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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Purchased the East West Composer Collection HD

The power of e-mail marketing! 
East West was having a year-end sale where you purchase 2 products and get the cheaper one free. Yes I got this again from their promotional email in my mailbox. ;(

I actually only wanted to get just Golaith and the Symphonic Choir virtual instruments. Each one of them cost US$495. But in the end I also wanted the Stormdrum2 and maybe the Symphonic Orchestra virtual instrument. I was doing a lot of weighing in my head. I aimed to pick out 2 from the list, but in the end I was still left with 3: Symphonic Choir, Stormdrum2 and the Goliath.

At that point I realised that even if I bought 2 sets of 2-for-1 bundles, it would come up to about US$900. That brought me back to the original promotion: EastWest's Composers Collection HD offer. You can pick 7 virtual instruments and you get 75% off the total price, starting from US$779. That gives much more mileage for the money spent compared to the original 2-for-1 promotion. (I realise that after a while the Composers Collection link may go dead since they say it is a time-limited offer).

So in the end I ended up ordering for the Composers Collection HD.

On top of purchasing this bundle, they need an iLok licensing hardware for the virtual instruments to work. That costs about US$49. All in all it was a good but very expensive buy too. I found one for US$39.90 on Amazon.com and ordered it. I am now back in Singapore so I can only use comgateway.com to get it delivered to me. (Singapore is not on the list of "worldwide" addresses that Amazon will deliver to).

Now I feel a pang of guilt. The past 6 months have been the time I've spent the most money for as far back as I can remember. Fast and furious! I am not a professional musician/composer, but I am investing such a huge amount of money on these things. 

However I feel its the right way to go, when compared to spending money purchasing synthesizers, which is what I was doing for the past years. I don't know if it will pay off in the long run, but I feel it will definitely help me in the journey in music, equipping me with the industry-standard tools to make the music I like. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Sonivox Vocalizer

Was browsing through my mailbox today and I saw... Discount from Sonivox for thanksgiving! 25% off all Sonivox purchases!

So being unsuspecting and curious, I went over to take a look again at their products... Then I remembered that Vocalizer was their product. I came across this the time I bought Native Instruments Komplete 8. I was quite amazed by the technology and the limitless possibility this product can have.

It is not merely a vocoder (even though it functions superbly as a vocoder). It is a synthesis engine that takes waveform as input. It can take anything from instruments tracks, a percussive beat and human voices. With that as an input, and relatively simple and easy-to-understand controls, Vocalizer can output unlimited variations of the sound, bringing up harmonics (primaries and secondaries), morphing it into something totally wild (if you so wish it). Every control can be automated and assigned to midi controllers.

Listen to the demo here (or go to the Vocalizer product page). There are also quite a few videos from the product page. They are hosted by YouTube.com so I am embedding them here:


Monday, 14 November 2011

FL Studio Merchandising Design Contest: Won 2nd Prize!

What a big surprise! I opened up my email and I saw a receipt from Image-Line software, makers of FL Studio. 

I went into the contest forum thread, and I found that I won the 2nd prize!

First prize by AndrAKondrA had 167 votes, winning 25% of all the votes:
This image is from the forum where there was a button to click to vote ;)

2nd prize was my entry, scoring a 148 votes, winning 22% if all votes:
This image is from the forum where there was a button to click to vote ;)

The entry by gamecat666. It won 3rd prize with 111 votes, bagging 17% of all votes:

Winning the 2nd prize in this contest means I would receive 300 IL Virtual Cash. 1st prize wins 500 IL Virtual Cash and 3rd prize wins 100 IL Virtual Cash.

There were comments on the voting page that 3D renders are more eye catching on computer displays and more likely to attract voter's attention. However the concept and layout/composition may not be the best in the context of a t-shirt design or a mug. My piece was used as an example, because my cables were "cut-off" by the boundary of my rendered frame, thereby making it not the best candidtate, design-wise.

Also, with regards to designing for the print-medium in mind, some people also commented that photo-realistic renders, even they look attractive, would not be so suitable for mugs and t-shirts, if the designers had actually had experience doing designs for t-shirts.

The moderator commented that the designs could be used in posters for example, and they might work with us to request for modification to make the designs more suited to their purposes.

I absolutely agree with the fact that 3D spoils the market, in a way. The glossy finish and realistic shading do have the effect of covering up a weaker concept. Any piece of deisng with a nice 3D render is a design with a good execution. It would carry an average design through to become above-average. 

Only people who're trained in design can tell if a design is strong or not. It means that with their strong foundation, they will always have an edge over 3D software users who do not have fundamental knowledge in image composition, lighting principles and colour theory. That is why I believe being a 3D (CG/VFX) aritst, one should also be very aware of those foundation in art and aesthetics.

Thank you for your support, voters!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Taking the Crowd to the Cloud - Social Media for the Music Industry

From a promotional email from headliner.fm, there was this time-limited offer for a reduced price for the book entitled: "Taking the Crowd to the Cloud - Social Media for the Music Industry" by Kelli Richards. This book is sold on Amazon USA (not in the UK), and the Kindle version of the book was going for US$3.99 (after tax it was US$4.59).

This is a really up-to-date guide to help change the business mindsets of artists/artiste managers/producers/music marketing people, making them more aware of the ever-changing landscape of online communities, social networking, and emerging marketing and publicity avenues. 

With the advent of social media and online direct-to-listeners kind of business model, the powers of marketing strategies are shifting from huge labels into the hands of the individual artists and groups. This book discusses the inevitably changing mode of future content distribution, and how artists can prepare themselves to fully harness this new medium to directly reach out to more listeners than ever before.

It also talks about strategies that targets the present consumer behaviours, how to engage listeners and fans. It also advises strategies to draw them in, to interact with them experience with them so they can have a deeper understanding of the artists/groups and their music. 
I am still slowly going through the book (I am reading multiple books in parallel). However, I highly recommend it based on what I have read so far. 

The author takes a very down-to-earth approach to recommending our course of action when it comes to publicity, what to (and not to)  post on different social sites. Her examples are very current, and she has great insight on where the content business will head towards in the near future.

Whether you are an established or professional artist, in the distribution business or simply a music hobbyist, this is a real eye-opener with a broad view of the business. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Headphones Render Again! With Reflected Glow

Rendered in Mental Ray again, using a bokeh samples value of 32.

Applying the reflected glow test from a previous post, I applied a Mental Ray mia shader which enabled the glow on the cable to be reflected on the ground. Compare this with the previous post and you will see the glow is clearly reflected on the ground. This gives a more realistic look.

This took 4 hours and 31 minutes to render for 2000x1300 pixels. Much better than the render in the previous post, which took 7 hours with 64 samples in the Bokeh node.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How I (re-)Discovered Regine Velasquez

I remembered the song in my head tonight. Only a portion of the lyrics was in my head - "The moon and stars came out to play". 

http://www.lyrster.com/ gave me the title I was looking for: It was 'Zoom' by Fat Larry's Band. I was quite fond of the song for a long while. Interestingly there was another hit on the same title. The singer was Regine Velasquez. 
Next I went to Grooveshark.com to look for the song. I found the original one from Fat Larry's Band. When I searched for Regine Velasquez's version, I could not find it. Instead I took a listen to all her other songs. She has a lot of her own cover version of popular songs. When I listened to them I was quite blown away by her voice, her singing technique, and the sincere emotions showing through. I felt her voice was very pure and refreshing and the music was tastefully done to bring out her voice. 

I can tell that the music was not mainstream sounding. The arrangement style was mostly 80s and 90s pop, but was a bit sparse, a bit budget sounding, not really as thick and not as richly processed as the mainstream recordings of that period. However I felt that the music arrangement did get the job done more than adequately. I also saw her other songs that were in a foreign language. I thought she was either Indonesian, Malay or Vietnamese.

I then went to do a Wikipedia search of Regine Velasquez. It was only when reading through this extraordinary singer that I realised this was the very same female Filipino singer was the one that did sang together with Jacky Cheung in his very popular song called "In Love with You". 

She was raised from a musical family which fully supported and nurtured her since her youth. This equipped her and enabled her to win many awards first in the Philippines then the region, and finally worldwide acclaim. She was also the first Asian singer to perform at the Main Hall of Carnegie Hall for her debut solo concert in New York. Over the years she also did acting and hosting for TV shows.

I was very touched by her humble beginnings. It seems to me that she could have been anybody, but her passion, perseverance and hardwork enabled her to rise above the rest and become an international name. It must not have been easy for her to rise to her international stardom at that time, when the media was not as effective like it is today. There was no YouTube, no video sharing websites. Being an Asian myself I feel proud and inspired by her story.

Regine Velasquez, your story of success and hard work which enabled you to become an international star, has inspired me and earned my respect!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Improvements to the FL Studio Headphones Render

I still wanted to persue the idea of a smoking cable and smoking logo. So I went ahead to Maya and tried playing around with Maya fluids. 

After developing the look for the fluids, this is the final result. I also brought up the overall brightness of the lights by quite a fair bit.

Next up, I might want to animate this to a beat or something.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Submitted Entries for Image-Line Merchandise Design Contest

I've finally finished it! Submitted what I've worked on for the last weeks. If you read my blog entry just a few posts back, I submitted 2 ideas for merchandise: a coin bank and a candy jar

While I was still working on it more than a week ago, YC happened to see it and commented that they weren't so attractive. As in, he probably would not want to get one if he saw it at an online shop.

On Friday evening I purchased FL Studio and I told YC about it. YC saw it that the prize for the competition was the sole motivating factor for my purchase of the software, so that I could start posting entries at the forum. 

Since last week, YC was already telling me to try and come up with something else. So last Sunday, I began to build the model of a headphone. Initially I had no idea at all what I was going to do. I had a vague idea that I was going to do the Fruity Loops logo again, on the headphones or something. I also thought of using the fruit as the source that the headphones were plugged into.

On Wednesday I submitted the coin bank and candy bar entry. On that night, YC tried to help me brainstorm for design ideas. I think he was itching to stretch his creative brain muscles. We came up with strange things, from lava lamps to trees bearing the fruity logo as fruits. 

So all the way to the weekend I continued to model and develop the model. I had some problem trying to model the mesh. I had 1 that is bump mapped, and I had 1 with circular holes and another with hexigonal holes cut into planes.
On Saturday night, I went without sleep for the full night trying to light, texture and develop the look for the single shot I am rendering. 
Some technical details pertaining to CG and 3D which described my process of modelling and rendering the image are included in the similarly named post on my VFX blog here: http://patrickvfx.blogspot.com/2011/10/submitted-entries-for-fl-studio.html.

That was 30 Oct morning, London time. Contest ends 30 Oct. I was not very sure which time zone, so I finished it by Sunday 9am, my local London time.

After submitting it, I decided to run the rendered image through an Android app by Autodesk called Pixlr-o-matic. Its available from the Apple App Store too. Here are the amazing results and variations.

Many of  them are useable and
totally changes the feel of the image right? I was quite amazed at what mobile apps can do these days. So after I got these variations out, I quickly logged on and submitted a few more just to show the potential of the render.

I got a reply that said "damn kids throwing their 3D around these days". I think it was meant as a joke :). Another person replied "I want one of those, would you actually make them and how much can I buy them for?". Thats a great compliment to my work! 

The design contest was primarily a DESIGN contest. Probably the most important factor for judges  to consider would be the element of design. So I am prepared that the people evaluating the entries would throw my image out the door (including the fruity coin bank and candy jar). 

My very lousy connection at home prevented me from replying them.

After my last 2 entries (coint bank and candy jar) that had links to a video clips of animated turn table, 3D entries in the forum started to include turntable video links. Copycats! Hah! ;)

There are not activities in the forum, so we'll just wait for the results and see.

I had an idea of smoke coming out from the logo and cable, but I did not have time to do it. I think I'll continue to work on it and maybe post a post-contest entry in the forum, just to show how I meant it to be. I've just got to be disciplined enough to carry it through.