|ALIEN ROCK IN ROSWELLAn interview with Michael from the UFO rock band Element 115by Philip Mantle
Two weeks later "AL" made his first appearance.
Q: How is the drummer put together and operated.
I purchased a 3-D model of an alien and a cheap drum set model. I then modified what was purchased and built a nice fireplace for a cosy effect, which also provides movement even when "AL" is sitting still. Then, I settled on a camera angle which would allow for all of his drums and cymbals to be seen, and revealed a little of his legs so that movement can be detected by the viewer when he operates the kick drums and hi-hat.
The first version of "AL" (called AL 1.0) used his long fingers as drum sticks, and had a single kick set. I animated every drum hit and roll for each song, one frame at a time. It was a long and tedious process which took over 1,000 hours of animation time to do the first 30 songs we played. Seeing this as an unbearable inefficiency for adding new material, I came up with the idea of making a MIDI to animation converter. That was the beginning of AL 2.0.
The 2nd version of AL is a (Macromedia) Director program I wrote with each drum hit as a callable sequence. When I write a new drum track, I play it into a program called Metro in MIDI, then massage the MIDI file to throw out things I don't need, and keep just the start time, note information, and the volume of each hit. I feed that file to my Director program with the MIDI to animation converter embedded in it, and AL plays the file in real time. I capture that on the computer screen at 832 x 624 (the resolution of the video wall) and save it as a QuickTime video file.
I then take the MIDI file into Pro-Tools and make the drums more real with compressors, reverbs, flangers, etc. That digital audio file is synchronized with the video animation in Final Cut Pro and I create a movie file for each song. All the song files (movies) reside on my Mac laptop. A second program I wrote, which is the one that operates live on stage, calls up the proper movie file when I click on the name of the song we want to play next. When that name is clicked, the program loads the timing data for the light show, tells all of the processors (guitar, vocal, etc) what patch to use, and then waits for me to press "PLAY." It's really that simple (he says with a sly grin).
No MIDI is played live. The only thing not played live on stage is the drums, and since I played those tracks originally, I don't consider that to be cheating.
Q; Would you like to introduce us to the other band members. Who's who.
On bass and vocals (and sometimes piano) is Carla Darin. She has only been playing for about 3 years. She's awesome. She's about 100 pounds and carries as much gear as any of us guys.
On rhythm guitar, keyboards, and now vocals (he hits A above hi C) is Jess D. He's 15. He's been playing seriously for about a year. He's also awesome. He's home-schooled, and generally beyond his contemporaries whether we're talking music, philosophy, or even politics.
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