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October 24, 2011

Codecs: Part II

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

In my last blog post we talked about some basic video codecs and their history.  This time we’re going to talk about a couple of popular post-production codecs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD.
Last time we talked about capture codecs like DV or DVCPRO and delivery codecs like h.264.  The two codecs we’re talking about today are post-production codecs. ProRes and DNxHD aren’t codecs used in cameras and they aren’t what you’d post to the web, burn to a disc, or send to someone for viewing.  They’re used during the post-production portion of the workflow.  These codecs are capable of virtually lossless quality at high bitrates (for online editing) or very good quality at lower bitrates (for offline editing).  They use algorithms that are very easy for modern computers to decode to minimize the impact on the computer’s CPU, resulting in the computer being able to devote more of its resources to FX processing than to playback of the raw video clips.  Post-production codecs are also designed to maintain the integrity of the video when multiple processes like FX, keys, and composites are layered.  This is something the more heavily compressed capture and delivery codecs usually fail at.
There’s a correct tool for every job.  When you’re editing and finishing a video, the correct codec is probably a post-production codec like ProRes or DNxHD.  So do yourself a favor, and transcode to it before you begin working in your editor; you’ll get more power out of your editing system, fewer headaches and higher quality.  All at the expense of minimal time transcoding (a good time to make a fresh pot of coffee) and some extra file size (quality hard drives are affordable these days).

September 19, 2011

Codecs: A Brief History

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

If you’ve worked in video you’ve certainly been in contact with codecs.  Probably many codecs, in fact.  So what is a codec?  Codec is an abbreviation for “Compressor-Decompresor” or “Coder-Decoder” (technically speaking, it’s a portmanteau, an amalgamation of two words (a favorite tool of tabloid sites who live to gossip about ScarJo or Brangelina), but i digress).

The vast majority of digital video is processed by a codec, each of which has its strengths and weaknesses.  In the broadest sense, there are two types of codecs:  Lossy and Lossless.  Almost all commonly used video codecs today are lossy, but many “lose” so little information in the encoding process that the resulting video appears identical to the original video source under normal viewing conditions, yet achieves much lower bandwidth than uncompressed video.  Another upper-level classification of codecs is “Intraframe” or “Interframe.”  Intraframe codecs compress each frame of video discreetly, while interframe codecs look at sequences of frames and compress them in groups by looking for the elements in the group that change from frame to frame (anything in motion, for example) and applying more bandwidth to encoding those elements while omitting the repetitive data inherent in the static elements (backgrounds, for example) of the group (groups of frames are referred to as “GOPs” (Group of Pictures).  There are pros and cons to both types of encoding and this frequently results in choosing different codecs for capturing, processing and delivering video content (more on that in a later blog).

The first popular consumer digital video cameras used the DV codec, which worked in standard definition and lossily compressed video at a ratio of about 5:1, resulting in a 25mbps bandwidth that could be written to inexpensive tapes.  The DV codec was spawned into more advanced flavors including DVCAM, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50 (which doubled the bitrate to 50mbps for high quality SD video), and ultimately DVCPRO HD, which supported 1080i and 720p HD formats and is found only in professional (typically shoulder-mount, ENG-style) cameras.  All codecs in the DV family are intraframe, allowing for quick editing on the relatively low-powered computer systems available at the time these codecs were popular (the dawn of consumer video production, roughly 2000-2006).

As prosumer and consumer HD cameras hit the market, HDV became the most common recording format.  HDV is a flavor of MPEG-2 compression, the same type of compression used to encode video for DVDs and digital cable television signals.  Because of HDV’s high compression ratio it is able to pack 4.5X the number of pixels (1440x1080 vs 720x480) into the same 25mbps bitrate that DV used, allowing HD quality video to be recorded to the same inexpensive DV tapes.  MPEG-2 is an interframe codec, not ideal for editing, but highly-useable for most consumer & prosumer producers who aren’t doing heavy post-production processing.  HDV was at the forefront of the tsunami of popularity for handheld HD cameras.  Many modern prosumer cameras still use MPEG-2 codecs today that are very similar to HDV, such as Sony’s XDCAM EX series which record in a codec closely related to HDV, but in a higher 35mbps bitrate.

The final codec to be mentioned in this installment of the blog is h.264.  h.264 was designed to be a highly-versatile codec, capable of encoding very low-bitrate video for mobile devices and internet applications that could support limited bandwidth, but also efficiently encode very high quality, high-bitrate HD video.  As such, h.264 is used in recording and sending video in mobile phones (often at a bitrate of just 300kbps), and is also the codec used in the very high-quality Blu-Ray Disc format (typically a 40mbps video stream), and everything in between. h.264 simplified the delivery of video by providing one codec that worked very well in an extremely wide range of bitrates (previously, most codecs worked most efficiently at a small range of bitrates so were designated for specific applications).  Prosumer cameras, especially DSLRs such as the Canon 5D/7D, are also using h.264 to record video.  h.264 produces much higher quality video than MPEG-2 at the same bitrate, but due to this very high compression ratio is an undesirable codec for editing and post-production.  For this reason, most producers transcode from the source h.264 codec to a codec designed for post-production, then either transcode back to h.264 or to a 3rd codec for delivery.  We’ll talk about post-production codecs (such as Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes) and delivery codecs in the next installments of this blog.

If you have questions, hit us up on Facebook.

August 15, 2011

Big Low-Budget Movies

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

On the Lennon Bus, we work with some fantastic equipment.  But one of the points that the Lennon Bus tries very hard to impress upon people is that you don’t need much money to bring your ideas to life.  Modern technology provides immense amounts of power per dollar and the tools available to non-professionals are now capable of producing results nearly on the same level as the very expensive equipment big-budget productions rely on.  In fact, one very highly regarded movie director recently quipped, “you can go into the store now and buy a laptop that is faster than the computers they used to make Jurassic Park.”

The director who said that should know; he’s Gareth Edwards, and last year he released his breakthrough movie, “Monsters.”  Monsters is a suspenseful, science-fiction, alien movie shot entirely on location across several countries and incorporates exquisitely integrated computer generated FX (it is, afterall, an alien flick.) Gareth wrote, shot, directed, and created all the FX himself and the total cost of the equipment used to produce the film was about $15,000.  Now, if you haven’t seen Monsters yet you should definitely do so, otherwise you simply have to take my word that the movie appears in every way to have had a budget 100x more than it did.  If you’re a Netflix member you can stream Monsters right now, then hurry back to lennonbus.org.

How is it possible that a movie shot on $15,000 looks like it cost $15 million?  For the most part, expert, creative use of prosumer technology.  Instead of shooting film or high-end HD cameras, which cost $100k and require significant chemical processing, data management, and/or crews to handle, Gareth used the popular Sony PMW-EX3.  The PMW-EX3 happens to be the same camera we use on the Lennon Bus.  It is a high-end but affordable pro-sumer HD camera that a single person can easily handle yet produces and records high-quality images fully able to be processed, composited with computer FX, and still look fantastic when project on the theatre screen.  The main production crew consisted of Gareth handling the camera and 1 other person to capture audio.  Each day while Gareth and his sound person were shooting, his 2 editors were in a nearby hotel room editing the previous day’s shots on a laptop computer running standard video editing software like Avid Media Composer.  If additional hands were needed they asked their extra actors to pitch in (a technique Robert Rodriguez also used when shooting his breakthrough El Mariachi, which was also shot on a famously low budget). After shooting wrapped, Gareth created the movie’s 250 special FX shots on a laptop using common store-bought software. Monsters premiered at 2010’s SXSW, then went on to be shown at dozens of festivals including Cannes, Edinburgh and LAFF during which people like Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson fell in love with it.  It was given a limited releas in the US in October of 2010 and won rave reviews; Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 71%.

When we on the Lennon Bus say, “If you can imagine it, you can create it,” we mean it.  If you are willing to learn the techniques, have the passion and a great idea, there’s nothing stopping you.



June 20, 2011

Audio-Technica 20 Series Mics

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

Are you a home recordist in search of a better sound?  Got your Pro Tools chops honed, but still having trouble getting that big, smooth vocal or guitar sound you crave?  It’s probably time to consider upgrading your microphone.  Stepping up to a quality studio microphone is the single best way to improve the sound of your recordings.  When you have a great mic paired with a quality mic preamp there is nothing stopping you from getting the same quality out of your home recordings that pros burn thousands of dollars a day to get in a big name recording studio.
AT2050In the Lennon Bus’ studios we live and breathe Audio-Technica microphones.  Many of the 40 series mics (4060, 4050, 4047, 4033) are heavily used in our recording sessions and we absolutely love them, as do studios across the world.  If they’re in your price range, you can’t go wrong with an A-T 40 series mic.  But did you know that Audio-Technica also makes a budget-conscious series of studio mics?  The Audio-Technica 20 series studio mics (2020, 2021, 2035, 2050) provide nearly the same professional sound as the premier 40 series, but at a fraction of the price.  The AT2050 is a lovely sounding, multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser studio mic that sounds great on vocals, piano, guitar amps, drum overheads and room sound.  It looks slick, sounds amazing, and is as versatile as any mic out there.  You can easily find the AT2050 for under $250 in stores, making it one of the best bang-for-the-buck mics in the world.  If you’re currently using some off-brand or bruised-up mic and struggling to record vocals or instruments with warmth and clarity, this mic is an affordable path to getting the sound you dream of. 
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  Audio-Technica is running a rebate promotion RIGHT NOW (through 8/31/11) that will cut the cost of the AT2050 (and 2035, 2020, 2020USB, and 2041SP Studio Pack) down to less than you’d pay for some cheap Radio Shack mic!  Check out that rebate HERE and plan to upgrade your sound this summer while the deal is on!
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*Are you subscribed to the Lennon Bus monthly email newsletter?  Each month in our newsletter we give away an awesome prize from one of our sponsors. Last month we gave away the Audio Technica AT2041SP Studio Pack (worth $289!) and if you were signed up you might have won this awesome mic package FOR FREE.  Signup for the newsletter HERE so you can be eligible for our fabulous giveaway drawing each month!

April 02, 2011

Inspired By: The Two John Lennons

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

John was a complicated man, as explorers and envelope pushers so often are.  Contrast the many different stages in his life with each other and it’s easy to recognize that he was a man of change and growth.  His spirit was a steady constant, however, and interestingly his choice in guitar was as well.

Way back in 1964, Paul McCartney picked up an Epiphone Casino guitar.  The Casino is a hollowbody electric guitar, similar to the extremely popular ES-335 but with a unique tone (a tone the Beatles would soon make famous).  John tried it out a few times and in 1966, during the recording of the Beatles’ Revolver, John picked up one of his own.  It was a sunburst, standard for the time.  George picked up a Casino too, but outfitted his with a Bigsby tremolo.

A lot changed in the coming years, with the Beatles, with John and in the world.  War and psychedelia were everywhere, and John’s art and humanitarian vision were in the middle of it all.  He made his instruments a reflection of the time and had many of them, including the Casino, spray painted and graffitied.  In 1968 John pulled a 180 and went back to basics.  Around the time he and Yoko created their historic album Two Virgins, John stripped the Casino all the way down to its natural wood.  John would carry his natural blonde Casino into the studio for the Beatles’ final recordings sessions and up onto the rooftop for the Beatles’ final public performance.

The most important moments in the incredible journey of John’s favorite instrument have been captured and immortalized by Epiphone who have made available two Limited Edition John Lennon Casinos.  Both were created through careful analysis and measurement of John’s personal Epiphone Casino which is still owned by Yoko Ono.

The first of the two instruments is the Epiphone John Lennon Signature “1965” Casino.  It is a reproduction of the guitar as it was originally bought by John.  It is a vintage sunburst finish.


The second reissue is the Epiphone John Lennon Signature “Revolution” Casino.  This is the Casino as John transformed it; stripped to its natural finish, pickguard removed, and tuners swapped for gold Grovers. 


A total of 1,965 of these John Lennon Signature reissues will be produced, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to help support music education.  They are available now in guitars stores all around the world, and are favorite instruments onboard the John Lennon Bus.

For more detailed info on these lovingly reissued pieces of history, check out http://www.epiphone.com/story.asp.

November 26, 2010

Safe Nap Habits Your Hard Drive Will Thank You For

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

I often see people doing something relatively dangerous to their laptops, so thought it worth writing a blog post about.  Maybe it will save someone from having to take advantage of Apple’s amazing AppleCare and restoring all their files from their Time Machine backup.

One of the great things about MacBooks is that they wake from sleep almost instantly when you lift their lid.  This is because when the computer is in Sleep mode it retains all the data in its memory (RAM) by using a small amount of power.  Since the contents of its memory are saved, when the computer wakes up it comes back in exactly the same state as when you put it to sleep.  Since power is required to retain the information in the computer’s RAM you’ll notice that if you leave your MacBook unplugged in sleep mode for awhile it will have less available battery when you wake it back up.  That’s the price you pay for the instantaneous wakeup that we all love.

So what happens when the battery is completely drained?  Well, when the MacBook senses that the battery is just about depleted it goes into a deeper sleep mode, commonly referred to as Hibernation.  In Hibernate, the contents of the RAM are written to the hard drive and the computer goes completely to sleep.  Because hard drives don’t require power to retain their data, Hibernate mode doesn’t use the battery.  But when the computer is woken back up the RAM must be restored by reading from the hard drive, which takes several seconds.  Most people have experienced this, it’s what’s happening when you wake your MacBook and see the pale screen with the white progress bars.  The more RAM you have, the more time this will take.

Now here’s where the dangerous habits come in to play.  Because Sleep mode requires power it’s entirely possible that a MacBook left closed and unplugged could deplete its battery while asleep.  Apple engineers know this, of course, so they designed the computers to write the RAM to the hard drive BEFORE going to sleep each time you close your MacBook’s lid or manually initiate Sleep mode.  That way if the battery runs out while the computer is asleep, the MacBook will automatically enter Hibernate mode and all your hard work will be intact when you wake it back up.  This is great.  The problem is that it takes several seconds to write the RAM to the hard drive when you put the computer to sleep.  And what I see almost every day in coffee shops and classrooms is people slapping the lid of their MacBook closed and then immediately dropping the laptop into their backpack.  Sometimes they do this gently.  Oftentimes they don’t.  They figure the computer is asleep so what harm could a little jostling do to it?

We all know that hard drives are a bit delicate.  When their laptops are on, people are generally very careful not to drop them or throw them around.  But when the laptop is asleep, or when people think it’s asleep, the rules seem to slacken a bit.  You tend to assume that if the computer is shut down that it’s safe to drop it into a backpack or hastily put it up on a table in a far more crude way than you ever would if it were on.  But since the MacBook takes several seconds, sometimes up to 30 seconds if you have 4gb or more RAM, to store the RAM to the hard drive, it is still very much on when so often it is snatched up and dropped into a bag or tucked under an arm.  And that’s bad.  Particularly because that’s a time that it’s guaranteed to be writing data to the hard drive, which is when hard drives are their most vulnerable.  A little drop could cause the drive’s head to bounce on the platter, corrupting your data and potentially causing physical failure of the drive.

So get in the habit of being gentle with your MacBook just after it goes to sleep.  And when possible, wait until it’s fully asleep before throwing it into your bag like a frisbee golf disc.  It just might make the difference between a happy Mac and a Sad Mac.

Sidenote:  I’ve had people tell me, “But Macs have the Sudden Motion Sensor that’s supposed to park the hard drive’s heads when it detects it’s being dropped or jolted so I shouldn’t have to worry about bashing my MacBook around like a piñata.”  Sure, the SMS is pretty cool, and it might save you from having a hard drive that prefers not to do anything but make little whirr-click sounds after a fall, but you’re much better off thinking of the SMS in the same way you think about the airbags in your car: they’re a great added safety measure, but having them doesn’t mean you should drive your car into a wall.

Also, there are free utilities that will allow you to customize your MacBook’s Sleep and Hibernate parameters.  I use one to prevent the writing of RAM to disk when I know I won’t need Hibernate mode, or to force the Mac into Hibernate mode when I want to maximize battery life (when traveling in places I won’t be able to recharge or on long flights, for example). 

October 04, 2010

Documenting the Plastic Ono Band

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

The Lennon Bus spent last weekend at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre documenting Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon’s We Are Plastic Ono Band shows.  Multitrack audio was recorded to a 56 input Avid Pro Tools HD system using Aphex mic preamps.  Video was captured in HD by 5 Sony EX3 cameras.  The EX3 cameras are tapeless, they shoot to Sony SxS solid state cards, so after each concert the SxS cards were brought into the Bus so video could be transferred to our 16TB Avid Video RAID.  Once on the RAID, we logged the video in Final Cut Pro and created a multiclip of the 5 camera angles.  Then the multiclip was edited in Final Cut Pro as if it was switched live during the concert.

Performing a 5 camera shoot of a 2.5 hour concert with tapeless HD cameras is something that couldn’t be done just a few years ago.  However, the Sony XDCAM EX system is extremely reliable, captures beautiful images, and features a clear and simple workflow when paired with Apple’s Final Cut Studio.  Being able to trust your workflow is key when shooting to solid state media because you sacrifice the safety net of archivable tapes.  The XDCAM EX log and transfer workflow is reliable and easy to perform, even when in intense post-production environments, as the video tutorial below clearly demonstrates.

May 27, 2010

Auto-Tune, Under the Radar

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

The “Auto-Tune Effect,” also known as the “T-Pain Effect” (and formerly known as the “Cher Effect”) has blown up in recent years.  It’s everywhere, on tracks from hip-hop to country.  It’s become a household word; your aunt, who wouldn’t know a virtual instrument from a VCR, knows the term “Auto-Tune” even if she’s not exactly sure what it is.  As with any style that grows to the point of ubiquity, people become tired of it and start looking for the next “it” sound.  So, when the next effect becomes the “must have” sound and no one wants to hear the Auto-Tune Effect on new music, will Auto-Tune as a tool be thrown away?  Not a chance.  Because even when people don’t want to hear the Auto-Tune Effect, Auto-Tune will still be used on records, it just won’t be noticed.

Long before Auto-Tune was a sound, it was a tool used to subtly correct off-key vocal performances.  It’s actually the abuse of this tool that results in the iconic effect we find in so many current pop records.  Auto-Tune continues to be used for its originally intended purpose of rescuing great performances that suffer from pitch issues, and it does so without the listener ever knowing it’s been applied.  When the sound of the effect is no longer en vogue, this plugin will still be a vital tool in every audio engineer’s toolbox.

There are many tutorials online that will show you how to create the Auto-Tune Effect, and there are even presets you can use that instantly create this sound with a single click.  But using Auto-Tune to correct a vocal without causing that track to sound processed takes a bit more of a subtle approach customized to that particular recording.  Antares recently posted tips to help you use Auto-Tune for just the purpose of rescuing an otherwise great track from undesired vocal pitchiness, and to do so without revealing that any processing has been applied to the track at all.  Check it out on the Antares website here.  Happy tuning.

April 04, 2010

Soundtrack Pro Tutorial - Noise Reduction

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

Soundtrack Pro is Final Cut Studio’s definitive tool for audio editing and mixing.  It handles jobs big and small with ease and is tightly integrated with Final Cut Pro.  One of the tasks editors often throw at STP is noise reduction.  Every videographer knows the pain of having a good shot ruined by unwanted background noise.  When the noise is unavoidable or a reshoot impossible, fixing it in post is the only option.  In this situation, Soundtrack Pro comes to the rescue.

The FCP sequence shown below is a short scene with dialogue. Just by looking at the audio clips we can tell that in addition to the dialogue, denoted by the strong peaks in the waveform, there is also significant background noise throughout the scene.

To fix this, we can use Soundtrack Pro’s Noise Reduction process. The first step is to send the audio clip to STP as a Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project by control-clicking the audio clip.

The audio clip opens in STP. We use the Selection tool to select a portion of the audio that contains nothing but noise. We’ll select as much noise as we can, up to a few seconds, while being certain that the selection contains only the noise we want to remove and absolutely none of the sound we wish to keep. 

Choose Process>Noise Reduction>Set Noise Print.
Now that we’ve identified the noise we wish to reduce, STP’s Noise Reduction process can be applied. We select the entire audio clip (double-click the audio or press Command-A), then choose Process>Noise Reduction>Reduce Noise.  This opens the Noise Reduction HUD.

Click the Preview button to loop playback, then raise the Threshold slider until the filter is acting on the noise, but not the dialogue. The most important thing to remember is that the goal is noise reduction, not noise removal. Attempting to completely remove background noise usually causes unacceptable harm to the desired audio. Try to strike the best balance between reducing background noise and retaining the integrity of the audio you wish to keep.

When the ideal settings are found, click Apply. STP performs the Noise Reduction process and updates the waveform display. Looking at the waveform, we can tell that most of the background noise has been removed and the dialogue is just as present as before the processing. Also, the Noise Reduction process appears in the Actions list in the left pane, where it can be edited or deleted if desired.

Now we save the audio file project (Command-S) and switch back to Final Cut Pro. In FCP we see that the audio clip has been replaced with the STP audio file project and has already updated. We’re ready to continue editing the rest of the sequence in FCP now. If further refinements to this audio clip are required we can simply reopen the audio file project in STP, make our changes, resave the project, and the clip in FCP will automatically update. This workflow is part of the tight integration between STP and FCP and illustrates how vital it is for an editor to know how to utilize STP’s advanced audio tools. STP is the key to taking your video projects’ audio to the next level.

Jeff Sobel is the Chief Engineer of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and the author of the Apple Pro Training Series book: Sound Editing in Final Cut Studio.

February 06, 2010

Lighting 101: Green Screen

Written by Jeff Sobel | Leave a Comment

 

Green screens allow you to record your subject in front of a background that can be removed and replaced with anything you wish.  They’re used in special FX shots and routinely in nearly all modern news broadcasts and talk shows.  Once found only in professional broadcast studios, the technology has now trickled down and has beocme common in the pro-sumer world as well.  It’s even possible to make your own make-shift green screen backdrops, often with very useable results.

The first thing to know about using a green screen is lighting it properly.  You don’t need a huge light kit to do this; you may only need to add a single light or two to your normal kit for a small screen (a 5’ screen will serve you well for a single subject, medium shot).  See the following diagrams, borrowed from our friends at Litepanels:

Light your subject normally.  A Litepanels 1x1 Spot makes an excellent key light, with a 1x1 Flood as a fill light, each at about a 30° angle on your subject.  You’ll then need a backlight; this helps separate your subject from the background and is essential in any lighting setup.  Another 1x1 will work here, either spot or flood, and if you can position it above the green screen you should be able to achieve a good result.

When you are happy with the light on your subject it’s time to light the green screen.  The screen is lit separately from the subject and the most important thing is to ensure it is lit evenly with no shadows.  One of the great things about Litepanels LED lights, besides their very low power consumption and heat output, is the extremely even spread of light they throw.  Traditional lights generally have hotspots which need to be counteracted with various types of diffusion. Even when diffused, most traditional lights still exhibit perceptible hot areas; you’ll often need to cross-light the background with two lights to achieve a consistent light across the screen.  The remarkably even light thrown by a Litepanel, however, means that a small green screen can often be lit by a single 1x1 Flood light.

Working with a green screen requires some space.  You want to have about the same distance between the subject and the screen as you have between the camera and the subject.  This will help eliminate shadows on the screen and prevent light from bouncing off the screen and spilling green onto your subject.  Either of these things will make pulling the key harder.


A well-recorded green screen shot will be easy to pull a key from using the tools built-in to Final Cut Studio, After Effects, Avid, or using a 3rd party plugin like DV Garage’s dvMatte Blast.

Next week we’ll show you Reflecmedia’s revolutionary Chromatte fabric. It’s a green screen that doesn’t need to be lit at all.

About Jeff Sobel

Jeff Sobel has been a professional sound engineer since 1998. He produced several albums for indie artists and was both a house and touring live sound engineer before joining the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in 2002 as an on-board engineer.  Jeff spent 3 years on the road with the Bus during which time he oversaw the 2004 re-build of the first Lennon Bus.  In 2007, Jeff was responsible for the conceptualization and design of the current Lennon Bus for which he created a floor plan and system design ideally suited to the Bus’ unique mission. 
Jeff is currently a freelance engineer, consultant, and educator living in Los Angeles, CA.

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Posts By Jeff Sobel

  • Codecs: Part II In my last blog post we talked about some basic video codecs and their history.  This time we’re going to talk about a couple of popular post-production codecs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. Last time we talked about capture codecs like DV or DVCPRO and delivery codecs like h.264.  The …
  • Codecs: A Brief History If you’ve worked in video you’ve certainly been in contact with codecs.  Probably many codecs, in fact.  So what is a codec?  Codec is an abbreviation for “Compressor-Decompresor” or “Coder-Decoder” (technically speaking, it’s a portmanteau, an amalgamation of two words (a favorite tool of tabloid sites who live to gossip …
  • Big Low-Budget Movies On the Lennon Bus, we work with some fantastic equipment.  But one of the points that the Lennon Bus tries very hard to impress upon people is that you don’t need much money to bring your ideas to life.  Modern technology provides immense amounts of power per dollar and the …
  • Audio-Technica 20 Series Mics Are you a home recordist in search of a better sound?  Got your Pro Tools chops honed, but still having trouble getting that big, smooth vocal or guitar sound you crave?  It’s probably time to consider upgrading your microphone.  Stepping up to a quality studio microphone is the single best …
  • Inspired By: The Two John Lennons John was a complicated man, as explorers and envelope pushers so often are.  Contrast the many different stages in his life with each other and it’s easy to recognize that he was a man of change and growth.  His spirit was a steady constant, however, and interestingly his choice in …
  • Safe Nap Habits Your Hard Drive Will Thank You For I often see people doing something relatively dangerous to their laptops, so thought it worth writing a blog post about.  Maybe it will save someone from having to take advantage of Apple’s amazing AppleCare and restoring all their files from their Time Machine backup. One of the great things about …
  • Documenting the Plastic Ono Band The Lennon Bus spent last weekend at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre documenting Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon’s We Are Plastic Ono Band shows.  Multitrack audio was recorded to a 56 input Avid Pro Tools HD system using Aphex mic preamps.  Video was captured in HD by 5 Sony EX3 cameras.  …
  • Auto-Tune, Under the Radar The “Auto-Tune Effect,” also known as the “T-Pain Effect” (and formerly known as the “Cher Effect”) has blown up in recent years.  It’s everywhere, on tracks from hip-hop to country.  It’s become a household word; your aunt, who wouldn’t know a virtual instrument from a VCR, knows the term “Auto-Tune” …
  • Soundtrack Pro Tutorial - Noise Reduction Soundtrack Pro is Final Cut Studio’s definitive tool for audio editing and mixing.  It handles jobs big and small with ease and is tightly integrated with Final Cut Pro.  One of the tasks editors often throw at STP is noise reduction.  Every videographer knows the pain of having a good …
  • Lighting 101: Green Screen Green screens allow you to record your subject in front of a background that can be removed and replaced with anything you wish.  They’re used in special FX shots and routinely in nearly all modern news broadcasts and talk shows.  Once found only in professional broadcast studios, the technology has …