Me in Studio B

Me in Studio B
If you were googling Undertone Audio and found my blog here, well...welcome! You should visit the official website, undertoneaudio.com, but here you can follow my adventures as the crew and I build these mixing consoles, EQs and other oddities. Some, most or all of my work wouldn't be very interesting to a lot of people, but for recording junkies who get excited about vintage German tube mics, cool, eccentric compressors, studio history and some of the fun ins and outs of studio life, this could be for you. Hey, make it your home page and impress chicks! I can be reached at mw@undertoneaudio.com

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Doo Doo Doo A Daa Daa Daa

I've been working on a patchbay and more outboard gear wiring for Jon Brion and Greg Koller, so I've been over at Capitol this week. On Thursday night a bunch of us were hanging out in Niko Bolas' room and we managed to get the guys from Avid to take us out to dinner at Delpine http://www.restaurantdelphine.com/delphine/index.htm the food was amazing -this could be a new favorite restaurant.

Niko cut the UTA logo off of one of my business cards and taped it to the meter bridge of his console (digital workstation thing), along with an EMI logo, very appropriate:

We had serious laughs that night.

At Barefoot, we have been straightening up Studio A, doing inventory, getting faceplates laser cut, wiring up gear and I finally finished testing VU meters -until the next shipment comes in, which should be any day.

At Bock we have been building 251 switch assemblies (the fancy curved pattern switch on the front) and getting head parts ready for capsules.

I've been spending time in San Francisco... very short vacation.

Cheers,
MW

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Audrey Wiechman Show

Today Roger and I ran to Pacific Radio to pick up parts and we ran into Audrey. Roger has been working with her recently, but I hadn't seen her in a long time. She came back to the studio with us, hung out for awhile and we ate burritos from Cactus.

I've known Audrey for about twelve years. She was our boss on the USC job and that's where I met Roger and Ken Miller. It was a blast seeing her again.
MW

My Forties Have Begun

This past week I turned 40 years old, I usually don't make a big deal out of birthdays, but 40 is big. So I spent time with my family in San Diego, beat my nephew in Mario Cart and hung out with old friends. Blake, who is a brilliant artist, gave me a painting that he had done which I loved and had offered to buy a long time ago and my mother gave me a photo album with old family pictures. This new era in my life is off to a good start.

This week at Barefoot, Eric has been mixing a country rock song for Steve Harwell (Smash Mouth singer). Sometimes we are asked to play instruments or sing on songs, this time Eric, Trevor, Cian and his roommate (Who's name is also Trevor) and I added background vocals. We were going for a Def Leppard, Mutt Lange feel and we got it... we ended up with something like 24 tracks of background vocals including breath tracks (you whisper the part) in addition to about 24 tracks of harmony parts that Eric did alone (all just for two words in the lyrics, "rock on") and it sounded huge. Five guys, one U67 -it was a lot of fun.

I've been wiring gear and testing meters in the tech shop while listening to Metallica and Missing Persons at menacing volumes. We did some mix documentation (remember, except for the automation, we don't have any recall, so we take notes and high definition pictures of the channels/gear involved) in Studio A for the Steve Harwell song.

We are still getting quotes and ordering parts for the gear we're building, Cian is close to being finished with the editing for the instructional video, we are rebuilding the fader pack that used to be in Studio A to sell it and we are getting into building prototypes.

Eric and Matt (Radosevich) have been developing a plug in that does something very cool, I can't discuss it now, but it may be a UTA digital product. They worked out the calculus involved and had someone write the code. We have the test program back and so far it is extremely impressive.

We finished our experiments with paint for the faceplates and now we are finalizing our stencil process. We don't have to sand the paint the way we used to, instead we are using a paint that dries much slower and we use a steel rolling pin (the kind used for baking) to get the height of the paint correct.

I cleaned and reorganized the shop (that has been going on since last spring), so now it is a much nicer place to work. There was one bench in there that kept being used as a dumping ground... no more. In the process we found parts and materials that we had been looking for -it seemed like everything that had been lost was buried in that one area.
                                             The door to the echo chamber
                                                            My bench
                              Slash Pawn Shop, Bettie Page and "project" guitars

At Bock Audio we have been building 5-zero-7s and 241s. I also recapped an E.A.R. (Esoteric Audio Research -a boutique British company) compressor.

Seriously, I have been to Captain Thai six times in the last two weeks. Last Sunday I had dinner there with Roger and his wife, Tammy, and Sean Fudge from Bock Audio happened to be eating there at the table next to us... good times. The food there is good, but honestly, for me it's more about the cute waitresses!

MW

Sunday, April 24, 2011

AES 2010 Detailed Description of our Console's Features

This was filmed at the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention in San Francisco in November 2010. The show was fantastic, but getting there wasn't... first the truck rental company messed up and didn't have the truck we reserved, somehow we ended up with a refrigeration truck that had no place to tie down everything in the back, so we had to get creative with that. Then the truck had a flat tire on Interstate 5 -Eric and Trevor were broken down on the side of the Highway (the rest of us were in Eric's car), but they had to get it to safety. The truck had double tires (like a big rig) so they drove it about half a mile to a rest stop... the flat tire shredded apart and ripped up the fuel line, but they fixed that with tools we had in the back and they got help with a new tire. By the time we made it to the convention center to set up, I was a nervous wreck -I was worried the whole weekend would be a disaster, but everything turned out great.

You can see Doug Osbourne from Martinsound (in the suit), Tim McGovern (former Skywalker Ranch engineer), Roger and me in the background. We will have a more comprehensive video filmed in Studio A very soon -maybe I can get the outtakes to post as well.



The strange lamp sitting on top of the console was great, you would turn it on/off and have different amounts of brightness by touching the base. One day we set it up under the console in Studio B while Roger was working under there and he kept bumping it with his arm, so it was getting brighter and turning off constantly, sending him into a swearing episode... it was hilarious. Elsie finally destroyed it.

MW

Taking Back Sunday Studio Tour

This is a pretty good tour of the studio, but Studio B, the tech shop, the echo chamber and a few other highlights of Barefoot Recording were skipped. I'll probably make my own  studio tour video to post on here and if I do I'll show some of the missing stuff, maybe even Elsie's poo box outside!



MW

Slash in Studio A, Summer 2010

This is a behind the scenes look at Slash recording a short spot for an Australian Radio Station called, Triple M http://www.triplem.com.au/ of course Elsie, the world famous studio dog, makes a featured appearance. This was a fun session, we recorded a modern, more rocking version of an original theme song used by Triple M, but I was extremely tired that day -I worked on the session while recording the drums, bass and rhythm guitar then I fell asleep in Studio B... I was supposed to be working. Slash used his new (I think it was the prototype) Marshall head, the AFD100, and it was so loud I could hear him playing leads all afternoon in the other room.



MW

Blog Repairs

Sorry everyone,

I discovered that the blog seems to appear fine in Firefox, but the videos are becoming a mess in Safari and I don't know how it looks in Internet Explorer or other browsers.

I'm making an effort to clean it up and fix it, so please excuse the messes as I deal with that and I'm going to try to find time to finish the new and improved Spanish section.

I've limited the amount of posts on the main page to ten, that seemed to help solve the video weirdness and it should speed up the load time as well. If you are new to the blog, check out the archives.

Please send me emails to report how it looks in your browsers, PCs, and your fancy phones at mw@undertoneaudio.com

Thanks,
MW

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beat me up, Scotty... I mean Roger

In my last post, I said that if anyone has any complaints about my blog to email Roger Fearing and the angrier, the better. One complaint came in from Pete Karr -here is a censored version (in case your kids are reading) of the exchange:


Michael's @!#?ing blog is unacceptable- and if you know what's good
for you mister- you'd better get that ship straight or so help me
there will be hell to pay.
Peter Karr

Listen here, @!# plug!  If I wanted any @!#? out of you, I'd wipe it off
my @!#?.  If you EVER speak to me with that tone again, I will @!#? your
@!#?$.
I love you!
Roger


So there you have it -if you try it, that's what you can expect... a colorful, personalized response from Roger... do it, I dare you, I double dare you... I triple dog dare you! Send your angry emails to rf@undertoneaudio.com and I'll post them all here for everyone to enjoy.

Here at Barefoot, we have been experimenting with transformers and ordering more parts, more mixing is going on in both rooms and Anjelica is finally over pneumonia. We discovered a new Thai restaurant, Captain Thai on Hollywood Blvd http://captainthai.menutoeat.com/index.cfm, we were looking for pumpkin curry and we decided to try this and it was well worth it. They have a weird airplane theme -they have fake plane windows, cabin like seats and the (very cute) waitresses are dressed like flight attendants. I've been back twice in the past week.

Roger, by the way, was here the other day, logged into his Facebook account http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Fearing-Jr/545226325 on the UTA computer and forgot to log out... so Cian, Matt and I had some fun with that... we posted pictures of half naked firefighters on his Facebook page with suggestive comments so it looked like he was doing it... YAY!!!!
If anyone deserves that, it's him.

The new monitor (screens) set up is up and running in Studio B and Matt Radosevich is giving it a try.


Matt recently co-wrote, produced and engineered a song, "Fine by Me," for Andy Grammer. It's great and it's on iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fine-by-me/id431181564?i=431181572&ign-mpt=uo%3D4, so buy it and if you like it, which you better, give it a high rating and leave a positive comment... you will be supporting the home team!

Eric and Cian filmed an instructional video on using the UTA EQs and filters this week, Cian is busy editing that together and it should be on the Undertone Audio website soon.

Over at Bock Audio, I have been working on building more 241s. We went out to lunch today, but got caught in traffic in Studio City as police were looking for a murder suspect... helicopters circling, police cars all over the place and local schools in lockdown... it seems like it never ends.

I wanted to mention that David Bock is a serious chef, here is a shot of him in Oliver Archut's meat locker (Oliver is a high end audio guru who builds transformers among other things, raises livestock and has his own butchery on his property):

That reminded me, I've cut myself twice in the shop in the past few weeks, so to remind everyone about safety in the workplace, here are some Canadian public safety advertisements http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwCyVku1HvI these are pretty bad, as in sick, so watch at your own discretion, but I think they are pretty entertaining.

I have to get back to work!!

MW

Saturday, April 9, 2011

News from the Underworld of Hollywood

The results from our first ever reader's poll are in. According to the voting outcome, Michael Westbrook is not a shameless, self promoting Hollywood name dropper. Thank you for vote.

We have been changing the set ups in Control rooms A & B again, this time it's computer monitors. Each room gets a new 47" LCD screen in addition to new 27" ones. That way you can sit facing forward and look at a huge Protools display, or look at the local monitor to your right. The smaller ones also display the Flying Faders window, while the original wall mount monitors show the view of the cameras in the different rooms for communication (The original control room glass in Studio A was done away with a long time ago). Something very interesting happened acoustically -The low end in Control room A improved dramatically with the new, huge monitor sitting right between the mains. This helped solve an old, elusive problem in that room by accident! We haven't made the monitor changeover in Studio B yet, so hopefully it has a positive impact on that room's acoustics (it sounds amazing now, we don't want that to change), especially given the time and effort lately to sort out the main monitor (large speaker) situation in there.

Eric and I have been ordering parts for UTA EQs, mic pres and compressors all week and now that he is not working on a record, we have had time to troubleshoot some of the issues with wiring and gear (every studio has technical issues, Barefoot Recording is no exception). He is mixing another project in the evenings, Matt Radosavich is mixing in Studio B and I'm finally recapping the EMT plate.


Poor Anjelica Justiniano, who does inventory/data entry with UTA, has been sick with pneumonia for about two weeks. Last I heard she couldn't talk, but she seems to be getting better. I hope so.

At Bock Audio this week, I installed capsules into seven 241s and worked on building three 5-zero-7s:

We took a little time off on Friday afternoon -David treated me and Sean Fudge to lunch. The documentary film about Bock Audio is available at http://www.soundstrips.com/ You will also find more documentaries about other notable high end audio companies on their website, for example, Manley Laboratories.

I have noticed that the amount of content on my blog is slowing down the load time...there may come a time, sooner or later, when I move the whole thing onto my own proper website. I'll keep everyone notified, of course. By the way if you have any complaints about my blog -how slow it's loading, how poor the photography is, etc. please send them to Roger Fearing at rf@undertoneaudio.com and the angrier the emails, the better. Roger brought his new, custom made bass over -here is a shot of Trevor checking it out:

I need to get back to work.

Cheers,
MW

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mic Shoot Out

This week at Barefoot, there was more parts ordering, figuring out quantities of knobs, we have our final knob samples back from laser etching and we made more progress on the faceplate artwork/stencil. The Studio B main monitor situation has finally been sorted out (I would say once and for all...but Eric experiments so much with every detail of everything audio that it could change by tomorrow morning) The winner is, the pair of UREI monitors that were in there to begin with, but after a great deal of tweaking. In addition, he avoids "tuning" the room with EQ and prefers to addresses those issues acoustically.

Yesterday, David Bock came over to demonstrate the Bock Audio 5-zero-7 as we were joined by Pete Karr and Casey Hess -I hadn't seen Casey in about fifteen years. We did a mic shoot out, recording drums and the 5-zero-7 won every time, amazing sounding mic. The best description of it was that is sounded more natural than the other mics we compared it to. We spent time talking about the consoles and Eric did a demonstration of the EQ, seriously good time.

Over at Bock audio I've been building more of the 5-zero-7s and next week we will be installing capsules into 241s and probably some 251s. I think everyone should buy one of those three to go along with your new UTA micpre/EQ...

And now for our first ever reader's poll -just email your vote of yes or no at mw@undertoneaudio.com to answer this question:

Is Michael Westbrook a shameless, self promoting Hollywood name dropper?

After I have enough responses in, I will post the results.

Andrés Mauricio Gutiérrez Camacho is April's reader of the month... sorry Roger... all good things come to an end.

Cheers,
MW