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Submission judging process


Lashmush
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I have to open up this question broadly because I have no issues with the greater whole of this public service that is OC Remix. I need to understand what exact protocol is follow for judging submission because I have yet to understand if there is any red line between different submissions.

First, judging someones creative directions should never be done haphazardly. You are not the arbiters of creative direction so understand that while input here can be valuable, its only valuable if you understand fully what the author intended. What they saw with each note as they put them in the right place. Which you do not.

Second, you need to present transparency. What exact hardware do you actually use to listen to mixes and masters? I've a handful of headphones of varying price range and performance from casual cheap gaming headsets at 50 usd to 400 usd studio headphones. Monitors, a 300w soundbar with sub, etc... I listen on all of them before I submit anything online and I know for a fact my mixes are not so subpar as to be passed on simply for being balanced towards a different sound.

Third, what level of reference material is used to understand the track? How many artists of a similar nature at a professional level are you listening to? When I throw up a very heavy metal track, have you studied similar acts to see what the 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s and 20s metal sounds are like? I know this isn't a perfect machine so I hate to come off like this. OC Remix taught me a ton about mixing and mastering simply by pointing out my extremely flawed, overly compressed audio when I submitted here a long time ago. So you definitely have an immensely positive impact on artists trying to grow their technical skillsets.

However, heres the real worry and concern: How many up and comers have been put aside when their tracks are honest and faithful to an idea that should be held as a standard of creativity? I've composed music for 23 years now and will never stop. However, someone who preemptively uploads something should have their courage recognized. I started on Newgrounds, a much more gentle place in terms of feedback. Their encouragement filled me with determination. So I really really want you to consider "Are we encouraging people to ascend towards a higher standard or are we gatekeeping what is and isn't good music based on arbitrary rulesets?"

Honestly, did anyone in the judges corner actually want to hear a heavy metal song that day? Or a techno track or a samba version of Kratos theme? I mean, how you personally feel about the song is not a valuable criteria. Did they do the job well enough to be considered a completed track or does it need more TLC?

So, what's the score now? How exactly do judges analyze the creativity in the artform? I feel that this should be an open dialogue here where anyone can refute absolutely anything I've said. I'm just some guy, I'm not special at all here and I definitely recognize that. But having to resubmit after a year of waiting because there was a bit too much bottom on the track? I disagree, the sound was perfectly balanced on every sound system i checked on, including down at the audio store with about 10 different monitors. Yamaha, Adam, etc. The soundquality was good, the track was adventurous, the GAME never even got ONE track here...

We need your help when we send a song. We're sending our hopes and dreams of a future in sound to you. Other than that, y'all mad cute and I love you a ton for working tirelessly on this project for so many years. I'd love to help in some way so if I can lend a hand with -anything-, let me know.

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On 9/3/2021 at 7:11 PM, Lashmush said:

First, judging someones creative directions should never be done haphazardly.

We don't, or at least we try not to, but perhaps I'm confused about precisely what you mean... we may not be the "arbiters" of someone's creative direction, but we're each the owners of our own opinion/experience, which we can bring to bear when evaluating a track. If you're trying to say that only the original artist can evaluate whether a specific instrumentation or mixing/mastering choice makes sense, you seem to be taking issue with the idea of... evaluating ANY music, ever, unless... you yourself made it?

On 9/3/2021 at 7:11 PM, Lashmush said:

Second, you need to present transparency. What exact hardware do you actually use to listen to mixes and masters?

Our judges make every effort to listen on higher-end phones, but to be frank... the issue with muddy, somewhat overblown bass on your OTHERWISE AWESOME recent submission would have been noticeable on $10 airplane earbuds or the DT-880 PROs that I just listened on. I do not believe each of our judges need to list their headphones - when one of them hears something the others don't, that's when they need to get together and figure things out and potentially listen on different phones/speakers to figure out what's going on. In this case that wasn't necessary - we could all hear how awesome your mix was... and we could all hear that the bass was muddy and not sitting right.

On 9/3/2021 at 7:11 PM, Lashmush said:

Third, what level of reference material is used to understand the track?

This is necessarily going to be different for each judge. The nature of having a panel of different musicians/listeners with different, diverse backgrounds is that, for any given mix, some of them are out of their "preferred" genres or comfort zone, but the goal is to evaluate on some common principles. One of those principles is clarity - are parts discernible, or is there a situation where one instrument's frequency spectrum is cluttering the soundfield? That's a *fairly* genre-agnostic issue that will negatively affect dubstep, classical, jazz, and cha-cha alike, and that's exactly the type of issue we're dealing with in this case...

On 9/3/2021 at 7:11 PM, Lashmush said:

Honestly, did anyone in the judges corner actually want to hear a heavy metal song that day?

Yes. We all loved your track, for the tenth time :) It would have passed easily without the prominent issue with muddy low-end, and will pass easily once this is addressed. I don't know who wanted to hear what, but everyone enjoyed the mix... and everyone hears the issue. Your question is a bad faith attack on the judges panel, essentially accusing them of being biased against metal... and I mean.... we've posted a LOT of metal. And I damn sure hope we can post this particular metal mix, as well. Sometimes panel feedback can be less than ideal because it's contradictory - different judges might hear different issues, or prioritize different concerns. That's one of the worst outcomes from the evaluation process, because it doesn't yield the most actionable feedback. In this case... nah, that wasn't the situation. Everyone digs the mix, everyone hears the issue with the bass.

On 9/3/2021 at 7:11 PM, Lashmush said:

Other than that, y'all mad cute and I love you a ton for working tirelessly on this project for so many years.

Thanks, legit appreciated. I assure you, though, we do get tired :) One of the things that's most tiring is bad faith accusations when someone doesn't take our feedback well on a specific mix, and turns that into a giant referendum on our overall process/staff. It doesn't happen THAT often, but it does happen. If you've listened to the mix in question on a variety of hardware and you don't hear an issue, we're kind of at an impasse - perhaps you could get a second, third, fourth opinion from others that you trust, and see if any of them notice the same issue? The bass is literally the only thing any of us took serious issue with, and all of us noticed it. Either we're all wrong, or bad, or listening on crap headphones, etc., or... perhaps there's ***something*** to our observation?

At any rate, once more for good measure: we all loved the mix, we all heard the bass issue. I don't believe this observation reflects poorly on the judges panel - if anything, it's an instance where there's unanimous agreement about a single, actionable issue... which is actually a pretty good outcome, if music's going to be evaluated at all...

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If you talk about how I structured my song melodically, rythmically or otherwise, thats creative input. Which is fine if we're collaborating. But otherwise, if having a sudden piano break that "doesn't sound playable" is fucking pointless to even mention. Who gives two shits if things are playable or not when it's a VIDEOGAME song thats remixed? I'll make my songs as complicated or easy as I wish to and that should have zero bearing on anything other than "I liked / didn't like this part" which is still meaningless from a judging point of view. TECHNICAL feedback like the base issue is good in theory and also your ONLY avenue of feedback unless you actually research the submissions contemporary art and expression, but if the literal ONLY THING that's wrong is three people dismissing a song due to base being loud, then I do take issue and especially after waiting one... year... That's not remotely acceptable to me and it really shouldn't be to you either. Do you recruit judges? Can we get like 50 more in here, theres an immense wave of talent here ready to help, im sure. Resubmission means I get another shot "at some point" which is a tiresome process of back and forth. You mentioned "clarity" but that means you have a default expectation of some sort, some universal audio standard that is shared among you. What is that standard? Has it always been the same? If the standard changes and nobody outside the judges knows, theres no chance for us to be at anything but the mercy of human whim. The standard should supercede subjectivity and be defined collectively. Thats what I'm trying to glean at here. Because some genres do not fit the mold ever. Ladyscraper's "Chunderchunk" is a mess by intent. Ophidian makes shatteringly distorted sounds that cut your ears in half and that is the point of industrial hardcore. They have an internal sound that deviates from the normal. So did I deviate too far from chiptune / death metal production-values with that base? A good example of a song here on OCR that basically shatters your eardrums but sounds fantastic because of it is Beatdrops "Reprocessed" which has a clean sound yes, until it hits that drop where the high frequency cuts your head in half. That's noise intended to be there. So if my intent was to have a heavy end to complete the track and the feedback is "please take that away, we dont like it" then I can make a special version for OCR but it's a lesser version in my eyes and that bums me the fuck out. At this point I submit here to be part of the community but perhaps it's better to put my tracks in the forum? I haven't learned anything about my creative process with this song, I've learned about YOUR creative process on OCR for how YOU would want metal to sound. If it was my old "Light's Out" submission, then I get that it gets thrown out for being a "compression hell" song as the feedback told me. And I learned soooo much about my own failings from that submission. This is just telling me that sound here has a very narrow surface to tread on before it gets toppled and discarded as subpar. Perhaps having a subscription function where people pay 5 bucks a month to pay for judging sessions more often would be an idea so we can move this along and get rid of the insane backlogs always present.

So again, is there any fixed protocol for technical analysis? Do you all use the same hardware or different? What kind of rooms are you in if you listen with speakers? If you're going to listen for mixing and mastering issues without a shared approach on every single level and a transparency in exactly what you expect from a given genre, then you're setting most of us up for failure since we have no idea what you want until after the fact and I swear to you, I've never had consistency in feedback on my work ever. I have an older track, "Bowzilla" that sounds like a fucking garage recording and it went in without hesitation. The melodic and percussive structure of it is a very straight forward, generic heavy metal track in the 80s vibe so the song itself is a blastoff tune. But its worthless in terms of mixing. I get that it's on a per track basis but seeing as you already pointed out some shortcomings on your end, lets dig into that:

If you are going to provide feedback at the highest possible level, giving one or two paragraphs and a NO with ZERO ability for me to contest your decision in the thread that is conveniently closed for response from the author makes me pretty angry. I worked really damn hard to make it, waited really damn long to get your response and the only thing is essentially three people saying no... And considering the content of the entire OCR library, some live recorded tracks are decidedly wimpier in sound yet pass because of the novelty of the track... So the feedback I get of my song being essentially "another generic metal track" + "too much bass" comes off as ridiculously arrogant and dismissive. Which is what was written. It wasn't JUST the mixing that got it dismissed. OCR dismissed the SONG and only in retrospect when that submission denial thread is removed do I hear how amazing it apparently was which begs the question: Why are we even having this conversation to begin with??? If you all loved it so much, that one aspect should not be enough for the standardized criteria of passing or passing on a song. Also, speaking of love, are the judges clear of mind when going into it? It wasn't specifically metal I was getting at with my track but "do you feel like listening objectively to music to ascertain its level of quality?" which is a question you all have to ask yourselves before you even put the headphones on to begin with. If you go in with a certain mood and energy, some genres and emotional contexts in a track will be favored due to personal bias and judgment is about AVOIDING personal biases, afaik? You want to understand the nature of the track, so what research was done around it to hear if the sound I went for was a mistake or an intentional production choice to fit the bill of older sounds? Possibly a chiptune track with distortion and a lofi mat on the kick to make it play more with the SID synths?

Heres a song with a "broken mix" that intentionally is made that way to create a heavier sound. Note that its mixed to complement that almost monotone guitar and the vocals are behind the guitar tracks which is against common mixing in most metal. It was done by that one guy and he created an absolute masterpiece by deviating from the norm entirely. So maybe it's good that this track of mine doesn't adhere to default mixing practices?

Finally, if you judge peoples art that they love beyond anything (and for the newer artists are terrified beyond belief of even showing others) and get snappy because you piss people off immensely with your obfuscated judging process that only says three people with WHAT credentials dont like it, that reflects poorly on the entirety of OCR and begs the question what the judging barrier serves to accomplish in the end, other than a ton of manual labor work that is more chore and cheer. I know I'm a massive asshole here myself for being this upset but this is the only good thing I have in life and I'll fight tooth and fucking nail to get a proper answer here. So answering a justifiably angry artist trying to ask questions about what is the metric used to determine any given dimension of a tracks quality? Well, whatever, if this where I actually get a response on anything and within days too, I suppose I should try to submit my songs in complaint format.

Do what you want with the song but if I get any more resubmits from this place with nothing but "we didn't quite enjoy this, 9/10, try again..." then honestly, the only answer to that is

NO. (Reconsider)

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Lashmush I do sorta feel like you glossed over my response and simply repeated your many misgivings about the overall process; your second post here reads very similar to your first. We do seem to have a fundamental difference of opinion - and yes, it's opinion, not fact - regarding what's off limits or counterproductive when it comes to criticism, specifically of music. When a judge points out that a piano part "doesn't sound playable" and it's intended as criticism, you can infer that not only does it not sound like someone could play the part - which I agree isn't really an issue by itself - but that it sounds unplayable in a way that is displeasing to the judge, doesn't sit well with the rest of the arrangement, etc. Your definition of criticism would eliminate some of the best, most specific feedback I've seen the panel provide, over the years, which in countless cases was implemented and resulted in a better mix - with the judges AND the artist agreeing about the improvement. It does happen, and frequently enough to reinforce to me that such efforts are not in vain, as you imply. You mention some fringe cases, where a musical work defies orthodoxy in one way or another and would presumably run afoul of our standards, but... we've passed a ton of material that is experimental, unorthodox, or otherwise "challenging" over the years. In the case of your arrangement, the piece wasn't really out of left field - it has familiar aspects of structure/genre and doesn't strike me as a particularly unusual VGM arrangement. As I've mentioned, I liked it. And I agree, with several judges, that the bass is poorly mixed. Your response is that you meant to do it that way, you love the piece as-is, and you question our ability to isolate any single element as being problematic; I profoundly disagree with this thinking, because it would mean that judges could NEVER hone in on muddy mixing, weak drums, abrasive high frequencies on a guitar part, an out-of-tune trumpet, etc. - all of that COULD simply be how the artist wanted it, and who are we to judge?

Except, that's just it. It's a judges panel. A panel of judges. That judge.

Always has been. And inherent in having any sort of evaluative mechanism of subjective/creative material - whether it's a panel of judges, or a "Quality Control" team, or whatever - is going to be an analysis of what's presented, how it works, and what is or is not preventing it from being featured on one small corner of a very large Internet.

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No, I'm questioning why such a minor issue restricts you from passing an otherwise well liked track? It sounds the way it should, provided you have the equipment to listen. Walls of text don't work well with ADD so I have trouble focusing on your long responses. However, it really doesn't matter. You all like the track but just didn't like it enough.

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