Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Untold stories - Elephants, Native Americans and my Grandad

This is my grandfather, Samuel Horrocks Williams in the 1920's.  He took to farming in Canada instead of following the family mill business in Manchester, England.  My great grandfather told him he has to start, like everyone else, at the bottom sweeping the floor. Grandad had schooling and did not want to start at the bottom so took off for fields a new and became a farmer in Ontario, Canada.

My grandmother, his second wife (his first wife Mollie died of T.B.) had most of his photograph albums and some other things of his that were not tossed out or passed on to other members of the family.  Last year, Gran died.  Almost a year after my mum was able to ship over some of Grandad and Gran's things, reminders of them that have no real value, other than sentimental and keepsake memories.  But Mum threw in a photo album from which the photo above is from.  The album has opened a few questions in the family which cannot be answered, but one of my favorites is this photograph.

Grandad is the one with what looks like a tan shirt and silly hat on!  This photo, as with all the photos in the album, are from Ontario, Canada.  Look at the houses in the background.  And here he is, presumably in one of the farm's fields with a small herd of elephants and a Native American.  And we are left with this great question: What on Earth is going on here?  The only thing we have come to is that the elephants and maybe some of the people in the photo are from a traveling circus.  The elephants, I presume, have been let off the trailers, be they pulled, or from a railway locomotive, to eat and stretch.  But I wish I knew the story of this image.

Grandad died in the 1980's and I had never seen this photograph album.  Most of the photos taken pre-Gran were not let out or looked at. And Gran has gone so I cannot ask her.  My one surviving aunt from my grandfather's marriage to Molli also has no idea, as most of the photos in the album are from Grandad's first trip which he made before coming back to get Mollie.

I love the photo and the mystery it has created.  Grandad loved animals and the letters of recommendation we have from this time period state this categorically.  And I love the fact that Grandad could ride a horse sans saddle.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Recording with PreSonus' Studio One DAW

For those of you who are new to using a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW, I have been using Studio One by PreSonus for over a year now and have found it to be very good indeed.  There is a lot of functionality and free tools on board.  It is very intuitive, and does not cost an absolute fortune.  I have discovered many things on my journey of recording and it's taken me a while to figure out some of the short cuts.  I have put what I have found in a document to share with others who might want to try it.  You can get a free trial from the PreSonus website.  This also includes tips on recording punch and roll, where you can easily fix mistakes. It is a lot faster than keeping on recording and going back to edit and fix later.  There is a learning curve but it is not steep!

My simple set-up

Studio One Quick Start for narration (for Windows XP)

Open Studio One

1/. Starting from scratch
Click on ‘Create new Song’ and a dialogue box opens with Empty Song on left highlighted. On the right enter Song Title.
Choose where you want song to be saved in next box down.
Sample rate: 44.1 kHz
Resolution: 16 bit
Timebase: Seconds
Song Length: leave at default
Tempo: leave at default
Time Signiture: leave at default
Make sure Stretch audio files to Song tempo is unchecked
Click OK

2/. If you want to save a Template
You cannot save a template until you have first created one! Create a song and save it as a Template.  This will automatically create a folder within Studio for Templates.  You cannot make your own folder or save an existing Template until this is done.

3/. Short Cuts
Short cuts are listed in the top bar: Studio One > Keyboard Short cuts…
There are some handy number keypad shortcuts!
Number pad *: Record
Number pad -: wind time bar back
Number pad +: wind time bar forward
Number pad Enter: play
Number pad 0: stop
Spacebar: play and stop
I added Number Keypad 5 to make a new Mono Track

4/. To Start
Once Song is open, make a new track: Top bar - Track> add new mono track
Click on the solid circle to activate record mode, and playback is automatically opened at the same time.  If you want speakers/headphones muted, click the speaker button so it is no longer blue, or ‘M’ for mute.
Position white time bar at beginning if not already there.
Click the Record button on the bottom tool bar.

5/. Snap time bar
When editing you will find the white time bar will snap into place which is not very handy for narration.  On the top tool bar under the shaded ‘Adaptive’ button, you will find a small box with ‘Snap’ next to it.  Click on the box.  If you open up the ‘Editor” (F2) you will find the same button and will need to click there too.

6/. Punch and roll
On the bottom tool bar there are counters and to the right of those are what look like thumb tracks or map pins.  Click on the top ‘Auto Punch’ button for auto punch!  If you want to have some pre-roll, then click the ‘Pre-roll’ button beneath.  Pre-roll can eliminate the click of a keyboard and give you a lead-in.
To select how much pre-roll you have, to the right of these buttons is the Metronome. Click on the ‘Metronome Setup’ button (the spanner/wrench) and under ‘Options’ choose number of bars.  Two bars is usually fine but you might want more if you are just staring to learn this technique.
When punching and rolling with pre-roll, place the white time bar where you want to cut in.  Hit the record button.  The time bar will jump back your set number of bars and play.  Listen along and jump in at you chosen spot and keep going.

7/. Making Corrections
When I have made corrections, I have opened another track below the ‘finished’ track. By cutting the ‘bad section’ so it is separated, you can use the Mute tool to mute that segment, then record on the second track you have opened. By using a separate track you do not record over what you already have that is good.  But if you do go over you hear it when you get to the ‘okay’ and none muted section.

8/. Multiple takes
If you want to try multiple takes for a section this is fairly painless. Using the ‘Loop Active’ button, you can keep re-recording non-stop in that area until happy.
            To create a loop, hover mouse over the very thin light grey line above the time digits so you get a ‘pencil’ icon as the cursor. Clicking once on the thin grey bar will bring two lighter points.  Dragging these to the left and right creates your loop.
            Click on the Active Loop button on the bottom tool bar, immediately to the right of the record button so it is lighten up blue.
Hit record.
Record until happy and stop.
            If you right click on that new recorded section you will see “Select take”.  Beneath that will be a number of ‘takes’, the most current being ‘checked’. Beneath that is “Unpack takes” and if you hover over that, you can select “Unpack Takes to Tracks.” You can then mute each track, listening to each in turn to decide which fits the best.  This is an option, and is okay for small bits, but can take up more time than you want to spend.

9/. Mixdown or create WAV or FLAC file
When you mixdown it will automatically mixdown between the loop and this needs to be set up. (See: 8/.  multiple takes)
Studio One automatically mixes down a mono track to stereo. To this fix this:
Go to Song> Song Setup> Audio I/O Setup.
Go to the Outputs panel and click on 'Add (Mono)’. This will create ‘Sub 1’. Click Okay.
You can now do one of two things. Make it the default, or just click okay to exit.
If you made it default you are all set.

Go to top bar and click on Song > Export Mixdown which opens a dialogue box.

Choose where you want file to be saved.  It will automatically save to a mixdown folder within the song folder.
Filename: FileNumber_BookTitle_Ch_Number_NarratorName
Publishing: (depending on version): Do not publish
Format (depending on version) Wave File, click on arrow to get to FLAC
Resolution: 16 bit
Sample rate: 44.1 kHz

Export Range
Click circle for Between Loop

Output: Sub 1 (for the mono mixdown) should be default if you made is so earlier.  If not:
Click 'Main' with arrow. Click the arrow to 'Sub 1' and highlight/chose it.
Check the ‘Close after export” box.

Then click OK to mixdown.
Once file is mixed down a folder will open with your file in it (for Windows XP).

Have fun!