I showed my teacher today what I have done with the score. There were only a few more tiny issues that could be easily solved with volume automation so I decided to book one of the university studios to begin my final music mix - and since the director trusts my judgement completely, I also ended up doing the final sound mix. I then emailed all of it to the director and he was happy with it so that’s that! It’s all done! It has been an extremely stressful experience during the last week, particularly because both the director and I are inexperienced, however it certainly feels rewarding now that it’s all polished and ready for the public screening next week! Looking forward to it.
Today I had the recording session for the saxophone player. I provided him with backing tracks and clicks so that he could improvise over them. He was amazingly good and we ended up recording around 30 takes of ‘sleazy’ music for the ‘nude’ scene. The sound engineer was great as well as he knew exactly what he was doing with the equipment and software. I then went home and organised the saxophone tracks to see which one would fit best. I ended up slicing and merging a few different takes. I also fixed up all the over composed areas and removed a few textures as they were too busy. I also experimented more with Jane’s colour and decided that the guitar would still have to suit her at the end of the film, as every other instruments feels too awkward to introduce. I just equalised it a bit so it sounds more darker and ‘composed’. I’m almost there!
So I ended up doing an all-nighter last night (this morning) scoring for the locked off cut. The changes were quite significant once more. The director has decided to go back to the first rough cut, which I think works better anyway; less dragging on in the shots and smoother progression. This made my scoring slightly easier as the music can flow better this way. A lot of changes were made and music for the introduction was scored quickly as I ran out of time.
I had one more meeting with my teacher before I headed off to Swinburne to deliver my score and attend the final mix. It turns out the score is quite over-composed, which is not surprising for me as I haven’t had time to actually sit back and listen to it. He also continued to give me more tips to refine the score and told me that it’s all good as I have all next week to refine and tweak it, as well as record live musicians. He was nice enough to organise all of that for me by finding the saxophone player and a sound engineer to help me record on Friday. Very exciting!
I then headed off to Swinburne to deliver the current version of the music. Apparently, the director didn’t end up doing any foley or ADR and wasn’t really sure what the purpose of the sound mix is. In fact his editor (who was doing sound) left early and left me in charge with everything. On top of that, they couldn’t work out how to export the audio stems out of Avid Media Composer, in which their teacher also failed to figure out… I ended up using the one audio file and compressed it drastically as it had certain sound effects that were painfully loud. I ended up finished mixing the music with the audio at around 10.30pm with the director. It’s done… For him anyway. I still have much refining to do in my score for the public screening. But for now, it’s bed time.
The whole situation yesterday about the sound mix was a massive miscommunication problem. The director invited me to attend the final sound mix as I requested to be there to help out, however he was confused with the idea of the final sound mix and was actually referring to the ADR and foley mix, not the final mix. So the film is going to be sound mixed tomorrow, not today! That didn’t really help with the situation though, as he sent me the locked off cut today but… it wasn’t the final cut as there is a slight doubling editing problem in one of the critical moments. He told me that he would send me an ‘updated’ locked off cut sometime tonight - I still haven’t received it and it’s due tomorrow afternoon, which is filled with exams so I won’t have a chance to work on it then. I’ll have to do an all-nighter tonight and whip something up…
Finished off the rough-cut today (except for a new introduction section that I have not looked at yet) and emailed it off to the director. I discovered that beat mapping is only used to calculate the tempos needed to hit a certain point. I could move the tempos all I wanted and the beat mapping would not take effect as long as none of the beat maps are moved or deleted. This makes life much easier as I simply highlight all the regions and tempo nodes, and move them together! Everything moves in sync with each other with no jumbling mess.
On a more negative note, the director wants to do the sound mix tomorrow… In other words my music has to be completed tomorrow (one day earlier than the due date), however I haven’t even received a locked off cut yet! What is he thinking? That i’m a psychic magician!? I decided to go see my teacher about this problem to see what he had to say about it. Apparently I will have to treat the rough cut as if it’s the locked off cut and fix it up after the due date for the public screening. Apart from that, my teacher also gave me some more tips regarding Jane’s colour being different at the end of the film as she becomes the dominant character and recommended that I find a real saxophone player to solo over the ‘nude’ scene. He also told me to not worry about a real bass player since the samples sound pretty convincing. Good! So I guess I shouldn’t be worrying about the directors due date and just focus on making the score good regardless. That’s a lot of pressure off my chest.
Spent more time re-scoring for the rough draft with finding more colours to add to the score such as introducing some subtle percussive instruments as well as experimenting with adding pizzicato lines and trying to get a clarinet line to sit well within the mix. I feel that the bass guitar is too dominating and predictable so the pizzicato playing in a similar register breaks creates interest in the music as well as sounding natural.
A huge problem I am encountering at the moment is with beat mapping in Logic. As soon as a tempo changes, anything after it becomes the biggest jumble of mess. I’ve tried various techniques such as locking all regions in place, which works well but is still affected by tempo changes. I’ve tried unlocking the regions but they end up jumbling along with everything else and some even automatically re-arrange to play at double time. It’s simply too complicated to figure out what Logic is trying to do. I ended up bouncing the regions I knew I wasn’t going to change into audio files as they are not affected by the global settings. Hours wasted. What a pain!
So I’ve finally received a proper rough cut 5 days before the director’s class screening. I have a feeling I will not be receiving the final cut until the night before in this situation. Anyway, this version is quite drastically different to the version I have been working. A lot of the scenes have been extended or replaced entirely with new footage. Even though all my sonic textures will stay the same, the execution of it will be very different and there are already a few trouble-areas where I am forcefully trying to extend the music to reach hit points. I think the best thing to do at this point is start on these cues from a fresh perspective rather than trying to extend old ones.
I had another meeting with my teacher today. I showed him what I had done so far with the music and he gave me a bunch of ideas regarding my choice of cues and alternatives that could work as well. The biggest thing was that he liked the sustained ‘wah’ texture of the guitar to be Jane’s colour. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that but it works very well as it’s already a natural sound within the piece.
I was also informed by the director that I would be receiving an actual rough-cut of the footage tomorrow so I decided to not touch the version I had regarding timing and cues, as I would probably have to re-arrange a lot of it anyway. Instead I worked on recording and equalising guitars and trying to achieve a more sustained ‘wah’ chord for Jane. This proved very difficult as I am only capable of direct inputting my guitar to the computer via a cheap audio interface, causing it to not behave like a real guitar amplifier and hardware effect pedals. Not only this, but for some reason guitars are the one thing I despise recording and working with as I am never satisfied with its sound - perhaps because I’m a guitarist? In the end I ended up creating sustain by stitching the guitar sound on the end and cross-fading it.
I continued the score first thing in the morning today. I’ve definitely started to see things that I didn’t see before and my music is starting to make ‘sense’. I’m also seeing how some parts are totally awkward - what was I thinking?
So far, I’ve drafted up the last minute or so with music and it seems to work well (at least for now, without mixing or finding the perfect sounds). I’ve established Randall’s theme or ‘motif’ as the bass line, which is introduced subtly in the background when the dialogue develops some ‘tension’ and purpose. From here, other elements are introduced as the scene escalates, building up to the moment where Jane takes her gown off (for comical purposes! I’m not scoring an adult film), where the music plays in full force. At the moment I’m struggling to find Jane’s motif. I’ve experimented with a few sounds from piano chords to clarinet lines - none of which feel very natural with the rest of the music at this point. I’ll be having another meeting with my teacher tomorrow so I could ask him for some ideas.
I’ve showed the director some of these cues and he liked them so I’m very pleased about that! He told me that he was getting worried that the bass line started to sound like a ‘cop show’ in his head however after showing him how I’ve approached the scenes, he’s really glad that wasn’t the case.
I’ve just spent some time conceptualising the specific character emotions from the rough cut and started adding marker notes as to what the music will be doing and when they will be introduced. In my opinion, this has always been the most difficult part in film scoring. There are so many ways to approach a scene dramaturgically it’s quite scary. I just have to be brave and trust my (underdeveloped) instincts and go with something that might work. At the moment I have mapped out the main cues and composed some music based on the ‘sitcom’ idea for those areas. Those are fairly easy as there are clear points where music could work. What’s doing my head in at the moment is the dialogue sections (which dominate the film). My plan was to weave colours in and out during the dialogue to reference to certain aspects and create interest and perhaps humour, however I’m finding that music sounds too obtrusive whenever I introduce it; it feels unnatural - forced, though at the same time I can see it working. I’ve completely lost perspective on this issue (which happens too soon and too often for me). I’m going to leave this for now and come back first thing in the morning with a fresh (groggy) mindset. Time to sleep on it.
So I’ve had two meetings today. One with my teacher and the other with the director. I showed my ideas to my teacher and he gave me some advice on my temporary music and narrowed it down to two pieces: ‘Blind Date’ and my sitcom bass piece. The first piece gave Randall a more specific personality - uncertainty and silliness, while my piece was more to draw the attention of the audience that something interesting is happening and to set the feel of the film. Either one worked so it was up to the director to decide, in which during our meeting later on, he chose to go with the bass piece as it gave the film more ‘character’. Awesome, so it’s decided! I explained to him that the music will come in and out of certain areas during the dialogue subtly to enhance the situation without being too overbearing, but at this stage I’d have to go home and experiment with how that would work. He seemed quite pleased about all of it and told me that the music definitely gave him a fresh perspective on the film that he’d lost. I’m glad I am helping!
He also mentioned that he didn’t know properly recorded audio was available from his film shoot so I no longer have to create party music for the background at this stage. He will pass the audio files to his sound guy and they will decide what happens then. The due date for the film is also extended by two days so in other words, I have a week from now to complete the score. Feeling much more confident now that things are falling into place.
Today I’ve continued my temp scoring. I personally liked the three I had chosen yesterday but I feel I could bring even more variety for the director to chose from. I’ve chucked in some romantic guitar cheese music as well as some ‘smooth’ saxophone during a scene where Jane takes off her gown. It’s a bit too much in my opinion but he might like that direction. I’ve also decided to compose one more opening piece that is a bit darker and than the rest with a lot less comedy and humour just to put it out on the table: https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-huang-1/pizzicato-clarinet-concept
I’ve also sent off an email to the director with a few of the temp files (without the visuals) to give him something to think about before tomorrow. I’ve also voiced my thoughts to him regarding the direction of the film and he agrees that the jazz music is no longer relevant especially after hearing my ‘Sitcom’ bass concept, which he really liked! This is good news and at least we have a clearer vision of the film now! Less weird, moody & dark comedy, more humorous (but still subtle) comedy. I can sleep a little better tonight (not that I sleep anyway).
The last thing that popped up was that the audio of the dialogue was very noisy and picked up a lot of the party noises occurring next door. He can’t rid of it so he wants me to somehow incorporate the party into the film. This is easy as I can write some ‘party’ music and mix it into the background.
I’ve had a chance to temp score the footage today. I tried jazz for the final time to make sure that it doesn’t work - it definitely doesn’t suit what’s happening on screen. I’ve only temped the opening introduction of Randall to see what emotional approach I should be taking with the music. I’ve left a couple of different ideas open for the director to decide on:
- Thomas Newman’s ‘Fish-O-Rama’ provides a very light hearted approach to the whole situation - making Randall quite silly.
- Mychael Danna’s ‘Blind Date’ provides a darker but wacky element to Randall. Not as silly but still contains elements of Randall’s uncertainty in himself.
- I also ended up composing a Sitcom type of bass line that added more forward drive to Randall’s intentions, while setting up a feel for the rest of the film: https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-huang-1/sitcom-bass-concept-for-candid
I also received an email from the director re-organising our meeting from tomorrow to Wednesday so that will give me some extra time to think it through a bit more.
After two and half weeks after the proposed delivery date of a rough cut, I finally received it! It’s more of a draft rough cut that was slapped together fairly quickly but it’s all I need for now. After a first viewing I had couple of thoughts:
- First, the look and style of the film no longer resembles the original idea of the show ‘Louie’. If this is still the directors vision, it’s too vague and unclear.
- Second, the situation between the two characters are no longer as ‘seductive’ or subtly playful as originally described by the director. Instead, Randall certainly brings a slight element of silliness and unsureness in himself that is more comedic than I originally thought, while Jane is more visually annoyed and unhappy.
- Thirdly, jazz is becoming more and more unfavourable now that I’ve seen the footage. Not only does it not suit the location, but also the situation and the emotions of the characters. Some of the styles I researched earlier could work better now.
I’ve arranged a meet up with the director for Tuesday so we could have that spotting session and discuss what the options are. In the meantime, I will be temp-ing the rough cut up!
Today, I’ve sent another email to the director letting him know about my situation of failing if I don’t receive anything by Monday. I explained that I am currently way behind everyone else and that the possibility of coming up with a good score is becoming more unlikely. I went through the whole process of what it is expected from me as a composer, which includes the delivery of:
- A spotting session.
- Rough cuts with both temporary and original music.
- A final decision of the style that the director and I are both happy with.
- The final cut with my original music.
- The recording and performance of that music and mix (which will most definitely not happen anymore).
- The final sound mix (which I would like to be present for).
It worked! He replied pretty quickly that he’d ask the editor to send over a really rough cut of the film during the weekend. Judging from his response, he’s definitely behind schedule as well. With one week to go and he still doesn’t have a proper rough cut. This will be a cutting it close.
The fact that it’s only twelve days before his deadline submission of the film and that I still have not received the first rough cut, means that I go into panic mode. I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to organise live musicians to perform the score with that amount of time. I’ve voiced my concerns to the director and said that any sort of footage will do as long as I can get a start on it ASAP!
I also had a meeting with my teacher today and told him about the situation. He told me that the rough cut screenings at Swinburne have already taken place so it’s strange that they still have not provided me with anything. He also told me that I should let the director know that if he does not provide some form of a cut by Monday, I will fail. That should do the trick!
The director finally replied yesterday after two weeks like he said, however he still doesn’t have footage to show me… I’m starting think he is quite unorganised, though I’m sure this is quite common in the industry. He said that he will give me the rough cut sometime during the week - which means I’ll get it either tomorrow or in four days time. I am dying to see it and it’s starting to become a bit stressful for me now. He also mentioned that upon seeing the film, it might be tricky to find a sound that suits it. That’s why I’m here… I just need to see some footage.
The director hasn’t replied to my last email as of yet, so it’s safe to assume I won’t be receiving the rough cut any time soon. I think music is the last aspect that he is worrying about at this stage as he’s probably too stressed with editing his film and being on other peoples film shoots so I won’t bother him for the time being.
I have been thinking a little more about the characters recently. The director mentioned - during our meeting, that there might be subtle slapstick elements to the character Randall, particularly when he falls out of a tree at the beginning of the film. Although the director doesn’t want any comedic music, I am looking into it anyway as a possibility. When he said ‘comedic’, it’s a possibility that he pictured kazoos and trombone slides, though I am thinking more subtle elements of comedy. After searching through my library of music, I’ve found a couple of styles that might be of use:
- 500 Days Of Summer by Mychael Danna has plenty of lighthearted whacky woodwind pieces that could work to establish Randall.
- Hable Con Ella by Alberto Iglesias has some dark but whacky strings that could also work.
- Finding Nemo by Thomas Newman has plenty of different stereotypical styles. The track ‘Fish-O-Rama’ has a very strange sound to it with almost a hint of jazz.
- The Holiday by Hans Zimmer has plenty of lighthearted and cheesy romantic pieces that could be used in a scene where Jane takes off her gown.
I’ve emailed the director today to see If I could push for that rough cut by the 18th like we originally planned (which is in two days). I won’t count on it but I’ve let him know that the sooner I get some footage, the sooner I can begin figuring out the style of music the film needs. I’ve also asked for more supporting documents if he had any in hope that it might help me out with the direction of the film. I am still in the dark at the moment and it doesn’t help that he is too.
The project has been going slow on my end. I have simply been swamped with other work and commitments the past week so I haven’t had a chance to work on it but things should get rolling again!
So I contacted the director as he had finished his shoot yesterday and apparently it went better than expected, which is good news! I finally have some footage for this vague film… but not really. Apparently the director wants to give me a rough cut of the film in two weeks even though we agreed on the 18th of October. This is unfortunate as it leaves me with two weeks to conceptualise, compose, agree on and record the score; definitely not an ideal situation. I am starting to worry quite a bit regarding this score as I feel like I’m completely in the dark with it. That rough cut can’t come sooner!