Archive for May 4th, 2008

Review: Madonna’s Hard Candy

Madonna is going hip-hop and 80’s funk with her latest album. She obviously got a bit jealous of the success of younger names like Rihanna, Fergie and Nelly Furtado and so she employed in this album producers that have worked with these singers, like Timberlake, Timbaland, Kanye West, and Pharrell. One by one, the songs of “Hard Candy“:

1. Candy Shop
A very primitive beat in my opinion. Repetitive and primitive. It doesn’t seem to excel at any point. I would have not included that song if that was my album.
Rating: 6/10

2. 4 Minutes to Save the World
The first single of the album is a good deal. It sticks easily under your tongue, and it’s quite dancy too. It gets a bit old after a few listenings though. Still, the 5th best song in the album.
Rating: 7.5/10

3. Give It 2 Me
The fourth best song in the album. Very trance, and with a dose of funk too. If this song doesn’t get you out of your chair to dance, none of the other songs in the album will. I somewhat dislike the rap part of the song though near the middle.
Rating: 8/10

4. Heartbeat
Except the chorus, which is nice, the rest of the song is un-singable. It feels like a test, that was thrown together just because they had a good chorus and needed to do something with it.
Rating: 6/10

5. Miles Away
The second best song on the album. It has atmosphere, it makes you “feel it” what she sings about. The only song with a heart and soul in the whole album. Possibly because she sings about a personal matter of hers so she feels it too when she sings.
Rating: 8.5/10

6. She’s Not Me
Terrible. Starts kinda ok, gets you acquainted with a disco/funk sound, and towards the middle it becomes weird — to say the least. Like it’s a different song. It just changes out of the blue, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Second worst song in the album.
Rating: 4.5/10

7. Incredible
Another primitive sound and beat. It’s listenable, but again, towards the middle changes its beat and it’s like it’s a different song too. It’s just weird. Yuck.
Rating: 5/10

8. Beat Goes On
A good disco/funk sound. No ugly surprises here. It really reminds me of the early ’80s disco songs. It’s a good track, but nothing special I can say special about it. It’s a good filler.
Rating: 7/10

9. Dance 2Night
Like the previous song, it’s a good listenable funk song. Pretty well done too, which makes you feel that you are back in another decade. Older people will feel nostalgic with this beat.
Rating: 7/10

10. Spanish Lesson
Worst song in the whole album. It’s a mass instrument mess. I don’t feel it at all. In reality, songs #6 and #7 are worse, but this beat actually had a potential and it seems that got destroyed during the production. And I can’t really forgive that.
Rating: 4/10

11. Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
Best song in the whole album. It has a melody, it’s not random beats put together than some of her other songs. It has a melody and a rhythm, and doesn’t surprise you negatively.
Rating: 9/10

12. Voices
A very good song, third best in the whole album. It also has a grand melody, and some interesting lyrics too. “Who is the master and who is the slave” to “are you walking the dog or the dog is walking you?”. Good stuff.
Rating: 8/10

Overall, the album has 5 good songs, 2 “ok” songs, and 5 songs that range from mediocre to terrible. Compared to her previous album, “Confessions on a dance floor” (rating: 7.50/10), this is not as a strong of a release. Heck, some of her unreleased songs that never saw the light of day are better than some of these songs. Still, not a bad album compared to most other albums out there.

Overall Rating: 6.7/10

AVCHD transcoding using free tools

The current situation is far from ideal regarding free tools and AVCHD .mts/.m2ts files. FFmpeg has bugs with these files (it creates files that have double the frame rate), while Mencoder’s official release crashes (SVN version is somewhat fixed though).

Vimeo user Aranya linked for me to a Windows-based guide that has all the needed tools to take apart AVCHD and create .avs files out of it. I have modified that original tutorial to include the freeware transcoding utility “SUPER”, which has more exporting abilities than the suggested ones in the original tutorial. Here’s how:

1. Install the stable 2.5.7 version of the AVISynth application. Follow the default options during installation. Once it’s installed, you can safely delete its downloaded installation file.

2. Download Soopafresh’s AVCHD_CONVERT package. Create a folder for it somewhere called “avchd-convert” and unzip all the files in that newly created folder.

3. Using a text editor, e.g. notepad.exe, edit the file “_multi_demux_mts_HQ.bat” if you are using an NTSC camera, or “_multi_demux_mts_HQ__PAL.bat” file if you are using a PAL camera. In it, add a “rem ” word (without the quotes) in front of the line:
for %%a in (“*.dga”) do @echo Lanczos4Resize(…………
This “rem ” word will make that line a comment and won’t be taken into account when executing the .bat file.
If your camera saves files as .m2ts instead of .mts, also change the part that reads like “for %%a in (“*.mts”) do…..” and make it: “for %%a in (“*.m2ts”) do……
Then click to “save” these .bat files. This step needs to only be done once.

4. Place the .m2ts or .mts file(s) on the same folder as all the above, and run by double-clicking either the _multi_demux_mts_HQ.bat file for NTSC, or the _multi_demux_mts_HQ__PAL.bat file for PAL. This will create five new files for each .mts/.m2ts file: an .avc file, an .ac3, a .dga, a .wav and an .avs file.

5. Download SUPER from here (prefer the RO mirror) and install it. Load it. Right click on the application and set the “Output File Saving Management” to a folder that you would like to save your files to. This step needs to only be done once.

6. Take the .avs file(s) (make sure it’s the .avs ones) that was created on step #4, and drag n drop it to SUPER’s file area. Then, make everything to look like this, and of course use the right frame rate each time (e.g. 29.97 for NTSC, 25.00 for PAL, 23.976 for true 24p). Then, press “encode” and after a while you will be having a 720p MP4 file that is compatible with Vimeo, XBoX360, PS3 (and AppleTV for 24p files). SUPER can also export to many other formats, e.g. DVD formats, XVID AVI, WMV etc, and of course, it can export in full 1080p if desired too (just change the resolution to 1920×1080 and the bitrate to about 12mbps).

7. After the conversion is done, you can keep your original .mts/.m2ts file(s) and the newly created MP4 file(s), but you can safely delete the five kinds of files that were created in step #4.