Computer skills are required:
To be a media composer in 2015 you must learn and understand all of the following: MIDI – including CC#’s (velocity, expression, modulation), VST virtual instruments (libraries) and any key switching required to play them, be comfortable operating a DAW of your choice, understand and apply mixing and mastering techniques; EQ, Compression, signal routing, and plug-ins.
In your DAW start a new file in a new folder and keep ALL audio and MIDI data in that one location, including newer versions and revision files. File management is very important. Create a system for naming things and commit to it for life.
Open a template that you feel will have a collection of the necessary instrument synths to create a sound pallet that is relevant to the film you are working on. * it is worth the time to develop a template for each style of music you work with. Having all the EQ’s set and signal paths for recording assigned gets you on the road to finished all the sooner.
Next Import the digital media to your project. Read and understand the accepted file types and frame rates that your DAW will work with. Getting a good synch with video can be the difference in landing the gig. Now that you have the video in your DAW and ready to go, next create a marker track (something where you can jump from point to point quickly).
* if the source video comes with temp music try to get them to split the dialogue and FX from the music by simply hard panning each source to L and R. when you import the audio from the video file you can make each side (LR) a mono track and mute the temp music track and still have the words and FX intact.
Spotting: you need to watch the film several times in a neutral location and take a break between watches to allow your brain to process the images and begin to generate a direction from which to work.
Since you have watched the video several times you have an idea of what happens and how long each section lasts. You should have established an idea of what the mood/tone of the picture will require. Knowing where to put a hit point is hard to explain, you just sort of know it when you see it sort of thing. Sometimes you put a point in for a reminder to avoid doing something, or to track a sequence or thought that travels over several scenes. Put a marker anywhere you feel you will be going back to a lot.
After you have placed the markers open a spread sheet or write them down on paper. Allow for room to make notes about the scene, or in the spread sheet make columns to track things you find important about the film. Make a list of what time index each hit point exists in. later on should something happen with your midi or any tempo track oddities you can find a synch point to get things back in place (often during revisions the tempos change and the material after the new tempo in other parts of the scene will be slightly out of phase, so having a reference point for all your cues can be a real time saver).
Watch the video again, but this time stop and pause it after each hit point interval. Write down as much info about that time span that will help you to craft music to it later. Complete this step for all hit points, you should have a couple paragraphs worth of sentences that should tell the story or what role YOU play in telling the story.
I keep this info in a spread sheet so i can print it, and keep it as long as a digital copy survives somewhere.
Composition begins: what the actual notes you write are, do not really matter (well yes they do but don’t think you HAVE to use every classical convention in every score). What is most important is how does it translate to the screen. The idea is not about what is in the score, but rather what is NOT in the score. Use space and silence as a tool and not to be feared. Often times silence is more powerful than the loudest rock song or orchestral flourish, if it happens at the right time and moment in the overall big picture. That being said you need a theme and a hook to keep the listener/viewer engaged with the material. A hook can be a single sound bite, a single note, a sequence of notes, or an extremely long sequence of notes. You have to find out what it is and create it. Everything else just takes time, and the dedication to constantly work at refining and improving your sound. After all, scoring is all about the final product that matters. If your demo doesn’t sound authentic and ready to play on air as is, then nobody will use it. You absolutely must have a sound quality that is on par with current productions to even be considered for a job as film composer. If you have to make an excuse for something when you play a recording for someone, then it is not even close to being ready. Fix the problem(s), and never make excuses!
When composing try to keep from messing with EQ and plug-ins as those are things that use a different part of the brain than the creative side of writing themes and doing orchestrations. That is why you build templates in your DAW so you can get to the writing and arranging sooner. After you have written 90% of the material for a film then you can go back and start the mixing, editing, and mastering processes. Your brain will thank you for not making it switch from creative to analytical all the time. Don’t be afraid to update your templates as often as necessary. As you work through projects you will learn something new about a VST instrument, or a plug-in setting that made a really cool unique sound. Capture those moments and build from them on the next score.
Computer skills are required: