SweetNotes
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I still can’t believe it’s already the year 2000. It seems like such a short time ago that I went with my friends to see Stanley Kubrick’s “2001:A Space Odyssey ” . I remember thinking how far in the future that seemed. Then we all did the math and figured out how old we were going to be in 2001. Wow! That was almost as ancient as our parents. Then we all went to Woodstock. Yeah, I'm that old.

What’s funny is that now that it’s the year 2000, digital recording doesn’t seem quite so amazing any more. I mean, you knew they’d be recording digitally in the future, right?I’ve been writing this column for almost eight years, and I wonder, with all the latest advances, what I’ll be writing about in a few more years.

Since most writers tend to hate their earlier work (Why on Earth did I write that?) , I thought it would be interesting to go back into my files and see exactly what I wrote about in some of my very first “Tech Notes ” columns. Would it be as awful as I feared? Would I grind my teeth and ask myself how I could have written such drivel?I was almost afraid to look.

Fortunately, after checking out a few Sweet Notes from 1992 and 1993 - issues that included such hot new products as E-MU’s Vintage Keys, Digidesign’s Session 8, Mackie’s new 1202 mixer and the groundbreaking Kurzweil K2000 - I found that I wasn’t horrified at what I had written. In fact, most of it still makes sense. As an example (from the Spring 1993 issue) :

“With so much power available in outboard gear today, there’s the temptation to use it all and crank it to10. I can’t say that I have not overused some effects in my own recordings;some pieces are so soaked in reverb that they almost ooze out of the speakers. I guess in the modern recording world (and the world in general) , more is better. More zing, more punch and crispness (along with a very healthy dose of low frequencies added to knock the plaster off the walls) . Throw enough effects onto a guitar and pretty soon the keyboards need a little extra push to be heard. Then the vocals get obscured, so we punch up the brightness (there) . Whoa! Now the drums are too far back in the mix, so let’s add some additional EQ. Now the bass player is upset because he just sounds like (a bunch of) low frequency mush, so let’s boost the highs in that track.

“I can’t help but believe that what is coming out of our speakers now is less often music and more often heavy duty production . . . in the race to have a hot album, some artists and producers are pulling out all the sonic stops in order to create the ultimate pop experience for the listener.”

Okay, it’s not Tolstoy, but it still makes sense. Call me old-fashioned, but I still love to hear recordings that sound like real musicians playing in a real room. Well, in any case, I could go on and on about how brilliant I was in the early '90s, but since space is at a premium in this issue , I need to tackle one item that came up as a result of comments I made last issue regarding theater sound. I received this e-mail from Tim Elwell, Projection Tech for Loew’s Cineplex Entertainment:

“I was reading your Tech Notes in the latest issue of . . . Sweet Notes lamenting the sound at your local megaplex and I thought I might lend some insight to the problem. First, each film production company has its favorite digital sound format. The narrow-sighted ones only produce films in a particular digital format. If the auditorium the film is playing in does not support that particular format, then the film is presented in analog. Many of the production companies now put out their product with all of the formats printed on the film. Yea! In the case of Digital Theater Systems (DTS) , only the time code is printed on the film. With Dolby SRD and Sony SDDS, the digital information itself is on the film. There is no additional charge for a print with digital information on it.

“Second, many theaters don’t support digital sound in all their auditoriums. While it would be foolish to open a new theater without providing at least one digital format in each auditorium, the bean counters sometimes circumvent logic. A new trend is to provide roll-around carts with the digital equipment in them so the theaters can move the equipment to whichever auditorium is showing the films with digital information. This allows them to support all digital formats without having to equip all of the auditoriums with all three formats. As you might guess, if a theater has only a limited number of auditoriums that have the capability for running films in digital, you can expect the films that are drawing the most customers to be the ones playing in those houses.

“P. S. There is nothing better than fresh popcorn (even after working in the industry for over 17 years) . Until they make a 45' wide, 19' tall big screen TV . . . ” Thanks for the insider information, Tim. Meanwhile, I’ll see you all next issue. Jim Miller can be contacted at 'jim_miller@mindspring. com'