I was recently asked to overlay some sign language over a “How To” video for the new Covid mobile app. This involved removing the background from the signer, resizing and repositioning both her and the main video and adding subtitles.
I’ve been a regular visitor to Lough Key near Boyle Co. Roscommon from even before I moved to the Northwest of Ireland in 2003 and many times since then, including this afternoon for the first time in a good while when I decided to drop by in the rain to snap some photos of the remnants of the old Rockingham House Estate there which was destroyed by fire (for the second time) in 1957 then subsequently demolished, perhaps controversially considering it’s decent state, in 1971. The large foundations, still interspersed with servants tunnels and sprouting an ugly tower, which I initially thought reminiscent of something you’d see in Ballymun, Dublin, rather than in one of the great forest parks of Northwest Ireland is now a commercial tourist attraction.
I’d seen photos of the old house before but never really thought through what it must have looked like or where it stood or which direction it faced before until I seen another fairly hi-res and impressive colour photo of the house on Facebook recently. I decided to do some research, take some photos and Photoshop together how I thought it might have looked “Then Vs Now”, just to give anyone interested an idea..
I have Google alerts set to alert me whenever Mohill or Leitrim is in the news and one came in last week for old photos of Mohill Railway station for sale on eBay by an Australian seller of all things! The auctions were fairly high quality old photos from about 1950 looking from both ends of Mohill at the old railway station. All photos were from about the 1950s.
I loaded them on my phone and went out one fine day (it’s only around the corner from where I live) to take some modern day photos from as close to the old photo angles as possible.
I went back to the office and loaded each set of then and now photos in Photoshop and aligned them best I could before masking out certain sections to merge then and now versions in some meaningful way. Finally I added some adjustment layers above everything to improve levels, colour and contrast..
I’ve been learning Adobe Illustrator finally and getting some practice in on the job so to speak. I was asked to rebuild an old jpeg of an Ireland map in hi-res vector format by the Northern & Western regional Assembly.
I started with a blank off the shelf Ireland map vector and added the regions, colours, text and borders/boundaries as well as background colour and drop shadow in Illustrator.
I was asked by Equitopia in California, USA to survey their existing site and make suggestions on how to improve it both functionally and aesthetically and help it bring in more business. Requirements and sugegstions included adding an Online Learning Management system, Forum, MailChimp Newsletter integration, Private Members section with monthly subscription payment and Online Shop.
So what prompted this rare musical effort on my behalf was a long overdue penny drop with Ableton DAW. I’ve been a Cubase man for years but have been keen in recent times to get into electronic music and after some research all roads seemed to lead to Ableton when it comes to modern electronic music production..
I tried a few times over the last few years to learn Ableton, mostly through random YouTube videos and it’s own help section and manual but every time I opened it up to do something I still had no clue where to start! Cue a proper, structured online course from Lynda.com and I now know enough (no expert at all) about it to actually attempt something like this mashup.
My plan with my early stage electronic music composing and production career is to aim to create electronica, ambient, slow and moody music with the computer. These days I listen to stuff like AIR, Kraftwerk, Zero 7 etc… but to also somehow include my old influences of 60’s Classic rock for that retro feel. That lead me to try import some samples into Ableton and use them in tracks and then in turn to try create a full mashup of a couple of different toons so I set off to YouTube to search for isolated Jim Morrison/Doors vocals. There are lots surprisingly! As soon as I found good quality Crystal Ship vocals an idea sprang to mind to try combine that with a solo piano version from a George Winston album I’ve had for a few years. The Crystal Ship is possibly one of my favourite Doors songs:
Here’s how I did it all in the end:
As I said above I ran across some really good quality Jim Morrison vocal isolations on Youtube including this one which I extracted the audio from:
Then I also extracted the audio from George Winston’s solo piano version of the same song from his awesome album of Doors covers – “Night Divides the Day“.
I then setup a new project in Ableton and matched the tempo to the original Doors version of Crystal Ship by tapping the beat out.
I attempted to warp the vocal to the project tempo but quickly realised that a vocal is not nearly as easy to warp as a drum beat or rhythmical sound as it has fairly random peaks and hitpoints but I eventually managed a good approximation after hours of tweaking.
I done the same warping with the solo piano track. This was a little easier as there was a bit more rhythm although there are some dynamics and speed fluctuations in both the vocal and piano performances that I had to iron out. They will be very obvious to people who know this song but all in all I think it flows well and stays true to the original song.
With both tracks matched to the project tempo all I had to do then was to match them to each other. Both arrangements are similar in terms of verse, chorus etc but the piano meanders a little longer in parts so I just chopped up the vocal to match the piano parts and aligned them accordingly.
I looked through Ableton’s library for a suitable beat to apply after having thought long and hard about whether to “modernise” an old song in this way by adding a modern beat! I eventually settled on a fairly sparse Funk beat and only applied it well into the song, stopping it for the piano solo in the middle. I think it works fairly well personally but I’m sure there are many purists who wont!
Just for practice and because I felt there needed to be something else alongside the piano solo in the middle I added some MIDI strings and automated the volume to be louder at the beginning and end, just like the piano itself.
The last steps were to add some EQ to each track and send each track some Reverb as well as adding some Compression and Limiting on the master track. I decided to duplicate Jim’s vocal and pan each one left and right to give his vocal a little more impact too.
I also added some video of Jim Morrison just so I could get the track up on YouTube!
Let me know what you think in the comments. Be kind, it’s my first proper project in Ableton and first mashup ever!