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AES Section Meeting Reports

Toronto - March 26, 2013

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Summary

This meeting represents a milestone for the Toronto AES as it was our first meeting held where the guest hosts were presenting via Skype.

Rob gave some background behind the meeting and about Dave Pensado. Next, he played a 'sizzle' reel which provided an overview of the show, commenting afterwards it was 'pretty Las Vegas'!

The meeting started with a Q&A period. Initially there were some technical problems with the video feed, so most of the meeting was conducted with just the audio and a promotional pic of Herb and Dave displayed onscreen.

Some of the topics discussed was the background of the show. Herb was given the task of co-host because Dave's wife said he was the only one who could cut Dave off! Currently there are 106 episodes after 2 years in production.

On background production, Herb stated Dave does all the selecting and booking of guests. Herb takes the television component of show 'deadly, deadly seriously'. He also felt conventional manufacturer tutorials were very technical but lacked 'humanity'. Dave and Herb wanted to change that paradigm.

Dave says the amount of time preparing the "Into The Lair" segment varies. He aims for a balance to interest both the non full time 'hobbyist' and the professional. He gets many of his ideas for these segments during actual mixing sessions. They are, for the most part, all real world examples, with only maybe 3 or 4 set up just for the show. The place where the segment is filmed is one of Dave's actual working spaces. The segments are best served working out of Dave's project facility, leaving him the freedom and comfort to do the things the way he wants to. It also creates and sends out a message of accessibility to the audience. A message that "this wonderful profession of ours is not limited to the those that can afford access to the club, but anyone that's got inventive ideas, talent, skills and taste can find a spot in this thing we call audio..."

Dave feels a great engineer can do a great mix with just four plugins: Compressor, Reverb, Delay and EQ. He thinks a lot of the rest of what he does is for fun! "There's nothing like waking up in the morning and knowing that you got a new piece of gear or a new plugin waiting on you that day - that's the coolest thing in the world".

While Rob was fielding questions from the audience, Herb noted that everyone in this video call except Dave, was Canadian, and he was disappointed that, because there was no video, no one could see his Canada shirt! Dave suggested that when someone asks a question to make it mandatory to describe their looks in 15 words or less! He offered to start by describing himself as: "....6'4", buff, and the show has to put make up on me to make me look uglier!!"

Commenting on a question regarding his contact with so many different engineers and people on his show, Dave noted his skill level is probably up at 20%. Giving a concrete example, when guests Tom Elmhirst and Justin Niebank mentioned using spring reverbs in mono, Dave noted that's now one of his favourite things. He also said because it was so hard for him to learn, he also felt if anybody cared what he had to say that he'd take the time to say it.

The show is very rewarding with both Herb and Dave receiving very 'heartwarming' emails. Dave said it's morphed into something "bigger than Herb and I" and "it comes from a good heart and a good place". Herb added this show has turned into a "monster". He's left his full time job to handle it and have hired full-time and part-time people. And in the course of producing 106 shows, both Herb and Dave have had maybe five weeks off during that time.

This brought up the question whether the show is financially viable. Herb replied that while they absolutely want to be giving, from day one they had to look at this as to how make this a business. The whole point is how to make this worthwhile for everyone involved. They went from virtually no revenue in year one to about a "10,000%" increase the next because they take it seriously. Dave added all the money they do make gets put back into the show in one form or another. The intent is that the show is a money maker with spinoffs; ie: books. It's an undertaking: because the show deals with audio, the audio has to be good quality, and with large screen monitors the norm, the video has to translate into large scale viewing.

Regarding endorsements of the show from organizations like the AES, Herb stated the reactions from people at meetings and conventions they've participated in were very passionate. He felt this was due to the teaching component and the fact they try to spend time with people. He's watched the show grow from 'faders and dials' to something more human.

Before closing the session Rob asked Dave's thoughts on a couple of issues. As for what sampling rate he prefers for tracking, Dave replied he hasn't tracked anything in 25 years and while mixing is a skillset that's valuable, a "good tracking engineer is worth five good mix engineers". Most of his projects (around 70 per cent) come in at 48kHz and the rest at 44.1kHz. Out of about 200 projects a year, maybe two might be at 96kHz. He feels CD's are still viable and a source of revenue for major labels. "It's hard to sell a table full of mp3's but easy to have a table full of CD's after your show". They'll be around like radio but die a slow death. He's a big advocate for music in the schools and for teaching the younger generation what good sound quality can actually do for the musical experience, but right now based on listening habits today, the push for higher consumer sample rates is a case of casting pearls before swine. "Sorry!"

An audience member disagreed, stating he was 20 years old and currently attending recording school and felt "we were force fed" bad quality sound for the last decade due to technological constraints, and with broadband opening up, people are welcoming better quality.

Dave respected his opinion and definitely agreed about the 'force-fed' aspect. He wished he had more to discuss this topic.

A comment from a retailer's point of view felt the issue was more manufacturers responding to consumer demand for reasonably priced ("cheap") product. Herb commented that we're in a technological paradigm shift and (with echoes of the recent George Massenburg meeting) we're in a disruptive phase which gives opportunity as much as it takes away what we're comfortable with. Dave closed the topic by saying at the end of the day it's about music. Whatever the technical accomplishments are, he loves it, but ultimately the music is the most important thing "whether it comes at 320 or 96".

On internships, they get about 75 requests a month and they try their best to refer people to appropriate contacts whenever possible.

As a parting question, Rob wanted to know what Dave honestly felt was the greatest gift he brings to the industry and also what he feels he lacks. Dave jokingly said his greatest gift was Herb Trawick! Responding to the 'lack' portion of the question he said: "I'm the best 'Dave Pensado' there is!" He's selling his taste rather than his skills. He's genuinely in awe of the guests on his shows. He has a realistic assessment of his place in music. He listens to other people's music as a fan rather than a competitor. Herb added "It doesn't matter how much you know, what you need to bring to the table is instinct, gut, feel and character.

Rob praised Dave for removing the 'mystique of secrets', finding the show very refreshing.

After a meeting break the video got working. The Skype versions must match for each user on the end(!) Rob asked Herb to go over his Dad's CFL (Canadian Football League) history.

As to Dave's interview highlights, Dave stated he was a bit reticent at first because the people he doesn't have time to mention might get upset. But several came to mind: Derek Ali; Alan Meyerson; Rupert Neve; and Jack Joseph Puig. Herb added that future shows will go into guests' actual environments.

Rob added one of his favourites episodes were the ones that dealt with ear training. What fascinated Rob about the subject was: it's not what you know how to do with the tools but what you hear. Dave commented he always thinks about the emotion and energy of the song. The skills come in, but they have no bearing on his success: he's had as many hit records when he "didn't know anything" as now that he does. At the end of the day it's about the music. As an aside on the topic, he added he has friends with perfect pitch who can't make a record and it drives them crazy! "An overly gifted technical ability can be a liability sometimes".

At the close, Herb thanked everyone for having them as hosts for this evening's meeting adding that the power of audio is much broader than we think, the community is really big, and the opportunities for work are in different places than one might think. "Stay with us. We're gonna go on a journey. We hope it's fruitful for you!"

Rob thanked Dave and Herb for being our first Skype guests, noting it was indeed a milestone for Toronto AES.

The evening closed with Rob playing some clips of Dave's show: episode #102 with Rupert Neve; episode #80 with Chris Lord-Alge; and episode #23 an "Into The Lair" segment with Ariel Chobaz Mixing Super Bass by Nicki Minaj.

Rob thanked everyone for attending and for putting up with the tech glitches!

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AES - Audio Engineering Society