Friday, November 04, 2005

Confessions of a Crypto-creative Geek

As a dedicated Mac guy and inveterate iLife and Photoshop Elements hacker, I sometimes like to engage my right brain and "do stuff" with the audio, video and music capabilities of those products.

Recently for example, I've been playing with the so-called "artistic filters" in Photoshop and I've been particularly enamored with the "cutout" and "watercolor" filters. The effect of both filters are easier to demonstrate than to describe:

Pretty cool, huh?

I've also turned videotapes of the kids into DVDs, complete with navigation menus, transitions, effects, music and so on. I volunteered my services at work the other day to produce some company-internal videos. The guy I was talking to said "How are you going to do that?" I told him I'd bring in my DV camcorder, shoot some video, then edit it at home. "Oh," he said, "Mac guy, huh?".

Last of all, and, for those who know me, most improbably, I've been dinking with GarageBand and Rax. GarageBand is the now-legendary easy-to-use studio application that comes with iLife, and Rax, a "virtual audio rack" that you plug software instruments and effects into. When we first got the Mac, we bought the kids an M-Audio Keystation 49e MIDI controller to play with, so I used that and "composed" a little four-note jingle to use on company podcasts (if you think four notes does not a jingle make, David Dundas and Channel Four might have something to say about that), and overlaid it with my voice which I recorded with a cheap Shure 8900 mic and a Griffin iMic USB audio adapter.

When I was trying to come up with a jingle, I just waited until I sort of "heard" the kind of thing I was after in my head, and, not really knowing the first thing about music, just sort of poked keys on the Keystation until I got it approximately right. Then I used the stave editor in GarageBand to slide the notes around until it sounded good. Over that, I looped a beat and added a final high note that fades out gently to sort of bring the thing to a close. I'm actually quite proud of it.

Audio logo

I figured I might also want some stripped-down versions to use as bumpers in between segments on a podcast. GarageBand's software instruments are really nice. Check out the modulation on the final note in the acoustic guitar version, or the audible key "thump" on the grand piano.

Acoustic guitar
Upright jazz bass
Grand piano

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