The Compelling Reasons That Will Make You a Fan of Hatsune Miku

If we’re being honest, even I wouldn’t have believed that headline if it was written even six months ago. Clearly being only vaguely aware of who Hatsune Miku is wasn’t enough and it took a proper introduction before I ‘got’ her. Of course there’s a lot of appeal to the character of Miku herself, and that forms the basis for many young fans’ devotion. That’s not what makes her appealing to me though; it’s the concept and execution of the character’s role, and what she represents from a business standpoint. To put it simply: she’s the future.

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What I Learned At A Simpsons Scoring Session

Related to yesterday’s post, my presence in the Los Angeles area for the 2013 CTN Expo did not go unnoticed. Chris Ledesma sniffed that I was in town and arranged for me to attend one of the music recording sessions for the Simpsons.

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FOX and Universal Sued Over Simpsons Theme Park Ride

Via: The Simpsons Wikia

 

I’ll admit that legal matters tend to make my ears prick up for reasons that are still not entirely clear but I couldn’t help but be slightly amused when I read this story. A few years ago, both FOX and Universal were full on beating the drum about the opening of a Simpsons themed ride at one of the latter’s theme parks. Fast forward to 2012 and both are being sued over the same ride, but from a rather amusing source; a musician’s union.

Why even blog about this? Well a case like this would barely register on most people’s radar but is just another sign that you can never take anything in entertainment for granted.

Now on the surface, this is simply interesting from the point of view that it’s the musicians as opposed to anyone else trying to make a grab for some dough however thanks to the Simpsons’ music editor Chris Ledesma and his blog explaining everything in plain English, I know that even the music in the entertainment industry is far from simple.

Yup, thanks to Chris’ Music Editing 101 series and in particular his posts on music clearing and re-use, I (and now you) know that acquiring music for an animated TV show is a far from straightforward procedure. There are all sorts of clearances, rights and so forth to request, acquire and process before anything can make it to air. After that you can’t simply use a piece of music you already have; there are all kinds of rules about that.

It’s all dreadfully complicated and perhaps proof that no-one in Hollywood really trusts each other, but it does make for entertaining reading when the musician’s union goes after the hand that feeds them when it comes to a roller coaster.

The crux of the issue is that FOX apparently used music from the series in the ride but that violates a clause in the current contract that was signed in 2010. Seeing as how the ride was already in operation before that, I can’t see how it can be infringing. That said, I also can’t see how it took 2 years to get around to filing a lawsuit but then again I’m an engineer and prone to crippling logicality and common sense.

So consider this yet another aspect to modern animation production that could come back to bite you in the end, and remember, you don’t have to have roller coaster to get sued.

Wool and Pencils in Stop-Motion Loveliness

Found via Dark Roasted Blend, this stop-motion commercial for natural gas makes clever use of wool.

Found via Reddit, this music video for Australian musician Hudson uses a lot of pencils.

Want to see a funny video with a great jazz soundtrack?

Of course you do. Allen Mezquida was kind enough to send over his latest video featuring his character Smigly as he attempts to become a hit jazz musician on YouTube but faces tough competition at every turn.

In case you’re wondering, The Big Phat Band is a real band! Hit the link for their website with a behind the scenes video of the production of their latest album.

 

5 Fundamental Differences Between Fantasia and Fantasia 2000

Via: Collider

It has been well noted how one of the greatest animated film ever made managed to spawn a sequel many, many years later in the form of Fantasia 2000. What has not been well noted are the fundamental differences between that film and the original.

1. The Opening Sequence

Not to denounce the choice of music (Beethoven’s 5th is a favourite of mine) but to focus instead on the animation. In the original, it was animation meant to represent the music visually, with plenty of clouds and streams of light.

The sequel instead took the same visual concept and turned it into a story.

Such a move has the effect of distracting the user from the music and the visuals as they try to determine who the characters are, why they are flying about and why are they being attacked. At the end of the day they are a distraction that draws the viewer away from the attempt to link artistically the music and and the animation.

2. The Colours

The original was full of bright, vivid colours that literally jumped off the screen. In Fantasia 2000, the Pines of Rome segment has by far some of the dullest and flattest colours I have ever seen. At one point I was straining to make out the whales from the background.

While some segments have undoubtedly vivid colours (the yo-yoing flamingos comes to mind), on the whole, the sequel contains much more muted colours and palettes than the original. It is, as a result, less exciting, less eye-popping and ultimately just a wee bit less interesting.

Plenty of wacky cartoons on TV manage to look extremely vivid, Fantasia 2000 simply lacks a similarly broad palette.

3. The Use of Multiple Hosts

The original had a single host, Deems Taylor, which had a purpose as that film was intended to be a roadshow where audiences of the day would have expected a single host for the evening. The sequel uses multiple hosts.

This has the effect of making the film seem like a seminar or presentation. A single host would have unified the viewing experience and provided some continuity between segments. With multiple persons and multiple personalities filling the space, there is a tendency for the film to lurch at each scene as each presenter has a different style.

4. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Yes, it is in both films and is perhaps the most recogniseable segment of the original and that is the difference. Mikey’s appearance in the original had a reason (he needed a new vehicle in the years rolling up to the Second World War) whereas it’s inclusion in the sequel appears to be an attempt to provide some validity to that film’s very existence.

What irked me more than anything though, is that the soundtrack appeared to be re-recorded, at least to my ears, although I was listening to it through some old speakers. Besides the dubious sound, they also re-recorded Mickey’s voice for his interaction with Igor Stravinksy. Unforgiveable perhaps, but ultimately a poor choice for a supposedly ‘new’ film.

Another aspect of the sequence’s inclusion is that it steals the thunder of Donald Duck, who is given his own sequence to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and must content himself to remain in the shadow of his friend instead of in the limelight where he should be.

5. The Conclusion

The original end sequence was very much a statement on the constant battle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It is exceedingly spiritual on many levels and has been noted for the many profound effects it has on viewers.

The sequel is also in a natural setting and on a mountain, but instead it focuses more on the battle between natural forces in their fight to control the landscape. As admirable as this is, it does allow for a certain amount of disconnect from the audience. It is about nature, not about us, and I can’t help but feel that a certain amount of the meaning is lost in that gap.

Quick Note: The Music in Ren and Stimpy

In the case of Futurama, the only thing that differes between the original episodes and the ones after the resurrection is the music. It is widely known that the full orchestra used in the latter has been replaced by synthesized instruments. This is not a serious flaw in any way, it just smacks of a blatantly lower budget for the series.

Anyway, the wee point I would like to make today is that John K. used a fairly large library of old music that he used in Ren & Stimpy. There are two reasons for this, firstly, John’s love of old music/culture (note the stylized designs and fictitious commericals for powdered toast) and secondly it was a huge cost-saver.

The use of such music does not in any way detract from an otherwise superb show, but it is clear that the two go hand in hand. Listening to the music on its own pulls you back in time to an age of big bands, Hollywood in its prime, the wonder that is outer space and of course, the hustle and bustle of city life.

I’m not exactly sure what proportion of a shows budget goes towards music (if anybody knows, please enlighten me in the comments) and I’m pretty sure it varies from show to show and network to network. However, Ren & Stimpy continue to stand alone in their use of old music. I think it any show (or film for that matter) set back in the day should use old music. But perhaps a more elaborate analysis is needed, which will have to be another day.

The Toy Story 3 Soundtrack: Where Disney Pinches the Pennies and Leaves You Short Changed

I learned yesterday that Disney plans to release the soundtrack to Toy Story 3 as a digital download only. This is not a good development on a number of fronts. Although I’m risking turning this into a gripe blog (which it isn’t!) it is a shame that Disney have decided to go down this route for the sake of saving a few cents.

Admittedly, most music is consumed nowadays in the form of music files rather than physical media. This is fantastic as it cuts out a lot of the cost of producing a record. I have long maintained that mp3 was the best thing to ever happen to the music industry. It set the music free from the restrictive media that are CDs and tapes. Suddenly, you could put your music anywhere and copy and share it easily. No more high-speed dubbing cassettes over at your friends house!

The only downside to mp3 and other lossy formats is that they compromise the quality of the recording. You may not know it, but plenty of audiophiles scoff at the humble CD. The basic reason is that the sampling rate for a CD or any digital medial for that matter, results in a waveform that does not accurately reflect the original analogue wave. In order to do that, you’ll need to dig up some vinyl records, either at your parents house or the lone record shop in your area that’s still open. Despite the apparent shortcomings of the CD, it has proven over the last 30 years to be a suitable successor to the vinyl record for the masses.

As for soundtracks, well they’re normally contain a fair amount of orchestral music. That is, if it really is a soundtrack with actual music from the film and not just one with a bunch of songs relating to the film. I’m looking at you Space Jam!

With natural music, I feel that you can only get the best experience from the best recording. With a CD, our in good shape, unless you know where you can find prerecorded SACDs. By using mp3 files, you are getting shortchanged, even if the music costs less. Don’t even get me started on the DRM they slap on there to stop you doing stuff with the music you bought.

If, like me, you enjoy listening to your music pretty loud, on a nice hi-fi, then you are out of luck. Mp3 sound like shite when you crank the volume up. A CD isn’t nearly as bad. Something along the like of EVE Retrieve from Wall-E need the highest bitrates to sound good. Anything less is in danger of leaving the listener feeling disappointed.