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Monday, 17 June 2013

Short Film: Exit


Here's my soundtrack on an excellent short film that just wrapped up and got posted online. Music was written to the timing of the visuals.

My composition supplied music to the most part of their project, about 2/3 into the project. At the end during the credits roll, the team edited my piece back in again.

Exit from Rebel Banana on Vimeo.

This is my first track written to visuals. Project from start to finish was 1 Dec 2012 to 28 Mar 2013. During this time there were only 2 rounds of iteration.

For a version with just the music, read my next post here.

The team knew what they wanted, and Andrea, who liaised with me, was very concise in expressing what the team wanted, and the mood they were going for at each part of the story.

The music that the team envisioned was largely influenced by their liking for the music from Team Fortress 2, and even from The Incredibles by Disney.

I was quite apprehensive at the beginning, since this was a genre quite different from my usual style. However, the cinematic flavour that the music had to have was something I could rely on.

The visuals (storyboard/animatics) and their edited pacing were locked down very early in the production. This story has strong and definite moments. Using the cinematic feel as an anchor and some research into similar styles of music I managed to come up with the skeletal version of the structure.

This was just the second idea I set out to write.

In my first idea (which the team promptly rejected), I interpreted the mood as a lonely, with a tinge of eerie feel. However I had a flute part going in there that had a line with a thrill at the end. Somehow I liked it so much that I carried it over to my second idea, which ended up in the final version.

Thinking about the circumstances and the barriers that come up against good coordination and effective communication makes it even more surprising as to how smoothly the music production went.

First thing I would like to highlight, is the fact that, I have never met with any of the team members in person.

Second fact: to date, even after the production has ended, I have never had a voice conversation with any member of the team.

Third fact: The team and myself reside in different countries. They were studying and doing their production in Malaysia, while I am living in Singapore.

Now you can perhaps understand why I feel that it is a miracle that the music could be completed to their satisfaction without much hassle.

Our main communication tool was e-mail and messaging through Facebook. As I have mentioned before, Andrea is a very organised and responsible coordinator. She made sure I had references and instructions. As per our agreement, she did an overlay of textual instructions on their existing storyboard just for music. One thing I have to admire her for, is the fact that she used a generous amount of musical terms (Italian terms) in the instruction overlay. I have never told anybody this, but on my side I had to go and do a search on the meaning to many of those terms that she used :)

The smooth workflow that came about could also be partially due to my understanding of drama, storytelling and understanding of the idea and the team's angle in the story. As a visual effects artist that has worked on Hollywood films myself , I believe the understanding of that film language is paying off in that way.

There was a point in time where I was giving them a work-in-progress version that was still a way off from being finished, (it was half the length of the final soundtrack, but the main themes were already in place). Because of the instruments used and the fact that they thought what I showed them was the finished product, they were suggesting something very close to restarting from scratch.

I did something quite unconventional, to try and salvage the situation (and to aggressively sell my existing idea). Therefore, from all the visual effects breakdowns that I am used to doing, I gave them a walkthrough of the various parts of my arrangement played back against their visuals, mostly melodic tracks versus percussive tracks.

To my surprise and relief, they found that it was still on the right track. In the end I figured they liked the percussion track that gave the rhythmic drive to push the action along. In my mix (which was not yet balanced for all the instruments in the piece), my melodic instruments have overpowered the percussive, therefore the rhythmic driving probably wasn't there.

Finally, I have just been informed that this piece of video has been featured in the Staff Pick videos, recommended by Vimeo staff! It is very exciting, and I congratulate the team for the work well done!

If you enjoy it, do share your comments with the team on the Vimeo page! Also, you can visit their Facebook page here: facebook.com/exitRB.