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Topic: An Interesting Parallel

  1. #1

    An Interesting Parallel

    About 10-12 years ago 3D animation was in it\'s infancy. I was trying to get into it and the jobs were scarce. $100,000 SGI\'s running $60,000 Softimage licenses were only afforded by major post houses who in turn charged a premium for the time and talent it took to create with them. Then along came 3D Studio and Lightwave. They couldn\'t hold a candle to the \"big boys\" but kept nipping away at their heels. Now 3D is everywhere and that $5000 logo flip is now $500 or less. The \"big boys\" are all but gone and those that are still around have had to drastically lower their prices to compete. More importantly the talent (people) that drove those machines do not command such a high price any more. You can sit in your parents basement and crank out miracles with a tiny investment.

    I see a very similar wave happening with orchestration. Years ago, only a handful of composers would ever hear their work \"rendered\" by a real orchestra. Then along came samples and workstations. Again, couldn\'t hold a candle to the real thing but they kept nipping away as well. Now here we have Garritan, Dan Dean, Sam, KHSS, EWQLSO, VSLO, AO, EIEIO [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] , etc. An amazing sonic pallete literally at our fingertips. Orchestras being sampled so that we don\'t have to call them anymore. Listen to the user demos on VSLO\'s site alone. Magic!

    Now the real competition begins. The notes! Because again, for a relatively small investment, we can have all of the sound of an orchestra (OK close anyway). It\'s knowing what to do with them that\'s the tricky part! Are the people who write music professionally feeling this crunch? Bruce mentioned in another post that very few movies require blockbuster scores. Is it harder to get work now that everybody with a bit of talent and the right tools can fool the layman? I recently saw a website where an amatuer composer was giving away free music for people to use in their projects with the hope that oneday one of them would be a famous director and call him up. What astouneded me most was that his music was very, very good. Is it more about marketing yourself and relationships than the notes? I guess, as with all disciplines, the \"cream will rise to the top\". I just hope there\'s some room for me! Any of your thoughts would be welcomed!

    Just thinking out loud,


    PS Sorry for the extra long post [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  2. #2

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Originally posted by dpasdernick:
    Sorry for the extra long post [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Never apologize for being smart and concise. Your post was long, but not long-winded. [img]images/icons/grin.gif[/img]

    I couldn\'t agree with you more. Look at two examples:

    1) Moog: He went from large wall-covering systems (mainly the province of studios, save for the oddball rock keyboard god) and then came out with the Minimoog - and an industry was born. The Mini was able to create a good portion of the infinite possibilities of the modular systems (for a fraction of the cost), and musical capability got into the hands of a huge number of musicians.

    2) On the other side, we have the Fairlight and Synclavier. Again, huge synth and sampling engines based on what we\'d now consider inferior technology. Now, we have multiphonic ringtones on our cell phones, and we can download audio files of our favorite movie themes to our communication devices for $.99. In between that, we got Kurzweil, Korg, Emu Systems, Ensoniq, Yamaha, Roland, et al doing things that no one could have imagined in the Moog days (or maybe they were imagining it - just couldn\'t do anything about it) - with the next leap coming from sound fonts on computer cards, ASIO and VST technology and the rest of the virtual instrument frameworks that are now all over microcomputers.

    So, what\'s next? I think the balance will shift from the people that have the technology, to the poeple that have the great creative ideas. It used to be that if you had a big studio in a big town - you got work. Not necessarily so, any more. I\'m in L.A. in order to pursue film scoring work. But the fact of the matter is that the technology that followed me here is what made it feasible for me to be here.

    Essentially, I have two computers, a large controller keyboard, an outboard audio convertor and a mixer and monitors for hearing the results. Ten years ago to carry that capability from coast to coast would have cost me $10,000 (taking that I\'d have all hardware synths and massive racks of processing gear instead of two PCs) and I would need to rent a separate space just to house all of that crap, instead of carving out a bit of space on one side of my apartment. That\'s what I call progress! [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] But seriously, I simply could not afford to bring myself to this town any other way.

    I have a virtual Moog Modular, Yamaha CS-80, and Korg Wavestation in my computer - that\'s beside the huge sampler libraries and odd assortment of sounds there that allow me to mimic what I actually hear in my head. It\'s a great time to be alive - but I literally would not be here if it were not for the progress in technology. And I dare say that I wouldn\'t be attempting to jump into the market unless the technology allowed me to work this way. [img]images/icons/cool.gif[/img]

  3. #3

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Great post, Darren.

    Unfortunately, I think the movie business has much more to do with who you know and how good you are \"in the room\" than it has to do with \"the notes\" or the talent.

    Most of the people who make the decisions in Hollywood have no real idea what talent is. Decisions on who to hire are most often made based on who they feel comfortable working with. The product -- for the executives, at least -- is only as good as its box office.

    Extremely talented people in all phases of the industry -- including composers -- are left by the wayside because they don\'t have the right social skills.

    I know this sounds harsh, but anyone who says it isn\'t true has never really worked in Hollywood.

  4. #4

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Darren, I sure wouldn\'t worry too much about not being in Hollywood. That\'s a tiny percentage of the total work available to you as a composer. There are amazing projects everywhere, which may not play every movie house in the world, but which still pay good, real money, and which may afford you a lifestyle you could never maintain in LA. [/QB][/QUOTE]


    There\'s a certain romance that one can conjur up in his/her head on what their dream job/spouse/home/etc is. I often wish I had the nerve way back when to move to LA and sweat it out until I became a rich rock star. Last year I bumped into a dude who was selling drums at Mars music. He was about 50. He talked about the \"almosts\" and \"could have beens\". It\'s funny \'cause as I was sitting there dreaming of chucking it all in and \"going on the road again!!\" he was looking at me saying \"I wish I had done what you did\" It\'s easy to pine for the lure of a place like Hollywood, \'cause I think of myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr Hans Zimmer and Ridley Scott contemplating what we\'ll have for lunch at the Polo Lounge. I never picture myself, living in a 1 bedroom apartment eyeing the dog \'cause I haven\'t had a good meal in a while while I hawk drum sets to wide eyed youngsters who\'ll mostly end up selling drumsets to younger wide eyed youngsters! Sorry for rambling, it\'s just nice to talk to people who share the same thoughts!! So anyway, who needs a song? [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]


  5. #5

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Originally posted by Bruce A. Richardson:

    Rob...I didn\'t actually think you were cynical, just realistic. Some people take a cynical view of that idea, though. And no joke about the changes!! I always look at changes as a head start on my next project--good ideas already in the can!! Literally, haha. I actually LOVE getting good direction, because it stretches me in ways I clearly didn\'t think of going. I prefer strong direction any day over projects that lack it. Those are always highly painful in my experience, and end up actually being more work.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Again, I can relate this more to screenwriting, but there\'s nothing worse than a lack of direction from the creative team. I\'ve sat in story meetings in which the people in charge either had vastly opposing viewpoints or had no idea at all what they wanted.

    Dealing with such situations is a juggling act of the highest magnitude. On the one show I\'ve scored, the people involved knew EXACTLY what they wanted -- and that was amazingly refreshing.

  6. #6

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    What a cool thread!

    You know what\'s funny . . . and I\'m by no means a long-time professional, but my first couple gigs for video game soundtracks came from simply being nice to the developers and talking to them a lot right from the beginning. Making new friends. Then the work naturally follows if they like hanging out with you! (Assuming you deliver a good product, of course.) And these days you don\'t even need to live in Hollywood; I\'ve landed great independent projects just over the internet!

    I think that as more and more people are able to produce high-quality audio and music for film, games, and other media, it won\'t become an issue of finding a composer with the skill and tools, necessarily, but rather, finding a composer who you like working with and who can deliver and has a track record of giving developers and directors what they want. The \"techy requirements\" side of it is cooling down and it\'s even more about people working together than it was years ago. I think it\'s a great change though because I\'m a poor musician but even I can get my hands on the tools that will make me successful. One isn\'t necessarily held down by lack of funds anymore. Now it\'s just creativity . . . and people.

    Happy Holidays,
    Scott Morton

  7. #7

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Originally posted by sonicthreadz:

    The \"techy requirements\" side of it is cooling down and it\'s even more about people working together than it was years ago.

    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">That\'s true, but I think this is a scary prospect to a lot of people. They seem to think that having the biggest and best tools (and I\'ve fallen into this trap myself) is somehow going to translate into work. This may have been the case at one point in the game, but I think it\'s less and less true as time goes on.

  8. #8

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Originally posted by sonicthreadz:
    Now it\'s just creativity . . . and people.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Bob Moog told me about a composer that explained to him the \"E.A.T.\" philosophy to success in music: \"Ego, Ambition, and Talent\"...

    ...to which a co-worker of mine chimed in with perfect accuracy, \"or you could substitute \"TIME\" for \"Talent\" and probably get there too. [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

    I\'m feeling that now - it\'s not the tools that the critical component to getting good work done - it\'s time. [img]images/icons/frown.gif[/img]

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Great topic.

    I think it\'s easier to get work now. A lot of people have the tools to produce, but the same number of people have the dedication to obtain the skillset.

    Even if a person learns to knock off a musical genre to a tee, that is about 10% of what it takes to actually work. You need decent social and conversational skills. You should be able to discuss all of the arts, history, current events...there are constant artistic discussions referencing them. If your response is, \"I\'m not really familiar with that,\" every time someone triest to make a reference, it makes it difficult for people to frame their ideas. If you\'re talking with directors, you need to know something about dramatic arts, acting, transition, atmosphere, lighting...all the components of stagecraft in theater and filmmaking, and the terminology used in discussing them with your fellow designers/collaborators/authors. You should know the difference in Shakespeare and Chekhov as it applies to storytelling. Or O\'Keefe and Ehn and Wellman, for that matter. You should know who Kate, Petruchio, Falstaff, Kostya, Arlechino, Zanni, Cyntia, Horatio, Timon, etc., are, and what they represent as universal characters. Those are characterizations that directors will refer to constantly in outlining plot and character to you, long before anything gets shot or rehearsed. You\'ve got to be busy by that time, and know how those historical contexts are informing the work you\'re expected to be a full collaborator in!! If you are doing theatre, and someone tells you there\'s going to be fog in a scene, you should know that Rosco fog goes up and dry ice fog goes down, and be smart enough to ask what look is planned. It\'s a completely different atmosphere, and you have to know enough to get the information you need to work. That is the added task of being a collaborator in mixed/performance media. It\'s the reason I\'m so gung-ho on education. A good liberal arts education doesn\'t just give you music skills, it broadens you and connects you up to the larger world of the arts.

    You need to know when it\'s time to throw down your credit card and treat the crew. You should know when it\'s time to throw down the credit card and treat the director!! And functionally, you should know what is expected in a collaborative artistic relationship, where the boundaries lie, where the potholes hide, and how to lead a team and a project to completion.

    Finally, you have to be someone that other people like to hang out with!!

    So, I think the tools have helped make it easy to do work you wouldn\'t have been able to do as cheaply before--and they do flatten the playing field. But as far as more people being actually ON the playing field, that remains to be seen in my experience. Being musically capable is just expected, and therefore, is almost moot. It\'s knowing all the other stuff, and being a functional collaborator, that is 90% of getting and maintaining enough work to pay rent. And those skills are largely separate from the tools, unaffected completely by them.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: An Interesting Parallel

    Rob and I must have been responding simultaneously. The \"rules\" are pretty much the same outside of Hollywood. I don\'t feel particuarly cynical about it, regarding the good-talent-gets-overlooked-in-favor-of phenomenon. Fact is, you have to collaborate on so many levels in a big project, that you really need those skills. They are as important to the outcome of the product as your musical talent. If you\'re not an effective collaborator on every level, the integration into the project just doesn\'t come, or certainly doesn\'t come easy.

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