Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Grind (That Bar)", gear, and guesting

New vid came out Sunday!

So, here's the story behind this one. Nyhm wrote the lyrics to this and recorded it *months* ago. In terms of how long the typical Mad Cow project takes from recording to completion, this is far and away the longest. I actually used the song as an excuse to go visit my partner in machinima infamy and his family, but this time I brought my recording setup. See, Nyhm records most of his vocals on a vent mic. As his audio engineer, this drives me *nuts*. I wanted to see how it sounded if I got his vocals recorded into a slightly better setup. This is an inexpensive solution that has worked for me, and is the same setup I used to record all my own vocals up until this one. I finally picked up a new mic this summer, a real nice fancy one, and my vocals for Grind were recorded with that. First, more about the vid, then I'll get into a spiel on equipment and software since folks always have questions about what we use.

As I was saying before I got sidetracked, this was recorded months ago. The files were all on my laptop, and I said I'd take care of the mixing and mastering, getting things synced and lined up properly, and I'd get the song back to him. Nyhm can be a very intense worker when he gets hit by the creative muse, and generally focuses on that one project until he gets it done (or until he gets bored if it just isn't working for some reason). Well, before I got around to editing the song, Nyhm decided it was time to do that book he'd always wanted to do. I won't deny that I was slacking on editing, and his focus on another project made it a lot easier to put "Grind That Bar" on the back burner. (While the official name is "Grind", there's also a WoW machinima series called "The Grind", and my internal name for the song was "Grind That Bar", so I'm going to refer to it as such in this post to distinguish it from other prior works.) Fast forward to last Friday. Nyhm sends me an email. "So I am feeling a creative void forming. VERY tempted to make a new wow vid this weekend." I got my butt in gear, recorded my vocals again, sent him a draft to work on while I mixed the final version, and (since I work on Saturdays) finished up the final mix on Sunday evening. We were done with our respective parts within an hour of each other, which was quite convenient and unplanned.

The reviews on this one have been a bit mixed, so I think I need to give a bit of context so that the video is appreciated properly. This video isn't so much a WoW visualization of the lyrics as a parody of the original video from Busta Rhymes, "Break Ya Neck". I recommend watching that vid before watching our spoof since the video will make a lot more sense.


My first 'real' mic was an Audio-Technica ATR30 dynamic mic. It's very sturdy, very resilient, and perfectly functional for very basic recording. I also used to use an M-Audio AudioBuddy preamp. The problem was that it had only mic level output, and my computer doesn't have a mic in, only a line in. I needed something to boost the signal coming out of the AudioBuddy, and the only device I found was this little plastic USB dongle called an iMic. It's the same thing I used for my headset for talking on Vent, and is not what one would call top of the line hardware. But it worked, more or less, especially for just playing around.

My new setup is sure to last me a fair bit longer. I splurged on a nice shiny new mic: a Rode NT1A condenser. And, of course, a matching silver pop screen to replace the makeshift "coat hanger and panty hose" pop filter I'd been using. I also simplified my signal chain by getting a firewire preamp (PreSonus Firebox) so the sound will go from mic to preamp to computer.

The other nice thing about getting that preamp is that it came with Cubase LE. Now, I know a lot of folks use and love Audacity. I use it myself a lot, but there's no instruction manual, really. So when I had issues like, "Why aren't my headphones monitoring in real time," there wasn't an easy way to troubleshoot. Also, I had serious issues getting it to do something as basic as reverb. I installed a couple of VSTs, but the previews weren't working, and the reverb wouldn't process, and ugh. Using the NT1A, the Firebox, and Cubase, it became much easier to get things working properly. No question of compatibility or whether there was a bad link in the chain or if I just needed to restart my software. Eventually I'll be upgrading to the pro version of Cubase, but for my purposes now, the limited edition is working great.

I imagine a number of folks reading this blog have heard of Decision (old channel), a WoW parody rapper and former member of the now defunct A6 which included Nyhm, Gigi, and the DruidBoyz. Well, Decision does occasional broadcasts on BlogTV, where he broadcasts live video, and various folks sign in and chat via text, ask questions, and so on. He tweets when he's broadcasting, and last night I had about half an hour before raid so I decided to stop in. I sign in as a guest, and thought I'd be all clever and such. For context, Decision and I met in person at BlizzCon, and every time he or Bry (his oh so lovely girlfriend) saw me, they'd go nice and loudly, "OMG, are you the REAL Summergale???" So of course when I log in as a guest, I have to give him the same treatment. "OMG are you the real Decision??" He doesn't catch the joke.

Him, on camera: "Um, yes, I am the real Decision..."
Me, in text chat: "Sorry, inside joke, this is Summergale."

It hadn't occurred to me that other people might claim to be me, which apparently happens about once a show. My comment is received with a request for proof from Decision and other viewers commenting oh so cleverly, "Hah, yeah, I'm Nyhm." "hurr hurr, I'm Summer too!" So Decision says to the camera, "If you are the real Summergale, I think you should call me, like right now." (We'd exchanged cell numbers at BlizzCon to keep track of each other.)

Him (voice): "Phone's not ringing, I don't hear it. It'd be funny if that actually was her."

Then I finish digging my cell out of my purse. Locate Deci's number in my contact list.

Me (text): "Ring ring."

The look on his face when his cell actually started ringing was priceless. He even showed the camera the face of his phone where it showed "Summergale" calling. (Yes, he put me in his contact list as Summergale.) So, I got to guest star on Decision's blogTV show for a bit as a call-in and feel all famous when everyone was impressed that it really was me.

Wow, this post got waaaaay too long. Maybe I should post more frequently...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nyhm's new book!

Well folks, after an intense past few days, the book is finished!

If you liked Shel Silverstein's work or Prelutsky's New Kid On The Block, growing up, you should check this out. It's a pretty awesome looking book, I must say. Nyhm's always had a way with words as evidenced by his hysterical lyrics in all the parody stuff, and now he's turned his talent to writing children's poetry. All the poems and drawings are done by him, and he did it all in something like 3 months. When the boy focuses, he can churn it out like nobody's business.

You can order from Lulu, and if you use the promo code "LULUBOOK", you get a 10% discount from now until September 30th. If you don't want to get the hardcover but still want to read the book, Lulu also offers a digital download for a fraction of the price.

There are a few of these drawings that I totally want to put on T-shirts. The dude on the cover is adorable, and there's one called "Up" that's fantastic. I might have to check into putting a Cafe Press store together...