13 March 2011

USITT recap

Another USITT has come and gone. I'm on the plane in Charlotte now, waiting to take off and begin my flight home. The conference was a big hit, possibly the best one I've gone to.

On Tuesday, I landed. Tim and I were on the same flight, and Brad & Ashley picked us up from the airport. Davin came soon, and the four guys got to work on finishing our project as Ashley kept us company and fed with cookies. We got everything cooking by 10pm or so, and then we met up with a large group of sound folk for drinks.

Wednesday was the official commission start. Steve Brown from the UK kicked it off with two back-to-back panels about his life and work in the theatre. He works at a very interesting venue, and he played some delicious sounds for us. After Steve, it was our turn. I led a pane about using mobile devices for creating and controlling sound. In it, we talked about some of the different apps that are out there for music & sound creation on the iPhone, iPad, android, etc. Then, we talked about OSC and how it can be used to control sound on other computers. I demo-ed a helicopter sound that flew around the room based on moving a Wii controller, a thunderstorm with manual and automatic data parameters from a multiple-touch device called a lemur, and for the finale, we set up a crowd-sourced sonic environment. We built a spaceship soundscape, with parameters controlled by six different idevices sending data wirelessly. It was a cacophonous hit! After our session, I needed break, but we all met up later for some mirth and food.

Thursday was another day of panels. The sound commission met and talked about the 2012 conference in Long Beach, and the convention floor opened. Brad, Erik, and I went to an education commission panel on how to use objective metrics to evaluate subjective work, and we all thought that Christopher Plummer had the most memorable lie of the panel: 'grades are crap.' Later that evening, Richard Bugg, Ellen Juhlin, and Jerry of Meyer Sound talked about the new AVB data standard that's coming out. It's amazing to me that all of the companies are finally starting to set aside their proprietary data standards in favor of one multifunctional standard that has a LOT of flexibility. Nighttime was for the commission dinner, which I organized. We held it at King's Kitchen. When I organize the commission dinner, I always try to choose a restaurant that meets certain requirements: it should be locally-operated, serve regional food, not break the bank, and be tasty. King's Kitchen met all our of these criteria, PLUS it's socially relevant, giving money back into the city's homeless community. If you are ever in Charlotte, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Friday began with three student portfolio reviews, chaired by UCI's own Mike Hooker. Then, some stage floor wandering, and a panel on using double-blind testing in the sound world. John Huntington and Jason Romney ran that, and they talked about and ran some interesting experiments. Later on Friday came the Guerilla Sound Challenge, where designers have three hours to create a design for a given stimulus. This year's stimulus was a section of Mueller's Hamletmachine, and we had what may have been a record number of participants, including several teams (one of which featured Tim Brown and Josh Fehrmann, MFA3 and MFA0 at UCI). There was a wide variety in both concept and craft in the designs, and the session led directly into the sound playback party, where designers can share pieces of their work with the room in an informal way. Again, we had an exceptional amount of participation, which was terrific! Brad and I played a set as The Night I Found Out I Was Adopted, our all-improvisation all-mobile device band. Then, the YSD alumni reception, and then, more booze.

Saturday started mercifully later, with just a few sessions to hit. At the end of the last session, the commission retreated to Sticky Fingers, a BBQ joint! Then, you guessed it: we imbibed.

Some other highlights from this conference:
* my revisionist history of Charlotte (look for it on Live Design's website as part of Brad Berridge's vlog
* Davin's teaser of the making of Steve Brown and John Taylor's Guerilla Sound Challenge piece.
* Ellen walking Tim and I through how Cuestation 5 handles OSC.
* Richard Bugg heckling.
* Brad and I iHeckling.

We also spent a good amount of time talking about next year's conference. Here are some things to keep your eyes out for if you are planning to attend:
* a hot multichannel sound lab
* extensive programming on multichannel sound
* a cross-country tour of The Night I Found Out I Was Adopted, mixed by the inestimable Steve Brown.
* a reception for sound folk at UCI
* a reception for sound folk at Diablo Sound
* some kickass Mexican food.
* another face-melting session by The Young Turks.

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