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    When does the composer get the film?
    Senior Member Azmyth's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Do they work on it in stages or do they get it once the final cut is completed?
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    Senior Member gonzo_entertainment's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    Depends. I have mine working on some general themes, passages etc... before we even film, but he can't really get down to brass tacks until video lock. He can't make the music rise, fall, be the right tempo, etc... until he has the final edit in front of him.

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    Usually when you have picture lock. It's not fun to write a bunch of music, record it, and have it done for a scene and then get a re-cut.
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    Senior Member ryanjf's Avatar
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    May 2008
    San Francisco
    I've worked with composers who started recording/composing before picture was even shot just to start the creativity. The downside is that they'll have to conform. I believe there is a mention of this type of thing on SoundWorks Collection in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo video.
    Sound Editor/Sound Designer/Mixer
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    Senior Member randin's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Anything's possible these days... especially as more and more... ahem... non-composers are doing film music. Many recent big hits were done basically as music inspired by the script, set visits, conversations between director and composer, etc., and then the film was edited with the music.

    I for one strongly prefer the old school way, working with a locked cut. Of course a locked cut is hard to come by these days. Partly because, as Dave Fisk said, it's a pain in the bit. Even if you think, "I just cut 4 frames there and 5 there," it can be a massive project for the composer to adjust to. Sometimes it can be as easy as just changing the tempo (speed) of the music a beat or two per minute for a brief section and you're ok, especially if it's all electronic music. If you've got recorded live instruments, that's not so easy. And if you can't get away with that and have to actually change how the music is written and... well, the project I have open in front of me right now has about 50 tracks. I would have to do some sort of untangling and reworking in every one of those 50 tracks to adjust to 4 frames here and 5 there. This is the biggest issue of course in action, cartoons, or anything where music has to work very tightly with the picture.

    The other thing is, as some of the great composers of yesteryear said and I subscribe to, the best thing is for the composer to get their own emotional reaction to and inspiration from THE FILM and the performances and direction choices in it rather than the script or intellectual conversations about the film. I prefer to watch a finished film with no temp music as my first introduction to it. That way I've got my own real reaction to the film to work with.

    Another thing about that, which some directors see as a benefit, but sometimes it can cause some tension, is that the composer is a key creative on the film who is coming to it with fresh eyes as it's finishing up. Everybody else on the film has been with it a long time, sometimes too long! Many times I've had directors really appreciate some of my feedback when I come in at the fine cut stage.

    But like I said, anything is possible. I would suggest hiring the composer early in the process just so you can get into it and decide together what the best process for your film will be.

    There's my essay on the subject!
    Randin Graves
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    Senior Member maranfilms's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    capecod ma,
    scoring was how I got into production work in the first place, so this is something I know a little about. I would like a script to read over. It's amazing how you can start getting ideas from visuals in your head. Then if your lucky enough to get some rough cut scenes or anything that can be beneficial to derive ideas. I would say communicate your ideas, and what you would hear in your head for a specific scene. If you know music all the better. But sometimes, you get it at the end of the production. That works to. I would usually go through watch a few times, write down scene lengthes, where the cuts will be and how they flow into the next scene, then start messing around with ideas. My whole approach was to try to evoke some sort of emotion for every scene. Not just to fill a segment for the sake of adding music. But keep in mind, not every scene needs music, the sound designer can create moods as well, so it's a fine line between overkill. sometimes less is more like in everything.

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    Sound Ninja Noiz2's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    Detroit & SF
    In most well thought out films the composer is on very early. Actually all the creative folks are "on" early. You want your people to have some time to think about the show so that they can contribute while things are not locked in a fixed direction. The composer and Sound Post Supervisor/ Sound Designer are not creating much in the way of "content" at that point but you (the director) can get input and share ideas early on so that A) you can find out the things you though would be easy and aren't can be worked around and B) the things you though were difficult but aren't can be capitalized on.

    You also want your editor and SFX (if any) leads to be in on this discussion. You want your editor putting together a rough cut while your shooting, if possible, and you want sound post to send you things that will help the editor get a decent run at the rough. You also want your composer giving you sketches or suggesting songs that will sound similar to what they want to compose so that you don't end up getting infatuated with a sound your composer can't do. If you are paying them $$$$$ then don't worry about it but since your post ing here you can safely assume there are styles your composer is not good at so talk to them so that your temp is something close to what they can do or you will go through hell later.

    As a rule on low budget films these post folks are going to be on some flat rate so your not paying an hourly, and they really want to be involved early. For one thing it helps them piece together the various jobs they need to have going so they can make the rent. Knowing you will have a job in a month or two is a BIG plus. But also they can make your (and their) life easier if they are part of the process early. So it shouldn't cost you anything more to hire them early and you can get a big benefit from having their input ASAP.

    Scott Koue
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