Even more Edward Lear!

Lear wrote some many limericks that there is really no end to the number of crazy drawings possible. Here are a couple of pictures for the new film that are loose versions of what we are also trying to animate for the “Following Lear” project – when it gets properly or fully financed! In the meantime..

there-was-an-old-man-of-corfu-by-tim

a-young-person-of-smyrna-by-tim

Oh and here is one I did yesterday with a picture of Stirling castle in the background. Sometimes, I rather miss the days when I was at St Andrews… Scotland is such a glorious country in all respects!

there-was-an-old-man-of-dunblane-by-tim

BBC and Edward Lear

Lucy Worsley’s first episode of “British History’s Biggest Fibs” aired last night and some very positive reviews in the Press today. My graphics looked very good and, indeed, I noticed that my Shakespeare drawing got used rather more than I expected! All worthwhile. Do, meanwhile, check it out on BBCiplayer!

The title changed a few times during production, so here is a different version of the title sequence:

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Next week is the Glorious Revolution (a contrast to the french Revolution, of course) and the final week will be the British Raj.

The Producer wrote to me today to say that the first programme had got an audience of 1.3 million, very good indeed for BBC4 which usually gets audiences of about 500,000.

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Meanwhile, here is my version of a painting Lear did in 1863 of the island of Philae which will accompany “the Lear Suite” by David Watson:screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-18-08-51

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Some Edward Lear Pictures

David Watson has put together many of the Edward Lear compositions to form a Suite. We shall post a version of this shortly. In the meantime, in celebration, here are some Edward Lear illustrations.

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owl and cat japanese

lear and Howard Carter

Here is the Dong with a luminous nose-

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The Judge in colour

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Above is a spy cartoon of Gustav Doré

meanwhile, here is the first proof of the judge in colour-

There are shadows to add.

Meanwhile, I was rebuked yesterday for writing a piece about woodprints and not drawing a picture of Gustav Doré, (32-83) the French master.

Doré is best known for his wood engravings, but he is also well-represented in his hometown of Strasbourg by huge biblical oil paintings. He was already in print by the age of 15for the periodical “Le Journal pour rire”.

Rather disturbingly, he was involved in the illustrations for a fairly abhorrent anti-semitic “Juif Errant”.

His printed work stretches from a 1854 edition of russian images to an 1884 edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s the Raven confirm him as one of the truly great European artists. I am particularly fond of the Paradise lost in 1866, Idylls of the King in 1875 and the Dante which he was working on from 1857 to 1867. In 1876, he did a book on London which has informed most of the films set in Victorian slums and was almost literally reproduced by John Box and Terence Marsh for Caron Reed’s version of “Oliver!”

Terence Marsh, who won an academy award for the Oliver designs, indeed, was also nominated for the designs of “Scrooge” a few years’ later so he had his fill of Victoriana. John Box was the art director on the Asquith production of The Importance of Being Earnest with Joan Greenwood and Edith Evans, but he was also production designer on Lawrence of Arabia and A passage to India (in 1984)

Here is my sketch of Monsieur Doré:

gustav-dore-by-tim

Trial by Jury, Judge’s song

Here is a post on progress on the Judge’s song from “Trial by Jury”.

This is a line test of the first verse. The Right arm and some of the body is still missing as well as the earlier frames of the pigtail and the pupils.

The animation was completed on the Harmony/toon boom system though I note the production of the brilliant and recently-screened “Ethel and Ernest” on BBC was done with TV Paint which seems to offer so much more opportunity in terms of textures and usability. Harmony was a wonderful tool when it was run by the Vogelesang family, particularly Lilly and Joan, but they were taken over by Corus entertainment in 2014 or so and it does not seem to have been the same ever since. I have been teaching in a school in Moscow that apparently promotes the software and it was a devil of a job to get it actually to work at all on the school machines. So much for Industry standard! I note the company also acquired Animo, Pegs’n’co and the Cambridge animation system, rival 2d animating software and has not made any effort to update any of these since, effectively smashing the opposition and leaving precious little choice.

Here is an earlier version:

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This is the finished “look”-

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First combined image of background and character…

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History of the Music halls part 2- progress

For the last year I have been grabbing time between lectures to make some progress on part 2 of the documentary talk about music hall. I have also been finishing some storyboarding for a couple of proposed films and some preparation for a BBC project, so it has been a full year! (That is by way of a preamble and an excuse for tardiness!)

Here is the full documentation on a piece I have just finished animating which is based on a song by Harry Champion:

First sketches:

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with jacket sleeves:

With coloured and shaded hat:

body sketched in:

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the tomato plant:

and adding the jacket design incrementally

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The finished product:

The Context:

The first part of the Music Hall documentary:

The Coburn scene developing:

Marie Lloyd scene:

The original song:

My animation:

The beginning of the film (Music Hall part 2)

 

 

Digital Orchestration The use of Sample Libraries / Virtual Orchestration in Music Production

Turn on the television anytime and the chances are you are going hear music that is produced using digital orchestration and sample libraries. So, the orchestra you are hearing is not, in the conventional sense, an orchestra at all – it just sounds like one. If the music production is done well, it should be almost impossible to distinguish between what you are hearing and what a “real” orchestra would sound like. That is the art / science of digital orchestration. The music for CSI, The Mentalist, Dexter and many more, is all produced “inside the box”. It is now almost impossible to find an advert where the music is not produced in this way. Tight production schedules and limited budgets usually don’t allow for recordings of real orchestras, so the sample based recording isn’t just a demo or a mock-up, it is the final cue.

Click on the link below. Here, there are two examples of an orchestral piece by Vaughan Williams and two examples of a Beethoven string quartet. One of each piece is produced using digital orchestration – which is which?

http://www.kanon.co.uk/XY.htm

More and more, and for the same reasons, this also applies to films. Low and mid-range budget films will never be able to finance studio recording sessions with a large orchestra, music director, producer, recording and mixing engineers etc. Even in some blockbuster films where large Hollywood style orchestras are used, the soundtrack will often be enhanced with extra sampled percussion and brass etc.

What is sampling and how does it work?

Not Robots and Nothing to do with Synthesizers!

When you hear sampled music, you are hearing real musicians playing real instruments, – a solo violinist may well be playing a Stradivarius! – but, every single note and articulation has been sampled – recorded – separately and often many times over. Every note an instrument can play and in every way – ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, fff, sfz, staccato, detache, legato, flautando, harmonic, con sordini, pizz, and so on, is sampled in meticulous detail. Often, but not always, these samples will be recorded “dry”. That is, with absolutely no ambient sound, echo, reverb. If you listen to dry samples, they are very uninspiring – if you have ever been in an anechoic chamber you will get the idea. Reverb to taste is added later. More about reverb anon. The world leading Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) have built their “Silent Stage” so that all their sampled recordings are completely dry.

A full orchestral sample library will go through this process for every instrument. In addition, where sections of players are required e.g. First Violins, Second Violins etc. there may well be 14 or more players playing together. Full professional sample libraries are massive containing millions of samples.

The Legato Revolution

An important milestone in orchestral sampling occurred in 2002 with the development by Vienna Symphonic Library of the “interval legato concept”. Anyone who has learned to play an instrument to a reasonable standard will be aware that it is not enough just to play the correct notes in the correct order in the correct time. Good phrasing, and especially legato phrasing, will utterly transform a piece. Hitherto all sample libraries faced the same problem – how to join notes together so the phrase or passage sounded completely authentic. In 2002 VSL developed complex algorithms which overcame this problem, the results were astounding and this process has been taken up by all sample developers ever since.

Click on the link below to listen to a 1st Violin section from VSL.

http://www.kanon.co.uk/XY.htm

No More Machine Guns!

Around the same time VSL also developed the method of using different samples for repeated notes. Most music contains many parts where the same note is repeated many times. If the same sample is repeated many times the result is not at all convincing and is known as the “machine gun effect”. The developers created a system where each repeated note triggered a different sample of the same note giving a much more realistic sound – this is now universally referred to as “round robins” and all serious sound libraries use this system.

Software

What do you do with 10 million samples?

Fortunately the companies producing such vast libraries also produce highly sophisticated software to control and manipulate the samples. The screenshots below show part of the user interfaces for VSL’s Vienna Instruments and East West Quantum Leap’s PLAY software. It is here that the user controls and manipulates the samples. There are many other companies with similar products but these are the two with which I am most familiar and use on a daily basis.

Usually there is a matrix where the user loads the samples required. In some pieces only a few articulations will be required e.g. sustain and legato, for other more complex pieces a wide range of individual articulations will be needed. This can be very demanding on computing power and often slave computers with powerful processors. a lot of RAM and several solid state hard drives, will be needed to take the strain.

Screenshot 3 Screenshot 4

A set-up like this can be used as stand-alone connected to a keyboard where the player can play, for example, an incredibly realistic string or brass section. This is commonly used in “live” situations. This of course has been and continues to be controversial as many musicians see it as a threat to their jobs and there is no doubt that this does and will continue to happen. On Broadway in 2003 there was a Musicians Strike which began as a strike over pit minimums and rapidly escalated. In London’s West End Cameron Mackintosh moved Les Miserables from the Palace Theatre to the Queen’s Theatre leading to a reduced orchestral size – a smaller pit – and increased use of samples triggered from keyboards. So, from the audience’s perspective there was no reduction in sound produced by the orchestra.

In music production for TV, Films and CD type work these interfaces will normally connect to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Cubase, Protools, Studio One etc. Here the user controls the whole audio project with as many instrument tracks as required – it could be over a hundred.

Below are examples of editing widows from Cubase.

Screenshot 2 Screenshot 1

The coloured track lanes are individual instruments which are processed as required and eventually mixed down to stereo, or surround sound. It is in these widows that all the minutiae of editing takes place. The process here is similar to standard multi-track recording which of course is the staple of many recording studios. In some cases this is still done using multi-track tape recorders – analogue – but more and more, using computers – digital. Each method has its own champions and many a heated discussion takes place over their relative merits.

How Pleasant To Know Mr Lear

Screenshot 3 is from “Following Lear” Zontul Films Ltd currently in production. The music was composed and produced by David Watson (Kanon Digital Orchestration) using the digital orchestration techniques described above. A mixed stereo file was sent through the ether to Shonk Studios Oxford where soprano Thomasin Trezise recorded the vocals which were then sent back to Kanon for mixing and mastering. This track is not finalised but you can listen to the work-in-progress by clicking on the link below. You can also see Tim Wilson preparing some of the storyboards and animations for the piece.

A Note on Reverb

I mentioned above that many sample libraries are recorded completely dry i.e. with no ambient sound on the recording. This has the benefit of giving the producer much greater control of the final audio track. Reverb techniques have come on a long way since the days of the old “spring” reverb. This was literally a spring inside a plastic pipe which could be inserted into the audio path. It gave pretty impressive results for its time but if you want to see one now you will have to go to a museum!

There is a vast array of very high quality hardware and software reverb systems available. Where pure acoustic realism is sought, rather than a reverb or echo “effect”, the most commonly used system is that of Convolution Reverb or Impulse Response. Without going into the physics of the process, convolution reverb involves audio engineers going to a particular venue – a concert hall, scoring studio, a church or even a famous cathedral and actually recording the directional sound impulses of that space. Using these programs and impulses you can then place your “dry” instrumentalists or singers “virtually” in that space. The realism of the results can be quite amazing.

VSL’s Multi Impulse Response convolution (MIR)

VSL’s MIR, which I use a lot, goes even further taking up to 5000 impulse responses per room. They will also consider the placement of any instrument on a stage and the directional and sonic characteristics of the instrument. Microphone placement is very important and it is possible to listen as the conductor, someone sitting near the front of the auditorium or at the back or in the balcony and so on.

Mozart wet and dry.

Click on the link below to listen to excerpts from the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.

http://www.kanon.co.uk/XY.htm

This first one I have kept mercifully short. It sounds raucous, out of balance and truly awful. Yet, apart from the addition of the MIR impulses and instrument placement, it is identical to the second example which I hope is more pleasing to the ear. This second example is placed in the Mozartsaal in Vienna.

Where to now?

The speed of technological advance is unlikely to slow down. Computers are getting more powerful, processors ever faster, solid state hard drives will become the norm – this can reduce the need for huge amounts of RAM. The professional sample library market is very competitive with new top-end products advertised in specialist magazines every month. The digital / virtual orchestration area of the music business is almost unrecognisable from that of just a decade ago.

Where does that leave our living breathing musicians? The business will continue to change and musicians will have to adapt, there is no doubt about that. However, music conservatories across the world continue to produce incredibly talented musicians. Perhaps the British – but not the Scottish – Government has come up with a solution – stop producing musicians! The introduction of the Ebac. The Ebac will essentially be compulsory for all maintained schools. The Ebac does not include music and the arts! Any school which does not conform cannot be graded as outstanding. I feel sorry for the head teachers – especially those with a creative arts background – who will have to make very difficult decisions. I suppose we get the governments we deserve. After all we elect them. Or at least at the last election the 66% of us who voted did.

Perhaps there is something to be said for a benign dictatorship – especially if musicians are in charge!

David Watson

August 2015

Kanon Digital Orchestration

Auchermuchty Scotland

www.kanon.co.uk

Illustrated history of the Music hall

Here is a link to the first part of my talk on the history of the Music hall.

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and here is a link to Julie Andrews singing the National Anthem for the King at the Palladium:

Here incidentally is a recording of Dame Julie at 12 singing, at the height of her “Educating Archie” days – simply spectacular

and here are some of the illustrations from the film:

dan_leno chicago vesta in dress arthur_lloyd Vesta_Tilleyagain1 Sims_Reeves vesta Bessie Bonehill KingHetty

fe smithDiana_Cooper01thanks for the memorypaul-chinquevallimarie linnet3vesta in dressarthur_lloydVesta_Tilleyagain1punch copy 4julie andrewsSir_Edmund_Backhousecasementfe smith solicitorgeneraethel-le-neveFrederickEdwinSmithHhcrippenpunch copy 3punch copy 2punch copymarie lloyd more3lady de freceleslieLittle_Tich fanny-andstella Fanny_and_Stella_again

Here’s a scene from the Drury Lane production of “Oliver!” which sums up everything about the Music Hall, I suppose.