Reflective practice. Project 1 – soundtrack for a promotional video

Overview

This was an exciting project to be involved with from the beginning and it was breaking new ground for me.

  1. The soundtrack had a specific commercial purpose
  2. The overall sound and ‘feel’ of the music was: sun, surf and sand.
  3. The music needed to ‘chilled’ with an electronic edge.
  4. The music needed to be created in conjunction with someone who was familiar with electronic music production, particularly in Abelton software.
  5. The music also would benefit from live performances being recorded and mixed with the electronic foundation.

Shlok came on board with the electronic music production skills and had extensive experience using Ableton, so the project was underway on Friday the 30th of June, 2017.

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Deliverable

1:17 min soundtrack – Keppel Islands 4K video promo

We finished the soundtrack on Tuesday the 04th of July and the video footage synced to our soundtrack on Sunday the 12th of August by Duncan Coleman. The original promotional video has now been edited by Duncan Coleman from 4kAerialClips.com. The original, royalty free soundtrack was removed and replaced with our soundtrack that was created in response to the original video sequence.

Click on the play button below to listen to the final version of the soundtrack.


Reflective practice

Lessons and learning experiences from this project:

  • Collaborative teamwork skills
  • Working with plug-ins and samples within Ableton
  • Exporting tracks from Ableton
  • Project planning: Improvements to workflow
  • Targeted research: new software and recording techniques
  • Mastering tracks recorded and arranged within Ableton.

Collaborative teamwork skills

I’ve previously created a blog post about the challenges that I faced with bringing a project team together which, can be accessed via the following: Tourism soundtrack – first steps.

Working with plug-ins and samples within Abelton

The soundtrack needed to have an electronic component to the music which was both chilled and funky. Shlok was the go-to-guy for this sort of thing and I consider myself lucky to have him on board.  We studied our reference tracks and determined what needed to be done to create something similar. For more information regarding our reference tracks, please click on the links provided: Agua De Coco – Marcus Vale and Nangs – Tame Impala.

Shlok did some great work on his personal laptop using Ableton software, which was chosen as the most appropriate software and method, to create the foundation of our soundtrack. We ran into a few problems however when we got into the Neve studio, mainly due to the fact that Shlok preferred to use his custom plug ins rather than those provided in the Neve studio. Shlok’s custom plug ins weren’t licensed by SAE and therefore not available for use.

Exporting tracks from Abelton

Shlok had created the foundation for our soundtrack within Ableton but, but we had to find a solution regarding exporting the tracks from the Ableton software on his laptop and into pro tools and the computer connected to the Neve console.

This was an important consideration because we wanted to take advantage of the high level componentry within the input gain and equalisation sections of the Neve console. The Neve console ‘colours’ the sound in a very positive way and the bass within the EQ section, sounds particularly effective. Shlok was also hoping to ‘pump up the bass’ on our soundtrack in accordance to the electronic, ‘chill out’ reference tracks , we had chosen. (See above for links to these tracks).

We eventually worked out how to export a stereo track of Shlok’s foundation work within Ableton into pro tools. We did this by taking a stereo mini-jack out of the headphone socket on Shlok’s computer into an adaptor, then used standard patch leads to take the signal into the Neve desk via the patch bay. While this solved the problem of getting the signal into the desk, it did actually compromise the ‘fidelity’ of the audio file and our effectiveness to mix, pan and compress individual elements within the soundtrack in order to create greater clarity and audio quality.

Project planning – Improvements to workflow

The preferred solution regarding the issue of incompatibility between Ableton plug ins and computers, should have begun in the software on Shlok’s computer. There is a facility to ‘freeze and flatten’ files within Ableton which preserve the samples that are being triggered by a midi sequence, in order to record the midi information as an audio file back. Each track could then be imported as an audio file into pro tools, via an external hard drive.

This proceedure wasn’t followed however due to a lack of project plan. Both of us didn’t have the time available to us to export each individual track in the studio and there may have been that it brings to the recording process. We felt it was necessary to import the foundation track into pro tools software for final mix-down and mastering because the process by which pro tools sums tracks together during the master output stage is far more effective than in Ableton. I was also far more familiar with pro tools than with Ableton and wanted to minimise issues with work flow during the mix-down stage.  The mastering plug in Isotope – Ozone, is best used with pro tools software and not Ableton.

Targeted research: new software and recording techniques

During studio time while, recording the soundtrack, we decided to use an AKAI MPK 49 midi controller,. The aim was to select a vintage keyboard sound – Mark 1 classic – electric piano sample. I would record the keyboard part as another layer to the MIDI sequence from Shlok’s ableton session. This task was apparently easy but, navigating and selecting samples within the Kontakt plug-in (Native Instruments), was a little more complicated than you would think.

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  • Improvements 

I found an instructional video that was perfect for I needed but, it took about 30 minutes of on-line research. In order to find the right video, I had to search in multiple locations, or, navigate through lengthy 8 hour instruction courses from lynda.com. This proved to be an issue in the Neve studio as available booking times were limited. We were only able to ‘snaffle’ 3 hours in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30am and time was running out. I’ve learned that the easy way forward in these situations is to go straight to you tube. Do a google search, find the correct instructional video and get on with the session.

I’ve learned that the easy way forward in these situations is to go straight to you tube. Do a google search, find the correct instructional video and get on with the session.

Pre-production planning helps to alleviate potentially stressful situations when studio time is running out and various tasks haven’t been completed. Consequently, any time spent before the recording session begins such as: reading manuals, revising techniques, reviewing instructional videos on you tube or lynda.com, is time well spent.

Studio time is usually limited due to budgetary constraints but the same applies within a tertiary learning environment. It takes roughly 15 – 20 to pack down the microphones, microphone stands, midi controller keyboard, roll cable, neutralise the mixing console and save the recording files to an external hard drive.

Mastering tracks recorded and arranged within Ableton.

We finished recording the bass and keyboard parts but we decided that we should master the track using a plug in for pro tools: Isotope – Ozone. We were lucky enough to find a walk-in session within the Audient 8024 studio and promptly mastered the recording within 2 hours. We chose a pre-setting called: Latin clean and added a little bass and upper middle frequencies to add clarity.

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A great lesson from this session was understanding how mastering can make a recording sound clear, alive and uplifting or sound flat. I found myself referring back to the reference track: Agua De Coco, many times and made the connection with the sun-surf-sand visuals that were supplied to us from 4KAerialClips.com as Shlok’s natural tendency was to create a big kick with accompanying wall of sound, like his reference track: Nangs – Tame Impala. This track needed an electronic, Brazilian lounge sound and the clarity and separation of the various musical elements was an important part of the mastering process. Further compression was added during the editing phase when Duncan Coleman edited the soundtrack to his video footage. The track was exactly the correct length (1:17) and Duncan felt the no further editing needed to be done as the tempo of our soundtrack were a very happy match to his images.

The link to finished video / soundtrack is below.

 

2 comments

  1. […] The first step in this process was to create a critical and analytical listening framework that I could use to assess my chosen reference track and then conduct a case study to assist in the process of evaluating and then re-creating the reference track. My journey has been less ‘linear’ and little more ‘circuitous’. My first project was already underway before this framework or case study could be completed and while both processes have not been mapped out as a formal submission to my facilitator Peter Trimbacher, feedback received from him has suggested that our goal of incorporating important sonic qualities from both this reference track, Agua De Coco – Marcos Valle and Nangs – Tame Impala, have been achieved.  Please click on the following link to listen to the results of project 1. AUD210: PROJECT #1. TOURISM SOUNDTRACK […]

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