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Here goes EVERYTHING

This weekend was my last weekend mixing for Chosen 2010.  We were at the second weekend of Penndel Winter Retreats at the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center.  It was a weekend of memories for me.  Memories of Penndel events from the past, people including students I have met and talked with, leaders I have learned from, and media nerds I have been blessed to work with, and great times of music, teaching, worship, and seeking God with everything and through everything.

This weekend, the Youth Alive missionary for Penndel, Jason Lamer, told a story that impacted me.  His story went something like this…  There was a man who got on a plane.  He sat back and thought about where he was going and anticipated where he was going.  Or at least, where he thought it was going.  During the flight, the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeakers saying that the engine of the plane was on fire and that all the passengers of the plane would need to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump in order to save their lives.  The man on the plane was afraid and upset and as he prepared for what he had to do in order to survive, thoughts were running through his head.  He was thinking, “this is not what I had planned”, “this is not what I wanted”, “why does this have to happen?”, “this isn’t my destination”.  And as he stood on the brink of jumping, he took a deep breath and said, “Here goes nothing!”.

On that same plane was another man…another man who was eager and excited simply to be on the plane.  He was prepared for anything and was willing to go wherever.  He wasn’t afraid.  Sure, he had a destination in mind but he wasn’t hesitant to change direction if he was called to.  When the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeaker explaining that the engine of the plane was on fire and that everyone would have to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump, he leapt into action.  He grabbed his parachute and was first in line.  Thoughts were running through his head too, but they were quite different then the other man.  This man knew that this is not what he had planned but he was willing to change and do what was necessary.  No, it was not what he wanted, but it was what had to be done because he was commanded to do it.  I am sure he did not understand why it had to happen, but instead of being afraid of stepping forward and taking that jump, he was excited by it.  No, it was certainly not his destination, but he was thrilled that he was going to jump in spite of circumstances that may have not seemed ideal but ultimately, was the best thing to do.  And without hesitation, that man with the wind blowing in his face, leap out of the plain and shouted, “Here…goes…EVERYTHING!!”

The first man was more concerned about where he was going, then the ride along the way.  He was caught up in his own plans and life and what he was going to do rather then an experience that could change his life forever.  It certainly may not have been what he wanted, but it was necessary for him at that moment in time.  It was necessary for him to jump.  It wasn’t all for nothing; it was all for everything.

Sometimes, God changes the course of our lives when we least expect it.  He creates a path for us and points us towards it and then all of the sudden, there is a cliff.  A lot of times, when we see that cliff, we think that God has forgotten us, or he has abandoned us, or he doesn’t care about us anymore.  But, that is just the contrary.  He has NOT forgotten us!  He has NOT abandoned us!  He cares very deeply for us!  He has placed that in our lives so that by faith, we will jump.  He has placed that in our lives so that we can experience a fullness, a fulfillment, and an excitement that we have maybe never felt before.

This just really impacted me deeply and I have been thinking about it all weekend and I am still thinking through it.  My life is at a point like that now.  I am getting ready to jump into something that I have never really done before but I am looking forward to doing.  It’s a step forward that I am super nervous about taking, but it is also a major step forward.  Someone once said that to risk nothing in life is to not live.  I want my life to be worth living.  I want my life to count for something greater then myself.  I want my life to be a building block in the Kingdom of God.  I want my Savior and my God, to be proud of me and how I have invest what He has blessed me with.  I am so incredibly grateful for my salvation and for life.  May the things that I do, may they all be an offering back to the God to saved me and gave me life.

 

“May the word of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

 

Lightining fast speeds with simultaneous voice…finally – The HTC Thunderbolt on Verizon

I think everyone saw the graphic on HTC’s website a few weeks ago which had the catch phrase, “It’s not your dream phone.  It’s the one after that.”  It certainly caught my eye.  And the fact that I love phones made me wonder exactly what was coming out.  It was apparent that it would be a Verizon 4G LTE phone, but still, you’ve got to be a least a little excited that something new was coming to HTC.

HTC has made some huge leaps in the smart phone market making some pretty sweet devices that are available for everyone on every major carrier.  Of course that’s part of the Android way.  It is an open-source “I love everyone” platform while phones like the iPhone have been pretty limited until more recently with the announcement of the iPhone for Verizon.  Although, I can’t say I am tickled pink by that announcement like everyone else seems to be.  You have to examine the facts before you get so excited.  First of all, the iPhone 4 for Verizon, as it stands now, is NOT LTE compatible.  So, in other words, if you are an early adopter, you’ll be disappointed when the new iPhone 5, or whatever they will call it, comes out before your two year contract ends and you are left with only 3G on your nifty new Verizon iPhone 4.  It’s great that you have the new personal hotspot, but still, wouldn’t you rather be able to use that personal hotspot with the new 4G LTE network instead of the 3G networks.  Granted, their 3G is still pretty fast for a mobile device, but I would personally rather have access to the fastest data if I am paying the same amount.

Many people also missed the fact that you can’t talk on your phone and use data at the same time on the new iPhone 4 for Verizon.  Some people say “so what”, but I think that can be a big deal if you are using the GPS and talking on speakerphone while driving to meet someone or trying to make arraignments or plans while discussing it with your buddy.  It’s kind of funny because Verizon, being kind of the “giant” of cell phone carriers, did not really have this while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have had this capability for a long time.  This brings me full circle back to HTC.

The phone that HTC “pulled the sheet off of” a couple of weeks ago was the HTC Thunderbolt.  This is a phone is an Android phone that is compatible with the 4G LTE network.  But to me, the big selling point that really did not get much emphasis in the press release is that this phone is in fact able to deliver blazing fast 4G data and Verizon’s dependable voice coverage simultaneously.  And it also gives you the option to create a Wi-Fi hotspot which can carry the load of up to eight simultaneous connections.

I just happened to take note of this and thought it might be interesting to those you read my blog.

Feel free to link people to my blog, post links on forums, facebook, twitter, or wherever you’d like.

If you have any comments, feel free to let your voice be heard in the comment box below or by emailing me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Birth of the iDroid – How to dualboot your iPhone with iOS and Android

For the past year and a half, I have been using an iPhone unlocked and jailbroken on T-Mobile.  It started when my old Motorola W490 flip phone started acting up and I decided to go for it and bought a brand new iPhone 2G off of eBay.  It was a good deal and I used it for a while but eventually sold it and upgraded to an iPhone 3G.  Unfortunately, the 3G data hardware in the iPhone is not compatible with T-Mobile’s 3G network, so I was confined to the bubble of T-Mobile’s edge network.  Although, the benefit to this was that since the iPhone was limited on their network, they let it go as a regular phone instead of a smartphone since it was limited to edge only.  I have only been paying $5 a month for unlimited data since I got it.  Not too shabby.

My problem now is that I am bored with it and I am tired of the limitations.  I have seriously considered going to AT&T but I got freaked out along with everyone else when data was recently capped at 2GB per month for $25.  I have gone over 2GB per month with only edge access; I think I would probably sail through that 2GB of bandwidth even faster if I had faster data.

I have been thinking about going Android on T-Mobile because I can still get the unlimited data that I really want and kind of need while still having a pretty nifty HTC smartphone.  Anyway, I was googling around and happened to find a way for you to dual boot your iPhone running firmware 3.1.2 jailbroken with the Android 2.2.1 ROM.  What the heck?  Why not try it?

So I investigated it a little further and found out that you can do this hack completely through Cydia using an app called bootlace.  This app basically creates “bootcamp” on your iPhone (similarly to running multiple OS’s on you Mac) where you can select your iOS, terminal, or Android when you power up your phone.  This is great because you can leave your current phone and everything on it in tact while you give Android a whirl.

Basically, you open up Cydia and look for the “Bootlace” app which is hosted by “Bigboss”.  Install the package and run the program.  It then checks to make sure you iPhone is compatible and makes sure your baseband and firmware will support the dual boot.  If it checks out, you just tap the “Openiboot” option and then tap the green “install” button.  It prompts you to continue at your own risk, which is your choice.  If you so choose to continue, you risk bricking your phone and having to do a full restore on it or restore from a back up.  It’s up to you, but I did it and it worked.  Just follow the steps and let the installer go.  Then, reboot your phone.  When you turn your phone back on, it will prompt you to choose your operating system.  Navigate with the volume rocker on the side and press the home key to select either, iOS, terminal, or Android.

I played with Android 2.2.1 on my iPhone for a little while and even made a call with it.  It seems to work fine for basic phone functions but is quite slow.  Maybe it would be faster if you had only Android on there instead of iOS as well.  The GUI was the same as any Android phone I have ever used and I was able to look through the options and settings.  I have to admit, I was pretty impressed that an OS like Android, that was not developed for the iPhone could run pretty decently on there and not really cause any issues with the existing iOS install.  You can tell that this is obviously a beta thing that is still being developed by open source developers all over.  That is simply the beauty of Android; the fact that it can be developed by all kinds of people wherever and then shared.

For the time being, I am running the normal iOS 3.1.2 for the time being.  I will probably be playing with this a little more in the next few days.  Overall, I do like the Android OS and would probably like having an Android phone.  I love the iPhone and have absolutely nothing against Apple or the iOS.  I just like to get my hands on new things and try things out.  That is one of the biggest reasons I am probably going to go Android.  The other issue is pricing and rates for the iPhone whether it is with AT&T or Verizon.  We will see what phone and provider I end up with after I take the plunge and move to DC.  Ultimately, service is the biggest deal so if I don’t have service where I live, work, and play, I’ll drop that carrier like a hot potato.  We shall see how things pan out.

If you are interested in learning more about Android on the iPhone or making an iDroid, check out the iDroid Project Wiki at the link below.

http://www.idroidproject.org/wiki/Main_Page

Also, feel free to check out my website at www.jasoncastellente.com

The iPhone vs. Android is a continual debate and I am sure after reading this, you’ll have something to say!  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Android booting on my iPhone 3G

Penndel Winter Retreat Week 1 Production

One of the first events that I mixed for when I toured for Valley Forge Christian College was a Penndel  Assemblies of God youth camp at the Phillip Bongiorno Conference Center in Carlisle, PA.  I still remember the camp, stage design, theme and kids.  The theme was “Driven” and the catch phrase was “What drives you?”  They talked about living a life driven by God, the Bible and His ways and driving your live down the road He has marked out for you.  It’s been quite a while since that camp and Penndel books a VFCC worship team for most of their events and I have been to almost all of their youth events in the past two years and I have a great amount of respect for their communication of the gospel and how they do such an amazing job at meeting kids ranging from ages 12-17 where they are in their lives and helping them to learn and understand the Bible and what God has for them in their lives.  They clearly and consistently communicate salvation in a critical stage of their lives and then foster and encourage spiritually maturity and high standards in every aspect of life.  This is desperately needed in a generation of young people who want to feel that someone cares about them and understands them and their situation.

This past weekend kicked off a three consecutive weekend Winter Retreat 2011 for middle and high school students at the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center in Carlisle, PA.  Their theme for this event was “Parallel”.  They are focusing on living a life parallel to the one that Jesus lived during his time on earth and to follow his blameless example.  I love how they have created an environment and stage design that reflects what the theme is and helps to non-verbally communicate and reiterate the message and theme of the event.

A big deal to me is that the Penndel Youth Department is committed to a great production in every aspect but also realizes that in order to cultivate growth in new leaders, they need to be given an opportunity to develop skills that they might not have otherwise had an opportunity to discover and then to take those skills back to their home churches and youth groups and use those skills to help communicate the gospel more effectively where they have been planted.  They do this by announcing that students can volunteer to help with the production.  Penndel runs full IMAG video for all their services in 1080p.  They usually have at least 3 camera angles that are feed to two huge 16:10 screens on each side of the stage.  They also use various LCD TV’s placed strategically in their stage designs which are usually pretty elaborate.  For example, at Winter Retreat this year, they had 5 levels of staging.  In their production room backstage, they have a portable video rig with a Panasonic video mixer, screen for video mixing, Mac Pro for recording and for running Renewed Vision’s Pro Video Player and a few Mac Mini’s running Propresenter through a network.  They use alot of student volunteers and interns to run the production.  It’s a pretty sweet opportunity for students because I know at that age I was dying to get my hands on gear like that and never had the chance.

Their most recent upgrade has been their own house sound system through the generous donation of churches and through new gear.  They run a Avid (Digidesign) Venue SC48 console as their FOH board.  They run a digital output to a BSS system processor which then goes to various Crest, Crown and QSC amps powering their EAW mains.  Their most recent purchase was new EAW SB2001 subwoofers and QSC PL380 amplifiers.  The subwoofers have dual 21″ drivers in each and they put out some seriously deep low end.

The masterminds behind this are Nick Palomo who is the head of the media department for the Penndel District.  He built the department up when he was hired and has created a standard for excellence while still helping to train up the next generation of talented production personnel.  More recently, Sam Cornwell has joined the media staff as the Youth Creative Media Lead bringing a new set of talents to the table.  This is all part of a youth department led by District Youth Director, Doug Sayers.

I have enjoyed working with the district for roughly the past two years and still try to make it a point to be a their events as much as I can.  I am extremely thankful for the time I have spent there because it is always a learning a growing experience.  They have taught me alot about production, event management, and being able to simply react to a situation positively and quickly solve whatever is necessary.  One of the reasons I have developed the skills that I’m going to make my living on is because of their investment in my life.  I believe you are blessed for sowing seeds into the kingdom of God and I know their investment has been yielding great returns not just with better and better events each time, but also through encouraging teens, giving them opportunity to shine, and through pouring their heart, soul, and life passions into students.  I have seen it with my own eyes and watched students develop and grow.

I’m excited for what God is doing spiritually and through their ministry and lives.  I believe God is going to great things because of how much they have poured into it and because of their selfless dedication.  I am excited to go back next weekend and mix again for Winter Retreat week 2 and for Chosen 2010.  I’m praying for God to do something big in the lives of the leaders, staff, media and production team, as well as the students.

Check out the Penndel District Youth Department at www.penndelyouth.com

Follow the Penndel District Assemblies of God Youth Department on facebook by clicking here.

Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Thoughts, life, and the NEXT CHAPTER!

Looking back on my life, I am constantly amazed at how God has worked in me and through me.  We are created as worshippers of our Savior and King over all the heavens and the earth.  He sent His one and only Son to live a blameless life and to die a horrible death on the cross.  He rose again defying all odds and now offers eternal life as a free gift to those who are willing to accept it.  In return, he asks us to follow Him and walk in His ways.  He asks us to follow Him at all costs and to give our lives back to Him as a living sacrifice.

At a young age, I have always tried to follow in those ways and to live my life as unto the God who saved me.  Even though I am still relatively young, I have still been alive long enough to see that God has ordained my footsteps and has walked with me through various decisions in my life.  I am thankful for his provision and guidance.  Maybe not every decision has been “the right thing” but ultimately, God was still in control and He directed me down the paths that He had for me.

My last four years or so at Valley Forge Christian College helped me to learn and grow dramatically.  Through many professors and staff, I learned more then just academics.  I learned how to apply the practical academics, musical skills, and music technology into furthering the Kingdom of God.  VFCC did much more then just teach the skills, they encouraged you and many times gave you the opportunity to put those skills into practice.

One huge part of me putting things into practice and learning things through experience alone was the past two years of touring as an audio engineer for Pneuma 2009 and Chosen 2010.  Those summers and semester bookings taught me how to take the musical and technical skills I had learned and use them in a real application in real time.  I learned to think on my feet and with my ears.  I learned to jump right in and try my hardest to make something work.  And when I didn’t know what to do, God gave me the wisdom to know how to figure it out or to place something or someone in my path to help me press forward.  Also, throw in the variables of travel, relationships with people on the team, friends from school, family back home, and the day-to-day relationships I made with people along the way, and that makes for a challenge!  I know I grew and God taught me so much in those times.  Even now, I know I was so blessed to be part of Chosen and Pneuma these past two years.  The things I learned, the ways I grew, relationships I developed, the friends I made and the connections I made were awesome.  I am so thankful for Chosen and Pneuma and I pray that God continues to use them in ways bigger and better then they would have ever expected.

But, part of a journey includes moving on…moving forward.  I know I always want to be challenged and pushed to work harder and do more then I have before.  In everything I want to further the Kingdom of God while still using my talents and giftings that are from the Lord.  He gave me life and made a way for me to have eternal life; I feel like that in return, I should give my life back to Him as an offering of worship so that He may be glorified in my life.

That brings me to the next chapter of my life.  I have been offered a position as the production coordinator of National Community Church located in Washington DC.  National Community Church uses coffeehouses and movie cinemas as venues for church.  They currently have six locations in the Washington DC and Virginia areas and have plans to open more and to build a new building.  NCC began meeting in the Union Station movie theaters until they closed down.  They continued meeting at their coffeehouse, Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, just a short distance away.  God, then, place a vision in their hearts to expand what they were doing into the movie theaters of the Washington DC area and surrounding areas.  They brought it before their congregation who decided corporately that this was the direction God wanted for their church.  And with that, the multi-site vision of National Community Church was born.  As God blessed their faithfulness, they opened more locations and currently they have six locations.  They are constantly looking at new locations where they can expand to and will be kicking off their seventh location later this year.

I am so excited about what God is doing at National Community Church and blessed to be able to be a part of their team reaching the Washington DC area.  I love their presentation and their style.  It’s so out of the box and new.  It’s relevant to the culture and meets people where they are.  They fuse what this generation gravitates to, the coffeehouses and theaters, and then reclaims that medium to communicate the Gospel and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I’m still trying to work out logistics of moving to DC and starting the job, but it’s going to be fairly quick.  It will probably be around the end of this month.  It’s going to be interesting to figure all that out but I believe that God will lead me and guide me in this new chapter of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, worked with me, given me opportunities, and invested in my life over the years.  Without all of you, this wouldn’t have happened.

Feel free, as always, to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Home Theater Systems – Part 2 Linux running XMBC

The Linux platform has huge potential for development of media center entertainment options. It is open-source so basically anyone who wants to develop software can make something sweet run on there. Making a media center is either more complicated or less complicated depending on your experience. If you have the ability to build or modify the hardware of a computer, then you’re probably in good shape. If you can’t, you can always just pick up another system built with the specs you want. It is important to make sure you have some way to output HD video and a processor with RAM enough to make sure the computer can play video well.  The capacity to store a lot of data would be good if you have alot of movies, DVDs or TV shows that you want to archive on a hard drive.

There is software available for free to organize and display your video on whatever screen you might have. XMBC is a great program with a slick GUI.  You can check it out at http://www.xbmc.org.

XBMC is some pretty sweet software and is actually available for Windows, Mac, on Linux.  You can use it to manage your media library of music, pictures and videos.  It even has a weather widget within the software and an RSS reader so you can keep up to date on what is important to you.  The software offers settings within it so that you can use virtually any source for your data.  You can store your data on an internal drive, on another computer or even a network storage device.  This allows you access to all of your media all through one easy to use program.

Another interesting fact about Linux is that the file format used by Linux, is readable and writable through both Mac and Windows operating systems.  So, in other words, sharing files across other platforms is much easier and also giving your Linux media center access to all of your media is easier whether the media data is stored on Windows, Linux, or Mac file formats.

Anyway, at some point in the future, I plan on talking about different software I have tried for media and entertainment on various platforms.

If there is anything that you might think is interesting for me to know about, consider or think about, please feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Home Theater Systems – Part 1 The MAC MEDIA CENTER

So, entertainment is a huge part of our society today.  TV watching, movies and stuff like that take up quite a bit of our attention.  I’ve always been interested in making technology work for you whether it was on a consumer level or a professional level.  Right now I want to focus on more of a consumer level because technically, that’s what watching TV at home comes under.

I’ve always been interested in media center options that are on the market and you’ll often see the PC side of media center computers.  You never really see any major Apple stuff on the market other then the Apple TV which is more of an iTunes extender rather then an actual media center PC.

So, I have been searching along with my friend, Sean Noble, over the past few years to find some way to make a truly Mac based media center.  Here’s what I came up with:

 

1) A simple cable/satellite set top box or DTV converter would do

2) Mac Mini base (I’m sure the base model would work great with a network hard drive or external to back up to)

3) Elgato EyeTV (if you so feel the need to DVR and your Mac Mini will certainly need the external then)

4) Your TV w/HDMI input

5) Surround sound receiver if you feel so inclined (I certainly do!!)

The set top box, you will probably need because most providers encode and encrypt their signal in such a way that you need to have their own set top box for things to work properly.  Although, you may get lucky and find a TV that has a QAM tuner that works but for this media center, you are probably going to want to have the set top box anyway.

Then, get your hands on the Mac mini.  The HDMI out helps keep cable clutter to a minimum while still yielding great video quality.  That will go straight into the back of your TV.

Now here is where the magic happens…the ElGato EyeTV is the major part that ties this thing together.  You can output your set top box directly to your TV for a “bypass” in case you don’t want to have you Mac Mini on all the time but, using the ElGato EyeTV, you can record the output of your set top box on your Mac Mini effectively making your Mac Mini both a computer and a DVR.  The EyeTV accepts composite in with the ability to record up to 1080i!  Not bad!  It can even dual encode…meaning that it can record a regular TV version as well as an iPhone version at the same time!!  Sweet!  But it gets better.  The EyeTV also comes with an IR blaster and can be synced with your set top box.  That means, you can record something on whatever channel you want, and then have the EyeTV change channels and record something else.  It encodes the video it records with it’s own software on your Mac Mini in H.264.  Even if you don’t want to record with the EyeTV, it still gives you the ability to control live TV from your Mac.  You can pause and rewind live TV, search their program guide, set up regular recordings, and then share then through iTunes.  You can even stream live or recorded TV to your iPhone or iPad.  (Except now that AT&T’s data plans are terrible, who would want to do that?  It could cost you a fortune!)

Pretty sweet set up right?  And, as an added bonus, if you want to be able to control everything and have the extra money to spend, pick up a Logitech universal remote.  The Harmony Series is a pretty sweet line of universal remote.  The basic model, the Harmony 300, would easily control all of what I have outlined above.  The only issue is that you would be maxing it out.  And if you are like me, you’ll buy something else and want to control that too!  As the price goes up, so does the number of devices the remote can control.  The price gets pretty steep pretty fast but still, they make some really cool gear!  For what I want to do, I would probably wind up with the Harmony 700 or the Harmony One.

Anyway, that’s my Mac media center!  I may add to this later but that’s what I have right now.  If you have any ideas or things you’d like me to explain or if you have ideas to make it better, feel free to comment  or send me an email at jason@jasoncastellente.com.  I’d love to hear from YOU!

2011 Graphic – I know who holds the future

Hey everyone!!  It’s a new year…well, it has been for the past 4 days and I’m sure you were already aware of that!  Something I have been pretty interested in over this past year is graphic design.  I had no prior experience in Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign or Adobe programs of that sort.  But, last year I started getting into it as a hobby and a way of being creative while still de-stressing.  You can check out some of my graphics and things on my website at www.jasoncastellente.com.

I was thinking a few days ago that I would try to challenge myself to make backgrounds for my computer and for a few other computers once a month.  For me, I want it to be good or else, I will get annoyed and bored with looking at it and change it to something else.  I want it to be relevant and meaningful.  The meaning does not necessarily have to be super spiritual or anything, it could just be significant.  Anyway, I made one a few days ago and I figured I would post it here for everyone to use if they would like.  I made a few different resolutions so hopefully you can pick one that works for you…

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1024×768

2011, January Background - 1024x768

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1200×800

2011, January Background - 1024x768

 

2011, January – I know who holds the future  1920×1080

2011, January - I know who holds the future  1920x1080

 

Enjoy the backgrounds.  If you have any ideas of things you would like me to try to make in future months, comment on this post or send me an email at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

You mean I can read whatever I want? Mixing in Pro Tools Skill Pack

One great thing I’ve found in the last few weeks now that I’m done college, I have the freedom to read whatever I want.  Crazy right?  I’m not forced to read for a class or for an assignment or paper or whatever.  I have actually really started to enjoy reading again.  One book I am enjoying right now is (nerd alert!!)  Mixing in Pro Tools Second Edition Skill Pack by Brian Smithers.  I have been seriously using Pro Tools LE and HD for the past 3 years and I’ve seen the most recent evolutions from Pro Tools 7 to the new GUI interface and options in Pro Tools 8 and most recently, the “digi-hardware free” version of Pro Tools 9 that hit the public just a month or so back.

This book is pretty cool and helps the reader to understand more of the art and craft of mixing projects in Pro Tools.  It begins with the basics that I was pretty well acquainted with and then got progressively harder and more complex.  I have to say, I was caught a little off guard by how in-depth this book got towards the end.  In fact, I had to go back and review earlier parts of the book that I thought I had down in order to understand little nuances of more complex techniques.  I had assumed this book would be a lot of basic material and tutorials.  And while, it presents it in more of a tutorial method for beginners, the techniques and methods it teaches and the tricks it gives you are very easily applied to your own projects in your day-to-day work, mixing and hobbies.

It starts of explaining equalization and just basically describes what all the GUI knobs and meters do.  It also briefly goes into what equalization is.  Equalization is the adjustment of the timbre of a recorded signal.  It basically dictates the tonal shape of a signal.   Other then that, I thought the chapter would be basic knowledge and a review for me.  Although, when I got farther in the chapter, it gave a few tips that can give better results and can help create a bigger stereo image.  For example, it suggests that while many of your channels are mono when you record them, you can instantly make them stereo by inserting a standard Pro Tools plug-in called “Short Delay II” (mono/stereo).  Pro Tools will then display two meter bars on the processed channel showing that there is a stereo output to wherever the channel is routed.  You can then insert more plug-ins after that to continue your processing although you should use a multi-mono plug-in so that Pro Tools will process each signal individually while still changing the settings uniformly on both the Left and the Right outputs.  Equalization is probably one of the hardest parts of the post production process because you need to make everything sound great in the mix without making thing clash.  That means, you will need to find a unique place in the frequency and dynamic range of the recording.

It continues in the next chapter to talk about dynamics processing.  Obviously, dynamics vary greatly with the style of music but this book talks about the principles you need to be successful in making whatever music your a mixing sound great.  I like how they explain how a compressor works because I think this is something that gets confused very easily in studio mixing as well as live sound reinforcement.  I took the questions they used and modified them a little to better explain how a compressor works.

What gets compressed? – Threshold settings (numeric setting in dBv)

How much gets compressed? – Ratio settings (numeric setting in ratio for i.e. 4:1)

How abruptly will the compression begin? – Knee settings (numeric setting)

How fast will the compressor take before it engages? – Attack settings (us or ms)

How long will the compressor hold the same setting? – Hold settings (us or ms)

How quickly will the compressor release its limiting of signal? – Release settings (us or ms)

Oh, by the way…I used two terms above that I should explain: “us” and “ms”.  “us” means microsecond which is one thousand of a millisecond (one ten-thousandth of a second) and “ms” means millisecond which is one thousandth of a second.

I also love the way that they go into how to get a rough mix later in the book.  They walk the reader though basic organization and things that not everyone would think of a common sense.  Creating your workflow in a session, is extremely important.  Making sure that tracks are labeled from the get-go is important because Pro Tools names waveform data off of that track name to help with organization in the actual Pro Tools session data.  Then, lining up your tracks in an order where you are comfortable working with it is very important.  Coloring your tracks is an added benefit to help you visually.  The way I work is that I have my drums first colored yellow, bass and guitars next labeled green, keys and midi stuff after that labeled blue and vocals after that labeled orange or red.  I will then route them through busses to make mixing easier and I put those busses at the end of the order of channels so that I have easy access to the “master fader” of each group of instruments.  This is very helpful when I mix in the end.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you though.  There are tons of great mix techniques in this book that I will certainly be implementing in the near future.  The book goes into advanced signal flow and advanced dynamics.  It talks alot about stereo imaging and enhancement to make things sound spacious and open while still creating that tight powerful mix that we have all come to know and love in pop music today.  The really cool stuff happens when it gets into special effects for recording and for mixing.  It has a couple really creative techniques that will help you make you studio mixes pop and pound.  I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I took the time to read through it because I know it will benefit me in my career in audio and production.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be using some of the things I’ve learned when I go back in to the studio to finish up mixing The Interlude tracks.

Does anyone out there have any creative or interesting audio techniques to share?  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Thoughts on Communicating the Gospel using technology

As I was reflecting on some technology that was developed this past year, I am continually amazed and interested in what has been introduced to us.  I remember watching Star Trek with my dad.  He talked about how he always thought it would be so cool to have a flip communicator like they did.  It would be so cool to just flip something like that open and be able to communicate with anyone.  As a kid, I’m sure he never dreamed it would be possible to communicate with anyone like that.  Now, people have “flip communicators” and even more advanced communicators called cell phones!  I can slide my finger across the heat-sensitive touch screen of my iPhone and have virtually anyone literally at my fingertips.  I can call someone across the room, across town, or across the world.  I remember using my cell phone to call home from Liberia, Africa while I was away on a missions trip a few years ago.  I pressed a few buttons and then seconds later, I could hear the voices of my parents and hear dinner cooking in the background from almost half way around the world.  What we never dreamed possible, has become so commonplace to us that it does not even faze us.  It has changed the face of communication today.

The face of communication is constantly changing largely due to technology and its development and re-development.  We are pushed forward whether we like it or not.  Some people enjoy it and thrive on it; some people don’t like it; some people don’t really care.  But anyway you look at it, we are in the midst of a new culture that is being changed and influenced by the current technologies.

The church is being forced to take note of these changes and change how they communicate in order to reach the culture that they are a part of.  It would be easy for the body to just fall back on what they know and point out how the Bible talks about not conform to what the world is saying and doing.  But maybe the church needs not be so defensive and realize that it’s not about that.  God is alive and His word in the Bible is alive.  This means that the Bible’s principles of standards and ethics need to be applied to the life that we live and in the culture we are a part of.

Many times, people think being in the world but not of the world means that we need to avoid evil at all costs and to keep away from it.  Shining your light doesn’t go very far if all of your “lights” are staying together where they are comfortable.  They can be so much more effective by going into dark places and illuminating them.  I am not saying we should participate in what is going on in that dark place.  I am however saying we should be there to show contrast to the darkness.  We can still be in the world but not of the world.

How does all tie together?  I think the church is afraid of what they cannot see or understand.  They fear the darkness of sin and of the unknown because it is uncharted.  We know sin leads to death but we must be willing to stand in the darkness in order to stop those who are walking further into the darkness.  We also should not be fearful of the unknown.  Traditional methods are just that: tradition.  They may still work at times but there are new mediums for interpersonal communication.  These mediums need to first be understood and their power realized.  Then, they can be harnessed for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.  The early church stopped at nothing to communicate the gospel.  That same passion should motivate us today.  We have more channels available to us.  Let’s use them as effectively as we can.

Obviously, this is simply my opinion.  Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts and opinion.  jason@jasoncastellente.com

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