Welcome back everyone! In last week’s blog I talked you through the method I was using to create the soundtrack for a Pacific Rim-style animation about green energy. Today I would like to share with you the finished product and describe how the audio was created, so without further ado here it is!
Edits and Back to the Drawing Board
In the last blog about this animation, I showed you the animatic, with a Ramin Djawadi inspired rock track as the music, to check out that post then CLICK HERE. The project has come along way in a week and the animators and I worked flat-out to get the project done by last friday’s deadline (which we nailed). The project was submitted and I thought all was said and done, until the Art lead Azam Idris contacted me last night and asked If I was able to update the soundtrack for the public screening held today. He needed the soundtrack updated because of last minute edits to the story, which threw the sound out of sync with the visuals. The music I had composed for fridays submission was synced to the screen, using breaks in the music when there was a massive impact and leitmotiv for the characters. When I received the new edit of the animation I realised I had to go right back to the MIDI to make it work. This was due to the change in the visuals from Friday’s version (from edits) and resulted in the music playing the character’s themes in the wrong place, confusing the viewer. The sound Fx were now out of sync as well, so it was time to go back to the drawing board!
Leitmotiv is a compositional method used by many composers, especially in film, and is a repeated musical phrase that usually depicts a character. Think of Darth Vader’s tune in Star Wars, that is a form of Leitmotiv. The animation we have made is 2.5 minutes in length, so the leitmotiv for the characters are very brief.
The Earth-God is the “Good-Guy” in this animation and the musical theme for this character had to reflect that. I wanted to capture the awe of such a beast, so I made the first time you see the creature have a supernatural sound to it, this became the base of the Earth-God’s theme.
“Mr Clank” is the giant mech and is the embodiment of everything dirty and harmful to the environment. In our animation Mr Clank is the “Bad-Guy”.
Variations on the theme
To make the music feel as if were really part of the two battling-behemoths world, I used variations on their motif’s. When the camera was focusing on Mr Clank and it was winning, then Mr Clanks theme, or a variation of it would play. Mr Clank’s theme only has four notes so it was relatively easy to variate rhythmically and still recognise it as its theme. When we first see Mr Clank, its theme is played in a slow 7/4 meter, when we see the two titans collide, the meter changes to an up-tempo 4/4, the notes of Mr Clanks melody remain the same, it is now just played in a new tempo and meter.
Likewise the theme for the Earth-God is played in a new tempo and time signature but retains the same basic musical information.
Then, when they are really going for it, an interplay between the two motif’s.
Using this method, the characters gain a “personality” and makes the music feel like it is part of the film, rather than an afterthought.
Put it Together!
The orchestral first-half of the soundtrack was complete and I still had the Rock-Band track from the original animatic, so I merged the two together and this became the music track.
Guy Gray noticed that when these tracks were played back to back, the rock band track felt like it was in a different space, so I juiced it up with the RC-24 reverb unit, that was the same unit I had used for the orchestra.
With the soundtrack complete is was time for the sound design. I imported the final music tracks into a new session and started work. Luckily, I didn’t have to make all of the sounds myself as one of the animators has access to a large library of sounds. The quick turn around of this project would have been near-impossible without this library and made me realise the importance of having a good library ready to use when the time comes.
As you can see in the photo above, I have colour coded the tracks to fit into groups, the yellow tracks for example are all the “slam” sounds, being used for the impacts of when the characters are fighting. Grouping and colour coding make life easier when you have to deal with many tracks. Once the sounds were all placed where they should be, I created an aux track with the RC24 and a Maxim limiter as inserts. The reverb unit was to worldise the sounds and the Maxim pushed them up in level and made them really hit hard. From the Aux track I sent the incoming sound effects to a stereo audio track for print and recorded all the sound FX.
I now had two audio tracks, one with the final music, the other with the final sound effects and it was just a matter of finding a happy balance between the two. Once the mix was sitting right, I sent them to a final print track, which was the final master of the project.
It took three Pro Tools sessions and a lot of coffee to get to the final mix but in the end the animators made their public showcase, with sound! I was happy to help and I am really pleased to have been part of this project. Its funny how in film and animation, such attention to detail is taken and results in edits after edits. This may seem like a composers enemy but edits and revisions are necessary for the good of the project and thats what collaboration is all about. Rigid trees are the first to snap in the wind, so to be successful, patience and dedication along with the ability to compromise are traits that a composer must have. Sometimes edits mean you have to go back to the start, in this case back to the MIDI sequences, to fashion them into something new and it is like a game, trying to make the pieces fit together, emotionally and musically, while in the same instance staying syncronised to the action on screen. It’s not easy being at the tail end of production either, almost everyone involved has done their part and are now waiting on the humble-composer to make some magic happen, so to be able to deal with the pressure of knowing your being waited on and still stay creative is an art in itself.
Thanks for reading!