Ambient soundtrack – collaborative project 2 – first steps


This is the result of some great collaborative production ideas between, Shay Mitchell, Chris Mackay and myself. We analysed our chosen audio and visual references and set out to create responses to each other’s contributions.

Chris produced four different 1 min video responses, within the space of a single afternoon. We provided him with three reference tracks. Shay’s response was: “You’re in the band!”. I agreed. Chris had applied a ‘super 8’ film effect to give my footage ‘film-like-depth’. It also produced some wonderful results for the colour matching. All four video responses were great but, I particularly liked the fourth one.  This particular version was edited to rhythmic patterns within the reference track: Lovely – Running Touch.

Chris Mackay demo video – testbeach 4 (you tube link below)


Arrangement of midi elements in Abelton

A week later, Shay and I had finished a number of tasks. We had assembled a nice collection of sounds and samples which, became our ‘musical / sound elements’. These became our instrumentation used to create a draft arrangement. Midi note values were copied and pasted into new midi tracks within Abelton. Different sounds, samples and midi instruments such as: Simon’s ‘wet bass’ synthesiser patch, upright piano, cello, viola section, chimes / bow instrument and marimba. All of these elements fitted together nicely but there was a rhythmic component that was missing.

Instrument samples & plug-ins: Kontakt.

The chosen instrument samples for our soundtrack session included: Chimes, Double Bass (played with a bow), acoustic piano (upright vintage sound), a synthetic bass sound that I had created in abelton, a cello sample and a viola string section. The soundtrack is a result of  our effort to stay committed to the work we had done in our case studies for this session.

“What’s up with the bass?”

While Shay and I both congratulated ourselves on finally being able to use Abelton software without losing our shit, we both noticed that the synth bass sounded too percussive. A solution presented itself when I applied some Stereo delay (ping-pong delay) to the ‘effects rack’ within the midi track. This happy accident made the synth bass become a rhythmic instrument instead of a hollow ‘stab’. We liked the results so much, we applied it to nearly everything else as well.

The Warp feature within Abelton

What must be mentioned is the ‘warp engine’ incorporated into the abelton software. This feature within abelton, allowed us great flexibility. We added the stereo delay to a variety of midi instruments within the midi sequence. Abelton automatically adjusted the stereo delay to the 6 / 8 time signature and made the delay an important rhythmic element. We deliberately chose not to use drum machines in the soundtrack.

Interweaving melodies

We noticed that our chosen reference tracks had a large spacious sound that allowed simple melodies to ‘dance and weave’ around each other. This is achieved through timed reverb and delay. When single notes are repeated a number of times, their presence is enhanced without the need to rely on a robust playing style or applying extra gain to the signal.

I played a melodic pattern in the key of E min using a sample, lifted from one of our reference tracks – Lovely. I received lots of help from fellow DJ – Doctor Duck; otherwise known as Patrick. Shay added a synth bass note at the beginning of every bar within a 4 bar phrase in 6/8 time signature. Another minute of music was trimmed from the completed track in order to create better flow between the various sections and build towards the crescendo of the soundtrack much sooner.

Please click on the titles of our reference tracks

Telepopmusick – Breathe (Extended Jazz Version)

Lovely – Running Touch

You Can Never Go Home Anymore – The Shangri-las

Track routing within abelton

A stereo track output was then created within the abelton software, for each individual midi and sound effect track. Every MIDI track was sent into a corresponding stereo channel on the mixing desk. The master left and right outputs from the mixing desk were sent to a tube powered compressor with stereo input and output. This output was then recorded into the Abelton session for later export as a stereo .wav file.

Next Session

I can’t wait to see and hear the difference after a another session with Chris and Shay on Thursday the 10th of August. We’ve got 75% of this collaborative work finished but, we should probably: Colour match the different video sequences, re-mix the Abelton soundtrack on the Neve Custom 75 Series mix console and apply master bus compression. The Pre-production plan and final version of both the film and the soundtrack will be completed and uploaded to my wordpress site before Monday the 14th of August.



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