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Sunday, April 13, 2014

••◊ Back To My Roots

In terms of cinematography I'm now "between jobs."  "Undefinable" has been well received.  It played at the Tiffen booth this last week at NAB 2014.  We received a nod from nofilmschool.com yesterday, which greatly increased the view rate.  Now if only we could get that elusive Vimeo Staff Pick!

Being sort of bored on weekends I decided to try my hand at audio design once again.  So right now I'm working on a microphone pre-amp that can be powered over USB and I can plug into my laptop or any other device that can record with 1/8" stereo jack input.  This design started because I don't want to lug around my MOTU Traveler pro audio interface whenever I need to record audio.  Most of the time I have a laptop with me, so I wanted to make something that would be compatible with standard professional microphones and my laptop...and it has to be as small/light as possible.  I do own a Marantz field recorder, which is an excellent bit of gear, but it doesn't have a user interface that shows clipping problems and the audio levels can be kind of guess and check with their slow metering.  That's why a laptop is more idea.  You can see when audio clips and know the average level by looking at the recorded waveform in real time.  When I'm one-man-banding-it I want to know that my audio is good before I leave.

When I first came out of college I worked for two audio start ups.  One experience taught me that I don't want to live in San Francisco.  The other experience taught me that consumer "high end" audio is mostly snake oil...and when agreeing to work with a start up do a background search on the management's integrity.  That said, I still do audio design from time to time.  Now days it's more often for utility than any other frivolous reason, like reaching some sort of audio "nirvana" with supposedly exotic speaker wire. 

I'm trying to keep this project as low cost as possible, however the prototype PCB cost is a bit steep at $200 for 3 boards.  Then I have to order about $40 of electronics parts to make it work.  The good news is that I was able to figure out the gain stages yesterday and it used lower cost parts!  That's part of the power of doing engineering projects on my own time.  The flip side being it's on my own dime!

One feature I did include in this design is generation of +48V for phantom power.  I didn't always want to carry around fresh AA batteries for my shotgun microphone.  It's better to have the option of just powering the microphone from the pre-amp.

Hopefully I'll have something to show in about a month.  The case is going to be a whole other endeavor.

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