Saturday, August 15, 2009

CG Challenge - Secret Agent (part 3)

After the second draft, my task was to merge it with the first draft. That wasn't a big issue, since I had that in mind while I was writing the second draft :)

The other request I got was to change the instrument that plays the main melody. So far I had been using a Synth Lead sound, but we came to the conclusion that a saxophone would be a better fit.

The problem was that I didn't have any sax-players around me who could record the melody track, and synth-saxes are only so-so when it comes to taking the lead part in a song...

The closest I had to a real saxophone was (a) AMG's Kick-Ass Brass, which by the way has become my absolute favorite Brass synthesizer, or (b) my Yamaha VL70-m sound-module.

Kick-Ass Brass sounds just awesome (as you can hear in the drafts already), but as a solo part it may be a bit weak. Well, partially probably because I don't have the skills (yet) to really bring it to life.

The VL70-m module is cool too, but I was afraid to use it for the main track for the same reasons: it may not sound convincing enough...

I decided to go with the Kick-Ass Brass solution, since it's using samples from real instruments as opposed to the VL70-m which is "merely" simulating instruments.

So here's the output. Draft number 3:

In addition to replacing the melody track with a saxophone, I also tweaked the intro a bit by adding brass tracks to build up some tension towards the main theme. That was a mistake as I saw from the reaction I received when I gave it to my bro haha!

... to be continued!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

CG Challenge - Secret Agent (part 2)

The first draft was well received. Yay! It's good to know I was able to create the desired mood. There were some extra requests here and there which I needed to incorporate.

It's kind of difficult to convey in words how a tune is supposed to sound. So people would tell me stuff like "it should sound darker" or it could have "more action" in it. My task is to interpret this and convert it into notes. I think it heavily depends on the person describing the music, how well or easily it can be turned into actual music.

Anyways, my brother wanted the intro to be a bit calmer and maybe more mysterious. So that was one thing to take care of. Since there is still time, I also came up with a slight variation of the first draft. The overall direction was already OK, so I played around with the chords and tried to provide an alternative idea. Just to see how it would be received. Who knows? Maybe the second idea is even better than the first one!

So here's draft number 2.

As you can hear, the intro has been changed completely and the main part has a different chord structure and a different melody. I took the theme from the first draft and moved it into the B part of the new draft.

This version was well-received too, and the intro was pretty much what they were looking for, but for the main theme, my brother and his team opted for the initial idea. So my next task was to merge the intro of the second draft with the main part of the first draft. be continued!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CG Challenge - Secret Agent (part 1)

Recently, my brother and his team decided to participate in a CG Challenge at CGSociety. Now, I'm not doing anything CG-related, but since this time the challenge subject was a video, they needed some background music. So my bro asked me if I felt putting together a tune for it. I DID feel like putting together a tune and so I hopped on board.

The instructions of the challenge say:
"This challenge asks you to render a scene of secrecy and espionage. Depict a scene of a secret agent in a binding circumstance. Are they caught in an ingenious trap by an evil genius? or about to bring down an enemy base? Show us cunning devices, subtle disguises, and really cool cars."

Sounds exciting!
Here's the link to the challenge page. I had some e-mail exchanges, Skype conversations and chats with my brother, and we were able to share an understanding of what the atmosphere should be like. Initial sketches and images gave me an idea of how the music could sound.

The guiding keywords were:
  • Time period: late 70's - early 80's (?)

  • Lots of action

  • Not dead-serious. Comedy elements are included

  • cartoon / comic book style, rather than realistic characters

In addition to the rough sketches I had seen, I was given an animatic (a rough draft animation) depicting the first seconds of the animation. Based on this, I put together an audio draft.

Here it goes:

The best part are the horns haha. For the first time I used AMG's Kick-Ass Brass VSTi. Pretty awesome sounding. You don't get that from a hardware synth. I'm really happy with its quality, it was worth the purchase.

But anyways, my bro and his team were pretty happy overall. The only thing they wanted to have changed was the intro. It should be more mysterious and calmer.

OK, no problem, that's what drafts are for. So I sat down to come up with an alternative version... be continued!