How Long?

"How long does it take you to make one of these?"

The time it takes me to make an animated graphical score varies widely; the simplest only take me a few hours; the longest, I've been working on for years (and am still not finished). This page lists the things which can take time, and will give you some idea of what's involved.

Selecting the piece
This can involve listening to recordings, studying scores, reading biographies of composers, etc. Mostly, though, I either feel that I'm ready to do an animated graphical score of a particular piece, or I've invented some new visualization technique, and I pick a piece I think would be a good candidate to try it out on.

Getting a recording
Sometimes, I choose a piece because I happen to find a recording I can use (either a public domain recording, or one provided by a performer or composer), but in the case where I pick the piece first, I'll look around for recordings that might work. In some cases, I'll write to performers, recording companies, or libraries to ask for permission (or purchase licenses). This can take anywhere from a few minutes to months (of exploration, follow-up, negotiation, etc.).

Getting a score
Sometimes, I already have a score in my library, sometimes I find a score at IMSLP, sometimes I buy a score online, sometimes I go to the UC Berkeley music library, and sometimes I get a score from a composer or performer. Usually this step is quick, but for esoteric pieces it can take a lot of work. The most time-consuming is if there is no score and I need to transcribe the music from an audio recording, which can take hours for each minute of the recording.

Entering the score into software
In the simplest case, somebody else has already done this. The simplest, shortest pieces I've ever entered took me less than a half-hour; the longest, most complicated took more than a month.

Synchronize the score to the recording
In the simplest case, the score is already synchronized to the recording (because the score and the recording both came from the same source), but that's unusually; typically it takes me about a half-hour for each minute of the recording. (See this for a description of the synchronization process.)

Edit the score to match the recording
In most cases, performances don't match the score note-for-note, and I need to transcribe some details of the performance into the score. For example, trills and other ornaments need to be converted from symbols into notes, and improvised cadenzas need to be transcribed. In the most difficult cases, I refer to a spectrogram of the audio (image). This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Write new software
In many cases, all the software I need has already been written (by me), but sometimes I need to either modify one of my existing renderers (
list of renderers) or write a new one (or modify non-renderer parts of my software in some way). I can sometimes write a new renderer module in less than a day, but some take several days, and many of the most complicated ones have taken weeks (the most complicated one, I'm still working on after several years). I've posted over five hundred videos on my main YouTube channel, and in the process of creating them, I've written over a hundred renderers, so that gives you some idea of how much time I spend on this per video.

Extract an amplitude track
Some renderers require an amplitude track (data that represents the amplitude/loudness of the music at a given time during the piece) that's generated from an audio track. In the simplest case (either a solo instrument or a piece in which all players contribute to a single group loudness, like an orchestral tutti with no instruments prominent), the amplitude track can be generated directly from the original audio recording, but if one instrument is being rendered based on its amplitude, then I need to edit the audio recording so that other instruments do not affect the amplitude track; this editing can take as much as an hour per minute of the video.

Design the animation
In the simplest case, I know exactly what I'm going to do in an animation, and the score supports my idea without modification; in this case, it takes me only a few minutes to write the animation script that defines the animation (defines which notes of the piece are visualized by which renderers with what parameters), but in most cases, it takes me some time to do the design. If different sections of the piece are visualized differently, I'll modify the score so that different sections of the piece are assigned to different instruments in the score. Typically, I start with a simple design, then look at it (over and over) to see how I could improve it, and make changes to either the script or the renderer(s). This process can take hours or days.

Render the animation frames
This takes about twenty minutes for each minute of the piece (limited by the speed of my computer).

Assemble/export the video
This takes about ten minutes for each minute of the video (limited by the speed of my computer).

Compress the video
This takes about four minutes for each minute of the video (limited by the speed of my computer).

Upload the video
This takes about fifteen minutes for each minute of the video (limited by the speed of my internet connection).

Write the FAQ
This takes a few minutes (or longer if I need to talk to the composer, performer, or other people about what should be in it, or if I want to include more information about the piece).

"Okay [TLDR], then, so how long does it typically take you to do all that?"

The simplest videos can take as little as a day or two to complete, but many take significantly longer. I started uploading videos to YouTube in 2005, and in 2010 I retired from my "day job" and started working on this project more or less full time; between 2005 and now, I've averaged about one video per week.