This project was created by watching the scene from Inglorious Basterds over and over, to try and create a completely different atmosphere from the original backing music. The original scene had more chaotic, slightly dramatic and stimulating a ‘disturbing’ thought which you would predict would happen. The dialogue of this scene clearly sets up the massacre of the Jewish children being sheltered underneath the house and the music accompanied this perfectly in the original.
However, I wanted to create the atmosphere which was more or less about ‘liberation’, fear or even regret. I wanted a combination of depressing and yet joyful accompaniment to the picture. The ideas came one at a time starting with the Piano chords being relatively dim and simple. The aim was to be relatively simple, not too much ‘action’ packed into the mix and create the solid atmosphere. At first I contemplated creating a minimal full string orchestra backing the Piano, however after lots of meddling and rearranging of the initial idea I wanted to pursue, I realised that it would be close to impossible to create my ‘vision’.
As the series of projects I have made (in terms of music for film) is a new experience I had never quite thought about the actual processing behind the planning. I had never composed anything to follow specific ‘grid’ structures or to emulate certain actions that happen on the screen. Trying to plan specific notes to hit certain sections of the film ended up driving me mad. The process was futile as obviously, the film would have originally been made in collaboration with the music, not working the music around scenes that I cannot edit to my liking.
Here’s the video!
This was my first attempt at working with video, and unfortunately came out as my most basic finished product. I had tried to time the audio with the video through iMovie rather than creating markers and doing more precise chopping/cutting as I was not yet aware of how to do these things.
There is a slight chop in audio when the music comes in as I could not figure out how to inset fades for music, resulting in dramatic ins and outs. Future projects I used Logic to assemble the audio with video, rather than all through iMovie.
The Technicalities and difficulties
Now this project took me quite some time. Having manually recording all instruments rather than sampling or using VST’s, the recording took a long time. All up, the channels used were:
- Main Piano playing the chords
- Melody line
- Open lid – Non muted piano (backing the main muted Piano for more high-end)
- Violin – 7 different layers playing long sustained single notes to create the orchestral harmony
Here’s a screenshot to give you an idea of the kind of organised mess that I was working with.
It might not seem like much because I went through the long boring process of precisely naming channels as for exactly what they were, even the exact notes that are being held for some violin recordings.
Seeing as I don’t have the funds or equipment for a high-end orchestral recording, I had to record everything within two rooms
- The lounge room – where my Piano is located
- the bedroom – where there is less chance of noise being picked up through the microphones
The Piano was a pain and a half to record as I needed to capture the sound of it whilst the mute pedal was being engaged. This reduces the volume output dramatically, and seeing as I do not have a large recording space with better acoustic, I had to record up-close. This had a combination of positive and negative factors as:
- Recording up close meant the sound of my fingers hitting the keys as well as the sustain pedal movement is captured
- A vast amount of low-end noise was captured
- Low end grumbles resonated with the Piano (due to nearby traffic) leading to a few retakes of certain segments
- I was able to capture quite a full and wide sound
- Didn’t have to rely on as much compression as originally thought
- Able to capture dynamics of the Piano
- A raw, unprocessed room gave me the option of creating my own ‘space’ in terms of reverb/delay so all the instruments blend into the one atmosphere.
The Violin on the other hand proved to be quite a lot easier than the Piano to record in as my room is more concealed within the house leading to less noise interruptions such as:
- My crazy dog
- Traffic noise
- ‘Room’ sound
- background noise from household applicanes
The Violin tracks were easier to record seeing as I could play nicely up close to the microphone, however multiple takes were made as occassionally I would:
- Breathe out too loudly
- The headphone cord tapped the microphone stand
- Realising the window was open
- have the click-track running too loudly through the headphones resulting in the click bleeding into the recording.
Aside from those factors, I was able to achieve a relatively clean recording in a short amount of time which allowed me to process the entire project at a faster rate than first expected. Although the end result DID take quite some time.
Piano sequencing, editing & further technicalities
Piano set up:
- A simple compression and heavy EQ setting used for the Piano playing the melody (not the chords)
As I mentioned earlier, it was a very up-close recording as I didn’t have the ideal space to record in or the equipment to be able to capture nice sounds from a distance. I had to cut a lot of low-end noise as I didn’t want too much bass to be coming through the melody line and overpowering the low end from the chords. Mind you, you can practically hear my foot pushing the sustain pedal down before the low end cut. Parameters 1,3 and 4 dictated my confusion as parameter 1 is the actual EQ line which cuts off the low end. 3 and 4 were previous attempts of minimal ‘cutting’ (in terms of bandwidth) being simple dips in the 750hz ish area before realising how futile it was.
- Another fairly simple compression + EQ set up for the Piano playing the main chords. This is for the muted Piano not the open lid backing
Like the previous Piano EQ setting, alot of low end had to be removed due to the proximity of the recording capturing too much low-end sound. Putting this setting on a standard Piano would prove to be catastrophic as there is quite a huge dip in the low-mids and general bass area. However as I wanted a muted sound, I didn’t actually need that much of a full sounding low end to achieve the idealistic tone that I pictured prior to recording.
Thankfully in all of Ableton Live 9’s compressors, there is a dry/wet setting which acts as the easiest form of parallel compression. As you can see the current setting is on 81% Wet, meaning 81% compressed to the above settings, whilst playing 19% of the raw uncompressed (but still EQ’ed) sound. This allows for a bit more room in terms of dynamics allowing me to not have too much of a ‘sequenced’ or ‘fiddled’ sound.
- The open lid Piano (playing the exact same chords as the muted one)
This Piano was easier to record as I didn’t really need any low-end to be captured, as I just blended this in with the above Piano for a touch of high-end. Like the other two Piano channels, the standard compression + EQ effects were applied.
Since there wasn’t too much low-end sound captured from this recording (as the microphone was placed above the opening of the lid) and it was going to be played at quite a low volume (in contrast to the muted Piano), I could afford to have more lower end sound as it wouldn’t affect the mix too much at all. There is a 4db increase in the higher mids to make it sound more lively, and the compression settings were more lenient than the muted Piano. By lenient I mean that it has quite alot more raw unprocessed sound being played along with the processed sound as I wanted this channel to have more of a dynamic range than the muted Piano. This was because
- The way that the chords were struck were slightly different from the muted Piano channel although relatively the same. This allowed me for slightly bigger and ‘broken’ playing, and the sustain pedal was used differently to allow for more room for dynamics.
- Although this channel would be merely accompanying the muted Piano channel, I wanted a slightly different sound to be played (in terms of musicality not timbre) rather than a robotic unison between the two channels.
Violin sequencing, editing & further technicalities
Now the Violins took a different approach to recording than the Piano channels. I ended up getting a friend help using the computer to hit the ‘record’, ‘stop’, ‘delete’ and ‘start’ functions so I could most effectively record all the layers without moving my position.
This enabled me to maintain the same proximity from the microphone for every recording, leading to less editing in the future for every recording. The recordings didn’t have to be cropped as much as I thought originally, leading to a start and end crop and fade-ins and outs.
The compression and EQ function was placed on the group channel which held all of the Violin layers. The settings were as follows:
In terms of Compression settings:
- I only had the dry/wet function on 60% wet so I could keep the dynamics of the original recordings. As the recordings were of a relatively low volume, I didn’t want the initial striking and changing of strokes (of the bow) to be increased/decreased in volume to remain exactly consistant throughout the entirety of the mix. The ‘Glue’ compressor served well as it modelled off an old analog unit which gave a warm encompassing sound to help ‘glue’ things together. The recordings almost sound like there are several people playing in unison rather than being recorded individually.
In terms of EQ settings:
- Fairly simple low-end cut as I didn’t want too much sound of the bow itself to be prominent in the background of the overall mix. The reverb helped with the spacial element of the mix to push the sound in the ‘background’
- A slight increase in the 1.5khz range for more warmth and to compromise with my strange microphone
- A slight high end cut to get rid of the slightest bit of feedback in the high-end of the mix.
- If you were wondering what this EQ software is, it’s FabFilter’s ‘Pro-Q’. It’s got alot of functions which you wouldn’t necessarily use all the time (such as mid/side) fucntions but helps for things like cropping different elements of samples.
Master channel VST settings
I went a bit further than I generally would in any given project on the master channel for this particular project. Thankfully I had purchased Ozone5 ( a mastering VST but I profusely use the reverb for) and had the standard goods to make the overall sound much nicer. In total, 3 elements were added on the master channel including:
- A limiter
- A Stereo Imager
- A Maximizer
The limiter was a stock standard Ableton Live (in house VST), here is the setting:
As the overall track didn’t peak that high I was able to place a limiter in the mix without clipping much sound, keeping a nice volume range in which nothing is distorted. The only automated function was the ceiling (being the level as to how loud the overall sound can be) being raised to 0.00db (keep in mind this is broadcast levels not zero sound) from -0.03. This honestly didn’t make any difference audibly to me, however by doing this there was no big volume reductions necessary giving me peace of mind.
The imager on the otherhand was something that I had not used often prior to this project, and seeing as music for film should sound more ‘cinematic’, I chose to use this VST to widen certain frequencies in terms of the way it is heard. Here are the settings:
Normally I’d never widen the low end as much as it has been in this case, however due to a lack of low end heavy sounds used, I was able to make the Piano’s sound more spacious than they really were, it worked a treat and I was quite suprised by my own results. Bands 2-3-4 were more or less pre-determined frequency bands and I meddled with the width settings. This really gave the mix more ‘room’, sounding much more full.
The maximizer on the otherhand, I hardly, hardly ever use, and more or less resorted to a 90% preset setting in order to increase the overall sound. Dithering is set on ‘none’ as I did not get this project mastered, because honestly I don’t have the money to be mastering several projects. Here are the settings.