I've been working on a really great horror short, as a proof-of-concept for the larger feature film. The director is Pearry Teo, whose previous films have won awards ("Liberata Me" won best horror film at the New York International Film Festival several years ago) and others have sold into international distribution (Gene Generation - with Bai Ling and Faye Dunnaway - just sold to Lion's Gate). One of the scenes in "Necromentia" calls for a rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" while the main character is in a flashback, having a one-sided conversation with (and presumably preparing to resuscitate) the long-since-dead cadaver of his wife.
When I got the final cut of the short, it had an MP3 of Moonlight Sonata temp'd into the time line. I played with stretching the file to match the length of the scene, and even though it sounded fine, there was something that just wasn't right about it, timing-wise. It was a really nice, sensitive performance, however, aside from the copyright/performance rights issue of clearing that file for use (festival rights are usually cheap/free, but can be a hassle to secure), the timing was just a little bit "off". The original length finished before the scene was completed and the stretched version left some "moments" in the scene that begged for a touch of rubato in the piece to give the action on scene more focus. It just sounded 'un-natural' for the lack of a better word/phrase.
So I sequenced my own rendition while using GPO Steinway as the VSTi and a touch of reverb from Garritan's impulses supplied with GOS (using Voxengo's Pristine Space). It sounded really good, but when I got the downloadable version of the Authorized Steinway and could definitely tell that it was a cut above. I decided to try some other pianos in my library, including an upright and a few other "unofficial" Steinway libraries - originally toying with the idea to "disturb" the piano sound in some way with effects to make things sound even more creepy. After trying out a few things with the director, we came back to the original sound, because the perspective is a flashback for the main character - who thinks that everything he's doing is rational. The "straight-ahead" nature of the piano piece (as part of his rationalized imagination) actually heightens the creepiness a bit.
So I switched back to the Steinway "basic" VSTi until last week I received the full professional version and finally found time to load it up and try it out. All I can say is "WOW".
I'm really blown away by how great this instrument sounds. Even before I started editing the MIDI track to tweak in some subtlety in the pedaling, it was immediately evident that this instrument is in a class by itself. Where I've put a little extra rubato in the piece, you can hear a definite "floating" sound in the sustain that can only come from a well-regulated instrument. My guess is that some of the under-the-hood DSP is at play here, coupled with the additional layers of sampling that's in the professional instrument. I'm almost "afraid" to mess with the performance too much more, since I've got the rest of the film to deal with (both sound design and score) and a really tight time line. But I couldn't help myself - I've been toying with various tunings and centering *away* from A440 - and really *love* some of what I hear. The "that's not quite right" sound of a non-equal-tempered rendition of the Moonlight Sonata might be too cool to resist.
So anyway, I've got to get back to work - it's going to be a long day, with a full slate of cutting and placing foley and FX in the remainder of the short, and a walkthrough session with the director tonight. I just had to jump in here this morning while drinking my *first* cup of coffee for the day and register my utter astonishment at the subtlety, musicality, and maleability of the Authorized Steinway.
Bravo, Gary and team!
(P.S. When "Necromentia" has been signed off by the director, I'll see about either excerpting the scene with Moonlight Sonata or breaking the film up into bite-sized downloadable pieces for folks to grab and watch/listen. Stay tuned.)