Saturday, 29 November 2008

Dither, jitter, and clocking.

That sounds like a firm of estate agents in Midsomer Worthy. They were actually words used, frequently, by some speakers I heard yesterday. I went with Bob last night to a seminar [from Mic to mictomonitor Monitor] all about improving recording techniques. It was interesting in parts! I learned lots of technical language which I may never have the chance to use again, and was pleased that it didn't all go over my head. As well as improving my knowledge of the world of recording, I came away from the event with some interesting observations.

  1. Apart from 2 of the 4 speakers, I was the oldest person there - and I was certainly the only female. Is the recording business really that male dominated? Why do people assume that girls have no interest in technology?
  2. Having a female in the audience was a challenge for at least one of the speakers - who struggled sometimes to moderate his language! He kept looking across at me and faltering mid-sentence.
  3. I realise that the seminar was free because rich companies [like Apple] were sponsoring it. But I think that they could have found more interesting people to present their products.
  4. I was greatly amused by the fact that these highly technical burco blokes were phased by basic domestic technology. We were due a coffee break halfway through - and at the side was a table with a tea urn, cups, and biscuits etc. The urn was switched on just after the "Welcome" chat. By the time 'Apple' guy got going, it was coming up to the boil and therefore hissing and steaming. He was looking confused - having assumed the hissing was coming from part of the highly expensive sophisticated sound gear! Even when the source of the noise was established, nobody had the sense to turn the thing down [so I did it, during the coffee break!]
  5. It is vital to ensure one is sitting next to someone who not only knows what they are talking about, but also asks intelligent questions. Not to mention someone who can talk about being at Oxford with people like Michael Gerzon [who?] - people might think that I am equally knowledgeable.
  6. If it is the last night of this seminar tour, it is worth asking for an extra free T shirt. I did - and ended up with three - which is useful, because during one of the boring parts, I was working out how to implement a craft idea I had seen in a book in Waterstones last week [which required two identical T-shirts] Now I can try out the idea for nothing!
  7. Some wives only get to spend evenings with their husbands if they accompany them to watch rugby matches in the freezing cold. I am very grateful that Bob's hobby is something which inappleterests me a little, and has free coffee, biscuits and T-shirts!

What did I learn technically? Well, that timing is crucial, and if the internal clocking is affected by jitter, your recording will not be as good as it should be. That in the analog/digital conversion business, it is helpful to add noise and dither. That the human ear is a phenomenal piece of engineering. I came away rejoicing in a Creator God who designed our hearing system and inspired great composers and musicians - and smiling to myself at the first heading which went up on the screen "The Importance of Conversion"

Now that is language I do understand!!


  1. That's Michael Gerzon, the developer of the mathematics behind Ambisonics and the Calrec soundfield microphone. There's a collection of his articles here: - sadly Michael died in 1996.

  2. Did they have a questionnaire at the end? That would be a good idea for them to find out what they did right and what they need work on (better speakers, etc.)

  3. BA - you are DEFINITELY a nerd. But I love you anyway!
    AG - you are ABSOLUTELY right - a proper evaluation form would have been a good idea.


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