Tech Sheet

My colleagues Dànielle DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeff Grabill (2005) have eloquently captured the way composing happens when a particular combination of infrastructural elements converges at a particular moment. These elements include, but are not limited to, material tools and resources—wires, screens, mice, batteries; interfaces, icons, menus, palettes; scanners, microphones, digital audio recorders, cameras. While I sometimes catch myself thinking about my vision for the final composition as something independent of the technologies I employ to realize that vision, my own (sometimes exhilarating, sometimes painful) experiences tell a different story. Below is an outline of the tools and resources I drew upon in the process of composing Click to Add Ideas. Each of these left its mark on the final product.

I used Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP) to create the final edit. FCP allowed me to combine music, voiceovers, sound effects, segments of animation, and still frames into a coherent final composition. The only major flaw I encountered in this process is that there are several instances where I needed to create still frames in order to achieve the desired pacing. For some reason that I was never able to discern, still frames change the hue of the visual content just slightly, resulting in an annoying flicker.

Animation was done in Photoshop CS6 in the frame animation mode. For me, the virtue of this mode is that it is conceptually very simple: you add one frame, arrange it's content, and then add the next frame. The biggest skill required for this kind of work is patience.

Photoshop enables a certain amount of "tweening"—meaning that the user defines a beginning state and an end state, and the computer automatically adds everything in between. For instance, Photoshop allows you to tween the motion and opacity of individual layers.

The final product can be exported as a .mov file. I used MPEG Streamclip to convert exported files to Apple ProRes before importing into FCP.

I used Melody Assistant (MA) to create all the music and sounds. MA allows users to compose music by placing notes on a staff. Each staff is assigned an instrument (saxophone, bass guitar, etc.); staffs are combined to form scores. Composers can set tempo, dynamics, reverb, etc.

I recorded the voiceover in GarageBand. I originally used a Samson USB microphone, which provided good results. But I saved the files in a format that was not fully compatible with FCP, so I re-recorded everything. Seeking higher sound quality, for the second recording, I used an Electro-Voice RE320 mic connected to a Zoom digital audio recorder.

I added final touches to sound in FCP. Some sound effects required additional reverb; others were achieved by playing the sounds backward.

David M. Sheridan
Michigan State University