Mp3 vs AIF Battle!

Well, there’s some new music on my site – but I’ve not posted about it. They are “Almost in F”, “Fluidscape”, “Klockworx”, and “Wish Background” if you want to go hunting for them.
I’m running into some tech difficulties right now, as my main MIDI controller (an M-Audio Axiom 61) is broken. I woke up, and 41 of the 61 keys did nothing. I have another one coming in the mail, so I should be back up soon.
In the meanwhile, I’m going to talk a little bit about my use of the mp3 file format.
I get a fair number of requests for “uncompressed” music (wave or aiff format) – just something that is straight PCM, with no file compression.
I don’t do this for a couple of reasons. First off the files are huge. I did a couple this week that weigh in at more than 450 meg each. Sorry, but bandwidth is not yet unlimited – and it isn’t free. I know many of you have no problem downloading such a giant file, but I’m dishing out hundreds of thousands of mp3s a month… and I just can’t afford the server space and bandwidth for straight PCM.
So does the music suffer from being compressed? In theory; yes. In practice; no.
Here are some files you can test for yourself.
http://kmdownload.com/temp/Colossus.aif (68 meg)
http://kmdownload.com/temp/Colossus.mp3 (10 meg)
(please note that they’re in a temp directory… so I’m not going to guarantee their continued availability)
I picked this one, because of the highs and lows that mp3 has a harder time with.
If you can hear a difference – any difference at all, please let me know… because I can’t.
Why, then, does so much music in mp3 format suck? Bitrate. It is the measure of how much data is lost, or how small the files can be.
Here’s a quick chart (in kilobits per second):


48 kbps: Useful for voice-only podcasts.
Music sounds awful at this rate, but it is okay for hearing someone talk.
128 kbps: The former “standard” that music was encoded at… when hard drives were small
and bandwidth was limited by your modem. Music still sounds very bad at this rate.
196 kbps: This is ‘ok’ for music being listened to in a loud or crappy environment, like in
your car, or on bad “PC” speakers. I can’t personally deal with it very well.
256 kbps: Most music will sound good at this rate. The files are twice as large as
the old “standard” of 128, but the quality is usually very good.
320 kbps: This is what I use (and very few others). It retains the very high frequencies
well, and offers no audio “artifacts”… those wonky-sounding chirps and phasing
effects you get with lower rates.

So, what’s the bitrate of AIF? It depends on your sample rates and resolution. Most of what I work with between 2116 and 2822.
Argh! What is all this technical stuff!!!??
Download the files I linked. If you can’t hear a difference (feel free to use meters!) then just know that everything on my site is good…. not “good enough”, but “good”.
I understand why people request AIF. It is because you’re guaranteed that it will sound perfect – and most mp3s are terrible.
The other reason to use mp3, is compatibility. Every editing suite in the world (that I know of) can open mp3 files.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

What’s black and white and red all over? Why, Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, of course.
The Sweeney Todd story has a long history, actually, dating back to at least 1846. He was originally just a crazed serial killer, a London urban legend who nibbled on his victims — sort of an early Jack the Ripper. But that’s not the kind of role they could get Johnny Depp to play, I suppose, so the film goes with the Stephen Sondheim musical version, based on a 1973 update by Christopher Bond. This adds in the vengeance angle — in a totally Count of Monte Cristo way, young barber Benjamin Barker is convicted of false charges by a judge who lusts after Mrs. Barker. With Mr. Barker transported to Australia, the judge swoops in, claiming both wife and baby daughter for his own. But Barker returns, reborn as Sweeney Todd, and determines to get even. He doesn’t find any huge stash of treasure like the Count did, though.
The judge is Alan Rickman, and he actually does sing a little, and he’s pretty good. Johnny Depp sings a lot, and he does all right, too. And Helena Bonham Carter, as Mrs. Lovett, sings too, in between squishing roaches with her rolling pin and making what she herself calls the worst pies in London. The point is, there’s lots and lots of singing, so be warned. Even minor characters frequently break into song at the drop of a hat, and I know that can be kind of jarring.
The other jarring thing, of course, is the blood. There’s more blood than there is singing, I think, and though none of it looks terribly real, it still means this movie isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. I mean, it is about a man murdering people with a straight razor, so youve got to expect that, but Tim Burton doesn’t pull the punches, either –not that I would have expected him to. All the blood’s right out there for everyone to see. I kept wondering how in the world Sweeney could clean it all up so fast and so completely, because if his barbershop was as covered with blood as it really should have been given what he was up to, everyone would have run screaming at the sight. Instead they all just kept wandering in obediently to get their throats cut. I lost count.

sweeney.jpg
Mr. Todd sings a love song to his razors, and Mrs. Lovett sings a love song to him.

Mrs. Lovett was landlady and friend to the Barkers in happier days, and always had a fondness for Mr. Barker, so she has no problem helping Mr. Todd with his murderous revenge now. But the judge still has daughter Johanna Barker, now a beautiful young lady, in his clutches, and he keeps her basically locked up in his house, sewing and singing. This was pretty much the fate of all well-to-do young ladies in Victorian London, but everyone wants to rescue her just the same, especially after the judge proposes marriage. In true musical tradition, you see, Johanna has fallen in love with the young sailor lurking outside her house, staring up at her admiringly. I would call that stalking myself, but she throws him the key to the house, and he immediately begins planning how best to spirit her away.
Knowing few people in London, young Anthony turns to a man he met on the voyage from Australia — none other than Mr. Todd — and that’s when things really get messy, in more ways than one. Sweeney agrees to help, but things only get worse and worse, and the body count only gets higher and higher. Just because everyone sings doesn’t mean it’s a happy film.
In fact, except for some flashback scenes and the almost painful Technicolor of Mrs. Lovett’s fever dreams of a quiet life by the seaside for her and Mr. Todd, the whole film looks like Sleepy Hollow, with that sort of washed-out, greyish color, like an old photograph that was tinted long ago. Everything looks faded and depressed, even the lush surroundings of the judge’s house, smoke hangs everywhere, and it generally looks like a terribly unhealthy place to live — so it’s Victorian London to a T.
Anyway, four idols here. It is thoroughly gruesome, and just may have turned me into a vegetarian, but it’s so well-acted and put together I can forgive it all the blood. Everyone goes completely over the top (especially Sacha Baron Cohen as competing barber and extremely flashy dresser Signor Pirelli) but they’re all having such fun it works perfectly, and I was a little uneasy even when I was laughing. Even while Mr. Todd and the judge are singing what seems like a sweet duet about the charms of pretty women, there’s still that blade lurking and creeping you out. I’m just glad someone invented the safety razor.

I Am Legend

Or, The Omega Man Part II. That 1971 Charleton Heston flick was also based on the novel I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, and though I’ve never seen The Omega Man, I think it’s safe to say that this version is much better. It’s even safer to say that it’s better than the first film version, 1964′s The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price.
You can’t go wrong with Will Smith, anyway. He reminds me in a way of Joaquin Phoenix, in that they both seem so real and down-to-earth even on the screen, and when it’s over, you kind of wish you could sit down with them over drinks and discuss the movie. He even makes his acting a family affair — just like his son Jaden played his son in The Pursuit of Happyness, his daughter Willow now plays his daughter here.
She’s Marley, named after Bob Marley, whose music is a large part of the soundtrack. Will is Robert Neville, former military scientist, now the last man on earth, or at least the last man on earth who isn’t constantly screaming and snapping and foaming at the mouth. In 2009, a scientist named Dr. Krippin (the actress playing this part is uncredited, but you’ll recognize her, and I won’t spoil the surprise) introduced a genetically engineered virus that was supposedly a miraculous cure for cancer. And maybe it was a miraculous cure for cancer, but it was also deadly in its own right, kind of like rabies, and Robert was one of the people hunting for a cure.
With a 90% kill rate, 9% of the survivors were turned into zombie/vampire creatures, who can sniff out blood miles away and sizzle when exposed to sunlight. The remaining 1%, naturally immune to the virus, are unfortunately not immune to the ravenous attacks of these night-seekers, as they’re called, and suddenly being afraid of the dark is just a rational thing to be.
Three years later, Will is apparently the only (nonrabid) man in all of New York City, and his German shepherd, Sam, is the only noninfected dog. With Sam as his only friend and companion, he searches for other survivors, harvests corn in the middle of Brooklyn, has conversations with shop window dummies, and hunts deer with a rifle and scope from a Mustang Shelby GT500. Lions hunt them, too, and do better than Robert does. He’s downright crazed in some scenes, of course — after three years (1001 days is mentioned at one point), I’d be sounding crazed, too, and I don’t even like people all that much.

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Good news: No more leash laws. Bad news: Things trying to eat you and your dog.

In his basement, he’s set up his own lab, using rats and the occasional trapped human subject to test various anti-viral drugs, recording his findings in obsessive detail, six times over. They’re pretty much all negative findings, but he records them just the same, using this work and Sam’s company to keep his tenuous hold on his sanity. Before they were separated, he promised his wife and daughter that he would stop this, and even though he knows it’s too late for that, some part of him still fights to keep that promise.
There’s a great showdown with the creatures at one point, and then the story takes a bit of a turn, which worried me a little, but turned out to be a pretty good turn, well-handled, and I won’t give that away either. But those creatures are seriously spooky. They’re basically your standard zombies, computer-generated in a lot of places and reminiscient of the undead troops from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, but the scenes with them are well-done and many times downright claustrophobic. Like The Mist, they’re spookiest when you only hear them, just eerie sounds somewhere in the dark that you can’t quite track down.
So we’ll go with four idols. It’s still a zombie movie, but like 28 Days Later it isn’t just a zombie movie. I wish I’d had the chance to read the book before seeing this, but I suspect it stuck pretty closely to the original plot. It isn’t an upbeat movie, obviously, so be prepared to sniffle a little, which I admit I did at one point, and I’m not given to crying at movies. The point is, even if you’re not usually a fan of the post-apocalyptic zombie kind of thing, give this one a try. I’m pretty sure you really can’t go wrong with Will Smith…

Sketches

Five new pieces… that aren’t really full pieces. In each of these, there is no development. There is just a groove or a hook.
What else do these pieces all have in common? You can juggle clubs to them.
Don’t tell anyone. It is a super secret project.
Sketches

400+

Today’s entry marks over 400 piece of music on my site. Yay! Not sure what I can do to commemorate this… I mean… it isn’t like I can have a sale.
Seven March – Who remembers Torgo from “Manos: Hands of Fate”? It occurred to me today that this is a sort of 21st century version of that theme music.
Cherry Blossom – perfect for most situations… where nothing else works.
. . . And Six More (in Soundtrack and Horror)!

Soundtrack backings

A couple of new pieces today:
Spy Groove – A hot mix of cool sounds. I had this one laying around for a while… I’m not certain what it was originally intended to be… it kind of just looked like a template – but I threw in some dissonant rock-like things. Fun piece.
ReignReign – Written for an animation, this has a giant change-up in the middle, so its uses are somewhat limited, but it is quite a nice piece.