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Topic: Composing to still changing cues

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  1. #1

    Composing to still changing cues

    (Inspired by the "how fast do you write" thread)

    Most of the stuff I get involved in, have their schedules so that the composer start up the music creation from a script, cue list, a 50% finished cutting, video-ed storyboard or animatic and such. Things like cues and timings WILL change, and the music will also have to change to a certain degree to match those changes.

    They figure that the music is the single most lengthy one part of the making process. Deciding on at least 98% of the cues, and then basically having the project "on hold" while the composer does his stuff, before being able to move on with the project is simply too lengthy - and thereby too costly, or in any other way not practically motivated. I can understand that argument and I partially agree - in silent protest .

    To me, getting to work with a 100% set thing, where the cues will not change is a dream, but has only happened twice for me. So, I accept starting up my thing before the cues are decided 100% and I keep that in mind when writing, so that things are created in an as adaptable way as I can without sacrificing too much quality. However, this also inflicts on the level of quality I think, since adaptable and fluid is not the same thing at all.

    I would like to hear how you guys think of these situations? What are you being asked to do, and what have you experienced? what requirements do you ask for (or demand) in these situations? Since these conflicts of interest seems to be very common.
    Kid: When I become an adult I wanna be a musician.
    Parent: Son, you cannot become both.

  2. #2

    Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomke

    They figure that the music is the single most lengthy one part of the making process. Deciding on at least 98% of the cues, and then basically having the project "on hold" while the composer does his stuff, before being able to move on with the project is simply too lengthy - and thereby too costly, or in any other way not practically motivated. I can understand that argument and I partially agree - in silent protest .
    Do not agree with this argument; "they" are wrong. The most lengthy part is filming the blasted thing!!! They can't move on with the project during the filming either.

    The problem is that during the composing process the director is often at a loss what to do with his (her) time, so therefore the music is taking too long however long it takes. You have two basic choices; either write non-specific wallpaper that can be shoehorned into whatever cut is the final one, or only write to a locked cut. Only you can know which is more appropriate.

    IMO both approaches are valid in different circumstances so you have to make your choices on a project by project basis.

    Daryl

  3. #3

    Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Working on a film that is not "locked" is a disaster waiting to happen. It just isn't possible to write music properly to an unlocked film.

    Now, just because the effects aren't completely finished doesn't mean the film can't be locked. A director SHOULD know how long his effects shots are going to run, even if they haven't been completed.

    On every film, there are likely to be last minute edits that either require rewrites or require the sound editor to splice up the music to fit the last minute edits. But you should expect a film to be at least 98% locked before you work on it. Anything less and you are getting jerked around, IMO. Also, writing music to scripts is complete BS. You have to see the visuals of a film to know how the music needs to fit in. Sure, you can start working out some thematic elements, but unless you are just going to do bland wallpapering of the film, you HAVE to see it to even being to do it right.

  4. #4

    Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie_H
    Now, just because the effects aren't completely finished doesn't mean the film can't be locked. A director SHOULD know how long his effects shots are going to run, even if they haven't been completed.
    I agree 100%. Unfortunately I got caught out when a production company decided that they couldn't afford the effects for some of the planned shots and consequently re-cut to shorten the scene. Of course I had to re-write to match the new cut (through no fault of my own) but at least I managed to get an increase in my budget to pay for the extra hours that I (and other people) had to put in in order to meet the deadline.

    Daryl

  5. #5

    Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Hmm. Although we might not like it, it is a fact of life that we all have to work to changing picture a great deal these days. I'm not sure that it helps to waste too much energy fighting this, or becoming hostile to the rest of the film-makers. I've used and seen a number of ways of conforming your cues to re-cut scenes, and the techniques apply whether you have a team of 30 working on a major movie, or you're producing an electronic score yourself.

    Things to try are: getting friendly with the editor and learning to read the change notes they can produce from the Avid, or equivalent; putting the 2 versions of the picture side by side in final cut and scanning for changes; using lots of markers in Logic/DP are conforming your tempo map to the new scene etc etc etc

    If you're having to go through this process yourself without a music editor the key is to stay very organised in terms of the version number of your cue, and how it relates to the version of picture. Proper file naming is crucial, as are sync references such as dialog splashes or pips. Home-made databases and big charts on the wall can work wonders!

    Best of luck

    Michael Price
    composer and music editor!!

  6. #6

    Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelprice
    Hmm. Although we might not like it, it is a fact of life that we all have to work to changing picture a great deal these days.

    Best of luck

    Michael Price
    composer and music editor!!
    While you are quite right when you say that this is the way it is, however I think that it does help to make noise collectively about it. Many directors simply do not realise what a quick re-cut can do to an already composed cue. I remember a very established composer saying that in his opinion, a lot of the problem is that a mature composer will have scored up to 5 pictures a year and are much more experienced than the majority of directors.

    Of course, as a music editor you have a vested interest in re-cuts :>))

    Daryl

  7. #7

    Smile Re: Composing to still changing cues

    Quote Originally Posted by Daryl

    Of course, as a music editor you have a vested interest in re-cuts :>))

    Daryl
    lol! As a music editor most of my vested interests are in getting to the pub before it shuts. You do make a fair point about standing up for ourselves within the process, and you are of course right that some (not all) directors don't understand the damage and frustration caused by "just trimming a few frames out, here and there"!. I just think that some projects are going to have some conforming built into the schedule, whether we like it or not, and having your systems nailed, however you want to manage the political relationships, is going to prevent any last-minute meltdowns.

    best wishes

    Michael

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