Mar 25, 2009

Belarmino 1

So, the first thing you do is quite obvious if you've checked out my latest posts. You need to convert a DVD into usable digital sound. Altough this seems conceptually very easy, I had my fair share of googling before I could get this going. And it's easy to understand why.
First off, the entertainment industry really doesn't want you to be able to do this easilly: imagine the movie soundtrack CDs you wouldn't buy when you could just rip that one title song when the credits roll in - you must go out and buy a CD with that one nice song and a lot of orchestral music that's just not conceived to be listened to without images. Well, software developers know that and they create software that allows you to rip a song from a DVD, but they want you to pay for it - wich is undestandable, since it's their work , but they also know you would really like to be able to pull this off - that's why this feature is usually locked in DVD ripping software demos. But you don't really fancy paying for a piece of software you're probably just going to use once or twice in your entire life, besides it's regular funcionalities. So, although you're not trying to do something illegal (not until you make money out of it), you're trying to do something unprofitable for an industry, wich is far worst. And the apparently simple process of isolating the digital sound out of a digital movie becomes subject matter for searching the leftfield realms of the internet for answers, just like you go to certain parts of town to obtain things considered morally inadequate. And you know how careful you must be when walking down those streets: malware, pop-ups, spam may lurk around any dark corner. Pardon my noir cinematic digression, but it's just amazing how hard it might become do to something of such conceptual simplicity, just because an establishment is not interested on you doing it. Even if they can't do anything to prevent you from doing it, you find yourself browsing funky html'ed sites for a solution, advancing on your own firewall-ish risk. So, you're down to two solutions: Or you venture outside the mainstream moral safety of well-known internet navigation, or you have the money to buy your way through the establishment, straight to your goals. The point I'm making here out of this perhaps mundane example is that legallity and morality are instruments primarilly meant to preserve a status quo and money can buy you out of their grip, if you have it and are willing to spend it. Realizing this makes me reconsider a lot of moral concerns.
Here at Duet Yourself, we try to keep things as low budget as possible - hence the Sheep-DAW set-up thread - and all this DVD-to-sound stunt is performed with freeware or open source apps. The easyest and cheapest way of doing this involves ripping the DVD to .vob format, on your hard drive and then creating wav files from the .vob's. For step one, I suggest the DVD Decrypter app from DVD Videosoft . For the vob-to-wav part, VirtualDub does the trick. To put it simple, what you'll end up with is a raw wav file per DVD chapter, with the sound from the movie.
From this point on, you're down to your aesthetic choices. I suggest you pick up a wav editor (like, say, Audacity) and get chopping bits of sound you fancy for whatever reason and for whatever purpose. Use the looping mode to keep a repeating-pattern perspective. Chop it all into individual sound files without being too specific. In fact, try it often: my experience says that on some occasion you might be very melodically-oriented and neglect a very nice beat waiting to be exhumed from a background; on some other day, you're into rythmic patterns and you'll find that neglected beat where you thought there was nothing. There's no technical or technological magic solution here, this is a trial and error thing and I don't think you can get beyond intuition.
What you need to do is to play around with the material until an idea pops up - in our performance-driven civilization, purpose is overrated to such an extent that you very easilly abandon the simple pleasure of playing around with something. What I'm mostly against in most music production publications is an underlying discourse that leads you into believing that creative sucess is granted, once you're using the right technology and it's so hard to keep up with all the upgrades that you're always feeling like you're missing out on THE solution that this month's issue of your favorite magazine promises: if only you had the money, right? Wrong! Most times you never get beyond an entry level experience with most of the tools you use and most of the old ones already do what the new ones promise with a minor difference that, most of the times, is actually irrelevant to your use of the tool anyway. I won't bore you with my view of the economics of all this - simply count the advertising pages on such magazines. There's no magic metaphysical road to sucessful music-making that you need to find with a stroke of genius, acessible only to those illuminati that already own the latest gizmo out there. Pay close attention to the music you listen to and like and you'll realize that most of it relies on technology you already use and know, with a twist. A good sample (or a good synth line, for that matter) is as good as what you do to it - and there's just so much you can do, so many options under your mouse cursor, that what you need to do is to explore really well and thoroughly and play around with the sounds. I'm going to do that with the wav files and find out where it leads me.


  1. NOW SEND ME THE F*****G Samples!!!!!!
    (hahahaahahah, just joking)

    I'm gonna spend the weekend here in Porto and I'm finally setting up my shit to get things done... So if you have some stuff ready don't hesitate to send it to me.

    My girl isn't coming this weekend, so I'm planning to go on a production marathon...


  2. I ended up with four wav files. Three of them are 22min long and the last one is 4min long. I'll need to convert them to mp3 for portability's sake and I'm setting up a account for hosting these and other files.
    Have you watched the movie recently? FNAC just received a DVD edition (wich I bought for 13€) that you might be able to find over there. You won't regret the purchase! It would be nice if you could tune in to the film's melancholy. I can always (cough!) *lend* you the DVD...