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Feb 19 2012

Soundtracking

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Tim Miles over at the Daily Blur had a great article on the power of music in a presentation.

In my day gig, I spend a lot of time speaking, presenting and training but a big chunk of this actually doing so for speakers from some excellent pro audio companies like QSC, Genelec and Neumann.

Because of this I am always looking for music that is interesting, has a big dynamic range and shows up the specifics of something I am trying to show. I want to be able to point out a triangle part that is hard to hear on someone else’s speakers or the rumble and oddities in the sound of a really well recorded piano.

I have come across some favorites but there is also a range of overused material that I try to avoid. If I hear one more Steely Dan song (no matter how pristine and well recorded) in a demo…I think I may scream!

Lyle Lovett is a favorite, Metallica’s live recording with the SFO and Toy Matinee are all personal favorites, but I have to confess that I have never thought through the psychological impact of the choice and order of the songs I use.

I have picked up a couple of tips and tricks with the amount of these that I have done. The better the speaker system, the more obvious are the differences between compressed and linear audio formats. If at all possible avoid MPEG files of any format and lean towards WAV and AIFF files. Particularly with lower bitrate MP3 files, the sound can become very grating very quickly.

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If you are forced to use iTunes for playback make sure that the EQ is disabled, SoundCheck mode is off and that the volume control is about 70 percent of the way up. There is gain in that control and certain tracks will clip the D to A section of the outputs that will result in distortion on loud passages.

If you are playing audio out of a laptop, you will often find that the headphone output will buzz, hum or chatter based on issues with power. If you have a good audio interface, your total quality can go way up. If that is not a possibility, a transformer based output device like the Switchcraft 318 will isolate the audio output from those issues and put the output on an XLR cable which is much more forgiving for long distance cable runs.

I am going to steal a couple of Tim’s ideas for tracks to use, but more importantly I am going to adopt the idea of controlling the music and controlling the crowd. Truly a brilliant thought and so very true.

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