New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

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New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

In a film scoring course I took a couple of years ago, the instructor mentioned that a great exercise to practice film scoring is to download a movie that's in the Public Domain and try scoring that. Of course this is not a new idea, but thanks to the Internet, getting hold of Public Domain works is easier than ever.

I've decided to adopt that idea and will try my hand at scoring the 1925 silent film Lost World using only hardware synths, naturally.

I'm rather excited for this one because I love both tone poems and leitmotifs and this is a chance to try my hand at both!

Surprisingly, the film itself holds up rather well, which is a relief as many films in the Public Domain are pretty dodgy. :)

I'll be using this thread to keep track of my progress, as I imagine this may take a while to complete.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Martin Walker »

Wow! Now this thread I shall be watching very closely 8-)

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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by IAA »

Wow indeed. I’ve followed your work Ben and very impressed I am. Really looking forward to this project, I loved reading the lost world as a lad. Thinking of the “Challenger” motif.......
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

We could make it more real world for you -
Like Danny Elfman and Thomas Newman both got fired from this gig and you are hired. :bouncy:
Sadly your budget will get eaten up in litigation with those composers and all music related expenses come from what’s left of your meager all-in fee. But don’t despair because the Producers family will pitch in with thoughts about the direction you should take. (Oh wait, they never agree on anything!)
They all are in a meeting as we speak because some are thinking of recutting the ending, but you can work with the cut you have for now, any changes will be at the 11th hour, but as you work with a computer they will be easy fixes. There was a rumour about using a Rolling Stones track but that would eat up the rest of your fee and then some so you might have to do a clone version that says “Satisfaction” without violating copyright. Speaking of that the new Producer wants to own all your music, both Publishing and Writers share because that’s what the Americans like to do. Don’t forget you’ll also have to do the trailer music, a :30, :60 and 1:10 (for the Japanese market) and shorten the length of your cues for the shortened DVD version as we need space on that disk for adverts. Your contract will arrive by the final mix date, it won’t need any changes. Good luck and have fun. BTW - you got the memo that the mix is in 18 days? The Producer and family don’t want anything to interfere with their holiday at their villa in southern Spain.
:tongue:
(The above is all fictional and never happens in real life)
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Got through the intro and first scene last night. This is going to take some doing!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

Will you share the final film or sections as you finish them? I was inspired to do Metropolis many years ago but before I could start a composer who had been similarly inspired had the idea to play his score live with a group of musicians in the movie theatre. I heard it was very cool.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

ManFromGlass wrote:Will you share the final film or sections as you finish them? I was inspired to do Metropolis many years ago but before I could start a composer who had been similarly inspired had the idea to play his score live with a group of musicians in the movie theatre. I heard it was very cool.

I think I heard about that as well ...

I will probably wait until it's complete before I send it out into the wild. It's a ton of music, and I don't want to worry about mixing it at the same time.

I had to give myself a crash course in DaVinci Resolve this morning as I realised that a) I don't have any video editing software and b) I know nothing about video editing at all!

I was able to get the opening and the first seen rendered, though ... this is going to be a HUGE file when it's done!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

What’s your main DAW? I assume it plays back video. Just curious why you need Resolve? To make the video file smaller? Or run better in your DAW?
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

DAW is Logic Pro, it does support video, but renders video as .MOV files and I learned the hard way that .MOV doesn’t play well with cloud storage or streaming very reliably. I am using Resolve to convert the scenes to .MP4 so I can access them remotely.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

I had an unexpected pocket of time yesterday waiting for some stems to be uploaded (I also score an actual play podcast) and I got a good chunk of Scene 2 done yesterday. I have to re listen to it today to see if it needs anything else added. So far I’ve been able to keep it pretty sparse: 808 drum machine, some percussion samples, Moog bass line, and one orchestral element (strings and brass thus far).

Scene 3 is long enough for me to try my hand at either a pad or drone, will see what fits.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

I use Handbrake to convert files to smaller sizes and/or different formats. I think it’s still free and does a great job. It’s also really fast.
When I’m sending cues for approval I’ll export the mov file of only the scene I worked on from Logic, probably with about 20 seconds run up to the scene, do a really quick convert in Handbrake using the iphone format preset so it’s small but the audio quality remains high. Sometimes I’ll keep the full movie in my Logic folder when sending to other computers as the file will be tiny. But I’ll keep the uncompressed quality version on my main machine.
If you chunk the movie into scenes that need music the file won’t be big and take no time to up/download.
Sorry if I might be repeating things you already know, but I like to start Logic songs for each cue 12 bars before where I want the cue to start because sometimes you want to move your start point sooner. This is easier than messing around with adding new bars before bar 1.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Great tips, thanks!!

As this is a silent film, I'm going to try to have the score be continuous throughout. Will see how successful I am!!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

A good challenge for sure. But if you include a bit of sound design used in a musical way you might find your music has more impact when it is there. Or not!

Are you creating a Logic song for each cue you do? Or are you using 1 master song to write in?
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

ManFromGlass wrote:A good challenge for sure. But if you include a bit of sound design used in a musical way you might find your music has more impact when it is there. Or not!

Are you creating a Logic song for each cue you do? Or are you using 1 master song to write in?

Yes, each cue is a separate session.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Martin Walker »

I'm really looking forward to hearing some (or indeed all) of this when it's finished, as it's a fascinating project!

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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

ManFromGlass wrote:A good challenge for sure. But if you include a bit of sound design used in a musical way you might find your music has more impact when it is there. Or not!


Sorry, I got called into a work call earlier and wanted to respond to the first part of your post but had to run!

My thinking is not too far off from yours in that regard, as there will be some ambient/drone/soundscape cues as well, it won't just be a collection of 2 minute synth jams. :D
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

One other thing, Ben. The film doesn’t have timecode. But if you have a Master song set up correctly with the film and you always make your music sections from this Master then the final mix of each cue, if done as bwav, can always be automatically lined up in the Master at it’s correct start time with the handy Key Command - Move Region To Recorded Position.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Oh, that’s great to know! Thanks!!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Started work on Scene 3 last night, and my first long cue at about five minutes. Feels great to stretch out with some filtered noise and an ominous Lyra-8 drone!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

One scene left to the first act! Once it’s done I’ll make a mock up of what I have thus far and see how it flows.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by ManFromGlass »

Happy to give feedback if that could be useful.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

ManFromGlass wrote:Happy to give feedback if that could be useful.

Thanks, that's very kind of you. I'll keep it in mind.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Since I started setting up the JV-1080 as a single Berlin School synth, I now see where workstations come into play in media composition: everything in sync and in tune, and the speed in which you can work is so much faster than with the modular.

I’ve pretty much decided that for this project to succeed I am going to have to approach it using the same single-synth solution as the live rig.

The modular is perfect for making music where I can spend days or weeks setting up a patch, but it’s a real buzz kill for me to have to re tune and re patch just to start working, especially since my time to work on this challenge is limited. Having something already set up and ready to go will be a huge help, as well as keep the palette consistent.

I will give it a go tonight and see how I fare!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Martin Walker »

Ben Asaro wrote:Since I started setting up the JV-1080 as a single Berlin School synth

You've just blown my mind! :shocked:

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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Martin Walker wrote:
Ben Asaro wrote:Since I started setting up the JV-1080 as a single Berlin School synth

You've just blown my mind! :shocked:

Martin

HA! I know, changing horses mid race. :)

But it's hard to act on inspiration when it takes 45 minutes before I can even get in-tune notes from the modular. :D
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Switching up my approach was definitely the right move on this one. Using USB from my Mac to sync everything is making things move along at a much quicker pace, besides not having to faff around with tuning discrepancies. Having a palette of sounds ready to go also helps immensely. Overall, I'm very pleased with the workflow!

Revisiting the opening re inspired me to try a new compositional approach and as the opening credits are only about 30 seconds long it was also an exercise in being concise! :D

I typically break things out when I'm tracking, but in this case I'm just getting the balance right and recording Outputs 1 and 2 from the JV-1080 simultaneously (including effects). I like being committed to getting it right and then moving on.

The opening motive (FMaj - BbMaj - CSus4- CMaj - F) is simple and catchy and that V-I resolution at the end sounds great!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Fired up the Lyra-8 for the next two scenes, hopefully I’ll be able to come up with something suitable today. If so, I’ll be caught up to where I left off prior to switching from the modular to the JV-1080.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

The Lyra-8 + sawtooth brass from the JV-1080 is a beautiful sounding combination. Glad I got the TU-3S, it made integrating the Lyra-8 shed loads easier!

Almost at the one quarter mark for the film!
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Michael Johnson »

Following this thread! This is an idea I've wanted to execute for awhile now, too. Rooting for you and I can't wait to see/hear your work.
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Re: New synth challenge -- scoring a silent film!

Post by Ben Asaro »

Michael Johnson wrote: Sun Jul 18, 2021 2:00 pm Following this thread! This is an idea I've wanted to execute for awhile now, too. Rooting for you and I can't wait to see/hear your work.

Thanks! It’s still going strong, I had a small setback as I was trying to figure out how I wanted to do this, but now that I’ve got that settled, it’s full steam ahead! :D
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