Peter's Blog

Tiny Little Seed

Written by Peter Johnston on .

With many folks possessing a musical interest, I have been pondering how we can use technology to our advantage during the pandemic lockdown. An idea that has been around for quite some years now with Eric Whitacre taking a lead is the virtual choir. So, a few of us gathered online yesterday via the now ubiquitous Zoom to explore how we might do it. Alas it is not as simple as gathering online in a chat space like Zoom and hitting the Record button. Latency issues as signals from computers zip around the world mean it is quite a mess. We did have a bit of fun trying it, but, no... that is not a possibility.

What we did was to talk through what we were going to do, listen to the music together going over some of the parts, then we all went our own ways and recorded ourselves singing our parts. These video files were then sent to me where I edited them together along with the backing track. 

The song is a new one from Fischy Music, one of the songs we in the Spill the Beans Resource Team have worked on with the Fischy team. 

The result of our endeavours is above. It came out okay for a first effort though we learnt a lot of lessons. Primarily, it takes a lot of time to pull together. And, despite my desktop computer being absolutely top of the range when I built it... that was eight years ago and it was really struggling with the 9 video tracks and seven audio tracks. It got the job done, but only just. 

In case you are pondering this yourself. We gathered online around 2 p.m. Spent an hour or so talking through how we were going to do this, getting settings and apps all in place for people recording. Then about an hour for folks to record themselves. There was a vast difference in the speeds of the files then getting to me, the last two coming in probably a couple of hours later, which was just in time for the editing process. 

That process, using Adobe Premiere Pro, started around 4 p.m. and the bulk edited by around 10 p.m. when I started a render (when the computer, instead of creating an output "on the fly", pre-renders the audio and video mixes and transitions) because we were really struggling to edit any further by that stage as the computer was having so many difficulties giving us a usable preview. But... that took two hours to finish. Time to take dogs out, watch some Parks & Rec, and then we finished the edit and began some tweaks to the audio. Another render took us to around 3 a.m. when I did a last round of now much smaller tweaks (for instancing panning the audio slightly left and right to spread out the voices and to match the imagery on screen). I set the computer off doing a final render of the whole 4 minute clip around 4 a.m. and went to bed, cursing that we lost an hour! The file was ready when I got up, inserted into the Powerpoint for the service and all went fine. 

It does show you that there are no easy ways around this kind of collaboration. The technology is great and allows us to do things that you could not dream of doing twenty years ago, but there is a lot of work that still needs to go into it to make it work.

Which is not to dampen anyone else's desire to get creative and try something similar! It is more by way of alerting you to the time involved (and, let's be honest, you need some tech skills here too). 

But, all that being said, now that we have done it once... I am sure we will do it again!

From tiny little seeds...