Sunday, April 12, 2015

Getting Real Pt 10. - Pots and Pans

One of the hardest parts of reorchestrating the music was trying to recreate the original sample-based sound with Clinkster, as faithfully as possible. One lesson I learned through this is that I'm a lousy sound designer. About a third of the way through the work, Seven reminded me that Clinkster came with a set of pre-built sounds and that solved quite a few of the more intractable problems I couldn't solve.

Still, there were some that were entirely unsolvable. In some of the earlier parts to this series, I pointed out that between the two songs there were approximately 60 different instruments. A fairly large number of these were not-reproducible with Clinkster no matter how much time I spent with them: voices, specific drum sounds, sound effects, etc.

In these sections, I tried to capture the feeling of the music instead of being a slave to it. In addition, for the voices, Seven wanted to try to recreate the voices using the Windows built-in text-to-speech API (an idea that was later dropped due to incompatibility issues, and most people didn't seem to like it). I simply decided not to fret too much because I couldn't create a very specific, low pitched, snare flange with Clinkster. Instead, I either chose to omit it (saving space), or if I though it was necessary for the mood the original composer was trying to build, use a combination of other instruments to try to reproduce the mood, even if I couldn't recreate the exact sound.

Still, in one segment of the Purple Motion score, he uses a loud crowd shout to punctuate the music. This is really effective at building excitement about the production and drawing the crowd in. But no samples meant no crowd matter how important I thought it might be. I tried a couple variations without the crowd sound but it just came off as flat and incomplete.

Seeking guidance, I consulted the brilliant C64 reorchestration. In their remake, they used a low drum sound to try to simulate this crowd shout. I thought this might work, and I ended up using the snare instrument used elsewhere in the production, but pitched low, and lengthened and it gives a reasonable enough approximation.

Even with all of the impossible instruments removed or replaced, I was still going to have to come up with a few dozen instruments. The problem with this of course is that each instrument was going to take up space. I decided instead to see how much mileage I could get out of the initial set of instruments I put together for the Skaven introduction -- introducing new instruments only as absolutely necessary. As it turns out, this was a great idea. For example, the high-string synth sound I used in the Skaven introduction, worked just fine in the rapid Purple Motion sections. If I needed another synth, the Clinkster sounds tolerated being pitched up or down an octave or two and took on different enough characteristics to usually give me what I needed. Most of the instruments I added to the Purple Motion sections were percussion (usually from the sample instruments provided with Clinkster).

One instrument to take special note of, the iconic high-pitched wood block in the Skaven introduction. I found this instrument so important to the sound that I deemed it non-optional. It even features in the C64 version. However, even after hours of fiddling with Clinkster, I simply couldn't get the sound nailed down. It turns out I didn't have to as there's a sample woodblock which sounds great that comes with Clinkster. This instrument ended up serving triple duty. I used it as a general "big bass drum" throughout the song, but pitched down a few octaves. I also used it as the mid-tone wood block featured about half-way through the production (sequence 36, "Blipp"), again at a different octave than the rest. Even though these new note-instrument combinations used more space than just the original use of the instrument, it was space-wise cheaper than a new instrument + the note-instrument combinations.

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