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Topic: OT-Film Scoring Question

  1. #1

    OT-Film Scoring Question

    Here's a question for all you film composers who normally score feature-length movies:

    Do you load the entire movie into your sequencer and end up with one big sequencer file for the whole movie? Or do you chop up the movie into individual cues and then end up with a separate sequencer file for each cue?

    I normally load the whole movie into Video Vegas and create separate MOV files for each cue. Then I create a separate project in Cubase SX2 for each cue. So, by the end of the movie, I'll have about 25 small MOV files and 25 corresponding Cubase files.

    My concern with loading the whole movie into one project in Cubase is:

    - will the video and audio tracks from the movie fall out of sync with each other and all the MIDI tracks by the end of the movie?

    - won't you end up with an un-manageable number of tracks? (I do a lot of horror flicks, so I use a lot of sound effects from VSTi's, which usually means extra tracks)

    - wouldn't you end up with a ton of VSTi instruments loaded by the end of the movie and eventually run out of CPU power? (I guess freezing tracks would come in handy here)

    The reason I'm asking is because I've been seeing more and more posts from film composers who load the whole movie in at one time instead of breaking it up into small cues.

    Hope I explained myself properly! lol!



  2. #2

    Smile Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    I score in Logic Audio, but I use a project within Vegas Video as my "Master" file. I load up the entire movie in Vegas, then I'll go into Logic and open the movie file in Logic, score a section, mix it, and bounce it down to an audio file. That audio file then gets placed in the appropriate spot in my Vegas "Master" project. I just save the work for that cue in Logic using a relevant file name, like "cue_1_Intro.lso" or whatever.

    So each cue gets it's own Logic song file. I just find this helps me to keep organized. I know a colleague of mine scores in Nuendo and uses one song file for the whole thing, but that would drive me crazy. I can't work that way - gets too cluttered, you constantly have to bounce or freeze parts, etc. For me, it's one song file per cue in Logic, each bounced audio cue is placed in Vegas. In Vegas I usually have 2 stems for the music to account for overlaps, etc., sometimes an extra couple of stems for any sound FX, etc. Also makes it easier to move cues around later if necessary.

    I find it a satisfying way to work and everything's easy to manage. Work in your sequencer, mix/bounce, flip over to Vegas to have a look at the "big picture", as it were.

    p.s. Oops, little edit because I forgot to mention tempo changes. I've come across so many people tearing their hair out over how to achieve tempo changes in this sequencer or that. If you split your cues up, this also becomes much easier to manage, rather than having all kinds of tempo changes throughout an hour and a half long prject. Also I should mention that I never break the movie into little chunks, I just open the whole movie file in Logic each time. I'm sure this isn't the most efficient method in terms of RAM usage, etc., but I've not had any problems with it so far.

  3. #3

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    Hey Steve

    Thanks for the info. That's pretty much how I work. Score a cue in Cubase, render it and bring into Vegas to watch the whole movie to make sure everything flows properly.

    I couldn't agree more with everything you said, which is why I work that way too. Everything is much more manageable. I thought maybe there was some advantage to working with one big song file for the whole movie, but I guess there isn't really.

    The only thing I do differently is that I render the movie into small MOV files for each cue. And that actually sucks because I waste time waiting for the render of each cue and, more importantly, the video quality goes downhill pretty fast, especially when you're creating a MOV file from an already-compressed MOV file.

    I'm starting a new movie today, so I'm going to try your method - load the whole movie for each cue into the sequencer instead of chopping up the movie into small MOV files. That makes perfect sense. And it'll definitely save time.



  4. #4

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    Both have their advantages and risks. One of the things that can be a bump in the road is that your master may not have been converted properly (pull up or pull down issues) when going from film to video or vice versa. So, you can end up with your cues falling out of sync once you get past reel one (and sometimes on reel one, depending on how tight the in and out might be). For that reason, I tend to break things up into pieces and just focus on the cue at hand, even if there is a crossfade into another cue or scene. That way, when you go to drop in your cue - you're dropping it in on the spot, and not allowing some timing hiccup to push it out or in and make too much work for other folks at the dub.

    For my money, I'd prefer to keep the entire thing loaded in one timeline if I had all of my ducks in a row technically and enough horsepower to carry the entire project in one session. With Nuendo 3 and a Steinberg Timebase, pull up and pull down becomes a non-issue, and many of these dual-processor machines have more than enough ponies for enough giddy-up to carry the thing through to the bitter end. The Blackmagic Decklink card has also popped up as a possibility, but most folks that I know who are using Nuendo to work on projects are sync'ing to an external device and using 9-pin to control transport.

    So, until I go through the 2005 upgrades on my system, I still deliver in individual cues with the spot location and agreed-to name - as simple as that. But I look forward to things like AAF and Broadcast Wave File format taking more of a center-stage position to make the project data transfer that much easier and we can all get back to the work that we really want to do, and not worry so much about the technical side.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    Hi Steve and Mark,

    This is almost exactly how I work as well. I sequence individual musical works, then put them on the Vegas timeline.

    The only difference is that what I put into Vegas is usually individual tracks or submix stems. In other words, I'm doing the final mixing in Vegas. I find this to be invaluable, since I can mix out to time-stamped files that are then very easy for editors to place.

    The other huge advantage to having the entire project on the timeline is in dealing with transitions. As composers, I'd say the bulk of our work on a film is in the effective handling of transitions. Scenes are easy. Transitions are a bitch. So, if everything is split into scenes (where you'd think the splits should logically occur), it is very hard to truly push through the transitions.

    I don't load the whole video into the sequencer, by the way. I just select a region in Vegas with enough pre and post-roll to cover the transition, and spit out a quickie DV file. Although DV is definitely higher res than some people like to use, I'd rather see some reduction in frame rate when the going gets tough than to wait for a more compressed filespec to uncompress and recompress itself when I need to spit out a chunk of video for the sequencer. By keeping everything in DV, Vegas doesn't do anything except quickly spit out an exact copy of whatever is on the timeline...so these smaller individual videos for the sequencer take almost no time to create.

  6. #6

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    I just thought of one nice advantage to loading the whole movie into each sequencer file instead of creating a separate MOV file for each cue.

    Say I score a cue that starts at 00:10:00;00 for example. Then, the director changes his mind (which never happens, by the way lol!) and wants the music to start at 00:09:45;00

    So, using my current method of creating a separate MOV file for each cue, I'd have to go back to Vegas, create a new MOV file, load that new MOV file back into the Cubase song file and move all my MIDI/audio tracks forward to it's back in sync with the MOV file.

    Using Steve's method, making a change like this is a no-brainer since the whole movie is in the Cubase song file and you won't have to time-shift any tracks.

    As far as what Houston was saying about keeping everything in sync, I guess I'll find out for myself! lol! I usually get movies in a digital file (MPG or MOV) with the timecode burned in the video. So I can see if things are getting out of whack.

    By the way, do you guys know of any message boards aimed at film composers (since this forum is supposed to be about sample libraries)?

  7. #7

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    I should add (in response to Houston's points) that most of the stuff I score is either filmed digitally and/or provided by my clients in Quicktime or AVI format, usually. So I don't normally worry about the sync drifting or anything as everything is in the digital domain. But you make an excellent point!

  8. #8

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    Oh, Mark beat me to it!

  9. #9

    Re: OT-Film Scoring Question

    I'm in the same boat as you, Steve. All the movies I score are digitally filmed. Someday I hope to have to deal with the same problems as you, Houston

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