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Topic: Looking for Rendering Tips

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  1. #1

    Looking for Rendering Tips

    I am working on a very short piece that I hope to post. I sketched it and then orchestrated it to the best of my limitations. I am now going back to the beginning and filling in the CC1 envelopes and I applied a Humanization script (from SONAR) to the entire piece at once. I was wondering if others do this sort of work as they are going along in a composition or whether it makes sense to do it at the end as I have ended up doing When drawing in the CC1 curves, I solo each instrument and then add them together one at a time. This is extremely labor intensive and time consuming even for a short piece. Being one who is always looking to improve his work flow I am interested in how others set about to performing these tasks. Hope this makes some sense. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    This post would be better on the General Discussion, I think. However, I am not an expert at all, but you are interested how others doing it, and I qualify for "others".
    To save work, I go by sections, say all strings, setting a basic volume, and balancing them C1 so that the 1st lead the rest follow, for now, ignoring that I would like at some place let say the cellos should lead. Do similarly to the woods and brass. Than, as a student of Randy, I bounce to audio, and do my final rendering easily adjusting, lifting up or lowering individual sections. I hope it makes sense what I am writing, but I am on my way to a concert now (Brahms #1 piano concerto), if I can help later, let me know...

    Ted

  3. #3

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    Thank you. I thought I was in General Discussion when I posted this- I can be a bonehead sometimes. Sorry about that. I think Randy might be able to move it.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. Yes it does make sense. I like the idea of a sectional approach. Although, I am not sure what can be done after bouncing to audio that can not be done otherwise but I assume this is a gap in my knowledge.

    By the way, Brahms is one of my favorites, I envy the morning you are spending listening to him.

  4. #4

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    Hi Richard,

    Whichever approach you use, the editing of MIDI data can be laborious. It's not too exciting to be selecting CC envelopes and adjusting them, or recording them.

    My workflow involves
    • Recording a phrase or batch of chords
    • tweaking the phrase where needed on the piano roll until happy with the notes
    • then deciding on the orchestration of the phrase, what instruments will I add and in what form (harmony, unison, counterpoint etc)
    • Recording and inputting those additional lines
    • Editing all the midi data for the few bars until happen enough with the results to move on (modulation, expression, pedal data, velocity and other cc information specific to any libraries I'm using)
    • Then repeat, back to the first bullet.


    Sometimes I'll have a larger sketch of music ready before I do any following steps, probably near a minute of music that then get's the above treatment. I wouldn't like to sketch out an entire arrangement only to find that adjusting the MIDI data isn't giving me the results I like, because then I might have to make a lot of changes in the middle of a piece and upsetting the musics flow. Of course, sometimes changes in the middle occur and work out really well, too.

    My template is set up in such a way that as I finish each couple of bars, I have in my eye's finished music (yes I'll likely still tweak it until the final export) but the sound, levels etc is all mixed and ready to go. I don't export to audio tracks for further tweaking. All of my finished music is a direct MIDI export.
    Website:
    www.grahamplowman.com
    YouTube Music:
    My Channel
    Twitter:
    @GPComposer
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  5. #5

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    hehe--Yeah, it's a General Discussion kind of thread. But I don't have the tools to move the thread - So, we'll just need this to be here. It's OK.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    I am working on a very short piece that I hope to post. I sketched it and then orchestrated it to the best of my limitations. I am now going back to the beginning and filling in the CC1 envelopes and I applied a Humanization script (from SONAR) to the entire piece at once. I was wondering if others do this sort of work as they are going along in a composition or whether it makes sense to do it at the end as I have ended up doing When drawing in the CC1 curves, I solo each instrument and then add them together one at a time. This is extremely labor intensive and time consuming even for a short piece. Being one who is always looking to improve his work flow I am interested in how others set about to performing these tasks. Hope this makes some sense. Thanks.
    Yes, it's definitely labor intensive, but what you've outlined is the way many people work. There's one single tool which would make it much easier, more intuitive, and probably with superior results: A keyboard or controller. With your hand on some wheels/sliders/knobs/pedals, CC1 and the other controllers would no longer be just "data" to you. You would make the leap from dealing with data to actually playing the instruments. To have the notes playing back, your hand on the mod wheel to perform the dynamics in real time - It can be exciting, you can put yourself in the shoes of each soloist as you record his "volume performance." In a fraction of the time it takes to draw it all in, you've recorded it organically.

    So - that's my major piece of advice on this topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    ...I go by sections, say all strings, setting a basic volume, and balancing them C1 so that the 1st lead the rest follow, for now, ignoring that I would like at some place let say the cellos should lead. Do similarly to the woods and brass. Than, as a student of Randy, I bounce to audio, and do my final rendering easily adjusting, lifting up or lowering individual sections...
    I know you were doing just a brief outline of your process, Ted, but you left out an extremely crucial part of the process. Before bouncing my tracks to audio, I have done an enormous amount of MIDI CC work. As per what I said above, I record the dynamic performance for each instrument. I record AfterTouch vibrato. I may record Var1 and/or Var2, record Length control - My MIDI tracks are thoroughly worked over, and the piece is sounding just fine before I bounce to audio. I really want to stress that when I talk about MIDI production, I never mean to give the impression that CC1 can be a matter of just a few values inserted here and there for volume control - That's not at all what CC1 is for--That's what CC7 is for, the controller that sets the fader levels in ARIA. Those are generally in one spot for a whole piece, but those sliders can be adjusted via CC7 during a piece if needs be. CC1 is the DYNAMIC, constantly changing volume control needed in every MIDI track.

    Then, after those polished MIDI tracks are bounced to audio, even more detailed work can be done with volume control and balancing the entire mix. But working with audio volume control should not replace the MIDI performance work.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    ...I am not sure what can be done after bouncing to audio that can not be done otherwise but I assume this is a gap in my knowledge...
    Recently we had quite a lengthy discussion, several discussions actually, in General Discussion, on the topic of bouncing to audio. That discussion led me to change my position on the topic. I'll explain:

    --For years, I've worked as outlined above. I was surprised to find out that anyone was skipping the process of bouncing to audio. I know that for me, I can produce work that's more polished that way.

    --BUT--from the discussion I'm referring to in General Discussion, I saw that there were misunderstandings of the process, there were frustrations with trying to make it work - It wasn't nearly as easy for people to adapt to this way of working that I thought it would be. One person said he was bouncing to audio, but then doing nothing more with those tracks - just exporting them. There's absolutely no advantage to doing that. The whole point of bouncing is then to work even more at dynamics and really mixing the project.

    --For me, the advantages of bouncing are crucial, and I continue to work that way. The main advantages for me are that I can see the audio, I can see precisely the moments that need tweaking, and when I archive the project, I have something solid to archive, not just ephemeral MIDI data which may not work when I open the project later and the synths I used may not even work anymore.

    BUT, Graham "Plowking" is a perfect example of someone who does all his work totally in the MIDI realm, and his excellent recordings are testimony that one can work that way with total success.

    Back to my #1 recommendation to you - Get a controller surface or keyboard so you can record MIDI data in real time, and preferably also play the notes that way, even if you record just one measure at a time.

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    I am really glad I posted this. I got just what I was looking for-the opportunity to pick the brains of some people who produce really outstanding work. I like the idea of perhaps getting a control surface. I am guessing that I can assign faders or pots on the surface to a particular controller value. I see where that would be much more intuitive and "organic." I have to price them because I am on a limited income/budget. I see that Plowking does the controller work as he is going along and I think that is worth experimenting with. Hearing the dynamics may in itself inspire a direction or passage that I may have missed otherwise. Though I must have the piece sketched first or I will lose the forest through the trees. I don't mean every line or counterpoint but the basic harmonies and theme. For this same reason I can not play the parts in-my piano skills are just not that good and I would get so bogged down in trying to play the line that I would lose sight of the whole. And Plowking has validated for me that MIDI work is laborious and at times not very exciting-so it is not just me.

    I learned from Randy early on that CC1 is a dynamic control. My first approach was to just set the values as sort of an automated volume control. After hearing what Randy had to say it did not take long to see CC1 is really intended for-though this does not mean I have the skill to maximize its potential. . As for the other controllers available in Aria I really must go back to the GPO 4 manual and understand what they do and start using them. As far as bouncing to audio I am wondering whether you are doing that to achieve unique effects or does that enable you to create a more realistic sound.

  7. #7

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    hehe--Yeah, it's a General Discussion kind of thread. But I don't have the tools to move the thread - So, we'll just need this to be here. It's OK.

    Back to my #1 recommendation to you - Get a controller surface or keyboard so you can record MIDI data in real time, and preferably also play the notes that way, even if you record just one measure at a time.

    Randy
    Randy, Eureka! this is exactly what I've been scratching my head over. I have no idea how to assign volume changes to a mod wheel. I'm very new to midi. It sounds like a dream come true to be able to listen to a part and tweek the volume in real time with a mod wheel. If you have a moment and can point me towards information on how to do this I would be very grateful.

  8. #8
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    I urge you to look at the general discussion area and a quite recent long discussion about mixing-rendering in general in two separate postings.
    If I would have to make an "executive summary" about how fare we got:

    Two major groups emerged:

    1./ Bounce to audio after elaborate dynamics work in MIDI, final polishing plus effects (bouncing done before effects) in audio, represented by proven results by Randy.
    2./ Finish all the work in MIDI, essentially the same MIDI work as in 1./, but to a finished, balanced state, represented also by proven result of Graham.

    In my HO both ways could be equally successful as we can hear from the results of these two experts on this Forum. It boils down for me: what is more comfortable for one's way of working, level of patience, desire to perfection etc., and not excluding the acquired skill of the composer.

    I am in between the two options. If I like the piece I am working on, I like to bounce to audio, it forces me to be more precise. Working only in MIDI, I get lazy, and accept less quality, because I have instant satisfaction easier.
    I did not know, you have no controller in your set-up, so Randy's #1 suggestion is a must. In my home setup I have a M-Audio keyboard controller, and here in Mexico I use a MIDI-capable inexpensive keyboard, which has not even the most basic controls, like velocity-sensitive keys or a mod-wheel, so my work here is much slower, requires more adjustments and additions after recording. The M-Audio mod-wheel I can program to any CC, life is much easier this way. I paid less than 130 dollars for it 7 years ago.

    Randy's advise includes CCs for vibrato and length control. These are new to me, never tried them. So, Randy, if you can tolerate it, could you please elaborate a little on these two controls. I also am totally bluffed by the Ver1-2, what do they do, and how?
    The Aria manual is not clear enough for my mental capacity...

    Thanks.

    Ted

  9. #9

    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    Hi, Richard and Dongios - I'm replying to both of you on this very large topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    ...I like the idea of perhaps getting a control surface. I am guessing that I can assign faders or pots on the surface to a particular controller value. I see where that would be much more intuitive and "organic." I have to price them because I am on a limited income/budget.
    Quote Originally Posted by dongios View Post
    Randy, Eureka! this is exactly what I've been scratching my head over. I have no idea how to assign volume changes to a mod wheel. I'm very new to midi. It sounds like a dream come true to be able to listen to a part and tweak the volume in real time with a mod wheel. If you have a moment and can point me towards information on how to do this I would be very grateful.
    Here's the absolutely best deal on a controller surface available. For $39.99 at Musician's Friend:



    Korg nanoKONTROL MIDI Controller $39.99 at Musician's Friend

    It's 12 1/2" X 3" X 1/2" - You couldn't ask for anything smaller than that. Here's a comment at the Musician's Friend site from a user who sounds very happy about using the controller with Sonar:

    "Just got the Korg nanoKONTROL MIDI Controller last week and I'm already using it to control Sonar and soft synths. There's nothing like a real interface for mixing rather than a mouse, and soft synths are way more usable when you can tweak them in real time."

    Features:

    9 knobs
    9 sliders
    18 buttons
    Transport buttons: REW/PLAY/FF/LOOP/STOP/REC
    SCENE buttons (SCENE 1-4)
    4 user scene memories
    mini-USB connection
    USB bus powered
    USB cable included

    NOTE: As with all sites that include user comments, you'll see both positive and negative customer reviews. I can see that some negative reports are from users who didn't take the time to figure out how to use the thing - like the guy who says he can't get it to control anything in his software. That guy needs to be told "RTFM." So - take those reports with a grain of the proverbial ignorance-driven salt.

    Mod Wheel - By default, the mod wheel on keyboards send out MIDI CC1. In Garritan CC1 controls volume, so there's nothing you need to do, no assigning to do - You just start recording your mod wheel movement, and you have instant control over the volume of the Garritan instruments.
    --------------------------------------
    DRAWING CONTROLLERS - There's nothing wrong with doing that, and even with a controller, there will be times when you'll want to get into the PRV and do some fine tuning of the data you've recorded. But one of the main problems of drawing it all in, besides the tedium, is that people often aren't drawing the data in way that's as natural, flowing, and detailed as when it's recorded.

    Here's a video demo about using MIDI volume control that I did in 2007, using a clip from my show, "Dorian Gray."

    You'll see the PRV open to the lead violin's notes, and in the controller pane you'll see the flowing line of volume data. The soundtrack is of the full mix:

    MIDI Volume Control Demo

    That volume performance was recorded in real time. If a user trying to draw that kind of performance in, it would be best if he could look at PRV displays like this to emulate what recorded data looks.

    Sonar tip - The only way to draw in data with continuous curves is to hold CTRL down while sweeping with the cursor, and it helps to have Control Handles off. Those handles really get in the way when you're trying to draw and edit.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    ...I see that Plowking does the controller work as he is going along and I think that is worth experimenting with...
    I agree. Having all the notes in place for a full project, but with none of the data in, could present an almost overwhelming task when starting over at the top to add the data. To do at least some of the primary controllers as you go, as Graham does, would be a better work flow.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    ...I learned from Randy early on that CC1 is a dynamic control. My first approach was to just set the values as sort of an automated volume control. After hearing what Randy had to say it did not take long to see CC1 is really intended for-though this does not mean I have the skill to maximize its potential. . As for the other controllers available in Aria I really must go back to the GPO 4 manual and understand what they do and start using them...
    The manual does have a complete list and good explanations of the MIDI Controllers. But don't forget that right there in the ARIA interface, on the Controls tab, the specific MIDI Controllers available for an instrument are all displayed and labeled. It's easy to always check which Controllers a particular instrument utilizes. The only control not always displayed is AfterTouch which is used by a lot of Garritan instruments for vibrato.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardMc View Post
    ...As far as bouncing to audio I am wondering whether you are doing that to achieve unique effects or does that enable you to create a more realistic sound.
    I would have to say No to both of those points. I'm not usually doing special effects that only work with audio, and there's no magic in the process that makes the result more realistic.

    There are a myriad of reasons I bounce, starting with the simple fact that it's my habit. It really didn't even occur to me to work otherwise early on in my use of using a computer for music production. I assumed the goal was to be like a traditional sound engineer, mixing the tracks of each musician who played in the session. Instead of a human being playing the instrument, invisible robots are playing via MIDI - but with the same results. The virtual musicians are being captured the same way, in audio - so when it's time for the mixing portion of the project, the raw materials for the mix are a stack of audio tracks, and the ones that captured live musicians and the ones that captured virtual musicians looke and behave identically.

    This work flow is very entrenched in me. On the rare occasion when I do something "quick n' dirty," just recording some MIDI tracks and exporting that - it feels lilke I've designed a house, and I have a nice rendering of the house on paper, but I failed to actually build it. Something of that sort.

    As you can see, those are all subjective reasons for preferring to work with audio when mixing. There aren't any straight-ahead, objective reasons that can prove working this way is better. It's just my strong personal preference. As I said before, having a solid archive of a project is important to me - I have a folder with the Sonar project file and all the audio tracks. That feels indestructible. No matter what happens with my software, I have that solid audio saved which can be played in any program. I could do a new mix in Sonar or any other DAW software under the sun. At this point, it would probably be impossible for me to only have a Sonar project file (which contains all the MIDI) and feel I've safely archived a piece. I wouldn't be able to do it!

    The other major thing is also as I said earlier - At this point, I wouldn't know how to work without seeing the details of the wave form. Here's a screen shot showing what I mean. The brighter envelopes on the two tracks are volume data recorded in real time with a slider on my controller keyboard. The darker envelope is the automation for reverb send level:



    You can see from the display that the instruments were already detailed in their performance - There's plenty of variety in their volume which is plainly visible. But in working with these bounced tracks, I was able to fine tune the tracks with yet more detail. In the top track, a bit left of center, you'll see how the volume envelope suddenly sweeps up and down again on a low part of the wave form. That's because, despite trying to get everything perfected in my MIDI track, the attack of that note was still weaker than it could have been. That volume envelope on the audio corrects the problem. Farther to the left in that first segment of sound, you can see I brought the volume down on the ending of a note. Being able to see the sound in such detail is the only way that kind of precise editing is possible. I can see the exact, minute spots that I can work on. That's what I'm used to - That's just the way I gotta work.

    But again I'm ending with the very important caveat: It's possible to make excellent recordings using only MIDI, and again I'll point out that Graham "Plowking" proves that point over and over, every time he posts his excellent work.

    INSERTING MORE REPLIES - While I was composing this already long reply, Ted posted an excellent message which ends with some questions for me, so I'm already editing this before posting:

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    ...Randy's advise includes CCs for vibrato and length control. These are new to me, never tried them. So, Randy, if you can tolerate it, could you please elaborate a little on these two controls. I also am totally bluffed by the Ver1-2, what do they do, and how?The Aria manual is not clear enough for my mental capacity...
    Vibrato - Not all, but many of the instruments in GPO can have their vibrato controlled by AfterTouch. Here's a screen shot in Sonar's PRV showing ChanAft (Channel AfterTouch) data controlling vibrato on a trumpet:



    Without using that controller, a GPO trumpet would always be playing without vibrato, and that's not natural. I think that concept is easy enough. If you have a controller device, one of the knobs or sliders just needs to be assigned to AfterTouch to record the data in real time, or you can use the menu in the PRV to insert an AfterTouch controller pane to draw it in.

    The Length Control
    , CC21, defaults to a 12:00 (50%) level. That's usually the length you want. Notes die out in a natural way. But there are times, like in fast passages, where you need notes to die out more quickly, to emphasize staccato. So you need a CC21 controller pane where you can draw in data which temporarily makes the notes shorter - they die out faster. Conversely, in a legato passage it can be helpful to have all the notes taking longer to die out. Simply add data which brings the length more in the range of 60%, and you'll have an envelope on the sound of each note that has a longer, but still fairly brief, fade.

    Var1 and Var2 give variety to the tone and pitch of instruments. Experiment by moving the knobs in the Controls window of ARIA. You'll hear at higher levels you'll get different sounds. Var 1 changes the pitch slightly, Var2 changes the timbre slightly. Since those are also controlled by MIDI CCs, you can automate their levels during a piece. Maybe you have two flutes playing a unison sustained note. Real musicians never maintain absolutely perfect pitch, so you could record some Var1 data on one of the flutes during that sustained note, introducing a slightly wavering in the pitch which gives a very natural chorusing effect. Var2's effect is more subtle, but it can be helpful to introduce the slightly darker tone throughout a passage, and you get that at higher levels. Both Var 1 and 2 have to be used in small doses, or you can quickly achieve the sound of an out-of-tune amateur band - and that's not usually the effect you want.

    Randy

  10. #10
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for Rendering Tips

    Thanks a lot, now I'll shut up, have loads of new things to try (all because of you)

    Ted

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