New for 2011 - a remote controlled microphone stand
Someone asked me about twenty years ago what new product would you like to see in the pro audio market. My answer was a filter, not an EQ or a filter like you find on mixing consoles, but a really powerful filter like you find on synths. A filter like that, that you could put any audio signal through.
Actually it was Sound on Sound magazine that asked me. Gosh, I've been writing about audio for more than twenty years!
Now of course, filters are ten a penny. Well, maybe not quite ten a penny but there is certainly an amazing array of choice. And some plug-in filters are actually free. So that's infinity a penny then.
But for 2011... what do we desperately need?
Well I was thinking about how people used to work in pro studios, in the 'good old days'. Not that the days are not good now, but we lost a few things when we all bought home recording equipment and as a consequence most commercial recording studios went bust.
The thing that came to mind first of all was how you would set a microphone in a pro studio.
You would have your assistant set the microphone up while you prepared the channel, armed the multitrack, and wrote on the scribble strip and track sheet what instrument it was.
And then would come the fine positioning of the microphone. Of course an experienced assistant would know pretty much where to place the mic. But as an engineer, you would always have the final say. And you would always have the assistant move it because that would prove you were the top dog in the studio.
As the musician played, you would bark* instructions at your assistant over the foldback. Closer, higher, to the left. Further away, lower, to the right. Point it left, point it right, point it up, point it down.
(*You're barking because you're the top dog, gettit? ;-)
A microphone is, if you hadn't realized, a six-dimensional object.
You can locate it in three dimensions, and you can point it in three dimensions.
Hang on a minute, is it 3 + 3 = 6, or 3 x 3 = 36? Oh well...
After a short period of optimization, the microphone would capture the perfect sound.
Now I bet you don't have an assistant. If you do, please tell us about all the wonderful things he or she does for you in the studio.
And since you don't have an assistant, setting a microphone is a much more long-winded process.
- Position the mic roughly in the studio
- Go back into the control room and listen
- Decide what needs to be done
- Go back into the studio and move the mic
- Listen some more
- Fine-tune the mic
- Listen some more
- Decide that the sound is just about good enough and accept that it's as good as it is going to get.
Or you can monitor on headphones in the studio while you move the mic. That works to an extent but you need really good isolation, and bear in mind that you are monitoring the 'headphone sound', not the 'real sound' from loudspeakers.
So clearly what you really need is an assistant, or a remotely controlled microphone stand.
Amazingly, there are such things.
But what I haven't been able to find is a stand that has the same six dimensions, or degrees of freedom if you prefer, as a conventional microphone positioned by an assistant.
So off you go you inventive people. Go invent one.
I hope to see it later in 2011 (please don't make me wait twenty years!)
P.S. The photo shows the extremely capable Lizi Bayliss assisting me by setting microphones in Abbey Road Studio 3.