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Friday, October 19, 2007

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My...Robot?

In an ideal world, we would track the drum parts for the soundtrack this way: We would hire a professional drummer, just like the actor who played the role of the drummer (Nathan Gallaher, pictured to the left, is also a real-life drummer extraordinaire). We would somehow acquire a great sounding drumkit, made out of the finest wood and with the product name "Yamaha ____ Custom." We would record all drum performances in a good sounding drum room with about 15 microphones. A competent engineer would record and mix all that goodness. And it would be very, very good.

In our low-budget real world, I've been using the next best thing to the ideal: A robot (well, a Pro Tools plug-in called Digidesign Striketo be exact) that could emulate all of the above factors. It's like how the sugar substitute Splenda is sweet because it's a sugar by-product. Strike will pretty much do as you tell it (well, let's anthropomorphize it as "him"), but I'm pretty sure that if you piss off Strike, he'll shoot lasers at you.

And so I've been telling Strike to not only mimic, but to improve upon the demo drums that were created from samples and loops. While Strike is theoretically akin to a sequencer that uses samples and loops, there's this added dimension of human-like randomness and feeling for grooves and jamming. It's incredible.

So far, my biggest hurdle with my robotic musical collaborator was to figure out the best sounding drumkit for him to use consistently. The on-screen drummer performs two songs in the movie, and I'd like the drumkit to remain constant throughout the movie. There's a jazz kit that sounds good for one song ("the drone") but sounds muffled for the second song ("Do the Code" - the boogie woogie). I think we've found a happy medium that will leave the drone (ironically) jazzy and give the boogie woogie the punch it needs...all the while being a consistent drum kit. It's a bit of needed realism in a film that borders (and sometimes crosses into) the realm of the surreal.

I wish I could provide some samples here for our readers to compare, but I guess you'll have to wait for Elan Vital. Besides, it's back to work with my robot.

Strike will only work in a Pro Tools digital audio workstation, or else he'll turn into a kill-bot (or was that a porn-bot?).

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