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A moment in the sun Journals Modular synthesisers Music & Synthesisers

December 2017 in retrospect

Seasons Greetings! Although we are still a whole day and a bit away from the end of December, here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to this month.

A moment in the sun!

I last worked on our old friends Pointy and Gronky properly back in May. At the time I felt like I left the story in the best possible place. Pointy’s now a happy little nerd with a laser fixation instead of a simmering angry idiot who wants to get home. Gronky is still a big guy who buries things in the desert.

I’ve started looking for ways to bring the pace of the story up and creatively solve some limitations. So now Gronky digs things out of the ground lightning fast. We never see him do this directly, however – it’s always off-screen. He also buries things glacially slow, just for contrast. This helpfully marks the passing of time as Pointy interrogates the robot.

The line-up, as seen previously..

Speaking of Pointy, I’m revisiting his character design so it fits his new bubbly personality better. On the very first day of December, I rendered Gronky and Pointy together with the bird from AAAAAAAAAAAAAA out of curiosity. Two soft round characters next to an angular character made me realise how Pointy’s sharp edges didn’t feel right anymore. He’s still ultimately a 2D design in a 3D world, but now the spiky sharp angular edges are friendlier-looking flowing curves.

Choosing a design and realising it in 3D is January’s problem.

Other animated things

Other ideas included robot creatures who make weird and fun noises into a microphone while doing strange things. I’ve collected enough strange and delightful noises from the analogue synth which suggest whimsical robots. The working title is “Noisies”. Here’s a slightly hyperactive animation test in Blender Grease Pencil featuring a roboty thing who is definitely not Gir from Invader Zim beatboxing to the introduction of “One Note Samba” by Perrey and Kingsley.

I don’t think the timing is right to start on it yet, but it could be a fun little project one day.

Electronics and music

I expanded DASYRAC by quite a few modules this month, with three pre-mades and five kit builds! (It would have been six kit builds but no such luck.) The last couple of modules are waiting on parts or availability.

  • Music Thing Modular’s Spring Reverb mk 2 (kit). This was a replacement for my Doepfer spring reverb. It’s got a cleaner sound and has more features.
  • Doepfer A-124 VCF5 Wasp Filter Special Edition. The Wasp has a cult following, partly for being cheap and partly for sounding more like an intergalactic shortwave radio than a filter at high resonance.
  • Polaxis Talko (kit). Talko uses old-school linear prediction coding (remember the Speak’N’Spell from “E.T.”?) to say preset numbers and words.. or for robotic burbles and growls.
  • Fonitronik Cascade (kit). A cascading attenuverter for sourcing, attenuating, inverting and offsetting voltages.
  • Befaco A*B+C (kit). A dual quadrature VCA for attenuverting and offsetting signals under voltage control. This is my second one of these!
  • Bastl Instruments Tromsø (kit). This is a triangle oscillator which feeds into a comparator which in turn feeds into a sample and hold circuit, good for analogue “ratecrushing” to add some (fake) lo-fi digital grit over hi-fi sounds.
  • Doepfer A-152 Addressed Track and Hold/Switch. This is a combination of an eight-way switch, an eight-way track and hold and an eight-stage trigger out. Uses I’ve already found for this include a pitch CV distributor and something that allows “hocketing” (switching between oscillators from note to note).

https://soundcloud.com/quollism/rch215-triangle-switch-hocketing-excerpt

  • Doepfer A-110-6 TTZQ VCLFO. The A-110-6 is a through-zero trapezoid-core oscillator. Normal oscillators stop oscillating when their oscillation voltage drops to 0 or below, but a through-zero oscillator treats a negative oscillation voltage as a mirror of a positive oscillation voltage – a negative voltage just means “oscillate in reverse”. You can use this to create otherwise unachievable frequency modulation sounds. Here it is in action.

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through zero oscillators in a nutshell

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

I’m at a point now with the modular synth where I’m recreating particular synthesiser topologies or experimenting with techniques as learning and familiarisation exercises instead of adding more stuff to what I have. With a modular synthesiser it’s hard to know precisely what I’ve got, because different modules connect to one another in different ways.

I still want to try to build my own simple modules to fill a couple of gaps. I wouldn’t hate to have another buffered mult or a window comparator, for instance, and both of those things are relatively easy to put together from op amps.

I impulse-bought a theremin kit at the local electronics store. It was a bit disappointing. People go on about how cool theremins are but I find them forbiddingly fiddly and I much prefer the sound of the ondes Martenot.

That’s all for now! Thanks for catching up. 🙂

Categories
A moment in the sun AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Journals Modular synthesisers Music & Synthesisers

November 2017 happenings

Greetings, interweb. Here’s what I got up to in November 2017, starting with…

A secret project!

Can’t say much about this yet. It was a freebie album cover which I took on for the experience and to stretch my abilities beyond my comfort zone. I relied heavily on a certain Space VFX series and a classic thread on BlenderArtists for inspiration and techniques.

Once the associated project is out, I’ll show it off. 🙂

Animation and other Blendery stuff

The speedy green antics of AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA have been shelved for the foreseeable future. My heart’s not in it, but at least it yielded a great little cockatoo rig who also fits into the visual style of AMITS. Maybe he can hang out with Gronky and Pointy…

Does the cockatoo need big thick eyebrows as well? Answers in the comments.

Speaking of those two, I patched a nice zappy electricity arc sound for the robot in AMITS. This is a random five second excerpt from that session. (Warning: loud.)

Electronics and other beepbooping

Through the magic of soldering, I’ve added distortion, another audio mixer and another sequencer to DASYRAC’s arsenal of goodies. Here’s the distortion, featuring its quirky LED limiter section.

I also bought a drum machine because I got tired of patching together basic drum sounds every time I want a beat. I’ve started looking into Arduino to see what I can do to trigger it from the patchbay instead of needing to rely on MIDI.

I started doing write-ups on all the modules in DASYRAC too. There’s about fifty of them so I’ll still be doing write-ups a year from now if I can’t get through more than one per week.

That’s all for November. See you again soon!

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A moment in the sun AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Journals Stuff I made

Giving up right

Preface: This post deserves some background. For the month leading up to this I’d been depressed, physically ill, getting switched around on projects at the day job and generally having a crappy time of things. My living routines were disrupted, the illness was making it hard to catch a whole night of sleep and things that were once possible seemed completely implausible. And through all this, I still had a journal to write…

It’s been 17 to 23 September 2017 but I’m posting this at dawn on Sunday the 24th. I can’t seem to shake this cough and I don’t think I’ve had a full night of sleep in a week. Tonight will probably be more of the same.

This would have been the weekend that AAAAAAAAAAA wrapped up, being as this is the Queens Birthday long weekend, but bouts of illness and dayjob stress all ground its precious momentum to a halt before it reached any kind of releasable state. There’s still no soundtrack and it’s still three shots long.

Truth is, I’m not inclined to pick it up and keep going with it, either. I’ve lost my taste for doing any animated film stuff, honestly. Doing the solo animated film thing isn’t viable for me right now anyway, so it makes sense to switch to something else.

Something like learning how to use all these nifty plug-ins I’ve bought (e.g. Retopoflow), or getting to grips with bits of Blender I avoid (e.g. hair system and physics), or just smashing through the model-rig-texture workflow over and over without trying to fit the result into an overall project. Something like honing skills and getting out there: entering competitions; drawing (or speedsculpting) during work breaks; identifying and filling skill gaps; generally keeping the juices flowing while banking a lot of short focussed work. I went through some of that process with music so I already know the value of it.

“I’m grinding” doesn’t sound as grandly impressive as “I’m making an animated film”, but I can live with that. My ambitions are more practical now.

Thanks for reading!

Afterword: Not much changed as a result of this resolution. I continued to cough and splutter my way through the week and feel out of sorts. Resolute blog posts change nothing.

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A moment in the sun Journals Music & Synthesisers Stuff I made

Happy Pointy saves the day

It’s been 21 to 27 May 2017. National Reconciliation Week has just begun here in Australia. Most of my week was taken up with synthesiser-building. The last three nights I’ve been burning the midnight oil building and troubleshooting a Bastl Instruments Noise Squared. It’s all working now and I feel very accomplished. 🙂

http://www.dzsc.com/icstock/uploadfile/200913102222986.jpg
A pin diagram of the MCP6002 linear op amp. Not shown: capriciousness.

AMITS is showing signs of life too! It’s helping a lot that I’m much less uptight about whether it’s going to turn out “good” anymore. RYGCBMK◯ has been useful for that: there hasn’t been much in the way of interest and that takes the mental pressure off. The positive reactions I got from RYGCBMK◯ have encouraged me to tap some of that same merry energy for AMITS. I feel like it’s better for me to just have fun with this and get that fun up on screen.

I drafted a new story pass in note form last Sunday and it’s looking promising! Pointy’s upbeat personality is so much nicer to work with than his previous stupid/mean incarnations. His new attitude means the story flows more straightforwardly, the pace is swifter, the energy level is higher, the humour is spread across both action and dialogue… it’s a good start!

The middle section of the movie sees Pointy meeting a “laser robot”. Pointy’s nerdy excitement for all things laserly and robotic becomes disappointment as the robot turns out to be a malfunctioning dud. Accordingly, I’ve been coming up with unimpressive stuff for the robot to do all week. The ideas so far are unusable, but that’s ok – experience has taught me that usable ideas come from unusable ideas and I just have to keep pushing through it patiently without falling in love with any single gag too much.

The goal here is to create a large pool of ideas then select the ideas which fit together the best while maintaining the tone I want. Having a solid grasp of the movie’s tone removes a major source of indecision for me, and indecision is a big part of why this isn’t done yet.

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-7gEBJ61HvAA/UT5MiCcB6qI/AAAAAAAAAjw/-I79_poRUis/s1600/DSC_0168.JPG
Here is the metaphorical pool of ideas I am trying to create. Starfish pattern optional.

That’s all for now. Time to catch up on the last of the soldering before the next salvo of Eurorack kits get here…

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A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

Same Sun, different Pointy

It’s been 30 April to 6 May 2017 and A moment in the Sun: Robot is back in development again.

I drafted a new synopsis this week with a fresh take on Pointy as an utter geek for robots as long as they have lasers. I like this new arrangement of two upbeat characters in a situation as opposed to an upbeat character versus a grumpy character.

If Pointy’s seeking out Gronky for his cool robots, as opposed to wandering through the desert aimlessly, there’s much less to introduce and set up, which means the pace is sped up considerably and there’s less movie to make. It also fits together more organically as a story – Gronky’s job of burying stuff in the desert stays the same and even has some relevance to why Pointy meets up with him.

Not much else to cover this week – the day job has been super-draining – so please enjoy this Australian comedy sketch featuring cult favourite Milo Kerrigan (played by Shaun Micallef) attempting to cook a chicken and destroying both the set and the script in the process.