21 September 2011

Some Apollo Aftermath

For the musical side of my upcoming Apollo album I have only one more thing to do and that is to compile the final Master CD for the pressing plant tomorrow together with Ron Boots. After that we are going to bring it together to the pressing plant, but even last night I visited my friend Hans for some last second changes in the masters. But today I had time to do some after math and archive of all the files from the project. And then I just realized how much time and data has been involved in this project. So I guess it would be nice to share this information with you and let you in a bit on the process that took me to the end result.

The Apollo project has know several stages. It all started out with an idea to do an album about the NASA Moon mission, since I was born in 1969 and always felt very connected with the Moon Landing by Neil Amstrong. So after I decided this was going to be the subject for a new album, I started looking for original NASA recordings that were broadcasted on the radio in that time. I ended up buying a royalty free set of CD's with 211 original recording of the astronauts and ground control talking. That was about 138 Mbyte data in mp3 format that was the spark that started this album. Then I started reading about these mission and also collected a lot of pictures from the Internet that I use to give my inspiration. In total 124 of them being 272 Mbyte of data.

After that a pre-production stage started. In this period I always start with making a whole library of sound effects on my modulars that I can use later on as details for the music. Don't ask me why I start with this, that is just my workflow and mostly either the samples or the SFX in spark a melody that starts to become a song later on inspired by a picture from the collection that I made. In total I made 387 sound effects being 899 Mbytes of data. In this period I also started to look a lot of documentaries about the Apollo space mission. I also involved the kids in this process and we even started to build plastic model kits of the Saturn rocket and the Moon Lander etc. Very inspiring I must say.

Then the inspirational stage started were I started to play melodies and tried to make arrangements from these song. By then I already had the idea including a picture in my head for 12 tracks that would represent the whole story over the CD. So in fact I had like a story board that animators also use to make a movie. There actually also the idea started to make a movie along with the music. But I'll get back to that another time. In this period I recorded a lot of stuff. I ended up with 941 recordings representing 44.7 Gbytes of data that I had to chose from later on to make songs. I do all my recordings in 48 Khz / 24 bit by the way in case you are interested in that kind of stuff.

Then it was time for the production stage. Here I start selecting the recordings and producing arrangements in my sequencer software that happens to be Cakewalk Sonar X1 Producer Edition. I ended up with 489 files representing 47.7 Gbyte of data where I combined the music I recorded with the Apollo samples and Sound Effects I made before. Since I did 12 tracks on average that was 40 tracks per song and 4 Gbyte of data per song. Some songs even make version 30 or 40. I worked on this process for about 2 years. And based on the calculations of my version numbers per track that represent normally a days work I worked 293 days in this process with on average 8 hour work days.

Then it was time for me to step back a bit and let my good friend Hans Landman do the mastering. He asked me to mix my original tracks down to sub buses that he could work with. He got 237 files from me being 23.8 Gbyte of data. Still in 48 Khz / 24 bit by the way. From these buses Hans made a new mix and added EQ and compression on each of these bussen resulting in much louder, but also more polished and cleaner track. I really liked what he did, but we had several sessions making adjustments. Big in the beginning small in the end. On average for every song there were about 12 versions before we were satisfied enough to go to the next stage.

Hans also did the sample rate conversion from 48 Khz to 44.1 Khz and dithered everything so that I was left with 12 tracks in 44.1 Khz / 16 bit that could fit on CD. In total that was 720 Mbytes of data left from the original 47 Gbytes or so. Amazing right? These track I will take tomorrow to my other good friend Ron Boots who compiles the final CD for me. In the mean time I also worked on the Artwork of the CD and I am still working on the movie with 3D animations that will go together with the official launch of the CD on the 1st of October. I hope this little aftermath has given you a bit of an insight in the whole process of creating this CD. And as always if you have questions feel free to ask. Pictures Courtesy of NASA (www.nasa,gov)