Trimester 5 – First Intensive

Starting off the Audio Studio 3 unit this trimester was a film soundtrack project. In this project me and three other students were assigned a student documentary with placeholder music to produce an original or replica soundtrack for. The documentary we worked on is titled ‘What is love”, and details the intricacies of a relationship between two people, contrasting a young couple’s experience with and older couple’s. The placeholder soundtrack was a Bob Marley tune, so for part of our soundtrack we decided to create our own reggae song. The group agreed that one song wasn’t sufficient to cover the entire film so we decided to blend the reggae recreation with our own original pieces in a similar style.

In the early planning phase we located some references that we though would suit the style, one of them was a song by The Police, ‘Walking on the Moon’. This style, laid back but still reminiscent of reggae was ideal to accompany the mood we were trying to create. In our first week of arranging and recording, we threw down instrumental ideas for our original parts including guitar, bass, sequenced drum parts and keys. We came up with a basic structure for the whole piece which helped us plan how it would cover the whole documentary. At this point we also began to write parts for our Bob Marley recreation, keeping a very similar style but solidly changing the chord progression and solo parts as would be done professionally to avoid copyright issues.

The next week of production we decided to record drum parts for the recreation, one of my group members found a drummer to play the parts so everything was set to go smoothly. After recording the recreation and having some minor issues with syncing and capturing refined performances, we decided to only use a small section of the recreated track. This meant we had to come up with more music to fill out the rest of the film. First we came up with the idea to create a variation of the original track to change the mood halfway through the film, but after recording a rough version of this it became evident that the transition was too rough, so we proposed an entirely different shift in the middle of the film. There was a distinctly different section in the film where chemicals are being discussed, and some animations are used, we agreed that a short jazz section may suit this well. After some planning we had recorded a rough jazz piece largely inspired by ‘elevator music’ styles, using an instrumentation of guitar, bass, piano and vibraphone. Once we were happy with the way it transitioned, we continued to work on the first original piece, re-recording keyboard parts and bass guitar. I was largely responsible for composing these original pieces, although based somewhat on reference tracks I felt I took a strong leadership role and gave musical direction to the project.

Now that things were beginning to take shape, we decided to meet with the director of the film to find out whether she agreed with our stylistic choices and arrangement. The director of the film brought along one of the actors in the film to give his opinion, and both he and the director were quite impressed with our original music and the recreated track. We took a slight risk creating original content and not sticking to the original placeholder idea but it paid off very well in the end. At this point all that was left was mixing the tracks and editing them to the film. Unfortunately we didn’t receive the other audio from the documentary in time so we weren’t able to fully edit it, so instead we sent on a list of cues to the post-production team.

The mixing process was fairly simple, as we had roughly mixed everything in our production sessions, but we still planned out a formal process in one of the studios. Unfortunately the mixing desk in the studio was non-functional, but we were still able to use the outboard gear that we had planned to. In the end we used very little compression, keeping it sounding fairly natural, but we made some dramatic changes with EQ to keep the tonal balance similar to the recreated track, our original content was quite a bit duller than the original Bob Marley track. We also used the distressor units on most of the guitar parts as they were a bit too clean for the style, this was most likely due to the fact we didn’t use an amp for the parts. We also made use of the T.C Electronics reverb unit to add some nice atmosphere enhancing the more ambient nature of our original music.

During this period I have also been working on refining my website and online portfolio, updating it to be in line with my current skills and ideas. This included remixing an old track of mine, after realising that it sounded quite muddy through monitors, having only listened to it and mixed on headphones previously. I also decided to try out some mastering techniques on it to further improve the sound. I underwent a complete redesign of my website, intending to move away from the wordpress domain and eventually have it be completely custom-made. For now I just made it look as professional as possible and added to my portfolio. When I later create a custom website, I should have all the assets and aesthetic ideas I need to make it attractive and informative.