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Spotting hit points in music

From: After Effects Apprentice 16: Creating a Medical Opening Title

Video: Spotting hit points in music

The next thing to do is to look at the waveform of this audio file, and spot peaks in that waveform, which indicate beats and place markers along this layer, so we know where they land. I'll type LL, two L's in quick succession, which reveal that audio waveform, you can also twirl it open for the layer and give ourselves some more room so I can see this audio waveform in more resolution, as tall as possible. And we can indeed see a series of spikes that indicate loud sections, in this case, beats in the music.

Spotting hit points in music

The next thing to do is to look at the waveform of this audio file, and spot peaks in that waveform, which indicate beats and place markers along this layer, so we know where they land. I'll type LL, two L's in quick succession, which reveal that audio waveform, you can also twirl it open for the layer and give ourselves some more room so I can see this audio waveform in more resolution, as tall as possible. And we can indeed see a series of spikes that indicate loud sections, in this case, beats in the music.

I'm going to press the decimal point key on the numeric keypad and audition this soundtrack, just to get an idea of how those spikes correspond to what I hear. (music playing) Okay. I think I've got a feel for how this goes.

Mainly it starts with that double beat of the heartbeat, the thump, the thump, the thump. The second beat seems to be stronger than the first beat in those pair of beats, so I'm going to use that as my main trigger for action in my animation. I've moved my time indicator to where it appears to line up with one of those beats. I can press the Plus key to zoom in, to get better resolution, and minus to zoom back out. Let's audition that. (music playing) Yes, that is indeed where one of the beats starts. So I'll select my audio track and press * on the numeric keypad to place an unnamed marker at that point.

Now let's see if the musician really did what I asked. I said to use a tempo of 20 frames per beat, so I should be able to hold the Shift Key and press Page Down twice to jump 10, 20 frames, and lo and behold, there's another beat. Lovely! So all I need to do is press *, go to Shift, Page Down, Page Down, *, Shift, Page Down, Page Down, and I'm neatly falling on beats. This makes my life so much easier, so I don't have to manually spot every beat or guess where they land.

I'm going to quickly spot out all the beats in the soundtrack and we'll come back in a few seconds when I'm done doing that. I'm done spotting all the beats in the soundtrack and indeed knowing that they were 20 frames apart really helped me in these areas where it was hard to see exactly where a beat may fall, such as in through here, and down here where it wasn't clear just by looking at the waveform which was a stronger beat. But since I know ahead of time that the real beats are 20 frames apart, it made it easy to place the marker correctly.

I'll audition this quickly just for a check. (music playing) The next thing I'd like to do is spot out where the major events in the music are. Not just plain vanilla beats, but where an instrument comes in, finishes, maybe a vocal starts, if there were any vocals, those give me major sectional ideas of maybe where to place major cuts in my animation or introduce something such as the title. Now there's a few different things happening in this music. I'm going to go back to the start, press the decimal point key to audition the whole soundtrack again.

(music playing) Okay, there's a few distinguishing features about the soundtrack. One is where the cymbal slowly builds to a crescendo. I want to mark where those events start. The first one was around here somewhere.

(music playing) Some of those goes right around this beat. (music playing) Yes. I'm going to add a name to this marker. I just need to double-click it and type in cymbal, or you can just type something short like CYM, if you're trying to cut down on the amount of space you're using in your timeline. Now again, since I already had a marker here, I just need to double-click it to add a comment to it. You can also press Option on Mac or Alt on Windows when you're pressing * in creating a marker to go ahead and go straight to this dialog and name it immediately.

So it's one cymbal roll and there was another one here somewhere close to the end of the music, where was that? (music playing) Sounds like it was happening right around here, yes. So I'll double-click that marker and also type cymbal. Okay, there is a place here where the music starts. Not just the heartbeats, not just the cymbals, but instruments come in such as piano. (music playing) That seems like that's the beat, so I'll double-click that beat, type piano first or maybe piano starts or whatever, but this is the first piano phrase, the melody in this piece.

I've also noticed that this music follows a pattern where a certain phrase or measure repeats. There's this section. (music playing) And I know it's right around the halfway point in this tall area of the waveform, it seems to repeat again. Go to this marker, you can hold down the Shift key while dragging the time indicator, to snap the markers and audition that. (music playing) Yup, that's where my repeat is. I'll go ahead and click that marker and say, repeat phrase.

I marked my first piano note; let's mark that last piano note, which happen shortly after this. (music playing) That's the start of that last piano note. So maybe that will be a good place to start wrapping things up or to introduce my last element, piano last. Finally, after this last cymbal roll, we have a crash that signifies the end of the music or at least the melodic part, and then return just to heartbeats. (music playing) So that's a good culmination of whatever animation I might want to create.

I am going to type CRASH; just to remind myself that this was a big event. And now my soundtrack has been spotted. I suggest you get used to doing this, because it's a great way to start your animations. However, if you want to leap ahead, inside the project panel, there's a folder called Intermediate Comps and inside there you'll find one that's called Spotted Music and that already contains all of the spotting you just did. So if you want to jump ahead, use that composition, otherwise, I am going to continue with this final comp that we've been working on.

Once my spotting is done, I can twirl up the waveform or that entire layer. I don't need to wait for that redraw anymore and now I have these nice markers on my layer. I can hold the Shift key and snap the time marker to help me locate important animation points. And I'll close up my Intermediate Comps folder in my Project panel just to keep things clean, same with the music folder for now.

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