KAVEH COHEN – Composing for video games and trailers

KAVEH COHEN - Composing for video games and trailers

there's a lot more involved there in creating this layered music system you're trying to capture the sound and feel of the environment the energy levels are intensity levels are very high in motion picture advertising what you're doing essentially is telling a story in a very short period of time it's far more of a layered experience I think as a composer writing for games and it also depends on what game you're scoring like I'll give you an example like we scored the last two splinter cells for Ubisoft and those had very dynamic music systems and they were based on what was taking place for your character in the environment that you were in so if you were you know he's a spy so if you're kind of stealth thing around in the shadows or whatever you know we would have a base layer a foundation layer which was low energy low intensity and then we had to build layers on top of this that were playing concurrently the computer hadn't unmuted them yet but they were playing concurrently in the event that something happened on screen you know you get into a fight or fire fights or you know something exciting happens the system would dynamically switch from the base layer to the next intensity layer and your music so we were dealing with a three layer system the music has to be able to jump from layer 1 to layer 3 back to layer 2 or anywhere basically at any moment and it had to line up perfectly it had to make sense musically so as far as tempo is concerned or your key signatures your instrumentation you have to be very aware of how these layers were constructed because dynamically the system would be jumping around between cues essentially based on what's happening on screen so it to the answer the question there is there's a lot more involved there in creating this layered music system then you would have in a film for example or television where of course there's a story arc there's an emotional arc in the scene but you're playing one piece of music and you're following a linear story you're following you know as the scene plays out so with the games it's a little bit can be a little bit more involved and that's it technically more involved emotionally a little bit more involved and and then you move on to something like our most recent games which are racing games and they don't have a principal character so in there you're trying to capture the sound and feel of the environment you know you're in your Monaco or you know you're in at the Nurburgring or someplace and you know you're choosing these beautiful cars and so during those menu sequences or before the race or during the race I think it's it's a lot more about the emotionality of the environment and preparation mentally for the race and then when you're in the race the only real consideration is sound effects you know because there's other cars racing with you there's tire noise people are hitting walls and and you know metal sounds and engine noises and and so the consideration really becomes music versus sound effects an environmental sound as opposed to sort of like the emotional journey of a principal character in a game so yeah I think video games have a have a unique set of parameters or you know a paradigm a mindset when approaching the score as opposed to something like a film or television show or commercial you know it's it's it's more involved sometimes you start from the bottom and then build up into the most intense layers so or sometimes you write the most intense layer first and then you're sort of deconstructing it it's a little arbitrary you know what I mean because they you have to because it's not just the two layers it's three so you kind of have to decide what this middle layer is gonna be as well but the trick with it is like let's say for example you start with a layer three which is the most intense you can't just mute stuff because then you're left with nothing you know what I mean the base layer for example has to be able to stand on its own as an interesting piece of music what if this particular player doesn't get into fire fights or get doesn't go towards the action very often maybe they like stealth thing around and hiding in shadows which means that they're gonna be hearing layer one a lot you know what I mean so our job is to make sure that every layer really does stand alone as an interesting piece of music that may be on loop for however many minutes that player is in that environment so it's it's I don't have a straight answer for that I think it's just you know sometimes you start from the bottom up sometimes you start from the top down but all all throughout all of it you do have to try to maintain a sense of interest sense of musicality as as if that's the only piece of music you know that particular layer stems become very important then for the audio directors because then they're able to dynamically make changes without taking too much away of the music but they can make changes you know they'll be ducking in volume but they'll also be ducking as far as the instrument instrumentation goes in order to not compete with sound effects that are going on especially in like a race environment in a game like Forza it can get pretty noisy so you know they want to be able to keep things at a at a an even level so to speak as opposed to turning it's a cacophony um you know we've had the great opportunity of actually being able to write thematic material for for many of the games with Splinter Cell for example we actually we wrote a theme for for the game and I'm not sure that the game series prior to us coming on board really had a principal theme so outside of the main theme no I wouldn't say that there's a lot in the way of late motif I think there's instrumentation which or motifs that maybe have relevance to the environments that you're in you know because they travel in the game they travel to various parts of the world so there's a little bit of flavor of those parts of the worlds that we imbue into the score but outside of the principal theme there wasn't much more in the way of thematic material in Forza it's actually the same thing they didn't have a principal theme for the game of before the motorsport theme so we were very privileged to be able to write something and that was cool because then you're able to repeat it throughout the score we were able to expand upon it and and bring what feels like thematic material to a to you know to the score the body of the score so the for the for the majority of the time the pews are designed to loop and it's just that's just how it has to work but you know the I think the audio director is in in within the video game publishers they the developers rather they they do a incredible job of making music seamless moving piece to piece moving from environment to environment from menu to menu and really making the transition from a piece of music to another seamless so that's really to their credit that's not something that I could take credit for you know they they really work to massage the musics usage in the games to the point where it becomes seamless to the user as far as our delivery it goes unless it's like a cinematic cutscene if you've got a cutscene it's a video then obviously it has a beginning and an end it's kourt's a picture you know it's it's it's it's like scoring anything else that's a linear static thing but other than that we would typically be delivering things that are loopable and then we leave it to them we've done some games that have had you know maybe 30 or 45 minutes in music most of the larger titles that we've had you know the the pleasure of scoring there are two hours or more of original music and the process can take months or you know and in one case we were scoring for about a year there were some changes to the game and then we had to come back and then there was several more months of scoring so it went on for a while but yeah usually it's quite a lot quite a lot of music yeah so the trailer industry is fascinating fascinating industry I mean you know the the trailers almost all of the time don't have the music from the film in them you know sometimes we come on board way before the the score for the film is even done and you know often time because of the way that they want to present the film in the advertising campaigns the score from the film may not even be the correct most effective way to present the trailers so one thing that we find is very consistent is energy like the energy levels are intensity levels are very high in Motion Picture advertising you know they're telling a story in a short amount of time they really want to you know make it exciting they really wanted people want people to want to come and see the film when it's released and so you know for the most part you're writing music that's high intensity it's really ramping from beginning to end it's really growing and you know has to be exciting so in that sense you know what you're doing essentially is telling a story in a very short period of time so you're trying to do what a score would do but in a really short period of time but I you know there's a lot in common with the all the other avenues of music that we work in as far as like the production production technique instrumentation you know the influences I think there's a lot of influence from film music there's a lot of influence from popular music and you know we try to pull all those things in and you know make it as modern and current as we can we have excellent relationship with the client base so there's always a lot of feedback which is very helpful there is a lot of people working in this in this field but you know our aim here has always been to write you know interesting original music that we hope sort of may present some new ideas or new approaches to the client base when they're when they're doing these trailers and you know they their requirements are very heavy they've got they've got a lot to do in short periods of time their back is against the wall most of the time so they're very hungry for new music so you know we're trying to give them something new something different something maybe that they hadn't thought of that hadn't come up before you know while at the same time making sure that the music is built it's constructed it's composed in a way that is useful for them because that's the other thing they have to be able to work with it they have to be able to edit it they have to be able to create the sense of intensity and urgency so there's always this mindset that we have when we're creating the music that it has to be helpful to the client to make it viable for them but perhaps at the same time we can you know present something new on the side and you know kind of guide their hand somewhere who knows


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