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Monday, 31 October 2011

Silent Discos? Quiet Parties?

I was talking to Kuodo today and I mentioned Silent Discos and Quiet Parties.

A while ago I came across these 2 terms that I never heard before. I tried really hard but cannot remember where I came across that. Could have been in the course of researching for headphones, when I came across silent disco. It seems such an oxymoron (wiki definition here) that disco and silent could go together, so I checked it out on Wikipedia :)

Its an interesting event where people go to a disco and dance to music through headphones/earphones. So you get all these flashing lights and loud music (only in your ears). If an observer is not wearing headphones, he would only see people dancing around to silence.

There I followed another link to read up about a Quiet Party.

Imagine a party where people do not talk to each other. They just pass notes around. :)

Interesting things people come up with.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Magazines I used to buy

Around the period of 1994 - 2000 I was consistently buying Keyboard Magazine, Electronic Musician Magazine, and Mix Magazine. I stopped after a while.

Recently when I was searching for scripting in Kontakt, I came across a multi-part scripting in Kontakt series of articles from the Sound on Sound Magazine. (I covered that in a previous blog article). These articles can be purchased. Its been a while since I've bought or went into magazine sites like these, and each article costs 99 cents US to download. I was pleasantly surprised that I can buy individual articles for a very affordable price.

Of course I should not be that surprised, since music albums can be downloaded on a per-track basis. But it's also a really a good thing for magazines to pick-up that business model. In that way, readers can download only articles that are relevant to them, and they can download it immediately without leaving their computers.

This made me realise that business models are changing (for the better, in this case), and that our mindsets need to stay ahead with the times. Makes me sound like an old man doesn't it?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

FL Studio Merchandising Artwork Contest

I've entered in the FL Studio Merchandising Artwork Contest from Image-Line.

Actually they are asking for artwork to print existing products in their online store. These include t-shirts, water bottles, slippers, etc. But my entry is actually suggesting a product that does not exist in their store.

Fruity Coin Bank

Fruity Candy Bar with an open lid

Fruity Candy Bar with a closed lid

A bit of CG techie jargon here:

The following turn-table models are modelled in Maya, rendered with Mental Ray. The text inset in the box are displacement maps. Using Mental Ray approximation editor, I had to turn up  the smoothing iterations to 5 on the animated turntable. The rendering time for that came up to about 1min 20seconds per frame.

In addition, I had to submit a 2K still for the contest. For that I had to bring the iterations in the approximation editor up to 8. That took about 33mins for a still frame. (Maya crashed when I set the iteration value higher than 8).

A sample high-res render (original was 2000 x 1500)

Monday, 24 October 2011

FL Studio Fruity Edition

I've finally done it. For the first time ever, I've purchased an original music creation software all by myself.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a software pirate. :)

I've owned music creation software before. But those are either lite editions, packaged in a bundle with other things (like a hardware MIDI interface); or educational versions that somebody passed to me. I've also owned (and still own) Sibelius, which was an educational version jointly acquired (and co-owned) between 5 people from church. Church use is considered to fall under acedemic licensing. 

In the end it was about 84 Euros after tax, and I ended up paying about £73 after tax.

Of course with the software I can do more music, and have posting access to the forums on the Image-Online website.

Friday, 21 October 2011

First piece with NI Komplete 8

Here's the first piece of music I did with Komplete 8 samples. Most of the samples are from Kontakt 5's general Factory Library collection of instruments that are generally well rounded to suit all-purposes. Timpani parts are using Battery 3's samples.

Just a short idea to test my capacity for composing and arranging soundtrack kind of music.
After listening to it, Sean actually liked it a lot. He asked for this to be used in a friend's website showcasing his own works as a CG artist. I love the fact that a simple experimental piece can end up someplace where it can be put to good use. :)

PlayAFool ni mood v003 by patrickwoo

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Komplete 8 Ultimate - Finally!

From Wednesday to Friday, another 2 days of waiting. During this time I've had another false alarm. I was called to the reception to receive packing material and boxes. I am helping to send Double Negative's Captain America Crew T-shirts back to Singapore.

Finally, I gave up waiting and went to the runners' room on level 3 to ask for my package. At first they thought it was mistakenly sent to the Mortimer Street office. After calling and double checking, they realised it was one of the unlabelled/unclaimed packages that's been lying in the runners' room for that last 2 days!

Each time I thought I was going to collect it, I told Ronald it could be the Komplete 8 Ultimate, and he would get excited. I felt guilty every time it turned out to be a false alarm. Therefore, I did not tell Ronald until I came back holding the product in my hands.

Boy Meets Toy
It came in an Akai box that was too big for its size
I don't think this box was meant for this product
Nowhere on the box did it mention my name or my address. Where did the invoice go then?

It was bubble-wrapped

The Free Headphones That Came with My Order

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sold my Klipsh Image S4

Today at work, at 11am I wrote a post in the company classified newsgroup looking to sell the Klipsch earphones.

I put the price at £30. There was an offer at £25, but the buyer agreed to buy it for £28. The deal was sealed within 30 minutes. Woohoo :)

The Art of Monitoring and Mixing With Headphones

I came across an article from HeadWize, a headphones resource site.


It talks about the setting up of a studio session and the issues people have with headphones, the causes, and how to try and overcome them.

It's a good read.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Klipsch Image S4 Review

The packaging is pretty standard, and the product looks great, including that tin case that comes with it. The only thing I have a problem with, is that you need to tear open a perforated side of the box to open it. Once it is open, you cannot close the box back again.

The specs say 10hz to 19khz frequency response.

I listened to the sound quality and was instantly disappointed. For my purposes, I could tell that this was not a pair of flat-response earphones. The bass frequencies were amazingly well defined, but they were boosted in levels. The mid range frequencies are pretty alright. However, I had the impression that it is boosted at the higher vocal range, maybe at the 6khz region. From there, to the higher frequencies, the levels take a drastic dip. The highs rolled off maybe in the region of 14khz. 

In other words, it is a very solid bottom, boosted high-mids and lacking in highs. The resulting sound gives the feeling of a hollow 800hz-1khz region and muffled highs. I would describe the sound as plastic-like. If it was missing the low frequency regions, I would place it in the same league as £8 regular earphones, not in-ear ones. It reminds me of the days when I was still listening to cassette tapes with songs recorded off radio broadcasts.

This led me to wonder why Klipsch spec-ed the product to have an excess of 10hz in the lows so as to have an amazing bass when the highest frequency achieved is only 19khz.

It's the end of the day today and I have pretty much made up my mind to try and sell it off as a pre-owned item, and buy another earphone/headphone that is better than my Klipsch Pro-media earphones. My Klipsch Pro-Media earphones (costing about £80) are actually much better and balanced in terms of frequency response. YC said it was a bit too bright on the highs, but I find it almost unnoticeable.

Come to think of it now, I can't find any article that said this was a set of flat-frequency-response earphones. I can't remember where I got the impression that the Image S4 was made for monitoring purposes. There was even a post in http://www.head-fi.org that says that the Klipsch Image S4 has a very convex frequency response curve.

Looks like I really can't get sub-£60 earphones/headphones for sound monitoring purposes. Big regret!

I am running white/pink noise and frequency sweeps through the set now, hopefully I can see some improvement on the performance. I know it needs a lot of time before I can notice improvement in performance. But somehow I don't think it will be a very huge difference. 

YC, like many articles and forum posts, pointed out that it is almost impossible for in-ear earphones to match the sound accuracy and frequency response of reference/monitor headphones. I've just visited http://www.etymotic.com/, which is one of the top quality in-ear reference monitor makers. Even their in-ear phones are only achieving 16khz at their £299 product range. For that kind of money I can get a good pair of monitor headphones. If it really comes down to having to choose between in-ear phones and headphones, I will choose the latter.

Oh well, we'll wait and see how everything turns out.

Komplete 8 Ultimate is on Its Way! (part 2)

I went in to work today and there was a package waiting for me. Thinking it was Native Instruments Komplete 8 Ultimate that I've ordered, I went to the runners' room to collect it.

However, the package turned out to by the Klipsch Image S4 monitoring earphones I purchased earlier.

I was hoping to get it some time in the day, but it did not happen.

At the end of the day, I went to check the FedEx delivery and here's the status. It should be in tomorrow. I'll keep on waiting then. :) 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Komplete 8 Ultimate is on Its Way!

When I went to work on Monday, I received an apologetic e-mail from GAK. It said that the warehouse had run out of stock for Komplete 8 Ultimate. Stock would arrive in 7 days. If I have not expressed the desire to cancel my order with them by then, they will deduct the amount from my credit card and deliver it. I was a little disappointed to have to wait for another 7 days.

However, to my pleasant surprise, near the end of today, about 5pm, I received news that the stock has arrived at the warehouse, and is dispatched by FedEx. Wow! Good news! ;)
It travelled from somewhere in Brighton (1752 hrs) to Marston Gate Southern Hub (2206 hrs), and finally into London Centrl (0107 hrs). I should be able to get it later when I go to work!

Fruity Loops Merchandising Artwork Contest

Image-Line has started a contest to find the best design for Fruity Loops merchandise. Contest ends 30 October. That is about 20 days away.

Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm your way to the first place, and stand a chance to win USD$500 Image-Line VCash to buy any product from Image-Line's website. Fourth place gets to win USD$100 IL VCash. No prizes if you are the fifth :)

Steve Job's Impact on Audio

Here's another blog from the Mix Magazine website, online. It talks about Steve Jobs' contribution from the point of an audio engineer.

Monday, 10 October 2011

More Buying!

I just did some impulse buying on ebay.co.uk!

I bought the Klipsch Image S4 Dynamic in-ear headphones (white ones). I enjoyed the Klipsch pro-media earphones so much, that I decided to get this, planning to use it for making music.

I bought this at £36.99 for a pair, from one of Ebay's affiliated sellers.

This is more of a monitoring-purpose earphone. Monitoring earphones are supposed to faithfully produce sound. They are measured so they produce a "transparent" sound, accurately. Non-monitoring grade of earphones do not produce accurate sounds. Some will give a "sweetened" sound, (many do this by pumping up the bass louder than it really is), trying to make incoming sounds nicer than they really are. These kinds of earphones are more for casual listening, not for doing music / audio engineering work.

There were a few reasons I made the purchase here in London, instead of buying it after I go back to Singapore. First off, headphones sell much cheaper in UK than they do in Singapore. Somehow prices get marked-up.

Secondly, I've done my research and lots of people give good reviews and hail the Image S4 as the best in its class, almost comparable to earphones above £200.

Lastly, when I was just surfing around Ebay (not seriously consider buying), I saw the prices of the Image S4 being around £40 - £60. Then I saw this reseller selling it for £36.99. Yeah, you may say its just £3.01 below £40, but it did make a difference in my perception.

Finally I decided to buy it. In view that the pre-media earphones being of a lower grade than the Image S4 in terms of quality, and that I bought it in Singapore for about $159 (equivalent of £80), I would say this is a great buy. Pro-media earphones is a valentine's day gift from my wife, so I must continue using it. (And its not even a year old too!)

I also bought a hard case from a Hong Kong supplier for £1.06, so it'll be easier to carry my earphones around, and so that the same thing does not happen again to my pre-media earphones. ;) (read the blog on my Klipsch pro-media earphones).

Discovery about Kontakt

I went through the Internet to see if I can find out more about learning to use Kontakt, after I know it's going to be my main interface for dealing with my virtual instruments. 

To my surprise, I found out that Kontakt is a very deep tool. Not only is it a sampler that plays your samples, but it is also a sample development platform. You can actually build an instrument out of your samples, or use existing samples to create a totally different instrument, right in Kontakt. It exposes so much functionality to users, it even has a KSP (Kontakt Scripting Processor) that allows you to script the behaviour of your virtual instrument. Script things like trigger another event (another sound or a loop) every time a key is pressed. You can script Kontakt to check when a note is released, when a control number is received, so on and so forth.

Of course this is very cool and very technical. But I hope to be able to play around with it enough to get myself familiarised with the interface and sounds, get inspired and motivated, before turning my attention to scripting the sampler.

Really looking forward to it! :)

Some articles I found:

Project with a Fellow VFX Artist - Work In Progress v07

Here's version 7 of "How am I supposed to Live without You".

How am I supposed to live without you - WIP 07 by patrickwoo

I spent a bit of time mixing the track and applying reverb and EQ to some of the main instruments.

It is sounding much nicer than the previous versions.

The workflow I was used to, was just taking care of the notes and arrangement before going to mix and process the sounds. Actually I am not really used to processing the sounds at all, before using virtual instruments, since they all originate from 1 or 2 tone generators or synthesizers.

This has opened up a whole spectrum of possibilities for me. I realise after some tweaks I was able to make the electric piano have more definition, make the pads sound a bit more ethereal.

Hope I can finish this and be able to record Alvin playing the sax on top of it. It'll be fun!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Purchased My First Piano Virtual Instrument

Last night, 5am in the morning, I spent £29 online buying a piano soft synth that is compatible with Native Instrument's Kontact player. Its the Fazioli Brunei.

The specs page and demos can be found here:

The samples are compressed to about 100mb in size after using Kontact's lossless compression. 68 out of 88 keys are sampled, and at the most played octaves.

I found that at £29 it was quite reasonably priced,. Also , having already made up my mind to acquire the NI Komplete 8 Ultimate,  which will give me access to Kontact player. With that in mind,  I bought the virtual instrument.

They sent me a link to download today after they processed my payment (that's just a few hours later).

I've just downloaded and tried it out. on my free Kontact 5 player downloaded from Native Instruments site. I held the notes on sustain and they smoothly die out after about 5 seconds. It is sort of natural, but I felt that they die off too soon.

Also, I don't know if it is due to insufficient processing power on my laptop (Its intel i7 quad core with 6gb RAM running on 64-bit Windows 7 though), or my onboard audio card, thereare some instances where there is adisturbing buzz after playing it for a while. I'll have to wait till my Komplete 8 collection comes, then I'll import the instrument permanently into Kontact.

Here's some history about the Fazioli Bruinei:

The Fazioli Brunei is the piano model from Fazioli that came out in 1996.

Quoted from Wikipedia:
"The unique Brunei concert grand is produced with inlays of precious stones, mother of pearl and exotic woods."

Tributes to Steve Jobs from Dyn

Since the announcement of Apple co-founder Steve Job's death on 5-10-2011 at age 56, there has been a huge wave of media coverage. I've received and read loads of links from many different sources. Some were articles, some were videos.

All of them about Steve passing away and his great contribution to the betterment of our society, the enabling of technology that affect our lives, including the way it's shaping the society and bringing people closer to each other, and, his contributions to the animated feature films and music industries.


This morning, (it's a Sunday!), from the Facebook page of Dyn (Dynamic Network Services), my free web host service provider, I came across an article where their employees pay tribute to Steve Jobs. It was full of sincere admiration and appreciation for the man who has a great part of his life trying to make our world a better place.

It is something else, because these tech guys actually know what they're talking about, and they actually see the influence and change from a professional perspective, and it sounds so different from the general public and media.

It also helps us see Steve Job's from yet another perspective and understand him just a little bit more.

Give it a read if you have time. :)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Project with a Fellow VFX Artist - Work In Progress v06

So I am in London for 5 months, working for an ongoing film that needed more manpower.

My mentor, a fellow visual effect artist, is also here at Framestore in London. A few of us know him, so we met up. He has been working hard at mastering the saxophone. Here's his blog (http://wolfbrother.blogspot.com/).

When I knew he was so passionate about music, I suggested to do something together with him. We plan to do a song together. I'll sequence the tracks for him and he'll play his saxophone over the tracks.

Here's the progress on my part. 

How Am I Supposed To Live Without You - WIP V06 by patrickwoo

This is done with FL Studio, with my Korg Nanokey 2. Sounds were taken from the Korg M1 Le soft synth and FL Studios built-in sounds.

Purchased Komplete 8 Ultimate!!

About 30 minutes ago I was up doing my project on a Saturday morning. 

I was a little nervous tonight. Should I buy it? Should I make a purchase for one of the virtual instruments bundle?

At beer and Pizza tonight I had a talk with Ronald. Again we talked about composing and equipment like soft synths and which one was better. He has always advised me to go for the Native Instruments' Komplete 8 bundle. This just came out in September 2011, pretty new product. 

Native Instruments (NI) is pretty much a standard in the music industry. Almost everybody doing music professionally would have some of its products. Its products are used from games to films to tvs and music albums. Their sampler Kontact, also became some sort of a standard where lots of 3rd party developers are creating sample libraries to sell. Komplete 8 consists of 27 products while Komplete 8 Ultimate consists of 50 product. This is literally the whole range of their products all bundled in 1 super swiss-knife package. With the Ultimate edition there are delicious addition of the more exciting products like 3 more drum kits, and loops. Also included in Ultimate are detailed and high quality session strings, 2 collection of cinematic percussion, loops and drums, and a Yamaha C3 Neo grand piano sample called Alicia's Keys. That is the piano used by the very  same popular pop celebrity of course. All in all Komplete 8 Ultimate has twice the number of NI products

At the same time I was also looking at EastWest's Composer Collection offer, where you can just choose 7 items from their pool of products, making your own bundle. (The link may expire, when the offer period ends). This costs from US$799 onwards (usual US$3188) and translates to a 75% discount. EastWest has the reputation of being the standard everybody looks to when doing cinematic and soundtrack for the big screen. They faithfully sample every instrument on every note plus extra articulation specific to their instruments. They also have a well rounded collection of virtual instrument for all purposes called Goliath. They also have a collection of drums, guitars and basses for rock to heavy metal kinds of music called Ministry of Rock 2, so real that if used and played correctly, one would mistake them for real guitar performances. There's even a very innovative choir virtual instrument called Symphonic Choirs, that allows controlling a choir that can sing any consonant or vowel you input! How cool is that??

Somehow Ronald has always advised me to take the Komplete package from Native Instruments because things that I've shown him (my works) has led him to believe that I am more of a pop music kind of guy. He is a hardcore fan of composing film music and soundtracks. 

I always felt that NI products are more skewed towards dance/electronic/hip-hop/dupstep kinds of sounds. It can be seen from just the number of synth products in the Ultimate collection. They have stuff like:
FM8, an FM synth
Razor, an additive synth
Reaktor, a subtractive modular synth that models 70 different kinds of synthesizers, grooveboxes and sound generators
- Reaktor Prism, using modal synthesis
Absyntha semi-modular synth that allows great flexibility in editing and morphing
Massive and Retro Machine MK2Analogue synth modellers 

Of course this ensures that users have lots of ways to generate and get the sounds they need. In the age where electronic sounds and waveforms are mixed into conventional instruments, this will give our music a truly modern sound. They are also invaluable to sound-design.

On top of all that the Komplete 8 collection features lots of audio processing plug-ins as well. From lots of guitar amps, bass-amps, and voice processors, to reverb, EQ, compressors, etc. This covers all the bases of the tools an artist/studio producer ever needs to produce a polished piece of work.

I finally decided to go for NI because it is such a well-rounded product, more flexible and suited for a wide range of modern purposes. As Ronald also reminds me, Komplete can also be used for film / TV music composing as well, because the sounds included symphonic and orchestral instruments as well. Also, many film soundtracks will also inevitably contain moving and morphing sounds in the background. I would also need to master the appropriate use of modern synth sounds to make my work stand out.

Komplete 8 Ultimate comes with a USB 2.0 harddisk full of 240GB of installation information. I read from the articles that 170GB contain sample information, and the rest are the executables. All this data, however, are just the installation files. To use the products, I must install from this hard drive, and probably use up another 240GB on my local hard drive. 

Having made my decision, I looked around for the "best priced" dealer that sells Komplete 8 Ultimate. Many vendors price it slightly below NI's price from their website. However, the prices are all fixed across all the websites that sell this.

I remembered coming across a website that gave a free headphone. I finally found that website. It is http://www.gak.co.uk.

They are giving away the Sennheiser HD 201 Closed Headphone (worth £21.99, they say) with the purchase of NI Komplete 8 Ultimate. 

Okay, at this point you may say I am a cheapskate, but if you think about it, £849 is not a small sum of money. Having a free gift for so much money spent, is better than not having anything, right? ;)