Sunday, 27 January 2013

Behind the Mashup

It occurs to me (belatedly) that some might be interested in how I put together my Mashup of 3U Greatest Hits. (The drawing posting came to mind first, because I know I need more improvement there, but I can probably stand to improve in everything I do.) So this may not be as detailed, but here we go.

First, the inspiration - well, I'm already a fan of mashups like those done by Daniel Kim, and the KurtHugoSchneider channel. So I've had the idea for a while. What finally got me pulling things together for something to go online was a colleague of mine back in December, suggesting that he'd be willing to sing with me in a classroom setting.

The second step then was obtaining the music tracks. If I'm going to be throwing something onto YouTube, my preference is to have the original source - not just because it's better quality, but to support the artists in the first place. (You can't parody something that doesn't exist.) Kristina Maria's CD I had previously, having picked it up while at HMV in December for other reasons. I also buy Grammy Nomination CD compilations, which gave me some songs, and our school did Wizard of Oz, so yeah. The rest I went to purchase.

Turns out that you cannot purchase Ace of Base in Canada, it has to be imported? The timelines on that wouldn't work. Also Kreesha Turner's song seems to only be a single... purchasable on iTunes... which I don't subscribe to... so for those two only, I got lower quality versions, and decided to try and use them only as much as necessary. Fun story about Bonnie Tyler - the CD wouldn't play past Track 5. So I had it exchanged. New one died at Track 11. I decided to opt for one more exchange; no go. So the store referred me to another location, got the CD there, and it played in my player - but refused to be read by my computer! Had to import it into my wife's computer then transfer the file. Sheesh.

Anyway. Now have music. Since the only parody lyrics I currently have for both the Exponential Strand and the Discrete Strand was Karmin's "Brokenhearted", that became the framing device. Hence the decision to start with that, and segue it into whatever the next thing would be. And since I didn't want Functions to be ALL Quadratics (it's not), Katy Perry seemed the natural extension, since there were elements of her parody song I could use here. From there, I simply went into the rest. (Of course, I already had all the song parodies written, so it was more a matter of deciding which parts were most relevant for the mix.)

I guess I could say that, in terms of what parts of the songs to use, it mostly involved taking the chorus, then slipping in other relevant items. The chorus is the ear worm, after all, thus it's where I put most of the key mathematical features. However, the asymptote rap section felt kind of necessary too, for instance. In mixing, I split up Bonnie Tyler around Pet Shop Boys at the start so the Trigonometry section wouldn't seem too jarring by comparison. (Over half the songs used related to trig!) This was done during the first week back at school in January, cropped together using FinalCutPro on my Macbook, over the span of a few evenings. Then lyrics were added at the bottom, so people could sing along at home.

That weekend (Jan 12), and the following week, it was time for the graphics. This wasn't too hard either, as I already had powerpoint presentations set up to run alongside the music for when I sing in class. Merely a matter of cropping out the relevant bits and pasting them in, then adjusting the timings. Only in a couple instances did I have to make image tweaks. I then needed a framing device for the beginning and end of the video. (The Hilary Duff theme song didn't feel like it worked here.) I don't know why I thought of Law and Order, but there you go. For the end, I wanted a movie clip (because I like tossing them in my videos), and with most of Back to the Future memorized, it wasn't hard to think of a passage.

That much was done by Thursday, January 17th, and gave a good enough scaffolding for a live performance, so I turned my (recreational) attention back to my web series, and came up with last week's blog about How I Draw for it. After all, the only thing remaining was to record a version of me singing, and how hard could that be? Ha ha, famous last words.

First, when I recorded my Mystery Teacher 2000 (Khan Academy) video, going back and layering in other dialogue (even for better enunciation) tended to stick out and interfere with the flow. So I already knew that my vocals would need to be done in as close to one long take as possible. I realized during a dry run on Monday that, despite my memorization, I needed a printout of the lyrics. Then secondly, I started getting sick on Tuesday, with a minor sore throat that migrated into my sinuses. My live classroom performance on Wednesday (with my colleague, so we did two sets one per class) involved a dry throat and me dropping a line (to the collective Awwwww! of the room).

I wanted it finished and out this weekend though, both to correspond with my web series tie in, and with Ontario exams this coming week. Doing it Saturday was out of the question, so, feeling better on Thursday evening, I went for it. I imported the audio file into GarageBand as a podcast, plugged in my Yeti microphone, grabbed my lyrics sheet, and bang. After screwing up a couple of times, I decided one take wasn't in the cards -- thus it's continuous through to the rapping portion of Exponentials, and I pick it up there to the end. Underlying items (like "Vertex" and the intro) were also added in later.

There's a couple of places where I stumble, or rush ahead, but I deemed that fixing those bits would make for an obvious edit - and merely bring attention to other more minor issues. I then had to decide between ducking the music, or individually fading in and out. Decided I had to go with the latter, despite the extra time commitment. Partly because the music itself was at different volumes (not to mention in different keys), but mostly because the emphasis on voice versus music would get botched in particular places otherwise.

With the decibel levels taken care of, I exported that file, and reimported the whole thing back into FinalCutPro, replacing the chopped up soundtrack with the new one. (Except where Marty's talking about your kids, oh right... adjusted.) Re-export, and there you have it! Feel free to offer advice now, if you notice I've done something particularly perplexing.

I'm not sure exactly how long it all took me. After all, when you're doing something that you enjoy, you often don't notice the passage of time. In the end, my hope is that others will also enjoy it. Expectations? Well, my last video took four months to get over 25 views. I'm hoping for better? In an ideal world, maybe even 3 or 4 RT. If not... well, good thing I haven't quit my day job.

Which reminds me I'm supposed to be grading papers.


  1. Interesting. I didn't know Ace of Base was no longer available. I have the CD... somewhere. (/shifty look/) However, I bought it when they were popular and had a wider distribution.

    I enjoyed it. And, if your students can remember the music and the new lyrics under pressure, they should remember the details. Music's funny like that.

  2. Well, that was what I was told at HMV; essentially nothing in stock and no call for it. Thanks! Yeah, sort of the centrepiece for the PD I'm leading next month... need to get on that once exams are done.

  3. When all else fails, hit the used record stores.