Midi Mockup - Flight to Neverland from 'Hook' by John Williams

MichaelM

Member
Hi everyone,
Here is my midi mockup of Flight to Neverland from Hook by John Williams that I recently finished.

Some of my favorite music written by John Williams for the film Hook is is in the cue on the soundtrack called 'Remembering Childhood'. So I was exited when I learned that the Hal Leonard printed concert arrangement of the score contained a good portion of this music as well as the End Credits sequence.

Pick your compression poison!



 

NoamL

Winter <3
Really nice! Clearly a ton of work but the expression & musicality is solid throughout. The horns and winds sound especially good.

You seem to be adding a lot of external reverb which I'm not sure is necessary if you're using mostly Spitfire libraries. More direct sound would be better perhaps? Or maybe even only use external verb on any add-on instruments you need to seat with the Spitfire orchestra.
 

iobaaboi

Member
Wow! Fantastic job on this. This is one of my all-time favorite cues, so great to hear it mocked up.

What libraries did you use?

Also, would you be willing to send me the midi? There’s a lot to learn from here, both in JW’s score and your programming.
 
OP
M

MichaelM

Member
Really nice! Clearly a ton of work but the expression & musicality is solid throughout. The horns and winds sound especially good.

You seem to be adding a lot of external reverb which I'm not sure is necessary if you're using mostly Spitfire libraries. More direct sound would be better perhaps? Or maybe even only use external verb on any add-on instruments you need to seat with the Spitfire orchestra.
Thanks @NoamL for the compliment! It was a tough score to read and get that added human expression and musicality due to the nature of the faster tempo and triplet 16th figures that pretty much never end through the core of the first section, as that figure is getting passed around the orchestra! I swear there are only a few measures through the first 100 measures where it is not there! So a lot of step-time involved(but moving a lot of it around and offsetting beats and measures by really tiny amounts and instrument groups to get it to sound human). Same for the woodwind runs. None of the winds are ever really playing at the exact same time, and sometimes just for kicks someone makes a tiny mistake, to help with the realism. For the actual melodies, those I did play in naturally and never really touched afterwards. Those parts were fun to do!

You brought up an interesting point in regards to reverb. Now my reference track while working on this was a John Williams Boston Pops recording from I think 1993 that he did at Symphony Hall. From this CD here: Williams Boston Pops/Spielberg
Now there is a ton of reverb they added on that CD. I have been to a ton of concerts at Symphony Hall because I live close to Boston and Symphony Hall does not sound like that! But the recording was crystal clear and I really liked it, so I opted to add some more reverb to the overall piece. I used Lexicon Random Hall.
When I listen to it the actual "Hook" soundtrack from '91, its a totally different experience, with a much closer studio sound. Kind of throws me a bit, when I put that on because its very different than the concert arrangements Williams did with the Pops.
When I have time over the next few weeks, just for kicks, I'll upload to this thread another version but without the Lexicon reverb, so we can hear how it sounds with just the natural ambience of Spitfire instruments.

I appreciate your input and time!
 

Maestro1972

Active Member
I think the programming is amazing. And the time that you must have spent on this must have been exhausting. For me, it is too much reverb. Of course, that's just my opinion. I loved every aspect of it except the verb...EXCELLENT JOB!
 

AlexRuger

rewgs
Yeah, I'll second the far too much reverb comment. I feel like we're mostly hearing the reverb.

You're trying to gain size and scale through wetness, and that is the wrong approach. The correct approach is way more complex, and is mainly comprised of three things:

1) Great attention to musicality and dynamics. You paid a lot of attention to the former, but not enough to the latter. Your bigs are big for sure, but your quiets need to be quieter. And from your bigs, it's really only your 1 or 2-bar crescendos. The hits and more staccato sections need to be punchier (not mixed necessarily -- though, yes, mixed punchier too, but more on that in a minute -- but in terms of performance/programming).

2) Dryness (and the right ratio of wetness at the right times). Abbey Road is an amazing sounding room, but the reverb is not nearly as long as the one you're using. Obviously VI composers always mix too wet because it covers up the faults in their libraries and programming. That's fine -- just get better in both cases as you're able.
Excessively wet mixes also gives them a sense of placement within the room -- a very false sense. Focus on actually placing elements in your room, rather than simply giving them a hotter send signal or flipping their send over to pre-fader and lowering the track volume. Look into how EQ, compression, multiple reverbs, literally playing things slightly more behind the beat, etc can influence your sound and sense of physical placement within a room. Also, use some smaller libraries or even solo instruments stack with your larger ensembles to get your early reflections filled out. Go a little intense with their vibrato automation (which you should do more of). Oh, and using libraries with true divisi will do wonders in aiding both your inherent mix from the get-go and your realism!

3) General mix. You have too much 2k, too little 700hz and 6k, not quite enough 200-500 or low lows. Go really study the sound of real instruments, up close, in person, and check out the frequency ranges they really inhabit. Obviously John Williams like this enhanced in his scores -- the hugely present high end in the original, which your mix is lacking, is a very important element in John Williams' sound, especially in this era. It really aids in making those violins soar, and having the winds gently float above and behind them. But again, nuance and moderation is everything here...don't just go and throw a high shelf on your master. It's success by a thousand cuts with saturation and selected high end boosts on specific instruments. But I guess that's true of every frequency range.

All in all, you have a really solid thing here. Just start taking it to the next level -- you've clearly got the chops for it!
 
OP
M

MichaelM

Member
Yeah, I'll second the far too much reverb comment. I feel like we're mostly hearing the reverb.

You're trying to gain size and scale through wetness, and that is the wrong approach. The correct approach is way more complex, and is mainly comprised of three things
Thanks for the comments Alex! This is some awesome feedback.
I will definitely be uploading a version of this with the reverb buses virtually off so we can give a listen and compare. Truth is that I did add more reverb as the project continued and like I had mentioned to @NoamL I was trying to match a really wet recording. But that recording was also a bit on the unnatural side and I may have gown down a rabbit hole of my own making! So I probably should have dialed it back. I do have that inexperience of listening to my own work and getting accustomed to what I was hearing that I didn't give myself the time to perhaps listen more objectively and in different environments.
EQ is something I'm still learning. In the end I decided not to touch EQ for this project, thinking that if I don't really know enough of what I'm doing, best not to play with knobs for the sake of playing with them. But I think I am hearing the frequency buildup around that 2k mark now that you mention it.

I'm curious to get your comments on my E.T. Adventures on Earth mockup that I did before this one. I'd really love it if you can give me some feedback there. I had some people(not in this forum) tell me they thought that didn't contain enough reverb....

Thanks again!
 
OP
M

MichaelM

Member
Wow! Fantastic job on this. This is one of my all-time favorite cues, so great to hear it mocked up.

What libraries did you use?

Also, would you be willing to send me the midi? There’s a lot to learn from here, both in JW’s score and your programming.
Hi @iobaaboi - Thanks for the kind words and apologies on the late reply. Libraries used for this project were mostly Spitfire libraries. Spitfire percussion, strings, winds, and brass. In some instances, to thicken the brass a bit I did use some Symphobia doubling, but that is not front and center.

Thanks again.
 

Rodrig Vourot

New Member
If it is true there is enough reverb, the piece is good well structured, and if I agree with you this soundtrack of this film is really spectacular, especially the great sequences in action. I guess we should do as Mr. Williams write more music by hand and less computer.
 
OP
M

MichaelM

Member
Hi Folks, after a much longer time than I thought, I wanted to circle back to this mockup with a newer version with the additional Lexicon reverb I had applied, much reduced. I am only bring this reverb up in the final crescendo chord as in the previous version it felt a bit unnatural. Like the tail was cut off. I'm hoping this new mix sounds a bit more clearer. @NoamL ,@AlexRuger and @Maestro1972 - let me know if you think this version is better!

 

cygnusdei

New Member
jaw. dropped. kudos. awesome. wow :)

can't say much really other than congrats! my 2 cents though: For the new "studio" mix, the intro seems artificially amped low that at 0:17 it's as if someone just turned up the volume knob (not realistic/live-sounding). So I prefer the original "concert hall" mix with the exception that the flutes/piccolos sound as if they're far behind the rest of the orchestra, inaudible except for the high notes - so not a reverb issue per se, but instrument staging issue (do you use staging?).
Other than that, the only thing that jumps at me: trumpets starting 0:37 are playing soft dynamics, which sounds weird and out of character (I did compare to the live performance).

thumbs up!
 
Last edited:

Maestro1972

Active Member
It was very enjoyable to listen to. I didn't feel as if I were drowning in reverb...so bravo for that! This is one of my favorite pieces by JW and you did a wonderful job!
 
OP
M

MichaelM

Member
jaw. dropped. kudos. awesome. wow :)

can't say much really other than congrats! my 2 cents though: For the new "studio" mix, the intro seems artificially amped low that at 0:17 it's as if someone just turned up the volume knob (not realistic/live-sounding). So I prefer the original "concert hall" mix with the exception that the flutes/piccolos sound as if they're far behind the rest of the orchestra, inaudible except for the high notes - so not a reverb issue per se, but instrument staging issue (do you use staging?).
Other than that, the only thing that jumps at me: trumpets starting 0:37 are playing soft dynamics, which sounds weird and out of character (I did compare to the live performance).

thumbs up!
Hi @cygnusdei Thanks for the comments. No i didn't really do to much placement, just kind of 'trusting' Sptifire in this case. The only thing I will say in regards to the flutes and some of the winds in general is that I had an audio engineer listen in on the track as well, and he thought like you, that they were a little low in places. Truth be told, when I was working on all the woodwind runs, I did kind of have them cranked in the mix initially, and I thought it was a bit too much, so I had brought them down, perhaps a bit too much. I''ll have to see what is going on at the 37 mark, cause there really should be any soft dynamics there.

It was very enjoyable to listen to. I didn't feel as if I were drowning in reverb...so bravo for that! This is one of my favorite pieces by JW and you did a wonderful job!
Thanks @Maestro1972 for the 2nd listen, and glad you enjoy the new mix!