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XPRTNovice

Scoring for Film

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Hey guys,

I'm going to have the opportunity to write music to go along with some fan-based youtube productions soon, and I'm wondering who out there has experience scoring or knows some good resources that I could consult. I'm a little bit at a loss of how to time everything so it makes sense, etc. and I'm looking for a place to get started. I have Cubase, so I know I can import the video there and compose along with it.

X

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I took a class from Berklee on this and learned quite a bit. A good bit of what we learned is what type of music/chord progressions goes with a specific mood. Here's an example:

***

The Action/Chase Template

All of the music this week shared some basic characteristics. All of these characteristics enhance the tension in the music, matching the energy level inherent in action/chase film scenes.

Together, these characteristics form a template for action/chase music in film scores. You can then use this template as a guide when writing your own music.

Tempo and Rhythm

The music is rhythmically unpredictable.

It is common to use odd meters-such as 5/8 and 7/8—to create rhythmic tension.

It is common to use frequent meter changes to create rhythmic tension.

All action/chase cues are fast in tempo.

Harmony

Dissonance is commonplace.

Chords using minor seconds and tritones—very dissonant intervals—are commonplace.

Key changes often occur extremely rapidly.

It is common to use scales other than the common major and minor scales.

Melody

Some action/chase music contains no melody, using only tense rhythm and harmonies to drive the music.

When melodies occur, they are short and fragmented.

Melodies are commonly based on scales other than the traditional major and minor scales. Using

pitches that form dissonant intervals with tonic and dominant is commonplace.

Orchestration

All action/chase music contains fast, repeating figures to drive the music. These are primarily

placed in the upper strings (Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, and/or Cello).

The rhythms in upper strings can be enhanced by staccato brass and/or percussion.

When sustained lines are called for, they are typically placed in upper strings and/or brass.

Woodwinds are commonly given ascending runs to enhance crescendos and runs/arpeggios that

function as background material in large orchestral passages.

Bass lines are spread across the bass instruments in all families—woodwinds, brass, strings, and

percussion.

***

This is more along the lines of doing orchestral work but you get the idea. I have found that syncing the music to what was going on in the video is a lot of trial and error. Practice goes a long with with that sort of thing. I do all of my scoring in Reaper, though, which has a fairly decent setup for adding music to a video.

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Hey guys,

I'm going to have the opportunity to write music to go along with some fan-based youtube productions soon, and I'm wondering who out there has experience scoring or knows some good resources that I could consult. I'm a little bit at a loss of how to time everything so it makes sense, etc. and I'm looking for a place to get started. I have Cubase, so I know I can import the video there and compose along with it.

X

What I do, is just import the video, select a tempo and put markers on the all the beats where I want some sort of musical change or whatever to occur.

Then, I change the time signature of the measure before the measure with the marker so that the marker will land on the first beat of the new bar as close as possible. Thus, the music should sync up with video.

You don't always have to mess with a time signature though.

Oh by the way, if at all possible, try to do something other than the epic orchestral tracks. It's like most film scores are unaware of other genres.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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What I do, is just import the video, select a tempo and put markers on the all the beats where I want some sort of musical change or whatever to occur.

Then, I change the time signature of the measure before the measure with the marker so that the marker will land on the first beat of the new bar as close as possible. Thus, the music should sync up with video.

Also, it can be a good idea to specifically pick a tempo that will make events that you want to hit in the video fall on beats rather than between beats. There are online utilities (e.g. http://www.fransabsil.nl/htm/eventhit.htm) that can help you calculate this, and some DAWs (Digital Performer) have a hit calculator built in.

Edited by Moseph

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Well, what do you know, I must be using the same notes as everyone else.

Here's a procedure, if that helps:

1) Watch the video, spot cues, hits and make notes on points of interest.

2) Figure out a good tempo for each cue. Line up hit points.

3) Determine a mood for each cue, outline harmonies and textures that make sense with what you're seeing and should feel. Start picking instruments.

4) Collect written / sequenced materials for composition: melodies / figures and flourishes (stabs, runs, clusters, etc.). Finish picking instruments.

5) Chop the video up into more manageable slices by the cue; always give yourself a couple measures to lead in before the cue actually starts.

6) ???

7) Profit.

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Talk to whoever's editing the videos. Even if they're not music ppl, they can tell you about mood and things in a non-music language. Any half-decent video editor will either edit to temp music (giving the vid a good rhythm for you to work with) or otherwise adjust the cut to the music once they have the music. If you know anything about video editing, think like an editor. Or, if the production isn't that coordinated and/or the videos don't need super-synced music, just write stuff that's useful in a variety of scenes.

tl;dr: talk to the editor.

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And if they're asking you to sync the composition to the video (and they don't just want general music that they'll cut to the picture in editing), make sure they give you a locked video -- this means that all of the cuts and scene lengths are finalized. If they go back to the video and change things after you've done the composing, either you'll end up having to waste time rewriting the music (bad) or they'll hack your existing music up to fit the new edit (also bad). Amateur directors especially tend not to understand how much of a problem this is for a composer, so make sure the video they give you is locked, and throw a fit if they tell you it's locked and then change it.

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Along the same lines as what Rozovian said, I'd recommend that you spot the video with the editor or music editor, and the producer(s) if possible. That is, you'll want to sit down together (or video conference), watch the whole thing through and make detailed notes on in/out points for different cues, what mood each scene is trying to convey, how any particularly tricky or important frames should be hit, where you should differ from the temp score (if there is one), etc. If it's, say, a 4-5 minute video with no dialogue and you just need a continuous song playing behind it, it might be okay to skip a formal spotting session. But for anything even slightly more complicated than that-- no matter how low-budget or low-experience-- at the very least, have a conversation about what they want and expect with the score.

A job can easily take two or three times as long as it should if you start writing without spotting notes and it turns out that the producer wanted something completely different. You can avoid several rounds of unnecessary revisions if you talk about what your plans are first. Also, demo your score before spending money on any potential live recording.

The rest of the advice in this topic is pretty consistent with what I've heard and seen. After doing a general spot with your client, you'll want to re-spot each cue on your own in greater detail, with a finer grain, leave markers in places you want to hit, and most importantly, choose a tempo before you start writing. Probably the second most common way to make a job take longer than it should is to start writing chunks of a cue without committing to a tempo and key. You don't want to be scrambling to connect disparate sections of a cue at the end.

Good luck! =)

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