His Dark Materials

26 Apr 2021

The BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s extraordinary trilogy packs one hell of a theme tune. It has long been a view held amongst my friends that in order to compete against the HBOs, Netflixes, and Amazon Primes of the world, the BBC need to start upping their game dramatically. Whether or not they have done that for His Dark Materials remains to be seen, but in one respect they have completely outclassed the competition. The opening theme to the show is extraordinarily good, to say nothing of the fabulous animation that accompanies it.

From the very first episode, I knew that I wanted to cover the opening theme. I could hear it, clear as crystal and fully formed inside my head as I walked home. And it is that cover which I present to you below. It’s been a long time in the works, and has involved overcoming no small amount of imposter syndrome, procrastination, and a particularly steep learning curve.

The education has been interesting, and broadly enjoyable though. I am now more comfortable with Reaper, and have learned a lot about the the processes of mixing and mastering. I’m still not quick, or perhaps even good at these, but I am now better equipped for future recording efforts. Mastering in particular was a real revelation. I’m not currently sure what the process of mastering actually does, but the difference between the final mix and the final master was astonishing. To the point where I was still not pleased with the overall sound of the final mix, but rather chuffed overall with the final master! Presumably something in the final EQ and limiting boosts the track in such a way to make it sound like a proper song, rather than a slightly uncanny valley collection of sounds that resemble a song.

Following the recording there was then the job of learning to editing video. This was a whole new set of software, with its own foibles, shortcuts, and opinions. Whether I stick with Shotcut is still in question, but I got through it in the end. The thing which frustrated me most about the whole process was learning a new metaphor and software paradigm. Video editors (like all creative software) work and expect you to work in a certain way. I am more or less used to how DAWs function and lay out their information, and artistic software such as GIMP or Photoshop have a particular focus on layers as the metaphor of choice for how to work with them. I’ve yet to grasp what it is that video editing software thinks is the correct usage paradigm. Hopefully something that I can learn more of as time goes by and I can put out more creative works.

In any event, that’s a brief ramble about the process of getting this recording done, a job almost 18 months in the making! 90 seconds of content in 18 months is… not great. But I hope to get quicker at it now that I don’t fear the many, many steps involved.

Anyway, here’s the vid!

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