Christmas Came Early!

With many programs forced to cancel concerts or take alternate approaches, many have turned to a basic grid-style virtual ensemble as a solution. It’s typical for students to record their parts at home using a cell phone and a click track… but this project took it a step further! Tanner Leonardo used Studio One to create a next-level virtual ensemble  for Lafayette High School (Lexington, KY). The process started by creating a click track to Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Over fifty students then recorded their parts individually from the comfort of their homes and sent in their recordings.

Once the audio was separated from each video, the work in Studio One began. Each student was roughly aligned to a clap-sync then finely aligned by using many cross-fades at the beginnings and ends of phrases. This first level of alignment was done to match each student with the click-track. The recordings were then grouped by instrumentation and aligned to their section. The final macro-alignment was completed by isolating Bus sends for each instrument group and matching them with the other instruments.

Studio One’s  Pro EQ plugin allowed Leonardo to make sure each instrument would  sit well within its own frequency range, while also allowing for the removal of  any computer fans or dogs barking in the background. Random channel-level panning was added to spread the instruments across the stage and more specific Bus-level panning was used to place instruments in their corresponding stage location.

Once the tracks were aligned and balanced, Pro EQ and Compressor were used on Bus Sends to help further place each instrument in their corresponding frequency and dynamic range. A soft plate reverb was created in the Room Reverb plugin on each Bus at different levels depending on the density of of the scoring at any moment. Finally, another Room Reverb was added on the Main Out to place the instruments into a virtual concert hall. 

The video was created by using Final Cut Pro. Each video was aligned using both the clap-sync and specific individual transitional cuts. The forest and snow were created using stock assets,  and layered according to their entry in the production. The ornaments were created by cutting a circle mask on each video and adding the ornament toppers using layering within Compound Clips. The videos were then faded in and out according to when they play on screen. The final production was created by key-framing the virtual camera around the screen to see students up close.

This production style will be recreated at the 2021 Percussive Arts Society International Conference in Tanner’s clinic titled “Virtual Ensembles: In a Post-COVID World!”

Thanks to the Lafayette High School Band for their great performance and thanks to Tanner for sharing this with us!

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