30 December 2010

VS-700 Upgrade

Recently I upgraded to Sonar X1 and that also included new software for the VS-700 console. But I got all kinds of messages that my firmware was outdated. So I looked for new firmware on the Cakewalk website and also found. But I also found out that it is not so easy to upgrade because you have to flip some dipswitches back and forth and for that I had to take the VS-700 module out of the rack and I postponed it everytime, but today I finally decided to finally do this.

The first thing to do is open up the ARX slot compartment and flip a dipswitch there to put it in upgrade mode. Then you can load new firmware over USB in it, after that you have to do the same for the rack processor itself. I think it would have been nice if Roland had put these dipswitches on the back of the unit so you don't have to take it out of the rack. Well after this the VS-700C itself (the controller) has to be upgraded as well. But for this you have to install it stand-alone (without the processor) with special drivers. Again some dipswitches on that back and new firmware. Well it took some time but luckily it all worked out.

But after this I decided to move the VS-700 Processor to another place in my main desk. Now I can open it up while it stays in this position in case I have to upgrade it again in the future. Only today I found out by the way that I could choose to hookup the console without the processor. I don't actually use the audio interface that is in there and to be honest I never used the build-in Phantom VS synthesizer either. So now I decided that I'm going to at least use the Phantom VS. I already hooked it up to the MX-1000 mixer that in the mean  time replaced the Friend-Chip DMX-12 digital patch bay. I'll try them both out tomorrow. For today I'm done :)

Apollo Studio Decoration (Part 5)

The last week we worked some more on some models to decorate the Apollo studio. In the picture on the left you can see a Gemini capsule. The Gemini project followed the Mercury project and sent two astronauts in to space in stead of one Mercury. On the Mercury project also EVA's (Extra-Vehicular Activity, or space-"walks") were trained for the first time and also rendezvous and docking. After the successful Gemini project the Apollo project followed.

And here is an overview of the whole history of the three programs.  From left to right you can see the Apollo Command Module attached to the Apollo Lunar lander. In the middle is the Gemini capsule with the last stage still attached and on the right is the Mercury capsule with the big escape tower still on. I really like this overview. The whole history of the Space Race is starting to interest more and more. I'm reading about it a lot now and I'm also watching some documentaries in preparation of the Apollo album.

This project is getting larger for me than just Apollo and maybe I'll have to do something about the whole Space Race theme in the future as well. This one could not miss in the whole history of space. It is a model of the Sputnik satellite that the Russians brought into orbit on October 4th of 1957. This is really what started the whole Space Race. The Americans were terrified that the Russians had this capabilities because now they could also launch a nuclear weapon into the US and this was also the start of the 'Cold War'.

And here is another model that we build with the Apollo Command Module docked to a Russian Soyuz. This event took place after the last official Apollo Mission (Apollo 17) and therefor is also referred to as Apollo 18. This docking of an American and Russian spaceship in the middle of the Cold War was a turning point for the relationship between these two superpowers and it was the event that eventually led to the end of the Cold War. If you are interested in all this just go to Wikipedia and read up on the Space Race: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_race

29 December 2010

Still Moving Stuff Around

I wrote before that I'm moving stuff around in the studio at the moment. I'm doing some changes at the main desk especially on the digital audio part. The reason is that I found some nice reverbs that I want to add later on and I need to make room for them. The first thing I did was move the Apogee Big Ben. Here you can see it on its new position. In the bottom is a digital Roland mixer that can mix 4 SPDIF signals into 1. It will replace the Friend-Chip DMX-12 above it that I use to switch between those 4 signals now. So I don't need to switch anymore later on. I can play all for  of those digital synthesizers now on 1 input. I'll probably sell the DMX-12 Digital Patchbay after that.

The next thing I had to do is create two more AES/SBU connections. I will do that by connecting the Eventide H8000 (that is still broken) over AES/SBU in stead of ADAT. I'm only using 4 channels on it anyway (dual stereo setup) and the other 4 channels I can use then for the new reverbs. To translate the ADAT I had now into 4 AES/SBU connections and back I'm using a RME ADI8-DD digital format converter. It is the bottom RME device in the picture. I got this one quite cheap on E-bay and it is already connected and works like a charm :)

And this is the first new Reverb that I'll hook up soon. It is an Eventide DSP4000 that will start as a replacement of the H8000 when I ship it for repair. I will hook it up soon, I hope it can match the sound of the H8000 a bit, since I'm sure I'll miss the H8000 when it is gone. Also this unit I found very cheap on E-bay by chance. Must be my lucky week ;) Hopefully tomorrow I can give it a spin. I'll keep you updated on the rest of the reverb stuff. Seems that I'm even more addicted to reverbs at the moment than synthesizers :D

OceanoGraphy Cheque for WWF

Today I visited the Dutch WWF Head Quarters with the whole family. We got a nice tour and the kids got some nice WWF goodies. They really liked being there. But the reason we were there was to deliver a Cheque of 500 euro's from the Revenue of my OceanoGraphy CD that they officially endorsed. It was nice to hear how they use the money to protect endangered animal species. In the picture you see me handing the cheque over. My kids also wanted to be in the picture of course ;) We also discussed to do another project in the future maybe. You can find more information about the CD on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/OceanoGraphy

25 December 2010

Planetarium Show is Playing at Beisbroek Now!

The Planetarium show that I made music for recently had it's premiere on the 21st of December. From now on it is showing in the space theater of Planetarium 'Beisbroek' in Brugge Belgium. The name of the show translates something like 'Sun of Heaven and Hell'. As stated before the show is only avaible in the Dutch language. If you are in the neighborhood of Brugge and want to check the show out you can find more information on this URL: http://www.beisbroek.be/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=186 and more information about the Beisbroek Planetatium is of course at http://www.beisbroek.be and in case you missed it here you can find my part of the show http://www.synth.nl/BeisbroekSun

P.S. On the 2nd of January both the shows I made music for are runnig on the same day. It is very likely that I'll be there that day together with the family to watch the shows myself. Maybe I'll see you there :)

24 December 2010

Apogee Big Ben Auto-Power

I'm rearranging stuff in my studio at the moment and one of the pieces of equipment that I had to move was the Apogee Big Ben. I had an annoying problem with it for a long time and that is that I had to manually switch it on every time after I applied power to it. I wanted it to switch on with the power and at first I though that was not possible. Until...... I read the manual ;) Oh yes they can be helpful sometimes! :) I turned out that I had to switch a jumper on the inside for this.

The problem is though that the Big Ben is literally the heart of my studio since it provides a clock (heart beat) for all the digital equipment in my studio, so I didn't want to take it out just for this, but today I was moving it anyway. And that is quite an undertaking since 6 separate Word Clock busses are connected to that and when you move the box you also have to move the cabling and of course after that you end up with some cable that are too long and some that are too short :(

So when I took it out of the rack I opened it up right away. In the picture above you can see what is inside the machine. Not much right :) Well it is not much what it does, but it does it provides a very stable clock. In the picture on the left you can see the jumper. Apogee proudly states that they put it there because they didn't want to have any dip switches on the outside??? What is the benefit of that exactly? Too convenient for the customers??  Ah well I changed the setting and now it neatly turns on with everything else. So problem solved and it is also in the new position now with everything working. I'll post an update soon about all the changes that I'm currently doing, but I think I typed enough on this Christmas Evening already :)

Eventide H8000 Problems

Last year I got an Eventide H8000 from E-bay. In my opinion one of the best Sound Effect Processors on Earth. Unfortunately in the beginning it worked fine, but after a while it started to do a bit weird. It started with the display that is very bright when it starts up and after a while it changes color. Important? No, but strange it is. So far I could live with that. Then it started losing its ADAT settings everytime I switch it off. So each time I have to reconfigure them when I switch in on and the strange thing is that it is all correct in the menu.

So I just re-apply the same settings and it works again. I mailed with  Eventide tech support about this and they had no idea. The only tip they had is to open it up and check the battery and reapply all the mechanical interconnects, like connectors and IC sockets. Well and today also the jog shuttle stopped working. So today I decided to have a look at it. I took it from the rack and opened it up. Well in the picture you can see a H8000 from the inside. The Battery was under the ADAT interface, so I took that out first. And measured the battery. It was 3 Volts like it should be.

Anything below 2.8 Volts could be a problem they said and that is obviously not the case. I decided to remove the battery for a while to make sure the memory was completely empty. And then I reapplied all the mechanical connections, just to be sure. After that I put it back in the rack and reconfigured it again, turned the power off and unfortunately the problem was still there. I have no idea what else I could do myself about it, so I guess I'll have to ship it to them for maintenance. I hope they can fix it. I'll keep you posted.

Synth.nl Featured on the Yearly Syndae Christmas Special

It is that time of the year again.... Christmas! and like the last two years, Stefan from the German podcast Syndae made a Christmas special again. He asks musicians that he features regularly on his radio show to make their version of a Christmas especially for that show. He did it again! And what a nice show it is. There are two editions, a family edition and a mature edition. I'm not quite sure what he means by this by the way. My track is called 'HolySynth' and is played on the family edition. You can listen to the show online or download it and listen when you please. But do listen to it to get in the Christmas mood :) You can find it here: http://www.syndae.de. This track is also my way to say to all of you: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Novation UltraNova in the Studio

Since the financial crisis not many manufacturers dared to invest in a new synthesizer it seems, but Novation did. They just released a new synthesizer called the 'UltraNova' based on the sound engine of the famous SuperNova's. It is a virtual analog synthesizer with some wavetable like stuff as well and the price is very OK. When I saw that it also has SPDIF and USB and a VST that you can use from your sequencer I could not resist to try it out.
To start with the sound is great of course, but I didn't not expect anything less from Novation. But I love the VST even if it is still version 1.0. Here you can see it on the left. It only communicates with the UltraNova over USB and doesn't not send audio back like the Virus TI. That would have been really perfect, but this is really good as well. If you change preset on the synthesizer itself it also communicates back to the VST and of course you can save your presets with you song. And I really love those things :)
And I can already hear some of you think. That an awkward place you put that synthesizer in. Well yes, my studio is kind of full and because of this total integration I feel no need whatsoever to play on the keyboard of the UltraNova. I can play on it from any other keyboard in my studio and preferably from my master Midi keyboard that is right in front of me. But in the spot it is standing now I can also use the M3 to play on it and I control it then from the synthesizer itself and from my normal working position I can clearly read the display as well.

I did have to move around some other stuff first in the studio though because on the spot where the UltraNova is now there used to be a Roland SH-32. Well that has moved to the place where my MB-6582 and AWRSynth32 are at. And the SammichSID that used to be there is now just left of my M3. You can see that in the top picture. So well call me crazy ;) But for me it is all in a very convenient spot now, but I nothing lasts forever. I'm still moving stuff around to get the ideal work-flow and I'll probably never stop doing that.

23 December 2010

PAIA 9700 Addition (Part 4)

Recently I bough a new PAIA cabinet and bought one of their new modules to see what they were like. And I liked the stuff so I decided to go build more of their modules. Here is a stack that I got in the mail last week. I ordered the following modules: 9746 Patch Bay, 0753 Envelope Follower, 9752 Sample and Hold, 9751 Noise Source, 9741 Dual VCA and the 9745 Active mixer. They are all support modules that I can use well in my modular setup.
Here is the content of a single kit. I wrote before that building these modules is really simple. A beginner can do this for sure. You will be done very quickly. Actually I build all of the modules I ordered this morning. I didn't test them yet though ;) I still need to hook up the power to the power supply as well, but I want to do that when I completed all modules since for soldering the wires I have to remove the power supply and I only want to do that once.
And here is a picture on the modules in the cabinet. As you can see the stuff looks really nice. I like the routing schema's they put on the modules. Somehow it does make it look more expensive I guess ;) But it does help you quickly to see the difference between an input and an output and that can be a pain in the ass sometimes in a big modular setup with stuff from different vendors with different logic. As you can see I can add three more modules and that is about what they have on the site, so I'll probably order those 3 any time soon as well.

21 December 2010

New Planetarium Show Online

Last year I made 15 minutes of music for a Planetarium show that was made by the Beisbroek Observatory in Brugge (Belgium). Apparently they liked it, because recently they asked me again to make music for a new show. This new show lasts 45 minutes in total, but they only needed my music for the first 10:30 minutes. So I made music again especially for this project. The only thing I knew up front is that the show was about the Sun.  I pictured the Sun as a  violent and turbulent place., so the music is a bit less atmospherical this time but still it had to be in the background and therefore I couldn't use much beats or leads. I did try to keep it spacey though so it would fit nicely under the voice over. Unfortunately I didn't get the video this time either so I had to work with the voice over track only. This is my second documentary and I like doing stuff like this. I hope to do a lot more projects like this in the future. I will release the music I made somewhere in the future by the way. And even though the voice over is in Dutch I'm sure you will get the picture by listening to the track in the player if you don't understand Dutch. I used a picture of the Sun with kind permission of NASA. You can listen to my part of the show on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/BeisbroekSun

16 December 2010

New Planetarium Show coming Soon !

I have been quiet the last weeks here, but I was very busy actually. I have been working on new music for a new Planetarium show that will have its premiere before the end of the year. I made 10 minutes of music for the first part of a 45 minute show. Again for the Beisbroek Planetarium in Brugge Belgium by the way, so apparently they liked the 15 minutes I made last year. Today I worked on finishing the track up by adding some Sound Effects to make the music more 'spacy'

For the sound effects I used the Korg MS-20, Roland SH-09 and Moog Minimoog today. All three very nice machines to do space effects like noise sweeps and filter auto-modulation stuff. I already send out the music in raw for as a demo last week and that was approved, but today I made the final mix including all sound effects and transitions between the three pieces of music that I made. And the good news is that they liked it :) So I'm actually done now. Hopefully I can put my part of the show online for you to listen to.

I made the final mix in Sonar X1. In the picture on the left you can see the arrangement of this final mix. On top is the voice over that I got from them. I synced my music to this track. Below that the three parts of music and under that some extra sound effects that I used to smoothen the transitions between the tracks. The music itself were made in three seperate projects that I converted to Sonar X1 as well eventually for the last mixdown. All in all a very nice project again. And like said before I hope to put it online soon. You can listen to the show from last year on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/music/scores/beisbroek. The voice is in the Dutch language by the way.

Apollo Studio Decoration (Part 4)

Last week I worked some more on the studio decoration. This time I build some pre-Apollo stuff. I decided to not only go for Apollo but for the whole Space Race history. Here is a model that I build of the Mercury Capsule. Especially the red escape tower was a lot of work. Almost all those struts were loose components. Recently I did a track about the Mercury Project that you can find on my website on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/music/samplers/schallplattexii

And the rocket that started the whole Space Race is in the picture on the right. It is a German V2 rocket that was used for destructive purposes in the WWII. After the war the German Wernher von Braun who designed this rocket defected to the Americans and started building rockets in the USA that eventually led up to the Apollo project. The Russians on the other hand seized the remains of the V2 factories and designed their rockets as well based on the V2 design.

I also worked a little bit more with my youngest daughter on the Space Shuttle. I is already looking a bit like it now :) But there is also a launch pad going with it and the big booster rockets. We still need to build those. Also the paint job is still not done as you can see. I found some more nice models on E-bay including some very old Russian space models. One of them put the first Satellite called Sputnik into space and also the one that put Yuri Gagarin as the first man into space. So the coming period we don't have to be bored :)

12 December 2010

Sonar X1 Update

Last week Cakewalk released the new update for Sonar called X1. They completely changed the interface and I was very skeptical at first about it. Actually I thought about skipping upgrading for the very first time. But then when I read the new work-flow coming along with the new interface I decided to order the update and just check it out. The last two days I have been working a lot with this new version. First on my notebook and after I found out that I liked it a lot (even though I didn't expect to) I updated my studio PC too today. I worked on some projects and I must say I'm getting happier by the minute. Especially that fact that you can dock all views so that you can easily recall them is superb. And also the editing functions have become smart now. You don't have to change tools that much anymore. A lot of options are easier to reach and you can build custom views that you can recall easily. I had to look up some things in the manual, because also the keyboard short cuts have changed and some functions are in different places, but in better places I must say. After one day I was already working like I never used another version. So a good update I must say :)

08 December 2010

Dutch Masters up for Pre-Sale already

Last week Groove Unlimited officially announced the upcoming sampler CD 'Dutch Masters' in their newsletter. Here is the text from the newsletter:

As follow-up to the very successful Analogy series (part 1, 2,and 3), Groove Unlimited is releasing a new special various artists cd soon. This time the approach is very different. We came up with the idea to do an album with Dutch EM artists and let them compose music to a painting they like preferably from a famous Dutch Painter. The album will be called 'Dutch Masters' and you will hear music the artists composed to paintings of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Escher, Bosch and many more. Artists that will contribute to this unique album are: Rene Splinter, Ron Boots, Gert Emmens, Eric van der Heijden, Bas Broekhuis, Remy, Synth.nl, Meesha and Rene van der Wouden. There might be even more that will contribute to this endeavor. If you want to hear how these artists translate the image of their favorite painting into music get a hold of this album! It will be released in the beginning of 2011 and it will be a unique project limited to 400 copies. Be sure to reserve yours before they are all gone!!

As you can read there will be a track from me on that album too. My track is called 'NachtWacht' and it is about the famous 'Night Watch' painting by Rembrandt. As you can see it is a limited edition. Reserve your copy now in the pre-sales on this URL: http://www.groove.nl/jump2.php?artnum=gr-177

06 December 2010

RME HDSP MADI broken again :(

And again it looks like one of my RME HDSP MADI cards is broken :( This is already the third time. I really like the way these cards work when they do but this is the third time I have one going out of order. The last time by the way I credited RME for their support and lending me a spare card. Unfortunately they screwed up really bad after that. They wanted to have the load card back when I was in the middle of the production of a new album, so I said 'not now'. But they wanted it back. Then I asked if I could buy the card from them for spare. At first they didn't want to do that at all and then finally they decided to sell it but for the FULL price of a new card. Being under pressure I agreed. Then I asked if I have 2 years warranty like normally and at first they didn't want to give warranty at ALL!! Of course I didn't agree to this and finally it looked like it was settled. Well UNTIL this card broke down as well. They didn't want to repair it at all and they let me supplier Live Music buy a new card for me eventually. REALLY BIG FAIL if you ask me. And it took a whole YEAR of E-mails back and forth to get my card. Live Music will probably never sell any RME product ever and I can understand that very well. Well I still have this card now as spare so I'll try to replace the broken card next week, because I'm working on another project with a deadline right now. But if you are considering to buy something from RME I would really think TWICE!!

05 December 2010

Apollo Studio Decoration (Part 3)

Last week I did a lot of painting with my daughters on the models we are building to decorate the Apollo studio. These two models are right in the theme for the next Apollo album. On the left you see the Apollo Command Module and right the LEM (Moon Lander). They are glued together like they were in orbit over the moon transferring astronauts from the Command Module to the LEM just before the LEM would descent to the Moon's surface.

As you can see in the picture on the right, this model is made in a lot smaller scale than the LEM we build before. It is quite small actually and that actually makes it more difficult to build than the larger one. Less parts, but very small parts that you can hardly hold between your fingers. They have to go in the right spot of course and then they also needed to be painted. It is still fun to do though in the mean time we are still building more models at the same time.

The only problem is that we were short in some colors of paint so I asked them from our dear Sinterklaas. A traditional festivity that we celebrate with the kids today (5th of December). Everyone gets presents. It is a bit the same as Santa Claus with Christmas, but then different in many ways as well. Click on the link above to an article on Wikipedia if you are interested. Hopefully we can continue tomorrow then ;) And if you are wondering if I'm not doing anything musical at the moment. Yes I am for sure. More about that later this week ;)

Refuge en Verre for sale in Asia?

Last week someone also pointed me to this. It looks like the 'Refuge en Verre' album I made together with Ron Boots is for sale in Asia as well. I just have no clue what it says here :) So if someone knows how to translate this please let me know :)

Here is the URL that I got: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=7486171312

Please enlighten me :)

Close Encounter on HomeGrown Podcast

It seems that the track I made with Nattefrost is getting some airplay here and there now. Yesterday Terry Hawke played it on his show called 'The Hawkes Chill Out Session' and I also found that it was played on the HomeGrown Podcast today. So you can still download this podcast and listen to it if you like. Bjorn and I made this track together when I visited him in his studio in Denmark You can find the podcast on this URL: