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From Car Plant GIFs to a Custom Dance Track

How YouTube sensation So Nevable used Toyota's project Gifony to make his latest Launchpad song

by Largetail
on 29 April 2015
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Building a car from scratch, it turns out, results in a polyphony of rhythms and melodies as team members, 15,432-pound robots, stamping presses and more work in sync on vehicles rolling down the assembly line. Through their latest project Gifony, Toyota gives the public a rare and fascinating glimpse at the car manufacturing process in a creative way. The story of how a car is made is told through 45 musical GIFs—actual audio and video recordings from two of their plants in Blue Springs, Mississippi and Georgetown, Kentucky. From a small army of robots welding on the main line to shell bodies being dipped phosphorous baths (to prep for paint), each GIF is not only informative, but mixes well with others to create a song that could easily sneak its way onto a party playlist.

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To show the range of Gifony's potential use, Toyota partnered with So Nevable—a DJ who has garnered a dedicated online following thanks to magical performances like Tetris Hero 98% Expert—to play around with the intuitive platform. The result is an electronic music track "Beat Factory" that sizzles, swings and soars—and it's completely created using only sounds from Toyota's two plants. It had us itching to learn more about Nev, as you see little beyond his fingers flying across the screen in his YouTube performance videos.

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Currently based just outside of Denver, Colorado, Nev, who grew up playing guitar, developed an interest in live performing electronic music after watching a video of someone using an AKAI APC40. Nev later invested in a similar controller, the Launchpad, without knowing too much about it and found himself stumped at first by its required programming. He, in fact, didn't it use it for some time—until a friend came over and Nev brought the device out of its box to introduce him to Ableton software. Like finally cracking a brain-teaser in the form of 64 buttons, Nev says, "This monstrosity called a Launchpad was actually one of the most incredible pieces of equipment I’d ever laid hands on. Within two hours, we had an entire song chopped up ready to play live on the Launchpad with lightshow and all. That song later became my first upload onto YouTube."

While Nev's flying fingers make live Launchpad performances look effortless in his YouTube videos, a lot goes behind the scenes, mostly in preparation mode. "Programming this beast takes the most time and creativity. Novation designed the Launchpad like a blank canvas for electronic musicians," explains Nev. "That amount of openness is both a blessing and a curse. It means that there are limitless ways a user can perform on the Launchpad, but figuring out how to accomplish what you want it to do can be a monumental task." Knowing how frustrating it can be to set up a project start to finish (it takes him about two weeks, including memorizing the final performance), Nev freely provides project files of his videos, instead of keeping them to himself, as a way to service his admiring fans—many of whom are budding DJs themselves. "New users don’t have to go through what I did and get discouraged. They can play their favorite songs right away after getting one and I’m happy to say that releasing project files is the norm now in the Launchpad community and the content available is growing at a wild rate."

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Similarly, the accessibility and versatility of Toyota's Gifony is also what attracted Nev to the innovative platform. "The Gifony site teaches the users how to assemble video and sounds clips into a collaborative piece, which may help them in making their own videos/music," he says. And even though there are just 45 GIF samples to work with, it's remarkable to hear the diversity of the tracks that are created from artists and users who have participated. Nev himself created custom melodies from the machine sounds by pitching the samples through Ableton.

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"I get pretty bored with synth sounds so I like to sample real instruments or vocals and then layer them with effects and synths—I actually love to use animal sounds," he says. It might surprise many to hear that in his upcoming track "Solar," the deep growling sound heard 50 seconds in is fact a slowed down walrus. "My favorite animal and way better than narwhals, I don’t care what anyone says," he laughs.

"Playing around with the sounds from the Toyota plant was particularly awesome and a unique challenge," says Nev. "They sampled this drill sound which I ended up using for the main melody of Beat Factory. The sound is so dynamic that it could never have come from a synth alone. Then there's this massive machine that looks like it stamps out metal which became a really killer kick drum."

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When most music producers are working with samples in digital audio workstations like Ableton, they often only see its waveform display (which shows the sample's amplitude over time). Thus, what makes Gifony even more engaging is the accompanying sights in sync with the sounds. "I've always been extremely visual, so seeing the video clips of the cars being assembled, paired with the sounds really helps with the creative process," says Nev. "There's this one clip where the entire shell of a Corolla is dipped into a vat of liquid which really opened my eyes to the scale of the operation it takes to assemble vehicles. I loved seeing the human machine interaction, too. At some points giant robot arms lift the whole car into the air, but many jobs still require that human touch. I tried to convey this in my video by using images of only robotic automation during the creepy industrial intro, and then added images with the human employees right at the uplifting build of the song."

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Keep an eye out for So Nevable's project file of "Beat Factory," which will be released soon so users can also play (and remix) it on their own Launchpads. "I can't wait to see what the rest of the Launchpad community comes up with using these sounds," finishes Nev.

Explore the car production process and create your own Gifony by visiting Toyota's dedicated website.

Portrait courtesy of So Nevable, all other images courtesy of Toyota

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