Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Awards, Competitions, and Recognition for Sound Design

On the eve of the Academy Awards at our favorite local pub, my wife and I had an interesting conversation regarding awards and recognition in the fields of audio engineering and/or sound design. It was sparked by the article "On the Unification of Sound Awards" by Tim Nielsen and published on DesigningSound.org on February 22, 2012. It was a very well composed article that received a number of interesting and intriguing comments from experts in the field.

I remained curious as to what other awards or organizations give a bit of recognition for the time and effort that we put into creating our sound art. We do seem to get lost in the shuffle of cinematography, acting, and original score. It is interesting to me that our work is very important to the overall composition of all types of media projects and how our industry is expanding and contracting on itself. At the time of our conversation I was under the impression that very little recognition was given (with the exception of the unflattering awards received at the Academy Awards and other shows of a similar vein). 

What I found upon researching the topic this week is that I was wrong. There is a strong support system for recognition within our industry and all it takes is for us to get involved. I am going to provide some links and brief descriptions of what I think is pretty cool so that my readers can explore the mission and scope of these organizations. My hope is that sound designers, sound editors, and engineers use this resource to gain some networking opportunity and a platform to submit works for recognition. Please post any comments below to cover sources that I have left out. As I mentioned their remains a lot of opportunity to get your work recognized, but if you are not active about getting your work out there then the recognition will go to those who are fervently pursuing their career in the audio field. 

This award ceremony celebrates creative excellence in the areas of music and sound design for various types of visual media. The inaugural awards event was held at KOKO in London, England on February 23, 2012. I find it interesting that all judges for each category are hand-picked making it true "field experts" that are giving the awards. The media partners include Universal, Warner, and EMI which to me screams that this will be one award to reckon with in future years. View the list of this years inaugural winners by clicking HERE! I am not sure if these awards are restricted to the UK only, but if they are then American audio professionals and artists could benefit from following this format. 

The Motion Picture Sound Editors association offers what I consider to be the most prestigious award in the field of film editing and sound design. Several of you are probably familiar with this award, but I felt it was necessary to cover solely because the organization is far reaching and very professional in their scope. The Golden Reel Awards acknowledge the year's best work in the various areas of sound editing: Dialogue & ADR, Effects & Foley, and Music. Membership is available on the site provided certain criteria are met. The site is quite informative as to how to submit entry forms, advertise, etc. Student Membership is available as well.

Aiming to highlight the excellent qualifications of best sound designs, design concepts and design oriented products & services, the A' Design Awards honor sound designers (as well as many other kinds of designers) and provide them with a global platform for recognition. I encourage you to explore the site and contact any individuals with your personal questions. CLICK HERE for an entry form for participating in the Sound Design Competition.

The fields of sound design and audio engineering are growing very quickly, but the work is being condensed and performed by people who utilize their networking resources, know what to do and do it VERY well. It takes dedication, talent, and commitment to make it in this industry. I believe that awards will surface soon honoring sound design for a variety of medium including but not limited to: web content, attractions and theater, gaming, mobile applications, etc. Sound design has become a meticulous art and is gaining respect as digital media continues to grow and be utilized. Recognition on any level will be a key component for anyone who hopes to succeed because competition is fierce and you need to stand out. I challenge all of you to seek and USE your resources. Be proud of the work you do, stay humble, refine your craft, and find ways to get your work seen, heard, recognized and honored.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vacuum Tube Art ~ A Tribute to Early Sound

In our current era of solid-state technology it is important to remember the roots of electronics that unequivocally led to the commercialization of broadcasting music and television. These "vintage" components have been essential in shrinking our world in regards to the field of electronics, sound reproduction & broadcasting. In essence, without the invention of the vacuum tube the art of sound design, live performance, recording arts and amplification would exist in a still primitive and energy consuming form. On another tiki-related note, these cylinders have transmitted loads of lounge music to our ears, plenty of Polynesian pictures via televised signal, and a multitude of happy hour tiki drink special bar advertisements over the airwaves during our commutes home! I’m not sure if people like Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison  were ever lucky enough to be a part of tiki culture, but I know for a fact that they all had essential roles that had a profound impact on the development of sound transmission and creation.

Although many of the failures of vacuum tubes, CRT’s and the like led to it's eventual replacement in virtually all systems one can still find a use for the antique, steampunk-like devices. I’m not just speaking of vacuum nanoelectronics either. Artists around the world have begun collecting, refinishing, and refining these tubes into works of art, jewelry, and collectibles.  Below are a few examples and inks to some of my favorite vendors and artists. 

Of particular interest to me as a sound designer and musician is a company called ElectronLuv operated by Josh Stippich. Using a combination of analog technologies and utilizing tubes, components and circuits ElectronLuv fashions working amplifiers, preamplifiers, guitar amps, speakers, and more.  The products are unparalleled in their reproduction of sound but even more intriguing is the presentation. These devices come off not only as great sound tools but works of art. Stippich’s passion is founded in years of dreaming and listening and it’s apparent: his creations are “the stuff dreams are made of” and worthy of a visit to his site.

I stumbled across a fantastic artist that I call "El TubeStuffer" because it's just so fitting! His name is Peter and he utilizes tubes and then stuffs them with works of art. Peter A. Luber sculpts miniatures, few of which are larger than 8 inches tall. What began as a weekend hobby to escape the confines of corporate America has now evolved into an artistic representation of his life as viewed through the shell of tiny vacuum tubes. The sculptures inside of these vintage radio and television components are very creative and it appears that he utilizes some of the old components at times. This guy is fascinated by vacuum tube technology (or is just appreciative of the images and sounds they have given us in the past) and it is evident not only in his use of them as a medium, but visually represented in paintings, posters, and key chains!

Now, I want to share some of my favorite pieces. These come in the form of jewelry and baubles offered by Christina Sanchez, owner and energy behind Le Modern Trinket out of SOCAL (Southern California…duh)! Christina is inspired by vintage items, art, and photography and heavily influenced by Art Deco & the Dada/Bauhaus movements. What I particularly dig about Christina Sanchez is that she is different. She utilizes vintage photography, tin-typephotos, radio resistors, vacuum tubes, capacitors, and photo flash cubes (toname a few) to conceptualize her pieces. She also offers commissioned work for those looking for that kind of special attention or personalized creation. Please visit her online store and browse through her imaginative offerings when considering your next exceptional gift purchase!

 Finally, if there’s a special place in your heart for the fez then you’ll need to grab one of the Vacuum Tube Fez offerings from this awesome site! Not only is this brand comfortable and high-quality, but the image will make it look like you never stop thinking. Who knows? You could be the next Nikola Tesla despite the fact that you are spending all your time at the Mai-Kai imbibing on celebrity-style cocktails! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where It All Started: Exploring the Kon-Tiki Voyage Firsthand

In 1947, over the course of 101 days, the balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki was launched by famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Named after a legendary seafaring sun-king common to both the old Inca kingdom and the islands of Polynesia, it's purpose was that of scientific exploration. Heyerdahl was insistent on proving to anthropologists and archaeologists of the era that the Pacific Polynesian islands potentially could have been populated by indigenous people from South America. Many scientists of the day were of the opinion that the islands were inhabited by people from Asia. Their reasoning was that travel there many thousands of years ago would have been impossible because no boats could make the horrific Trans-Pacific journey. The raft was custom built by Heyerdahl and his team in Peru using methods and materials that would have been used during ancient times in South America. Kon-Tiki hoisted sail outside the port of Callào in Peru with 6 men onboard. This fascinating journey is documented in a variety of ways of which I am going to describe below for your reference.

Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft is a book chronicling the voyage from it's inception to its astounding end written by Thor Heyerdahl. The line between scientific exploration and stupidty is thin to say the least! The writing is very captivating and it feels like you are in the raft with those crazy Norwegians the whole time! All the details are here: how they set-up communications on the boat and prevented electrical shock, how they acquired food while out to sea, dealing with the elements and standing watch, etc. Even encounters with local native Polynesian women bearing fruits and healing medicines is explained in all it's island glory! This is going to provide you with the most detailed information about the voyage and is available on Kindle as well. 

For a visual feast you can watch the Academy Award winning documentary of the adventure. It is available in black-and-white on YouTube. On the Kon-Tiki DVD you have access to some very rare color footage as well. The 77-minute movie originally premiered in Stockholm on January 13th 1950. It was released on DVD (Region 1) by Janson Media in 2001 (some sites say 2006) and includes an English soundtrack. Some versions are 124 minutes and include these special features: Thor Heyerdahl: Explorer & Scientist, Photo Gallery, Expedition Map, and Rare Color Footage. The footage used for this documentary was almost lost when the raft struck a reef, but it was salvaged from the wreckage and was able to be used and edited to make this film. This picture brings to life the day-to-day struggles, discoveries, and intimacies of the very risky Kon-Tiki science project. You can hear a saltiness in the voice of Heyerdahl who provides all the narration and humor one could desire from such a voyage! Kon-Tiki was the first Norwegian film to win an Oscar when it won for Best Documentary in 1951.

© Bygdøy

If you have a little extra cash in your pocket and feel like traveling to Scandinavia and the land of the $12 pint of Guinness, then The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway is your all-access pass to this extraordinary adventure. I visited in 2009 and began my tiki mug collection there with a purchase of a mug in the gift shop. It was a very inspiring place and opened the world of tiki to me in a very exotic and professional way. There is excellent documentation on all things Polynesia to include tiki in pop culture. The actual raft is kept here for all tourists to view and photograph as well as some stunning photography and articles of cultural significance. Heyerdahl made several voyages and expeditions in his lifetime, all of which are chronicled here. Check out the current exhibits by CLICKING HERE.

These certainly are not the only places to find information about Thor's journeys, research, and adventures. Feel free to browse the internet by searching Kon-Tiki or the man himself: Thor Heyerdahl. The amazing Ben Thompson has also written a hilarious biopic of the adventurer at BAOTW (Bad Ass of the Week).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Finding Tiki Using RSS! Discover Mixtab!

First off I want to thank all my new subscribers and fans. Without you I would have no drive to continue with this blog. I also want to thank those of you who have made comments either on this site, via Twitter, or in a short e-mail. That kind of interaction is what I am seeking from this site and I thank you for that! And now onto the new news...

Are you spending way too much time browsing the Internet for articles about tiki culture, collecting, art or music? Is StumbleUpon just leading you one too many times to worthless sites trying to sell cheap plastic shot glasses or brightly colored replicas of old classic mugs sold for pennies on the dollar? Do you find out about events or tiki bar gatherings only after checking your junk e-mail? Is my site, The Gangi Sound, just not giving you all the content you desire? Are you a Mac or iPad user and use Firefox to browse?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions or have similar dilemmas trying to find tiki content online that tickles your fancy then I recommend checking out Mixtab if you haven't already. This awesome little FREE application is an RSS feed reader & display that is very easy to use. It organizes all your content and displays only what you want! If you are new to RSS feeds or simply do not know what they are here's a simple explanation: they gather posted content on a website and display it for you to read (CLICK HERE for a great article concerning RSS feeds if you are a beginner). Displaying these feeds has become an art of sorts and Mixtab has really done a great job putting together all the right pieces. Mixtab lets you decide what sites you see content from and lets you organize them into customizable categories by creating tabs. You'll have a blast arranging your content into categories and you definitely aren't limited to just tiki lifestyle (although that would be nice)! Here are a few tips to put you on the fast track as a Mixtab user. 

A screenshot of my Mixtab feed collection. See my "Tiki Tab?"
Tab Gallery

They have a Tab Gallery which is a combination of feed collections created by Mixtab and user-created public feeds. When visiting the Tab Gallery simply search "tiki" and you will find a feed collection that I created which imports feeds from a variety of respected tiki websites including TheAtomicGrog, ThePeguBlog, TikiTalk, and more. The tab is named "Tiki Culture & Retro" and it should give you a great start. The great thing about the tabs is that once you have subscribed to them you can continue to add your own content simply by selecting "Tab Settings" in the top right corner.

Quickly Importing a New Feed to Your Tab

Mozilla's Firefox browser has a sweet little add-on called RSS Icon in Awesome Bar 1.4 that places the familiar RSS icon in your URL bar (next to the star) if the website you are visiting supports feeds. When clicking this icon you will be provided with a URL that you simply copy and paste into the tab while editing your tab settings. Basically, let's look at it this way...if you have installed this Firefox add-on as you're browsing or "stumbling" if you come across a content filled website that you enjoy and the icon appears you can add all future content to your Mixtab feed easily.

I encourage all iPad and Mac users to support Mixtab because it's easy, fun, and looks pretty darn good. You may see a few haters out there online but don't concern yourselves with them. Those are just tech snobs who have nothing better to do than gripe about something that's as good as it needs to be in order to just be GOOD. Thanks for stopping by and we'll see you next week!!