Behind the Title: Game and film composer Stephen Baysted

NAME: Stephen Baysted (@stephenbaysted)

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Composer and Audio Director, based in England.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
As a composer my job is to create original music for a range of film, TV and game clients. As an audio director for games, my job is about conceptualizing, designing and overseeing all audio content and assets in a game.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the sheer number of audio assets that go into a AAA (Triple A) game title.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Can I have two favorite parts? The first is the excitement of receiving a new brief from a client, spotting the cues with the director and beginning working on the project. The second is working with a score mix engineer, finalizing the music and recording live musicians. I also love seeing the film or game really come to life with my music.

WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR SCORING? HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
I have a very large orchestral and electronic template so I have the entire range of orchestral instruments and numerous synthesizers and percussion libraries at my fingertips. This means that I can shape the sound world of a project very efficiently and quickly, responding to the client’s objectives. I begin by thinking through the narrative and the emotional context of the game or film, researching the subject matter in detail and then interpreting the director’s vision and translating it into music and sound. I tend to create the main themes first and then follow the sub-themes and character variations that are needed.

CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR TOOLS AND WORKFLOW?
In the past year, because of technological advances, I have been able to reduce the number of computers in my studio from seven down to two. The workflow between master computer and slave computers is now much more streamlined, and my system is also much more powerful.

I always try to record live musicians even at the demo and mock-up stages of projects — it brings the music to life — and I always like to create custom sounds for all my clients. The output of Steinberg Cubase runs directly into Avid Pro Tools, which makes it far simpler to create Pro Tools sessions ready for the mix stage in the recording studio and ready for working with live musicians.

project cars
Baysted composed the score for “Project Cars” out of Slightly Mad Studios in the UK.

In the studio itself I like to use outboard gear and I’m a great fan of analog. For the Project Cars score, for example, I worked with engineer Nick Taylor at Air-Edel Studios in London and the entire signal path and mix was done in analog — from capturing vocals on 1950’s Neumanns through Neve preamps into a Cadac digital mixing console.

DOES YOUR PROCESS CHANGE DEPENDING ON THE TYPE OF PROJECT? GAME VS. SPOT, ETC.?
The process for film and game is substantially different. Film music is linear, and as a composer you conceive the score as a continuous narrative structure accompanying every nuance of the film and reflecting the director’s vision.

In games, especially when the music is interactive and dynamic, the music is largely nonlinear and the composer must conceive of the music in terms of a complex network of loops and layers or stem mixes, and how they might all fit together to create coherent music in all their myriad combinations. However, you need to bear in mind that in games, the objective of the composer is make their music appear to be linear and to appear to be accomplishing the same role as film music.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d like to think I’d be trading shares on the back of a boat in Monaco!

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
There was never a choice for me — music chose me. I know that sounds corny but for as long as I can remember I’ve been either performing music or composing music, and I could not imagine doing anything else. I’m on holiday right now doing this interview and to tell you the truth I’m itching to get back in the studio.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Project Cars (game) for Slightly Mad Studios, The Impressionists (feature film for Phil Grabsky), Deep Cuts (TV Series), The Walking Dead: Assault (game) and Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed for Electronic Arts (game).

The Impressionists film

The Impressionists film for Phil Grabsky.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Project Cars for Slightly Mad Studios without a shadow of a doubt — I’ve worked with the founder and head of studio Ian Bell for almost 15 years now on a string of award-winning games, but this is the game that we’ve really managed to achieve the ludic, artistic and sonic vision that we’ve always talked about even way back when we were both impoverished Ph.D students.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My MacBook Pro, Universal Audio’s Apollo and my wife’s grand piano.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I try to take regular breaks and get some fresh air to clear my head by walking on local beaches. I also love cooking.


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