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Chapter 11
Conclusions and Opinions

A lot of what I’ve presented in this book relates to the theory of recording and very little to do with aesthetics. Please don’t misinterpret this balance of information – I’m not one of those people who believes that a recording should be done using math instead of ears.

One of my favourite movies is My Dinner with Andr. If you haven’t seen this film, you should. It takes about two hours to watch, and in those two hours, you see two people having dinner and a very interesting conversation. One of my other favourite movies is Cinema Paradiso in which, in two hours, approximately 40 or 50 years pass. Let’s look at the difference between these two concepts.

In the first, the idea is to present time in real time – watching the movie is almost the same as sitting at the table with the two people having the conversation. If there’s a break in the conversation because the waiter brings the dessert, then you have to wait for the conversation to continue.

In the second, time is compressed. In order to tell the story, we need to see a long stretch of time packed into two hours. Waiting 10 seconds for a waiter to bring dessert would not be possible in this movie because there isn’t time to wait.

The first movie is a lot like real life. The second movie is not, although it shows the story of real lives. Most movies are like the latter – essentially, the story is better than real life, because it leaves out the boring bits.

My life is full of normal-looking people doing mundane things, there’s very little conflict, and therefore little need for resolution, not many car chases, gun fights or martial arts. There are no robots from the future and none of the people I know are trying to overthrow governments or large corporations (assuming that these are different things... ). This is real life. All of the things that are in real life are the things that aren’t in movies.

Most people don’t go to movies to see real life – they go for the entertainment value. Robots from the future that look like beautiful people, who, using an their talents in car chases, gun fights and martial arts, are trying to overthrow governments and large corporations.

Basically speaking, movies are better than life.

Recordings are the same. Listen to any commercial recording of an orchestra and you’ll notice that there is lots of direct sound from the violins but they also have lots of reverb on them. You’re simultaneously next to and far from the instruments in the best hall in the world. This doesn’t happen in real life. Britney Spears (or whoever is popular when you’re reading this) can’t really sing like that without hundreds of takes and a lot of processing gear. Commercial recordings are better than life. Or at least, that’s usually the goal.

So, the moral of the story is that your goal on every recording you do is to make it sound as good as possible. Of course, I can’t define “good” – that’s up to your expectations (which is in turn dependent on your taste and style) and your desired audience’s expectations.

So, to create that recording, whether it’s classical, jazz, pop or sound effects in mono, stereo or multichannel, you do whatever you can to make it sound better.

In order to do this, however, you need to know what direction to head in. How do you move the microphone to make the sound wider, narrower, drier. What will adding reverb, chorus, flanging or delay do to the signal? You need to know in advance what direction you want to head in based on aesthetics, and you need the theory to know how to achieve that goal.

11.0.8 Suggested Reading List

[Gould, 1966] reprinted at