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The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby CS70 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:33 pm

jimjazzdad wrote:Tape is without doubt the pinnacle of analogue reproduction and respect is due.

Hm, late steam engines were the pinnacle of steam technology but nobody sane would use then to pull a train today . Nostalgia, yes, longing for a better time when we were young and hopeful , yes.. but respect as a technical solution.. makes no sense. Tape was the best solution to a specific problem in a specific period, as wax masters for gramophone were in their time. Now there’s a better solution,,it just requires slightly different methods to get the best out of it.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby jimjazzdad » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:41 pm

Rich Hanson wrote:*Any* physical media is better than listening to it on Spotify :lol:
My son has a 1918 Edison phonograph. I think even the Edison cylinders sound better than Spotify... :bouncy:

This has been some serious thread drift; returning to topic, I appreciate the OP raising the issue of the psychology of how waveform appear in the DAW and give a shout-out to blinddrew for the tip about using logarithmic peak renders in Reaper. :clap:
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:48 pm

CS70 wrote:
jimjazzdad wrote:Tape is without doubt the pinnacle of analogue reproduction and respect is due.

Hm, late steam engines were the pinnacle of steam technology but nobody sane would use then to pull a train today.

There are loads of steam-pulled trains today, and most are good commercial successes, too. And not just the countless heritage lines across the UK, but there are regular main-line specials that are always booked out solid... and there are steam trains still in use commercially in other parts of the world too.

I take your point you're making ... but you're responding to something you thought you read, rather than what Jim actually said, which was that Tape is... the pinnacle of analogue reproduction ...and he's absolutely right. Nothing else ANALOGUE beats it!
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Jadoube » Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:53 pm

jimjazzdad wrote:This has been some serious thread drift; returning to topic, I appreciate the OP raising the issue of the psychology of how waveform appear in the DAW and give a shout-out to blinddrew for the tip about using logarithmic peak renders in Reaper. :clap:

I just read through this thread... It's a good one! I also appreciate the Reaper tip. I'll have a go this evening.

One thing I am nostalgic about (and most of the analog arguments wallow in nostalgia IMHO) and still enjoy about working with big ol' 2" rolls is the pace of the process. Rewinding, doing all the dubs on Reel 3, flipping the roll to do some backwards bits... etc etc. There are some nice quiet moments in the workflow I miss in the instant DAW world.

As for all of the technical stuff... I am with the majority here. Don't miss any of that BS. :thumbup:
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:54 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:There is quite a large body of lobbyists that abhors the whole idea of negative feedback and the positive 'corrective' control that NFB brings, claiming it to be 'unnatural' and preferring instead the uncontrolled and more coloured alternative of amplification without (or with very little) negative feedback. They believe such systems are potentially 'more dynamic' (and they could be because the transients overshoot!), and 'more musical' (because of harmonic distortions).

Here's a highly rated mic mic preamp from Coil Audio that I read about recently that takes this approach:

https://tapeop.com/reviews/gear/121/ca- ... ne-preamp/

And the most relevant snippet is:

"The magic of the preamp comes from the three knobs to the right of the aforementioned gain controls. These knobs adjust the negative feedback, high-frequency tilt, and low-frequency boost for the feedback circuit. Normally, the design engineer would set and lock down these controls as part of the circuit design, but Coil has chosen to allow the user to manipulate these circuit parameters for a wide range of control over the preamp’s tone. Without getting to techy, negative feedback in an amplifier circuit creates a more controlled, lower distortion output signal by feeding some of the amplifier’s output, polarity inverted, back into the input of the circuit. Reducing the amount of negative feedback creates a brighter, more energetic sounding tone with higher gain; while increasing the negative feedback creates a smoother, more damped, or mellow tone. The CA-70’s LF and HF controls work inside the negative feedback circuit to provide subtle, musical tilting of the balance between low and high frequencies, in a manner that sounds slightly more natural than a standard equalizer."


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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby MOF » Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:29 pm

I'm the first person to admit that digital still isn't capable of 100% perfect reproduction... but it's 99.8%* closer than anything else we've ever had available, compared to the 90%* on a really good day of analogue tape, or 70%* of vinyl.

If the material calls for a warm and fuzzy analogue feeling, record it that way... the digital format can easily capture and reproduce it!


*Made up statistics... but they feel about right! ;)

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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby blinddrew » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:04 pm

CS70 wrote:Hm, late steam engines were the pinnacle of steam technology but nobody sane would use then to pull a train today .
I'd happily swap out a bunch of my regular trains for some late-steam technology - quicker and more reliable! Though admittedly even dirtier than the diesels we run now. ;)
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby James Perrett » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:05 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Tape is... the pinnacle of analogue reproduction ...and he's absolutely right. Nothing else ANALOGUE beats it!

But then you get to the arguments of half inch or quarter inch, 30ips over 15ips and, if 15ips, NAB or IEC eq. Not to mention the best choice of noise reduction and tape type. :headbang:
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby jimjazzdad » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:21 pm

James Perrett wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:Tape is... the pinnacle of analogue reproduction ...and he's absolutely right. Nothing else ANALOGUE beats it!

But then you get to the arguments of half inch or quarter inch, 30ips over 15ips and, if 15ips, NAB or IEC eq. Not to mention the best choice of noise reduction and tape type. :headbang:
Sounds like CD Red Book versus 24/48 versus 24/96 versus DSD versus DXD...plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby blinddrew » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:42 pm

Jadoube wrote:
jimjazzdad wrote:This has been some serious thread drift; returning to topic, I appreciate the OP raising the issue of the psychology of how waveform appear in the DAW and give a shout-out to blinddrew for the tip about using logarithmic peak renders in Reaper. :clap:

I just read through this thread... It's a good one! I also appreciate the Reaper tip. I'll have a go this evening.
just to make sure that credit is appropriately allocated, it was James P who found that first. :)
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:52 pm

MOF wrote:
I'm the first person to admit that digital still isn't capable of 100% perfect reproduction... but it's 99.8%* closer than anything else we've ever had available, compared to the 90%* on a really good day of analogue tape, or 70%* of vinyl.

If the material calls for a warm and fuzzy analogue feeling, record it that way... the digital format can easily capture and reproduce it!


*Made up statistics... but they feel about right! ;)

:clap:

Hugh's guesstimate of 90% for analogue tape on a good day relates of course to the losses at each tape generation. In practical analogue production it was usually worse. Just mixing down a multitrack meant a rerecording - one more generation, so we're already down to 81% - assuming an ideal transfer.

The mighty Nagra portable recorder was mentioned. It was primarily designed for location film sound track location acquisition. But a downside not always considered was that prior to the Nagra and similar 1/4" machines, the location dialogue etc was recorded to sprocketed magnetic tape which could then be placed directly on the Steenbeck editing table for sound mixing - no generation losses. So the new Nagra system, great as it otherwise was, required that extra generation of analogue tape losses.

Then as mentioned, that mixing stage itself required a rerecording - yet another generation. In practice, by the time a feature film came to our local cinema, we were hearing maybe fifth generation analogue tape sound, which could sound pretty rough.

When listening to digital versions of old film sound tracks we are often hearing the sound far better than we ever did in our cinemas, at least if production staff are skilled and had access to the earliest generation well preserved analogue recordings. There was a point to the little AAD, ADD, DDD symbols on early CD's...

It's easy to forget that DAW's now allow us close to lossless tracking, then lossless mixing and user copies. Even a good mp3 can be very close to the data uncompressed mix it was made from, if prepared with skill.

For fun, try doing what I did for a living in the 80's: audiobook production for the print handicapped - all analogue tape. For economy, user copies were cassettes running at half normal speed. Then to protect the valuable original master (first generation) from wear and accidental damage, we normally duplicated from a half speed cassette sub master (second generation). So the clients usually received half speed, third generation cassette copies - high speed duplicated at each stage. No third head "confidence monitoring" of duplication quality either.

Because of the very slow tape speeds and narrow tracks, losses that might be insignificant on pro gear at 15ips became critical at less than 1 ips: a dirty or worn high speed duplicator head, a slight azimuth misalignment, a slight over or under bias - or a combination of those. The highest frequency possible on the user copies was 5kHz. (Dolby HX Pro would have been nice). Actually often quite listenable on speech although some voices survived better than others.

The importance of getting it right at source? Critical. Band limiting, compression, de essing, big pop filters on mics for the worst voice over artist with the worst mic technique. Yet today we have the luxury of choosing which top shelf mic to use on our voice. With this audio book production, post production wasn't normally practical. You had to get it "right" at source, for it was all downhill from then on.

Ah the romance of analogue tape production! And analogue tape was a great advance over the disc cutting that preceded it.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Jadoube » Sat Jan 18, 2020 1:08 am

blinddrew wrote:
Jadoube wrote:
jimjazzdad wrote:This has been some serious thread drift; returning to topic, I appreciate the OP raising the issue of the psychology of how waveform appear in the DAW and give a shout-out to blinddrew for the tip about using logarithmic peak renders in Reaper. :clap:

I just read through this thread... It's a good one! I also appreciate the Reaper tip. I'll have a go this evening.
just to make sure that credit is appropriately allocated, it was James P who found that first. :)

Hats off to James P! It does indeed help with the waveform display. I will use it.

But now I have to tell an ironic story about changing the dynamic range in the meters to extend down to -96db from -62...

Like Martin, I too discovered some hidden noise on some tracks... although honestly, I can hear it so I always knew it was there.... but now, NOW I SEE IT. I often pipe my mixes into... the UAD Studer A800 plugin... to get that analogue "fidelity"! and authentically modelled tape hiss and amp noise... up to about -70db :headbang:

Should I find a Dolby SR plugin?

*mic drop*
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jan 18, 2020 4:56 am

It's true that better display of very low level detail should lead to better audio production, but we still need to listen to the audio we are working on. The display is only a tool. It's not the product.

Similarly, if there's low level detail that the display doesn't show, don't assume nothing's there. Listen. I have a good, quiet listening space but I often turn up my monitor gain on quiet passages to hear all of what's there.

The first time I saw and heard DAW editing was in the 90's. The fellow was editing out speech mistakes, coughs, hesitations etc at an unbelieveably fast rate. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. He wasnt going back and listening consistently to the edits he had just made. The first people to really hear his work were those who bought the product. Not a good idea.

I may be imagining it but my impression is that since DAW editing came in, editing especially of speech such as in audio books has generally gotten worse, not better. The display cant tell us how long pauses between words, phrases and sentences should be. We have to listen for it. The result should sound like natural, normal speech.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby ef37a » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:18 am

Jadoube wrote:
blinddrew wrote:
Jadoube wrote:
jimjazzdad wrote:This has been some serious thread drift; returning to topic, I appreciate the OP raising the issue of the psychology of how waveform appear in the DAW and give a shout-out to blinddrew for the tip about using logarithmic peak renders in Reaper. :clap:

I just read through this thread... It's a good one! I also appreciate the Reaper tip. I'll have a go this evening.
just to make sure that credit is appropriately allocated, it was James P who found that first. :)

Hats off to James P! It does indeed help with the waveform display. I will use it.

But now I have to tell an ironic story about changing the dynamic range in the meters to extend down to -96db from -62...

Like Martin, I too discovered some hidden noise on some tracks... although honestly, I can hear it so I always knew it was there.... but now, NOW I SEE IT. I often pipe my mixes into... the UAD Studer A800 plugin... to get that analogue "fidelity"! and authentically modelled tape hiss and amp noise... up to about -70db :headbang:

Should I find a Dolby SR plugin?

*mic drop*

As well as cranking the meters it is worth doing a 'silent' recording once a month or so and stuffing the resultant .wav into RightMark Analyser. That will show up any low level hums you can easily miss. These can come about due to the addition of a piece of gear or just a change of lead dress. Be especially careful with mains line lumps.

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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Ariosto » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:29 am

Tim Gillett wrote:It's true that better display of very low level detail should lead to better audio production, but we still need to listen to the audio we are working on. The display is only a tool. It's not the product.

Similarly, if there's low level detail that the display doesn't show, don't assume nothing's there. Listen. I have a good, quiet listening space but I often turn up my monitor gain on quiet passages to hear all of what's there.

The first time I saw and heard DAW editing was in the 90's. The fellow was editing out speech mistakes, coughs, hesitations etc at an unbelieveably fast rate. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. He wasnt going back and listening consistently to the edits he had just made. The first people to really hear his work were those who bought the product. Not a good idea.

I may be imagining it but my impression is that since DAW editing came in, editing especially of speech such as in audio books has generally gotten worse, not better. The display cant tell us how long pauses between words, phrases and sentences should be. We have to listen for it. The result should sound like natural, normal speech.

This may be very true with regard to audiobooks, at least in some situations. I do myself try and edit with care over timing, spaces, tempo and all the things that I think matter in the context of a sentence or paragraph. Whether this works for all the listeners I can't know, which is why listeners like some readers, and not others. I do occasionally get positive feedback but listeners tend not to tell me how bad I am, and when on one website it says I have 30,000 hits I am unable to tell if someone has listened for two minutes or heard the whole book/short story/poem or whatever.

I probably enjoy the editing more than doing the actual recordings and editing seems to be the most rewarding part of the process.

Although I do have one or two things on Audible.com and make very little money, most of my voice recordings are for a voluntary site which provides free audiobooks etc., and I feel that at least I may contribute a little towards helping people who can't afford to buy the professionally made product. Of course the quality of the readings on the free site vary enormously and although some are of a high professional quality made by professional actors and readers, many are let's say of more dubious quality.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jan 18, 2020 10:26 am

Tim Gillett wrote:I may be imagining it but my impression is that since DAW editing came in the editing, especially of speech such as in audio books, has generally gotten worse, not better.

I don't think that's related to the DAW as such, but the 'democratisation' is has allowed of the audio industry, resulting in the huge increase in the number of 'independent production companies' in the audio industry. A great many of those are staffed by people who haven't been trained properly and don't (yet) have the appropriate understanding and experience. That's largely because they haven't received the kind of traditional training and long apprenticeships that those who came from the world's major broadcast organisations -- the people who produced most consumer audio content before the 90s -- benefited from.

In skilled hands, DAW editing is quite evidently vastly superior to anything that could ever be achieved with razor-blade tape editing. But, as we've seen at the start of this thread, the graphical display of DAWs fools an awful lot of people into recording, editing and mixing with their eyes, often forgetting to use their ears completely! :(

As many will know, I am a big fan of the SADiE DAW. No use at all for MIDI-based work, but easily one of the best recording and editing platforms IMHO. It has a display mode option dating back to it's original incarnations that shows recorded audio as simple coloured blocks without any waveforms at all. It was done originally to minimise the workload on the computer's CPU/GPU but I -- and many of my friends and colleagues -- still make use of it a lot as it kind of replicates working with analogue tape in that there's basically nothing to look at, and you have no option but to use your ears.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Ariosto » Sat Jan 18, 2020 2:38 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:I may be imagining it but my impression is that since DAW editing came in the editing, especially of speech such as in audio books, has generally gotten worse, not better.

In skilled hands, DAW editing is quite evidently vastly superior to anything that could ever be achieved with razor-blade tape editing. But, as we've seen at the start of this thread, the graphical display of DAWs fools an awful lot of people into recording, editing and mixing with their eyes, often forgetting to use their ears completely! :(

As many will know, I am a big fan of the SADiE DAW. No use at all for MIDI-based work, but easily one of the best recording and editing platforms IMHO. It has a display mode option dating back to it's original incarnations that shows recorded audio as simple coloured blocks without any waveforms at all. It was done originally to minimise the workload on the computer's CPU/GPU but I -- and many of my friends and colleagues -- still make use of it a lot as it kind of replicates working with analogue tape in that there's basically nothing to look at, and you have no option but to use your ears.

That's very interesting and I think absolutely correct. When I've edited a piece of audio, music or narration, I always listen to it several times to make sure it sounds right and then make any further improvements - including some re-recording if necessary.

On a recent recording of a short 4 minute song we had four sessions (of about an hour each session), and this includes about 16 separate takes. Even now we think it's not right, and have sent it for audition to a colleague who is an expert in this particular field of popular songs. I don't think much material is given this amount of work, due to cost restraints (in commercial work).

I think some of the worst examples are to be heard daily on the BBC and commercial radio and TV, with high levels of noise, poor diction, bad editing, and the overuse of tacky musak to cover up poor workmanship.

Rant over!
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:00 pm

Ariosto wrote:I think some of the worst examples are to be heard daily on the BBC and commercial radio and TV, with high levels of noise, poor diction, bad editing, and the overuse of tacky musak to cover up poor workmanship.

There always have been both superb and terrible examples of good programme making... But I agree that there do seem to be more examples of the latter than I remember from years gone by. In the 90s it used to be quite hard to find broadcast examples of poor production... But it would seem much easier now!

The use of music is partly a fashion thing -- the amount and relative balance of background music in different types of programme has changed considerably over the years. But background noise -- and especially reverberant or lively sound -- in studio programmes is a lot more common.

I wonder if the rise in reality tv celebrities, and the encouragement of regional dialects may have a bearing on increasingly poor diction.

Bad editing is just bad editing, and that comes down to poor technical training and the rise in technical jobs being performed by non-technical staff -- production staff increasingly being required to edit and mix their own programmes and packages, for example.

As an aside, a couple of years ago I was asked to work on a training course which provided two week's practical experience at the BBC training centre for 2rd year broadcast sound students from a respected university at the end of their second year's education. Part of the course involved them producing short (5-minute) radio 'packages', for which they had to work in small groups to research, script, record, and mix an item which had to include studio, phone, and location interviews. It was produced using Adobe Audition -- software they were all very familiar with.

When we all gathered to listen to their presentations in a large studio control room on large broadcast monitors, I was astonished that none were what I considered to be broadcast-able to normal BBC standards! Not even close!

The primary reason was because the levels were seriously -- extraordinarily -- all over the place to the extent that several programmes were plain unlistenable, and others a frustrating challenge. None of the students appeared to recognise or be bothered by the extremely poor balancing.

When I raised this glaringly obvious issue as part of my critiques I was told by the university course leaders that I shouldn't complain about it as it wasnt a factor that would be taken into account for the formal course assessments of the students' work. I found this astonishing! Accurate level balancing was something that was prioritised and mastered within the first couple of weeks in the greatbmany traditional BBC technical training courses I both received and taught.

So, since it is now graduate students like these -- although I'm sure there are some very good university training courses, too -- who are presumably employed today to make real broadcast programmes, I'm not surprised technical standards have declined.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:40 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:There always have been both superb and terrible examples of good programme making... But I agree that there do seem to be more examples of the latter than I remember from years gone by. In the 90s it used to be quite hard to find broadcast examples of poor production... But it would seem much easier now!

The reason is (as the French put it) "Nous avons la radio au mètre, musique au kilo et télévision à la tonne!"

When I started out in television back 49BC, the stations transmitted a few hours a day, today it's 24hrs and across a few hundred stations. Back then, there were three stations broadcasting a few hours a day. Granada produced a string of 'Coronation Street' episodes from the outside lot and Studio One - about 200 sq.m. and one audience show a week such as Nice Time and University Challenge from the much larger Studio Two.

That meant that Studio Two was 'dark' for four days a week and could be used for blocking moves or rehearsals or just as a place to meet or try things out. Back in the late 60s it was all (relatively) easy-going!

By the time the 90s rolled around, I was working in Germany (RTL and Pro7) and there was no such thing as a 'dark' studio. SZM Studios in Munich had a few dozen studios and they were at least 90% working, pushing out programmes for a handful of stations and two shopping channels.

Today SZM is called ProSiebenSat.1 Produktion and they are running 22 free-to-air and four pay-TV channels for the German language market and are part of a public company with studios across Europe.

Everywhere you look, everything is intensive, intensive, intensive! Fewer people are doing more and more with less and less.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby CS70 » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:04 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
There are loads of steam-pulled trains today, and most are good commercial successes, too. And not just the countless heritage lines across the UK, but there are regular main-line specials that are always booked out solid... and there are steam trains still in use commercially in other parts of the world too.

Sure, there's also people who build katana swords or medieval armor and make a good living out of it, but you don't see many actual soldiers donning it. I am sure you're seriously claiming that steam power is or may be considered as an alternative as a matter of course, when powering trains.

Actually, it's not so different from tape - sure there's still some facility around and some people are making good money out of it, but it's nothing more than a odd charming thing from the past. There's more effective ways to the same result.

I get entirely the other factors, of course - like the pleasure of looking at spools and the calming, whirring noise of the spooling engines.

I take your point you're making ... but you're responding to something you thought you read, rather than what Jim actually said, which was that Tape is... the pinnacle of analogue reproduction ...and he's absolutely right. Nothing else ANALOGUE beats it!

A good point, I was just replying in the larger context of the thread, about the fear of all things digital. No problem with the narrower statement of course.
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