The Making of the Music for Zimbabwe: Beauty | Broken

A friend from Zimbabwe recently asked me for some input on a video he was putting together. The video was already looking really good but I wanted to tweak a few small things just to make it that little bit better.

Color Correction

The first thing I wanted to do was just to slightly improve the balance of color across all of the shots, and then I did quite a bit of work on the main shots of my friend Craig talking to camera.

It’s common to shoot video quite ‘flat’ and then apply correction during the editing phase to achieve the desired look. Since the content of the video was about the obvious contrasts in the land of Zimbabwe I wanted the visuals to match that and have plenty of color and depth to them.

Dialog & Music

The video was originally cut to a great track that worked ok, but there were issues with the licensing that meant that it would make more sense for me to create an original track free of any royalty or music licensing issues for us to use on the track.
Unfortunately my current mac circa 2009 is barely able to play back the finished track and so I can’t do a screen capture and walk you through the session like that, but I’ve taken some screen shots of the session and I’ll talk you through the track and the main elements of it.

Here is an overview of the whole session in Pro Tools. Dialog at the top, then the instruments and then drums/perc below that:

Zimbabwe - Full Pro Tools Session

The dialog was recorded pretty well with a lapel mic on set and only needed a few minor tweaks…

Noise Reduction
I love iZotope products and i’ve been using RX since v1, I don’t think there is any dialog in any of my sessions that doesn’t have RX on it!
Just some subtle noise reduction was needed, I usually always run this in the manual mode (not adaptive):

EQ and Compression
Although Ozone is meant to be a ‘mastering’ plugin, I often use it as a channel strip. I needed to match recordings from 2 locations so the match EQ was helpful to get me in the ballpark of tone, then I find the multiband compressor extremely useful as a de-honk, de-chhh and de-esser all in one! The exciter is also great to add a bit of warmth and sparkle, especially on a lapel mic…

More Compression

The dialog then goes through more panel beating with Rvox. It’s also doing a little bit of gating too, H-Comp for a third round of compression and then the dialog is bussed through Neutron for even more EQ, more compression and some more distortion. I prefer to do a little bit with each plugin rather than trying to make drastic changes with one, plus each plugin has it’s own character and workflow.
I will tend to use Ozone for matching and notching out problem frequencies, Rvox for just subtle evening out of level, Neutron for broader EQ strokes or changes to make it sit better in the mix etc…

On to the instruments… The video opens with a quiet, dawn scene that I immediately wanted a very ambient and airy pad for. I settled on this patch in Kontakt:

Zimbabwe Music - Kontakt Pad


The sound of this pad and the chord progression that I played provided the base for everything else that I built on top of it although I did add 3 more layers of pads from xPand as well as some parts that are effected afterwards, reversed etc…

The other main sound of the track comes from an arp that while I wasn’t aiming for this, has a very ‘intersteller’ kind of sound to it. It’s also layered with an FM8 for one section, but the majority of it comes from xPand:


The final of the more prominent parts of the track is the guitar which is all recorded direct and then process using GTR, I usually almost always use the Vox AC30 amp emulation, but for this track the sound I wanted came from the 1980 Marshal JMP emulation as well as the overdrive stomp box:

For more of the low end sounds, I’m mainly using Vaccum Pro. I’m only just getting in to this synth but so far I really love the lead and bass sounds in it, and it’s the kind of thing that works really well in a lot of the tracks that I make because they need to be more gritty and dark to leave room for the dialog.
In the first few versions of the track veryone was feeling like the it needed to be louder and the dialog softer… I knew that rather than being a level issue, this perception actually came from the fact that the music was lacking something in the midrange area. So I decided to add a piano.Bass then came from Vacuum also, with a little extra dirt on it from SansAmp:
Zimbabwe Music - SansAmp
Finally all the instruments are bussed through Neutron. One of the great things about Neutron is that it has the track assist which intelligently analyses the input and suggests settings. This is often a better starting place that a preset which knows nothing of what your signal actually sounds like…


Most of the drums are actually samples from Ill Factor. If you haven’t already discovered him on YouTube, he makes some great tutorials, get his free sample pack and check him out here:

All the drums and percussion tracks are bussed through Neutron again and then I’m also doing a lot of parallel processing with two of my favourite plugins, Devil-Loc and Radiator:
Zimbabwe Music - Drums

Most of the FX come from a simple delay and the often slated D-verb… Ever since I watched this video by Phil Tan I use a lot more of it without fear that its rubbish…


Finally the whole mix runs through my favourite bus compressor at the moment, the Focusrite Red 3 and then through Ozone for some ‘mastering’

Zimbabwe Music - Mix


If you haven’t already seen it, the video is here:

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