Last modification: 01/19/08 19:26

Production Notes - "Live To Rock", SAXON's "Riff King" YouTube Guitar Solo Contest Entry

“I remember the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal as if it were only yesterday. Which is why I deserve to be Riff King, so I can unretire my Denim And Leather and take part once again in the Power And The Glory in the land of my heavy metal brothers. Rock On!”

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this contest, but it was an obvious fit. Hats off to NWOBHM bandmates Saxon for breathing life into what probably would have been just another album release by giving punters like me a chance to play over one of their tracks and win an all-expenses paid vacation with the boys. First time playing over this, I thought "hmm... a bit meat & potatoes, and in a rather odd key to boot." But I slept on it, and by the next day the solo was there waiting to be corralled. At the time, I thought that "Live To Rock" (the backing song) from their upcoming album hadn't been released yet - but when I later discovered it was, I compared the real solo to mine... and changed nothing. However, I did end up paying a bit of extra attention to my tone as their production was quite good! Try it yourself - you can grab my Line6 "Riff King" GearBox guitar patch here1. (see footnote)

YouTube Contest rules:
Backing & Active entries:
Playlist archives:
MySpace Riff King Contest page:
MySpace Saxon page:

Enjoy the solo!

CapnZilog used:
Instruments: Ibanez S2170FW (neck pickup), MAB string dampener, Dunlop 1.5mm "Gator Grip" pick, Elixir Nanoweb strings
Line 6 TonePort UX8, Stewart Electronics ADB-1, Shure SM58 (ADR), Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF
Mackie HR824's, Sennheiser HD-580's (mixing), Sennheiser HD-280 Pro (ADR)
Audio Editing: SONAR Producer 8.0.2, Sony Sound Forge 9.0e
Audio Effects: Line6 GearBox, Rocksonics Subfilter II, iZotope Ozone, Oxford Inflator, D82 Sonic Maximizer
Video Editing: Sony Vegas 8.0c, Corel Photo-Paint X4, Power Tab Editor v1.7, Media Converter Pro
Mastering: Waves L2 Ultramaximizer, L3 Multimaximizer
Encoding: Sony Vegas 8.0c

Creative Commons License This video is licensed under the United States Creative Commons 3.0 license "Attribution-Noncommercial" and partially based on a public backing at Some Rights Reserved.

1 Although the original contest entry was recorded using GearBox, later versions were reamped using an Engl 530/BB Plus overdrive combination. These would include the "Educational" video version on YouTube and all versions on this Website. For the Edu mix the performance was convolved with Recabinet speaker impulses, but the latter was reamped using a miked up Grendel iso cab with the lid open. Basically, I tried everything - and in the end, they all turned out surprisingly similar! The later versions sound a touch better but it was truly a case of diminishing returns. ;)

Video Compression Notes - Just For The Curious

Regarding the video itself, this was my first time creating content for YouTube and I can say I spent a solid week experimenting with YouTube's submission compressor trying to figure out what encoding would lose as few bits as possible - in both the video and audio realms. YouTube's own help files vary slightly on this topic: On you have:

Best Formats for Uploading
YouTube can accept almost any video format for upload, but for most users we have found the following settings give the best results.

Video Format: H.264, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 preferred
Aspect Ratio: Native aspect ratio without letterboxing (examples: 4:3, 16:9)
Resolution: 640x360 (16:9) or 480x360 (4:3) recommended
Audio Format: MP3 or AAC preferred
Frames per second: 30
Maximum length: 10 minutes (we recommend 2-3 minutes)
Maximum file size: 1 GB

Meanwhile, at you have:

Video Resolution Recommended: 1280 x 720 (16x9 HD) and 640 x 480 (4:3 SD)
There is no required minimum resolution - in general the higher resolution the better and HD resolution is preferred. For older content, lower resolution is unavoidable.
Bit rate Because bit-rate is highly dependent on codec there is no recommended or minimum value. Videos should be optimized for resolution, aspect ratio and frame rate rather than bit rate.
Frame rate The frame rate of the original video should be maintained without re-sampling. In particular pulldown and other frame rate re-sampling techniques are strongly discouraged.
Codec H.264, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 preferred.
Audio Codec MP3 or AAC preferred
Sampling rate 44.1kHz
Channels 2 (stereo)

And then, at you have:

We accept most file formats, including .wmv, .mov, .mpg, or .avi. If your video meets these minimum requirements and still won't upload, it may be due to a problem with the video compression you are using. We recommend the MPEG4 (Divx, Xvid, SVQ3) format at 640x480 resolution with MP3 audio. Resizing your video to these specifications before uploading will help your clips look better on YouTube.

Making this even more confusing is that some earlier versions of YouTube's help recommended uploading at 29.97FPS, as this was YouTube's "native" frame rate and you should help it along by not having to perform pulldown. WTF! None of this information is complete, and none of it reaches consensus. Ultimately, given a video where most of the content was webcam footage at 640x480x15fps along with a very high quality (32-bit) audio mix, the best possible option was to go with .AVI since it's the only format YouTube recognizes that supports uncompressed 24-bit stereo audio. (Heck - it'll even support uncompressed video, as long as your file size isn't larger than 1GB!)

Now. Ultimately, YouTube crunches everything down to some version of MPEG 4, be it called H.264, .MP4, XviD or DivX. Sony Vegas' Main Concept .MP4 encoder works great, but since it doesn't show up when saving as an .AVI codec in Vegas 8, you've gotta use DivX. And Since YouTube, DivX and Main Concept are all in bed together, (and DivX purchased MainConcept prior to the release of DivX 7 Pro), it's all good.

That nails down the codec and the file format. Now, 640x480 is clearly a preferred file format for YouTube, even if it's not quite native - YouTube's low quality Flash encodings of 640x480 videos end up at 320x240, and their high-quality versions end up at 480x360 - all of which share the same 4:3 resolution aspect ratio. In regards to the frame rate, it didn't seem to matter whether I uploaded to YouTube at 15fps, 30fps or 29.97fps, they all came back at 29.97 fps in both quality modes.

Now in regards to the video itself, since most of my content was 15fps Webcam footage, it compressed similarly whether rendered to 15fps, 29.97 or 30fps since nearly half the frames would end up being duplicated at the higher frame rates. However, since keyframed titled animation do interpolate smoother at higher frame rates, it's still worth project rendering at 30fps and passing this off to the codec as source material. The result of all this experimentation boils down to:

  1. At Render time, set your Sony Vegas Project settings to 29.97fps (30 for Windows Media) if your source material is below this. Mix your audio at 44.1K.
  2. Choose .AVI as your output format, DivX (NTSC resolution - 640x480/square pixels, 29.97fps) as your video codec, and Uncompressed 44.1K 24-Bit Stereo as your audio codec.
  3. Customize your DivX codec as desired (Div-X 1-Pass Quality Mode w/Fixed Quantizer set to 1 is a good choice for mastering purposes).

Save this as a template, then Render. Later on, if you decide to render to a more computer-friendly format like Windows Media Video, render to 30fps - like god intended! (See: "God Invented The Integers. All Else Is The Work Of Man.")

Go to bed and rest easy, knowing that YouTube is going to damage your video as little as physically possible. Good night!


 (5/4/2013) from

Export to QuickTime Movie (iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or Quicktime Pro suggested)

Video settings
•Compression Type: H.264
•Frame Rate: 30 is preferred. 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 are also acceptable.
•Data Rate: Automatic
•Key Frames: Automatic
•Frame Reordering: Unchecked

Audio/Sound settings
•Format: AAC
•Click Show advanced settings and choose Constant Bit Rate as encoding strategy

Other settings
•Size: Choose the original size of the video
•“Prepare for Internet Streaming”: Fast Start

 (2/27/2015) Latest info: and


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