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Orchestrating a film

Hi All

So I've composed for a few indie films now and I have always done everything inside my daw. I'm wanting to broaden my composing and orchestration skills by instead orchestrating on paper first..e.g. short score.

Im keen to know first of all how ppl who write this way do to film? Do you have a list of timecodes of when things happen etc? I'd imagine it would be very time consuming?

Are there any video resources of writing to a film cue from start to finish with a particular focus of writing and orchestrating on paper?

Thanks
 

mikeh-375

old school
Hi Streetster,
Something not mentioned much in media and yet can be so effective is good, practical, musical use of rubato. Rubato will always make your cues more musical, bring more emotion to phrases, help get rid of unusual time signatures (some of the time!), be a great practical tool for last minute edit changes and its use will let you think more musically rather than your lines being a permanent and continuous slave to a click. Williams is master at this of course, but there is a proviso, if you go live, you may have to conduct!
Of course this is all assuming you can hear musically, score direct to paper, and be able to mentally (or practically, on an instrument), perform your work in a manner that's practical, consistent and flexible enough in timing as you write....hence..rubato.:thumbsup:
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
Hi Streetster,
Something not mentioned much in media and yet can be so effective is good, practical, musical use of rubato. Rubato will always make your cues more musical, bring more emotion to phrases, help get rid of unusual time signatures (some of the time!), be a great practical tool for last minute edit changes and its use will let you think more musically rather than your lines being a permanent and continuous slave to a click. Williams is master at this of course, but there is a proviso, if you go live, you may have to conduct!
Of course this is all assuming you can hear musically, score direct to paper, and be able to mentally (or practically, on an instrument), perform your work in a manner that's practical, consistent and flexible enough in timing as you write....hence..rubato.:thumbsup:
Both Jerry Goldsmith and Alfred Newman were masters at using that technique in expressive and edgy ways. That's why it's important, when listening to most of the best Golden and Silver age film scores (though of course there are examples throughout the history of the genre) to keep an attentive ear out, because Super Maestros like that intentionally put subtle elements (like harmonic twists, bitonal-pppp pads and so many other variables) into what might seem very simple melodies and progressions. You can envision them with (Peter Lorre voice) eeevill looks in their eyes "ha HA, let's see how many people are really listening!".

In the case of Alfred Newman, apparently some of the rerecordings done of his scores are falling flat, partly because the way he conducted was a prime example of conducting in what amounted to a personally expressive style. His mastery of techniques like subito and rubato were practically unchallenged in personal expressivity at the time.
 

mikeh-375

old school
Funny isn't it, how something performance related like rubato makes the difference between robotic and musical music especially these days, not to mention the development of musicality and feel in anyone who learns how to work with it - the benefits to composition and how you approach it are also enhanced with an outlook that inculcates rubato. Obviously tempo change within a sequencer can perform rubato too, but there is something more personal and felt in being able to perform or hear it without a DAW and imv a big advantage so far as the OP is concerned.
 
OP
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streetster

Member
Yeah rubato definitely sounds more human. But what about modern music...is it likely that most would not use paper but rather orchestrate in the daw. This is how I work as it's fast for me but I'm now trying doing everything on paper first and it is sounding so much better with nicer clarity etc...just very time consuming and I wonder how it could be done efficiently to a film?
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Obviously tempo change within a sequencer can perform rubato too, but there is something more personal and felt in being able to perform or hear it without a DAW
My DAW allows free playing and then just shoving bar lines around after the fact. I guess they all do that now? But you can preserve the free rhythm of the original playing that way.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
is it likely that most would not use paper but rather orchestrate in the daw
It sort of depends on what you're doing for the film. If it's an action film that needs 75 minutes of heavy driving music produced in four weeks with a minimal budget, you'd better write directly in the DAW and get on with it.

But if, by contrast, you are working on a more artistic film, with less reliance on wall-to-wall ear candy, you might have time to sit at a piano or just in the garden and think stuff up and write it down.

I'm a fan of Marco Beltrami's music; he does what movies need but he does it in a cool way -- it's not exactly avant garde but it's cool and unusual. I really liked his score for The Quiet Place (I think that's the title).

The only guy I know of who doesn't have to demo all his material is John Williams.
 

kevthurman

Active Member
I sketch a piece on paper and then fully realize it in the DAW. I have an idea in my head of where big hits happen and sketch something which can be flexible in order to line up with those hits. This way I get the advantage of using a sequencer to line things up perfectly but I don't sacrifice the creativity of composing on paper the right way.
 

douggibson

Active Member
Im keen to know first of all how ppl who write this way do to film? Do you have a list of timecodes of when things happen etc? I'd imagine it would be very time consuming?
It's just math.

Anyhow, if you can hunt down the original "On the track" (The grey cover one, not the black/orange one) it has an index at the end of all metronome marking/time codes like you are asking.
Basically you start from the hit point and work backwards. It's all been mapped out.

Are there any video resources of writing to a film cue from start to finish with a particular focus of writing and orchestrating on paper?
Just about any book on film scoring before 1990 is all about what you are asking.

Music transcription is going to be gold for you here. Why not just pick a cue you like, and only work writing it out by hand.

If not, as mentioned any pre-DAW book will be what you are after.

I always enjoyed this book:
Scoring for Films by Earle Hagen


It has a dated sound.....but I dig the chessy tv detective genre so I liked it alot. All hand written cues.

As far as orchestration......so many. Umm.......... Sammy Nestico's is cool. It's firmly in the 60's film style .... which again is something I enjoyed.

It's easy to dip in and out of with ideas
 

Farkle

Senior Member
Hi All

So I've composed for a few indie films now and I have always done everything inside my daw. I'm wanting to broaden my composing and orchestration skills by instead orchestrating on paper first..e.g. short score.

Im keen to know first of all how ppl who write this way do to film? Do you have a list of timecodes of when things happen etc? I'd imagine it would be very time consuming?

Are there any video resources of writing to a film cue from start to finish with a particular focus of writing and orchestrating on paper?

Thanks
Yes, that's exactly how I did my last two features. I spotted the film, did a huge list of timecodes for hit points, and then inserted them into Sibelius, and then short score sketched into Sibelius. Then, I went and wrote it in my DAW from the sheet music.

Time consuming? No worse than staring at a blank DAW screen. I still was able to compose 2-3 min of orchestral music a day. Scored the feature (50 min of music) in 5 weeks.

Doug's right, the book "On The Score" is absolute gold. Both the grey first edition, and yellow second are great. I like the first edition because it has more 70's and 80's scores.

Timecode calculator? There are online resources where you can compute hit points and tempos; or you can roll your own click book. Here's one:

https://www.fransabsil.nl/htm/eventhit.htm

Here's a sample of a cue I did, here's how my sketch looked. Apologies for things like "Percussion" on the line... I was in a rush. :)

https://app.box.com/s/x0j727ezvcbk9bw7bla5qjlqzs3eldy5
 
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