Recording Insights from Libertaria the Virtual Opera

Recording Insights from Libertaria the Virtual Opera

When producing a large‐scale music project through the Internet communication, flexibility,
and organization are key components for success. Any composer wishing to collaborate with dozens of musicians and artist through the Internet needs to wear multiple hats, including director, manager, tech support, and coach. Needless to say, jumping between roles involves a keen sensitivity to each musician’s needs, especially considering the cold nature of Internet communication.

The Libertaria cast worked on the recordings for the opera for over eighteen months. After downloading the Libertaria Cast Rehearsal Albums from, the cast members recorded their vocals using the included scores and click tracks. Without set live rehearsals for this all‐volunteer project, the composer, cast, and crew had to work with a very flexible schedule that allowed for work obligations, touring, family emergencies, and cast changes throughout the process. After trying several forms of communication including Skype, Facebook, and telephone, the most effective means of communication was e‐mail, with the

exception of one animator that preferred live chat in Facebook. The composer used a master spreadsheet to keep track of cast and crew members and used Dropbox to organize and share files.

Perry Cook, founder of Princeton’s PLOrk and advisor to the top‐selling Apps company SMUle, describes the recording process for Libertaria:
This style of production fits extremely well with a workflow I commonly use to produce my own musical pieces. I leave my studio fully set up, so when I get an idea I go in and record some. When things have solidified, I record a lot more takes, edit, iterate, and finally come up with the final product. This is even easier, because Sabrina has already written and scored it, and I just have to learn it, perform it well a few times, pick the four or five best, and ship it off to let her worry about the rest. I can also record a character/scene multiple ways (opera vs. broadway, sad versus intense, etc. , and let her pick the one she likes).

Any one song for Libertaria has several takes per opera character. Complicated full cast numbers like Pilar of the Underground have over forty vocal tracks that need to be spliced, edited, and cleaned up by the composer. The process is tedious and dependent on the recording quality of the original. In some cases, cast members had to rerecord their takes because of clipping, distortion, or submitting compressed mp3 files. Clean raw vocal recordings work best when mixing hundreds of audio files. Some opera cast members submitted alternate takes with effects and full mixes. The composer usually saved these “wet” mixes for promotional purposes, test animations, and extra scenes not in the screenplay, and Alt Rock singer Matthew Meadows, who shares the role of Simeon, reached thousands of music fans with his alternate mix of the jazzy solo Metal Ink. While having hundreds of audio files to work with provides the composer with limitless ways to mix the audio down, some disadvantages include overlooking files, missing files, too much time choosing between nearly identical takes, and CPU overload when automation is applied. For example, in Pilar of the Underground, the composer had to export the entire orchestral track to a single stereo track to mix the vocals because Logic could not run the original sixty‐five track mix with full automation, dozens of automated vocal tracks, and complex software instruments. At the time of this article, the music production has wrapped up and Libertaria is in the middle of animation production. Post‐production will follow for the next five months, with a final cut of the animation and a mastered vocal score completed at the end of the summer.

Singer Jennifer Hermansky, currently on tour with The Wizard of Oz, shares her thoughts on singing for animation:
The challenges in voice acting for animations is not knowing how the animated character will move during your songs or lines. You have to take the story, lines, and music as inspiration for how you will perform the character. 

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