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Strings of Life

Once I’d finished on a Blue Note inspired alternate cover for this rousing house classic, my plan to animate this quickly snowballed into an almighty mess of a project.

First I edited the tune to a managable length, made a rough animatic to get some camera moves down and to work out how many violin stabs/attacks there are (23), which got me to the end of the build-up.

Next, the keys have to be arranged a particular way if I want to animate them.  There’s 3 main types of white key, which need to be arranged in a set manner as real pianos are, and then the black keys have to sit into each space between the keys.  Eventually I got it to work out for me, it took a couple of days coming back to it every now and again – I’d be lying if I said this part was fun or a joy to learn, as it absolutely sucked.

If you’re going to animate a piano, it’s got to look the part and this was a total ballache, as I can’t play the piano. I found a YT tutorial, compressed to 144P with 1982 graphics quality, on how to play Strings of Life, so I copied the keys I think the guy played and eventually, managed to line it up. Not a fucking chance of getting some cool automated setting with a sound effector to animate the keys, or doing it with a noise layer, or even a Wild West style piano punch sheet. All keyframed. Luckily, that piano break is only 11 seconds long, and it loops *relatively* easily.

And then there was the rendering. Using Redshift on 2 x Titan X and 1 x 980Ti, most frames took 60-90s each, so overall, it took aaages, with several shots needing re-rendering, of course. Or for some other shots, I only worked out I needed them at the editing point.

Compositing, not so difficult. I added stock dust and smoke instead of doing it via 3D as that would’ve taken way longer to set up and render – and I’m still working out how I can do that with X-Particles..

Anyway, glad it’s over and done with for now…