Bokaro P ni Naritai, vol. 29

(Images used for review purposes only.)

So close… getting so close. Just one more issue after this one and the series wraps up. I really do want to mail in the proof of purchase seals and try to get the process started for obtaining the commercial versions of the serial numbers, and to see if maybe the publishers will send me any of the goodies that the people who paid in advance for the full subscription received (like the seals and special MMD model files).

I want to be a Vocaloid Producer, vol. 29, 1,500 yen, plus tax.
New magazine features:
I need to start with the classroom section first this time. Rana has received a lot of information over the last year, and she’s complaining that it’s like drinking water from a fire hose. Meaning, she’s having a hard time deciding what kind of music to write and videos to produce. So Robo-Panda provides a 5-step summary. 1) Think about what it is you want to make. What kind of music do you like, and is that what you want to create yourself? 2) Listen to the music that you like and try to get ideas from the artists already producing that music. 3) Decide the genre and instruments you want to use. 4) Set a deadline and keep to it. 5) Release the song when the deadline arrives. At the end of the section, we’re directed to read the 4-panel comic, in which Rana has finished her graduation project and the teachers all congratulate her for it. As she accepts the praise, she whispers “I can do anything by myself now”, and then keels over and passes out while the teachers all go into a panic.

(Alice and Azuki.)

The music genre is comedic Trans-Pop and the interview is with Utata. The SSW tutorial includes screen caps of the mixer screens (for the GraphicEQ, Compressor, Distortion, Stereo Enhancer and Delay options) showing the settings used on all three vocal tracks of the demo song. There’s a mention of a new musical instrument model for MMD, a combo DJ scratch turntable/synth keyboard/trumpet. Plus there’s instructions in the MMD tutorial for using AVIUtil and installing the Ut Video codec. There’s two pages on motion capture; introducing some demo motion files for MMD; and running a short interview with the company that made the demo motion file – CGCG; plus a fake introduction of two of CGCG’s mascot characters – Alice and Azuki (shown above).

New DVD Features:
Again, no pick-up song this time.
However, there are the demo files for Cort’s instructions on AVIUtil, and using the motion capture data from CGCG to make a complete music video. Plus, the model data for the hybrid synth, the “Colorful Pin-key”.

(Rana posed with the new Colorful Pin-key synth, with the island stage.)

More lecture, although you can follow along and change the demo song file if you want, but there’s not much point unless you specifically need this section. The featured technique is changing tempo, which is really very simple. Just bring up the Tempo menu, specify the point in the song you want to change, enter a new value for BPS (beats per second) and click ok. The editors focus mainly on the idea of a “story song”, where the tempo changes when the singer changes scenes in the story. The demo song is “Koufuku no Mi” (The Seed of Happiness), which starts out like a slow folk song, then jumps into a higher gear. Otherwise, not really that outstanding a piece. The music’s good, I’m just not that taken by the insistence on having Rana sing in such a high register.

The idea here is to take Rana’s vocal track (29:Vox), break it up into pieces at points 10.2 and 16.4, copy the track and rename it so you get 29:Vox1, 30:Vox2 and 31:Vox3, then delete the unnecessary duplicated sections on each track (so that Rana sings up to 10.2 on Vox1, from 10.2 to 16.4 on Vox2, and from 16.4 to the end of the song on Vox3). One interesting thing I hadn’t known before is that when you open the Mixer window, you can save and load Graphic EQ and Compressor settings to and from data files. So, we save the 29:Vox1 settings and load them into 30:Vox2 and 31:Vox3. The editors want a “lo-fi” effect on the intro vocals, so the Vox1 GraphicEQ, Compressor and Distortion settings are changed to be High Pass, with high Q values at the upper end of the frequency band. This gives a really cheap, tinny speaker effect to the track. The video cheats by skipping over the instructions on Vox2 and Vox3, instead directing the student to load the finished song files and check the settings the editors used. Granted, the effects settings are given in the magazine, so it’s not that big a deal. However, they do go into a bit more detail on what the Delay function is and how it works. The video ends with a playback of the final song.

(Mocap Rana in the school hallway stage.)

We’re moving out of the realm of MMD activity and relying on AviUtil more. The idea is to introduce scene transitions, so save the finished animation of just the character for the frames for each specific scene (using a file naming convention like 0-1099_Character, and 0-1099_background) for the entire video. Once you have this in place, you can use AviUtil to apply flare, shading, and blur effects to the Rana layer. The video skips over the details, referring instead to a separate tutorial video on the DVD-ROM. It finishes with excerpts of the second tutorial overlapped with the motion capture dance for the “Firecracker” demo video.

(Screen cap from the AviUtil Sugu Dekiru tutorial video.)

AviUtil Sugu Dekiru (I can use AviUtil quickly):
This is Cort’s tutorial for using AviUtil with the sample files on the DVD-ROM to apply the effects described in the MMD tutorial. It does look like this is a really powerful application, but I’m still hesitant to download it and put it on my PC. Maybe some day in the near future, but not right now. On a side note, this tutorial doesn’t have a soundtrack; it’s just the video instructions.

(Screen cap from the “What is Motion Capture” demo video. Note the insert with the live dancer in the lower right corner.)

What is Motion Capture?:
There’s an extra folder on the DVD-ROM that contains the MMD motion files for Rana to create the “Firecracker” demo video, plus a few background .pngs and the song .wav file. The instructions for making the video are in the magazine. But, there’s a video file in the folder as well that’s worth watching. It has the finished “Firecracker” music video, plus an insert in the lower right corner with the dancer who was used to generate the capture data. So, you can see the dancer in the capture suit, and compare that with Rana as she’s doing the same moves. It’s obvious that there’s been tweaking of the hands and facial expressions, but otherwise Rana’s movements are pretty faithful to the human dancer she’s mimicking. It’s fun to watch.

Additional comments:
I’m getting a bit burned out on the Vocaloid side, because so much of it is just music theory that I’m not ready for. I like the SSW stuff better, because I’m always ready to mess with sound settings to get various effects out of the instruments, so this issue was worth working on. The MMD and “AviUtil Sugu Dekiru” stuff is going way beyond what MMD can do, and is more about post-processing the video files. It’s nice to know material, but as I mention above, I don’t trust third-party executables. The “What is Motion Capture” video is fun, but since MMD doesn’t come with video cameras and a capture suit, it’s not like we can do any of the motion capture work ourselves. On the other hand, we do get the data files on the DVD-ROM to assemble the finished video, so there is a sense of accomplishment if you take the time to do that.

Now, some comments on the MMD projects for this volume. First, I wanted to put together an MMD sample video with Rana and the Colorful Pin-key synth. So, I loaded the Rana model, and followed this with the Pin-key model file. There are two files that are misnamed as “motion” data, when they’re really just fixed poses. One is for Rana so she looks like she’s holding the synth in her hands. The other is for the synth so it’s rotated to look like it’s being held by Rana. The two just don’t line up right when they’re loaded into the project. That was disappointing. I had to spend several minutes repositioning the synth, and even then the strap is too loose over Rana’s shoulders and her hands aren’t located over the keys of the instrument. So, basically the pose files aren’t that useful. I just threw in the island dance stage and took a screen cap of that to show off the synth.

Second, I wanted to put together the demo video for “Firecracker”, using the motion capture data and camera data from the DVD-ROM. This turned out to not be feasible, because all the keyframe data makes for a HUGE file. My laptop just doesn’t have the speed or memory for this, and I had to wait 3-4 minutes just for the data to load. Then, when I added the music track, MMD simply died on me, destroying the model structure and corrupting the avi output file (Windows media player complained about a “bad file”). I had to disable the .wav file, and then the video could be saved to disk, anyway, although it still played back in media player way too slow. I added the school hallway dance stage and output just enough frames to give me something to screen cap for this blog review.

One thing I’m still annoyed by is that I’ve never figured out how to export a .jpg freeze frame from MMD. MMD only seems to allow frame 0 to be saved as a still image, and in every single video I’ve made, frame 0 is solid black. All the other frames output right, so instead of making stills, I’ve always output the first 60-100 frames as an .avi file, then played that in media player so that I can pause on the frame I want, and follow this with PrtScr, and pasting the screen cap into Gimp. I know that it is possible to save to a still, because the editors did that with the Christmas card project in the volume for December last year. I just don’t know HOW they did it.

Anyway, if I ever do create my own videos with Rana, with a soundtrack, I’m going to need to upgrade to a much more powerful desktop, I’m afraid.

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