CAS Quarterly

Spring 2017

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42 S P R I N G 2 0 1 7 C A S Q U A R T E R L Y This year's CAS Awards for Outstanding Products went to McDSP for its SA-2 Dialog Processor plugin and CEDAR, for its DNS 2 portable dialogue noise suppressor at the 53rd Annual CAS Awards ceremony. OUTSTANDING PRODUCT: POST-PRODUCTION McDSP SA-2 DIALOG PROCESSOR It's not every day you can have a one-off piece of signal pro- cessing gear built just for you, but former CAS Career Achievement Award winner and past president of the CAS, Michael Minkler, did just that. His "Sonic Assault," a multi- band limiter for dialogue, was used with great success on many films. The problem? There was just one, and it was getting along in years. Enter Ceri Thomas, who asked Colin McDowell of McDSP to model and replicate the hardware box as a plugin. The result is the SA-2. Here are some excerpts from a conversa- tion I had with Colin McDowell. How did Mike Minkler's tech, Ceri Thomas, find you and how difficult was it to model the box he was using? Ceri's been a client for a long time and regular McDSP user. Different people had tried to model the Sonic Assault but never got it quite right. Ceri called and I visited with them at Todd-AO, and began developing the SA-2 with different modes so I could fine-tune it to Mike's taste. We put an analyzer on the box and, having done active processing before I went in, I had some idea how the hardware would behave. There were some tricky things, sometimes there were band- to-band differences we had to observe. Mike knew what he wanted, he was very specific, so if you were off, he'd tell you. Mike made it way easier because you had a super-experienced ear for feedback. So, the SA-2 looks like a multi-band limiter from here. The big tricks are the smart parts in the active circuit. Because of that many bands, we thought it had to be a certain way, and those guesses worked out well. Even the metering was Mike's preference, using per- centage (100% = 12 dB, 50% = 6 dB) instead of dB reduc- tion. We did some things simple and some clever things for phase coherence in the active processing. Do you publish the center frequencies and Q of the presets? Not really. The original box was mislabeled for center fre- quency—it does move around based on the modes. Both are adjustable in the variable mode and the selectivity of the trig- ger frequency moves around a little, too, when you're doing that. (There are three preset processing modes and one vari- able mode in the plugin, an improvement over the original hardware design.) Is there anything about the development of the SA-2 that has made you think about developing other products for motion picture production? Yes. Noise reduction, surround processing, and getting out talking to the right people. Did you enjoy the awards ceremony? We were happy to be invited, it was fun, and we would go again. We thought we were going to be a fly on the wall and we won! Congratulations to Colin and McDSP for their development of the SA-2 from Mike Minkler's "black box!" OUTSTANDING PRODUCT: PRODUCTION CEDAR DNS 2 DYNAMIC NOISE SUPPRESSOR UNIT I recently caught up with Gordon Reid at CEDAR to talk about the DNS 2, their portable two-channel noise reduction system that won the award on the production side this year. How long have location mixers been bugging you for some- thing like this? I think we probably received the first request within days of OUTSTANDING PRODUCT AWARDS 2017 by G. John Garrett CAS MEET THE WINNERS McDSP's Colin McDowell at the awards

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