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Production Notes for Ludwig van Beethoven's Für Elise

Here's what I did to produce the Music Animation Machine video of this piece:

1  Score

I couldn't find a score of this piece that I liked, so I made my own; I collected all the scores I could find, got a MIDI file from Classical Archives which I entered into Sibelius and then edited, picking from the scores I had whichever version made the most sense to me.  Because I like to write in my own fingerings when I work on a piece, I didn't put any fingerings in the score, and since I don't know what Beethoven's original markings for articulation and dynamics were, I left them out too.  The other main differences between this and other scores I've seen are that the repeats are all written out, and the music is laid out so that each phrase is on its own line. Also, it all fits on two pages, so there are no page turns.  My version of the score is available here.

2  Practice

I played this piece when I was learning the piano (a long time ago), but I hadn't played it for a long time.  My practice wasn't much about getting the notes right (though I did work out some fingerings that were awkward the way I played them as a kid); it was more about deciding how I wanted it to sound.  The main thing I spent time on was pedaling, and I still didn't get it anywhere near the way I wanted.  I played around with the soft pedal, and I think I ended up leaving it down the whole time, since that made it a little more mellow.

3  Recording

The most time-consuming part of the recording was getting the cameras and microphone in the right place.  It's hard to imagine how many ways there are to do this wrong without trying it yourself.  My neighbor Alan kindly lent me one of his camcorders for the side-angle view.  Carl Lumma gave me advice about the best microphone type and position for recording piano, and of all the combinations I tried, something close to his suggestion ("a single tiny omni ... pointing into your half-open lid right at the crook of the harp, about 1 ft. away from the edge of the case") worked the best; the difference was that I had the lid opened all the way, because the tripod for the overhead view sat inside the instrument.  I recorded into Adobe Audition through a pair of Tascam US-122 audio/USB interfaces.

4  Make MIDI Version

Because I make the scrolling scores from MIDI files and I recorded this piece live, I made a MIDI file that was in sync with the audio recording by playing along with the recording using the conductor program.  If it seems like the bar-graph version isn't perfectly in sync with the audio, that's why.

5  Rendering

The scrolling bar-graph was rendered as individual frames (.png files) with my custom RenderMAM software.

6  Conventional Notation Score

I thought it would be nice to have the conventional music notation in addition to the scrolling bar-graph, so I took screenshots of the score in Sibelius, and wrote a Matlab program to stitch them together.

7  Assembly

I imported the video footage from the camcorders into Adobe Premier (as .avi files), and assembled that, the audio (.wav file), the bar-graph frames and the conventional score. The main thing I learned was how to use key-frames for motion (for the conventional score).  Oh, and titles, and the final "export as movie."