For your Valentine’s Day viewing pleasure, here is the title track from a new film by Dave Boyle, Surrogate Valentine, from Tiger Industry Films. The Film features Goh Nakamura in the starring role along with Chadd Stoops, Lynn Chen, Mary Cavett, Joy Osmanski, Parry Shen, Calpernia Addams, Dan “Damage” Bjornson, Di Quon, Joe Polhemus.
The World Premiere of Surrogate Valentine is at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX on March 12. At the SF International Asian American Film Festival, the film will be screened at closing celebration on Thursday, March 17 at 7pm at the Sundance Kabuki Theater.
Richard Wong directed this video piece for the SV single which will be released in March 2011. Produced by Seng Chen, the music video features Theresa Navarro. Goh and I recorded this track at my home studio, and the project will be released on 7″ vinyl and as a digital download. Here’s a video of the test pressing:
I have a fairly standard response whenever asked about mastering tracks: If this is a serious project headed for a physical or digital product, take it to the mastering studio of a great engineer. A good studio will have the equipment to reveal and correct problems, and balance the tracks to meet current standards and trends. Naturally this presumes you’ve done a good job with the mix, but that topic will have to be covered in a different post.
Once again, I’ve been working again with Goh Nakamura, who is starring in an indy film titled after his song, Surrogate Valentine. The film is due to hit film festivals throughout 2011 starting in March, so Goh has been hustling to get a product available for the release. We tracked the titled song at my place into Propellerhead Record using our collective nice gear. The Rhythm section for the B-Side was recorded in Portland and we redid the lead vocals here. I mixed everything in Propellerhead Record relying heavily on the Record SSL emulation EQs.
Mike Wells in San Francisco mastered the project and provided two versions. One version is the standard PCM master for CD Redbook/MP3, and the second version is for vinyl pressing. I just received the mastered files and took a look at them in a waveform editor. The comparison between the original mix and the mastered versions is quite interesting and I wanted to share some of my observations.
The top set is the final mix (mixed in Propellerhead Record). The Middle set is post mastering, a 16bit 44.1kHz CD master. The bottom set of waveforms are the 24bit 96kHz masters headed for Vinyl pressing.
At first glance the most noticeable difference is the gain between the mix and the mastered versions. I left plenty of headroom with the highest peaks around -9dBFS.
The MP3/CD Master is second set of waveforms. The target for this file is a Digital Download, so Mike optimized this version for typical CD/PCM format or a high resolution MP3 file. The density in waveform and the brickwall limiting reveals that this is pretty tightly compacted making it sound pretty steady, but not overly loud by todays standards. There’s a touch of low end lift which translates well across the board from small format listening systems clock radios and iPod earbuds to home stereo and automotive environments. This file is used for the video which is available for download from iTunes
The Vinyl Master is the bottom set. Straight away you can see that the dynamics are well preserved as the peaks are not jammed to 0dBFS. This version is definitely my favorite. Being that this target format has certain physical limitations, I really needed Mike’s expertise to help get everything balanced. Going into this project, I wasn’t sure if it would be my favorite rendition of the masters, but it best reflects the feel of the original mix.
I’ve put together a 24/96 Record session which has three 30 second clips which allow you to hear the difference between each version. The session file will play fine at any setting, but for optimal playback fidelity, set the sample rate to 96,000 in the Record audio preferences. The loudness drastically increases from the first clip to the second is drastic, so watch your monitoring levels.
I thought this would be easy… Sample the Roland TR-808, load the files into the Reason 5 Kong Drum Designer… Bam… done! Nope, that definitely is not how things went down.
The primary goal was to create a set of Kong patches that effectively simulate the classic 808. This involved selectively sampling variations of each sound. For example the bass drum required sampling 6 different tone settings, with a normal hit and accent hit at seven or eight different decay settings. This is probably overkill, but I approached this from an archival perspective and wanted a lot of detail. The initial sampling resulted in over 500 individual audio files. The actual sampling part was pretty easy into Propellerhead Record, and I used my standard signal path for sampling: ADL D.I./Neve/UA-2192, from a Roland TR-808 bestowed to me from composer, Stuart Diamond
To address the 808 Accent sound, each combination of the drum tones required velocity switching, where the normal and accent hits could be easily accessed. Initially, the switching threshold was set to a 125 velocity level. According to some testers (Thank you Ph WTF Crew!), this was too high for effective playback on pad controllers, so a second set of patches was created with more moderate velocity switching levels at 101. In the end, this required that all the patches originally programmed with velocity switching zones at 125 needed to be duplicated and modified with lower switching thresholds.
To take full advantage of the velocity mapped accent switching, there are a couple of production strategies you can employ. One approach is to manually program patterns in the sequencer with the pencil tool and manually make velocity lane adjustments. The second approach still requires some editing, but after setting up the initial pattern, a regroove template can be used to apply accent patterns to multiple sequencer lanes. See the following video tutorial on how both techniques are applied in Reason 5: Accent Programming with the Kong 808 Refill
The TR-808 is an analog device, and one of the characteristics of the analog charm are the inconsistencies. Certain tones like the Bass Drum and Toms/Conga are fairly consistent, but snares and other percussion tones have subtle, sometimes very noticeable variations. To emulate this characteristic, a set of Kong drum patches with alternating sample zones was created. Each time a NN-Nano sampler is triggered, one of three or four different samples is randomly selected for playback. For example, the patch “808 Hi Hat Alternating.drum” has four closed hi-hat samples and four accented closed hi-hat samples. Each time the drum channel is triggered, a different sample is heard. When a string of hi-hats is sequenced to this drum channel, the variations mimic the analog nature of the device.
While most productions probably do not require the detail of the analog variations, a few Kong Kits were created around this programming method. The patch, “Classic 808 v3.kong”, has several alternating kong drum patches for the snares, hi-hats, claps, and percussion.
To further enhance this experience, the refill includes several ReGroove templates which are extracted from programmed 808 patterns. These quantization templates render slight timing inconsistencies, and when combined with the alternating drum tones, the experience of the TR-808 comes to life.
Programming sampled instruments in the Kong Drum Designer is time consuming, especially with so many details to address. The NN-Nano sampler allows you to program four different sounds in the drum patch, and each sound can be accessed by selecting the HIT TYPE parameter on Kong. You will find that some patches only have one type programmed, however, many have multiple types programmed. While there are only 180 kong drum patches, these patches contain one to four different Hit Types.
There are certain areas where the sounds are a little rough around the edges, so some tweaking might be necessary to make the sounds fit in your productions. Provided it’s available, first try a different hit type.
At the suggestion of ph user, dioxide, the patch, “Classic Pallete 808.kong” uses the hit type feature to switch between percussion tones in the same manner as they are established on the TR-808. For example, the Toms and Conga sounds are switched, so the Low Tom and Low Conga cannot be triggered at the same time. This applies for other tones like the Hand Clap and Maracas.
The Kong Kits are mapped to a general MIDI keyboard layout, meaning that the drum channels are designed to be triggered from a MIDI keyboard from C1 through D#2, and the upper register keys. If you prefer the pad controller layout, bring the Kong device into focus, then from the edit menu or right click contextual menu, select the item “Convert GM Mapping to Pad Mapping”.
If you prefer these mappings, it’s recommended that you save the patches into your kong patch library.
The following is a description of the file organization structure of the refill:
Example Sessions - a few example files in Record 1.5 and Reason 5 file format
Kong Drum Patches - Various Kong Drum Sound patches of the standard 808 set and variations.
Kong Drum Patches (v100) - Duplicates of the 181 Kong Drum Patches with Velocity Switching Accents at 101. Velocity to amp scaling patches are straight duplicates
Kong Patches - 33 Complete Kong Kits based on the TR-808 sample set.
Kong Patches (v100) - The Kong Kits with velocity switching accents at 101. Velocity to amp scaling drum channels are straight duplicates.
NN-XT Patches - a couple of sampler patches based on granular 808 bass drums
Redrum Patches (.drp) - a few Redrum sets from the TR-808 samples
ReGroove Patches - Groove templates extracted from TR-808 ReCycle loops
REX Loops - several ReCycle Loops of TR-808 patterns
Samples - The sample archive of the straight TR-808 samples, and some processed samples including DSP, Bitcrushed, granular, and distorted 808s. Over 800 samples.
Ok, I’ve bored you enough with the details… Get it now for only $8.08!!! While supplies last - limit one per household. kidding of course, this is a free download.
Propellerhead ReBirth is not only back (again), it is better! The classic RB-338 techno micro composer software has been adapted for the iPad. The ReBirth for iPad app has several new features. Most notable of the improvements is the new standard ReBirth 303, 808, 909 graphic user interface from bitplant and multi touch support!
The YouTube Video is an infomercialistic advertorial, and in the eight minute video, we managed to present a little tutorial on the basics of programming patterns and sequencing pattern automation. Kudos to Ryan Harlin, who did a great job producing this segment! (and thanks for not making me look too goofy)
I’ve received a few inquires about the props in the video. It was shot in the parlor at my house, where the old hammond and rhodes suitcase reside. However, most people have been asking about the iPad stand: the Joule from element case. It’s a great design that complements the iPad extremely well.
The Audio Engineering Society convention returns to San Francisco this week, and Propellerhead and Line6 will be exhibiting Reason 5 and Record 1.5. The exhibits open on Friday, November 5 and run through Sunday, November 7. Gerry Basserman, Ryan Harlin, and Matt Piper will be around so this will be an opportunity for people to get some one-on-one time with the experts! Naturally there’s plenty of other cool stuff to see like microphones, pre-amps, and other sound and studio technology.
The SF Bay Area Reason Users Group has an informal meet up on Saturday at the conference, and we will probably congregate at the Line6 booth. #528.
I’ll be walking the exhibits on Friday and will face|tweet some pics of all the goodies. I’m still on my quest for ribbon mics