[8-Bit Cover] The Famous Five (Theme)

I don’t know about you, George, but I think we five make a pretty good team.

I dedicate this cover to my mum who introduced me to both this TV series and the books. We loved them and she would always sing along with the title theme, so I wanted to cover it for her birthday. Thank you for giving me life and love, the greatest gifts of all. Happy birthday!

Of course, I also secondarilily dedicate it to Michele Gallagher, Marcus Harris, Gary Russell, Jennifer Thanisch, Toddy the dog, Michael Hinz, Friedrich Ernst Peter Paul Maria Graf von Thun und Hohenstein and Oliver Rohrbeck.

If you don’t like the imperfections in my English version that mimick the original vocals, you might prefer my German version.

⬇ Downloads


📒 My Thoughts

The Famous Five

I actually don’t remember much from The Famous Five. I just have a couple of scenes still in my head, some from the series and some from the books. I remember that I liked George for being George, Anne for being careful, anxious and compassionate and Dick for being an unimportant secondary character and I remember that I loved the architecture in the series. I read the books first and one thing that I had to get used to when I watched the series is that Richard was exclusively called Richard in the German books but exclusively Dick in the German dub of the series. And now, remembering this lead me to finally look up why Dick is the nickname for Richard. Apparently, changing letters in existing nicknames to make rhymes and crimes, as Fresh D would say, used to be something the cool kids would do, as Fresh D would say. This applies to many nicknames that are still in use today. Richard -> Rick -> Dick, Robert -> Rob -> Bob. Andrews. Which is coincidentally and interestingly also the name of this song’s composer, in addition to being the name of one of The Three Investigators, whose leader’s German voice actor is the same as Julian’s. But he voice acts many things. It feels like there are only like 10 German voice actors that do everything, so watching German dubs never gives you unique voices that you can associate to new characters and that convey new personalities in a new way. One of the best and most memorable things from the series is the music. This song is good and iconic but the melodies and songs that play during the episodes are really amazing. I have to cover those as well one day.

The Sirenous Song

It’s interesting how the amount of bars varies for each part and how the time/rhythm changes in those short parts, so I had to use a lot of Dxxs. In the two “coming back to you” parts, the time change is at the beginning instead and 1.5 regular beats long. To keep everything after those 1.5 beats properly aligned, I used D04 in the previous frames to skip half a beat of the next frame. I always wondered what that could be used for. Now I know.

For some reason, the bass kept getting higher and higher and I had to start one octave lower in new frames multiple times to reset it to the proper octave. I have no idea why this happened. But it’s not noticeable, so it doesn’t matter.

The original song is sung by multiple children who sound like they don’t know how to sing. There are a lot of interesting imperfections. To simulate multiple voices singing the same note, I played the same note in pulse 1 and 2 but with a slightly different pitch which results in this interesting, filling sound. To further differentiate both channels, I used a 25 % wave for one channel and made it louder while I used a 12.5 % wave for the other quieter one. And, of course, I tried to replicate the imperfections in rhythm and pitch with a lot of effects, combined with volumes that replicate the lyrics. Both channels have different rhythm variations, pitch slides and so on which makes it sound even more like imperfect singing and which furtherly furthers both channels sounding like separate singers. I don’t know what others will think of these purposeful dissonances and mistakes but I really like the result, it makes it sound interesting, unique and alive. I also tried swapping which channel is the louder and which channel is the quieter one a couple of times for more variations but I couldn’t hear any difference, so I kept the times I did it but didn’t use it any further. And I once again have to complain that && in the instrument column only preserves the last instrument’s volume envelope but uses no duty cycle envelope at all, meaning that I have to put an unnecessary Vxx next to all &&s that aren’t already supposed to use a 12.5 % wave. I wonder why it’s like this. Surely it can’t be difficult to make it preserve the last duty envelope as well. I can’t think of a case in which one would want to play a new note while not re-triggeringthe volume envelope but have it not use the pulse width envelope, if there is one. And even if there are use cases for this, the other way sounds much more common, so that should be the default instead and using V00 in addition should be used for the few other cases. But maybe it’s just because I have no idea what I’m doing.

The intro in the German dub is not sung by the voice actors or any other children but by one adult with a bit of an echo instead. And by one that can sing much better. This, along with the changes to fit in different lyrics, makes it sound quite different compared to the original. However, the biggest and most interesting difference is “Timmy the dog”. In the original, they sing “TIM-my THE doOOO-O-og”. But in German “TI-i-MMY the DOOO-O-og” (the dog = der Hund). This difference fascinated me. Both the way the syllables are distributed as well as the change in rhythm. You should take a listen to both versions and compare them yourself. The German version has one half note in a fitting spot and otherwise always quarter notes. The original has an unstressed offbeat eighth note that starts “dog”, followed by a longer stressed note that quickly changes the unstressed “o” to a stressed “OOO”. It sounded so much better and more fitting in German. Both “Timmy” and “dog” have their main vowel nicely stretched across multiple notes and it’s perfectly rhythmic and orderly. However, the original is definitely more interesting and unique and after listening to it a lot, I eventually changed my mind and came to really like this part. I like both versions now. The German part kind of really fits the German language and is symbolic of its characteristic of being very rhythmic and staccato-like, especially with its common glottal plosives. Which is also what makes a German accent the most obvious, at least to me. Quentin Kirrin like this just a little which still made me immediately suspect that his actor is German, in addition to his vowels not at all sounding British, and I was right. Since my mum and I grew up with the German version, I decided to make two versions, one based on the original English vocals and one based on the German ones.

Instead of playing the same note twice with a slight change in pitch, I used the two channels to recreate the echo in the German version. However, I also gave the echo the same slight pitch shift to avoid conflicts with the main notes. I think this might be a good idea to always do from now on since having the exact same waveform playing twice isn’t the best idea and the filling stereo-like sound it creates is always a great addition. To avoid having to copy all other channels into another song, I had the great idea to shift the pulse 1 and 2 frame numbers up and put the alternate version in those higher frame numbers. That way, I could simply and quickly mark all pulse 1 and 2 frames and press + a couple of times and I would get the alternate version of the vocals while all other channels are still the same up to date version. Unfortunately, it turned out that the content of frames that are not in active use is deleted after closing (0CC-)FamiTracker. So I lost the German vocals after they were all done and I had to redo them, meaning that I did the vocals a total of thrice. But it’s probably for the best since I had to rush the first German version and almost exclusively used note stops and a couple of F05s to get it done in time for my mum’s birthday. Now it has even more effects and details than the English version, I believe. Worth the weight. However, I only noticed later during fideo editing that 3xx seems to neutralise pitch envelopes, meaning that the portamented notes have the exact same pitch in the main note and its echo, at least when it’s long enough to have both notes settled after the portamento. And a couple of times, especially one time, this makes both waves very noticeably negate each other which sounds not good at all. But with all of the other channels playing, the badness is drowned out or even sounds like an interesting variation or like another note playing, so I left it as it is because I really did not want to export and Audacity edit it another time, I wanted to get done after more than a month of working on this.

I absolutely love the trumpets, they are my favourite part, especially at 0:32. Right after the bass, of course. And I used Drenched Bluff-like VRC6 pulse width envelopes for them again which again sounds really great and which I will certainly continue using a lot.

The last thing I did (not counting remaking the German vocals which was the actual last thing) were the arpeggios which are based on the mostly very quiet offbeat guitar. Since it’s mostly inaudible, I had to come up with chords myself. Which is not good because 1. what is making music and 2. I’m a perfectionist who thinks the more and the more complicated the better. So I tried to use as many different chords as possible instead of using one for a couple of notes in a row, as it probably would have been reasonable and better sounding. But the result still doesn’t sound too bad, fortunately, mostly because the arpeggios are also very quiet, so the random chords aren’t too offputting.

I was really surprised how good the finished cover sounds. I didn’t expect that from something I made exclusively by ear. But this song isn’t too difficult, of course. Still, so was Coconut and I definitely made improvements. Maybe that means I can get good enough at this to cover some great songs that I can’t extract note data of like Fruity Factory or The Sunlands. I can’t wait to do those.

The Doubtous Drawing

I considered making 6 drawings: The five solo freeze frames with their individual names and the final one of all of them together. However, since I can’t draw and especially have no idea how to draw humans, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do that or if I even wanted to spend this much time on this one short fideo that might be good and very nostalgic but there are better songs on my list that are waiting to be covered. So I started with the final image of all five to see how well that works. But when I started, I was absolutely crushed by self-doubts. External factors at that time were certainly contributing a lot. I tried to draw Dick’s head first to see if I can come up with an acceptable way to draw a human head. All versions looked absolutely disgusting.

The next day, I scrapped that and started with the background instead since I have a little more experience with that and since it’s very simple, just grass, bushes, sky and a geometric object, also, known as house, sometimes. So I drew that and it turned out acceptable which raised my confidence. In the original, the upper right window reflects the sky with clouds, so I also did that. I’m not sure if that’s recognisable or if it looks like dirty curtains or shower steam or something. Regardless, it’s something different and variations and details are always good. As always since I came up with it, I used my Bob Ross Plant Technique™ for the vines and bushes, though I changed it a little for the bushes. Instead of three layers with different brightnesses on top of each other, I used them to “properly” shade instead, which is of course far from good, but alright and an interesting new way that can be improved. I’m not sure if the grass patches are good. I just sketched them in quickly in the beginning and thought they looked bad like this but I wanted to improve them later. But by the time I finished the drawing, I couldn’t come up with any better way to draw them and it looked empty and bad without them, so I left them as they were. I of course don’t know if that’s because they actually improve the image or if it’s just because I became too used to them in the many hours I spent drawing the drawing. And don’t let me catch you in my grass patch.

After the “success” of the background, I made a second attempt at the human beings. This time, I sketched all five of them completely first, which looked promising, at least if I could turn the head circles into acceptable proper heads somehow. I was of course still full of doubts, but as usual, I forced myself to continue and, after many ctrl+zs, ended up with a surprisingly good Dick head that reminds me of certain style of animated series. I didn’t plan to make it look like this and it’s not my favourite style but I’ll take it, I like how it turned out. I really have to practice humans more and come up with a proper style for them so that they don’t turn out completely different every time and look like an abomination fused together out of reality and something weird. The same goes for Pokémon. Then again, I do have the low-res lineless style for Pokémon like my profile picture that I really like. Anyway, the success with Dick gave me a lot more confidence (of course, a tiny number multiplied by a large number is still a tiny number) and most of all, it let me have more fun because I was less worried that there would be no way I could draw these humans and I wouldn’t have anything to put in the music fideo. I had proof in front of me that I accomplished something, so it was easier to believe in my abilities. The bodies weren’t that difficult. The faces est omnis took many attempts and ctrl+zs. I kept trying different pixels for the eyes and mouths especially and they all looked absolutely disgusting until it suddenly clicked and looked alright. Trial and error. But I like how the faces turned out. I especially love Dick, he looks so friendly and happy. And I like how different the mouths and especially eyes turned out. Each according to their personality and unique. Shading them was really interesting, especially their faces. I love when light and shadows play with each other in faces. Equally as important is the way it makes clothing folds and wrinkles wisible which leads to them looking both more interesting as well as realistic and voluminous instead of a flat skin-tight rubber suit. And shading also allows the separation of overlapping things of the same colour without having to use lines.

I haven’t drawn a lot of hair yet. When I sent Amarizo a pic of Dick for some professional advice from an academic who has no idea about art, he noted that the hair highlights which are apparently called “phong” (as in mat_phong 0) made it look like his hair was wet or very oily. He questioned phong on hair in general, so I looked through some of my favourite artist’s artistic works and found that not all of them used phong on hair. I like the way phong on hair looks, but I also noticed that my phong was way too bright. Some made it brighter and some darker, but it was always not too far off from the main hair colour while mine was nearly white, like it still is in the blonde hair. For those, it makes sense because the yellow is already very bright but all brown haired drawings I looked at had darker phong, so I darkened Dick’s and George’s phong by a lot. It looks way better now but I still don’t think the brightness and saturation are good. I think I should definitely make it even darker next time but I’m not sure if I should use more or less saturation. Probably less, I always use too much. But thanks to Amarizo, it now looks better than it used to and I now more consciously focus on getting hair phong right.

I did an alright job with the humans. But there still was Timmy the dog. I had never drawn a dog before and I don’t really know how dogs are supposed to look either. And he wasn’t too well lit in the original image, so it wasn’t easy to use it as a reference. I figured the head shouldn’t be too hard, just a circle with a rounded triangle sticking out the bottom left. The head turned out surprisingly good, however not really in the original Timmy’s (or rather Toddy’s) shape. It looks much wider. But still good, so I didn’t complain. The torso and legs were a different story. The torso looks mostly like just a big rectangle which seams reasonable but I couldn’t really see how it’s supposed to connect to the head. So I just rounded it toward the head at the top. It looks a little weird and too high, but I think this is what it looks like in the original. The legs seemed to be just boring thin lines and I drew them that way first which looked horrible and boring. The original legs look a bit weird, I have no idea how dog legs look like. But it seems like there is a lot of fur tufts on the underside, so I tried to incorporate those a little to give it more detail and variation. And it worked, the legs now look like something other than just long extremely thin rectangles.

The result is better than I thought it would be and alright. The building is alright because it looks interesting and I love architecture. It’s beautiful and not like the modern distusting grey cuboids that are everywhere and that just have the bare minimum of functionality and no creativity or passion, no soul, nothing that delights the observer or resident, nothing that tells that it was created by and for living creatures with emotions and creativity, to live in and to call a home. A reflection of what the modern human is supposed to be. The humans (in the drawing) are nothing compared to the styles of my favourite artists, but I guess all of that will come with time. Like it seems to be happening quite successfully with 8-bit covers. I feel quite confident about them now, especially compared to a year ago and I already feel like I have my own styles and techniques that make my covers unique and, above all, that make me like both making them and experiencing the result. I still feel like I’m far from that regarding my drawing ability. But maybe that’s because I nearly exclusively draw things for my fideos. That means that I make music that I like and then draw things that somehow fit to it but that I don’t actually enjoy drawing that much. Maybe this is because I don’t know how to build a nice scene that I would enjoy drawing. I should think about that for the next fideo. I’ll write that down.

The Fabulous Fideo

I had to record the FamiTracker scenes four times. There were no stuttering issues or anything, I was just an idiot, as usual. I forgot everything I had to do because it’s been so long since I last made an 8-bit fideo. I have to set the song to 60 hz 150 speed to export the .nsf for NSFPlay Synthesia which I did. But I forgot to change it back. So I had to record it again. While it were 3 more recordings for the German version, the song is very short, so it wasn’t that bad. Of course, I forgot to actually change the clock speed and speed before the second attempt. A third attempt followed. Until I made the overlay and realised that I forgot to change the font size. For the individual channel recordings, it has to be at 19 to make the volume bars exactly twice as wide as they are high. For everything at once, it has to be at the default 12. I had it at 13 which I use on my WQHD monitor. That fourth attempt finally had everything the way it’s supposed to be. I hope.Again, good thing that the song is short. I wrote down notes now about what I have to do before recording to make sure that I don’t forget everything the next time I cover a longer song. I should have done this long ago.

Then, it was time for the lyrics. A little earlier, I had already made a font based on the design and size of the one the series uses, especially for the names in the beginning. Unfortunately, this was already quite big and didn’t leave much space for whole sentences. But I also couldn’t make it smaller, less pixels wouldn’t really do the font style justice. I could of course half the resolution for the text since I already doubled the standard resolution for this drawing once again. But I found that using different pixel sizes on top of each other just doesn’t look good and consistent. By the way, I always thought they sing “Up in the moving castle”, which was a little peculiar. Peculiar enough for me to look up other lyrics fideos to compare what they supposedly hear. Especially since some words are really mumbly. It also sounds more like “ming the Famous Five around”.

Very early on, I had the idea to make the transition from the “1.5 bit image”, as I called it, the black white and blue image, to the title letters by importing both of those images as a png sequence into Resolve and then stretching it out and applying optical flow frame interpolation to generate a hopefully good transition. Then, I could export the result as a lossless rawvideo, convert it to another png sequence with ffmpeg, import that into Aseprite to activate indexed colours to make it use only the three colours and nothing inbetween, export the result as yet another png sequence and import this final version into resolve again. I did that and it worked. Surprisingly well, I might add. It could be better of course but it also could have been way worse. It even looks a bit like the outlines are loose and a little behind before they snap to the letters, just like in the original. I wonder how they made the transition, it looks perfect when played frame by frame.

I hope there’s not too much stuff going on in the fideo. I believe it is and I’m the one who made it and who knows every pixel and is therefore less confused. There’s the drawing, the oscilloscopes and volumes, the pattern and, on top of the drawing, both NSFPlay Synthesia and the lyrics. But it’s very lucky that the title image doesn’t have all three lines vertically centered. The two main lines aren’t centered either. I don’t know why but I know that it’s almost perfectly centered with the lyrics that fit perfectly well into the free space at the bottom. Almost as if it was made for this. I’m also not sure about the synchronicity of the lyrics. I edited lyrics changes to start exactly when the respective note starts. On my Linux, when played back at normal speed, this results in the image changing very noticeably later compared to the audio. Strange, considering that usually the audio has latency. But even on operating systems that can properly synchronise time and space, I’m not sure if having the lyrics change exactly when the note begins is a good idea. Maybe it should change just a little bit earlier to give the watcher’s brain enough time to decode the first word by the time it’s sung.

The Fictitious Facts

I read some interesting things on Wikipedia and other sites on my research to sign aboard a starship. For example that the night scenes were actually filmed in daylight with a dark filter put in front of the lense. The series is British but German public TV partly financed it and demanded that some German actors had to be used in return. I don’t think I like that. They even wanted to use at least one German among the Famous themselves but they accepted just George’s actress who had German ancestors because a “proper” German child would most likely have caused communication issues. After all, you don’t really learn English in German schools. You are told that you learn British English, but you unknowingly learn a mixture of American and British English taught by a German teacher who has no idea what they’re talking about, on top of a thick accent that the students then copy to perpetuate and strengthen Ze German Accent™ instead of learning how to properly pronounce stuff. But what can you expect from an educational system that punishes actually learning or already being very familiar with a language instead of just memorising specific translation of words for the next vocabulary test, in which those who feel, live and use the language get bad grades because they know the language, they don’t know the one specific translation the teacher wants you to temporarily memorise to give you a point. Any other equally as correct or even better translation equals zero points. Learning and knowledge is punished, mindless memorising for the sake of a number (or letter) on a piece of paper is rewarded. Creativity is punished. Repetition is rewarded.

Apparently, the German actors also voice themselves in the German dub. Just like the nameless man or whatever he was called in Braavos in GoT. To my surprise, the theme is not actually sung by the Five’s actors but by the “Corona Stage Academy choir”. And most importantly: It failed to chart. What a failure.

We used to have DVDs of the German episodes. I don’t know where they are now, I don’t have them. Maybe my mum still has them somewhere. But, even though the series is from 1978, the first time it was released on DVD was 2010 in Germany, followed by 2012 in the UK. So it must have been a disgusting TV bootleg. A robbery-murder-copy, as we Germans call it.

Michele Gallagher, George’s actress, unfortunately is no longer among the living. She really was an incredible George. I love the way she portrayed her and according to the scriptwriter Gail Renard, she was very much like George in reality as well. What happened to her since the series was filmed is unknown besides her death, only rumours say that she took her own life. But it seems like she didn’t want any more publicity which is very understandable, so I’ll just say, in the name of everyone who was inspired and touched by your George: Thanks.

The Cacophonous Conclusion

Alright, almost done with this descriptous description. Are you getting on, Mr Wogers? Nearly finished, Mrs Kirrin! Who are the Kirrins? We all are, we are all Kirrins. I think my brain is already asleep, I should wrap this up.

Two months of this year are already over and all I did was one small out of schedule fideo. But that was mostly due to external reasons. Namely the usual family stuff, the potential move and having a toothache. Having to go to the dentist is one of the worst things that could happen, but that’s a story for another description. February is over now which means that I have to start working on the April fideo now if I want to get it done in time. Unfortunately, after 4 devupdates and 4 Jeff songs, I still haven’t made the Jeff Kaplan Voice Pack™. And I really don’t want to do another devupdate without it. I especially don’t really feel like cutting together 10+ minutes of pure Jeff Kaplan right now, after what it feels like 12 months with barely any fun, family issues, tortoise issues, tooth issues and a potential move coming. On the other hand, I have already written 3 physical A3 pages worth of new interesting Zeldawatch™ lore and I definitely am excited about coming up with lore and abilities and editing the ingame scenes. If only there weren’t the 10 minutes of Jeff. I don’t think it would be good for my physical or mental health to do the usual month-long marathon Jeff fideos are. I would much rather finally continue covering my favourite songs, draw for fun and do other things that can be summarised as doing what I actually want to do right now, not what I myself force me to do. But I already cancelled the New Year’s fideo. I’ve never cancelled a devupdate or Jeff song in the past 4 years. If I make one exception, maybe it’ll end like everything else I want to do but never do, like my website. I don’t know what’s next. Maybe I can use last year’s Link Remastered as a makeshift voice pack. That was the first devupdate I did in Resolve and I can copy stuff from one Resolve project to another, only that switching projects takes a long time for projects like these. I can’t believe that I’ve only made one devupdate in Resolve so far. I believe I switched to Resolve right after Ganondorf. So it’s almost been two years. Actually, using Link Remastered sounds good, that could make it reasonable. I don’t know. Well, tomorrow is the first monday of the new month which means that it’s time to clean. And I’ve stayed up until 3 am today for this description and yesterday for the fideo, so my sleep schedule that I’ve multiple times almost gotten back is once again ruined. I think this is what I’ll do: I’ll use a couple of days to not not sleep again, to have some of this so-called “fun”, to find out more about the now potentially drastically changed moving situation and to maybe come up with more lore and abilities, for fun and without a deadline. Then, when my sleep schedule is stable enough and I know if I could be moving as soon as next week, I’ll decide how to continue. And I also have to keep in mind that I can stream Jeff editing which makes me more efficient, more funous and keeps me awake. Introducing Midna (working title) could release in 2021 after all.

The Rediculous Recommendation

Lastly, there’s one last thing I want to mention at last. After Christmas, when I felt horrible, there was one thing that gave me joy and that continues to do so until today: Red’s streams of Arcadum’s VR campaign Callous Row. I love her character Sheila and the world she inhabits, including many other great characters, especially her neighbour Wit with whom she has a really great dynamic. I wholeheartedly recommend checking Red out, you might enjoy her Callous Row streams, her streams in general or find lots of other great people portraying interesting characters in Arcadum’s Callous Row, like Howlcifer (Wit, but unfortunately, his interwebs connection is currently not good enough to stream) or Roache (Polka). As I said, there are many other interesting characters whose perspective I’d love to watch but I haven’t had time to watch anyone else yet. To find people’s Twitch pages, take a look at the character list. Currently, there is one session every Friday evening (in UTC it’s 2:00 am on Saturday). And with that, I say toodle-pip and don’t let the bedcrabs bite. The ones that look and taste like Whizzo Butter.

👆 Links

Website: https://phal.io
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/phalio
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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFLp8Is-lEMpQvhoY95Gorg/
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/Phalio_
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Mastodon: https://mstdn.social/@Phalio
Matrix community: https://matrix.to/#/+hylians:phal.io
I’m on almost every site because I don’t want to exclude anyone, find out if I’m using the site you’re using here: https://phal.io/links

💾 Programmes Used

8-bit audio production: 0CC-FamiTracker https://github.com/HertzDevil/0CC-FamiTracker/releases
Pixel art: Aseprite https://www.aseprite.org/
Fideo editing: DaVinvi Resolve https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/
Screen recording, video conversion: FFmpeg https://ffmpeg.org/
Note visualisation: NSFPlay Synthesia https://bbbradsmith.github.io/nsfplay/
Audio editing, playing back and timestamping original song to analyse: Audacity https://www.audacityteam.org/

🎵 Music Used

Original song: The Famous Five (Theme) https://youtu.be/oPXhS0o_nng
German version: https://youtu.be/9QMMuqEIuFI