Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

20 Questions (Nailing the Emotional Tone)

Film Directors working with Composers often have a challenge describing the music they want for their film. One is a Visual and the other an Aural-centered person. How to cross this divide?

I often use an exercise I call 20 questions.

By asking questions that make us feel with the other senses (especially not aural) we can get a better idea of what emotional qualities we are seeking. I usually do a list of opposites like this:

Hot — Cool
Deep — Shallow
Smooth —Jagged
Glossy — Matte
Organic — Synthetic
Stoic — Flowing
Dangerous — Sheltered
Textured — Fine
Pungent — Fragrant
Bright — Dark
Hard — Soft
Scratchy — Clear
Grainy — Lucid
Spicy — Soothing
Solid — Liquid
Understated — In Your Face
Background — Foreground
Frenetic — Calming
Subtle — Overt
Curvy — Straight

This can be harder for some than others. The idea is to get a common ground that avoids the misunderstandings brought about by descriptors like “very hip, current and cool music.”

I then ask what do you want the audience to feel? Jealousy, anger, regret, pain, triumph, etc which further specifies the exact tone and feel.

And sometimes I ask what colors would be best describe your project? Again, sometimes this draws blanks, but I had a director tell me “burnt sienna and cyan.” This specificity was extremely helpful in achieving the exact tone.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Director + Composer


Steven Spielberg/John Williams. Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann. Tim Burton/Danny Elfman.
There are many examples of great serial collaborations between directors and composers. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If your storytelling partner is working why change? In fact, many directors work with the same crews over and over again.

John Williams is at it again with… Spielberg.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Who needs a record label – get me a spot!

This is the new mantra of all bands, musicians and singer-songwriters. With the crashing of the record label structures, bands have realized they can make much more money and get more airtime via an ad. Witness iTunes ads with Jet, Ozomatli, etc. Or Mitsubishi who singlehandedly created Dirty Vegas as a number 1 hit a few years back.

This week’s Crains New York business has an article about this. 2 telling quotes.

“My quest is to create a hit record through an ad, with no middleman,” says Josh Rabinowitz, director of music for Grey Worldwide.

“More than 30% of music used in commercials today is licensed, compared with 5% just five years ago,” says JSM Music’s Joel Simon.

Needless to say, this has made the environment much more open to film licensing as well.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Orchestras and Film Music

Why are so many film scores done with orchestras? Well, having a 100 piece sound palette at your disposal is quite versatile in communicating virtually any emotion – without getting in the way of the story. Film music has been driving a lot of so-called “serious” music for quite a while now. Orchestras can only play so many from the repertoire of 300 year dead white Europeans. Now, any time film scores are added to the concert bill, a much younger crowd can be seen. In fact, many orchestras around the world are now going out of their way to entice film composers to record with them offering package deals, translators, copyists and waiving all kinds of union fees. One can record in the former Czechoslavakia with 3 to 5 different orchestras starting at $10,000 US. And…many indie films (and some Hollywood ones) are done this way. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, though I know it’s only a matter of time that I’m on the other side of the planet with an outsourced orchestra.

Animation is one genre of film that reallly appreciates the composer for without the soundtrack, much of the life of the story, the world – the magic- is gone.

In Japan, animation is appreciated on such a different level than here. Can you imagine a composer for cartoons being appointed music director of a leading symphony orchestra in the States? The composer for Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and other great modern classics performs live in Korea next week…and yes, he’s the musical director of the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Copyrights and Royalties

As a filmmaker, you know a bit about intellectual property. According to Don Passman’s excellent book All You Need To Know About the Music Business,

Copyright is a “limited duration monopoly.”
You as a creator of original content have the EXCLUSIVE right to

1) reproduce the work
2) distribute it
3) perform it publicly
4) make a derivative work
5) to display it publicly.

Royalties are the payments the creator receives for one of the 5 rights described above. For any creator of intellectual property, royalties are an important source of revenue. For songwriters/ composers, there are basically two kinds of royalties.
Mechanical royalties and performing rights royalties. Mechanical royalties are misnamed but come from the time when you mechanically reproduced the music . It refers to sales of records and a percentage of each sale goes back to the owner of the copyright (a writer and a publisher). In the case of royalty-free music libraries, this is the royalty that is no longer paid in exchange for an upfront payment and the non-exclusive use of the music. It can be sold over and over again to recoup it’s investment and expense.

Performance royalties are monies paid to the creator/copyright owner when the music is performed in public. In the United States, there are three Performing Rights Societies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) that handle the licensing and collection of fees for the right to perform music in public. These are the royalties that broadcasters pay and you as the film producer do not have to worry about. You do have to sign off on and provide a “cue sheet” for your film. More on this later.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Secrets of The Final Mixdown – (and what’s a Stem?)

At the Boards Summit’s Director’s Chair panel yesterday, we got to hear some of the biggest frustrations of the top commercial directors. Number one? Not being included at the edit.
This may be a bit shocking to those outside of the commercial production process, but directors are more often than not, not invited to the edit session. Now making a commercial is not unlike making a full length feature. Can you imagine the film producer taking your dailies and then saying “thank you very much, go on to your next project we’ll take it from here.”
This is the same way Composers feel when they’re not invited to the final mixdown. On most of the independent films I work on, I make it a point to be at the final mix. There will always be a minor issue that can be clarified instantaneously in the room. For example, an effect I used on a hybrid hip-hop/orchestral track that made things sound low fidelity was throwing the engineers into a huff. They were furiously trying to correct it. When I told them that was intended, they were sort of incredulous and then moved on.

I usually provide splits (also known as stems) for the final mixdown. This is in addition to a standard 2 track stereo final mix. The stems are basically submixes. For an orchestral score, this would normally be broken down as Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion. For a pop soundtrack, this might look like this: Drums, Bass, Keys and Pads, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals. Why would we need submixes? Dialog is the most important audio element in a film. If you can’t hear it or if it starts to get muddled underneath the sound effects and music, something’s got to go. Usually that means the music get pulled back. But, sometimes, the music needs to drive the scene. Solution? Take the competing audio frequencies down in volume and leave everything else up. For example, for a pop soundtrack, the electric guitar sits in a tonal spectrum that is very close to the human voice. If the lead guitar part is smoking out the dialog, perhaps just pulling it back would allow the scene to work whilst still having massive “balls” in the sound.
So why not bring all the separate tracks to the final mixdown? Post-audio engineers absolutely do not want to remix the entire music portion of the project AND the sound effects and the dialog. Giving them stems allows for some flexibility without a huge extra workload. By the way, 95% of the time, we never use them as the 2 track mix is just fine.

By the way, learned another interesting thing. Commercial directors charge by the amount of shoot days – generally starting at $10,000 (US) per day. So they’re not even getting paid to go to the edit and want to be there. It’s the same with Composers. It’s not about the money – it’s about following through on your work and ensuring a quality final product – the film.

Here’s an interesting article about perhaps the greatest commercial director in the world, Joe Pytka. Ciao.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Placing Songs in Commercials/ Films

Spent today at the excellent Boards Summit, an advertising industry conference in NYC.

It used to be that putting your song in an ad was sellling out.
In the old days, you used to start bidding at $1 million dollars and go way up to get any song of note from a well-known recording artist into a commercial. Nowadays, new bands are giving free access to advertisers to get the free media blitz and the resultant number one record.
Mitsubishi did this several years ago with a little known electronica band called Dirty Vegas which launched on the back of a car commercial. Then they went on to sell 2 million records, win a Grammy and then return to complete obscurity. All because some Agency creative chose them for inclusion in their spot. It could have been just about any track!

Possibly the only recording artist left in the world who doesn’t want to sell out is John Densmore (the drummer) of the Doors.
Even with $15 millionbeing offered from Cadillac (For Break on Through) and reportedly up to $4 Million from Apple, he voted no to the anguish of the other 2 surviving members.

Filmmakers take note: you can get a big song in your film, if you can bring exposure, marketing and tie-ins to the table. More on this later.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Live Musicians Versus Samples

In talking with a choreographer the other day – I realize there may be some confusion over samples.

Samples are short recordings of live music that can be triggered to play using a device called a sampler. In the early days of sampling, it was DJ’s taking short snips from existing records and mixing that together or looping it into new music. Most of you know that this world has been almost crushed out of existence by the threat and reality of the lawsuits from record labels.

Current State of the Sample and Sampler
Over the past 2 to 5 years, technology has improved so fast that most of today’s recording studios are moving “inside the box.” Meaning, everything is done inside the computer. Instead of a wall of machines, my Macintosh does it all with software versions of all that stuff.

And samples are no longer little snippets of pre-existing music or just loops (though they still exist). Samples have become extremely sophisticated and have turned into complete soundset libraries for the Composer. No longer are Composers forced to just use a pre-existing phrase or loop but can write pretty much anything they hear and make the samples perform it in a way that is extremely realistic – in fact, no one can tell the difference.

These sample libraries are being created where every note of every instrument of an orchestra is being recorded at multiple dynamics (soft, medium, loud, very loud) at multiple velocities (slow, medium, fast, very fast) and every nuance in between each note. This makes for a very large amount of gigabytes of information! In fact the Vienna Symphonic Library boasts over 238 GB for the Complete Orchestral Edition which comes to 385,586 samples! That is staggering. I remember when I was loading my samples by hand off a floppy disk onto my Ensoniq EPS16+ in 1991. I could fit 8MB and that was great! The East-West Quantum Leap Symphonic library has 68 GB and a slightly more big-Hollywood sound.

Thus Spake is a piece I wrote utilizing the massive sounds from my sample libraries. Sounds pretty real doesn’t it? Here’s one that is more subtle and mixes some real instruments together: Pomegranates.

Today, every Composer/Producer (as they’ve merged into one job- more on this later!) uses a software environment to compose. The top 3 Composing packages are – LogicPro, Digital Performer, Cubase. What about ProTools you say? Well, yes, there are quite a few who do use ProTools – though the interface and the workflow of it are much more geared to an Engineer and most definitely suitable for the final mixdown. I use LogicPro which is a fantastic tool (as they all are) and it allows me to compose music to picture and have the use of “virtual instruments”, access to sample libraries and amazing effects. This is a screenshot from my work environment in LogicPro for the feature film “Creche” by David Wall.

But all this is really besides the point. What sounds better?
In the end, the answer is does it support the picture and does it sound good? Sometimes that’s a completely sampled production, othertimes it’s completely acoustic and other times a hybrid.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Secret 101: ” The Spotting Session”

The meeting between the Director and Composer, (and sometimes Music Supervisor, Music Editor, Writers, Producers) where the film is watched and discussed as to where music is and more importantly, where it is not. This meeting can be in person, or in our digital age, over the phone with the various parties watching the same time-coded tape or DVD.

For video conferences and phone calls, I suggest this “work tape” to have a burned-in timecode in the image which allows everyone to literally be on the same frame. Each instance of music is called a “cue.” Out of this meeting (or meetings), a “cue sheet” is developed where in and out points of various music cues are notated along with a description of what’s happening in the scene. My cue sheets are done in Excel and I always feature a column where I write “Emotional” notes about what the director has told me s/he wants to be communicated in the scene. And I add notes about specific instruments in a column entitled “Palette. You can download a sample cue sheet I did for a feature film entitled “Creche” (coming Christmas 2006) here.

The Cue Sheet becomes a very important document and needs to be agreed upon by Director and Composer and other stakeholders. It is where much discussion can take place and keep everyone on the same page.

Here’s how Alf Clausen scores the Simpsons each week. Mind you, he has a mega budget, a live orchestra and a lot of help and resources. Still 30 cues a week is tremendous!!!

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Public Domain

So many times I see people posting asking for public domain music. Here’s a handy chart  created by Cornell University that lists when works pass into the public domain. (US-centric)

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

The Shining Redux

Our friends at PS260 have created a memorable trailer that reinvents the original. Jack never looked happier. Great work!
BTW, PS260 cut the Timberland Wild spot we scored.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Secret Cost of Documentaries


Sunday’s New York Times had a great article on the cost of clearing music in documentaries. It’s a very changed landscape and highly recommend reading this prior to shooting ANYTHING!

“Clearance costs – licensing fees paid to copyright holders for permission to use material like music, archival photographs and film and news clips – can send expenses for filmmakers soaring into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation,” for instance – a portrait of a young man’s relationship with his mentally ill mother that Mr. Caouette edited at home, on a laptop computer – was widely reported to have cost $218. In fact, after a distributor picked up “Tarnation,” improved the quality with post-production editing and cleared music rights, the real cost came to more than $460,000. Clearance expenses were about half the total.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Surround mixes from your camcorder

Another SONY link today. They’ve announced the ability to create 5.1 surround mixes from the built in microphone on a selection of new DVD-camcorders. I don’t know how good it will sound and if it makes it harder to clean up your audio for post, but that’s pretty nifty!
“The DCR-DVD403 Handycam model has a built-in mic to record in 5.1 channel surround
sound, while the DCR-DVD103 and DCR-DVD203 Handycam models offer the ability
to record in rich, surround sound with an optional accessory microphone.
The pinnacle of the DVD lineup, the DCR-DVD403 Handycam camcorder unit is
the first consumer camcorder to include Dolby(R) Digital 5.1 Creator. This
unique technology incorporates built-in, multichannel microphones, so you can
record your home movies in dramatic 5.1 channel digital surround sound for an
immersive audio experience.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Movies in your pocket

Sony announces that they’re going to have the ability to play movies on their coming PSPortable. It’s interesting how many resolutions and formats you will now be able to consumer your media content. This of course makes it another variable when preparing for mixes. From pristine HD surround mixes to stereo to mono to computer crappy speakers mixes to celphone and PSP super crappy mixes. Someone should come up with a chart checklist that has all the formats and all the resolutions and file formats. One day when I get a minute…

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

5 seconds of fame

So my brother and I decided we would create a 5 second film to enter into that Cadillac contest Anyway, we didn’t make the finalists, but can you believe who did?
Here’s our micro-masterpiece. Bathroom Hero.
By the way, that’s me coming out of the bathroom. Alright, forgive the lack of appearances. I wasn’t supposed to be in the movie!

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Holographic Audio

Imagine a beam of sound that can be directed anywhere like a flashlight.  I read an article about this in the New York Times several years ago. A young inventor at MIT created this.  Apparently he’s done very well and showed his systems at the G8 conference.  Applications already being used/developed include a 4 passenger vehicle in which everyone has their own “sound stream.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

The Power of Jingles and Ice Cream Trucks

So here in the City of New York, we have the age old tradition of the ice cream truck.  And through the years, it seems we’ve only got one brand left… Mister Softee.  Part of their success has been attributed to their incredibly infectious and indelible jingle that all the trucks play continuously.  Now our great mayor, who has done so much to rid the city of smokers among other things has declared war on noise pollution.  And one of those targets is the Mister Softee jingle. 

The Mister Softee company has actually posted sheet music for this golden oldie as they’ve been deluged with requests for it.

Jingles may be an out-of-fashion word at the moment, but they are undeniably powerful.

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.
Categories
music music for film Uncategorized

Musical Notes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

“The musical notes are only five in number, but their melodies are so numerous that one cannot hear them all.”

Andrew Ingkavet is a composer with over 2 decades experience creating music for film, theater, advertising and new media.