Archive for January, 2009

Shhh … I’m listening

One of the best kept secrets: Sound Works had been doing forensic audio and expert witness services for many years.  We restore noisy recordings and can tell if recorded evidence has been tampered with. The same technology used in audio forensics to enhance intelligible conversation can reduce background noise audio on any recorded event from focus groups to film shoots.


ssshOver the years, we have cleaned up audio from corporate video, film projects, small hand-held recorders as well as re-mastering music. The technology is amazing! We have successfully peeled away background noise, a chirping bird, crickets, tape hiss, vinyl or record surface noise, airplanes, motors and air conditioners to name a few.


One of my favorite success stories was the restoration of a music video. It was a large, multi-camera shoot of a live concert. The power supply in the sound truck audio console went bad and created loud pops across all channels of the recorded audio. When the media arrived at Sound Works, we identified the location of each pop and removed them. But it gets even better… Just editing the pops out of the music would have caused gaps and jumps in the songs. Our engineers were able to interpolate the missing sound and create a seamless removal of the pop. It’s like the problem never existed.


If you have a bad recording … think restoration. All may not be lost – it may save some costs and make you a hero.


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But it’s a digital recording” – have you ever hear those words from one of your clients?

It seemed impossible to pick out the voice buried amongst the restaurant bedlam on the recording

By Dwight Cook


January 29, 2009 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

But it’s a digital recording

“But it’s a digital recording” – have you ever hear those words from one of your clients?

You got the phone call last week. A young lady is being dismissed from her job because of what appears to be sexual harassment.  Of course, there is the little problem of her words against those of the harassing supervisor. Then you hear the magic words, “I recorded the whole conversation on one of those tiny digital recorders.”  digital-recorder Well, all right then – We have a case and who could dispute the incident when you can hear it as it happened.  So you ask the lady for the recording in order to educate yourself to the specifics of the incident… And that’s where the trouble starts.  Sure, you can hear every word your client says but, unfortunately, not the supervisor who makes the offending statements.  Well, “it’s a Digital recording isn’t it? – Why is it not perfect?”

Here is where a little knowledge can be dangerous.  Yes, digital recording is a way to ensure “perfect” storage of the sound and/or picture that you are recording. However, this has nothing to do with the initial quality of the recording.  The problem is that you can have a wonderfully pristine recording of bad sound.  The device doesn’t know any difference; it will record and save “perfectly” both the good and the bad.  So, what can you do now?

You could see if the incident could be repeated and, perhaps, catch the supervisor in the act yet again and maybe get a better recording.  Or you could have the present tape transcribed and let the transcriber use their best judgment as to what the hard-to-hear sections contain. However, the best choice is to use an expert in “enhancing” low-quality recordings.  Whether you call it Audio Forensics or Audio Enhancement, it all boils down to the same thing – an experienced, sound technician with not only the right tools to create a usable piece of evidence, but the subjective knowledge to give you the best possible product. Today, everybody seems to have some software they got for free off the internet and is more than willing to work for next to nothing.  Beware! – As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”  And you can’t substitute technology for intelligence.  Much of the time, the real problem with the recording IS the microphone is “stupid” (it doesn’t make a decision to tune-out the background noises from the voices you are trying to hear) and it is not a human brain.  Think of being at a cocktail party with a hundred other folks – You are still able to have a conversation with one other person, ignoring all the other sounds around you.  This is the miracle of the human brain’s audio ability.  It takes an experienced and trained engineer to act as the “brain” after the fact and uncover the hidden audio.

You well know that there is nothing better than a good eyewitness and what better a witness than a clean and intelligible recording of what really happened.

by Mark Meyer


January 27, 2009 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

Let Inspire You – I Subscribed

Last weekend I was browsing and came across a blog entry that led to  It’s a great find! serves up videos from their annual conventions that inspire and challenge – and in this market place I know I need it.

ted_comSpeakers have about 20 minutes to share what makes them tick. That time pressure really leads to concise presentations that challenge, entertain, and don’t waste time. Speaking topics cover everything from science and technology to culture and the arts, and everything in the middle.
I viewed a talk on “What do consumers really want?” by Joseph Pine covering current business trends and the rise of business services as an Experience. I found it intriguing, funny, and I’m taking a 3rd or 4th listen as I write. The section on “Real Real” and “Fake Fake” is hilarious. I also watched “Celebrating the Scientific Experiment” by Karry Mullis. It reminded me about the child-like curiosity and desire for exploration that drove me into science and ultimately into web programming.

What do you think?  Is this site useful to you or not.  Comment below:


January 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

Houston to Barcelona – feature film connection

Michael Lopez-AlegriaSound Works just finished the narration for a documentary about Michael Lopez-Alegria a Spanish astronaut and a veteran of three space missions. The project was a feature documentary by Bausan Films Barcelona, Spain & Michael Lopez-Alegria.

The narration originated from Sound Works, Houston. A video feed of the film and the talent were transmitted from Houston to Barcelona allowing Bausan Films to direct the voice over live. Voice was sent CD quality using digital patch. The process saved the film company travel time and money.

The film has not yet been released, but should be out the first half of 2009.

January 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm Leave a comment

Houston’s Media Biz Can Regain Momentum… If We Work For Change

tep up and move forward in spite of the current economic situation! Now, what can you do to make a difference?

Continue Reading January 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

The Joy of Sound Painting

What the heck is sound painting?
The first time I heard the term ‘sound painting’, I thought it was someone mouthing some new-age nonsense.  But now I know Sound Painting is indeed an art.  I’d define it as the blending and layering of effects, music and voices on a soundpaintingcanvas – not of sight, but of sound.  If done well, it IS truly a work of art. Sounds morph together seamlessly and the synergistic result is much greater than the singular components.

Sound Painting can make the difference between a well-produced, professional sound track and one that sounds… amateur. Sound effects can be stacked and mixed to create bigger-than-life results. Let’s say you want the sound of a basketball dribbled and then slam-dunked through a sheetrock wall – There is no stock sound effect for that! In this scenario, Sound Painting becomes the audio-equivalent of visual special effects.

The “painting” of sound adds emotional context to a project. For example, mute the sound at home or cover your ears in the theatre next time you see a scary movie.  If you ‘hear no evil’, the movie is no longer scary. Also try holding your ears in a dramatic, action-packed movie scene and watch it suddenly go flat!

A radio or TV commercial should evoke emotion just like a movie. However, a commercial is actually more challenging than a movie because of time constraints. Take a well written script, some good actors, and then season the soundtrack with a sound painting – It’s a recipe that can meet the challenge presented in the ad market.

Our senior engineer at Sound Works, Mark Meyer, is a veteran at the art of Sound Painting.  He can take multiple cuts of stock library music, mix and layer them, and produce what sounds like a custom music score. Mark is just as skilled at building custom sound effects. I’ve seen him take a recorder into the field to get just the right sound – I call him our mad scientist of sound. I’ve also seen clients describe how they want the sound track to feel and then turn Mark loose to create his Sound Painting – The results are astonishing!

How will you paint your next production? Why not create a sound painting?

This is a commercial done for Time Warner Cable. The audio was brought with only noisy on camera sound. We made the Astronaut sound like a real Astronaut and added every footstep, the pizza box drop sound … and even the banging against the door.

Here is a commercial done for REMCO to attract household large item rentals. Is that exciting? No! But, what if we add personality to the appliances? THAT could be fun.

examples from Sound Works

by Mark Meyer


January 16, 2009 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

What’s “Talent” got to do with it?

While watching the premiere of American Idol last night, I began to wonder…  What DOES talent have to do with it?  Believe it or not, almost all the Idol contestants sent to Hollywood HAD talent.  As usual, a few got through that shouldn’t have, but most that should, did – and I was pleasantly surprised.  But what is “talent”?  And can it stand on its own? – Not only in the music biz, but in the “voice-over” business as well?
istock_000005431002xsmall has two great definitions for “talent”:

1.     A special natural ability or aptitude
2.     A capacity for achievement or success; ability

Today’s commercial truth lies somewhere between the two – Would not “a natural ability or aptitude with a capacity for achievement or success” be the more contemporary definition? Most of the people I work with have ability combined with equally (or more) important attributes.

So here’s my take on it – The voice-over actor gets “in the room” based on their “ability” but STAYS “in the room” because of their professionalism, work ethic and personality. When asked to suggest someone for a project, “ability” is the de facto part of my recommendation. What makes the difference IS can this person be easy to work with, fun to be around and a hard worker?

Ability can only get you so far – Hard work and professionalism define the truly “talented”.

So I ask you… What’s talent got to do with it? EVERYTHING!

Danny Reeves
Sound Works, Inc.

January 15, 2009 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

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