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The WHY Series - Episode I

Discussion in 'Disney Parks and Resorts' started by Randy Thornton, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. Randy Thornton

    Randy Thornton Member

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    The WHY Series
    Episode I:
    THE PHANTOM TRANSITION

    I was in the middle of writing a long dissertation on the varied techniques and formats used in recording for the attractions compared to the common techniques and formats used in average studio recordings for CD ? just to give a clear understanding that the materials I usually work with were never designed to be used on a record. But the ghost of James Michener appeared at my shoulder, looked at my tome, and said, ?Bit wordy don?t you think?? So I?m going to try to cut to the chase.

    THE SEAS WITH NEMO AND FRIENDS.
    As you may have noticed over the years, I try to include the entire loops of all the attractions I represent on the Official Albums. You actually hear more of the music on these releases than you would if you were to ride the attraction. The music in the attraction is designed that way ? so you don?t hear where the music begins or ends or loops, because you?re never in the scene long enough to notice. For the albums, I try to make it musical. And usually, there is a beginning and an end (or at least something that I can use to make a transition from one scene to another).

    In the case of ?Big Blue World?, I ran into a problem. Though all the score was easy to assemble, as the music bed itself transitioned nicely, the elements I received for the song were mixed with the vocal. Seeing that the audio is piped through the omnimover, and there are no open rooms where you pass singing AudioAnimatronics (where their vocal is separated and channeled to a speaker near the character), it made sense that these tracks are mixed together ? for that?s how it will be on the attraction. Even mixed elements such as this aren?t usually problematic. The issue I faced here, however, was that Nemo is singing in all the scenes, and each scene he comes across a new group of background singers who join him. The main problem was that the song includes a ?pick-up? phrase. For example: ?In a?? is a 2 eighth note ?pick-up? before the down beat of ??Big Blue World?, and though Nemo is the only constant track, it is a different performance for each loop, and being a child, the vocalist isn?t spot on every time ? he?s quite loose. So, though it makes musical sense to have the ?background singers? appear out of nowhere when the loop restarts, Nemo?s vocal on the incoming loop didn?t mesh with his out going performance. I tried editing him on the ?pick-up? but (with the vocals tied) suddenly the ?background vocals changes for no apparent reason and not in a musical way. Not only that, with Nemo?s child performance, he wasn?t always in sync with the other singers. That made the edit impossible. I tired 4 or 5 different approaches and they all stank beyond reason. I really didn?t know what I was going to do. I could have gone the easy route and just used one loop and be done, but that?s not what I do (or try not to do). So, I went searching on the internet and found a ride-thru video of the attraction shot shortly after it opened. As I watched, I noticed the transitions. Now when you?re on the attraction and the omnimover moves you through the scenes, your movement acts like a natural crossfade ? as you move away from one, it fades away while you move to the next and it fades in. You don?t hear the full loop, but the transition is much more palatable. However, in a conventional listening environment (your home stereo) things fading in and out like that, and with the unsyncable lead vocal, my test edit with this approach didn?t work either. But I noticed when the loop came up full (from the previous transition in the video), it worked. So, I edited these mixed elements of the song to match what I heard on the video as hard edits (as opposed to crossfade) and it worked. I did try several other edits, but they weren?t as seamless. So actually, the ?Big Blue World? segment of this track is more like the attraction than I usually do. It does happen that the transition is in the middle of the verse, and though it may be a bit jarring to those who are extremely familiar with the entire loop, it is the least obtrusive transition of all the things I tried.

    I?m very much of a linear thinker. I like to have a solid beginning and definite ending. For as long as I can remember, I?ve never liked songs that fade out (which is part of the reason I like Beethoven so much. That man new how to end a piece). But loops, by their nature, are mostly designed to have no beginning or ending ? it?s just perpetual. Sometimes I?ve been able to make an ending out of them, sometimes not. Again, this was not to be on ?Big Blue World?. There was no ending, and with the ?pick-up? phrasing, I had no choice but to fade.

    THE THREE CABALLEROS
    What I had for this were a music only bed and a music and vocal mix. Again, focusing on the musicality (and my desire for solid beginning) I used the music bed to start the track, then transitioned into the song for a loop, insert the music bed to give some breathing room (as the vocal sections are identical) and use the vocal mix loop again. Then I transition once more to the music bed and end. What you hear at the end is the actual end of the recording for the loop ? just the musicians stopping after a take. To me, it sounded like a good way to end. So though that little bit is actually edited out of the attraction, it served as a good way to put an end to an endless loop.

    I don?t make these decisions lightly. I try every possible way I can think of to make something work for the album. But ultimately, it comes down to a judgment call. Which may even be to not include a track. I tried for several years to make the original Rio Del Tiempo work (?cause Trent asked me for it). But I just couldn?t. As it is, there are a few minor things on the album that bug me, but I know that I tried everything possible to make it as good as it can be. It?s just these things weren?t designed for what I?m using them for.

    Well, that about wraps up this episode. And yes this is the shorter version. Keep in mind that 'natural crossfade? metaphor I used earlier, as this plays an important part in my decision making process in the ?Splash Mountain? tracks which I will describe in the next episode ? The Why Series Episode II: ATTACK OF THE VOCALS.

    Once again, if I may, I didn?t write this to change anyone?s opinion and I don?t expect you to agree with the decisions I?ve made. I just wanted to let you know why I made some of the choices I have, and what circumstances influenced them.

    Many thanks,
    Randy Thornton
     
  2. daliseurat

    daliseurat Member

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    AHHHHH. This is very interesting. Nothing worse than stuff that won't sync! Thanks for this explanation, it explains a whole lots of stuff I've wondered about!
     
  3. Rich T

    Rich T Member

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    Thanks, Randy, that was a very cool glimpse behind the scenes! I'd never thought about that particular problem: Making stand-alone song tracks from material that was never intended to be listened to in that manner. So, have you had enough of listening to that kid sing "Big Blue World?" :D

    Can't wait for the next chapter!
     
  4. X-S Tech

    X-S Tech Active Member

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    Thanks Randy! I think the Gran Fiesta track is an excellent addition to the album. I love how crisp and sharp the orchestrations are. I've lived in Southern California my whole life so I've heard my share of Mariachi music, but this score is really impressive. And you feel the chaos of the instruments and characters appearing all around you, almost like the film, definatley like the attraction. The balance of score vs vocal is nice too, and I'm glad this is happening more and more. Time was (as you well know) that an attraction would be represented one way, with the song, or (rarely) score, but nowadays we are treated to a bit of both, and more frequently it seems. On that note, may I ask, Is the Canada track simply the Overture and then the Song, or is there a bit of extra score used to transition the two?
     
  5. Horizons

    Horizons Playlist Author

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    In the O'Canada film, there is a piece of music that plays immediately prior to the song (around the 9:19 mark). It looks like Randy combined the load music with this piece. When it was posted that the load music was going to be included on the OA, I wasn't sure how Randy was going to bridge the two together. However, these two pieces really fit together nicely.
     
  6. WDWGuy08

    WDWGuy08 Member

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    i love how when i am wearing my ipod ear bud head phones that the two caballeros sound like they are in your right ear while donald in your left. it's neat, like a surround sound like effect. i love the entire track and the o canada track and yes i noticed he included a piece of the film score by broughton before the song as well very good decision randy! overall great work.
     
  7. Gurgitoy2

    Gurgitoy2 Active Member

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    Thanks for the inside scoop on how you create these tracks. I understand where you are coming from, and you did help to change my mind about them. I kind of figured what you said about "Big Blue World" was the case. It does seem like the way you would encounter it on the attraction. "Gran Fiesta Tour", was a bit jarring at the end because I could tell it was the end of the take, but still, it is an ending. Now, if they could have only gotten authentic Brazilian and Mexican actors to voice Jose and Panchito, I'd be happy. Sure, I like Rob Paulsen, and the rest of the voice "stable" Disney (and many, many others)use, but sometimes the accents are just not authentic enough...and you can tell who's doing what voice since those actors are so prolific... but that's another topic!
     
  8. Gurgitoy2

    Gurgitoy2 Active Member

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    Oh, and how did I know you were going to do a Star Wars reference... ;) So, episode 3 will be "Revenge of the" what?
     
  9. disneyphilip

    disneyphilip Member

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    Actually, Panchito is voiced by Carlos Alazraqui in the newer Disney projects, including House of Mouse and the Gran Fiesta Tour.

    It's for reasons like that that I wish Randy would include voice actor credits in the OA booklets.
     
  10. WDWGuy08

    WDWGuy08 Member

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    hey all! i noticed on ascap.com that there are 11 tracks listed for test track by the wonderful george wilkins. i presume all from the queue loop. i am guessing that each speaker plays a certain part looped but i am having a hard time figuring out how long each loop plays for and how many there are. i've just always wondered about this and thought i would ask to see if someone could answer it for me, thanks and take care, all!

    http://www.ascap.com/ace/search.cfm?reques...=30&start=1
     
  11. Horizons

    Horizons Playlist Author

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    Each speaker seems to be (to my ears) playing the same music loop, which is longer than the cue Randy put on the OA. Perhaps Randy can confirm the length of the total loop.
     
  12. angiehashemi

    angiehashemi Member

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    Thanks Randy for the explanations. I am so glad that you are willing to take the time and explain your decision to us. It is nice to know that you are so inlvoved with and care so much about us hard core fans!
     
  13. Captain Hank

    Captain Hank New Member

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    Very cool insight into the process. Thanks! Can't wait for the next installment.
     
  14. Gurgitoy2

    Gurgitoy2 Active Member

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    "Actually, Panchito is voiced by Carlos Alazraqui in the newer Disney projects, including House of Mouse and the Gran Fiesta Tour."

    Well, yes, but I meant an actor from Mexico. The original films "Saludos Amigos", and "Three Caballeros" did hire native actors to voice the parts. These days, they just hire from the stable of voice actors. Carlos Alazraqui is great, but isn't the best at accents either...he kind of butchered the Australian accent when he voiced Rocko on "Rocko's Modern Life", and his latin accents are very stereotyped, much like Nestor Carbonell's. I can tell when it's a fake accent, but yeah, he is a "go-to-guy" for latin accents... Still, I do think he's talented and his voicework doesn't get on my nerves like some do *cough*jimcummings*cough*.
     
  15. mmmfan

    mmmfan Member

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    Thank you Randy.This was very interesting.
     
  16. Club 33

    Club 33 Playlist Author

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    Very cool! I'll be interested to hear the tracks now once I can get my hands on the album. A very interesting look at attraction mixing; I look forward to learning more about the process. Certainly this music wasn't designed to be heard in a stereo listening environment, so mixing it as such does present interesting challenges.
     
  17. daliseurat

    daliseurat Member

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    Here's what funny. This thread has me more interested in buying the new OA than I was. I'm a sucker for behind the scenes stories.
     
  18. almandot

    almandot Member

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    I was referring to something a little different for 3 Caballeros...

    Let's get some of our money's worth out of that fair use thing DMCA be damned;) some audio.m4a (probably have to right-click save as..)

    In the first part you can hear how I have 2 copies of the track lined up, way out of sync yadda but what I really did, as you hear in the 2nd part, is sync up the 2 vocal loops. It sorta sounds like these are double loops anyways, where the song has 2 loops to it before looping the file to the beginning.. Either way, even when syncing the end of musical loop #2 to the end of vocal loop #2 where it's already transitioned back into the music so is the same thing, all the audio previously is still out of sync.

    Since you say you were given premixed tracks for the music and vocals it sounds like they're similar to what we've seen with leaked parade rehearsal cd tracks that loop and then end(and like rehearsal tracks have minor differences in them from the real thing that bug us audiophiles like the ones I mentioned in another post ;)) so I'm wondering did you line up a couple of double loop tracks or did you have to loop them yourself for it, and is there any explanation for the timing issue other than just issues with what you were given?
     
  19. Randy Thornton

    Randy Thornton Member

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    Re: almandot's Question Answered [I Think]

    Hey, almandot!

    I?m not sure I understand what you mean. It?s hard to describe audio in words ? its like ?dancing about architecture? (borrowed that line from Laurie Anderson).

    The loops I had were as they appear. I didn?t sync up the music bed element with the music and vocals mix element (or double the vocals and music mix element) in layers. It was a linear assembly. There was nothing in the tracking sheets, or the files themselves that indicate they were simultaneous elements. That kind of info is always very clear, and usually I get the Digital Workstation Session Files to work from or we dub the actual Multi-Tracks (if it was recorded that way) for sources like that. I essentially had two files ? one was the music bed, and the other was the music and vocals mix. I assembled them one after the other to make it more of a complete song.

    Is that what you were asking? [[[[ SEE ADDED INFO BELOW ]]]]


    For X-S Tech ?

    In the ?Canada (You?re a Lifetime Journey)" track, I just used the Load Cue and then crossfaded into the song. The Load Cue ended in a nice sustain, and being in the same key, made the transition into the song rather easy. No other elements were used.

    Hope that answers your questions.

    Randy

    [[[[ WAIT.... THERE'S MORE ]]]]

    THE THREE CABALLEROS
    After re-reading your post, I think I know what you are referring to - The music bed seems to drift sync slightly at the end of the loop. I now seem to remember an issue with the track.

    As you pass each scene or travel from loop to loop, you never do so through the entire cue. You may transition from the middle of one to the middle of the other ("Big Blue World"). You'll never hear the loop the way I usually align them - end to end. More often than not, each loop is a separate recording even though its mostly the same arrangement. There are occasions where there's a little more free-form to the music (Jazz is an example) and this Mariachi Band falls into that category. Like the Nemo vocal, the performances are different enough to cause a slight sync issue when they're crossfaded. I do recall that I tried a hard edit, and the trumpet and most of the other instruments cut fine, but there was something that didn't. And every hard edit anywhere between the two would either drop and instrument, or cut into a vocal. What I ended up doing was to digitally time stretch the outgoing by a few milliseconds and trim the crossfade to lessen the shift as best as possible. Now when you record cues for a film or a song, you know that each take will be edited in sequence, so you make sure you write the cue to transition to the next. Well, the attraction scores are not designed to be end-to-end linear - they'll never be heard end to end. The cues are written in the same key and at the same tempo, so you move through the loops unaware that any transition has taken place anywhere within the piece. So if the ends don't sync, it was never noticed (even by the composers) as no one ever heard it that way until I built the record mix.

    Hope that's what you asked.

    Randy
     
  20. Horizons

    Horizons Playlist Author

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    The first 30 seconds after the Load Cue ends, that's not from the song is it? I had thought this particular piece was a cue from the film, which then transitioned into the song. Is that not correct?
     

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