Cinnafilm 6.6.19

Category Archives: Music

Creating the mood for singer Brittany Howard’s solo music video

The latest collaboration between Framestore and director Kim Gehrig is for Brittany Howard’s debut solo music video for Stay High, which features a color grade and subtle VFX by the studio. A tribute to the Alabama Shakes’ lead singer’s late father, the stylized music video stars actor Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Expendables) as a man finishing a day’s work and returning home to his family.

Produced by production company Somesuch, the aim of Stay High is to present a natural and emotionally-driven story which honored the singer’s father, K.J. Howard. Shot in her hometown of Nashville, the music video features Howard’s family and friends while the singer pops up in several scenes throughout the video as different characters.

The video begins with Howard’s father getting off of work at his factory job. The camera follows him on his drive home, all the while he’s singing “Stay High.” As he drives home, we see bits and pieces of the people and area where Howard grew up. The video ends when her dad pulls into his driveway and is met by his daughters and wife.

“Kim wanted to really highlight the innocence of the video’s story, something I kept in mind while grading the film,’ says Simon Bourne, Framestore’s head of creative color, who’s graded several films for the director. ‘The focus needed to always be on Terry with nothing in his surroundings distracting from that and the grade needed to reflect that idea.’

Framestore’s creative director Ben Cronin, who was also a compositor on the project along with Nuke compositor Christian Baker, adds, “From a VFX point of view, our job was all about invisible effects that highlighted the beautiful job that Ryley Brown, the film’s DP, did and to complement Kim’s unique vision.”

‘We’ve worked with Kim on several commercials and music video projects and we love collaborating because her films are always visually-interesting and she knows we’ll always help achieve the ground-breaking and effortlessly cool work that she does.’

FXhome, Vegas Creative Software partner on Vegas Post

HitFilm creator FXhome has partnered with Vegas Creative Software to launch a new suite of editing, VFX, compositing and imaging tools for video pros, editors and VFX artists called Vegas Post.

Vegas Post will combine the editing tools of Vegas Pro with FXhome’s expertise in compositing and visual effects to offer an array of features and capabilities.

FXhome is developing customized effects and compositing tools specifically for Vegas Post. The new software suite will also integrate a custom-developed version of FXhome’s new non-destructive RAW image compositor that will enable video editors to work with still-image and graphical content and incorporate it directly into their final productions. All tools will work together seamlessly in an integrated, end-to-end workflow to accelerate and streamline the post production process for artists.

The new software suite is ideally suited for video pros in post facilities of all sizes and requirements — from individual artists to large post studios, broadcasters and small/medium enterprise installations. It will be available in the third quarter, with pricing to be announced.

Meanwhile, FXhome has teamed up with Filmstro, which offers a royalty-free music library, to provide HitFilm users with access to the entire Filmstro music library for 12 months. With Filmstro available directly from the FXhome store, HitFilm users can use Filmstro soundtracks on unlimited projects and get access to weekly new music updates.

Offering more than just a royalty-free music library, Filmstro has developed a user interface that gives artists flexibility and control over selected music tracks for use in their HitFilm projects. HitFilm users can control the momentum, depth and power of any Filmstro track, using sliders to perfectly match any sequence in a HitFilm project. Users can also craft soundtracks to perfectly fit images by using a keyframe graph editor within Filmstro. Moving sliders automatically create keyframes for each element and can be edited at any point.

Filmstro offers over 60 albums’ worth of music with weekly music releases. All tracks are searchable using keywords, film and video genre, musical style, instrumental palette or mood. All Filmstro music is licensed for usage worldwide and in perpetuity. The Filmstro dynamic royalty-free music library is available now on the FXhome Store for $249 and can be purchased here.

Cinnafilm 6.6.19

Killer Tracks offers label for reality television music

Production music company Killer Tracks has launched In Reality, a new label focused on songs for unscripted television. The new label debuts with 10 albums of original tracks specially created for all reality television genres and spanning an array of musical styles, emotions and scenarios.

The entire catalog is being supervised by Killer Tracks executive producer Ryan Perez-Daple, who has produced more than 300 of the company’s top-performing albums. In Reality’s new releases are available immediately for licensing and sync through the Killer Tracks website. The new label plans to release an additional 20 albums over the remainder of the year.

In Reality was developed to help unscripted television producers meet their music needs with immediate access to high-quality, easily editable songs tailored to lifestyle, competition, true crime, travel, documentary and other show formats. With music being a key part of the reality television experience, In Reality’s songs play to emotions, support plot twists and underscore moments of tension, action and humor. Across the catalog, musical styles include urban/hip-hop, feel-good rock, anthemic indie, promo/trailer, comedic beats and sensitive underscores. The label also offers tracks suitable for promos, trailers and other marketing media.

“Demand for music continues to grow from producers of shows across the reality TV spectrum,” says Perez-Daple. “Producers need a lot of music, and they need it quickly, but they also want music that has a contemporary sound, is well-produced and fits the tone and character of their shows. We’re creating tracks that are fresh, original and versatile, and tailored to production use.”

Ryan Perez-Daple

For In Reality’s initial albums, Perez-Daple drew on Killer Tracks’ deep talent pool of established composers and emerging artists. Contributing artists include Charles “Chizzy” Stephens III, Alex “Juice” Hitchens, Aire Atlantica and Fred Kron, among many others whose resumes include work with chart-topping recording artists, as well as film, television and advertising projects.

“We’re tapping into developing composers and producers, many of whom are working with major labels and whose sensibilities are in line with current trends in popular music,” Perez-Daple says.

In Reality songs are written for seamless audiovisual integration, include numerous edit points, and many come with alternate mixes, stems and musical toolkits.


EP Sydney Ferleger joins The Music Playground, The Station

The Music Playground and The Station have brought on Sydney Ferleger as executive producer, East Coast. She joins the team after a two years at NYC-based post house Crew Cuts. Prior to that, she was working with the marketing and sales team at global animatic company Animated Storyboards.

The Station is an integrated content production company and post facility focused on delivering top creative outcomes to advertising agencies and brands. The Music Playground employs composers, sound designers, audio post engineers and music supervisors.

Ferleger has worked on traditional advertising projects and branded content all the way to virtual reality. She has led international teams and has worked with many top brands and networks, including PepsiCo, IKEA and A&E.

“I’m excited to be here at TMP and The Station,” says Ferleger. “Being able to combine my passion for music with my knowledge of production and post is a new and gratifying challenge. There is a rich creative history here, as they were one of the first integrated post houses to prosper. The team really understands the importance of client services and what it takes to drive successful creative outcomes for ‘all-in’ post.”


Human’s opens new Chicago studio

Human, an audio and music company with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Paris has opened a Chicago studio headed up by veteran composer/producer Justin Hori.

As a composer, Hori’s work has appeared in advertising, film and digital projects. “Justin’s artistic output in the commercial space is prolific,” says Human partner Gareth Williams. “There’s equal parts poise and fun behind his vision for Human Chicago. He’s got a strong kinship and connection to the area, and we couldn’t be happier to have him carve out our footprint there.”

From learning to DJ at age 13 to working Gramaphone Records to studying music theory and composition at Columbia College, Hori’s immersion in the Chicago music scene has always influenced his work. He began his career at com/track and Comma Music, before moving to open Comma’s Los Angeles office. From there, Hori joined Squeak E Clean, where he served as creative director for the past five years. He returned to Chicago in 2016.

Hori is known for producing unexpected yet perfectly spot-on pieces of music for advertising, including his track “Da Diddy Da,” which was used in the four-spot summer 2018 Apple iPad campaign. His work has won top industry honors including D&AD Pencils, The One Show, Clio and AICP Awards and the Cannes Gold Lion for Best Use of Original Music.

Meanwhile, Post Human, the audio post sister company run by award-winning sound designer and engineer Sloan Alexander, continues to build momentum with the addition of a second 5.1 mixing suite in NYC. Plans for similar build-outs in both LA and Chicago are currently underway.

With services ranging from composition, sound design and mixing, Human works in advertising, broadcast, digital and film.


Music house Human hires Carol Dunn as executive producer

LA-based music house Human Worldwide has hired Carol Dunn as executive producer. Dunn joins Human from post house PS260, where she was executive producer in its West Coast office for two years. She will report to Human’s partner and composer Gareth Williams.

In her new role, Dunn will be responsible for developing Human’s business from their LA office and growing its model to expand its brand, as well as helping market Human to current and potential clients. She will also work hand in hand with its sales team, and has an additional role in helping to create the company music as a creative producer.

At PS260, Dunn worked with many agencies and brands, including Omnicom, WPP, American Greetings, NBA, Hyatt, Kia and Instagram. Prior to that, she was EP/head of sales at Squeak E Clean Productions and Amber Music, where she oversaw and directed their national sales force, marketing and new business efforts. She also had roles at the record labels Capitol Records and Interscope Records, co-producing such soundtracks as Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Boogie Nights and Office Space.

“I’m excited to bring my career experience from film and TV to Human with the intention of extending our focus beyond advertising,” says Dunn. “I joined Human because it was an opportunity to set my heart’s passion back on my musical career path with a company that has all the tools to change the idea of how a music house functions in our industry. After a rewarding stint in post production, I am overjoyed to be back.”

This news comes off the heels of the company’s expansion with its Sonic Branding department, helmed by senior producer Craig Caniglia, which has created work for brands such as Coca-Cola, IKEA, Visa, GE Appliances and Lowe’s. In addition, Human’s post department Post Human — led by chief engineer Sloan Alexander — recently mixed projects for Adidas, Under Armour, Google, Verizon and Stella Artois.


Tips for music sourcing and usage

By Yannick Ireland

1. Music Genre vs. Video Theme
Although there are no restrictions, nor an exact science when choosing a music genre for your video content, there are some reliable genres of music for certain video themes.

For example, you may have a classic cinematic scene of lovers meeting for the first time. These visuals could be well complemented by a more orchestral, classical production, as generally there is a lot of emotive expression in this sort of music.

Another example would be sports video paired with electronic music. The high-adrenaline nature of electronic genres are a match made in heaven for extreme sports content. However, I would like to echo my first sentiment about there being no restriction —you may well choose to use something so unconventional that it creates a shock reaction, which may indeed be the desired effect.

But if you want subconscious acceptance from your viewers that the music really suits your imagery and that they were meant to be together, do some research of successfully similar content and from there you will be able to analyze the genre and attempt to replicate the successful marriage yourself.

2. Instruments for Feelings
Now let’s go a little deeper with the first tip and single out the instruments themselves. Two tracks of the same genre may have completely different instrumentation within their construction, and this could be relevant to your production.

If a filmmaker is working on something cinematic, then pieces of music with an instrumental solo could be invaluable for the feeling you are trying to convey. There have been scholarly articles on this subject with a more psychological investigation for the reasoning behind how certain emotions are triggered by certain instruments… but let’s keep it simple for now. For instance, music box sounds, xylophones and bells have always invoked the feeling of youth or enforced a child-like context in a production, especially as single instruments.

But remember, just because you have decided on a genre for your theme does not mean any good quality track will do. Listen to its makeup and content. Does it fulfill your intention?

3. Keep it Simple
A relatively easy, yet extremely important tip: don’t get an overly congested or epic-sounding track. Going orchestral and epic is fine for a similarly grand moment in your film, but when pairing any audio to video there is always a great danger of drawing the viewer away from the production itself due to overly intrusive music or audio.

Music is supposed to aid and complement your production, not draw you away from it. So even if the track sounds amazing and full at first listen, be aware of its potential to ultimately be detrimental overall.

4. Does the Track Change With Your Content?
Video productions generally change throughout their linear journey, and maybe your music should too. The obvious example of this would be the audio and video both reaching a crescendo together at the production’s conclusion.

In music, there is not always the formula of starting at “A” and finishing at “B,” because modern electronic and instrumental productions have very different middle eights or bridges. The fact that the music may switch up somewhere within the middle may be ideal for your video’s timeline, so perhaps you want to break the mold and change the vibe or content somewhere in the middle of the project. Certain tracks could help you do that seamlessly.

I would like just to suggest you think past the ideal genre and instrumentation, and that you really think about how the track is executed and if it is the best option for your production. The right music can enhance a video project more than anticipated and filmmakers should really get the most out of their audio.

5. Get a Second Opinion
Even working under certain guidelines and being prompted to think a certain way when sourcing music, it is always worth getting a second opinion to see if your experiences with the music are shared. Odds are that with a little extra time, you will find something much better than you may have done choosing something that sounded “good enough.” But never devalue a quick opinion check with your peers.

So, What’s Next?
Now that you know what to consider when browsing music and what potential
attributes to look for (and what to avoid), the next question is, “Where do you get your audio?”

So let’s say you have an ideal, familiar track in your head that would perfectly suit your production. The problem is maybe that’s a famous artist’s track that would cost thousands of dollars to license. So that’s a non-starter. But don’t you fret. Fortunately, there are now affordable and quality alternatives thanks to royalty free music libraries — essentially stock music.

Video editors, filmmakers and content creators of all kinds can visit these libraries to not only buy the track they need, but also get an automated license provided to them immediately with the purchase. There is no contacting artists or record labels, no complications on royalty split or composition and recording terms – it’s simple and consolidated.

The good news is there are plenty of these libraries around, but do your due diligence – and make sure the audio is high-quality and the pricing structure is simple.

High-quality music is incredibly important for all creative video productions. Now it is abundantly available and, not at extreme costs.


Yannick Ireland (@ArtisoundYan) is a musician, music producer and founder of Artisound, which is based in London.


Ren Klyce: Mixing the score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

By Jennifer Walden

There are space battles and epic music, foreign planets with unique and lively biomes, blasters, lightsabers, a universe at war and a force that connects it all. Over the course of eight “Episodes” and through numerous spin-off series and games, fans of Star Wars have become well acquainted with its characteristic sound.

Creating the world, sonically, is certainly a feat, but bringing those sounds together is a challenge of equal measure. Shaping the soundtrack involves sacrifice and egoless judgment calls that include making tough decisions in service of the story.

Ren Klyce

Skywalker Sound’s Ren Klyce was co-supervising sound editor, sound designer and a re-recording mixer on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He not only helped to create the film’s sounds but he also had a hand in shaping the final soundtrack. As re-recording mixer of the music, Klyce got a new perspective on the film’s story.

He’s earned two Oscar nominations for his work on the Rian Johnson-directed The Last Jedi — one for sound editing and another for sound mixing. We reached out to Klyce to ask about his role as a re-recording mixer, what it was like to work with John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score, and what it took for the team to craft The Last Jedi’s soundtrack.

You had all the Skywalker-created effects, the score and all the dialog coming together for the final mix. How did you bring clarity to what could have been be a chaotic soundtrack?
Mostly, it’s by forcing ourselves to potentially get rid of a lot of our hard work for the sake of the story. Getting rid of one’s work can be difficult for anyone, but it’s the necessary step in many instances. When you initially premix sound for a film, there are so many elements and often times we have everything prepared just in case they’re asked for. In the case of Star Wars, we didn’t know what director Rian Johnson might want and not want. So we had everything at the ready in either case.

On Star Wars, we ended up doing a blaze pass where we played everything from the beginning to the end of a reel all at once. We could clearly see that it was a colossal mess in one scene, but not so bad in another. It was like getting a 20-minute Cliff Notes of where we were going to need to spend some time.

Then it comes down to having really skilled mixers like David Parker (dialog) and Michael Semanick (sound effects), whose skill-sets include understanding storytelling. They understand what their role is about — which is making decisions as to what should stay, what should go, what should be loud or quiet, or what should be turned off completely. With sound effects, Michael is very good at this. He can quickly see the forest for the trees. He’ll say, “Let’s get rid of this. These elements can go, or the background sounds aren’t needed here.” And that’s how we started shaping the mix.

After doing the blaze pass, we will then go through and listen to just the music by itself. John Williams tells his story through music and by underscoring particular scenes. A lot of the process is learning what all the bits and pieces are and then weighing them up against each other. We might decide that the music in a particular scene tells the story best.

That is how we would start and then we worked together as a team to continue shaping the mix into a rough piece. Rian would then come in and give his thoughts to add more sound here or less music there, thus shaping the soundtrack.

After creating all of those effects, did you wish you were the one to mix them? Or, are you happy mixing music?
For me personally, it’s a really great experience to listen to and be responsible for the music because I’ve learned so much about the power of the music and what’s important. If it were the other way around, I might be a little more overly focused on the sound effects. I feel like we have a good dynamic. Michael Semanick has such great instincts. In fact, Rian described Michael as being an incredible storyteller, and he really is.

Mixing the music for me is a wonderful way to get a better scope of the entire soundtrack. By not touching the sound effects on the stage, those faders aren’t so precious. Instead, the movie itself and the soundtrack takes precedence instead of the bits and pieces that make it up.

What was the trickiest scene to mix in terms of music?
I think that would have to be the ski speeder sequence on the salt planet of Crait. That was very difficult because there was a lot of dodging and burning in the mix. In other words, Rian wanted to have loud music and then the music would have to dive down to expose a dialogue line, and then jump right back up again for more excitement and then dive down to make way for another dialogue line. Then boom, some sound effects would come in and the Millennium Falcon would zoom by. Then the Star Wars theme would take over and then it had to come down for the dialogue. So we worked that sequence quite a bit.

Our picture editor Bob Ducsay really guided us through the shape of that sequence. What was so great about having the picture editor present was that he was so intimate with the rhythm of the dialogue and his picture cutting. He knew where all of the story points were supposed to be, what motivated a look to the left and so on. Bob would say something like, “When we see Rose here, we really need to make sure we hear her musical theme, but then when we cut away, we need to hear the action.”

Were you working with John Williams’ music stems? Did you feel bad about pulling things out of his score? How do you dissect the score?
Working with John is obviously an incredible experience, and on this film I was lucky enough to work with Shawn Murphy as well, who is really one of my heroes and I’ve known him for years. He is the one who records the orchestra for John Williams and balances everything. Not only does he record the orchestra, but Shawn is a true collaborator with John as well. It’s incredible the way they communicate.

John is really mixing his own soundtrack when he’s up there on the podium conducting, and he’s making initial choices as to which instruments are louder than others — how loud the woodwinds play, how loud the brass plays, how loud the percussion is and how loud the strings are. He’s really shaping it. Between Williams and Murphy, they work on intonation, tuning and performance. They go through and record and then do pickups for this measure and that measure to make sure that everything is as good as it can be.

I actually got to witness John Williams do this incredible thing — which was during the recording of the score for the Crait scene. There was this one section where the brass was playing and John (who knows every single person’s name in that orchestra) called out to three people by name and said something like, “Mark, on bar 63, from beat two to beat six, can you not play please. I just want a little more clarity with two instruments instead of three. Thank you.” So they backed up and did a pick-up on that bar and that gentleman dropped out for those few beats. It was amazing.

In the end, it really is John who is creating that mix. Then, editorially, there would be moments where we had to change things. Ramiro Belgardt, another trusted confidant of John Williams, was our music editor. Once the music is recorded and premixed, it was up to Ramiro to keep it as close to what John intended throughout all of the picture changes.

A scene would be tightened or opened up, and the music isn’t going to be re-performed. That would be impossible to do, so it has to be edited or stretched or looped or truncated. Ramiro had the difficult job of making the music seem exactly how it was on the day it was performed. But in truth, if you look at his Pro Tools session, you’ll see all of these splices and edits that he did to make everything function properly.

Does a particular scene stick out?
There was one scene where Rey ignites the lightsaber for the very first time on Jedi Island, and there we did change the balance within the music. She’s on the cliff by the ocean and Luke is watching her as she’s swinging the lightsaber. Right when she ignites the lightsaber, her theme comes in, which is this beautiful piano melody. The problem was when they mixed the piano they didn’t have a really loud lightsaber sound going with it. We were really struggling because we couldn’t get that piano melody to speak right there. I asked Ramiro if there was any way to get that piano separately because I would love it if we could hear that theme come in just as strong as that lightsaber. Those are the types of little tiny things that we would do, but those are few and far between. For the most part, the score is how John and Shawn intended the mix to be.

It was also wonderful having Ramiro there as John’s spokesperson. He knew all of the subtle little sacred moments that Williams had written in the score. He pointed them out and I was able to push those and feature those.

Was Rian observing the sessions?
Rian attended every single scoring session and knew the music intricately. He was really excited for the music and wanted it to breathe. Rian’s knowledge of the music helped guide us.

Where did they perform and record the score?
This was recorded at the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California.

Are there any Easter eggs in terms of the score?
During the casino sequence there’s a beautiful piece of music that plays throughout, which is something like an homage that John Williams wrote, going back to the Cantina song that he wrote for the original Star Wars.

So, the Easter egg comes as the Fathiers are wreaking havoc in the casino and we cut to the inside of a confectionery shop. There’s an abrupt edit where all the music stops and you hear this sort of lounge piano that’s playing, like a piece of source music. That lounge piano is actually John Williams playing “The Long Goodbye,” which is the score that he wrote for the film The Long Goodbye. Rian is a huge fan of that score and he somehow managed to get John Williams to put that into the Star Wars film. It’s a wonderful little Easter egg.

John Williams is, in so many ways, the closest thing we have to Beethoven or Brahms in our time. When you’re in his presence — he’s 85 years old now — it’s humbling. He still writes all of his manuscripts by hand.

On that day that John sat down and played “The Long Goodbye” piano piece, Rian was so excited that he pulled out his iPhone and filmed the whole thing. John said, “Only for you, Rian, do I do this.” It was a very special moment.

The other part of the Easter egg is that John’s brother Donald Williams is a timpanist in the orchestra. So what’s cool is you hear John playing the piano and the very next sound is the timpani, played by his brother. So you have these two brothers and they do a miniature solo next to each other. So those are some of the fun little details.

John Williams earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It’s an incredible score. One of the fortunate things that occurred on this film was that Rian and producer Ram Bergman wanted to give John Williams as much time as possible so they started him really early. I think he had a year to compose, which was great. He could take his time and really work diligently through each sequence. When you listen to just the score, you can hear all of the little subtle nuances that John composed.

For example, Rose stuns Finn and she’s dragging him on this little cart and they’re having this conversation. If you listen to just the music through there, the way that John has scored every single little emotional beat in that sequence is amazing. With all the effects and dialogue, you’re not really noticing the musical details. You hear two people arguing and then agreeing. They hate each other and now they like each other. But when you deconstruct it, you hear the music supporting each one of those moments. Williams does things like that throughout the entire film. Every single moment has all these subtle musical details. All the scenes with Snoke in his lair have these ominous, dark musical choir phrases for example. It’s phenomenal.

The moments where the choice was made to remove the score completely, was that a hard sell for the director? Or, was he game to let go of the score in those effects-driven moments?
No, it wasn’t too difficult. There was one scene that we did revert on though. It was on Crait, and Rian wanted to get rid of the whole big music sequence when Leia sees that the First Order is approaching and they have to shut the giant door. There was originally a piece of music, and that was when the crystal foxes were introduced. So we got rid of the music there. Then we watched the film and Rian asked us to put that music back.

A lot of the music edits were crafted in the offline edit, and those were done by music editor Joseph Bonn. Joe would craft those moments ahead of time and test them. So a lot of that was decided before it got to my hands.

But on the stage, we were still experimenting. Ramiro would suggest trying to lose a cue and we’d mute it from the sequence. That was a fun part of collaborating with everyone. It’s a live experiment. I would say that on this film most of the music editorial choices were decided before we got to the final mix. Joe Bonn spent months and months crafting the music guide, which helped immensely.

What is one audio tool that you could not have lived without on the mix? Why?
Without a doubt, it’s our Avid Pro Tools editing software. All the departments —dialog, Foley, effects and music were using Pro Tools. That is absolutely hands-down the one tool that we are addicted to. At this point, not having Pro Tools is like not having a hammer.

But you used a console for the final mix, yes?
Yes. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was not an in-the-box mix. We mixed it on a Neve DFC Gemini console in the traditional manner. It was not a live Pro Tools mix. We mixed it through the DFC console, which had its own EQ, dynamics processing, panning, reverb sends/returns, AUX sends/returns and LFE sends/returns.

The pre-pre-mixing was done in Pro Tools. Then, looking at the sound effects for example, that was shaped roughly in the offline edit room, and then that would go to the mix stage. Michael Semanick would pre-mix the effects through the Neve DFC in a traditional premixing format that we would record to 9.1 pre-dubs and objects. A similar process was done with the dialogue. So that was done with the console.


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based audio engineer and writer. Follow her on Twitter @audiojeney


Dynasty composer Paul Leonard-Morgan

By Randi Altman

Scottish-born composer Paul Leonard-Morgan, who owns a BAFTA award and Emmy nomination, has a resume that is as eclectic as it is long. He has worked on television (Limitless), films (The Numbers Station) and games (Dawn of War III). He has also produced music for artists such as No Doubt (Push and Shove).

In addition to the Wormwood miniseries for Netflix, one of Leonard-Morgan’s most recent projects is the soundtrack for The CW’s reboot of the show Dynasty. We recently reached out to him to talk about the show, the way he works and what’s next.

L-R: Dynasty showrunner Sallie Patrick, Paul Leonard-Morgan and director Brad Sieberling with various musicians.

The name Dynasty comes with certain expectations and history. Did you use the original as an inspiration or borrow bits from the original as an homage?
I remember watching Dynasty as a child, but other than the main theme I couldn’t begin to tell you what the music was like, other than it was pretty orchestral — Bill Conti is such a phenomenal composer. So right from the outset our showrunner Sallie Patrick and director Brad Sieberling and I wanted to do a title sequence with a modernized version of the iconic theme. People don’t tend to do title sequences these days, so it was very cool of The CW to let us do it.

We got a bunch of players into Capitol Studios and overlaid the orchestra onto my beats and synths. I brought in an old friend and Grammy-winning producer Troy Nokaan to pump up the beats a bit. And, of course, there was Tom (Hooten), principal trumpet player with the LA Philharmonic. For me, this is what the whole series’ ethos is about — tying the old to the new. Recording these players in the iconic Capitol Studios, where people like Sinatra recorded… we got such a vintage vibe going on. But then we added modern beats and synths – that’s what the whole score has become. Adding a cool ‘80s twist to modern sounds and orchestra. But other than the titles, the rest of the score does its own thing.

Can you talk about what the show’s producers wanted for the score? Did you have a lot of input?
We had detailed discussions at the start about what we wanted to achieve. Everything to do with the ‘80s is so trendy now — from fashion to music, but there’s a fine line between adding ’80s elements to give the music a nice edge, and creating an ’80s pastiche, which sounds dated.

I produce a lot of bands, so I started taking some of those beats and then adding in lots of analog synths. And then our scoring sessions added an orchestra. I was really keen to use a string section, as I felt that Dynasty is so iconic, giving it a small section would add that touch of class to it. The beats — the clicks, claps and kicks — are what gives the Fallon character her swagger — the synths give it the pace, and the orchestra gives it the cinematic quality. I was keen to find a sound that would become instantly recognizable as that Dynasty sound.

How would you describe your score? 
Unique!

Can you walk us through your process? How do you begin? What inspires you? 
I start by watching the episode with the director, editor and writer and then have a spotting session. We work out where the music should come in and out, but even that is open to interpretation, as sometimes their vision might be different from mine. They might imagine short musical cues, where I’m envisaging longer, shaped pieces.

For example, there’s a piece in the episode I’ve just finished (110) that lasts the entire part 4. Obviously, it’s not full-on drums the whole time, but doing cues like that give it some real shape and add to the visuals filmic qualities. After the spotting sessions, I go away and start writing. After a while, you get a feel for what’s working and what’s not — when to leave the dialogue alone and when to try and help it. We’re all pretty keen on not making the music too emotionally leading in this series. We want to let the acting do that, instead of sign-posting every happy/sad moment. When everyone’s happy, we’ll start orchestrating the music, get the parts ready, and then go off to Capitol, or another studio, to record the real players.

The schedule is pretty crazy — I have a week to score each episode. So while we’re recording the real players, the dub is in its final day. As we finish mixing each cue, we then start sending them over the Internet to the dub stage, where they quickly lay them in and balance the levels with dialogue and FX. They’re lucky that I don’t get the chance to go and sit in the dub much, as we’re literally mixing to the last second!

What tools do you use to create a score?
I use MOTU’s Digital Performer to write, produce and pre-mix, then everything gets transferred to Avid ProTools for the main recording session and final mix. Obviously, I have a million samples and lots of original analog synths.

You work in many different parts of the music world — TV, films and games. Do you have a preference? How are those hats different, or are they not very different at all?
It sounds like a cop-out, but I really don’t have a preference. I like working in different fields, as I always feel that brings a freshness and different take to the next project, consciously and sub-consciously. For example, I was scoring a series of plays for The National Theatre in London a few years ago — at the same time I was scoring the film Walking With Dinosaurs in LA and the game Battlefield Hardline — and that theatre score was so different from many things I’d done before. But it led to me working with the incredible filmmaker Errol Morris for his film The B Side, and subsequently his new Netflix series Wormwood.

Dynasty came more from my work with bands. I like working in different genres, as it keeps pushing me out of my comfort zone, which I feel is really important as an artist.

You are building a new studio. Can you talk about that?
It’s been a process! Two weeks to go! Before I moved to LA with my family, I had just completed building my studio in Glasgow, Scotland. Then we moved over here, as I was living on planes between the UK and the US. This was about three years ago. I’ve been renting a studio, but finally the time came to buy a house and it’s got a huge guesthouse in the backyard (2,000 square feet), so I decided to get it properly treated.

We pulled down most of the inside and spent the last six months soundproofing and giving it the proper acoustic treatments, etc. But it’s insane, as I’ve hardly been out of my studio in Santa Monica while the build process has been going on, so the contractors have been FaceTiming me to show me how the progress is going, Trying to make decisions after a week of 20-hour days is hard.

I was keen to move to a place that had birds and nature. Coming from Scotland I like my space, which is not the easiest thing to find in LA. I insisted on having tons of windows in the studios for daylight to pour in — something that is great for me, but awful acoustically, so the acoustic guys spent weeks designing it so the glass wouldn’t affect the sound! But it’s looking fantastic, and I’ll have the ability to record up to 20 players in there. The irony is, having moved to what I thought was a pretty quiet neighborhood, I have a mega-famous hip-hop artist right next to me. His soundproofing had better be as good as mine!

What’s next for you project-wise?
Other than the rest of the season on Dynasty (we’re not even halfway there yet!), I’m working on a game score for the next year and a half, and have a new film starting in the New Year. I’ll also be working with my team on The Grand Tour, Amazon’s big series. Errol Morris’ Wormwood was recently released on Netflix — that’s been a life highlight for me!

Behind the Title: Butter Music and Sound’s Chip Herter

NAME: Chip Herter

COMPANY: NYC’s Butter Music+Sound/Haystack Music

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Butter creates custom music compositions for advertising/film/TV. Haystack Music is the internal music catalog from Butter, featuring works from our composers, emerging artists and indie labels.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Director of Creative Sync Services

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
The role was designed to be a catch-all for all things creative music licensing. This includes music supervision (curating music for projects from the music industry at large, by way of record labels and publishers) and creative direction from our own Haystack Music library.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Rights management is an understated aspect of the role. The ability to immediately know who key players are in the ownership of a song, so that we can estimate costs for using a song on behalf of our clients and license a track with ease.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
The best tool in my toolbox is the team that supports me every day.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I have a keen interest in putting the spotlight on new and emerging music. Be it a new piece written by one of our composers or an emerging act that I want to introduce to a larger audience.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Losing work to anyone else. It is a natural part of the job, but I can’t help getting personally invested in every project I work on. So the loss feels real, but in turn I always learn something from it.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Morning, for sure. Coffee and music? Yes, please!

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Most likely working for a PR agency. I love to write, and I am good at it (so I’m told).

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was a late bloomer. I was 26 when I took my first internship as a music producer at Crispin Porter+Bogusky. From my first day on the job, I knew this was my higher calling. Anyone who geeks-out to the language in a music license like me is destined to do this for a living.

Lexus Innovations

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently worked on a campaign for Lexus with Team One USA called Innovations that was particularly great and the response to the music was very positive. Recently, we also worked on projects for Levi’s, Nescafé, Starbucks and Keurig… coffee likes us, I guess!

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I was fortunate to work with Wieden+Kennedy on their Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad in 2015. I placed a song from the band Hundred Waters, who have gone on to do remarkable things since. The spot carried a very positive message about anti-bullying, and it was great to work on something with such social awareness.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
WiFi, Bluetooth and Spotify.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I don’t take for granted that my favorite pastime — going to concerts — is a fringe benefit of the job. When I am not listening to music, I am almost always listening to a podcast or a standup comedian. I also enjoy acting like a child with my two-year-old son as much as I can. I learn a lot from him about not taking myself too seriously.

Raising money and awareness for childhood cancer via doc short

Pablove One Another is a documentary short film produced by Riverstreet and directed by the company’s co-founders Tracy Pion and Michael Blum. The film explores Pablove’s Shutterbug program for children undergoing cancer treatment and its connection to the cancer research work that Pablove funds.

Blum and Pion spoke with us about the project, including the release of its title track “Spark” and the importance of giving back.

How did you become involved in the project?
Pion: We have known Pablove’s founders Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz, for almost 11 years. Our sons were dear friends and classmates in preschool. When Jeff and Jo Ann lost their son Pablo to cancer eight years ago they set out to start a foundation named Pablove in his honor. We’ve been committed to helping Pablove whenever we can along the way by doing PSAs and other short films and TV spots in order to help raise awareness for the organization’s mission, including the Shutterbugs program and research funding.

Michael Blum, Mady and Tracy Pion.

What was the initial goal of the documentary?
Blum: The goal was always about awareness and fundraising. It first debuted at the annual Pablove Foundation gala fundraiser and helped raise over $500,000 in an hour. It continues to live online and hopefully it inspires people to connect with Pablove and support its amazing programs.

Beyond the amazing cause, why was this project a good fit for Riverstreet?
Pion: At the core of what we do — campaigns, commercials, interstitials, network specials — is emotionally-driven storytelling. We do development, scripting, design, animation, live-action production, editorial and completion for a variety of brands and networks and when possible we try to apply this advertising and production expertise to philanthropic causes. Our collaboration with Pablove came out of a deeply personal connection, but above and beyond that, we think that our industry has an obligation to use our resources to help raise awareness. Why not use our power of persuasion for the betterment of others?

How did you decide on the approach and the interweaving of stories?
Blum: The film tells the Pablove story from three experiences: a young girl who is being treated for cancer who is part of Pablove’s Shutterbug photography program; an instructor with Shutterbugs who is a cancer survivor; and a researcher whose innovation is supported in part by Pablove’s grants. We thought it was important to tell the human impact of the work of the Pablove Foundation through different vantage points to reflect the scope of what they do. We worked with a fundraising expert (Benevon) who advised Pablove and Riverstreet on how to design the film from a high-impact standpoint.

What were some unexpected or unique moments in the production of the film?
Pion: Well, for us it was a couple of things. Firstly, the power of the kids’ photos really caught us, especially those by Mady, who we were featuring. When she pulled out her “Light the End of the Tunnel” image we were doubly struck by the simple power of the image and its obvious meaning for her, and, as filmmakers, we knew we had our ending. We were also grateful of how sensitive our crew was with the Mady and Miles. Everyone was working for hardly any money and yet they didn’t want to be anywhere else. It was a moment of gratitude for the amazing crews that we have gathered together over the years.

What were some of the editing challenges to the above?
Pion: We had several hours of footage, and some very emotional interviews with our subjects, so it was a real but familiar challenge: how to pick the most salient footage and how to weave the threads together and how to capture the emotion.

What was the documentary edited on?
Pion: We use Avid Media Composer on an ISIS server.

How did the song come to be?
Blum: While working on the film, we were looking for a music track that would effectively unite these interweaving stories. We heard a girl singing on our daughter’s phone — a classmate — and thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a young teenager’s voice on a spot that is a for and about children. The Bird & The Bee’s “Spark,” paired with the luminous voice of Gracie Abrams, perfectly carries through the message of the Foundation’s impact on the lives of children through creativity and research funding. Written by Inara George and Greg Kurstin, the music production was handled by composer/producer Rob Cairns, who has worked with Riverstreet on numerous projects.

Pion: At the fundraiser, people were buzzing about the song, trying to Shazam it. We loved the song, and thought it was amazing for the film, but this reaction made us stop and consider, “Is there something more we can do with it to help Pablove?” Fortunately, everyone who worked on it felt the same way, and agreed to release the track with proceeds going to Pablove Foundation.

Deb Oh joins Nylon Studios from Y&R

Music and sound boutique Nylon Studios, which has offices in NYC and Sydney, has added Deb Oh as senior producer. A classically trained musician, Oh has almost a decade of experience in the commercial music space, working as a music supervisor and producer on both the agency and studio sides.

She comes to Nylon from Y&R, where she spent two years working as a music producer for Dell, Xerox, Special Olympics, Activia and Optum, among others. Outside of the studio, Oh has continued to pursue music, regularly writing and performing with her band Deb Oh & The Cavaliers and serving as music supervisor for the iTunes podcast series, “Limetown.”

A lifelong musician, Oh grew up learning classical piano and singing at a very early age. She began writing and performing her own music in high school and kept up her musical endeavors while studying Political Science at NYU. Following graduation, she made the leap to follow her passion for music full time, landing as a client service coordinator at Headroom. She was then promoted to music supervisor. After five years with the audio shop, she made the leap to the agency side to broaden her skillset and glean perspective into the landscape of vendors, labels and publishers in the commercial music industry.

 

‘Demo Love’ and how to avoid its trap

By Jonathan Hecht

“Demo Love” can be a painful trap to fall into. It can happen to any kind of production, but it can easily be avoided.

What is demo love? Let’s say you’ve made a promotional video, and you put a piece of music on it. You’re refining your rough cut, and you keep using the same track. Repeat exposure to this singular musical option has drilled into your brain the belief that your video can’t exist without this song, but beware! You may feel like you’ve crossed the finish line, but if you move on to the final cut before confirming the song’s availability, you risk compromising the integrity of your creative vision.

Aside from your artistic attachment to the music, maybe you’ve editorially joined your imagery so completely to your “hero” track that if you don’t get it, you’ll need to detach mentally and materially. If you’re paying for freelancers or any hired guns, you stand to add time and money.

Demo love often originates innocently when a director scripts a song into the treatment or plays it on set. Or when an editor, working unsupervised, edits footage based on the direction they’ve received and uses a famous song (without thinking about what it would cost) in an effort to make a big or favorable impression.

What can you do to avoid the trap?
Start thinking about music as early as when you’re concepting. The musical inspiration doesn’t need to be perfect; it can be temp, but you want to have a blueprint for the music direction. Pro-tip: prepare a shortlist of options.

Bring a music supervisor in before the rough cut, and let him/her start putting vetted options on the table for you and your editor. Then together you can dial into the directions that cast the right tone for the work, and then mine those directions for the songs that connect the best with the characters and story. You can set yourself up for musical success through this discovery process.

Offer the music supervisor as much information as possible. They’ll need the budget, and it’s a good idea to give them treatments, visual/musical references and input from any and all sides, so they can be well informed about the parameters of the project.

Right now I’m working with a client who wants an iconic song for a branded film and smartly called me before they went to shoot. They said: “We want this specific song. It’s important to the concept. How much will the rights cost?” Because they did that, we were able to navigate toward their desired outcome together from day one. It was as simple as calling me and asking the question.

So, build music supervision into your process and your budget. Don’t risk getting creatively or literally stuck on any track you don’t know you can license. Have an idea of what you want, and seek help from someone who knows the ins and outs. Then you can refine your vision for the music together and unleash an expert on navigating the clearance process.

Jonathan Hecht is the founder of Venn Arts, a music supervision company. His experience comes from both the music and marketing industries with a portfolio that includes work for integrated broadcast/digital campaigns, branded content, VR/AR, feature-length and narrative films and more.

Nylon Studios ups composer Zac Colwell to CD

Music and sound boutique Nylon Studios has promoted composer Zac Colwell to creative director of music at their NYC studio. Colwell joined Nylon in 2015 and will become the studio’s first creative director to meet the increased scope of creative projects out of the music and sound shop in the US market.

Colwell is a multi-instrumentalist who has toured the world with numerous groups, including Big Data, Sondre Lerche, Kishi Bashi and others. He has composed original tracks for such top brands as Aetna, M.A.C, Zac Posen, Honey Nut Cheerios and Unicef. As creative director, Colwell will oversee all creative output from the NYC studio, encompassing original compositions, sound design, spatial audio, mix and music licensing. Nylon also has a studio in Sydney.

“Not only is [Zac] an incredibly talented musician, but he also has a deep understanding of how music can enhance pictures to communicate to their most effective and engaging degree,” notes global executive producer Hamish Macdonald.

Colwell, an Austin native, grew up in a musical family, playing drums, piano, guitar, saxophone and flute. A classically-trained jazz composer, he continues to perform and compose outside of Nylon. In addition to his commercial compositions, he is the drummer and producer of Chappo, sings his own songs with Fancy Colors, produces artists of all different genres, and most recently toured with Bleachers.

Tom Vale joins FirstCom Music focusing on TV, film licensing

FirstCom Music, a provider of music for film, broadcast and new media, has named Tom Vale as its film & TV licensing manager. Vale joins the FirstCom Music team Frog Music Licensing, a company he started in 2010 with the goal of connecting the singer-songwriter talent found in Austin, where he was based, with placement opportunities in TV, film, advertising and gaming worldwide.

Vale has facilitated music placements in an extensive line-up of television programs, including Nashville (ABC), Empire (Fox), Breaking Bad (AMC), The Walking Dead (AMC), The Good Wife (CBS), Ray Donovan (Showtime), Togetherness (HBO), The Following (Fox), Twisted (ABC), Californication (Showtime), Parenthood (NBC), Sons of Anarchy (FX), Lucifer (Fox), From Dusk Til Dawn (El Rey), Satisfaction (USA), Casual (Hulu), Private Practice (ABC), Hart of Dixie (CW), Royal Pains (USA), Degrassi Next Generation (Teen Nick), The Listener, Heartland, and in the films Everything Must Go, Hold Your Peace, The Expatriate, Snitch, The Loft and more. He’s also placed music on national ad campaigns for Goodyear Tires, Nabisco, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, PGA Golf and others.

“I launched Frog ML after working as an assistant to music supervisor Thomas Golubic at SuperMusicVision (Six Feet Under) and after many years working in the music library and studios at LA’s KCRW and as a music journalist for Alarm, Under the Radar, Sentimentalist and others,” says Vale. “Now, my music career has brought me to one of the top production music houses in the industry.”

Music house Wolf at the Door opens in Venice

Wolf at the Door has opened in Venice, California, providing original music, music supervision and sound design for the ad industry and, occasionally, films. Founders Alex Kemp and Jimmy Haun have been making music for some time: Kemp was composer at Chicago-based Catfish Music and Spank, and was the former creative director of Hum in Santa Monica. Haun spent over 10 years as the senior composer at Elias, in addition to being a session musician.

Between the two of them they’ve been signed to four major labels, written music for 11 Super Bowl spots, and have composed music for top agencies, including W+K, Goodby, Chiat Day, Team One and Arnold, working with directors like David Fincher, Lance Acord, Stacy Wall and Gore Verbinski.

In addition to making music, Kemp linked up with his longtime friend Scott Brown, a former creative director at agencies including Chiat Day, 72and Sunny and Deutsch, to start a surf shop and brand featuring hand-crafted surf boards — Lone Wolfs Objets d’Surf.

With the Wolf at the Door recording studio and production office existing directly behind the Lone Wolfs retail store, Kemp and his partners bounce between different creative projects daily: writing music for spots, designing handmade Lone Wolfs surfboards, recording bands in the studio, laying out their own magazine, or producing their own original branded content.

Episodes of their original surf talk show/Web series Everything’s Not Working have featured guest pro surfers, including Dion Agius, Nabil Samadani and Eden Saul.

Wolf at the Door recently worked on an Experian commercial directed by the Malloy Brothers for the Martin Agency, as well as a Century Link spot directed by Malcom Venville for Arnold Worldwide. Kemp worked closely with Venville on the casting and arrangement for the spot, and traveled to Denver to record the duet of singer Kelvin Jones’ “Call You Home” with Karissa Lee, a young singer Kemp found specifically for the project.

“Our approach to music is always driven by who the brand is and what ideas the music needs to support,” says Kemp. “The music provides the emotional context.” Paying attention to messaging is something that goes hand in hand with carving out their own brand and making their own content. “The whole model seemed ready for a reset. And personally speaking, I like to live and work at a place where being inspired dictates the actions we take, rather than the other way around.”

Main Image L-R:  Jimmy Haun and Alex Kemp.

Industry vet Alex Moulton joins NYC’s Trollbäck+Company

New York’s Trollbäck+Company has hired Alex Moulton as chief creative officer where he has been tasked with helping businesses and organizations develop sustainable brands through design-driven strategy and mixed media.

Moulton, who joins the agency from Vice Media, was recently at the helm of NBC Universo’s highly regarded brand refresh, as well as show packaging for ESPN’s The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena With Common.

“Alex brings an invaluable perspective to Trollbäck+Company as both an artist and entrepreneur,” says founder Jakob Trollbäck. “In his short time here, he has already reinvigorated the collective creative energy of our company. This clearly stems from his constant quest to dig deeper as a creative problem solver, which falls perfectly into our philosophy of ‘Discard everything that means nothing.’”

Says Moulton, “My vision for Trollbäck+Company is very clear: design culturally relevant, sustainable brands — from initial strategy and positioning to content and experiential activations —  with a nimble and holistic approach that makes us the ultimate partner for CMOs that care about designing an enduring brand and bringing it to market with integrity.”

Prior to Trollbäck+Company, as senior director, creative and content at Vice, Moulton helped launch digital content channel Live Nation TV (LNTV) — a joint venture for which he led brand creative, content development, production and partnership initiatives.

As executive creative director at advertising agency Eyeball, Moulton led product launches, rebrands and campaigns for major brands, including Amazon, New York Public Radio, Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, A&E, CMT, Disney, E!, Nickelodeon, Oxygen, Ovation and VH1.

An early adopter of audio branding, Moulton founded his own branding agency and record label, Expansion Team, in 2002. As chief creative officer of the company, he created the sonic identities of Aetna, Amazon Studios/Originals, Boeing, JetBlue and Rovi, as well as more than 15 TV networks, including CNN International, Discovery, PBS, Universal and Comedy Central.

A DJ, composer and speaker about topics that combine music and design, Moulton has been featured in Billboard, V Man, Electronic Musician and XLR8R and has performed at The Guggenheim.

Killer Tracks launches production music label for promos, trailers and more

Killer Tracks, an online resource offering pre-cleared music, has started a new label, called Icon, featuring music for movie trailers, television promos, advertising, sports, games and other media.

Frederik Wiedmann

The initial release includes 16 albums created and produced by award-winning composers Frederik Wiedmann and Joel Goodman, the founders of independent music producer Icon Trailer Music. The collection runs the gamut from orchestral scores to electronica.

After initially focusing on orchestral trailer music, Wiedmann and Goodman have recently been expanding beyond that niche, creatively and conceptually. “We spend a lot of time researching trends and market demands,” says Wiedmann. “We anticipate where the market is headed and are working with edgier and more contemporary styles.”

Joel Goodman

Whenever possible, Icon records with live orchestras, choirs and musicians. It also produces music with editorial in mind, creating tracks with numerous edit points, creating alternate mixes, and providing stems and musical toolkits. “We deliver lots of components that are useful to picture editors,” Goodman notes.

Wiedmann won an Emmy Award for the animated series All Hail King Julien. His credits also include the series Miles from Tomorrowland (Disney) and Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Cartoon Network), as well as the films Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox, Hostel: Part III, Mirrors II and Hellraiser: Revelations.

Goodman has more than 140 film and television credits, including the acclaimed PBS documentary series American Experience, for which he wrote the main theme. He has also scored more than 30 films for HBO, including Saving Pelican #895, for which he won an Emmy Award.

Warner/Chappell intros Color TV, Elbroar music catalogs from Germany

For those of you working in film and television with a need for production music, Warner/Chappell Production Music has added to its offerings with the Color TV and Elbroar catalogs. Color TV is German composer Curt Cress’ nearly 14,000-track collection from Curt Cress Publishing and its sister company F.A.M.E. Recordings Publishing. Color TV and the Elbroar catalog, which is also from Germany, are available for licensing now.

Color TV brings to life a wide range of TV production styles with an initial release that includes nine albums: Panoramic Landscapes; Simply Happy, Quirky & Eccentric; Piano Moods; Chase & Surveillance; Secret Service; Actionism; Drama Cuts; and Crime Scene.

Following the initial release, Warner/Chappell Production Music plans to offer two new compilations from the catalog every two weeks. Color TV is available for licensing worldwide, excluding Italy and France.

“Composers have that unique talent and ability to translate what they’re feeling,” explains Warner/Chappell Production Music president Randy Wachtler. “You can hear emotion in different compositions, and it’s always interesting to hear how creators from countries around the world capture it.  Adding to our mix only adds more perspective and more choice for our clients.”

Cress began his musical career in the 1960s, performing in acts such as Klaus Doldinger’s Passport and his own band Snowball, as well as in Falco and Udo Lindenberg’s band. His solo projects involved work with local and international artists including Freddie Mercury, Tina Turner, Rick Springfield, SAGA, Meat Loaf and Scorpions, as well as releasing his own solo material. He made a name for himself as a composer for popular German films and TV series such as SK Kölsch, HeliCops and The Red Mile.

Elbroar, out of Hamburg, Germany, is a collection ranging from epic to minimal, jazz to techno and drama to fun. The catalog serves creatives in the fields of television, film and advertising, with a strong focus on trailers and daytime TV.

The catalog’s first release, “Epic Fairy Tales,” is an album of orchestral arrangements that set the scene for fantastic stories and epic emotions. Elbroar is available for licensing immediately, worldwide.

Quick Chat: Andy Donahue from Killer Tracks

Many of you are already familiar with 27-year-old Killer Tracks. This online resource offers pre-cleared music for film, television, advertising and interactive media. Their catalog spans many genres and features original works from award-winning composers, artists and producers. Their premium catalog is continuously updated with exclusive recordings and new music updates. They also have a dedicated team of music search specialists and licensing experts to help users find what they need.

We reached out to this industry mainstay’s Andrew Donahue to find out more about their offerings, but also learn about trends going on in this part of the business.

Can you talk about how you’ve seen your segment of the industry change over the years?
Over the past five years, the production music industry has changed tremendously. It’s a much more competitive marketplace. We need to continue to innovate with music and technology, making it easier for our clients to find the perfect track for their projects. One way Killer Tracks is doing this is through our new track customization tool, Score Addiction. It allows you to edit tracks, change track tempo and sync video with the track.

What is it that clients need or are requesting currently?
Clients increasingly want to have options for stems, shorter edits and stings — 30, 15, 8 seconds, or even less. Social media is making shorter edits the norm. Clients are also becoming more reliant on metadata. It’s crucial for data to be immediately accessible and accurate.

How do you decide what type of music to compose/record next? Do you poll your users? Do research?
Killer Tracks has a production team that understands the needs of our clients. We determine what genres to produce based on download, licensing and search reporting data. We are constantly receiving feedback from clients, our music search specialists and our licensing team, and always maintain awareness for what is happening in pop culture and trends in music, advertising, TV and film.

We try to spot trends before they’re big. We have been willing to stick our necks out to produce something that seems crazy only to have it become a top download — months later it’s suddenly the sound everyone wants. Our aim is to have music ready when a style becomes popular.

How do you find composers/talent?
Our production team has a pool of composers who produce music from every genre. Most new composers come to us through referrals from composers and musicians they currently work with.

What are some questions a client should ask or consider when they are looking for music for their project in order to help the process go smoothly?
When you are conducting a music search, be as specific as possible. If you have a song in mind, that’s great, but descriptive terms (tags) can be even more useful, e.g. “uplifting,” “motivational,” “medium tempo,” “building,” “violin but no guitar,” etc. Clients can also take advantage of our music search team and let them suggest tracks based on a description, reference track or link to a scene.

Any misconceptions about these types of libraries?
Many people think that all libraries sound the same, and that library music isn’t very good, unless it’s custom. Nothing could be further from the truth! We work with artists and composers who create outstanding, original work. We have everything from classic English punk from The Mutants to jazz- and classically-influenced orchestral work from cinematic legend Ennio Morricone. You hear our work everywhere without even realizing it. For example, we provided the theme song for Curb Your Enthusiasm and the soundtrack for Lexus’ “December to Remember” campaign.

You recently introduced Legacy, which was recorded by an 81-piece orchestra. Is something of this scope typical for Killer Tracks?
Legacy is a follow-up to a prior release called Shock and Awe. Currently, there is a lot of demand in the trailer world for tracks with vocals over live orchestra. Legacy is our response. It was recorded live with a full orchestra.

Behind the Title: Composer Michael Carey

NAME: Michael Carey (@MichaelCarey007)

COMPANY: Resonation Music

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative director/composer (film/commercials/TV) and songwriter/producer/mixer (album work).

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
For commercials, film and TV projects, I work closely with the director, producer and agency to come up with something that meets their needs and the needs of the project. I develop an understanding of their overall vision, and then I conceptualize, compose and produce original music to capture the essence of this vision, in a complimentary way.

i-want-to-say-composer-main-title-opening-scenes

Michael Carey was composer of the main title theme and the opening scenes for ‘I Want to Say.’

This includes themes, underscore, source, main titles, end titles, etc. When it comes to album projects and soundtrack songs, I often write for (or with) the featured artist or band and produce the track from end to end. This means that I am also the engineer, programmer, session player and often mixer for a project.

On large projects that require fast turnaround, I wear the “creative director” hat, and I assemble and manage a specific team of colleagues to collaborate with me — those I know can get the job done at the highest level. I keep things focused and cohesive, and strive to maintain a consistent musical voice.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Whichever medium I’m working in, be it music-for-picture or album work, the underlying fundamentals are surprisingly similar. In both instances, it’s ultimately about storytelling – conveying maximum emotional impact in a compelling way. Using dynamics, melody, tension, release, density and space to create memorable moments and exciting transitions to keep the viewer or listener engaged.

I’m always striving to support the “main event.” In film, it’s visuals and dialog. In album work it’s the singer’s performance. I see my job as building a metaphorical “frame” around the picture. Enhance, reinforce, compliment, but never distract.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Two parts, really. First, the satisfaction of achieving a collective goal. Helping a filmmaker/artist realize their vision, while finding a way to authentically express my own musical vision and make a deeper connection with the audience experiencing the work.

There are moments in the course of a project when you hit on something that’s undeniable. Everyone involved immediately feels it. Human connections are made. Those are great moments, and ultimately you want the whole piece to feel like that.

The second part is the inspiration that comes from working collaboratively (usually with people at the top of their game) with those talented peers who challenge and push you in directions you might not have taken otherwise.

WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR SCORING? HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
1) Watch film/read script. 2) Discuss with director, get a sense of their vision. 3) Create musical sketches and build a sonic palette. If there’s already some picture available to work with, then I’ll tackle a scene that feels representative of the rest of the project and refine it with input from the director. My goal is to create a musical/sonic “voice” or “sound” for the film that becomes an inextricable part of its personality.

CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR WORKFLOW?
Once overall direction has been established and scenes have been spotted, my first step with a scene is to map things out tempo/timing-wise, making note of any significant cuts, events or moments that need to be hit (or avoided) musically.

By defining this structure first, it frees me up to explore musically and texturally with a clear understanding of where “ins” and “outs” are. By then, I usually have a pretty clear sense of what I want to hear as it pertains to realizing the vision of the director, and from that point it is about execution —programming, recording live instrumentation, processing/manipulation and mixing — whatever is required to make the scene “feel” the way it does in my head.

DOES YOUR PROCESS CHANGE DEPENDING ON THE TYPE OF PROJECT? FILM VS. SPOT, ETC?
There are certain nuances that have to be considered when approaching these different types of projects. Nailing the details in short form (commercials) is often more crucial because you have an entire world of information to convey in 30 seconds or less. There can be no missed moment or opportunity. It needs to feel cohesive with a cinematic story arc, and a compelling payoff at the end, all in an incredibly compressed window of time.

This is less evident in long-form projects. With feature films or TV, you often have the luxury to build musical movements more naturally as a scene progresses.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
That’s a tough one. As a kid I wanted to be an anthropologist. At 21, I went to a cooking school in Paris for a month thinking that that might be cool. More recently, I’ve been dabbling with building websites for friends using template-based platforms like Squarespace.

I think the common themes with these other interests are curiosity, experimentation, creativity and storytelling. Bringing an idea to life, making the abstract tangible. At the end of the day, music still allows me to do these things with a greater degree of satisfaction.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I knew music would be my path by age 14. I was playing guitar in local bands at the time, and then moved into steady club gigs. By the time I was 18, I was in a signed band, recording and touring. I couldn’t have imagined doing anything else. When I hit my 20s, I knew that writing and composing was the path ahead (vs. being a “gun for hire” guitarist).

I still played in bands and did lots of session work, but I focused more on songwriting and learning about recording and production. During that time, I had the opportunity to work with some legendary British engineer producers. At one point, a well-known video director who had shot some videos with one of my bands had started doing commercials, and he was unhappy with the music that an ad agency had put in one of his spots. So he recruited me to take a shot a composing a new score. It all clicked, and that opened the door to a couple of decades of high-profile commercial spots, as well as consistent work from major ad agencies and brands.

Eventually, this journey led me down the road of TV and film. All the while, I kept a foot in the album world, writing for and producing artists in the US and internationally.

andy-vargas-the-beat-2016-hmma-winner-producer-songwriterCAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I Want To Say— Composer: Main Title and opening scenes (Healdsburg International Film Festival – Best Documentary).
LBS– Songwriter/Producer: End Title Track feat. J.R. Richards of Dishwalla (Sundance Official Selection, Independent Spirit Awards nominee)
• Andy Vargas/The Beat (Producer/Songwriter – Winner 2016 Hollywood Music in Media Awards “R&B/Soul”)
• Escape The Fate/Alive (Songwriter — hit single, #26 Active Rock, album #2 Billboard Hard Rock charts)

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It’s hard to pick one. Some of the projects listed above are contenders. There’s a young band I’m developing and producing right now called Bentley. I will be very proud when that is released. They’re fantastic.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Pro Tools. It’s my “instrument” as much as any guitar or keyboard. It’s allowed me to be incredibly productive and make anything I hear in my head a reality. Steven Slate, Sound Toys and PSP plug-ins. Vibe, warmth, color, saturation, detail. My extensive collection of vintage gear (amps, mics, mic pres, compressors, guitars, boutique pedals, etc.). Not sure if these qualify as “technology,” but they all have buttons and knobs and make great noises!

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (to a lesser extent lately).

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I have an amazing family who helps keep me centered with my eyes on the big picture. Running and exercise (not enough, but feels great when I do) and, increasingly, I try to meditate each morning. A friend and colleague whose studio demeanor I’ve always admired turned me onto it. He’s consistently calm and focused even in the midst of total drama and chaos. I’d like to think I’m getting there.

Main Image: Patricia Maureen Photography-P.M.P