Moritz P.G. KatzMember Since 06 Jul 2011
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Music, Video Games
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 08 January 2013 - 05:50 AM
I've owned a Zoom H2 for about four years and it's a very solid tool.
My girlfriend just got the updated version, the H2n, to record ambiences and foley for her animations. It's really amazing what you get for the money nowadays. It has 5 microphones that you can set up as M/S, XY and surround, and it has lots of handy things like adjusting the stereo width, decent-sounding compressors, enough mic-gain and pretty low noise, so even recordings with very little mic-gain become usable once you crank them up a bit.
It doesn't come with a power adapter, but you can buy one separately or just use standard AA batteries instead, which can last almost a day, should need be.
So I've never used the H1, but I expect it to be a good tool as well - I'd just visit a local store and compare it with a few others in the price range.
Or get an H2 or H2n used, despite their plastic casing they're pretty sturdy. I've dropped mine a good dozen times and it's missing its card lid and has quite a few dings and dongs, still sounds like it did on day one.
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 01 January 2013 - 01:02 PM
I think your music's ready to get used in games, the arrangements are solid and you seem to be able to deliver a nice range of genres/moods/timbres.
The sounds you use are sometimes a bit too "plastic-sounding" (I think Nate used the wonderful word "MIDI-tastic" the other day) to my ears. You might want to invest in a few good instruments and samples to give your music a hint more value - for lack of a better word I can think of in English.
The arguably more interesting part now is getting your first paying gig and make it a great project, which doesn't just rely on having good tracks, but on a few other skills as well.
Don't rely on people finding you - mingle with the crowd and exchange with people, you're bound to meet someone who knows someone or at least get more people to check out your portfolio. Also, it's fun and you learn a lot of things about how other people are doing their jobs, providing you with valuable insights and putting you ahead of people who can just produce good music.
Be precise and thorough in how you communicate with people. This is where the money's at, often-times quite literally. ;)
Whether it's demonstrating genuine interest in a project, double-checking every mail for unanswered questions or typos before you send it or just asking the right questions at the right time, being a good conversationalist makes people feel good working with you - and there will be a lot of information exchange both before, during and after the actual job.
You've probably already made some experience during your stock audio jobs. This is your advantage. Be a nice person as well as a dependable business. It can't hurt to read up on some things, an often-recommended book is "The Complete Guide to Game Audio" by Aaron Marks, which includes a lot of advice on the business side of things.
It's not easy being green - especially the start can be rough. It can help to do other music-related jobs to finance your freelance business. For example, I work as a private music teacher and choir leader at the moment and do some live gigs from time to time. The good thing about this is you're constantly networking with other musicians while doing this. In other words: don't spread yourself too thin, but keep true to music if you can!
Regarding the presentation of your reel:
I think your logo at the beginning was pretty cool! For my personal taste, you used too many different and bland fonts (Comic Sans ) - I'd keep it simple and choose one font, at least for everything but the song titles. I went for a classic Courier New in my last reel.
I'd maybe condense the whole video a bit and show some snippets of your best work (I think I liked "Twilight Village" at 4:50 best, by the way ). People will be curious for more this way - lure them with a carrot before pointing them to your vegetable garden. ;)
Happy New Year and best of luck,
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 21 December 2012 - 02:37 PM
I agree with Nate on building up over years - I'm constantly expanding my library and there's still a lot of sounds, libraries and instruments I'd love to get! (I'm a bit jealous of Nate owning Albion I & II )
In my experience, the best way to expand your library is to buy sounds when you actually need them for a specific context - e.g. I was hired to produce music with a chiptune aesthetic and I wasn't quite happy with the synths I had, so I did some recon and eventually bought the Plogue Chipsound AU. Quite satisfying to put sounds you paid good money for to good use immediately!
Glad I had some time for the job though, because...
...You shouldn't underestimate the time you need to actually learn how to use new tools.
Every library and instrument has its own quirks and fortes and it takes some effort to get the most out of them. Buying huge bundles like Komplete or the Complete Composer Collection can be very motivating, but expect to spend quite some time with it before you can make an efficient use of the sounds.
It's easy to get lost in all the choices you can make, I often catch myself skipping through half of my library when I'm actually just looking for one particular timbre - a sure sign I don't know some of my tools well enough.
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 19 December 2012 - 07:07 AM
I've been wondering about that too, back when I was a bit addicted to this game... (Before I went to Animal Rehab.)
When you type in this game (e.g. write down your name at the beginning), there are very short samples of each letter - definitely some recorded and sped up voices!
When talking to the villagers, it's a very similar sound. Sometimes pitched up and down a bit depending on who's talking to you. The sound you refer to is those letter samples jumbled up in some kind of way.
My best guess is that they programmed some kind of algorithm that picks out a few letters from each word, or maybe just plays back every third-or-so letter. Maybe it's a lot more complicated, it's hard to tell.
They probably experimented quite a bit before they ended up with that cute babbling sound - the overall sound direction in the game is great!
Hope that helped a bit.
EDIT: Oh, I'm referring to Animal Crossing: Wild World for the NDS, by the way. Sounds like the voices in the other versions are done in the same way, though!
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 30 October 2012 - 05:19 PM
Okay, I'll bite. ;)
However, I'd really think about whether you want to work with that specific team, even if you have to agree to their conditions. While NDAs are fully understandable in the AAA-industry, where marketing is timed to the minute, to the actual gamedevelopment and especially to indie-dev it's highly damaging and there'll be more and more projects requiring ndas as long as it's possible to find members under such conditions.
What do you think is harmful about it? I like reading devlogs and I think keeping your production process open to the public can be helpful depending on your marketing strategy (crowdfunding etc.), no doubt about that!
But having some secrecy going on and making sure that everyone keeps it this way can work out just as well if done right, both for indies as well as "AAA" productions. And some people like to protect their ideas and process from being copied, which is understandable. And what's harming the game development process there, except maybe a lack of creative exchange with other developers and the fanbase (if any)?
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 30 October 2012 - 02:02 PM
Handing out NDAs even before signing any contract is pretty common and the developer is right asking for your full address as long as they provide their address as well.
If you did break the NDA, the developer would need your full address to have their lawyers send you nasty mail. ;)
And why are you so cautious giving out your address if you're running a business? Who will you trust if not potential employers? I even have mine in my mail signature - it's not like anyone's going to rob me now that they know where I live or where my business resides.
Actually: In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, posting your full address on your website is even legally mandatory if it's connected to any business venture, for liability reasons.
This is called "Impressum" or "Imprint" and it does make a lot of sense when you think about it.
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 27 October 2012 - 06:32 PM
Thank you both for sharing your stories and experiences.
I too think you did right declining the offer if you had your doubts about it.
Regarding the topic of marketing yourself - yes, it can help to just genuinely be an interesting person. But having a "rockstar" image is just one possible part of making an impression, and it's far more important to be genuinely interested in things that are sometimes well outside of our direct musical scope.
Sometimes marketing yourself is just asking questions and listening, you can make some great friends and potential business partners that way. And it seems you're already doing everything right in that aspect, so more power to you!
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 18 October 2012 - 07:08 PM
The arrangement still seems a bit arbitrary at times with the short breakdowns, but it seems like your program actually came up with a neat little melody.
One thing I've noticed is that ending the track doesn't seem to work very well yet - though they do end on the tonic, it sounds like the song's just falling apart somehow or there's some instrument "lagging behind", doing a little ending motive that seems out of place.
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 11 October 2012 - 04:19 AM
I'd advise against using mp3 whenever you can use the Ogg Vorbis file format instead.
Mp3s are a real hassle to loop properly without them causing little snaps & pops due to sampling overlaps, the audio quality / file size ratio isn't as good and to top it off, the dev will have to buy a license to use the codec in the game at some point.
I usually hand over both uncompressed PCM (.wav/.aiff) and compressed (mostly .ogg) in a neat "Final" folder structure.
Amounts of compression, sample & bit rate really depend on what's needed - or rather on what's provided and how much space you've got left. You'll just have to see from situation to situation. In most cases, 44.1 kHz @ 16 bit resolution is quite enough, though!
As a crass counter-example: the Wiimote only plays back 4-bit (!) PCM, mostly at 3000 Hz samplerate.
Regarding if you send over a finished track or different instruments: that really depends, too.
If the music will never be taken apart anyway, and it's a mobile game where file size is an issue, I definitely prefer handing over the complete thing 'cause then I have the mix in my own hands.
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 10 October 2012 - 02:53 PM
Haha, really? That's awesome, Brian. Are you talking about the Narc theme?
As you said...you never know-- I was blindsided when I found out that The Pixies covered one of my game songs (for a game that didn't really sell all that well).
Many thanks for the insight on US PROs, guys!
Over here, most "small-time" composers have to look at any PRO earnings as surprise bonuses because you can almost never tell, even roughly, how much money you're going to end up with due to complicated and ever-changing distribution rules.
Things that are played on private TV and radio stations generally pay out next-to-nothing and the relationship of the GEMA with YouTube has been a very difficult one - they could never really reach an agreement. That's why we often see a "Sorry, the GEMA hasn't given us the right to play the music in this video, so we can't show it to you" message when browsing YouTube - the GEMA basically uses software to scan videos for music in their catalogue and sends out cease-and-desists.
Also, churches do have to pay GEMA fees if GEMA catalogue songs are performed - whether they raise money or not!
Phew, it's fairly difficult to talk about this stuff in English - there are some words I've never needed before and had to look up. I hope what I'm writing is somewhat intelligible, apologies if it isn't.
Wish I could make it to Ohio for the GameSoundCon though to talk about things like this in greater detail - maybe next year!
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 09 October 2012 - 07:14 PM
Over here in Germany, things are a bit different.
First off, we don't really have work-for-hire - the copyright always stays with the creator of a work, we can only hand out performance rights. (which is a good thing, though it can make working as a remote composer for devs based in the US complicated)
I think there are a few exceptions for creating software in a true employment relationship.
Most game companies based in Germany tend to employ composers who aren't in the GEMA (the German PRO) because they like to avoid the hassle of paying for putting trailers containing the music up on the internet. Just heard from a colleague who landed a lucrative game scoring job and one of the reasons was because he is, unlike many good composers, not in any PRO.
The GEMA is kind of notorious over here and it's not really popular even with many musicians, for various reasons - for example, they've just raised the fees for clubs playing music immensely which causes small clubs to go out of business, which in turn created an uproar among people who never even heard about PROs before. (the majority)
Also, they've got a - well, let's call it archaic - democratic structure that only enables the top-earning 5% of the members to have a saying in those things. And they don't accept Creative Commons licenses into their catalogue at all. Well, the list goes on...
I'd love to know, how popular or well-known are the PROs in the US?
I'm in the GEMA because I compose for TV documentaries and commercials from time to time and I was able to exclude the online rights from the performance right contract.
The live performance rights are still in there, though: If people should ever play a cover of my music live (unlikely at this point, but who knows?) or if I perform my music live (which I sometimes do, however no game music yet), the deal over here isn't 50-50, but 60-40. I'd receive 60%, the publisher receives 40%.
Anyhoo, I didn't want to babble on too much - my point is: Internationally, it gets a bit more complicated.
Brian, If you have any expertise working with composers and PROs from other countries, I'd love to hear it. Information on that is really scarce, though it's a very interesting topic that'll probably get more relevant in the future - maybe even for me or for other people on this forum, who knows?
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 06 October 2012 - 06:40 PM
I too agree with Brian, but I strongly disagree with this:
If you truly wish to make a living producing music, selling your stuff for "super cheap" or giving it away for free is exactly what you should not do.
I also wanted to quickly note, that making money with music is not easy, so you should be willing to create music for super cheap or even completely free, that is ofcourse if the developers are trustworthy to actually finish what they started.
When you deal with professional game developing companies who are in the position of giving you a job which will actually make you some money, you'll see that their first concern will not be to pay as little as possible but to deal with a friendly and professional person who's up to the task of creating good music and who's - of course - asking to be paid for that service at nothing less than fair value.
Your chance to get ahead - and yes, this may sound counter-intuitive - is to a) find the right companies to work with and b) to ask for money when you perform your services. It may take some time and some sifting through the heaps and heaps of hobbyist projects that are often seemingly undistinguishable from professional ventures, but this is the way to start a business for yourself. At least that's what I've found.
I like to quote Michael Stoeckemann and Chris Huelsbeck whom I've had the pleasure to meet at an Audio Academy earlier this year.
They said something like: "95% of the projects we initially consider just aren't for us in the end, for whatever reason - be it financial or creative. When you look at things this way, you feel better about both rejecting projects or being rejected. In the end, there should be enough work for everyone who's good at what they do."
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 04 October 2012 - 06:26 PM
One of my first posts here on Gamedev.net was a link to an article series on game music that I started on my website.
The thread already seems to be gone and that's some solid proof that it's been too long since my last update.
That's why I've decided to give the series a general overhaul.
And here's where I need your help - I want the articles to be interesting for both composers who'd like to improve their craft as well as for game devs who'd like to get some insight on how we actually work.
Some topics I'd like to cover are:
- Acquiring freelance jobs/ Promoting yourself / Proper communication / Writing contracts
- Equipment and Software choices
- Mixing and Mastering tips (e.g. mastering for mobile devices)
- How to analyze and tackle different musical styles, with examples
- Applicable music theory
I'd like these articles to be open for ideas, opinions and experiences.
So what would you like to read about? Or maybe you have an interesting story to share?
I'd love to get some feedback. Thanks in advance!
Posted by Moritz P.G. Katz on 25 September 2012 - 08:09 AM
There's no certain genre name for this kind of music as far as I know - and it's easier to describe the tracks using keywords or moods like playful, quirky, suave and friendly since genre names can be quite misleading.
The themes you posted are very solid references, I'd say that if you sent this to a capable composer, he/she'll be able to come up with tracks that resemble this sound and mood.