It is finished. As Treebeard told Perigrin Took, “…your part in this tale is over. Go back to your home.”
The Pray For Daylight score has been leveled, mixed, shaken, stirred, gargled, swallowed, regurgitated, and run through a lovely mastering plugin to pretty it up for public consumption.
Last night, for about 4 hours, and the night before for another 4 hours, Tony (Producer/Director of Stone Soup Films) and I slogged through the mix with the New-And-Improved video which had been color-corrected and special-effected by Rob.
I will reserve my review of the movie until the completed version is…well…completed. But I can tell about the scoring/mixing process we went through.
Before this project, I Hated temp tracks. Capitol-H Hated. Because the director knows the temp track will be replaced, they are free to use anything to convey their musical idea of the score, even copyrighted music. So, let’s say the director tosses G-N-R’s ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ on there, because he/she wants something totally kicking all ass. Great. Then, they listen to that track as they edit and preview the movie…over…and over…and over…and over….
…and then they take out the G-N-R, and hand the video to you, and your job is to put something in there. Something where that G-N-R song was, but certainly not G-N-R, because that would be copyright infringement, but you know, it was really cool, how the drums and bass worked together on that…no, no, synth just isn’t sounding right there…um, can you yell? You know, that screechy, banshee yell, kind of like Axl, but not really Axl, because that would be copyright infringement, and we don’t want that…but still, something I don’t know…more G-N-R-ish…without being G-N-R?
Right. So I Hate temp tracks. Mostly. But we were fortunate that Tony used very bland, generic temp music. If this music was food, it would be in the Generic Section of the grocery store, labeled ‘Dramatic Music’ in that generic black-text-on-white-label, and it would taste like overcooked oatmeal. This kind of temp track makes you sound like a pro, because pretty much anything you do will be better. So it worked out well. But I still hate temp tracks.
Although Tony does not know it, (until he reads this) we disagreed about the levels of the sound effects Colin and I added. Tony and I both have the same mantra, “We’re all about the subtle.” Difference is, that his mantra is sarcastic and mine is not. That difference works out to about 20db. (ie: A LOT) Since this is a subjective thing, I didn’t even bring it up.
Setting the levels should have been a breeze, but the original audio (recorded through the camera) had a lot of noise in it. I mixed the score to play over that noise. Rob had used SoundSoap on some noisy pieces of audio, and some were ADR-ed (audio was replaced in the studio). Once that background noise was reduced, it made the score sound Really Loud and so we had to remix on a scene-by scene basis. This was expected, and therefore a non-problem.
Locked (Wink Wink) Video:
The standard procedure (as I know it) is that once the Editing is finished, the locked video file is sent out to the other departments (score, audio mix, FX, color correction…) After that point, the video edits are Locked In Time, as in, They Don’t Fucking Change. Never. Ever. Neverever. This ensures the special effects and audio and such line up where they are supposed to on the final master.
Somehow, there was a difference between the Locked Video Track Colin and I were given (and mixed to), and the Color Corrected Locked Video Track for the final mix. As though somehow, David Copperfield had made thirty or so frames of video disappear. (I saw him make the Statue Of Liberty disappear on TV once…)
Like Magic, the score was off for the entire second half of the movie. Now, all music start and stop points had to be tweaked and checked. Fortunately, it was not as bad as I thought it would be, but I will make sure that for future projects, the expected completion date for scoring is moved accordingly if there are any time changes to the video. It was a good thing to have Tony there so that he could see the repercussions of “Locked” video becoming “Unlocked”…
Contracts should be signed before work starts, not after. The contracts should not only have all the legal bullshit, but they should also include time limits, what resources will be provided, and what is expected (file types and other requirements) Maybe this does not need to be in a legal signed document, but there should be an understanding of “What do you expect from me, in what period of time?”
In this project, Colin and I simply agreed to drop songs from our album into the movie, and to score the spaces between the songs. (Official contracts were picked out later, from VersusMedia.com and will be signed before the final production master DVD is authored.) This worked out OK, because we are all friends and we all know each other. If working with/for people I don’t know, I am getting it in writing beforehand.
Colin and I had a great recording session last night, our first since working on the Pray For Daylight Score. We tightened up ‘Let It Out’, a song we haven’t touched for months, and I haven’t listened to since about December. I had previously declared that song Finished, but in reality, what I meant was that the song was Written. In the future, I will be more careful with that distinction.
After an evening of simplifying the bassline, re-recording the lead Vox, and a dash of Level/EQ, the song is Much Much better. It still needs the drum loops replaced with real drums, and a coat of bright, blood-red paint, then it can be added to the Finished pile with ‘Not Enough Bullets’.
Scoring the movie was a good break from writing and recording the album. We needed to get away from that project for a while – things had begun to stagnate a bit, and I know I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. There were some songs (like ‘Monsters’) that were taking on a life of their own, growing out of control, so it was nice to put it all aside for a few weeks, and return and view things with a fresh ear. Or, is it ‘hear things with a fresh eye’?
Anyway, I really can’t wait for you to hear it. Where are the registration forms for the 2007 SXSW Festival?
It was three weeks ago that this project was handed to us, and while I haven’t personally had a worse three weeks in my life, it had nothing to do with the scoring of this movie. (Unless the project was cursed)
Today, we revealed the progress of our hard labor to Avindair, GothTrooper, MonkeyBoy, and none other than the Uncanny Cassie Banning herself.
I was right to say that I would be close to done: there were 3 minutes of unfinished footage, leading up to the Wheel of Death scene. That equates to around 3-6 hours of work left to do. We handed off the audio score anyway, and the remaining parts will probably end up using the directors temporary tracks.
Our initial plan of covering the major sections first was a good one. It gave us a solid starting point to work into and out of. Coming into the project with written songs was a real pleasure. I could not imagine trying to write full songs for the sections we did. We managed to get 11 of our 9 songs into the score (No, that is not a mistake. There are pieces of two songs which made it into the score which were disowned – songs we gave up on long ago.) The songs actually tended to get cut up quite a bit, and only tiny pieces of them used. *Monsters* for example, is a song that we worked on for a number of weeks, and less than a minute of it actually appears in the score.
If anyone with any taste has anything to do with this movie, they will strip out the music over the Gator’s Bar scene – a joke song we called Techno, because, well…, its a techno song. Nnn-Tsss-Nnn-Tsss, you know… Anyway, it makes Cassie and Garrett look like they are meeting in a gay bar. That’s what we had, and that’s what we used, fully intending to strip it out later, but the way it affects the percieved mood of the characters is Hysterical.
Everyone liked the preview of the score. It really pulls together sections that make little sense without music on them, and accentuates so much in the video. Working on this project has really made me realize that the audio is every bit as important as the video in telling the story.
The scoring is done, but the project is not. There is still the director’s commentary and the actor’s commentary tracks to be recorded, and the Master DVD will be rendered here in Encore. [Editor’s Log, Stardate Mar 2007 – Sadly, these things never came to pass…]
All in all, it has been a fun project to work on, but a worse period of my life could not have been picked out to undertake it. I am really looking forward to putting February behind me.
The scoring continues, and today I’m flying solo, as my partner-in-crime has to make some International Connections. I called Avindair this morning and postponed his visit till tomorrow. Difficult to say if I will be finished by then, but it should be very close.
The project is over 5GB now, and that does Not include the 14GB video file. My computer protests as though it were a GMC Gremlin, and I were trying to pull a Mobile Home. Uphill. Periodic Lock-Ups and Lots of lost work have taught me to backup often, often, often. Especially since the automated periodic backup was hanging my computer, so I had to turn it off.
A good estimate now is around 1-2 hours per minute of video to score. Of course, this depends more on the complexity of the scene, and the number of transitions.
The major scenes left to score are
Cassie and Garrett discussing on Couch
Lucretia’s bedroom scene
Cassie’s Discussion with Saveau at his house
Intro Fight Scene at Lucretia’s Lair, leading up to Wheel of Death
Last night, Colin and I scored quite a bit of the movie, Pray For Daylight. We finalized several sections, including the death of Lucretia, for which Colin wrote some awesome music right on the spot.
For those wondering how things work in the studio, it went like this:
Colin: ‘We cant use Plung there when Lucretia dies.’
Me: ‘Why not? It works really well.’
Colin: ‘Because we just used it for Cassie’s turnaround scene.’
Me: [Scrolling back on the timeline about ten minutes] ‘Hoover Damn! Youre right. Can you make something up?’
Colin: ‘What were you thinking?’
Me: ‘Something acoustic and hollow, like the start of Plung, with some slow bass’
Colin: ‘…like Plung.’
Me: ‘Right. Like Plung, but not Plung. Like if someone else wrote it, we would sue them for copyright.’
Colin: ‘Hang on…’
[30 seconds of sheer musical creative genius later]
Colin: ‘Hows this?’
Me: ‘Im writing you hate mail already.’
Measuring out the timeline, we have 33 min of unscored footage, which is almost exactly half the movie, but the parts we have finished are the most difficult ones, and therefore I know we are over halfway done.
The most difficult part of the movie to score (by far) has been the backyard fight scene. We have spent more than half of our time on this scene alone, with minimal progress. The quick changes between fighting-talking-fighting are difficult to cover with any one piece of music, and shifting the music back and forth makes the scene disjointed. What would Howard Shore do?
Regardless, we are shooting for Sunday as our finish date. At this point, it seems a very reasonable goal.
Tonight, (In a Cat-Piss-Free environment) Colin and I were able to preview the entire locked-down version of Pray For Daylight. We listened to the director’s cut with the temp tracks installed, and made notes of the mood for each scene.
Actually, if Colin and I were both killed by ninjas tonight, they could use the royalty-free tracks the director has in place (and the few songs of ours that he used already) and the score would be fine. ‘Fine’ as in OK. ‘Fine’ as in Adequate.
But we can do better.
We decided on a plan of action for the project – instead of progressing linearly through the movie, we will place the largest pieces of music first:
The opening credits
The time-lapse montage with Monsters
The Wheel of Death scene with Let it Out,
and so forth.
Then, we will go back and work through the largest remaining sections where there are extended scenes of a constant emotion (fight scenes, reflective scenes, sad scenes…) and try to cover the largest sections first, and proceed in layers, until we reach a point where it seems prudent to take the movie a scene at a time, to completion.
There are two notable items slightly outside the score of the film which we have to deal with. The first is the sound cue for what is being called ‘celerity’ – that is, the magical ability of the vampires in the film to ‘teleport’ or move quickly from place to place. The second is the ‘freezy-eye’ look, when the vampires freeze people in their tracks with fear. Both of these events have sound cueues Tony has put in place, but he told us he is not 100% happy with them, and has invited us to see if we can do better.
J-man came over and helped us put a thin coat of polish over the song ‘Not Enough Bullets’ and called it Done. Complete. We don’t have to retake any tracks, edit any mistakes, or tweak any levels. Done. And we each smoked a cigar. A Middleton’s Cherry Blend Cigar, to be exact. A major milestone in both the ‘Days From Evil’ project.
Later tonight, I may drop ‘Bullets’ onto the timeline and we will have our first edit. That is what I wanted to accomplish last night, instead of shampooing carpets. So, I can safely say that I feel we are one day behind schedule on our second day into the project. This implies the project will take twice as long as I thought…
What we learned today:
Middleton’s Cherry-Blend Cigars don’t taste like Cherries at all.
Egyptian Musk incense smells W-A-Y better than cat urine.
Middleton’s Cherry-Blend Cigars taste much better on Halloween after 4 or 5 drinks.
A track is never finished. But, at some point, you must pick a level of ‘completedness’ you are willing to live with and answer to. (See Zeno’s Paradox.)
I have to say, I was quite excited to get started on this project, and came home from work looking forward to beginning scoring the film the same way I looked forward to coming home and playing Half-Life or Unreal2 or F.E.A.R.
Ah yes! An evening strapped into the command chair, issuing orders to Anubis, who steadfastly obeys my every whim (unless there is a Mac user in the room, in which case, Anubis tends to BSOD…) The very fate of the soundtrack was in my hands! Every drumbeat would line up like a headshot! Every moody synth track would lay down like fire from a flamethrower in a narrow hallway (note to self: Flamethrower in hallway = bad, remember?) Ambient noise effects would ricochet off the video like full-automatic gunfire!
I smiled as I made my way downstairs to the studio, but was stopped short – the smile fading from my face the way it probably does when I click the trigger and discover I am out of ammo.
“…um, what the fuck is that smell?”
It turns out Gabrielle had laid down some suppressing fire of her own. ‘Oppressing’ actually. Strong enough to make my eyes water. ‘Jesus H. Christ!’ I blasphemed. (and to this day, I still don’t know what the ‘H’ stands for).
Despite my best forensic efforts (blacklight, sniffing around) I was unable to find the source of the offending smell. It was as though someone had burned an entire package of CatPiss Incense in my studio. Either that, or Gabby had pissed on the ceiling. Her sandbox was clean and dry. Interrogation proved useless.
And so, a quick trip to the hardware store, and $20 for a Rug Doctor later, I was dismantling the studio, and shampooing carpets until the wee hours of the morning. Not exactly the start I was hoping for.
Gabby coughs up hairballs on an almost daily basis, but this was some kind of communication, and my Cat Urine Dialect is a bit rusty. I assume this is some kind of negative message, perhaps her disapproval of me spending too much time not petting her instead, but it could be she watched the Pray For Daylight clip and it scared the piss out of her. Regardless, that is one more room she is grounded from.
So Day One was literally ‘pissed away’, but at least we have clean carpets to start the project…
Colin and I met with Avindair last night, and picked up two copies of the ‘locked cut’ Pray for Daylight; one with his temporary music score, and one with no music score. Our goal is to completely score this puppy in three weeks. Not an impossible task, even for those who haven’t done this before. (Disclaimer: We haven’t.)
Thank goodness for portable USB drives, otherwise I am not entirely sure how we would have transferred two 15GB files between our systems. I don’t think e-mail would take kindly to attachments of that magnitude.
Ran the import on the video .avi last night, pulled it all into a Sonar project in under half an hour, scrolled through it, the video syncs nicely to the timeline.
In the spirit of Avindair’s blogging his adventures shooting and post-processing the film, I will post updates of our progress here, as often as seems blog-worthy.
On Sunday, Jagged Spiral had a great recording session. Unsere Freundin came over to record with us, and made us quite happy with somber notes of cello-ness for the track ‘Monsters’ which is very nearly finished, but still needs the magic charms of a certain Geek Goddess…
Of course, had we any idea the length of time the process of writing the album would take, we might never have started. We began this project back around July/Aug 2005, and still are racing to complete even just the writing of the songs before other work takes its place.
We also had no idea that the album, now known as ‘Days From Evil’ would resolve into the genre of Epic Gothic Metal, certainly a genre that could use a push…
The Jagged Spiral song “Let It Out” has been moved from this blog to the band website, somewhere on www.jaggedspiral.com or you can probably still hear it on the Jagged Spiral MySpace page: www.myspace.com/jaggedspiral
Colin – Rhythm and Lead Guitars
Yusef – Lead Guitar
Josh – Drums
Zero – Bass, Yelling, Grunting, and Whispering
[Update: Stardate Aug 2015 – We gave up the Myspace, but you can hear/download the complete album for FREE on bandcamp or soundcloud.]