Sunday, June 21, 2009

Behringer BCF-2000 -- A let down.

I am going to be mixing up 12 videos at work in a week or 2 here, and so in an effort to speed the process up, I started looking around for something to help me speed up my audio editing, traditionally one of the tougher parts of video editing for me.

My research brought me to the Behringer BCF-2000, a nifty little control surface.


If you're not sure what a control surface is, give me a second to explain. In real life audio, which I have quite a bit of experience in, you sit in front of a large mixer. Every kind of sound source (Different microphones, etc) have their own "channel" on the mixer, including little knobs to control various aspects of the sound, and a nice big long slider thing (It's actually called a fader, so now you know) that lets you change the most important adjustment -- the volume.

On a computer, when you're editing a video, you have a bunch of different sound sources as well. Sound from your footage, music, maybe sound effects...all sorts of stuff, but the way you have to control the levels is through a lot of clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging that can, well, get to be a drag.

A control surface is like a miniature mixer board that you attach to your computer, and it gives you a physical thing to manipulate the virtual channels of sound on your computer.

This mixer features motorized faders...I can jump to different spots of my video, and the little sliders would jump up or down in their slot to match what the level of volume is on the computer. This is an important feature.

Anyway, I got the thing Friday and excitedly set it up, but sorry to say it's been a bit of a let-down. It's missing an important feature that makes it more of a struggle than a joy to use.

So it's going back to B&H. I have to pay shipping costs :-( but that's ok, it's not often that I have to return things that I have purchased online, and so even when I do have to make a return here or there, I'm still far far ahead in terms of time and money I save by shopping online.

So what's next? Well I'll just have to mix these 12 videos with my mouse and keyboard. I'll live. In the future I'll be saving my money for a little more expensive version of the same thing, probably a used Mackie Universal Control.

I wrote a little review for B&H, I'll reproduce it here:

I work part time in video production and purchased the BCF-2000 to help speed the audio mix for the videos I shoot.

After a few frustrating hours with this, it became apparent that it just wasn't going to meet my needs, so back to B&H it goes!

The good news is this is a solidly built little board. I have heard complaints about the motors being noisy...there is some noise, but I'm not convinced that it's significantly more noise than any other device of this nature. It's solidly built and it feels as the faders feel as nice as any console mixer (Mackie, Soundcraft) that I've ever used. The rotary pots don't feel as nice as real rotary pots, but they feel nice enough.

Now to the bad...the faders are not touch sensitive, and that really just makes this thing almost pointless. If you are just looking to set levels (Like in synthesizer software) and don't so much need the automation features, get the BCR-2000 or another non-motorized control surface and skip the motorized faders. If you actually want the motorized faders, because you intend on mixing audio and want them to help with automation -- forget it!

In Soundtrack Pro and Final Cut Pro, the faders will work great to lay down an initial mix, but if you don't nail it the first time...you're in a world of hurt. The board supports 'latch' mode remixing, meaning you can play back and when you touch the faders it will let you set new levels. This sounds great in theory, but it's too difficult to get the thing to 'latch' properly. Instead you just end up fighting the faders, and the end result is all sorts of messy keyframes and audio levels jumping all over the place.

So just make fine adjustments with your mouse, right? Well that's a lot harder than it seems. Instead of 2 keyframes and a linear level-change between, you might have like 30 keyframes on a simple pan. You can take them all out and try to re-record, or you can just take them out and set your volume levels manually with your mouse, but at that point...what was the purpose of having the control surface?

In the end I was really disappointed...I was excited at the prospects of having motorized faders for under $500, but after playing with it for awhile it became apparent that the feature they had to cut out -- touch sensitivity -- is a very important feature indeed.

Now Behringer, how about a BCF-3000 with touch-sensitive faders? That's something I could go for!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ding! More interesting stuff.

Earlier this week I read about these new GS1 Databar barcodes that are going to start popping up everywhere. Imagine my surprise then, when later that day, I noticed one on the Apple I bought at the grocery store. Actually, sitting here, I am noticing that I have a coupon containing one of these bar codes too.

A few months ago, and this is a really geeky "I love my iPhone" moment, I decided to find out what a Standpipe is...because you see them (Or at least I do...but I have engineer eyes) coming out of buildings all the time! So I'm walking around campus reading about Standpipes on the Quickpedia. (Mock if you want, but some day somebody will want to marry this charming uniqueness...just like people love the charming uniqueness of an oddly-placed ignition key).

Anyway, turns out a Standpipe is a hookup the fire department can use to get water into a building.

So look what popped up in my RSS today...an article on...Standpipes! I found it highly fascinating. I'm not offended if you, uhh, don't. Read

A Field Guide To NYC Standpipes (Including Bernie Madoff’s!)