Holden Cruze Ad – Planning & Budgeting

One of my projects this trimester is to fully replace the audio of an advertisement of our choice from a list of 5 different ones. I picked the Holden Cruze ad, because I immediately had an idea for a composition for it after watching it. I got home and did a quick draft of my composition paired with the video file of the advertisement.

budgeting-for-sap-b1

Now, I’ve completed a project plan for this sound replacement – you can check it out here. I’ve dealt with risk mitigation, milestones, technical frameworks, schedules and asset lists before, but this is the first time I’ve considered both the intended audience reactions and the budget. So I did some research and found some info about both the required equipment and spaces I would need:

Spaces Needed:

  • C24 Post-Pro Studio, SAE Institute [For Dialogue Recording/Foley Recording/Editing]
    Hours: 4 | Total estimated cost: $330
  • Avid S6 Studio, SAE Institute [For Mixing/Mastering]
    Hours: 8 | Total estimated cost: $528

I came up with these estimates using the booking prices over at Salt Studios as examples (“Studio A” for the S6, “Studio B” for the C24).

  • Fire Exit Stairs, SAE Institute [For Foley Recording]
  • Indoor/Staff Car Park, SAE Institute [For Foley Recording]

These do not require any money as booking is not necessary at these places. However you do need to be a student to access these places, but generally in a real world scenario you would just use any fire exit staircase or underground car park.

Equipment Needed:

  • AKG C414 XLS Condenser Mic [For Female Voiceover/Foley Recording]
    Days: 2 | Total estimated cost: $120

Although it is tempting to pay a little bit more to get this beautiful thing for a whole week I would only need it for two, and it’s good to cut costs wherever you can. Source: Brisbane Sound Group.

  • EV RE20 Dynamic Mic [For Male Voiceovers]
    Days: 1 | Total estimated cost: $30

Using the 3 day hire price for the EV RE20 at MicRentals.com, after converting the currency, I estimated that to hire this microphone for a day, it would cost near $30 AU. I couldn’t find any Australian sources.

  • Zoom h4n Recorder [For Location Foley]
    Days: 2 | Total estimated cost: $55

CameraHire.com.au had replaced their H4n Audio Recorders with H5 Handy Recorders, and did not display the prices for the former, so I just used the H5 prices to come up with the estimate of $55 for a 2-day hire.

  • XLR Cable x2 [For Dialogue Recording/Foley Recording]
    Purchase | $19

I figured if I were to do this in the real world, I would just buy the damn things. Quick google search is all I needed to work this out. Always good to have a spare one around!

Other costs:

  • Bus fares: $35 [For Transport]

I just had to sell my car for rent money, didn’t I?

Grand estimated total budget: $1,116

That’s a lot of big ones. I’m sure for a profitable cause it’d be easy to find the funding you need. I may have to look into this further…

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

But for now, I’m fairly happy about the way I’ve planned this project.

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Holden Cruze Ad – Planning & Budgeting

The May Holidays

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Apart from celebrating my birthday and drinking my weight in alcohol, I managed to work on a few things over the trimester break.

I had the novelty of working with “Media Madman Matt Ives” to record a film review for a contest run by Triple J to replace the retired Marc Fennell. Unfortunately there were 1,300 applicants and there can only be one winner (spoiler alert – it wasn’t Matt), but the project was still fun and useful to help bring me back down to ground zero for the upcoming trimester. Listen to it here:

In other news, I’ve done something that I’ve been meaning to do for a couple years now. I’ve released a collection of my Linkin Park remixes from over the last 5 years for free download. Of course it’s free – if I charged for this I’d, definitely be done for copyright, since I don’t have the correct rights to do so. I also included one of my most recent remixes, one of their February single ‘Heavy‘.

Part 1 | Part 2

Not only have I done that, but I’ve also released another original song – ‘System Control‘ – featuring a couple of my international contacts – Akira Phoenix and Voidrone. Ashton (Akira Phoenix) is on rap vocals with Jack Whitaker (Voidrone) on the unclean screams in the choruses.

This just goes to show that if the gears of university stop, my cogs keep turning. I never stop working – I’m always coming up with new ideas for music projects. I look forward to what I can achieve this trimester,

The May Holidays

Project Blob – All 4 Season BGM’s (Mixing)

Project Blob was a game that I developed audio assets for – including sound effects and 4 music loops to be used within the games 4 levels.

The music I composed was inspired the Banjo-Kazooie level called “Click Clock Wood” where players can visit the level in 4 different seasons depending on which door they walk through in the level’s hub. I wanted to capture the feeling of each season in each of the seasonal variants of the song, which at its core, is basically the same song for each version, like the reference material.

The mixing for these tracks were pretty simple, as they were just meant to be simple and background. Unlike the other two mixes I’ve had to do for this trimester, this one was entirely done in FL Studio, and dealt a lot more with MIDI than actual audio files.

Here’s a look at the “Spring” track in particular:

  • Project was created with a template that loads every time I open FL Studio 11. This template has a drum submix already set up, with the kick and snare channel being sent to it, and another reverb submix.
  • Hihats and shakers are in the same track together, also sends to reverb submix.
  • Electronic kicks and snares were sent to a drum submix, which had a limiter on it with the input gain set to +12dB.
  • EQ – +5dB Low mid boosts on kick and snare with +3dB high shelf boost on the snare. Low pass filter on ‘dark piano’ at 3.8kHz with a Q of 0.27 to dampen the piano a bit. High pass on ‘ePiano ‘at around 450Hz, with slight boosts to the highs (wanted it to be noticeable but not overpower the lead synth). Bass synth had a +6dB boost to the low shelf to bring those subs up, with a lowpass filter at 16kHz to cut out the sibilence but still retain the crunchiness of the bass. Lead and pad synths has a low pass at 16kHz on them also.
  • With my usual productions in FL Studio, a lot of the synths I typically use have auto-panning capabilities, and most samples I use are in stereo, so it makes for a wide mix – this production was no exception. The lead synth, pad synth & bass synth slightly wide in terms of stereo field, which is somewhat better than just flat mono because it makes for a dynamic listening experience. The ‘ePiano’ channel however is just straight mono, which is fine because it’s more of a background sound. The hi-hats and shakers are a bit more on the left for the fact the samples are stereo and probably were originally like that, because I did not pan them to the left.
  • I used gross beat on the bass to side-chain the bass to every quarter beat.
  • A peak controller plugin on the kick controls the volume level on the reverb channel – in an attempt to emulate side-chain compression.
  • Other effects used included a bit-crusher plugin on the lead synth and pad synth, delay on the ePiano, and a bit of reverb on the pad synth as well. I put the reverb before the bitcrusher on the pad synth channel because I also wanted to bit-crush the reverb. I dunno, I just like bit-crushers.

Of course, the master channel had my template’s maximus preset on it, and I was happy with the levels of the low mid and high bands, and it’s post-gain setting on the master at +3dB.

The tracks I made for the other seasons were all pretty similar, considering I made all of the others using this one as a base, so they’re all similar as far as mixing goes. The winter one was kinda trap inspired so I had to make sure the 808s didn’t clash with the other kick  samples.

Looking back on it, the bass seems a little too overpowering, I probably would have knocked it down -1.2dB. I received some feedback from classmates and they were saying the same thing about the Spring one in particular, but overall overwhelmingly positive feedback to whoever I showed this to. The Blob Squad ended up using the Spring, Autumn and Winter ones I made, but they ended up not using my Summer one and just used the original piano composition I gave to them when they needed something as a placeholder for their playtesting day. But overall I’m pleased at how it all turned out in the final game. I think more communication with the games team probably would have fixed this issue and a couple others that I had with it.

Click here to check out the game and hear the audio in action for yourselves.

Project Blob – All 4 Season BGM’s (Mixing)

Squishy Sound Sessions for Project Blob

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http://bit.ly/Studio2Blob

Project Plan Link

On March 29th, 2017, I had been approached by Kirsty, a games student. She wanted to know if I could help her team do audio for a game project.

On April 6th, I filled out my production plan for the project – game audio & music for Project Blob.

On April 7th, 2017, I had my first recording session for Project Blob.

On April 9th, I was working on some of the menu sounds from home.

On April 10th, 2017, I had the second foley recording session.

On April 13th, through to April 15th, I spent time working on the music.

On April 16th, I did some last minute processing to the last of the samples.

On April 17th, I gave Blob Squad everything they asked for, and on time.

On April 26th, I was invited out to an event where Project Blob was showcased.

Squishy Sound Sessions for Project Blob

Sounds & Synths for Trap Music – Production Techniques

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Trap Music is a form of hip-hop which typically utilises thin 808 hi-hats and snare samples. It originated first in the 90s, but wasn’t exactly mainstream until T.I.’s second studio album “Trap Musik“, where both the name for the album and style originated from being ‘trapped’ in the ghetto’ – where drugs were sold and gang violence was the most prevalent.

The aesthetics of trap today are usually quite dark and edgy, with deep, droning moog & sine basses, and melodies crafted from chilling, percussive synths such as bells, plucks, and eerie vocal cuts. The synths are often very ‘echoey’ due to the effects of time-domain based plugins such as reverbs and delays. A lot of modern trap could be classified as ‘dark ambient’ if it weren’t for the bright drum samples that fuel the beat.

Starting off as a form of hip hop, it’s now widely considered a huge EDM phenomenon, influencing a lot of today’s mainstream pop music. Modern trap also often borrows the sampling aspects of its hip hop roots, whether it be vocals or instruments, or basically any random sound that’s been tuned to a pitch (EDM influences). The recent mainstream attention that dubstep managed to attract in 2010 also gave Trap another source of inspiration to borrow from (high pitched, screechy sounding synths). Polish producer ak9’s track entitled “GØД managed to encompass elements of EDM, dubstep and hip hop, making it what we would describe today as trap music:

An important production technique in trap music is Sidechain Compression, which I’ve touched on in earlier blogs. Since kick drum samples and 808 bass hits are both pretty subby, they will clash for the frequency space in the mix if you just try blending the kick and 808 together without it.

Normally instead of using Fruity Limiter to side-chain my basses to my kicks like this guy did, I use Gross Beat, which is not a compressor plugin but a time and volume manipulation plugin, which has side-chaining presets. Now that I’ve researched it a little, I feel like this method is probably easier and would take less time in the long run, without having to automate in and out different instances of gross beat running different volume envelopes for specific kick patterns.

In an attempt to make my own trap track (entitled ‘Underpass‘ below), I tried creating some sounds of my own.

The main sound of this track is a ‘clangy’ sound which came from a session in class where we formed groups and took the location recorders and microphones outside to record a bunch of foley samples – one of which was this clanging sound I made from hitting a metal pole. In FL Studio 11, after some top & tailing processing I assigned this sound to a pitch (F#) and then created a simple melody, which to me sounded dark, like you’re walking down some unfamiliar alleyway. The melody consisted of syncopated noted and tight rolls which added to the mysteriousness of the atmosphere I was creating. Then I added an EQ which emphasised the tones of the melody, some reverb to give it the echoey trap feel, heavy compression to accentuate the reverb as if it was part of the actual ‘synth’ i was making, and then to top it off, put an instance of Gross Beat on the channel, which helped me side-chain it to the kick. After watching the video on sidechain compression earlier, I realise I probably could’ve just used the same instance of fruity limiter that I used to compress the sound to side-chain it to whenever the kick hits, but I can keep gradually working at introducing that technique to all of my future projects.

This song was the main influence for Underpass:

I pitched the track to a couple of classmates and the feedback was mostly positive, where the only improvements they could suggest were to give it more variety in terms of stereo field, but that’s something I can keep working on later. For now, I’m happy with what I achieved, and I feel it represents today’s iteration of the genre well.


References:

Bein, K. (2012, July, 3) It’s a Trap! An 11-Part History of Trap Music [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/music/its-a-trap-an-11-part-history-of-trap-music-from-dj-screw-to-gucci-mane-to-flosstradamus-6475986

DJMag.com (2013, February, 28) Trap Music: Under Lock & Key [Web article] Retrieved from http://djmag.com/content/trap-music-under-lock-key

Haithcoat, R. (2012, October, 4) What the Hell Is Trap Music (and Why Is Dubstep Involved)? [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.laweekly.com/music/what-the-hell-is-trap-music-and-why-is-dubstep-involved-2408170

I’mAMusicMogul.com (2016, September, 2016) THIS IS THE MOST USED SYNTH/SOUND IN RAP, HIP HOP AND TRAP (TUTORIAL) [Web Article] Retrieved from http://blog.imamusicmogul.com/2016/09/this-is-the-most-used-synthsound-in-rap-hip-hop-and-trap-tutorial/

Pepin, C. (2016, June, 12) Genre Breakdown: What is Trap Music? [Web Article] Retrieved from http://thesixthirty.com/ravefaced/genre-breakdown-trap-music/

Sounds & Synths for Trap Music – Production Techniques

The Febs – When It’s Morning (After Feedback)

So in class we ended up showing the lecturers our mixes and we all got some general feedback. I think the main thing my lecturer was concerned about with a few of us was the panning on the drums, it sounded like we might have panned our overheads wrong in some cases, and he worded it like “it feels like the toms are all over the place when the fills come in”.

More specific feedback I received was that the kick felt a little too boxy, there was a little too much sibilance in the vocals, and that I should probably ease a bit off 0.00dB a bit on the maximus, because it felt like it was about to clip. Otherwise everything was pretty damn good in my mix.

In that same class our lecturer showed us something we could do to replace a kick or snare track with ‘signal generator triggers’. The way it works is this, create an aux track with a signal generator on it (whatever kind of tone you need – low sine tone for the kick and a noise tone for a snare bottom) and put a gate on it, with the kick or snare feeding into the gate as the key side-chain input, so the tone triggers every time the kick or snare does.

The changes I made to the mix I feel accurately fixed these problems and then some, so I’ll walk through some of the changes I made.

  • Shaped the kick EQ to focus less on the mids and more on the lower mid .frequencies and turned up the high mid frequencies at 3kHz and 6kHz a bit too.
  • Use sidechain triggers to generate a fake kick and snare using low sine (82Hz) and white noise generators. Had to EQ the generated snare a little bit because it was a bit too obvious that it was white noise.
  • Put a Mod Delay III on the egg mic double bass to make it a little bit wider.
  • Changed the overhead EQ a bit to focus a lot more on high mids, because the cymbals weren’t sounding bright enough.
  • Put a De-Esser on the lead vocals.
  • Duplicated the guitar in the last chorus onwards and dropped it down an octave in pitch just to give it a bit more variation & colour in the mix.
  • Panned the guitars a bit more apart.

hrwhh

Overall it was some really good feedback and it was thanks to that I could improve my mix and overall make it brighter. I think if you compare the last mix to this one, it’s like this one’s the one where you’re sober and the last one is like after you’ve had a few drinks!

The Febs – When It’s Morning (After Feedback)

Royal Artillery – The Brakes (Mixing)

I messed up big time with this mix, because I actually ended up mixing the wrong track – our lecturers wanted everyone to mix the second track by these guys that we recorded, but I ended up missing the memo and mixing the first track instead. So I’m going to have to explain what I did on the other one until the point I realised I was mixing the wrong track.

  • Edited the intro and instead silence I thought it’d be fun to copy paste the drum hit from the start halfway through the intro to hype the listener up a bit more.
  • It was virtually impossible to get rid of the bleed in the vocals so I took the most audible part of the vocals and copy pasted it to where the other vocals were supposed to be.
  • With the vocals that I could actually use, I used a gate to try and remove as much bleed as I could, then a compressor to bring up the levels, EQ notch cut at 230Hz to get rid of the noise a bit further, with some boosts either side of that (Channel Strip), and used Mod Delay III to give them a slapback delay effect.
  • In some parts I duplicated the top guitar gab and transposed it up an octave, just for a bit of variety.
  • At the end I edited in another guitar chord by copy pasting what was already there and transposing it using elastic audio, because it felt like it needed to go to that chord right there at the end.
  • Gated the Kicks, Snares, Toms and also removed silence on tom tracks to remove bleed and gain more control over what I was mixing.
  • EQ – low mid boosts, high mid cuts on toms. Same on Kick channels but more smoother (boosted kick out high a bit more to get more of the impact), snare cut at 550Hz because I didn’t like that tone and slight high shelf boost. Boosted lows and low mids on mid guitar cab for lack of sub cab – boosted high mids on high cab.
  • Used parallel compression – normal drum submix + compressed submix that had a Lo Fi distortion plugin on it + EQ’d to take out most of the lows and mids. Just to give the drums a bit more fuzziness and presence in the mix.
  • Panned the drums as if I was sitting at the kit. Mod Delay III used on high guitar cab and vocals.
  • Kick Out, Snare Top & Bottom, Overheads, Guitars, Drum Para. Comp. submix, Ribbon room mics, and vocals all sent to a reverb aux track (D-Verb) – decay time of 1.2 secs.

Now this is the part where I realised I fucked up – after printing the mix for track one I found out we were supposed to do track two, so I kind of “cheated” in a way by obliterating everything in the edit window and importing track 2’s audio files, but hey it kinda worked, the only thing I had to do then was to Implement the sub guitar cab into the mix. There was a problem with the recording though, as it sounded kinda rattle-y at some parts, but I kinda liked it, it added to the overall grungy vibe of the track. So I didn’t bother editing it out. There was also a recording of one of the guys saying “fuck yeah” so I threw that in at the end for shits and gigs.

After all this, I printed the track to a stereo audio track and saved the session. As I was printing it though I was riding the reverb fader, so I was practically automating it in certain parts to give the mix some variety. I then closed Pro Tools and opened up FL Studio 11 to master the track using Maximus. I just don’t trust Pro Tools with mastering yet for some reason, I’d rather stick to the devil I know.

  • Pre-gain on Low Band: +7dB
  • Pre-gain on Mid Band: +10dB
  • Pre-gain on High Band: +9dB
  • Post-gain on Master: +3dB

The printed file from Pro Tools was very quiet hence the dramatic pre-gain levels. Also, used an automated volume control to top and tail the mix – it took a few times to get right… After that, another mix was in the can.

Overall these guys were super fun to record and even more interesting to mix, so props to Royal Artillery!

Royal Artillery – The Brakes (Mixing)