Ethereality News & Weblog

July 21, 2007

Galactic Melee main menu music

Filed under: Audio & Music,Latest Works,My Life/Musings,News,Video Games,Writing — Rob Chang @ 6:39 pm

Fresh out of the oven is the main menu music I just finished for Galactic Melee (a MMO space shooter I’m composing the score for). It was a struggle to get into the groove on this project, since a bit of hardware and software problems cropped up, but things are looking much better now. The main menu music combines a few different styles (orchestral strings, glitch, industrial, electronic, ethnic percussions), and its purpose is to get you into the mood for some MMO space combat action. For this track I used:

Cakewalk Sonar Producer Edition 6 (sequencing host)
EWQL Symphonic Orchestra Platinum, Edirol HQ Orchestral (orchestral strings)
Best Service Artist Drums (acoustic drums)
Quantum Leap Colossus (electronic drums, ethnic percussion, guitar)
Roland Groove Synth (bass drum)
Native Instruments Absynth 2 (synth pad, lead)
Korg Legacy Cell (synth pad)
Big-Tick Rhino 2 (rhythmic synth sequence)
rgc z3ta+ (rhythmic synth sequence)
Smart Electronix Augur (synth bass doubling cellos)
Ichiro Toda’s Synth 1 (synth lead)
Cakewalk TTS-1 (synth bell doubling synth leads)
Spectrasonics Trilogy (electric bass guitar)
dblue Glitch (glitch effects)
SonitusFX (compressor, EQ, multi-band compressor)
BBE Sonic Maximizer (drums processing)
Lexicon Pantheon (reverb on snare drum)
PSP Vintage Warmer (mastering)

The trickier parts of composing/arranging/mixing this track were:

1) The orchestral strings always require a lot of work to sound good–varying the volume expession so there’s crescendo and decrescendo at the beginning and end of notes, balancing the mix so no one section of the strings dominate (thus killing the harmonic support of the other sections), yet as a whole doesn’t sound too scattered and unfocused. EQ’ing to bring out certain frequencies so it doesn’t get burried in the mix (the lower spiccato cello notes always need a bit of boost in the high mid’s to give it more bite).

2) Experimenting with a lot of different synth sounds/layers to get the right tone for the synth melody.

3) Mixing the heavy guitar just right so it’s not too dominating, but still has enough weight to give enough impact.

4) Mixing/processing the various drum sounds just right to form a cohesive whole that sounds organic and groovy

5) Using the glitch effects just right so they don’t sound accidental, but works as part of the arrangement.

6) Filling in the bottom end with electric bass and synth bass, but making sure they support the general groove instead of causing distraction.

7) Make sure the various effects routing aren’t fighting each other and causing over-processing of certain sounds.

8) Scooping out the low frequencies on some instruments so they aren’t muddying things up, and boosting some instruments in the high mid’s to give them more punch.

9) Fading some instruments out during some parts so there isn’t overcrowding in the arrangement, and raising the volume of some instruments in some parts for more impact.

10) Mixing orchestral libraries can be problematic, as you need to match their sounds (recorded in different settings, processed differently, playing style is different…etc). I had to mix EWQLOR Platinum with Edirol HQ Orchestral (which had more bite or expressiveness in some articulations), and the two sounds quite different in just about every aspect (Edirol HQ OR is a lot more processed and uses digital reverb, while EWQLOR Platinum is recorded with natural concert hall acoustics).

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, and I definitely learned some lessons while working on this track. The client really liked it, and the various people that’s heard it liked it in general, so I guess I did my job. Now I gotta finish the rest of the score. . ..

Elena is back, and life is so much better with her around. I feel sorry for couples that don’t get along, because they’re really missing out life’s greatest gift–a soulmate.

I’ve read a few zombie novels lately, and the best one so far is Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth. It takes a more literary approach and has a lot more substance than a typical genre fiction novel, which is rare. Not that all genre fiction is shallow, but there is definitely a huge difference between authors that simply spin yarns, and authors who actually have something profound to say while spinning yarns.

I threw about 14 GB of music and videos from my collection onto my brother Dennis’s 30GB video iPod (he’s too lazy to rip his own CD collection or convert videos). This is my first experience spending a significant amount of time with an iPod, and I can definitely see what I missed out on when I decided to go with the competition years ago (Creative Nomad 3 Jukebox). The small size is certainly enticing, and the slick design a joy to look at. The ergonomics is a bit clunky, as you’d have to hit the center button a couple of times to be able to fast-forward on the navigation circle, and if you missed a click, you end up jacking up the volume to painful levels by accident. I would’ve much preferred a separate control for either the volume or fast-forwarding. It’s also kind of annoying the only way to travel in the layers of the UI structure is to go forward or back, instead of jumping to various directories as you please (The Nomad is much better in that respect). The iPod also does not allow you to customize your own EQ settings, and that is just unforgivable to me. Factory programmed EQ settings are almost never useful to me, as the people who programmed them can’t possibly know what headphones or speakers I’m using, and which frequencies need to be cut or boosted for it to sound right. I also couldn’t believe Apple didn’t include a recharger–only a USB connector. I’ve never been a fan of Apple, since their marketing strategies piss me off, they over hype their products to the point of false advertising, and there’s always some glaring hole missing in the feature set, ergonomics, or compatibility with everything else on the market. In the end, I felt like if I ever wanted to upgrade my Nomad 3 to something smaller/sleeker/with larger capacity, I’d probably pick something from Apple’s various competitors again.

Some people move along in life, never stopping to ask themselves what it is they really want, and what it takes to be truly happy, while others are constantly searching for it. Some feel that happiness isn’t something we should feel entitled to, while others feel it’s something that can be pursued and attained, and there are also those who feel happiness is overrated–simply finding peace is enough. It’s really up to your own expectations and goals, and one man’s happiness might be another man’s nightmare.

The experts say that happiness comes from having control over your life, feeling fulfilled, challenged, and accomplished, although these things can mean drastically different things for different people. A person can be happy because he’s got an OK job that pays the bills and has enough time to play as many video games as he wants, and that is enough for him. Another person can feel happy because he’s been working hard and about to get that promotion to be an account director at some advertising company. Yet another person might be happy because he’s finally getting close to finding the cure for cancer after a lifetime of research. Whether our source of happiness comes from accomplishing something that’s considered noble, or simply mundane pleasures, it only matters that you know what you want, and that you are doing something about it instead of doing nothing and blaming everyone and everything else.

I’ll be thirty-five the end of this year (in December), and at this point in my life, I still don’t have it all figured out yet. This is something I talk about with Elena sometimes. She always points out that even if I do end up doing what I really want for a living (writing/directing feature films, or composing music), I might find out that it’s not quite what I had hoped for. Unseen issues that come with the job can turn the whole experience sour–lack of funding, demands on script changes by the studio, low box-office sales, creative differences, unable to secure desirable projects, forced to work in styles you don’t like, trashed by the critics, misunderstood by the audience…etc. But those are things all creative people face, and if one can’t accept that they come with the job, then maybe it’s better off doing something else. I know for me, the rewards are greater than the risks, but simply getting from here to there in itself is an uphill battle. I guess if you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to enjoy that uphill struggle, then you’re already ahead of the game when it comes to achieving happiness.

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