Sunday, April 12, 2015

Getting Real Pt 2. - Microscope

In this series, I'm planning on getting down to the excruciating details in the reorchestration, and hopefully going over some scene music history. But before I do that, let's start at a high-level. Even before putting down a single note, we needed to set some constraints, define the scope of the project so I knew what big of a box I had to work with.

Fulcrum usually works in 4k, so we're used to tight spaces. 8k seemed almost like a vast luxury in comparison. In a 4k production, we usually have to try to fit the music under 2k (sometimes way under). This includes all of the notes, all of the instruments and the soft synth that produces the music. It may sound impossible, but the demoscene is known for being almost insanely resourceful and some awesome coders have developed and released some incredible tooling that makes this almost bearable.

For an 8k production, it seemed reasonable to target around 4k for the music, 4k for the code. It turns out this budget estimate was pretty good.

For our 4k productions, we've almost always relied on two music production toolchains:

1 - 4klang - a stack-based softsynth by Gopher and pOWL of Alctatraz. It produces lush, rich sounds, great percussion instruments, and is almost impossible to figure out. Our musicians all love how it sounds, we all hate working with it. It really needs a comprehensive tutorial. One other downside, the instrument definitions make the overall music take up more space than our #2 choice.

2 - Clinkster - an FM-style softsynth by Blueberry of the Loonies that produces surprisingly good leads and pads, not as great sounding percussion (a problem with most FM synths) but is reasonably easy to work with once you understand FM synth basics. It's also well documented and comes with a great set of testing tools so the musician doesn't have to bother the coder as much. It also tends to produce slightly smaller music in the final production. However, it sounds a little less lush than 4klang and I've never ended up completely satisfied with the final result.

Having had good success with it in the past, for this production we decided to use Clinkster.

That set we should be good to go right? After all, we're dealing with an 8k production here, twice as much space! We can be lazy right? Wrong! Second Reality is a 16 minute long, 23-part production. The music is so complex it took two composers to write it. So size still matters, and size will become our focus for the rest of this series.

Right off the bat, Seven figured we needed to make a big cut. Something that most people wouldn't really miss, wasn't an effect, and artistically wouldn't change the overall meaning of the production. Second reality, while 16 minutes long, is 7 minutes of end-credits.

But cutting that out, we can get rid of about 40% of the music right off the bat.

The question we have yet to answer is, is that 40% of the overall bytes in the music?

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