody have any ideas?

an inexplicable amalgamation of sounds

No, that’s not the new album title. The people on the other side of the top of the hill have started doing Something which smells occasionally like asphalt, and occasionally like rubber, and sounds like a combination of drills, compressors, and dumpster juggling. We can’t see them from here, but wow, can we hear them. Any ideas what they’re doing? ‘Cause we don’t know.

Welcome, GAMCON attendees!

If you’re here, you’re probably looking for the Kitting Out Cheap downloadable handout. Well, here you go. Thanks for coming to the panel!

You might also be looking for the Free Music Set, and that’s right here, one song a year from the last five. I’ll probably add a new song later this year, too, so check back.

How was GAMCON for you? I’m queueing this post up in advance, so I can point you to it during the panel. So I have no idea yet. SPEAK TO ME, PEOPLE OF THE FUTURE! Give to me your wisdom! And your death rays. I need them, you see. For reasons. Business reasons.

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