Just auditioned my first track, feedback for the devs

buckaroobartbuckaroobart Unsigned
edited October 2009 in The Rock Band Network
I just successfully auditioned my band's first track in RB and I figure right now is a good time for me to share the notes that I took for the devs re: troubles I had. First off, I tried to author as much as I possibly could before auditioning which meant that I had fully sequenced all four playable parts before I started working with Magma. Effectively I did everything except some animations and camera work. Also, I did things the hard way and inadvertently used the "RB Blank Template" instead of the normal template, which caused me no end of pain at compile time.

First off, I think you guys made the right choice in committing to Reaper as the RBN tool of choice. It's inexpensive, straight-forward, and has some great features that go well with the task of sequencing RB stuff. Hiding unlabelled/unused notes is a GREAT UI tweak that makes life much easier in the piano roll. Also, the playback speed scrubber is really great. You should suggest that people drop the speed down for transcribing those tricky parts (particularly drum parts if you're a guitarist like me). Extra tip: drop the speed to .5 during vocal sequencing and it'll be exactly an octave down, making it much easier to hear the timing of the formants (vowels). Finally the "find next peak" (tab) in the tempo-mapping phase is essential. You should bold that text in the docs.

One thing I had a problem with, which I suppose I should file with Cockos, is that Reaper has a bug with the looping. In order to really nail down our singer's very emotive performance I had to loop tiny (a few dozen milliseconds) sections of his track to hear the exact tone he was singing. But as I moved the loop points around half the time Reaper's playback head would escape the loop. Annoying, but not disastrous.

The docs are pretty good so far, but more elaboration on the vocal authoring would be a good idea. Screen shots, example clips, etc. would go a very long way in describing a very difficult to describe process. A particularly confusing issue is the use of MIDI text events, but I'll come back to that. More elaboration on what's appropriate for animations, transitions, etc would be good. I want to make the levels lively but not frenetic. Ideally I want them to look like it was authored by Harmonix, so some in-house rules-of-thumb would be good.

Vocal authoring would be a LOT easier if you guys turned your formant detector into a Jesusonic plugin that would create an initial stub MIDI track. The vocals authoring really was the hardest part of this whole process by a long shot, and I'll still need to do a bunch of testing to make sure I got it right. The vocals authoring took more time than the other 3 playable parts combined so anything you can do to ease the workflow would be greatly appreciated.

Reaper question: how can I line up an audio track with the piano roll? Is it possible? It would've helped in a number of places.

I've been using MIDI and sequencers for 20 years now (started with Sonix on an Amiga 500) so it was all pretty straightforward for me, but I think the biggest "WTF?" moment for me was the use of MIDI text messages. Text events are an uncommonly used part of the MIDI spec unless someone is authoring MIDI for distribution (who does that anymore?) The use of it makes perfect sense, but you really should devote half a page to discussing this concept because it can throw off even experienced users. Additionally, you should point out the distinction between a Track Name event, a Text event and a Lyric event as this tripped me up for a bit. Also, more clarification on the use of modifiers in the lyrics process. For example, I have a phrase "Victory is mine" that is unpitched. I used "Vic^- to^- ry^ is^ mine^", is this the right use of combined ^ and -? I mean, it worked, but is it correct?

Ok. Enough rambling from me for now. All in all I think you guys did an AMAZING job of breaking down what is a very complex authoring process into something pretty straightforward. I have an enormous amount of respect now for the guys/gals at Harmonix who have built oh-so-many levels for RB (and previously GH) over the years. It takes time and care to do right and you've been doing it really well.

Thanks for the tools, and thanks for making RBN happen! I'll post more feedback as I polish this tune up and work on the other three we have planned for RBN.

Bart

Comments

  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    Reaper question: how can I line up an audio track with the piano roll? Is it possible? It would've helped in a number of places.
    I know this one :) I discovered it quite by accident. Of course, have your midi editor docked in the main window, then in the midi editor look for the popup labeled "View:" and set it to "Synced"

    EDIT: I just tried and found out you don't have to have the midi editor docked to the main window in order to take advantage of the "Synced" setting. But I still recommend it for window tidiness.

    Loved your post, Bart, and I agree with everything you said. I'm maybe not such a Reaper fan as you are, but after about 30 hours in, it doesn't hurt as much :)

    I would like to thank HMX for going the extra mile and including Mac Reaper tools. It has made a very challenging learning curve to be just hard instead of torturous. I will always love you, HMX, just for that alone.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited October 2009
    buckaroobart;3157092 said:
    Also, more clarification on the use of modifiers in the lyrics process. For example, I have a phrase "Victory is mine" that is unpitched. I used "Vic^- to^- ry^ is^ mine^", is this the right use of combined ^ and -? I mean, it worked, but is it correct?
    It should be Vic-# to-# ry# is# mine# (you only need to use the ^ sign if after testing your song in-game, it's too difficult or impossible to get an Awesome on the talky phrase).

    It's interesting that vocals took you the longest amount of time, since there aren't multiple difficulties to author. Did you have the FX turned on so you could hear the tone play when you place notes? It's just a matter of picking the note that matches the pitch of the singer for each syllable. Then again, some people have a better ear for this than others.
  • HMXMister_GameHMXMister_Game Harmonix Developer
    edited October 2009
    We're looking into releasing a preset that does auto-detect of the vocal track. So far the quality of the tubes that it outputs are poor, so we are talking with Cockos right now about either tuning the plugin or having them tweak it on the code side.
  • matrix_loaded02matrix_loaded02 Unsigned
    edited October 2009
    buckaroobart;3157092 said:
    Additionally, you should point out the distinction between a Track Name event, a Text event and a Lyric event as this tripped me up for a bit.
    I didn't even notice "Lyrics" was a type of event. I've been using regular text events and they've been working just fine.
  • MarsPhoenixMarsPhoenix Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    I can report that Vocals for me are also the hardest and longest to author.

    I suggest starting by authoring the vocals to the closest 16th note and approximate how long they last. Work on getting the notes first. Then tweak all the timing when you have all the pitches.
  • buckaroobartbuckaroobart Unsigned
    edited October 2009
    trg007;3157466 said:
    It should be Vic-# to-# ry# is# mine# (you only need to use the ^ sign if after testing your song in-game, it's too difficult or impossible to get an Awesome on the talky phrase).
    Excellent. Thanks for the clarification. And thanks for pointing out ^ vs. #. I think I meant to author those bits with # but was distracted by focusing on the note tubes.
    It's interesting that vocals took you the longest amount of time, since there aren't multiple difficulties to author. Did you have the FX turned on so you could hear the tone play when you place notes? It's just a matter of picking the note that matches the pitch of the singer for each syllable. Then again, some people have a better ear for this than others.
    Well, picking out pitches usually wouldn't be a problem for me, but I wanted to make it as accurate as possible, and our lead singer's performance on this track has a bunch of melismatic moments. Besides those little slides the pitches were pretty straightforward. And yes, I definitely had the softsynth playing along. As comical as that is to hear, it definitely helps to show mistakes.

    It was paranoia about timing accuracy that got me. I probably psyched myself out, but as a programmer (my day job) I was thinking "if they are triggering off the vowels like they say, then I need to line this tube up with the exact moment that his vocal chords produce a consistent vowel tone". Then I psyched myself out with "but wait... what is the player going to *hear* and shouldn't I try to match what a listener hears of a performance?" And then it was "Doesn't matter what they hear at first, on expert they'll need to do a perfect reproduction of the song, so it's gotta be accurate!" So I authored the vocal track to 1/128 notes. :p

    Truth of the matter is that I should've just fired it up with 1/16 notes, auditioned it, and fixed up what was wrong afterwards.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited October 2009
    You basically want to avoid the consonant sounds. What I do is set the midi editor to 1/64 precision and then use the tab to transient on the dryvox track (if it jumps to a consonant sound I just keep pressing tab until it gets to that consistent vowel tone) and then place the note at the nearest gridline.

    You don't really need to go to 1/128 precision, and even 1/64 is more precise than you need to be because the RB2 vocals scoring engine is very forgiving. But I'm pretty obsessed about that too, which is why I use 1/64.

    If you've got a link to this song on a MySpace page or something, I'd love to hear it. :)
  • buckaroobartbuckaroobart Unsigned
    edited October 2009
    The track in question is Racetrack, which you can hear here: http://www.buckaroomusic.com/ Thanks for the interest! The plan is to get all three tracks on there into RBN.

    We (Buckaroo) are really excited about the whole RBN thing because we think our music is a good match to the format of the game, albeit on the easier side of things. And we also love the idea of new fans (even if it's only a few) rocking out to our tunes. :)
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