Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Things I Use

Killing a bit of time, non creatively. Recorded two new songs today, so decided to take a break and do something mindless. I had been meaning to write up this list for some time now. So here is my list of essential software I use for mostly doing all the creating stuff. Too lazy to link them.

HitFilm Express . Excellent, free video editor, with hooks for editing, post processing, color grading, etc. Full featured, with purchasable content packs (or a $350 pro version). Trumps Adobe Premiere for my needs.

iSkyVideoSoft Converter . Been using this for years. It's paid, but worth every penny for me. Constantly updated. Basically converts every format of audio or video to any other format, perfectly and painlessly every time. Comes with profiles for file types (mp4, avi, etc) or even exporting to specific device types for ease of us (i.e., android phone, iPad air 2, etc)

LogicPro X . My DAW of choice, what I use for all my music production. As well, plugins I love - iZotope Ozone (mastering), Positive Grid Bias (guitar sim), Amplitube 3 (guitar sim), Peavy Revalver 4 (guitar sim), iZotope Nectar 2 (full vocal suite), Hornet AutoGain & Spikes (gain rider & non threshold based compressor-esque), T-Racks (compressors/leveler/maximizer/eq), Valhalla VintageVerb & Room (reverb sims)

CollageIt Pro . Excellent app for quickly creating a photo collage.

PhoShow Gold . Full featured slideshow app (osx and win), with purchasable transition/effect packs. Use it all the time.

Skrivener . Great tool for authors. Allows you to organize your chapters/notes/storyboards/characters in multiple ways, provides publisher friendly exports/etc.

Dropbox . Keep all my notes, song exports in sync. Run it on my pc's, laptops, and mobile devices so I have access to everything (although the apps kinda suck. no folder syncing, iffy with updated files that don't auto save to device). In this area I also use a few SimpleNote based client apps - but they are os specific using a simplenote storage DB backend.

Google Drive . Pay for 1TB monthly, so I back up all my music arrangements (like 20 GB for 80 songs), videos, photos, etc here.

Evernote . Also on the notes, I do use this for tracking/organizing everything I write/send/promote/etc. The marketing in this can be way heavy handed (and the constant pushiness to sync your notes).

OmniDisk Sweeper . Beautiful little tool for seeing exactly where your space is being eaten on your mac.

Photoshop (Essentials right now) . Nothing really to add.

Silver Efex Pro 2 . Recently free-wared by Google, a great little Nikon tool for adding effects (B&W and old film/camera) to your photos. While true photogs will opt to not use presets, this works great in a pinch when you don't need to tinker too much manually. Actually, you still can tinker with levels, exposure, etc here too if you want.

Android Studio & Xcode . For developing android & iOS apps. Pretty self explanatory.

Libre Office . I track all the songs with their ad copy, state of recordings, instrumentation, etc through a spreadsheet. How business like of me.

Apple Motion . Hidden in this app is a really great set of color grading tools for video at an affordable price.

Monday, September 5, 2016

One Small Step

Such a huge albatross hoisted from the body. Today I sent out the first batch (76) songs to other prospective artists to contribute. That quantity was rather arbitrary - at some point a few months ago some internal alarm went off and said "time to stop recording new things and finish what you have". So I obliged and spent the following two months deciding on the overall effect chain, etc.

Now, those have been wrapped up (in honesty, there is one song collaboration that requires a bit more tuning, but it's a trivial update on my end). It gives me such a sense of peace to know I can now go back to being a carefree songwriter and less a stressed engineer/producer. So, what's next.

First thing, I need to upgrade my osx to El Capitan. I had been avoiding it for months due to compatibility issues with some of the effects plugins I use. Lots of my music software is somewhat esoteric and built by small teams, so when Apple inevitably decides to break everything with an update, sometimes ye olde plugins take a while to get updated, or worse fall by the wayside. Hopefully everything still works, and if not, I suppose it's ok as those songs are finished, and the new ones will just avoid those plugins. El Capitan is needed for my iOS app, since Swift has changed a bunch and I need to upgrade Xcode and Swift for the app.

So I need to finish the iOS app (it's really early on) and the android app first. Android is almost done, really only needing AWS S3 to be added for the music/image storage (currently I am hosting the songs elsewhere, but it's not a wise final resting place for them). Then, get back to songwriting/recording, and back to casually working on the novel as well. 

It never ends (thank the almighty).

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Lesson in Time

When I first began this project late last year, or at least conceived of the idea in a long car ride, through fall, much of the approach I dreamt up was naive at best, occasionally disastrous at worst.

Ideas happen most any time, and I wanted this to be a pure dissolution of idea to song in as easy a way possible. If I were laying in bed and an idea struck, record the basics and don't worry about finishing the song at that moment. That way I'd never hinder the creative process, and I could keep creating reams of song fragments that would be able to be easily polished later when I was feeling more mechanical, less enigmatic.

This turned to be mostly a terrible approach. While I ended up with 75 songs shards rather quickly, I hadn't thought about many things that ended up in forcing me to spend months actually finishing those songs.

I hadn't quite perfected my effect chain, and this was the most egregious misstep. While it may sound trivial, this part ended up costing me so much time as I constantly experimented, tweaked, and grew my ears in an attempt to find the best way to produce the music. I switched mics, guitar sims, compressors, and more since my last album, and now having near 100 songs meant that every time I found a new approach, I had to retro-fit every fucking one before I'd be happy.

And, outside of the engineering issues, I found something else I hadn't really thought of. Magic. Magic can sometimes only exist in a small, finite window of time.

I went back and listened to the demos of the songs, and noticed that sometimes what ended up recorded months later somehow lost some of the original magic. I slowly came to the realization that sometimes its best to not let things sit and grow and think they will be easy to fix later. And, although I wasn't quite that callous (thinking it would be easy to fix), I didn't quite comprehend how hard it would be to pick up a tender ballad months later and try to capture the exact sound I had when I wrote it and it was ripping my heart out.

And as well, with creative pursuits, sometimes it's so hard to go back to something that feels from a different lifetime when there is new on your mind. As life changes and songs fall from new branches, the last thing you want to do is spend a week eq'ing and re-compressing the same damn vocal line from 3 months ago.

So, as I stand on the precipice of the next wave, I won't make the same mistake. No more dangling infant concepts left to mature under the weight of countless others. Finish the thought when it comes. Letting things linger and fester sometimes can make them near irreparable.