Friday, May 24, 2019

PMC07 Formative 2

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Assignment Score Pass
Tutor Notes


Douglas Black Heaton's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for sending in your Frozen assignment. Your notes are rather brief but are quite informative concerning approach. I've just had a long session watching the second season of Westworld so interesting to see that come up in your references. It would help if you actually described how you've used these references in your approach. What is it about Westworld, House or the Killing that you feel adds to Frozen? Instrumentation, mood, pacing?

Let's have a listen..

My first impression is it's very dense with music from the start. And it's quite loud. I've always considered the film to be quite intimate in approach and wonder whether this is overwhelming.

The opening is good, very mysterious mood of oppressive nature. Good musical build to the dream moment. Couple of points - I wonder if you could incorporate the camera as a sound - not literally - but something slightly sinister in the arrangement that marks it. I would also consider some sound design as she starts to move into the dream world. It would be good to feel she's on the edge of reality.

Dreamworld - the low piano note is ok but I would think about a change of pace here. We've just moved worlds after all. Perhaps drop the high pitched wooshing sound to make it less busy. When you go from the gulls to that sound it feels like a continuation even though things have changed.

06:21 Good moment where she looks to the other shore.

06:33 Adding the percussion is interesting. It feels purposeful like we're going somewhere. Why start that here? Where are we going? I would consider pulling back the music already on the moon to give some space before the next scene. At the moment you continue and build until the ending tom drums feel like they're leading to the church scene .. but that then feels too heavy with music. Cut it back earlier with the low string dying as we enter the church and the higher string comes in.

07:20 There's what sounds like a glitch here where a string line cuts out abruptly. Then we have what sounds like a horn line that feels very forthright and static.

07:27 The ostinato works well enough for the action of breaking and entering, she's on a mission after all, but I would strongly consider stopping it either around 07:40 when we're inside and creeping around, or latest 07:50 when we see the desk. The visuals are not really action oriented and there doesn't feel like there's extreme tension .. so perhaps the music can reflect the snooping around and curiosity more.

At 07:50 rather than pulling back we're actually going up a notch with the addition of percussion.

07:57 there's something a bit ragged about the arrangement here. Feels quite improvised. A little haphazard all the way through to the next scene. Lots of elements but not working so well together. The move to the next scene at 08:13 should be a little smoother and earlier. This is another opportunity to dial back the music (which would make the bigger moments more effective).

It sounds like we have some fairly static ensemble wind/string patches here that could be removed altogether, or made far more musical (thin it out to individual instruments, make them breathe through expression control). The piano at 08:34 work well leading into the next scene but again, I wouldn't necessarily leave it running through the scene. Light and shade.

08:39 Sound design pad. Presumably to indicate something suspicious but jarrs badly with the piano - this might be the intention but it took me away from the story.

08:45 Not sure about the extra percussion coming in here.

08:47 the strings work ok here. Could be even better if they were without the piano/percussion. Something to expore.

09:10 I like the clock percussion, could maybe have worked in it earlier in a more subtle way.

09:20 Save the string crescendo for after the vocal. It's partly the music being loud against the sync sound but also high strings + high pitched voice is asking for trouble. Consider using lower strings and go higher when she finishes.

09:27 Ice. The piano note is reminiscent of the earlier dream sequence which is good.

Not convinced by returning to the string ostinato when the ice sequence ends. Not needed. Could sustain through to next scene with the letter.

10:04 Very jarring going straight to the video screen sound (nice call back to earlier camera). Although that might be the intended effect when you've had almost 5 minutes of almost solid music it's too much. If the letter posting scene was emptier/quieter this could work much better.

Overall, some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

A few other points worth sharing ..

RE: Presentation. The film starts with music from the off. There's a little glitch that's probably coming from the sync audio. When you send these things to your clients you're trying to impress them so make it as authentic an experience as possible. Start the film before the music, or if that is the start of the film, delay the music by a few seconds so it's not so jarring. Think about the mix - the music is way too loud against the sync sound. You may want the director to hear your music clearly but they'll also be just as concerned with how dominant it seems compared to other aspects. When you send a guide MOV present it in such a way that the director hears the audio in a way that makes it all sound good and enhances his film.

RE: File naming. Keep the file names consistent and also include enough detail that if the music file was on its own it would be imported in the right place. Your MP4 and MP3 have different names - I know there's confusion between the reel numbers but pick one and be consistent with it otherwise things could be separated and without any other guide for placement your music could end up anywhere. Which brings me neatly on to "always include the timecode" for music start in the filename even if you're sending a broadcast WAV with a timestamp (I would normally use HHMMSSFF as it's clear enough and as short as it can get). It's too easy for editors to make mistakes so give them every opportunity to put the music in the right place.

Research: POOR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: FAIR
Practical: FAIR

Cheers,
Doug

Douglas Black Heaton's Summary:
Frozen - Some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

Danny Thompson

Danny Thompson passed away on Monday.
He was a founding member of Theater Oobleck. He helped create the brilliant play called The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled "Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue. I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!" 
Danny's seemingly effortless intellect and artistic sensibilities were amazing. He had a kind of understanding of things which were literally and figuratively beyond words.

A number of years ago he made the above squirrel image and I asked if I could use it as my Twitter header and he said yes. It's one of my favorite things ever.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

PMC07 Formative 1

Hi Andrew!
Thank you for your “Frozen” submission!

I would have liked to have read a little more in your commentary about why you chose to go in the “Nordic noir” direction… it’s important to fully understand the creative process! When the brief asks for up to 1000 words of commentary, it means we want to know more about how you came up with thematic material, why you chose certain sounds or libraries, technical aspects of your mockup, and critical assessment of your own work. This should almost never be a one or two simple sentence answer to one of the questions - Please elaborate further. Include things like why you chose to score or not score certain moments - what you chose to have as important sync points and transitions and why, etc.

It’s interesting you mentioned the TV show House in your research - I’ve worked as a part of that composer team on multiple TV shows over my past 5 years in LA.

There is a lot of discrepancy and a fine line in terms of talking sync point timings - for me, the musical change that happens at the scene cut at 02:06:07:16 happens just a hair too late. Although hitting right on the nose is not necessary since we’re not doing a Mickey-moused animation here, I think moving this change even 1 second earlier or a matter of frames could help this sit better and be more impactful in its marriage to the film. I’d love to hear the delay metal sound effect style sound design to begin to fade earlier, around possibly 02:06:21:03 - to follow the focus of the camera on the silhouette in the background and to really feel like this music is shifting as she is shifting both her attention and gaze. Love the low pad that comes in as the boat comes across, it creates a good sense of mystery here.

Nice change in the feel of the music as the strings come in and bring us both a sense of more emotion and confusion with her smirk.

I completely agree with your idea to make the music smaller and a little more settled as we come to this indoor cut at 02:06:59:10, but its transition here feels rushed. Try letting the musical ideas from the previous scene (full moon) wane down and little more before we hit this cut (yes, pun intended…)

Nice transition around 02:09:29:16, this works very well with the camera work.

I personally found the piano to be mixed a little too low in the mix - I’m curious as to why you have it down so far - is it to let the sustained strings take precedence? I think the piano adds a nice movement and should be brought out more - except for under the narration at 02:09:17:17. The speaking voice is somewhat mid range - either duck the volume of the piano here, or jump it up an octave and reduce the velocities so that the piano does not compete with the audio.

I like the minimalistic approach of the music, although I’m not sure it’s giving the viewer enough emotionally to truly assist in the story telling. See if you can add more of an evocative touch to the score - absolutely not to just TELL us what is going on or about to happen, but to almost subconsciously shift us to a better understanding - subtle things like a melody motif, a simple chord change that gives us a change in tonality or modality, small nuances or thematic intertwining, etc.

Research: FAIR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: GOOD
Practical: FAIR

Allison Piccioni's Summary:
I could have definitely used better insight and more detail in your commentary, as it is not only a great way to critically assess yourself and the how’s why’s and what’s of your creative process but also for tutors to gain insight into technical aspects of your assignment. I think this is a great sound bed to begin with, although I feel that the music is missing some evocative moments and needs to be fleshed out - also see some of my notes on sync point choices.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PMC:06 Summative

[Editor's note: shockingly, this did actually pass.]

Johnny Yates's Notes:
Research: POOR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: POOR
Practical: FAIR

Hi Andrew,

You start with a good approach to mood on screen by using a descending harmonic scale in the strings, capturing the mysterious dark environment when the camera zooms into the museum. I suggest toning down the expression or dynamics in your string part, it feels a little overpowering with your sustain pads and experiment using a quartet arrangement instead. This will give it a live performance and have a bigger impact when you use ensemble strings later on.
00:21 - you use reverb percussive instrument (clacks or blocks) that has a long resonance which clashes the ambient field of the scene. The overall ensemble ambience is dry and settles nicely with the dialogue but this percussive part feels out of place and clashes with the communication between characters.
00:30 - nice cue point to allow your legato winds signifying the special artefact.
00:35 - the percussive part now feels out of pace and irregular to the tempo structure. It sounds like you’ve kept it on loop while the other instruments are Mickey mousing - I recommend cutting this part out of the ensemble.
00:42 - the upbeat rhythms and syncopated staccatos works nicely with the girl excited at seeing the Sarcophagus - however the shaker is a good concept but needs to be pushed back in the mix. This reoccurs at 01:30, sounds too dry and in the foreground.
You have a few good cue spots where the music syncing with the behaviour on screen. I recommend adding more emphasis in certain key points e.g. 01:20 as he places the artefact back; you can build unresolved sequence of notes to capture the mystery behind this item. Using a sting or sweep effect from the instrumental tools (glissando, rip, dynamic build etc).
01:33 - be careful using expression in your horn parts, they sound slightly punchy from the blowing technique. Lower the volume or velocity values so it doesn’t sound too harsh. 01:38 - capture the storm breaking into focus before he pushes the button.
01:40 I feel there needs to be a sudden change of tempo, texture and driving rhythm when we see the security boy scared and running off. The woodwinds are playing settling syncopated patterns which doesn’t reflect the emotion at this point. This is a challenge for you to use a darker tonality in your scoring without making it sound too sinister for children. Modulating keys or using chromaticism are important musical tools to changing the mood on screen.
01:50 - the marimba pad syncing with the mirrors doesn’t settle with the instrumentation and feels ambiguous in a mixing perspective. Firstly it’s too loud and seems you’re trying to use this technique as a sound design tool to signify the lightening reflection.
01:55 - the brass parts are still too loud and aggressive in the expression. The scene is suddenly transitioning to a calmer atmosphere in the girls bedroom. Always focus how the camera is capturing moments on screen - we can see it’s slowly descending to a new scene and music can resemble this feature, scaling down with arpeggios or sequence of notes. 02:00 there’s an issue with the transitional change between scenes. I can hear a clip and the music doesn’t flow together when you perform your arpeggio winds - This feels chaotic for this calm entrance to the girls room, I recommend allowing your music to flow with legato phrases.
02:16 - I like how you build tension when the cat has a reaction to the lightening. Add more textures and dramatic scoring to capture the cats emotion with an added thump or kick drum with your double bass hit, when the cat falls to the ground.
02:50 - The harp note values press too harshly - either automate the volume control for a lower level or change the velocity to a subtle tone. Also adjust the balance so it feels settled in the overall ensemble.
03:54 - You have the right idea using the tonal textures to build this sequence of events. There’s a lack of dynamic contrasting, sense of tension and real expression to feel there is something dramatic about to happen. When the lightening strikes we suddenly need the music to signify this with impactful chords or thick textures. The electric piano sounds too dry and forward in the mix - needs tweaking. The brass legatos cut off at 04:10 for the dialogue to express the message - good job. Afterwards it sounds a little distorted with the cluster of instruments you’re using, especially in the low horns. The held notes are a good drone to have a foundation of tension but there needs to be a build of rhythms or arpeggio lifts to feel something is about to be revealed. 04:18 the upbeat piano stabs doesn’t fit with the genre or orchestral arrangement you are scoring to picture.
04:38 - goos response the mummy revealing as a young boy but cutting the music to silence. I suggest rearranging the layers of your instruments when you build up the dynamics and harmony. The brass are overpowering the ascending tremolo strings and they’re the important part to signify the audiences emotional connection to this scene.

Johnny Yates's Summary:
I can hear good sections where you have taken the time to use your compositional tools as a signifier for cue points or how the characters are reacting on screen. I suggest focusing the dialogue as a lead part or melodic line and embedding a music score that allows the message to be clearly heard or spoken for audiences to understand the narrative on screen. Your mixes are unbalanced in certain sections and need to blend your instruments together with no clashing underneath the dialogue or SFX. Next time start work on scoring your music with a sense of flow by experimenting how harmonic techniques whether changing the key, atonal segmentations, stings etc will allow you to transition between scenes and Micky mouse key cues.
David Denyer 1 day ago (13 May 2019)
David Denyer's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for this submission. Scoring animation is indeed a challenge and it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line in regards to mickey-mousing and kitschiness. In this case I feel that a collection of various problems prevent the score from being overly successful - with certain mockup/mix issues really sidelining things in a way that isn’t helpful for your dramatic intent.

The very opening starts well, but as soon as I hear the percussion I feel that it’s become overscored. If the percussion would suit anywhere, it’d be the very beginning - the conversation between the professor and roxanne has no need for any kind of groove so it doesn’t add anything useful. Nice hitpoint with the scepter of was, but this could be even stronger. After this hitpoint there’s a weird bumpy walking bass clarinet which feels unusual and asymmetric - why is this clarinet drawing attention to itself? In a way it undermines the significance of the previous hitpoint (scepter of was). Perhaps the scepter’s “motif” can continue while the scepter is in his hands. The entrance of Cleo feels very “trasitiony” and doesn’t really suit her character - she really interrupts the scene. The percussion here is nice, but these chattering winds feel a bit obscure. Firstly they feel very distant (and animation music tends to sound much more intimate and close), but it’s also not entirely clear what they’re doing for the scene. I suspect the music here would be more effective if they were just muted. The line “I appreciate your enthusiasm…” - it’s a shame the music doesn’t change here. The professor is a real killjoy, he deflates her energy. “Tut’s sacred objects” - great. This feels just right here (01:01:04:00). At 01:01:08:00, the professor again deflates her energy - we get a few seconds of bass clarinet solo which feels just right but it’s killed by more bass and percussion and flutes - which again, feel wrong here, as her energy is deflated. 01:01:04:00 - nice. 01:01:20:00 - really nice, but 01:01:25:00, the clarinet’s dynamics are really odd. Why is one note so much louder than the others? This phrase seems weirdly lopsided and sounds very very sequenced. At 01:01:33:00, the chattering winds seem to have no musical relation to the bass clarinet underneath - this makes for a very, very weird musical experience. This ascending clarinet scale, 01:01:39:00 doesn’t sound realistic, each note has a weird bump on it. The egg shaker here feels weirdly loud. 01:01:41:00, where the security guard is running from the lightning, this string part is nice but it needs to be much bigger, much closer, and much more dramatic. It feels really weak here. It’s doubled by some ff heavy brass, that’s strangely mixed very low in the mix. This makes it strangely buzzy and not very powerful. 01:01:48:00, nice impulse to slow down but again this is anaemic and needs much more power. And that buzzing brass in the background needs to either be mixed loud enough to make sense, or be performed at a much lower expression. The vibraphone sync points here are bizarrely loud compared to the rest of the orchestra. 01:02:01:00 very, very weird transition here. Burst of chattering winds that ends very abruptly - I get that you’re trying to emphasise the lightning magic but you don’t need the music to sound like lightning - you just need to create emphasis. Some of the “scepter of was” music from earlier might be more appropriate here. 01:02:08:00, nice harp stuff here. This could continue, feels more appropriate for the scene than the winds. Bass solo for Luxor’s walk is awesome, but the flute doesn’t sound realistic enough to work here. The legatos really don’t sound right - in fact, I think this music would sound awesome with the flute just muted. Up until “I don’t believe this guy”, the bass clarinet is just way too loud and honky. Simply the part, and reduce the expression. 01:03:10:00, lovely - nice hitpoint. The bass for Luxor’s speaking works nicely as an entrance, but it’s a bit stop-starty. This part at 01:03:41:00 needs much more reverence - Luxor is talking about his king! Especially when the lightning starts - these winds don’t really feel very dramatic, just a bit fluttery. The awakening of the king could also be much, much more dramatic. The cutoff for “it’s a kid?” needs to be much more abrupt - and I think it starts again way too soon! Let him have his first words - bring the music in when he starts running.

Overall, some cool ideas here but in general the significant moments are not properly weighted, and some of the character interactions feel a bit wrong. In general it feels as though music exists “because music should exist” but it doesn’t always feel like your music understands exactly what it’s trying to do for the scenes. The mix also doesn’t help - many of these lines need much more tasteful uses of expression, more lyrical and dynamic legatos, etc. Overall, good work, but a little misguided in places.

Research: GOOD
Creative: FAIR
Technical: FAIR
Practical: FAIR

Kind regards,

David

David Denyer's Summary:
Overall, some cool ideas here but in general the significant moments are not properly weighted, and some of the character interactions feel a bit wrong. The mix also isn’t always strong - many of these lines need much more tasteful uses of expression, more lyrical and dynamic legatos, etc. Overall, good work, but a little misguided in places.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

PMC 08 Formative 1

Cool track! Let's get right into it:

As you know, I'm a huge fan of music concrete. Nothing to me is as "unique" sounding as a piece of music where the composer essentially designs the sonic palette from scratch. This definitely harkens back to Edgard Varese and Pierre Schaeffer in a really cool way. Let's get right into some feedback:

First of all, the sounds. Wow! These sounds were so distinctive. That's always a huge part of music that doesn't use tonality to convey meaning. Your choice of instruments and timbre really went a long way toward making this piece compelling and interesting. The scraping zipper type sound was so unexpected to me that it always caught my attention. And of course the bell sounds were fantastic. I loved that you changed the timing and pitch throughout as well, it felt very well developed as a sound.

I also appreciated that some of the sound were heavily processed and others were not. I think it further adds to the contrast.

As far as development goes I felt that there was something left to be desired. The zipper sound, as interesting as it was, came back five times in almost exactly the same way. I think it was overused a touch. One one hand, that does show some structure in the repetition, but on the other hand it sort of halted the feeling of moving somewhere new. That said, I loved when you slowed the sound down. That was by far the most unbelievably interesting part of this piece. I think the slowed down version needed to be bumped up in the mix a touch as it slowed down though, because it tends to get overwhelmed in the arrangement.

I think either cutting the number of times that sound comes back in its original pitch, OR finding new ways to process it at its original pitch will go a long way towards making this feel less repetitive. The rest of the track develops quite nicely, so this is the only glaring problem I had with it.

This is completely a preference, but I did want to mention that although the piece had its strengths in the timbre and pitch material derived from your found sounds, I felt I was missing some purely rhythmic elements. When I create acousmatic music like this I like to find sounds I can process in a way that yields some manipulate-able rhythms as well as tonal stuff. It could be really fun to speed up the "zipper" and layer it underneath and one or two spots, just to get some "clicking" ostinatos to fade in and out. Just a thought!

Creative: EXCELLENT

Technical: EXCELLENT

Practical: GOOD

- My only feedback here is regarding the repetition of the initial sound.



Spencer Bambrick's Summary:

Great work! Loved the sounds. Keep it up!

Sunday, May 05, 2019

This barely reduced my tabs

Dreamland is a podcast.

The Fuji XT-3 is interesting.

Ross Tregenza is a composer.




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Saturday, May 04, 2019

PMC:06 Formative 2


Unrelated, but something I cannot imagine caring less about.

Pass

Tutor Notes

Matteo Pagamici's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

The music is good, but it often feels disconnected from the picture. It runs in the background but is not always related the story.
You establish a rather dark and tense mood, but as soon as the characters start speaking, it becomes more comedy-like. While the first few seconds to set up the plot, afterwards there is nothing funny happening, making it feel forced. It should be light-hearted, but only comedic in the moments when there is actually something funny happening on-screen. Also, the music interferes with the character’s voices, making them harder to understand. This part either needs no music at all, or very subtle accents to emphasise certain moments, such as the line “this great symbol of power”. Right now the energy of the music is very constant, which means that all the dialogue lines are perceived as equal. Instead, try to use the music to create a hierarchy and point out to the audience what is really important. This is a kids’ show so everything needs to be ultra-obvious and unambiguous. There are some moments where you do this (e.g. “have to be arranged just right”), but it is too subtle.

TC01:46 - This is a major plot point. The music can be huge, keeping in mind that the storm and thunder sound design will also be rather loud. It should start when he turns off the light. Something big and terrible is happening, use the music to tell that this is not good.

The part at TC02:28 is really good. It feels light-hearted, but at the same time it still creates tension and gradually becomes darker. When the sceptre starts glowing we definitely need more intensity. The audience needs to feel the surprise.

When the pharaoh wakes up it gets tricky because this moment completes the exposition of the full episode, but at the same time there is a lot of dialogue. You chose an excellent moment to end the cue.

Overall you have some excellent ideas and material, but it needs to be placed more precisely. The music is rarely extremely big or extremely quiet, more dynamics and more contrast will help emphasising the most important moments. I suggest to spend enough time to analyse the video material more thoroughly. You need to know the intensity progression of each scene before you start scoring, define the necessary moods and find out what the most important moments are.

You do not need to use leitmotifs, but sometimes they make scoring easier as you can create a leitmotif-map before you even start writing music. After that, instead of writing to picture, you just create the needed motifs with different versions (light-hearted, tense, dark etc.) and place them. Then you fill the gaps. There is some of that in your score already, e.g. with the sceptre, it just is not clear enough because there are so many other things going on.

Matteo



Research: GOOD
Creative: FAIR
Technical: GOOD
Practical: FAIR

Matteo Pagamici's Summary:
The material is good, but it could be placed more efficiently to support the story and make the images more interesting. The music needs more dynamics and contrast.