Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've been working in a frenzy over the weekend on a music video for my tune Challenger. I wanted to share how I did it... first look at this...

That sheet is one page of the list of frame numbers for the song. The video looks computer animated but actually it's "hand animated", sort of. I made little animations, usually individual photoshopped frames (like the glowing dots above). These were included into a long animation at the correct points to correspond to the different notes in the song. I effectively made a different video for each instrument, with a black background, then overlaid each one to make the final edit.

The whole thing was made possible because I wrote a small program to automatically calculate frame numbers when you input the frames-per-second of a video and the beats-per-minute of a tune. This was synchronised with my music software so that I could see where each note was triggered. Then I highlighted the times that the notes played.

The first bit I did was the bass, the vertical red lines. I drew 8 pictures and animated them with the right gaps between frames. Not as easy as it sounds because the notes are not always the same space apart due to fractions of a frame. After 1.5 patterns, the sequence repeats.

Next came some swirly chords which in my head were a cyan/grey sort of swirly colour and for that I used a 3D program to rotate a giant ring. I put two rings inside and made them transparent, offsetting the angles so they twisted as they spun. In the music, the song takes four measures to sweep through the filter, so I used that number of frames, multiplied by 3 (to again account for fractional frames) to complete one sweep, so that's 1080 degrees.

Then came the "sine blobs", the glowing blue dots, which worked like the bass. The most time consuming bit though was the main piano melody. I drew an expanding circle over 70 frames, then had to work out how to put it into the video. In the end I put the notes into "clusters" that had gaps of at least 70 frames between. Then I added enough black space to the start so that when the cluster was triggered on a specific frame, the animation would trigger at the exact right frame for the piano sound. So each note had to be placed as a separate specific animation. There was a lot of mental arithmetic involved for that one!

After that I added a poem and decided to invert the video for dramatic effect for the finale.

Overall, this has been exhausting, but worth it.

The software I used was my usual free set by the way. AviSynth for the main editing, compositing etc. and VirtualDub for previews. I used SUPER to convert to mp4 for YouTube. It took 35 mins to render the final video on my 3Ghz PC.


I'm going to leave it for a while now and do the final mastering in a few days. I expect the official release to be in a couple of weeks.

Edit! It's now Jan 2015 and I decided to remaster this, this time using FreeMake to convert it. I added a new "Cornutopia Music" intro and overlayed a subtitle. It took about an hour in Freemake as an 8000kbps mpp4 file, quite a lot longer than SUPER. Both FreeMake and SUPER are now adware and should be installed only with great care to avoid toolbars and other malware. Freemake v4.0.3.0 was the last stable version that didn't brand your videos (yes, newer versions put their logo in your video!), so use that version. Don't go near SUPER, it auto-updates and can't be uninstalled.


John Salmon said...

Blimey! I'm knackered just reading about it.

Mark. You are the MAN!

Mark Sheeky said...

Note I now use Freemake instead of SUPER for video file conversion. SUPER became evil, cluttering your PC with adverts and rubbish. Freemake is benevolent, at the moment, and easier to use too.