Tuesday, 5 May 2015

MUSIC... part I

As luxuries go, being able to work the music into your film early on is probably one of the most important and rewarding.
As the editing process commences early with the storyboards and animatics we already have an ear as to what the rhythm and pace of a scene may be. This influences your music choice incredibly in terms of pace and speed, yet the main inspiration for the overall music style is the story itself. 

I found myself looking at the characters and the story itself to find the emotional chore of everything and I tried to imagine a soundscape apt for my ideas. 

Below is the original document I wrote explaining my first ideas, which was eventually given to Stephen Warbeck, the composer of the film before our first meeting.
In it I try to explain my ideas, my vision for the music, the style the instruments used, and the emotional chore of the concepts.

Beneath this I also include some input from Stephen himself, discussing some of the process behind creating the score of the film, with examples of the early demoes, and the finished music cues in order to see the progression from the early work to the completed pieces.

Enjoy!



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What follows is a small exchange between Stephen and myself as I try to understand his work process and how he arrives at the ideas that eventually create the final compositions...
CDV- Traditionally how does your work process start?
SW- VARIES ALOT - SOMETIMES AT THE VERY END, THE LAST PART OF THE PROCESS AND SOMETIMES AT SCRIPT STAGE…….
CDV- Where do you begin formulating the ideas that will eventually blossom from a thought, a tiny melody, a demo and then the full orchestration?
SW-I USUALLY FIND A PART OF THE FILM WHICH SPEAKS TO ME EMOTIONALLY AS MY WAY IN TO THE MUSIC. THIS IS NOT USUALLY AT THE BEGINNING, AND NEEDS TO BE OF MORE IMPORTANCE THAN A TRANSITION OR ACTION CUE. I WILL OFTEN WRITE TWO OR THREE THEMES BASED ON THIS MOMENT OR SEQUENCE AND THEN SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF I APPLY THEM TO OTHER PARTS OF THE FILM.
CDV- How was this process been different on Yellowbird, your first animated film, if different at all?
SW-THE PROCESS WAS SIMILAR IN MANY WAYS ALTHOUGH THE DETAILS WERE VERY DIFFERENT. IN THE CASE OF YELLOW BIRD, THE DEATH OF DARIUS WAS ONE OF THE KEY EARLY PARTS I LOOKED AT AND THEN THE SEQUENCE WITH THE VERY MISERABLE LONELY YELLOW BIRD ON THE ICE.
 Below we have 3 clips from the same scene surrounding Darius' Death: the first is the animatic  edited with temp music to match the mood and style wanted; this was then explored by the composer in the first demo produce (clip 2 already with pre-render animation) and developed into the full orchestral version seen in clip 3, with some pre-lighting pass on the animation.

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CDV- What are you're starting points, and where do you look for inspiration?

SW- ONCE THESE FEW IDEAS, USUALLY DRAWN FROM A SEQUENCE WHERE THE DRAMA IS MOST INTENSE, ARE ESTABLISHED, I WILL TRY THEM IN OTHER PLACES. THE INSPIRATION IS ALWAYS THE FILM ITSELF AND USUALLY PROVOKED BY EMPATHY WITH THE CHARACTERS.

CDV- As a composer you have to have a pretty varied and eclectic CV, yet you must have a musical 'style' is specifically your own; does this come from your own sensibilities and how you perceive each project, or do you try and focus more on a films' style and apply your concepts onto these?
SW- PEOPLE WILL TELL COMPOSERS THAT THEY HAVE AN INDIVIDUAL STYLE OR VOICE, BUT FOR US IT FEELS AS THOUGH EACH PROJECT IS A NEW AND SEPARATE JOURNEY. I TRY TO FIND SOMETHING INDIVIDUAL AND SINGULAR ABOUT EACH THING I WORK ON, WHETHER IT BE A COLOUR, AN INSTRUMENT OR A TEXTURE.


CDV- The film's story contains some very dramatic scenes, yet also very cute, funny and very child-friendly scenes? How do you begin to work a sequence as dramatic as Darius' Death, then move on to one as light and fun as the Paris scene?
SW- THESE TWO SCENES ARE GOOD EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENT APPROACHES - THE DARIUS ONE BEING EMOTIONAL AND BASED ON EMPATHY WHILE THE PARIS SCENE IS COMIC AND EVENTFUL. ONCE THE TONE HAS BEEN DECIDED (IN CONSULTATION WITH YOU, THE DIRECTOR) A SCENE LIKE THE PARIS ONE WILL NEED A TEMPO TO BE CHOSEN. THEN I WOULD OFTEN TREAT IT LIKE A TRACK, OR A SONG, WITH A STRUCTURE LIKE A PIECE OF POPULAR OR GYPSY MUSIC. THEN I WOULD BREAK IT UP AND RESTRUCTURE IT ONCE WRITTEN TO FIT THE EVENTS IN THE SEQUENCE.

CDV- You joined the project pretty early on, as we were still in the storyboard and animatic process; with the production lengths being longer than a live-action one, did you find the longer process easier to work with, or more tasking and stressfull?
SW- THE TIMESCALE DID NOT MAKE IT MORE STRESSFUL. I FOUND IT SATISFYING THAT THERE WAS A CONSTANT EVOLUTION OF FEEDING AND DEVELOPING IDEAS AND GRADUALLY SLOTTING THE MOCK-UPS INTO THE CUTTING COPY.

CDV- Can you describe a typical working day?
SW- BREAKFAST, COFFEE, COMPUTER, WALK, COFFEE, PIANO, LUNCH, COFFEE, MAKE MOCK-UPS, WRITE AT PIANO, ADJUST CUES TO RESPOND TO NOTES FROM DIRECTOR. WINE, DINNER, BACK TO WORK TILL ABOUT MIDNIGHT.
Below the excerpt from the animatics of the scene which once was a dream sequence (as described in previous posts I deleted this scene and changed the idea to a solo scene in which Yellowbird witnesses the love between the members of the flock as he flies into the nest to sleep) and which became known as the desolation of Yellowbird.
From the temp music used (from US band The Heart & The Thistle's song Rivers and Roads) I wanted a very melancholic feel to it, with lithe and ethereal vocals to it. As we could not afford the fee the US band requested Stephen wrote a new song swiftly, based on some lyrics I wrote, which then his daughter sang beautifully for the final version of the song.

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CDV- Having worked on the film for such a period of time, able to view and revisit some scenes more than others, how do you view the final cut of the film now that it is complete, compared to your original concepts?
SW- I WAS REASSURED THAT MOST OF THE FINAL CUES ARE EVOLVED FROM THE FIRST IDEAS, ADJUSTED AND CHANGED BUT RARLY TOTALLY NEW. THIS TALLIES WITH MY FEELING THAT FIRST RESPONSES CAN BE GOOD AND RIGHT.

CDV- As an animator and then storyboard artist I always try to find the 'rhythm' of a scene even before music is applied. All movement is rhythm, within a character's own actions, and in the impact these actions have to the scene the character interacts in and with.
Does the application of this 'starting rhythm' hinder your process or does it help find an avenue for your ideas?
SW- ANY SEQUENCE OR SCENE WILL HAVE ITS OWN RHYTHM AND ONE OF THE TASKS IS TO ATTEMPT TO FEEL THIS. IF IT IS RIGHT, THE MELODY ETC. MAY BE LESS IMPORTANT THAN GETTING THE PULSE CORRECT…...

CDV- I enjoyed the music process of the film extremely, as it was the first time I had worked closely with a composer. I found excitment in all the stages, from the first conversations, to the initial demoes, and finally to the recordings of the soloists, the orchestra and final mixes. I feel the music process had an impact on how I dealt with some of the images and scenes, and looking back on this I think I could in future try and begin the music stage even sooner.
SW- I TOO THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THIS COLLABORATION AND I WOULD SAY THAT THE EARLIER THE COLLABORATION STARTS THE BETTER.

CDV- Is there anything in your experience you feel you would do differently, or anything you may apply differently if scoring another animated film?
SW- I FOUND THE PROCESS VERY SATISFYING, THE ONLY PROBLEM WAS THE MONITORING IN THE ROOM WHERE WE LISTENED TO THE MUSIC - I WOULD IN FUTURE TRY TO ENSURE BETTER CONDITIONS FOR HEARING THE MOCK-UPS/DEMOS. ITHINK WE COULD HAVE TRIED TO MIX A COUPLE OF SEQUENCES (LIKE THE PARIS CHASE/FIGHT SEQUENCE) IN A WAY THAT MORE CLOSELY MATCHED THE ACOUSTIC OF THE GOGOL BORDELLO SONG.


CDV- What was your favourite experience on Yellowbird? Favourite scene/moment?
SW- TOO MANY TO SAY - MAYBE SEEING THE FULLY RENDERED IMAGES FOR THE FIRST TIME, SITTING ALONE VERY LATE AT NIGHT WRITING YELLOW BIRD'S SONG, OUR MEETINGS IN PARIS.


CDV- And is there something specific you'd like to add to the post about your work?
SW- I WAS ALWAYS IMPRESSED BY THE ACCURACY AND SPECIFIC NATURE OF YOUR NOTES. I FELT THEY WERE 99% RIGHT, AND AS A RESULT THE PROCESS WAS CONSTRUCTIVE AND POSITIVE, (TRYING TO MODIFY WORK TO APPLY A NOTE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND OR AGREE WITH, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS MASSIVELY DIFFICULT).
……..LET'S WORK TOGETHER AGAIN! 
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Below images and clips from the two recording sessions, one in London at Air Studios with the soloists, the other at Galaxy Studios in Belgium in a small town called Mol, near Bruxelles. 

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 There will be further music posts in the following weeks as we approach the animation process and final editing and mix processes.

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