Monday, April 30, 2012

Time Really Can Be On Your Side, After All

Have you mastered time?

When asked about his career ambitions in the movie Say Anything, the character Lloyd Dobler (played by Jon Cusack) famously said, "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed."

But you don't have that luxury. If you are ephemeralizing physical analog media to weightless digital form, by now you know there is always something to record, pre-process, process, post-process, export, convert, or catalog. And if you're working on deadline (say, doing a project for a friend or relative) it can feel like the tasks are coming faster than you can dispatch them. To contradict The Rolling Stones, time is not always on your side.

Or is it? There are four task groups in the audio processing pipeline (see below). Understanding what kind of time commitment each task group takes will help you regain control and master time.

Time Commitment Taxonomy of Audio Processing Tasks.

  1. Background Tasks (Machine/Real-Time). Background tasks are the most efficient use of your time. Recording the source material cannot be accelerated (if there are 60 minutes of audio, it will take exactly 60 minutes to record it) but requires very little intervention (set-up and flipping sides).
  2. Monitored Tasks (Machine/Accelerated). Monitored tasks take time proportional to the recording length but are anywhere from 2x to 15x accelerated. Less efficient than background tasks, although your active intervention is usually limited to set-up and pressing "go."
  3. Automated Tasks (Human/Accelerated). Automated tasks are similar to monitored tasks, with the additional step of having to evaluate results, sometimes adjusting controls and repeating until desired results are achieved.
  4. Manual Tasks (Human/Real-Time). Manual tasks are the least efficient use of your time. They are hands-on and can be frustratingly repetitive. But, in the end, the quality of the work you do here elevates a merely good result to studio-quality.
Assign background and moniored tasks to large blocks of time when you are at home but need to be doing other things. Take on automated and manual tasks when you are comfortable giving them the necessary attention. Time will take care of itself.

            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #30           

Artist: Philip Glass
Title: Satyagraha
Genre: Opera
Year: 1980

Satyagraha, based on the life of Mahandas K. Gandhi, is a 3-LP set. Yet, I was able to completely process it in course-record time. How? Despite its running time of nearly 2 hours, there are only nine (9) scenes/tracks. This minimized the slowest manual task of isolating tracks for export. Very efficient.
            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #31           

Artist: Chick Corea
Title: Children's Songs
Genre: Jazz
Year: 1983

In contrast, Chick Corea's Children's Songs allocates its seemingly short 45 minutes of running time to 20 individual tracks, only three of them longer than 2 minutes. This maximized the slowest manual task of isolating tracks for export. It took me longer to process this one disc than all of Satyagraha. Very inefficient.
© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

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