Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trade Show Mania and Creating Sound Files

This time, we will glance at what it takes to prepare for a trade show. Next we will discuss the options of downloadable sounds and some myths associated with them. Due to the timing and preparation needed for the NMRA National Convention and Train Show, we will be brief this time out.

Trade Show Mania

We have been busy preparing for the NMRA national convention and the National Train Show. This year it is being held in Hartford, CT. This is always a busy time for us.

One of the many things we try to do is to pre-assemble our trade show booths. This way we can repair any damaged parts or address other issues that require our attention beforehand. We also arrange our plaques and signs to be sure to give full visibility for the products we want to show. This includes any new products or announcements that we have been working on.

Then we work on getting any display locomotives ready and test run them to be sure we have a variety of locomotives to display. We are also showing our SurroundTraxx this year and want to have our display unit functional so we can demonstrate it and show some of the many features we have incorporated. Once our booths have been checked and the locomotives and other electronics have been inspected and tested, we then turn our attention to paperwork and handouts that we will have with us to distribute to all the model railroaders who stop by and visit us. This all has to be shipped out before we leave to ensure it arrives on time and safely. 

After four days of packing, the trucking company arrived and took our materials on to Hartford! If you are at the show, be sure to come by and say ‘hello’ and see what’s new in the world of SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models! We always enjoy talking with our customers!

Mythbusters: Creating Sound Files

DCC sound decoders are becoming more popular as DCC becomes the control system of choice. Some manufactures offer the option of user input or downloadable sounds. By displaying a catalog of available downloads showing a prime mover with a specific horn, they have attempted to create a virtual endless list of possible sound combinations to amaze the customer.

The other option is for the hobbyist to spend countless ‘modeling’ hours trying to manipulate the sounds to create a specific locomotive recording. Usually these recordings can be crude and of poor quality, compromising the realism to have a specific sound. Don’t forget to count the extra cost of the hardware you must buy to accomplish such a download. Additionally, editing the sound to create a seamless transition takes time and software tools not normally available to the modeler.

When we go out into the field to obtain our recordings, we work with the railroads to grant us access to the equipment we wish to record. For example, we take a locomotive and locate an average of 3 microphones in various places on the locomotive to ensure we get a full cacophony of sounds. We also record the locomotive pulling a load and sitting light to be sure we get accurate recordings we can work with. A usual recording session of one locomotive, for example can take all day. The audio tracks are then taken to our sound studio where a trained technician takes the recordings, using our state-of-the-art equipment and specialized audio software, and combines the tracks and creates realistic sound tracks to load into the decoder. This guarantees a true quality recording of the prototype locomotive and ensures a much more realistic sound.

We have worked to offer as wide a range of locomotive sounds as we can in both steam and diesel. We also are always adding sound files to our library. With each diesel decoder, for example, there are 16 era-related horn choices. We have up to 12 different diesel prime movers now available, which accounts for 192 different sound options in our diesel decoders alone! Combine that with the 7-band equalizer and reverb, available on every Tsunami sound decoder, you can have that distinct locomotive sound to give your finely-detailed model character, without the hours in front of a computer manipulating sound files.

Coming Up...

Our Tech Tip will be on hiatus this time due to time constraints. We will look at Tsunami’s exclusive 7-band equalizer, what it can do for you and how to adjust the settings in our next post. Also, tune in next time to see what we have to announce during this year’s National Train Show that’s new!