How long does C3 take to create CONS?

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    Hey guys, I have a question about your authoring process.

    HMX released material weekly, and Activision released material when the stars aligned correctly.

    HMX also indicated that their process took about 6 months, which included time for master stems research, negotiations, contacting Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony, and target audience feedback.


    Obviously C3 isn’t HMX, but dammit you guys are releasing material weekly so far. How do you guys do it?

    Obviously we’re cutting some steps in here (licensing and contacting companies), but it still obviously takes time. How long, though?

    Can some of you guys give us an insight of how you go from music to CON files and the time invested?


    Harmonix took a long time to release songs mostly because of mixing and licensing, as you stated. They received a good deal of raw stems directly from the artist. While it’s different in every case, I’m guessing they received detailed stems, all the way down to having each part of the drum kit separated into a different audio file. Depending on the song, authors here at CCC may or may not have stems. We can usually skip mixing entirely if the MP3 is from a reliable source like iTunes, but even if we have audio stems, there usually isn’t much required mixing. There’s generally just a lot of volume balancing going on in most cases.


    Making a CON file is also much quicker than the LIVE files that Harmonix makes for official DLC. I don’t think Harmonix used the same Magma as RBN authors, but they probably used an edited version without restrictions (such as the 10 minute limit). I can’t say for certain, but they probably ended up with an RBA file much as us custom authors do. When we have an RBA, all we have to do is send it through RB3Maker and it’s done in a matter or seconds. Harmonix, on the other hand, most likely had to make a different type of file, send it to Microsoft for signing and licensing, then wait for Microsoft to approve the file.


    So, in short, if you combine the time it takes to choose a song, contact the artist and enter into an agreement, mix the stems, actually chart the song, extensively playtest the song, compile the song, send it to Microsoft, and finally release it, it should not be a surprise that it takes about 6 months to complete a song, even with a large company. CCC can cut 2 if not 3 of those steps in most cases, and there is also a bit less playtesting going on (although our playtesters are good enough to not need as much time <img decoding=” src=”/wp-content/uploads/invision_emoticons/default_SA_smile.gif” />).


    On the CCC end of things, the only time consuming process is actually charting the song. It varies based on the song and the skill of the charter. For example, some of CCC’s driving contributors like espher can chart a full song in a week or two (maybe even less), then send it to playtesting. I, on the other hand, would take about a full month on a song if had to chart vocals and keyboard. It also helps if you don’t get bored (like me).


    Did I miss anything?


      Well, of course licensing is not an issue, so that’s out of the picture. A song requires roughly 14/16 hours of work I’d say. A LOT of the authoring times gets cut down by all the things that RBN developers and Harmonix had to endure, which is the very accurate testing of all difficulties for things like OD placement, etc. The best of the best of authors we have could easily push songs through RBN (or has done in the past) but probably won’t spend the same amount of time for minutias required for official songs. If we did, we would probably release a song per month, which would kill the project.


      Another advantage *for me* (I don’t know how the other authors feel), and I suppose this is really a paradox, is that we don’t have stems… I have worked on 15/20 songs with stems and they require probably double the time I normally spend on final mix songs. The reason is that while, yes, having stems makes it so much easier to understand what goes on and chart, well, it makes it so much easier to understand what goes on and forces you to be more precise. In a number of songs, in example, keys are buried in the mix, so you tend to chart something coherent with what’s been played in the song and that makes sense. With stems, well, you can’t do an approximation. Bass is another of those instruments: in a lot of songs, you can’t hear bass clearly, so you make the best of what you have, which usually is a repeated pattern based on drums kicks, etc. With stems, you have every note available to you. Obviously the result is better, but those Pantera songs took a good deal more to do than other songs.


      Finally, and this is just me and probably Nemo, we have an archive of songs. I have roughly 140 songs I authored but haven’t released yet: some only need playtesting, some need work because they were done a long time ago, some are already scheduled. I can’t crank out 6 songs per week, but in example this week’s 3 unreleased songs were completed two by September 2012 (Planet Caravan and Nothing Compares 2U) and one by January 2013.


        I generally can start and finish a song within a week, for the material I aim to chart, assuming it’s not a six or ten minute mix. I do a lot of dance tracks which have a fixed BPM, and repetitive (read: copy-pastable) instrumentation. My target is usually one expert instrument chart a night when I’m authoring (sometimes more if something really flies by), then a night for reductions, a night for venue authoring, and then a night testing/polishing/recording the dry vox before I’d put something up for playtesting. I’d put up a V1 without overdrive (and sometimes without dry vox, lip sync, and/or reductions, depending on how much time I had and/or how confident I felt with the chart), and my V2 would be “functionally complete”. I know other authors use other methodologies.


        Charts with varied tempos that actually require capable tempo mapping and variable patterns can take significantly longer to author, though the other components should more or less be the same. I personally ragequit tempo mapping a song I was trying to work on because the [expletive] key kept not working right in Reaper and eventually got someone else to do it (thanks Nyx). <img decoding=” src=”/wp-content/uploads/invision_emoticons/default_SA_wink.gif”>


        I don’t know if I’d consider myself a “driving contributor” anymore as Polish put it, though I appreciate the sentiment, since I drove down my intended production big time by virtue of needing to work RB:HP and having other things. I think that cap lands squarely on farottone’s head. <img decoding=” src=”/wp-content/uploads/invision_emoticons/default_SA_wink.gif”>


        I create my own stems so my release rate is a lot slower than other authors. <img decoding=” src=”/wp-content/uploads/invision_emoticons/default_SA_frown.gif” /> It takes two weeks or more to isolate a song into workable stems, then remaster each stem so every playable instrument is prominent, but not clipping, then take that mix and begin the regular charting work. Like farorrone said, working with stems comes with the pressure to chart more accurately as well. If I’m adding pro guitar I have to study music videos/live performances to see what fingering variation the artist used, or if that doesn’t exist, use the isolated guitar/bass stem and learn the song note-by-note before transcribing it into a Pro chart.

          Can some of you guys give us an insight of how you go from music to CON files and the time invested?

          I almost always work in this order:


          Tempo map: 1 hour

          Drums: 5 hours

          Bass: 2 hours

          Guitar: 7 hours

          Vocals: 10 hours

          Reducing: 5 hours

          Dryvox: 2 hours

          Overdrive: 2 hours

          Practice sections: 1 hour

          Venue: 2 hours (if I feel like it, which is rare)

          Testing: 2 hours


            Thanks for all your responses. It’s very interesting to see everything that goes into charting and releasing final con files.


            Thanks for all your hard work!

              I create my own stems so my release rate is a lot slower than other authors.


              What tools do you use for this?


              You could use just about any high-end editing program but you need yeeeears of experience before you can get anything that sounds good. It’s not an automatic process. I prefer Adobe Audition.

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