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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.