News From The Woods.01

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published July 14, 1995


"The New Studio"


I've really been looking forward to writing this issue's column, because it's been such a long time in coming. Those of you who know me or have been clients of the studio are familiar with my designs and dreams of a future studio expansion. It has always been a dream of mine to have a studio "back in the woods" where there are no distractions, traffic, noise, or people going in and out all day. A place where I could have what I wanted right at my fingertips, night or day. I wish I had a dollar for every time I awoke in the middle of the night with a song in my head. I always have to work at lyrics, but melodies and entire arrangements are so vivid in my mind when I first wake up but I can't quite get the idea by writing it down or trying to remember just how that particular line went by the time I get to the studio, usually hours later. It's a common dilemma among songwriters. Some people keep a notepad next to their bed, which works most of the time if you're writing lyrics. Having a portastudio on the bedroom dresser might be a good concept, but rarely works for getting those melody ideas committed to tape before the idea escapes you. After all, you'd probably need a drum machine or guitar or keyboard or whatever laying at the foot of your bed. Not very practical.

The way out of all this for me was a complicated one. I always dreamed of one day having my studio located in my house, but without giving up my living quarters and privacy in the process. That meant adding onto my existing residence, which would not be cheap. I believe the commonly-used phrase was..... "One of these days, as soon as I can afford it". Well, at 48 years of age (yeah, really) I have come to the conclusion that, as with a lot of things in life, if I waited until I could afford to do it, I never would do it. So I did it anyway with the help and assistance of my local banker.

The bottom line was that my video business had expanded to the point of updating the entire video production system and my house needed re-roofing and a lot of maintenance chores in addition to the above-mentioned expansion plan. So I went to my banker and arranged for a loan that would enable me to take care of all of it. In the past couple of years since I moved back into the family home after my mother's passing I have become aware of how much fixing up the place needed. "Castlerock" as it was known in the mid-60's, was designed by my father to be THE showplace house in a new real estate venture he had undertaken called Cedar Crest Acres (notice any similarities?) and it is indeed a splendid home to live in. It's a two-story, split level ranch structure set into a choice lot with a view of the surrounding countryside. It's big and it's 30 years old and it needed some sprucing up.

For the studio we added 400 sq. ft. to the bottom level of the existing 3,000 sq. ft. residence. I designed the room around the existing audio/video console and cabinet works which dominated the "old" control room. Imagine sitting at the audio console and looking straight out over beautiful Lake Norfork for a couple of miles. That's another reason I wanted to make this move. I was sick and tired of sitting all day looking at a carpeted wall. Not to mention the expenses cut by not keeping two properties, two sets of phones and utilities and insurance policies. And how about the 20-mile round trip to and from work or the $30 a week on gas for the land yacht? I think you get the picture. Anyway, for the past couple of years I've been taking a longer look at the big picture and feel like the time was right to do this now. The video business is doing well and so is my stress level. I must admit that I got very close to burn-out with recording and the music business. So about six months ago I started cutting back on my audio recording and became more select with my clients. I chose artists that were serious about themselves and operated on a professional level. After my discovery trip to LA I knew that I didn't want to manage bands anymore or for that matter solicit original material through the "normal" channels. In short ... too much b.s. for Bob.

I didn't really need the big studio room that I had. Occasionally I would get a choir but not that often. Susan and I were no longer doing a TV show or studio-type video production so we didn't need the video set. Since we bought the Video Toaster in 1993 our corporate/legal/medical/industrial/broadcast production work increased because we could compete with just about anybody with our rates. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone would come up with affordable non-linear editing and I wanted to take Cedar Crest Studio in that direction. For me creating animations and well-produced video product is just as rewarding as getting that GREAT solo on tape. But gear sluts, as Roger Nichols calls himself, are gear sluts in every technical strata. Just as I used to covet someone's SPX-90 or I "really have to have that" effect pedal or splash cymbal, I now want animation, morphing, and non-linear editing. It just never ends.

So what exactly IS non-linear editing? Well, I'm glad you asked. To quote from the Official Cedar Crest Studio Press Release ......

"Cedar Crest Studio, located near Mountain Home, Arkansas, has recently updated their video production capabilities with the acquisition of the newly released and highly acclaimed Video Flyer Non-Linear Video Editing System, the next big leap forward in video production technology. Non-linear editing simply means no more tape handling. All field footage will be loaded directly to Hard Drive and edited using a storyboard system developed by NEWTEK. No more clunky video tapes to rewind .... No more tape dropout problems .... No more loss of video quality associated with analog videotape formats. Since all footage is in the digital domain, multiple passes of video can be built up with no loss in picture quality. During production, video clips are stored onto either of two 5 Gigabyte hard drives. An additional 500 Meg hard drive is used for storing audio clips with 4 stereo audio tracks available simultaneously. This system is designed to interface perfectly with the Toaster 4000 by Newtek. This powerful computer video engine boasts a 1 Gigabyte HD and a 240 Meg HD, 6meg RAM, and 12meg SIMMS chips. This combination runs the Video Toaster 4.1 switcher software. Literally hundreds of real-time digital video effects, dissolves, and wipe patterns can be selected during video production and editing. LightWave 3D 4.0 can generate, save and display 256,000-color motion-picture animations on the 4000. LightWave's unique animation interface is very popular with Hollywood producers and animation companies like Foundation Imaging, MCA/Universal Studios, and Amblin Imaging, who are responsible for such TV shows as SeaQuest DSV, Babylon 5, RoboCop (the series), Star Trek: Voyager, Sliders, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Unsolved Mysteries, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, VR5, Weird Science, and Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Whew !! I couldn't have said it better myself ! Wait a minute... I DID say that myself ! Well, not satisfied with merely getting the Flyer, I (being the textbook case "gear slut") wanted.... no, make that NEEDED.. an accelerator. The Toaster system is "souped up" with the addition of the WarpEngine Accelerator, incorporating '040 local memory bursts of up to 128 Megs in RAM. It's extremely high speed allows for animations to be created at four times the speed of the normal 4000 system. Broadcast-quality CG effects (titling) with over 300 type fonts are available. Further graphics software packages integrated into the Toaster include the award-winning MorphPlus and AlphaPaint packages, WaveMaker, Art Department Professional, Deluxe Paint II, T-Rexx Pro, Forge, Pegger Image Compression, Pixel 3D Pro, Dyna CADD and Vista Pro.

Wow !! Any vidiot gear slut would be visibly drooling by now (wipe your chin...) Well, to make a long story short, we've been making the move for the past month and other than all of the audio cables and tie-lines between the console and patch bay being about 5 feet too short, everything's going pretty well. Oh, did I mention frying the Toaster card during Flyer installation or about me learning that I had a factory recall on my particular Flyer and that's why I kept losing footage in the hard drive during an editing job? By the way, I couldn't get our "old" phone number either 'cause we've moved to another exchange. So, after all these years our NEW phone number is 501-488-5777. Better make not of that, fellow gear sluts !!

All stories should have a happy ending and mine's no exception. We have an excellent rapport with Newtek and they have been taking very good care of us. As close to overnight service as you can get on sophisticated computer gear here in the Ozarks. And yes, the Flyer is every bit as revolutionary as I thought it would be. Now if I could just get to work except for this gorgeous view of a boatload of female water skiiers...........

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