Back in January, my plan looked something like this:
- have an idea what needs to be done in sound design (and have started on it) before end of January.
- have a mastering concept defined by mid-February.
- have sound design and mix completed by end of February.
- have the cover art completed by end of February.
All that with the “release in Q1/16” goal in mind.
We’re now well into March – and unfortunately, I failed some of these goals – in more detail on the individual tasks:
Ok, I completed that goal (although that was kind of a weak one, anyway). My main conclusion there was to move away from those factory patches, and do something nice and original.
I’m happy to say that I made some considerable progress, especially in the last week or so. The pad synth in part D got modified slightly, to give it just the slight hint of otherworldly sparkle required here. All of the big pads in part A got tackled – now there’s the combined power of DSI Tetra, Ensoniq SQR and Kurzweil K2600XS.
Speaking of part A: for a long time, I didn’t know whether I should use an actual twelve-string guitar, stick with the sampler version from the DMU, or use a synth. The physical guitar idea was discarded quickly (mainly caused by my proficiency in playing that), so it was the “sampler or real synth” question. The solution: do both! Now there’s a combo of a HALion sample patch and an Ensoniq SQR+ one – giving just the right combo of “almost real” and “cheesy synth”.
I was trying to get some timpani sounds out of the Kawai K5000R – and what I ended up with was a cyber-glockenspiel. Fortunately, I could reuse that for part b – and part b is also the part that saw the biggest changes: with a combo of some odd sounds coming from that very synth, plus HALion’s granular engine, Wavestation, Virus and Nord Modular G2, this creates a purely synthetic-sounding (but still lively) backdrop for the heavily reverberated acoustic guitar to sit on top – nice! What remains to see is if I’ll really replace that Kontakt orchestral bass drum sound with a synthesized one (analogue-style, coming form HALion’s engine).
There wasn’t too much else to do – part a/a’ got a new electric piano (a combo of Arturia’s Wurlitzer model and a FS1R patch), there were some very detailed changes to bass and snare drum for part D – but apart from that, there’s not so much else to do…
…with the exception of almost all synth sounds in part B. I have right now marked the two pads as high-priority (maybe using the Q against the Evolver, or the SQR again? Or maybe the VZ-10m – haven’t used that one in a long time). Other options are the two arp synths (prime candidates would be again the Q, the Evolver, the Tetra – or maybe the Virus?) Finally, the lead sound could be the first big hour for the new Pulse 2 – a synth that became all the more important now that my Matrix-1000 fails to work.
However, I think that sound design still requires some more time – but would not endanger the schedule, as the status quo is already really cool.
I have made considerable progress in that domain as well, mainly in small steps – so as of today, most of the parts have no or only a small amount of work remaining.
There is an issue with the LMF range in part D – I’m not completely happy with the bass guitar sound to begin with, and also need to make it work together with the bass drum. However, I have some good ideas on that, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Reverb – the mother of all send effects – has been neglected considerably, so that needs to be done as well. The big question remains: should part C get some, too? Right now, I think just a tiny hint would work really well here.
Fortunately, I’m already quite happy with equalization – this was really just adding a small hint of something for each part – using the wonderful plugin version of SPL’s PassEq. A fantastic tool.
Caused by everything being attacca in this album, there’s no need to think about track spacing and fade in/out, so that saves a lot of time.
Finally: dynamics. Last time I checked, the volume envelope and the EBU R128 measurements looked some like this:
What to make of that?
First of all, it shows that it still has dynamic range all right – moving from the momentary max of 16dBLU (which translates to -7dBLUFS, or +7dB in K-14) to below -90dBLUFS (we’re nearing the CD noise floor here – you’ll really need to listen to this in 24bit!)
According to the master of the K-System, Bob Katz, +7dB is well ok, as it translates to 90dB SPL, and “composers have equated fortissimo to 88-90+ dB since the time of Beethoven”.
The R128 recommendation is, unfortunately, something that sucks, as its absolute and relative gating fails to give a proper impression not only on my constructed stuff, but in fact on everything interesting since the time of Beethoven – so I’ll ignore that for now.
What I won’t ignore is the fact that the forte passages end up around +2 K-14, so I could think about bringing that down (in the master? in the mix?) to make the really hot things all the more impressive. This would also make the limiter audible only in those really hot passages (and otherwise, it should be transparent).
A final consideration is that of the toolchain: I have already thought of using a trial version of WaveLab 8 for this project – and I think ‘ll start doing that tomorrow.
All in all: mastering still has some way to go, and may also be the item to shift the release date.
Ever since the earlier days in that project, I had a concept for cover art – which was crap. Then I thought of a modified version – which was crap, too.
But sometimes, the simplest choices are the good ones:
The original front page of Klein’s Vergleichende Betrachtungen – the name-giving Erlanger Programm! Add to that a great photo of a Klein Bottle, and my twisted Möbius strip photography, and we’re done! Cover art is nearly completed.
I still don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the release date. One thing’s for sure though: if Cubase continues to act up, this won’t be the case.
Apart from that, give me another week, and I’ll be able to tell you if it works out. Easter Monday would be a good idea. As would be making this an April Fool’s joke.