(Images used for review purposes only.)
I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 23, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
In the 4-panel comic, Rana is swimming in the school’s pool when she suddenly gets an inspiration for a new melody and goes rushing for a recorder before she forgets it. The main classroom chapter has Rana searching for new sounds to put in her songs, and Robo-Panda introduces her to a second VST synthesizer plug-in, the Superwave. There’s a mention of the next live stage, the swimming pool, and a new accessory – protective head gear to keep the tubes on the top of Rana’s head dry. The music page talks about the Hard Techno genre, and the interview is with techno artist EZFG. Part of the MMD tutorial shows various techniques for using background photos (classroom hallway), or a battleship model for the music video sets. Then, the final page introduces a freeware VST download plugin from Roberson Audio for their version of the MiniMoog Model D synthesizer, called the RA Mowg. And there’s a brief discussion of the studio setup for the pick-up artist, Fueruto.
New DVD Features:
The Pick-up Song is “Kaibutsu Mitaina Kimi” (You Look Like a Monster). It starts out simple then kicks into a driving orchestral rock piece (lots of piano, strings, and electric guitar) that would sound better if Rana’s vocals weren’t playing at the upper octaves where they sound really mechanical. I guess this is a good time to make a comment on the Yamaha vocaloid engine. It’s designed to sound human. You can tweak it to get a young girl’s voice, an older woman and even a boy, depending on which notes Rana sings. In my opinion, being a little above middle C sounds good. When you get to the farther right part of the keyboard, Rana’s voice breaks down and there’s a kind of screeching element to it, which no longer sounds like singing. A number of the vocaloid “producers” tend to like that sound, and use it a little too often in their compositions, such as “Kaibutsu”, maybe because it’s a bit similar in feel to auto tune.
The DVD menu has links to Rana stickers on the Line Store (available for 120 yen a sheet), and other Rana goods on Frontier Works.
The MMD models include an updated version of the warp room, with numbered doors for the first 8 rooms, plus a scenery panel, and the swimming pool stage. The pool acts a lot like the outer space stage, in that you have to turn off the axis grid and floor shadows, and you can get spherical camera sweeps. (Note that there’s no actual accessory for Rana’s swimsuit headgear.)
(MMD section showing “casual Rana” in the pool stage room.)
This time, the idea is to get a harder-sounding melody. The demo song (Hatsu Kanojo (First Girlfriend)) has a strong House feel to it that’s very synth driven, with filter sweeps and big base guitar and drum sounds on the rhythm track. Rana’s voice is clipped, with extremely short phoneme play times. It would be a decent song on its own without the vocals. But, to get the edge to the vocals, the melody is flat, staying right around C, with some variations. The student is encouraged to move some of the phonemes around to see what effects you get with bigger and smaller jumps between notes. But, the idea of a techno melody is to control Rana’s chord changes.
Finally, a tutorial that includes stuff for the student to do. Unfortunately, we’re back to copy-pasting fixed phrases from the phrase editor into the demo song, but at least there’s a bit of an example showing how some of the phrases use filter sweeps, and how to copy in MIDI synthesizer phrases to use the chords pre-included in the demo song.
(The actual model.)
The video starts out by saying that if there’s an accessory or stage room that you need for your video but just can’t find on the net, you can make your own using a CAD package like Meta Sequoia. But, that’s lots of work, so instead the publishers will show how to make work-arounds with static backgrounds and alternate approaches.
The important point is to get your story to work within the video. If you don’t have a full 3D model, there are tricks that you can use. First is to use a photo of the scene you want (i.e. – a school hallway) and mess with lighting and Rana’s positioning in front of the photo to make it more interactive. Second is, if you have a different model, adapt it. The example shows Rana walking through what appears to be an old train station, but when the camera pulls back it reveals a pair of battleship decks with a couple 2D photos of cars and buses that Rana was walking behind (Cort used this setup for one of his videos). Another option is to keep a tight camera focus on Rana and not worry about the parts of the set that aren’t in the shot (the example has Rana crouched in front of a fire outside on a snowy night; the camera pulls back to show there’s no texture map for the ground and the “fire” was just a lighting effect aimed at Rana’s face). Cort’s comment is that translating the mental image you have into the finished music video is a large part of the fun of making videos.
The actual instructions for inserting background images are fairly simple. Take whatever photo or illustration you want to use, size doesn’t matter but the bigger the image the slower MMD will run, and save it to the “rana_SceneryPanel” folder under the name “tx.png”. Then just drag and drop the “acce_SceneryPanel.pmx” file into MMD. The image will be treated as any other accessory model, with a “center bone” for rotation, resizing and curving the object with the slider controls.
The RA Mowg plug-in has its own keyboard-based user interface executable that you can use independently from composition software like SSW. It’s based on the MiniMoog Model D, so it has 3 oscillators, a variety of waveforms, amplitude and frequency envelope generators (Attack-Decay-Sustain), white and pink noise, and a modulator. It’s very limited compared to the Alpha3 plug-in, but I like the growly effects I can get at the left end of the keyboard. I guess what this means is that I probably wouldn’t be happy with the simpler Moog hardware products that don’t use patch cords.
Superwave is a UK company dedicated to recreating the works of Jean Michel Jarre, and they have quite a few commercial software synth products available. Their one free synth is the Superwave P8, a VST plug-in that can be installed into the SSW VST plugins folder along with the Alpha3. I’m still trying to figure out how to get at the notes in the demo song so I can loop on them while messing with the P8 controls, so I can’t comment on how it sounds. There are a lot of presets, and the interface looks impressive, anyway. The SSW video tutorial doesn’t mention either the Mowg or the P8, and there’s only a couple paragraphs on them in the magazine. If I ever get some free time, I’ll have to do more with them as well as the Alpha3.
In the MMD tutorial video, the publishers comment that the reason for issuing warp_room2 is that the door used for room #7 didn’t match the colors of the other doors; something that I thought was an interesting glitch and they should have left it like that. Or, they could have just supplied a new door for room 7 and not bothered duplicating all of the other files for the full room model.
(The “back” and “front” sides of the Cyber Space door. Originally, there was just the one texture map from the room folder, and the default texture supplied with the Warp Room model way back in volume 1.)
If you’re not familiar with MMD (and I’d have to ask why you’re reading this; if it’s out of more than simple curiosity…) the stage model files consist of the 3D CAD data and a number of texture maps. In the case of the stage rooms, the “door” is just a rectangle with a door-like texture map that has the room name and number drawn on it. There’s no real relationship between the texture map for the Warp Room side of the “door” and the Swimming Pool side. Initially, the Warp Room just had 12 blank textures, labeled “dor01b” – “dor12b”, and then the other stages would have a single map (texture_door.png) for their side of the door with the room name and number on it. As each new room was issued, I just copied the door map from that new stage folder and pasted it into the Warp Room folder under the correct room name. However, the door for the Cyberspace Stage room is dark blue, while all the other doors have been yellow-orange, which resulted in the Warp Room having one door that didn’t match all the others when it was copied into the Warp Room folder. Having the Warp Room2 model “fixes” this imperfection, but it wasn’t really necessary.