Archive for April, 2009

The Wiitles Max/MSP Vocal Effects Processor

In one of my bands, The Wiitles, we use Max/MSP as a vocal effects processor.  The Nintendo Wii-mote acts as a controller for the effects such as delay, pitch shift, amplitude modulation, and a vocoder.

This video also has significance for me since it brought me to buy a little program called ScreenFlow which is pretty much amazing.  ScreenFlow is the program that allowed me to capture the real time actions of my computer on video.  Very cool.  I have yet to scratch the surface on this bad boy, but, especially once I start teaching sound classes, this promises to be a revelation.

Will Oldham on Movie Music

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I love this friggin’ guy…. and wholeheartedly agree with these views on movie music:

“AVC: You mentioned talking to Richard Linklater and Caveh Zahedi about your ideas on movie music. Can you summarize those ideas?

WO: Well, for a while, it seemed like you were always seeing movies where all the music was determined by the music supervisors and their special relationships with certain record labels. And I just felt like, “Wow, I’ll bet they spent months or years writing this screenplay, and I’ll bet they spent months shooting this, and I’ll bet they spent months editing this, and now they’re spending no time at all picking these completely inappropriate songs with lyrics to put under a scene that has dialogue.” How does that even work? How can you have a song with someone singing lyrics under spoken dialogue and consider that mood-music, or supportive of the storyline? As somebody who likes music, when that happens, I tend to listen to the lyrics, which have nothing to do with the movie. And then I’m lost in the storyline. Not only is that a crime, but it’s a crime not to give people who are good at making music for movies the work. It’s like saying, “We don’t need you, even though you’re so much better at it than I am as a music supervisor.” Like the cancer that is that Darjeeling guy… what’s his name?

AVC: Wes Anderson?

WO: Yeah. His completely cancerous approach to using music is basically, “Here’s my iPod on shuffle, and here’s my movie.” The two are just thrown together. People are constantly contacting me saying, “I’ve been editing my movie, and I’ve been using your song in the editing process. What would it take to license the song?” And for me it’s like, “Regardless of what you’ve been doing, my song doesn’t belong in your movie.” That’s where the conversation should end. Music should be made for movies, you know?

AVC: So there aren’t many contexts in which you can imagine licensing one of your songs to a movie?

WO: No. I mean, I could see—

AVC: Over the closing credits, maybe?

WO: Right, the closing credits. But again, someone wrote me recently and said, “We wanna use your songs in our movie, and we’ve already got this artist, this artist, this artist, this artist.” And I was thinking, “Well that makes for like, no integrity to your movie. All these different voices combined with the actors’, writer’s, director’s and DP’s voices. That sounds like the worst place to be. That sounds like a music festival.” [Laughs.] I liked it when those crazy, dirty, Rhode Island brothers made movies like There’s Something About Mary.

AVC: The Farrellys?

WO: The Farrelly brothers. Was it Something About Mary that had nothing but Jonathan Richman songs in it? I like Jonathan Richman a lot, and while those weren’t my favorite Jonathan Richman songs, I liked that whole idea of lacing one voice throughout the whole movie and having it be a conscious decision made somewhere during the writing and pre-production, and not during post-production. “This is the voice that we wanna have, and these are how we want songs to work with this movie.” That’s all I ask for, that a little bit of time and respect is given to the musical part of filmmaking.

AVC: So do you think of your songs as inviolable? If you want to understand what the song is about, then you have to consult the song?

WO: Yes, essentially. Like sometimes we’ve made film clips or video clips to go with the song, but honestly, the only reason to do that is to get the music to other places where people could hear it. And I’ve never done a video where I feel like the images have anything to do with the song, except in the most vague way possible, because I feel like the song is its own complete thing. People who put songs in movies like to think of a song as a sphere that you can cut a huge chunk out of. “Well the movie’s gonna take up most of that sphere, or half of that sphere, or a fraction of that sphere.” When you’re writing a song for a movie, you only have to fill in a part of the sphere, knowing that it’s gonna go with the other content that’s already there. But ideally, a song is a complete sphere like the Earth, where if you were an alien with a huge, huge finger, you could stick your finger into the middle of the ocean and make an impression on it. It’s not an impregnable sphere, but it is a sphere.”

Read whole interview at The Onion AV club:  http://www.avclub.com/articles/will-oldham,26498/

The Wiitles at GDX

The Wiitles performed at the GDX (Game Developers Conference) in Savannah Georgia last Thursday (4-16-09).  We were extraordinarily received by some very cool folks who make game sound their careers such as George Sanger, Jason Arnone, Michael Sweet, and Chris Rickwood.  Below is one song from the performance:

A bit of trivia:  That’s my son Sebastian in the background, who joined us on stage for a bit.

Pro Tools Post Production Operator Certifiable

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It’s official.  I am now Pro Tools Post Production Operator Certified (7.3), or certifiable as my bank account tells me.  Pro Tools class was a lot of money for the piece of paper and T-shirt I got in exchange.  I guess that one could argue that it’s the knowledge that I paid for.  So I’m going to comtemplate that here for myself and for anyone else thinking of taking the Pro Tools certification course.

I should begin by saying that, out of all the Pro Tools courses, 210 was by far the most useful and most meaty.  From chasing tape to editing ADR, 210 gave workflow suggestions and tips that I had not previously thought of.  I have already seen some improvement in my post-production gigs.  Additionally, 210 had sections at the end of each chapter called Practical Application Scenarios.  These little tid bits were quite useful and something that I felt was missing from the first three quarters of the overall four-part course.  software knowledge is all well and good, but learning about the ins and outs of any software, especially one as powerful and in depth as Pro Tools can be painfully boring.  So it’s nice to see how and where this kind of knowledge can be useful, for both boredom cures and for long-term retention.

But the real question is whether or not the thousands of dollars you pay for the Pro Tools courses is worth the amount of knowledge you gain.  This is the question for any audio program, of course.  Especially since the long standing common knowledge is that any kind of certificate or degree won’t help you in the world of audio… it’s just purely good sounds (probably more important, however, are good connections).  So then the question becomes, “Is taking this Pro Tools certification course going to give me better sounds?”  The answer is maybe, maybe not.  There are some cool tips and tools drawn out for the student in all of the Pro Tools certification classes.  Many of them go beyond just teaching software and give some theory and some practice tips.  But someone who has been working in the field for several years may find these little knowledge nuggets somewhat elementary.  If the question is something more like, “Will the Pro Tools certification course make me faster and more efficient?”.  The answer to that one is probably, in the case of the experienced veteran, and definitely with the novice Pro Tools user.

However, interested students still need to be advised to do a cost benefit analyses of the course.  It is not cheap.  If you’re the kind of audio professional who is already fast in their workflow, then I’m not sure about investing this money.  However, if you’re like me, and still trying to figure out ways to maximize workflow and please his clients, then it may be worth it.  For me, it was totally worth it… but unfortunately now comes the little task of paying it all back.