Monday, December 24, 2018

My Life as a Tailor

Sky in skirt.
The final project in last year's beginner sewing bootcamp at M Avery Designs Sewing was to make a skirt. Specifically, this very nice a-line skirt designed by Meghan.
So I thought to myself "Who would like a skirt?" and reached out to Sky. Luckily, Sky's sizing was exactly what the smallest pattern of this a-line skirt was. The other lucky thing is that I (like a boy) chose a material off the Internet with really minimal thought about it.
I got a very heavy black cotton material. But the thing with it is that 1. the color totally hides any sewing, er, "incidents"; and 2. the heaviness actually makes the curved sections stretch nicely. Sky, with her dancer figure, was made for this design.
Thank you Sky for being such a good sport. I didn't even have to poke her with needles! And it obviously fits great. The drape is very classy (because of the heavier material) and I'm rather proud of the work I did.
(I noticed that this year they added a men's tie as an option to the skirt for the class. ;-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Second Summative

I love this spacesuit design so much.

Assignment Mark (Summative)

70 %

Tutor Notes

Allison Piccioni's Notes:

Hi Andrew!

Thank you for your “Titanium Oil” submission!

Thank you for a detailed commentary and links to the engine and oil advertisements you watched for inspiration! I will always forewarn about watching or listening to a final version of something that you will be re-scoring for the fear that it will overly influence your own music, but obviously since the final brief was changed for the commercial it can be used as a good reference. Also love the David Wingo reference - an unusual reference but relevant nonetheless and I like the influence in your writing.

Nice choice in instrumentation and development through electronic to organic sounds. Great sound design to represent the engine!

I’d love to read a little more in your technical section about why you chose specific harmonic structure and how you developed melodically and rhythmically. Also curious what elements and how you created a greater density in the mix - EQ’s? Added layered elements to fill our the kHz? A mastering track, compression, etc? Would also like to know which plug-ins you are using!

Overall I find the mix and balance between varying sections to be a little scattered. There are such dynamic changes between sections, the instrumentation, and the overall mix layout- which makes me curious to know what and how hard of a compressor and limiter you used on the track. For commercial music, you will want the mix to be pretty hot, especially considering it will be ridden down underneath dialogue, and will be coming out of an assortment of speakers including iPad, iPhone, and television speakers and usually needs the bass boosted and treble or dialogue heavy kHz reduced. The beginning has a really GREAT mix balance. The heavy mechanical sounds at :19 are a little mid-range heavy (however, awesomely crunchy!) but then we go back into this atmospheric section that is well-balanced, with a good swell, although the transition into :54 could use a little something extra to smooth it over. I personally want a heavier low end under the smooth vocal sections from 1 minute out - but that is merely a personal preference.

I like the concept of bringing the vocal in the beginning, but you may want to consider using a more staccato vocal here to emphasize the mechanization of the engine at this point in the brief. Great bubbling synth bass here!

I love the junkyard percussion sound design starting around 19 seconds in, although I feel it is missing a bit of low-end or needs the bass and larger percussion boosted underneath it for power, the sound design feels more mid-range heavy here.

At 40 seconds into the track, we get this really cool other worldly atmospheric presence in the music. The percussion and vocal that comes in around 55 seconds adds to this foreign feel, which I personally find is perfect for the scenario of the brief, although I think that adding a louder, low pad would really add some depth to this section. This is where the Doppler effect is

I hear that you have a Doppler affect car zoom sound later in the track, this is something that I haven’t heard in other projects, and I think that works extremely well in a creative, sound design, and musical way!

The smooth vocal sample is great, good levels of reverb here. If you decided to use a more staccato vocal at the beginning, you may also consider taking off some of the reverb at the front, to give it a tighter and closer feel. I also find that the synthesized sounding strings are appropriate here

I myself would have gone for a bigger ending to the track, however this is difficult to assess without having visual aid of the commercial.

Research: (9/10)
Creativity: (9/10)
Technicality: (8/10)
Practicality: (9/10)
Execution: (8/10)
Style and Originality: (9/10)

Allison Piccioni's Summary:

You have a great assortment of creative sound design in this and really nice differentiations between sections! Overall the mix is great - my only critique is the mix balance between sections and trying to even out the dynamics and/or mix spread, compressor levels, etc. I feel this mostly because the sound effects (which are awesome!) seem to be very mid-range heavy in the mechanical sections around 00:19 in, and the transition into the fluid vocal section seems just a bit rushed or in need of being smoothed over. You have a really nice development to this track and I thoroughly appreciate how you have turned a multitude of sound effects into musical and rhythmic elements!

David Denyer's Notes:

Hi Andrew,

Overall very strong work with this submission. The narrative beats are well defined and clear and you’ve clearly taken the narrative aims of the brief very seriously.

On the whole the use of engine sounds has been really cool but in general I’d suggest more processing to make them sound less like an early musique concrete and more in line with contemporary synthesis - pitch shifting would be a great start (generally pitch shifting down is the only kind of pitch shifting that ever really sounds any good), but also glitching them, or FFT processing or some other kind of garbling/warping could make them sound more refined, polished and generally heavier and more dramatic. In particular, the “vroom” sounds at 1:03/1:08 etc feel a little underdeveloped and could really be stylised somehow a little more, ie to be less immediately familiar (and therefore a tad gimmicky) but more intuitively familiar. Earlier on, the “engine ignition” sounds at 0:21, 0:23 etc, similarly have that slightly early-concrete feel, where the sounds are being used but the processing on them is limited, so the source is quite familiar. If this had been slowed-down via playback rate by, say, 50% this could be a really cool grumbly sound but the familiarity of it is a little bit too jarring here - what we’re after is the feeling of “engine-ness” without actually the recognition of the sounds that we’re hearing. Consider something like the sound effects used in the Transformers films - they communicate “high-tech machinery” without actually sounding much like machinery that we’re familiar with and this allows those sounds to operate within a less clearly-defined spectrum.

Perhaps more problematically is the fact that, dramatically, the “spikey dance” is actually the coolest part of the music - and the “elegant smooth” dance towards the end actually sounds much less cool. This is a problem because the engine oil is the product that is aimed at being sold by this ad - which means the smooth elegant dance at the end has to sound like the absolute pinnacle of coolness and elegance and power and climax - this really has to be the “act 3” of the advert, where the whole piece has been building up to. What it feels like though is that the spikey dance is the climax - and the final part almost feels like a coda, or an appendage to the end of the piece, which has this kind of dreamlike, slightly resigned, sort of muted feel. So functionally and dramatically, this would probably not suffice for the producers of this ad.

Overall the production is very good, there’s some really cool sounds here and the electronics are used quite tastefully - your electronic percussion, especially in the “spikey dance” works really well. Really nice use of the stereo field too. As a track this really has promise, but the dramatic emphasis and climax so early on during the part of the film that’s supposed to be the “problem” that is solved by the “product” later - confuses the message slightly, and it’s a shame because you set this piece up really well for an incredible payoff in the last act that never really happens.

Research: 9/10
Creative: 7/10
Technical: 9/10
Practical: 6/10

Kind regards,


David Denyer's Summary:

Overall very strong work, some very cool sound design and an overall aesthetic that really suits the product. I think the engine sound-design needs to be masked a little more, as the familiarity is a little jarring and diverts the piece away from the more artsy/fantastical realm, and dramatically the part of the piece that should be the climax - ie, the engine finally operating at full efficiency due to the brilliance of the product - actually sounds less dramatic than the earlier part of the film (ie, the “raucous danse macabre”), which ultimately undermines the goals of the film and the music. Strong work otherwise.

Friday, December 14, 2018

In the Aggregate
Some alternatives to CD Baby.
So far I've been pretty happy with CD Baby -- mostly because I don't have to deal with anything once the title is released. But maybe that's true with the others too. I dunno.
I'm offended that my blog might end up being safe for work.
I think we're going with Podbean for the Earthkiller podcast.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Notes to live by

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Hi Andrew,

There are a lot of good ideas, and the live recordings add significant depth and make the track more organic. The style is perfect for the brief. There is definitely enough room for dialogue.

The energy of the track is quite linear overall. There are always new elements coming, but the percussive pattern stays the same (or very similar) throughout the track, with very little variation in register, dynamics and harmony. If you listen to what’s happening at 1:00 and then 4:30, the intensity is the same. There is not enough development. Instead, try to start with less elements and then build up slowly.
This makes it also a bit repetitive. Let’s assume this is for a pitch and you’re creating the soundtrack without any images or script, but only this brief. The music should tell some sort of story and have a dramatic arc of its own. First of all, the ideas and themes need to be very clear-cut. If you’re writing the music with the film in mind, think of how the director and editor are going to approach it. The probably simplest approach is the classic three-arc structure with a powerful climax. So while it’s great that your composition feels very coherent, it does need more variation and structure.
When you compose, try to think about the purpose of each section of the composition and its function within the narrative and overall structure. For example, “this is the theme’s light variation with piano and less percussion” or “this section builds up from very quiet to very loud and connects theme A and B” or “this section introduces the main characters” etc. Right now it’s more like “this is a new element and the music feels slightly different, but not clearly different”, so the audience can’t really tell where they are. Basically the tricky part is to find a balance between creating something that keeps telling something new and develops all the time, but still feels like one idea/style.

In terms of aesthetics this feels slightly more 2000-2010 than 2010-2018. Mainly because of the percussion and the saturated/distorted sounds (that being said, virtual hacker battles are a very 2000s thing). Nonetheless, this style is still widely popular, especially in library music.
A more modern example for this specific style is the soundtrack of Mr. Robot by Mac Quayle.

Be careful with the limiter. Currently the track is way too loud and compressed, losing all of its dynamics. For a pitch it can be a good idea to make your track loud enough to make sure it can compete against other tracks in terms of volume, but it should not be excessive. If the director has already decided to work with you and this is a draft or even the final version of a cue, there is no reason to add a limiter, or if so, only very little. Tracks on soundtrack albums are mastered differently than the cues actually in the film, so you shouldn’t use their loudness as a reference (again, unless you’re releasing a soundtrack album).
Eventually, this is the composition’s main problem: everything is more or less equally loud, the music doesn’t go in any direction (building up, slowing down etc.) but remains static.


Research: 6/10
Creative: 6/10
Technical: 6/10
Practical: 6/10

Matteo Pagamici's Summary:
Overall, the production quality and the style are excellent, but the music needs more development.

Friday, December 07, 2018


 I think アンドリュー・ベルウェア is my name in Japanese.
I think that little dot between my first and last name is maybe something standard-ish for foreign names in Japanese. I dunno though.
 Gesamtkunstwerk the total artistic synthesis.
 The Artwork of the Future.

Simple Rules to be followed blindly by composers for motion pictures.
I should paste this critique on a note on my monitor: "Overall, the production quality and the style are excellent, but the music needs more development."