Liontamer

OCR03858 - *YES* Final Fantasy 4 "Devotion to the Motif" *RESUB*

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Original Decision

Remixer Name: APZX

Real Name: Austin Simons
e-mail address: 
UserID: 21436
 
Game Arragned: Final Fantasy IV (SNES)
Name of Arrangement: Devotion to the Motif
Song/s Arranged: Theme of Love
Remix: 


Comments:

So, I'd like to address some things directly because if you're anything like me then you're a curious one. 
 
Sorry Gario but you basically said everything first that needed to be addressed. Not trying to single you out or anything.
 
"This has a pretty interesting method of expanding and varying the source that I think you're either going to love or hate: it syncopates the timing so that the main theme is about a half measure off the beat. As far as I can tell this is definitely intentional, and I'll admit that it works better than I thought it would."
 
So, it started off as a consequence of what it is I did and then I just ran with it because I liked it. Basically, I went the lazy route with putting this into 4/4. Just some note lengthening and shortening as necessary on the main melody. As a test I threw it over a pad and I really liked how the lead and pad were interacting. I'll go by my ever trusty mantra of, "If it sounds good, it is good." Though I typically say this in relation to mixing and not composition lol. 
 
"The use of the theme at 0:54 - 1:08 is an exception to this, though - the harmonization clashes hard against the theme, making it sound dissonant, unresolved and ugly. A clean fix would be to remove the source in the background and let the music build into the meat of the material without it, but if the artist would rather keep the source there he'll have to more carefully alter either the source material or the harmonies so that they harmonize together better."
 
All right so this one is a bit of a complicated bag. If you didn't like the harmonization of the main melody then why would you not like the harmonization of the exact same melody over the same backing track? ;) In truth this was an issue for not only you, but pretty much everyone else it seemed. And the fix was basically alluded to by yourself, DJP, and Liontamer. Replace that sound with something with a more distinctive attack. 
 
"The production on this is solid, and the mixing is just where it should be, so kudos for the high production values on this."
 
Thank you! I put a lot of effort into this aspect, which makes the next comment hurt a bit :(
 
"Some of the instruments sound rather low quality, though (primarily the slow strings used to carry the theme in the opening and closing section)." and I'm gonna add DJP's and Liontamer's comment with this one.
DJP, "The dynamic panning helps the strings, and it's a unique lead sound you don't hear much... by the same token, it kinda sits in uncanny valley for me, sounding more realistic than most classic string synths (Solina, etc.) but not as realistic as actual strings... something more committed to either a classic analog string synth or realistic strings would probably work better, and an entirely different approach to the lead might also be more effective."
Liontamer, "I completely agreed with djp on the strings being in uncanny valley territory."
 
Ohhhhhhhhkkkkkkkkkkkaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. So, the sound I had used if anyone is interested in the slightest is actually a fairly lo-fi violin preset from a wonderful little VST, SQ8L, in fact called "VIOLINS". I rather like the sound and it does have a very soft attack. Though even then decreasing the attack in the VST really didn't yield much improvement. Instead I opted to go DJP's suggested route of trying a more "classic analog string synth". While I actually don't have a VST dedicated to this task, I do have a wonderful Oberheim OB-Xa VST that has some fantastic analog string sounds, do some tweaking, apply some ensemble chorus, and the last bit of fairy dust is a phaser set to Smallstone. Easy enough to resolve that issue, hopefully. 
 
Back to more Gario because I'm not going to try and quote everything that was said about these pitch bends, though a special mention to DJP with the comment about the Bladerunner link, which is important for what I ended up doing.
"One final criticism I have is the extreme nature of the lead pitch bending. While for the meat of the track it causes no issue, at 3:06 - 3:10 the bending clashes hard against the rest of the track when the delay carries it past where it should've been. Decreasing the size of the bends, decreasing the delay or a combination of both of these things would alleviate this issue considerably."
 
Well, wasn't this just a wonderful appreciation for how wonderful synths are? Sarcasm aside, as I said DJP's comment about the link to Bladerunner got me thinking a bit, and I removed every single pitchbend except the last drop on the final phrase, which IIRC occurs 3 times. And for the record the warble on the very last pitch bend is intentional.
 
However, I do have a couple of things to address with Liontamer now. 
"The sound design was pretty plain, but the combinations were unorthdox and interesting, so we'll see where it goes."
 
That is more or less how I roll. I can do really cool stuff with synths, but a lot of times those really cool sounds don't fit in a mix or composition the way I want them to. So, I generally stay on the more vanilla side of things. And in fairness this track to me really didn't seem like it needed super complicated sound design. Honestly, sometimes the simple stuff works better for a given situation. 
 
"To me, this arrangement felt underdeveloped and didn't evolve quite enough, BUT it was very well in the right direction. Dynamically, there's obviously a build between :44 and the beats returning at 1:22, but once you hear the beat at :44, you've basically coasted on that beat until 2:28 and it's too basic to carry this track, IMO; it needs to do something different or varied over time. That was my main issue, the beats making this track feel plain and dynamically flat."
 
All right so this was actually the hardest thing to work on because I had tried different things previously that IMO detracted from the overall direction I wanted in the track. With that being said I did not do a whole lot in this regard, but I did add some extra closed hats and varied their patterns a few times throughout the track. While not drastic it does at least to my ears keep the track moving along a bit more than before. However, don't be expecting any DnB level work here. It is quite small and really just tries to better push what portion of the track things are on. Additionally, I added a drum loop to further add some "texture". 
 
Other small things are basically the entire rework of the FX sounds (lots of repeated ones originally), and a completely new mix from the ground up (hopefully getting some additional clarity). 
 
I think that should address most of the concerns. Listening to it now, I really don't know what I'd do to really make this any better than it is lol.
 

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The good news is that all of my earlier concerns have been addressed.  The fakey strings and the pitch bends are gone.  As I'd hoped, addressing the slow attack on the lead makes the syncopation click, and now I like it quite a bit.  Good job on all that.

That said, in substituting out the string lead, you've introduced balance issues.  The bass is too loud in 0:29-0:44, the lead is too quiet in 0:29-1:06 and then jumps jarringly in volume.  The replacement synth is also super wet, and the long tails introduce muddiness.

Also, with the most severe issues dealt with, smaller ones are easier to pick out.  The crowding that Jivemaster mentioned (throughout the whole EDM section, but 1:54-2:27 most severely) is definitely an issue.  There are layers that are barely audible and which I only heard at all after multiple listens.

I'm close on this one now.  My main issue is that the balance is substantially off for the first third of the arrangement--not the bulk of the arrangement but too much to ignore, especially with how it gets suddenly shrill at 1:06.  The lack of clarity in the EDM section should be addressed as well, mainly because there's some fun and clever part writing that few people will ever hear with it balanced the way it is right now.

I can see this one going either way, and I wouldn't object to it being posted, but I do think it needs to be cleaned up just a little more.

NO (borderline, resubmit)

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Hey, I got some real attention on this one, didn't I? Looks like there are perks to being the first responder to this the last time around. ;)

The issues that I had prior are more or less resolved - the section I said was not harmonious sounds fine now (it was the clash between the bass and harmonies, upon another look, and you changed that up there). The string replacement have a nice clean attack, which improves how they line up in the song nicely. The pitch bends are mostly removed, and those that are still there are toned down and don't ride the delay so hard.

Yeah, I think this is in pretty good shape right now. I hear MindWanderer's issue on the mixing - the lead does get buried behind the bass and texture when everything is going, for example, and the bass comes in comparatively hard in the beginning - but I don't find it to be a deal-breaking issue. I think the release on the replacement synth is fine, though; it didn't seem to muddy things up too much for me.

I can see this going either way on the mixing issue, but I think it's good enough for posting. Great work, thanks for the resub, and I wish you the best of luck on the rest of the panel!

YES

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I like the atmosphere establish as it opens up.  Good energy when things kick in.  Transitions felt a bit weak in a couple places. Specifically, 1:37 seemed to have a half drum fill and quick sfx before jumping right to the next section.  Also, at 2:28 with the sudden bass drop and loss of energy.  2:57 also sounded awkward to me as well, like another half-done transition.

Mixing is an issue with me. The track starts out pretty quiet, with the lead being somewhat in the background.  Then suddenly there are some high pitched, piercing (at least on my phones) sfx, which was really jarring for me.  Also, volume level seemed to increase quite a bit when the beats & other elements kick in, with the main elements around the 1 minute mark getting totally buried by the beats/bass.  It gets better with the new synth lead being able to cut through, though.

A/Bing with other stuff the overall level seems high once it gets loud, but that could just be me grandpa-ing.  Would take a second opinion on that part first.

Arrangement is clear on the connections and melodies are used really creatively with some unexpected timing changes.

Nitpitck: piano at end sounded somewhat dry and didn't leave a great last impression to me to wrap it up.  I get that it could be the intention, but it seems rushed IMO.

I think this is close (and I would be fine if it passed), but I'd like to hear a bit better balanced track overall - not that I'm against dynamics, but it seemed a bit too much between the intro and main body.  Some nitpick stuff would be nice to get polished like the transitions and piano too.

NO resubmit, please

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This one works pretty well now. The regular use of pitch bends is now absent, and there is a good level of clarity in the low end. There are some portions where the main lead synth does get into a range where some piercing can occur, and it is quite loud in volume compared to other parts, but I found these occurrences not frequent enough to count as a significant problem. Further improvements could be made on the instrumental side of things (some synth tweaking for example would've been beneficial as the synths are quite static), and sure some mixing could be improved, but overall I think what is presented here works well. Good job cleaning this up.

YES

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I absolute LOVE the timeshifting of the melody. A fantastic and effective way of recontextualizing the melodic line without really altering it all that much. Plus during the chorus when things line back up with how they are in the original, you really feel like you've arrived. This is great. Great textures, fun ideas. YES

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Just some brief comments on this version since I heard the first one. I initially wasn't sure why the main melodic line was pushed back during the build, but the "Theme of Love" melody was front and center at 1:06 after the extended build, so I'm ultimately OK with the source being downplayed to start. I heard the little touches to the beats first starting at 1:39 to create some variation; nice work! That's exactly what I was talking about, just incorporating some subtle differences with the beats and some swooshing SFX embellishments that make textural variation apparent without having to do something drastic. The piano at 2:43 having more body and realism to it would have made the final section stronger; the last few notes in particular were so exposed, but I'll live with what's there because the sum total of the arrangement's solid. Nice work, and thanks for being able to revisit this, Austin!

YES

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I wasn't part of the original voting so this will be a fresh take.  First off, I love the SQ8L VST and OB-Xa emulations such as OB-XD or OB-X, and I use them in a lot of my songs.  They're great for those old school lush analog-like sounds and in the case of SQ8L, pretty much anything old school synth from bells to brasses, strings etc.  I do have to agree with the original votes that the sounds themselves are pretty vanilla and (this is subjective) the mix of synth textures from devices that are prominently used in older electronic and rock productions from the 80s being brought into a kinda late 90s trance arrangement just messes with my producer brain big time.

I wasn't a huge fan of the shifting of the melody, it breaks the structure (not in a good way) in some sections.  I.E., the buildup at 1:20 just loses a ton of impact when the lead melody continues playing over the top of the buildup and climax.  I don't feel that buildup worked at all because of this.  Transitions overall weren't handling the energy in the song very well imo.

This seeps into other issues.  Other judges mentioned they had issues with loudness levels but I actually think they're not egregious, however since the transitions and buildups are not being handled properly it seems like there are sudden loud sections preceded by very low-volume ones without anything preparing the listener for what's coming.  1:06 is a good example of this.  I do have to say on the fuller sections the lead synths and stacked saws do skit a very thin line of what's bearable to my ears.

Overall, texture quality is ok for me and I'm not taking into account what I mentioned about some of the synths seeming out of place in this genre for me because that's my dumb nerd brain acting up.  But the transitions and structure are a problem because this either causes or exacerbates balance issues regarding the dynamics of the different sections. This is very very close, I think these issues could be addressed with another pass however, the mix as it is is ok.  I just wish it could be worked on more to be just a bit more than just ok, but there aren't enough objective reasons for me to send this back.

YES.

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