Monday, November 2, 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight: Sound Mixing and Setting Type

Okay the mixer above is for sound and we are speaking of controlling text when typesetting. What could these possibly have in common. For me not sure if this idea hit me when doing sound for groups at our church or from when considering the goal for me when setting type. In both ways the idea of being hidden and not seen seems to apply, and in some ways, asking that your efforts be a "thankless" job, and to be not noticed, may seem a bit odd.
     Years ago I visited a church and heard a group in an outdoor setting in a courtyard. I could not get over how incredible they sounded and this was not for their singing or for the instruments. The quality that I was hearing was as if I were listening to them from a studio recorded CD rather than from a live event which comes with all kinds of equipment and acoustical changes. Afterwards I complemented those doing the sound; they were surprised that someone would think to acknowledge their efforts. It seems when things go well when doing sound (for them evidently, and for me) you generally are not noticed, though on the other hand if something is not quite right it becomes clear the problem is with the mix, or setup, or some other aspect of what is needed to have it sound good. This is not a complaint on my part as much as it is just an observation. I am very comfortable with this way of looking at it, and with having the goal of being hidden.
     For typesetting, this same point can be made. For me the main goal is to clearly provide the words, support the text, complement and enhance when you can for how it looks, while also trying to have your efforts be not noticed - to not distract, and to not interfere with the reading of the words. When something is wrong, or distracting, this will be noticed. When it goes well, my wish is that it goes unnoticed. After all, if someone enjoys the reading of an article, a book, an essay, etc. it is not like they are going to reach the end and say - hey, that was easy and pleasant to read because if its typesetting, or its layout, design, etc. To me, when these work well, then it seems good to be not noticed.
     While wrapping up my thoughts on this it crossed my mind that it may not be so simple. Maybe I've missed something, such as: what of personal preferences and the notion that you can’t please everyone! Yes there are conflicting opinions. Some may say the volume's not right, or too much bass, or a vocal was loss, etc. And some may disagree with a font selection, or setting justified, or hyphenation level, etc. Even so, even though the means of accomplishing this may not be so simple, the premise for the goal seems legit: to try and be not noticed and to make as few waves and distractions as possible.
     With humility, I’m just offering a few of my quick two-cent thoughts here…. Yes feedback (both kinds) can be a growing pain, and may be needed from time to time for making improvements…. And to borrow from (and maybe abuse) yet another phrase, yes content (the music, the author’s words) can be treated as king.