Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Last Pieces of Music

Week 5: 6/4/2012

This week of work that I accomplished was the last pieces of music that was needed for the Captain Heart Game. I recorded, edit, and mixed the songs for games: Arteries Maze, Pipe Dream, Storyline, Title Page, and Ending of Game. This was not as easy as last time in the studio, where the writing juices flowed.

First off one of my musicians that was suppose to be at the recording session was not able to attend, due to a car accident. So, it was just myself, Chris, Mike the studio owner, and Kevin one of the engineers at VNote Studio.

I felt that working on this session we where running out of ideas for writing music for this project, since there was so many songs to do for this project. The creative forces we not with us this time.

For the Ending Music, we just redid the Menu Music and changed it pattern of notes and only did three tracks, the first time we did about seven tracks. We also changed the tempo on the Ending piece to change it it up some. I did most of this piece in Pro Tools and Chris just played a track of guitar. I just patch his guitar right into the console, directly into Pro Tools. No mics this session. I then just place some plug ins from Pro Tools on his guitar track and that was it. It was finish pretty fast.

Chris playing guitar on ending song for the Captain Heart game.

For the Pipe Dream game, it to was kept simple. I played one track on the MIDI keyboard using one of the Reason sound effects and place into Pro Tools. I created a dream like sound to give to this game, since the game is called Pipe Dream. Kevin and myself had to go through a bunch of sounds on the Reason program until I found a sound that I was happy with to use for this song.

Kevin and I going through the Reason program for that right sound.

The Title page or intro of the game, was keep simple, but had a little flavor to it. It was myself on the keyboard using a Reason sound effect and using on of the drums track that we used before in on of the songs we did earlier to get the realism of drums. Using program sounds can only go so far. This once again only had three tracks in this song to keep it simple (plus we where running out of ideas).

The Storyline song of this game had to stay simple no matter what since there would be voice overs playing at the same time and did want to over power the over overs or make it to complex where the player would tune out the voice over and be listening to the music more. Once again this was done through Reason and choose a chime sound from the program list. Mostly just broken chords where used to create this sound. It was an upbeat sound in order to capture the player.

The last song that was the most complex and most creative piece we did that day, it was for the Arteries maze game. This had several layers of sound to this piece. The sounds we used was from the MIDI keyboard, through the Reason program and recorded in Pro Tools. We used a grand piano sound, bass guitar sound (which sounded like a program sound not the real thing unfortunately), and multiple drum sounds (snare, cymbals, bass drum). These where placed one instrument at at a time into Pro Tools. The piano when first since the other instruments worked around the piano part. Chris played this part along with the bass on the MIDI keyboard. The drums parts had to go in the tracks individually and had to be edited and space in correctly inside Pro Tools to line up with the other instruments, in other words I had to do this by hand otherwise it doesn't sound or work right in the piece.  This was my favorite song of the day.

Myself behind the console

Working in Pro Tools to place all the drum part correctly in the Arteries Maze game song.

We finished all the music by eight that night. I also had to finish the reminder of the voice over sounds too that night. I just finished all the pitch shifting the Captain Heart and the boy character of the story that my team wanted. Captain Heart need to have a deeper voice shifted to, while I thought just my voice that I did for Billy wasn't quite enough, so I pitch up the voice just a little. I took all the breath sounds in the records and deep check all the voice overs parts to make sure they where perfect.

Screen Shot of the Pro Tools session recording of the Arteries Maze music.

Everything was done by 11:30 that night and I was glad. I'm going to work on one more song for the Rhythm game to give another level of music. My part of the project will officially be over now, unless my team needs something from me. I'm glad to have this over.

Until next week......

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Editing and music writing

Week 4: 5/29/2012

This week was a lite week for me. Most of the work as writing the last pieces of music for the Captain Heart game. I edited some sound effects and and the voice overs too this week.

I basically edited the Captain Heart charter to give a deeper voice that we all wanted for the character, which was done with a pitch shifter plug in in Pro Tools. Then did a little EQing to the voice for balance.

The voice overs I only did one of them this week, because I wanted to spend the rest of the week writing remaining music for the game. I worked on the Narrator on editing out the breathing parts, picking out the best part, and EQing. I might work some more on this character again.

The biggest part I worked on this week was writing. I worked on some of the music with my friend Jami from College of DuPage to writing out the pieces for the Storyline, Pipe Dream mini game, and the Arteries Maze mini game. The Arteries Maze game music piece so far is a slower pace tempo, smooth, pop song. The Pipe Dream game music is a light, flowing like sound, jazz waltz. The Storyline is still a work in progress. Most likely it won't really come together until the recording session. Right now it a happier, upbeat, major chords playing simple song. The instruments that are written down may or may not be used, won't know the feel of it until the recording session.

I continue to write the remainder of the pieces through week 5 and will be in the recording session on June 3. I will be also writing music for the remainder of Rhythm Pump game for the levels, Title page, ending, and working out the parts for Storyline music until June 3.

That is it for this week until next week...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Music and Captain Heart sound effects

Week 3: 5/17/2012

This week was to work on more of the music of the Captain Heart game. This is getting harder and harder for me to do. With my Mid-Term project I only had to write 6 songs, with the Senior Project I will have to write a between a total of 14 to 16 songs for this game. The reason for this is because the Captain Heart has all these mini games with in it and all my team mates want their own songs for each particular game. That is not including the menu, title, ending, and storyline of the game. This more then I ever written in my life.

I've been trying to step put of the box more on video game music, because when I went to the GDC this year I talked to a couple companies that liked my music but sounded too much like music that has been done before in games. In this games I'm really trying to go beyond the typical sound that you hear in Mario Bros, Zelda, and so many game music we have heard time and again. I'm also trying to appeal to the generation of today and what would be exciting in this game as well to the client and players of the future of this game.

This week I only thought I would do another 3 songs in the studio, but it became a writing session too. I ended up with actually 5 songs for the session. It turn out to be a real good session.

My friend and co-writer Chris was in on the session, Mike co-writer and studio owner was in the session, and myself. We wrote for the mini-games Red Blood Runner, Red Blood Cell Maze, Food Mix & Match, Brick Game, and another piece for another level in Blood Pump Rhythm Game.

The Red Blood Runner is a platform game that the blood cell has to collect oxygen and kill of the cholesterol. This was up beat, medium tempo, pop sound music. It really works well with the game. This was done with Reason and a keyboard and layered with different sounds in ProTools.

The Red Blood Cell Maze is a game that the player has to move the red blood cell from the heart down to the toe, through a maze in the body. This was a jazz piece. Has that "Pink Panther" kinda groove to it. The instruments was used was, drums, shakers, guitar, and bass.

The Food Mix & Match game is where the player has to drag good or bad food to Captain Heart to a response from Captain Heart, in order to win the player must make Captain Heart health at all times. This sound that was composed was more of a rock beat. It was up beat with a bass line, guitar, and keyboard.

The Brick Game is a game with a paddle and ball to brake the foods down on screen, eventually when the player wins it will show picture of Captain Heart. This was a Dub Step kind of piece. This sound was created by using Reason and a keyboard. No other instruments was used. It is heart pounding, fast tempo, with four layers of sounds that created the piece for this game.

The last mini game is the Blood Pump Rhythm game. My team mate Geoff who created this game wanted a different piece for each level. I did not know this until last week. I started working on more music for this game. Since the first piece I did was a hard rock piece, I wanted to make sure that I did something completely different. This piece is a medium medium fast tempo, with more of a pop, sound, and more settle sound. It used mostly Reason for a couple sounds and a tambourine with a skin head, to play out the rhythm on the tambourine's head while the cymbals on the side shakes out.

For recording I used the AKG 414 to mic the guitar amp with (cardioid pattern) and the tambourine too. For the drums I used a Shure 57 on the snare, AKG 112 for the bass drum, and two rodes NT 1000 over the the cymbals and hi toms. The bass was patch right into the console into ProTools. The Keyboard was a controller used into Reason then recorded into ProTools.

AKG 112 specs info: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/media/powerslave,id,261,pid,261.pdf
Shure 57 specs info: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/media/us_pro_sm57_specsheet.pdf
AKG 414 specs info: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C414XLII/
Rode NT 1000 specs info: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/NT1000

This songs where done in about a little over eight hours (writing, recording, editing, and mixing) for these mini games. This session went a lot more smoothly then the last one that I had to do for music. That one only three songs where done in almost the same amount. We where just rocking it in the studio that day.

The step in the music area for this game will be with a writing session with my friend Jami next week Friday to finish up the writing of the music of the game. That is all for this week. Until next week.......

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Week 2 : 5/11/2012

This week my accomplishments where to work on any sound effects that needed to be recorded or changed and voice-overs for the storyline. This ended up to be a light week for studio work.

I redid some sound effects that needed more gain to them, by EQ and adding gain. I don't want to put just gain on the sound effects and have them distort, so EQ the effect and putting little gain normal does the trick in doing audio sound effects. I only needed to redo 5 of these sound effect out of 42 sound effects. There where no other sound effects to record since my team did need any at this time.

I went into recording studio to work on the voice-overs for the characters for the storyline. There are only a couple characters in the story (Billy, Captain Heart, Blood Cell, doctor, and the Narrator). I was going to use a few people for these parts, but once again that fell through. In order to get these area done and move on with the project the studio owner and myself played these parts. I look it this way if I get these actors to come in to do these parts I could always redo, it not that hard to do.

I ended up doing Billy and the Doctor, while the studio owner did Narrator, Captain Heart and the Blood Cell. I don't think I sounded like a 10 year old boy and I feel like sound that great compare if a real ten year old boy did it. Plus I hate the sound of my voice! Mike the studio owner did a fantastic job on Captain Heart and the Blood Cell, him being a Narrator I'm not so sure of. I don't think he had the right voice for the Narrator part. At least we got the job done and like I said I can always go back and redo this area.

VNote Studio - Mike recording with AKG 414 cardioid mic pattern; reading for Captain Heart

Mike read for Narrator - using same mic and using a screen pop (to avoid pops in the mic) the silver cover around the mic acts like a ISO booth with out having one. Helps vocals and voice overs to have a cleans sound when recording.

Myself behind the console, recording at Vnote.

I recorded all my character voice-overs into ProTools using an AKG 414 cardioid mic pattern. Used a Pop screen and cover on the mic to give the best voice overs for recording. We went down the list of characters and recorded each character in a session, by myself and Mike. We read off the story of the storyline that Tanner put together in Flash and used it like a teleprompter to read for the characters.
The voice-over characters is all that was done for the day. I was in and out of the studio within 3 hours. I marked where I like my takes for each character in ProTools, so that I can edit and mix each character to my liking. That should take another 3 to 6 hours to do. I will be working on that next week. I will probably use a pitch shifter on the Billy character to get move of a boy sound. Might have to mix the Narrator sound using plug ins to get the sound where I feel is doable. All the other characters will just work on the breathing parts by editing them and maybe EQ a little otherwise sound pretty good.

Well that is it for this week. Until next week........

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Team re-gathering

Our team came back from our Spring break and re-gathered to discuss our next steps in our game process. What was needed was a new Statement of Work for this session, if we where going to give all of our attention to just Captain Heart or start getting into Super Brain, and areas that we needed to fix from the last session.

What was needed from me was to redo some sound tracks for the team that I did in last session. Just a few sound effects were a little quite so I EQ them and put a little gain to them. also, to get the team started again on their sections of the project. Plus once again I took upon myself to make sure that the paper work was done and done right, our Statement of Work. When I started putting our Statement of Work a couple of our team members where already not looking to do work. Only two members of our group are once again not real wanting to work on the project.

Our one team member Jon complains a lot about his area of the project, doing work, how he can't real meet the team more then once a week, or when the client wants something (like professional pictures of the group) he doesn't want to do it. Are other team member Chris who is suppose to do the art of the project does very little or none at all of the art and is not looking to do more of the project as he told me. I hope our teach Prof. Santello can help steer these member into doing work, where I could not. Right now they are the two slowing this project down. We should been starting on Super Brain without a question, but we are still working on Captain Heart.

Santello says everyone in Senior Project is behind and I don't like hearing that, especially since my Mid-Term group was so on top of things. We need to be doing better for Senior Project. Hopefully when we meet later today we will get on top of what is needed and when it needs to be completed and make this one awesome educational video game.

Well that is it for now. Until next time.....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alpha Dev. & Test Plan

Wednesday 18, 2012

My team Healthinauts where putting the final touches this week for our Alpha and our presentation for Tuesday. We where putting together our parts that we had update and making sure there was no bugs in our Alpha.

For my part I tested my audio in a couple of places to make sure it was running right. After my recording sessions I would bounce the sound effects or mix the music to two track from Pro Tools to a wave file and play them back on iTunes to check levels. If all was well I would test sounds on my Mac at home and then my PC laptop. Why I did this is because the studio Mac would be running on studio monitor so you would hear sounds so clear and loud. When I run it on my Mac at home I would just run it on the though the Mac monitors which is the standard Mac Pro monitors. They give about an average amount level in these speakers that the listener can hear. The PC laptop is the last place I test, because the speakers in the laptop have the softest. If I can not hear the sound or music very well that means I have to go back into the Pro Tools session to fix the audio by mixing it louder without distorting the art that I created. Otherwise I remix everything until it is prefect.

I then brought my audio to the guys on Monday to test and program the audio inside our Alpha, which we are using Flash. Sometimes Pro Tools bounces its audio in a different sample rate or resolution that the game engine does not like and I have to go back to my audio files and convert them to what the engine wants. I did not have to do this, this time. Flash took the audio files and played them and was able to program the audio into the script with no problems this time.

I worked with Geoff one of my team mates on the Captain Heart game and tested this out. Everything went smoothly when programing the audio into our Alpha this week.
  Screen shot of the Script inside Flash

Things I would change is maybe the length in some of my sound effects. It is very had to estimate how long to have a sound effect for each mini game with each different team member wanting something different every time.

We did our team's presentation yesterday, I hope we did well enough with the teachers to get a good grade. Though they gave us a lot to think of areas that we need improving in (graphics, mini games, etc.) of our game.

Well that is it until next time.....

Monday, April 16, 2012


Sunday April 15, 2012
Once again I was once again in the studio working on sound. This time I was working on sound effects in the studio. I sent out about over a week again a sound sheet of what everyone needs for each of their mini games. This went more smoothly ask about sounds then music, since my team mates are not musicians or into sound like I am. I got a pretty long list from everyone, plus I added some sound effects of my own that I thought maybe work in our teams game. In total I worked on 42 sound effects, will we use them all probably not.

This session went much faster then my mid-term project. The sounds where a little more doable and if not I used royalty free sound effects. For instance I need a firework sound for when a level or game is complete is show the player they did well. This was not possible to get this sound this time of the year and Illinois bans fireworks, so I would have to cross the border to Indiana and buy and use the fireworks there. This was not going to happen, so I got legally free sound effects of fireworks and layer the sound into a track into Pro Tools and then I mixed until liked what I heard.

This happens a lot in creating sound effects, not getting always what you want out of your sounds. Another instead I had to create a sound effect of breaking bricks. I had Mike (the studio owner) get some bricks from outside and hit them together and grind them together. Well, the sound came out kinda weak so I use the recording I made and layered it with other royalty free sound effects of grinding and hitting of bricks until it sound strong enough to be believable. From there I mix in Pro Tools with some plug-ins and I got my sound.

Mike hitting two bricks together to get the breaking of brick sound in the live room at Vnote Studio

I finished all the sound effect expect two, because they where not sounding right when record. The are a little weak when I record them ,which I will have to find another way to get the sound I'm looking for.
The rest of the sounds where work in studio with Pro Tools and using the program Reason. When I recorded my sound effects I used a AKG 414 microphone. This microphone has a multi-pattern mic. I mainly used the cardioid pattern, except for the crowd and cheering sound. I used for those sound effects was the super cardioid pattern, mainly because it picks up more of the room but not too much.

supercardioid pattern

The session went smooth and was done fairly fast. These where more of my easiest sessions. There is more to come with sound. Until later....