10/21/14Indie CAN be better & more lucrative than Mainstream...
Here's some reasons why working on indies are cool:
1. More Money! Yes - particularly on the video game front. I am the captain of the ship. And right now, I am pursing indie games harder than film because there are more of them. The key is to get the right to sell the game's soundtrack on Bandcamp. Just read about Danny B. and Super Meat Boy. He made practically nothing doing indie films. But, then he did Meat Boy for a low amount and made up for it with the amazing Bandcamp soundtrack sales. Danny B. even mentioned in an article that it is possible to make more money scoring indie games than AAA games.
2. More Freedom! Indies are more likely to take risks than 'play it safe'. With indie games in particular, I have lots of freedom to do different types of music. How much creative freedom do AAA game composers or 'big-name' film composers actually have? Think long and hard. Think about Iron Man III - Marvel is a big company with execs, producers, etc. I bet the director wasn't the only one overseeing music. Big budget Hollywood movies in particular tend to follow a 'formula' - lots of Hollywood scores tend to sound the same after awhile. Same for some big AAA game titles. For big commercial projects, people seem to demand 'big', 'epic' Hollywood type sounds. Same with Call of Duty Black Ops II - the score was super formulaic, a very traditional hybrid orchestral 'Hollywood' score.
3. More Accessible: I can get indie gigs with smart marketing. There's lots of 'red-tape' associated with commercialized stuff. I can't just write EA Games or Ubisoft and say "I'd love to score the next Assassin's Creed! Hire Me?" Hahahaha! Definitely doesn't work that way. I can't just call up a big TV network and ask them for the names of film directors and producers who are pitching TV shows during pilot season (if I were hunting for a TV gig, I'd probably want to know when 'pilot season' is in Hollywood & LA, and then run some Adwords campaigns or Facebook ads during that time). But for now, I'm still just doing indies - and get offers to score indie games regularly.
4. Composers can be dumped from mainstream, stability doesn't exist: Contract work isn't stable work. Big time composers get dumped, replaced, or might demo for a big project (and lose).
So the point: I need to get to the 'middle' of the composing population. The people who aren't famous, they work on indies only, in other words, "the rest of us". If that means doing a steady stream of documentaries, indie games, indie features, etc., that's cool!
Why many composers fail to get off the ground: Lots of reasons.
-They might be reaching/aiming for projects that are out of reach. They're 'dying' to do Disney or Ubisoft projects and fail to see that there are lucrative alternatives to commercial stuff.
-Go Big or Go Home does not apply to composing! Most of the big
guys started with small indies. And some successful composers
don't do commercial stuff at all! And, they do very well!
-They don't use paid advertising methods.
-I am confident that my composing business will grow when I have a bigger
budget for Adwords and Facebook. If people don't go to your website, you can't
get offers. You have to be active to get composing work. I can't sit in a dark
room and expect 10 offers the next day! I need to DRIVE traffic to my website.
-They are too 'close-minded' or just aim to specialize.
- I am not a game composer, I am not a film composer. I am a
composer for media - I score everything and anything that needs
music. The key is to keep an open mind and get attached to cool,
-They try to be "Hans Zimmer"
-Composers who try to copy or emulate big composers. Bad idea.
Definitely won't stand out from the competition. Danny B. did Meat
Boy, was super successful, and has his own unique, distinct style.
-They work for free.
-Dozens of composers, so desperate for work that they'll do it for free.
The truth is: I will go out of business and crash and burn if I work for
free. The key to running a successful composing business is to treat it
like 'any other business'. So, if I open a bakery, am I going to sell all
of my baked goods for free? NOOOOOOOO! Because that means my
bakery will go out of business REALLY fast because I can't pay rent or
utilities. And, I can no longer bake pies or cookies because those
ingredients cost money!!
-They aren't open to different types of deals.
-I do all kinds of deals. Exclusive (work for hire), non-exclusive, etc.
Most big, commercial stuff is work for hire. But hey, Danny B. made
tons of money doing an indie game and he kept soundtrack rights.
The key is to be flexible to different types of agreements.
-They try to copy how other composers 'break in'.
-Some composers might work on student projects for years, make no
money, and hope for a 'big break'. The truth is: there is no such thing
as a 'break'. Working with students doesn't guarantee that a
composing business is going to 'get off the ground'. It could take years
or might not happen at all! Most of the 'big' composers cross into
commercial stuff by accident.
10/13/14Traditional & Non-Traditional Routes
Some 'Typical' ways game/film/media composers break in:
1. Working With Students: Lots of the big guys started with student films, particularly on the film & TV fronts. And sometimes for games as well. Ex. Austin Wintory (Journey). I still work on student film projects occasionally. A few students 'make it' by crossing over into big mainstream stuff (ex. Directing big TV shows, big studio games, etc.). Or, they might establish a start up game company or do independent films.
2. Being an Assistant to a Working Composer: Lots of the big film & game composers have an assistant or multiple assistants (usually students) working for them (ex. Jack Wall, Hans Zimmer, etc.). Being an assistant could lead to some interesting contacts. Some composers have launched careers after being assistants.
3. Being an Orchestrator: Some composers might break in this way - being an orchestrator to a famous composer. Pitfall: Some people might just want you as an orchestrator and could care less about your composing. You become stuck as an orchestrator.
4. Contacts, contacts, contacts: Yeah, this is a big one! Some indie game & film composers simply cross into mainstream AAA games or end up scoring a big TV show because of work they did with a client earlier in their composing career. Or, they get a series of word of mouth referrals. Or, the right person hears that composer's music in an indie film or game and likes it. The more people I work with, the better.
1. Making the Right Deals and Getting a Hit Indie: I'd love for this to happen! The composer of Super Meat Boy did well this way! He scored the game a low amount and retained the right to sell the game's soundtrack on Bandcamp.
-Most likely, this Bandcamp route will be the way I 'break-in' on the video game front. People love indie games! Super Meat Boy is a great example. I could potentially make more money scoring an indie game than a AAA game if it hits and I have soundtrack rights.
2. High Profile Placement in Production Music Libraries: If I could get a cue placed into a high profile commercial, things would be great! These placements usually pay well. Plus royalties.
3. Getting involved with a start up company that hits: This is a big one - more common for video games. I think about the few composers who managed to get in-house positions at some of these studios (some of them are AAA - ex. Telltale Games). But, there are other companies who might contract the same composer to score all of their games. And, there are other companies who often use different composers.
4. Contacts, Contacts, Contacts: Kinda along the same lines as option 3. Building & maintaining contacts overtime.
Honestly, non-traditional route option 1 is most likely going to be my route! Danny B. is proof that you don't necessarily need to do AAA Games, big Hollywood films, or big high profile gigs in general to be successful at this!
The composing world looks awful and fiercely competitive though a 'mainstream' lens. But, it looks slightly better in the context of indies. At the end of the day, composing is just like any other business. The key is to align with other people who are into doing game development or directing films full-time. And, occasionally take a risk, hope a video game hits, and keep the soundtrack rights.
Being an excellent marketer and advertiser is the key to getting the composing train moving. After I get some much needed composing software packages (Orchestral String Runs and EWQL Choirs), I am going to run an Adwords campaign. You see, if people don't know that I exist, I can't get offers in the first place. I need more website traffic and I need to get more clicks to convert to offers or inquires.
10/07/14Software I Have and Plan to Buy
Here are just a few of the big software packages that I own. Software (sample libraries/VSTs in particular) alone is super expensive:
-East West Quantum Leap Orchestra Gold Edition (EWQL Gold): $247.50 (I bought it on sale! normal price: $495). Useful for everything orchestral. Excellent brass and solo strings. A standard piece of software used by most film & game composers.
-iLok security dongle: $49.95. Required to run all EWQL software. They won't run unless this dongle is plugged in.
-Kontakt 5: I bought the package when it was $249. I think it was on sale. Current price is $399! Required to run most instrument/sample libraries.
-Project Sam Symphobia - Orchestral Essentials: $449. For 'big' sounding orchestral stuff and cinematic fx.
-East West Quantum Leap RA: $197.50 (The sale price on the official website is $355.50!! And the normal price is $395). This is my ethnic instrument package. Covers most major regions & countries (Japan, China, Middle East, India, etc.). I thought about purchasing EWQL Silk - but that package is mainly Chinese instruments. So, I don't need Silk yet!
-Orange Tree Strawberry Electric Guitar: $179. A useful, realistic sounding electric guitar package. I actually own a real electric guitar - but I can't really play it.
Some of the Software I Plan to Get:
Orchestral Tools String Runs II: 259.66 Euro (~$330 USD). Trying to create realistic sounding string runs is close to impossible in some cases. This package sounds amazing and will be super useful for big action or adventurous orchestral pieces. I am going to buy this package first (very soon!). This will bring my big orchestral pieces to the next level. I've listened to the other products by Orchestral Tools - the woodwind and brass packages sound amazing as well! But, I don't really need these yet. I might get their woodwind package down the line because there are some great trills and runs in it.
EWQL Choirs: On sale, $247.50. Normal price: $495. The choirs I have now kind of suck! They are really synthetic. This package is industry standard and includes a cool Word Builder.
Spectrasonics Omnisphere: $499. Amazing power synth! Another piece of software that is industry standard. The guys who scored Mass Effect used this package. Right now, I am using Camel Audio Alchemy and some low cost packs for it. If I get this, I probably won't bother getting a full version of Alchemy. I don't absolutely need to buy this now.
EWQL Voices of Passion: On sale, $197.50. Normal price: $395. I occasionally get a request to do something with a solo vocal. This package seems to only include female voices. No hurry to get this yet.
Various Solo Voice Products by Sonokinetic: Cheaper than EWQL's Voices of Passion. If I just need a male, Middle Eastern vocal, I could just buy Desert Voice (49.90 Euro) by Sonokinetic instead of EWQL Voices of Passion. No hurry to get this yet.
Orange Tree Acoustic Steel Strings Guitar: $179. I need a good acoustic guitar package! Get the occasional request to do a piece with acoustic. No hurry to buy this yet.
Ivory II Grand Pianos: $349. Includes a Steinway, Bosendorfer, and Yamaha piano. It is also 77 gb! I am not in any hurry to get this - the pianos I use right now are adequate. This seems to be rated as a top piano package. Steinway is my favorite piano. Definitely no hurry to buy yet! But, it would be cool to have!
What is the difference between "indie" and "mainstream"? Can something that's "indie" become "mainstream"? Indie games vs. Mainstream games? Indie films vs. Mainstream films?
For film, I would categorize the following as "mainstream":
1. Shows or Ads that Air on National TV (ex. big TV show on NBC, major ad campaign for big product, TV movie on the Hallmark Channel, a show on Showtime, an HBO series, a TV show on SyFy Channel, an animated series on Cartoon Network, etc.).
-Most big shows (and even some ad campaigns) usually feature A-list celebrities. The big network TV shows also usually hire a 'name' composer to do the main theme & underscore or just the underscore (ex. Christopher Lennertz scored Revolution, Brian Tyler did some episodes of the new TV show Scorpion, etc.). Those two composers are big name Hollywood film composers - the big TV shows often hire successful Hollywood composers.
2. Studio Feature Films (including indie subsidiaries): Anything picked up by a major distributor (ex. Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, Focus Features, etc.).
-Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler are both huge 'name' film composers. Then there are others like Blake Neely, Jeff Rona, etc. They also work on big Hollywood features.
For Games, I would categorize the following as mainstream:
1. Blockbuster AAA Game Franchises: Big, epic franchises (ex. Halo, Mass Effect, etc.) with production budgets that probably exceed big Hollywood movies.
2. Big budget casual games (ex. Zynga's "Farmville", "Where's My Perry?" by Disney Games, etc.). Slightly less high profile than games like Halo, Mass Effect, etc.
3. Other AAA games (ex. Sim Animals, etc.).
4. Indie crossovers (ex. Journey by Thatgamecompany - a group of college kids got lucky and got Sony's backing, Rovio's Angry Birds). Can Journey really be called an 'indie' now? It crossed over into mainstream as soon as they got backing from Sony.
At the moment, I think I am veering more into the indie game direction. I don't get many offers to do feature films everyday and these offers are very hard to come by. I get lots of offers to do indie games! Would love to do more indie features - these are really hard to get! Honestly, I got lucky on my first feature - my Facebook ad showed up at the right time (when I put up that ad, I expected to maybe get a short film out of it, not a feature).
There is a life outside of AAA games and studio films/TV shows! There are successful, low profile composers working & living off of indie games and films. So, let's look at characteristics of indie games/films.
1. Not studio backed, filmmakers put them in festivals and hope that they might get picked up by a distributor.
2. Some of these often have investors.
3. Some of them might just be a few people with a camera.
1. Often a solo dev or team of devs.
2. Some have a production budget, others don't.
3. Some might get completed? It depends on the complexity of the game - making a game is a lot harder than a film because of the skills required. Programming can't be easy. Some AAA games don't get completed. Look at Titan by Blizzard! Millions of dollars spent and then they cease production!
Mainstream stuff (especially big budget films and games) tend to play it safe. A lot of the games, films, or TV shows are formulaic. They hire big name composers and lots of money is on the line.
Indie stuff (games and films) often take risks and think outside of the box. I see this especially on the game front. I feel like that I am more aware of indie games than indie films. Ex. Super Meat Boy, Thomas Was Alone, World of Goo, etc. - all of these are indie games that hit it big time! The indie composers who work on those indie games are successful! Do I really need a mainstream company (ex. EA games, Ubisoft, Disney, etc.) to be successful? No!
My definition of success is to be able to do what I love (composing) full-time! So, if I am just doing indie documentaries, indie games, etc., I'd be perfectly happy doing that!
The key to running any successful business is to 'just do it'. I am an indie composer for media. I am working on lots of cool games and films.
08/22/14Things I am Doing
August seems to be a quiet month. I am advertising like crazy!! I definitely need to pump way more into paid advertising. I am also posting a lot on forums as usual.
There is no 'how to' guide on how to get composing work. I've learned quickly that I am selling a product/service. Marketing skills are key and I have to keep finding creative ways to get work. Every small business has some kind of advertising budget. If people don't know that I exist, I can't get offers. Plain and simple. I don't work for free anymore because I need to pay for advertising. Paid advertising can go further than forums. Forums have some disadvantages. On forums, people sometimes complain when I bump a forum post too often or I'll get some nasty comments (ex. "Work for free!" or "You won't get any paid work here"). But at the same time, I have gotten a lot of good indie games on forums. I've gotten several excellent adventure games off of a German adventure game forum.
Next step - a $300 to $500 campaign on Google Ad Words! I've experimented on Ad Words with like $50 but, it isn't very effective because Ad Words requires lots of money. The rates for certain keywords are through the roof! I am running a composing 'business' - I need more targeted website traffic. I am working hard everyday to turn website clicks into offers.
I get lots of words of discouragement: "Work for free", "You won't get paid work here", the industry being too crowded, etc. But here are things I always keep in mind:
1. I don't necessarily need AAA Games or big budget studio films to be successful. I can build my whole business around indie projects (documentaries, indie features, indie games, etc.). There is no rule that says I need to work with a big corporation to be successful at this. The bulk of composers who end up doing big stuff for Disney or EA Games are usually very successful indie composers. I am looking to work with people who want to do game development or film production full-time. I am trying to avoid hobbyists.
2. I am not just a game composer or just a film composer. I am a composer for media. I will score anything and everything that needs music.
3. I am not limited by geography. This is the best part about composing. I run global ad campaigns. So if I get an offer to score an indie game under development in Paris - no problem! And at the same time, I can juggle other projects in several different countries simultaneously.
4. Indies can become corporate or grow into successful start-up companies. The key is to get involved in lots of small projects and maybe some of them will grow. I need to get on the ground floor on as many projects as I can. An in-house position would be sweet! (More likely to happen at a start up game company - these are very hard to come by).
5. I am selling my services all of the time. I am probably doing more marketing right now than composing. This business is saturated. Yeah, whatever. So is the restaurant business - that doesn't mean that all restaurants fail. Just like any business, I need to market my head off - it isn't rocket science.
6. I am unique and have a distinct sound/style. Lots of composers try to be the next Hans Zimmer and stuff. This is a bad move and copying other composers doesn't make you stand out. I love projects where I can just do my own composing and let my style come out. I love freedom.
7. I am a service provider and do not work for free. Do you go to the dentist and expect them to work for free? Most people wouldn't question whether or not to pay a dentist. But in the composing world, there are too many composers who just work for free. And too many people who expect their composer to work for free. I cannot sustain and build my composing business on free work. My current rates for films and games are very affordable for serious indie developers or filmmakers. I need to make these minimums so that I can advertise my services and buy better software (instrument packages/VSTs) - so that my stuff sounds even better.
8. Every project has a different deal and licensing terms. I have done a mix of 'work for hire', exclusive (and I retain soundtrack rights), and non-exclusive work. A lot of the Hollywood indie film stuff are usually work for hire. Same on the game front - a lot of the serious indie devs will demand work for hire. This is ok - I will definitely charge a bit more for 'work for hire' than the other two licensing options because they keep the rights.
9. Looking for composing work is nothing like looking for other 'normal' jobs. Sure, I've seen ads on Indeed and other career sites 'Looking for Film Composer', etc. Chances are, there are like 50 to 100 composers applying to that position. I have found that I do way better getting work when people click on one of my forum posts or a paid ad. This is why I can't wait to
try Ad Words with a bigger budget!
10. Fame and Being a 'Name' Composer: Look at Ari Pulkinnen. He worked on a nice little mobile game called Angry Birds for a small Finnish start up called Rovio. It became a huge success and now he is a 'name' composer. Composers like Jack Wall or Hans Zimmer are 'name' composers because they've worked on huge AAA games/franchises and studio films. The truth: I don't have to be a 'name' composer to be successful! I need to be successful with indies and it will happen eventually. There are lots of low profile composers. It is a question of "When" not "If". There are lots of young people who just want to make films or develop games for a living. And a lot of them do! Filmmakers need distributors. Indie mobile games are amazing because everyone can get a game on the App Store. I am pursuing mobile games like crazy!!! Look at Flappy Bird! I need to score the next Flappy Bird - that was just a solo dev! And he's made a ton of money off of that game! No big company behind that.
11. Credits are king. In addition to unique demo reels, I need to keep building my credits. The credits are equivalent to a resume. In a sense this is my resume that clients look at.
I am still working on several indie game projects on & off. I am trying to spend less on Facebook ads so that I can get a new software package. My next goal is to save up enough to run a real Google Adwords campaign. I am still always posting on various forums and Reddit for game & film scoring. I seem to get more game work off of the various forums. Visionaire forum is great for adventure games - I've gotten several great adventure game projects off of there. The point: Advertising on Google or Facebook costs money. I tried Bing and didn't get any results.
06/26/14Myth vs. Fact
Myth 1: The only way to be a successful composer & earn a living is to score AAA games or studio films.
Fact: Composers don't need to do a single AAA game, huge TV show, or studio film to earn a living doing this. Composers build successful careers around indies and start ups.
Myth 2: Composers don't need to use paid advertising methods to get composing jobs.
Fact: It is crucial to use paid advertising methods to get composing work. All businesses require advertising. Clients don't grow on trees or magically appear at your website. Forums are cool and you can get some interesting work off of them but, you can't post on forums all of the time. With paid ads and a sharp set of marketing skills, you can get tons of work. I am surprised that I don't see more articles about composers using Facebook ads or Google ad words. I know that they use these methods to find new projects.
Myth 3: You have to sound like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, or some other big time composer.
Fact: It is actually the opposite. You want to avoid emulating or copying other composers. Building your own unique, signature sound is critical to success. When someone is browsing through 10 composing demos and all 10 of them sound like 'Hollywood' Zimmer stuff, it is probably pretty boring to listen to. A demo sticks out when it is different from the others. And if it is good & fits what they're looking for, that is more likely to get picked than a Zimmer copy.
Freelance is hard. Freelance composing is incredibly hard. Here are the pitfalls of freelance composing:
1. Market Saturation: Lots of composers looking for gigs. The competition is brutal.
-Solution: I am building my business around indies and start up companies. Just like there are lots of composers, there are also lots of indie filmmakers and game developers who want to earn a living doing their craft. I am thinking realistically (I am not aiming for AAA games or a huge Hollywood studio film). There are lots of new companies that pop up! There are composers who earn livings on indie films and games alone. I also write for a Hollywood production music library to try and get my music placed into commercials, TV shows, etc. A big placement in this library might help me a lot. There are lots of pizza places, restaurants, etc. Starting up a business involves risk. But, that doesn't mean that every start up fails - you don't have to be high profile to be successful.
2. Composers Who Work for Little to Nothing: Lots of composers will work for free. Or, you'll find a composer who works for super low amounts.
Ultra cheap or free work is bad for the business as a whole. It is one thing if a composer doesn't have any credits - then working on their first video game or film project for free might be okay. If we don't charge for our services, we can't sustain or build a business. It is a MUSIC BUSINESS. Most people will pay for a cup of Starbucks coffee without hesitation. It is a different story for an album or mp3 downloads - lots of people download music illegally.
-Solution: I don't work for free anymore. I always charge something for my services and have something to contribute. I am running a business. I invest my earnings back into the business: new gear, new software, and various online ad campaigns so that I can attract more clients. The key to succeeding in a saturated business is to stand out and not try to emulate other composers. I am not aiming to be the next Hans Zimmer. I want to be known for my unique sound.
3. Marketing Costs: Marketing is a pain but, all freelancers have to do it. And there are a lot of them. I've probably spent at minimum $1000 on Facebook ads alone. But, I know that I need to invest more money into marketing.
-Solution: Invest more money in paid marketing so that I can increase my visibility. People have to be aware that I exist. Clients don't grow on trees. I have to seek out new projects and market everyday. I am actually in the middle of a slight dry spell right now - this is a cruel reality of freelance. I also advertise on various gamedev and film forums a lot. Reddit is a great place to advertise.
06/02/14Success in a Saturated Market
The composing world is saturated. But, you could say the same thing about pizza places. That doesn't mean that every pizza place fails. There are plenty of successful pizza places that have loyal customers and new customers. And, I'm not talking about big corporate chains like Domino's or Pizza Hut. I'm talking about sole proprietors and indies. What do pizza places and composers have in common? We are both running a 'service based' business. Pizza places cater to customers. Composers cater to clients.
So, most of the software I need to get is super expensive and takes up tons of hard disk space. I am holding off on some software because I might not have enough space to load it. As an interim solution, I'm considering buying an external SSD for my laptop. Ultimately, I'll need to buy a powerful desktop with slots for extra SSD or hard drives. The good VSTs/virtual instrument packages take up tons of room.
I am going to hold off on some Facebook ads for awhile and start saving for gear: new computer, more virtual instrument packages, etc.
When I get new projects, I seem to always need to buy a new software package that I don't have in order to compose good work for the project. Without the right tools/instrument, things can be disastrous or impossible to complete. For instance, on one project, I needed a good electric guitar VST. So, I shelled out $179 bucks because I needed a decent guitar for a battle theme. And, I'm sure I'll be using it on other projects as well. It is a constant negative cash flow situation: I need such and such software package to do a project well. I've learned in the past that with virtual instruments, you get what you pay for. Cheap virtual instruments tend to be really bad.
Freelance isn't easy. Being a freelance composer is pretty difficult. I feel like I've been more successful getting new projects on Reddit and various forums than Facebook at the moment. And, I've spent lots of money on Facebook ads. I might refocus my efforts on the forums.
But, I'm still optimistic. Unlike actors, composers can work on multiple projects (worldwide) at once without leaving home. There is no rule that says that I must be working on AAA games or scoring studio films to be a successful composer. Yeah, if I was given the chance to score a AAA title or a big TV show, I would grab it because these might improve my website traffic and they usually pay well. But, if big TV shows, huge Hollywood movies, and AAA games were the only work out there for composers, there would be no industry.
There are tons of indie composers. There are successful indie composers who earn a living scoring documentaries, indie games, indie features, etc. This is my realistic goal: to become a successful independent composer for media (indie games, indie films, indie animation, etc.). Plus, I compose for production music libraries! Down the road, once I have tons of cues in these catalogs, I could probably earn a living off of my production music. I've read about composers who do this. I will probably need to have at least 1000 songs to start generating any real income from library music. Commercials are hard to get. I'm filling up one of the libraries with tons of 25 to 30 second cues to try to get some commercials.
05/04/14Orange Tree Guitar
Finally bought a decent sounding electric guitar package for Kontakt - the Evolution Strawberry by Orange Tree Samples. I bet that I will be using this on lots of projects. I've tried other guitar samples and they sounded pretty bad. I don't get a ton of requests to do acoustic guitar yet so, I can get that package down the road when I need it.
04/16/14Halo Composer Fired from Bungie!
Just heard that Marty O'Donnell got fired from Bungie! Marty scored big AAA titles like Halo and Destiny. Wonder what happened? This shows the downside to being an in-house composer at a game company. I am sure he will find work at another big game company because of his amazing credits but, this just shows the lack of stability in the composing business. Composers are 'dump-able' & very replaceable. Possible reasons he could have been fired (with a half completed score!): creative differences? a change in the initial contract/agreement that wasn't good? Who knows? Articles mention that Bungie's Board of Directors dumped him without an explanation. This is the problem with big companies - there are too many people and employees are more disposable.
I love working on indie games and after reading this article, I'm not so sure if I'd want to be an in-house composer at a huge company. Of course, if I was offered an in-house position, I would probably take it (and keep this article in mind). Indie games = innovation and creativity.
04/09/14Marketing and a Dry Spell
So, I'm waiting to start on several game projects and some short films. I'm currently advertising on Reddit and some other forums in an attempt to get some more work. Freelance is tough. I am a composer running a business - advertising is a huge expense. Eventually, I'll be able to resume ad campaigns on Facebook and AdWords. So far, I've been spending only small amounts of money per day on multiple campaigns on Facebook. Next plan, to spend more money per day on campaigns. Ex. It is expensive to run Southern California campaigns on Facebook. But, I think if I spend $50 per day on a SoCal campaign instead of $5, I might get better results. For AdWords, I might need to spend $50 a day on that alone because the bids for specific keywords are so high. Running a start-up is difficult.
I have gotten lots of interesting projects off of Reddit and forums - these are still great places to advertise. And, I'll still be posting on forums a lot! But, I know that other composers use Facebook and AdWords. Freelance is hard - especially freelance composing. So many people want to compose and too many do it for free. I am confident that when I pump up the marketing even further, I will get some great results. You don't need to be AAA or to be affiliated with a big Hollywood studio to do well in this business.
So, yeah, the market is saturated with composers. But, you could say the same thing about gamedevs and filmmakers. There are a lot of indies and start ups that want to be successful. I've read about a lot of indie composers earning a living on indies alone (no AAA studios, no big film studios, etc.). They live off of production library music, documentaries, indie games, making the right deals, etc. Examples of indie composers who earn a living on indies alone (with little to no corporate/commercial/studio game & film work): Danny Baranowsky, Jessica Curry, Craig Dodge, and lots of others that I've never heard of.
I do lots of marketing on Facebook! Now, I'm ready to start running some serious campaigns using Google Ad Words. Facebook is great - I am getting lots of targeted traffic to my site. And, getting some more targeted likes on my Facebook fanpage. Bing is interesting. I'm getting lots of clicks. But I also know that there are more people searching with Google than Bing. I'm hoping to get some targeted traffic on Google. Google Ad Words is also way more expensive than Facebook and Bing.
02/10/14Flappy Bird App
Flappy Bird is national news because it made so much money and became a huge success! I can't believe the developer, Dong Nguyen, pulled it off the iOS and Android app stores after being so successful because he said it ruined his "simple life"! Wow! This simple little mobile game could have been the next Angry Birds! What a shame!
01/24/14Facebook Ad Fun
So, I'm running more Facebook ads again. This time, I'm going to try and not burn though $100 in one weekend! I'm experimenting with lots of different campaigns for film & games. Facebook ads are cool because they allow you to use PayPal, you can pause/start ads at anytime, and the targeting options are great. Eventually, I'll work up to Google Ad Words.
I hope the indie feature I just scored gets into some more film festivals! I'm not sure if it will be screening at the Pasadena International Film Festival. However, Harbor Story is still scheduled to screen at Pasadena.
01/09/14Can't Wait for February!
I've been busy! Just finished scoring a feature film and have several projects that might come out in February! One of the projects is a mobile game under development in Denmark that I composed a title theme for - I can't wait to see how that game turns out! I'm also waiting for other announced and unannounced games to come out - games take a long time to develop! Especially indie games!
On the film front, I learned that both Southern Comfort and The Harbor Story are premiering on the same day and time/block at the Pasadena International Film Festival in February! What a coincidence! According to the program, two films I did the music for are grouped together in the same section: "Block 11: Let Me Call You Sweetheart - 7:25-9:30 on February 14th". It appears that they will be showing back to back during the same block. It will probably never happen in my life again: to have two unrelated films that I worked on, screened back to back during the same block at a film festival! The chances of this happening was one in a million! And, the screening is on Valentine's Day! Also, the two films are complete opposites - one is a romantic comedy feature and the other is a short, modern student silent film with uplifting & tragic themes. Can't wait for Valentine's Day!
11/14/13First Cue Placement!
I finally got a cue placement! In January, I composed a cue called "Sidewalk". Today, I found out from Cueniverse that "Sidewalk" will be on an MTV show! I can't wait to find out what show it ends up on! It probably won't show up on my BMI statement till next year. I'm going to keep focusing hard on writing for various production music libraries so that I can have more of my music on TV!
I am an exclusive author on AudioJungle, a royalty-free stock music site. So far, I've had one piece accepted. And today, I got my first track sale!
I don't intend to put up high effort, special or catchy pieces on AudioJungle. So far, I've been focusing on composing small, pretty ensemble pieces for AudioJungle. I save special pieces for the production music libraries that I write for. The production music libraries are great because if I get a placement, I might be able to earn some royalties. But, getting a cue placed into a TV show or ad will take awhile.
I've decided to compose some tracks for AudioJungle because it is just another way to get some music out into the world for people to download and put into various films or games. One thing I don't like about AudioJungle is that I will never know who buys one of my tracks or how a track might be used. So, it may be impossible for me to track down where some of these tracks end up. On the plus side, I make a little bit of residual income out of it. I have some royalty-free tracks on Bandcamp as well. I like Bandcamp because users have to leave an email address when they buy a track.
I am pretty busy again. I've just started work on my first indie feature film! Excited and nervous! 1 minute & 20 seconds of music written so far! I am estimating that the complete score will be around 80 minutes! On the video game front, I am still waiting for lots of indie games to be released.
09/12/13Less Busy, for now...
I'm finishing up work on some exciting game projects! And, I recently scored short films. I scored one of the films, made for a 48 hour film competition, overnight about a week ago - that was intense! It is amazing how in this field I'm busy with tons of projects one week and then I'm scrambling to get more projects the next. The contract work isn't lucrative yet but, I'm keeping as busy as I can. What would help right now is if some of the projects (especially on the game front) would come out soon. The more quality indie games I have out, the better. I'm starting on a new game project shortly so hopefully, things will pick up again.
08/24/13I finally have an iPhone!
Finally have an iPhone! Yay! So now, I'll be able to play some of the games I'm currently scoring when they come out! The only Android device I have is a Kindle Fire. So for Android games, as long as I have the .apk, I can play it! The iPhone has a pretty long battery life. I also love the speakers on the iPhone. And, there are so many games on the app store! Looking at my list of credits, I'm realizing that lots of projects aren't out yet. Indie game development takes time. Can't wait for some projects to come out so that I can play them!
08/04/13Lots of Cool Game Projects TBA!
I'm currently working on multiple new & exciting game projects for mobile devices that I can't talk about yet! I can't wait to play all of them! I'm currently working on projects in many countries including the United States, Canada, Estonia, United Kingdom, & Belgium. And, I'm starting on an adventure game under development in Germany soon. I'm also looking forward to getting an iPhone soon because I'm so sick of my Windows Phone. All of the projects I'm working on are either iOS or Android. I always look forward to playing the games that I do music for. I just don't have an iOS device. I have a Kindle Fire and I can play Android stuff on that as long as I have the .apk file.
06/03/13East West Quantum Leap GOLD!
After reading all of the horror stories online about the installation and activation process for East West Quantum Leap Gold VSTi, I was worried that it wouldn't work! But, I spent $300 for EWQL Gold VSTi & the iLok security dongle. Although it took around 5 hours to set up, everything seems to work fine! I was shocked! My machine recognizes the iLok device and EWQL opens up in Sonar 6 (my DAW) fine! Can't wait to score some games and films with this package!
05/01/13Lots of Projects!
Working on lots of exciting projects right now! I just finished composing, editing, and mastering a 25 minute score for The Harbor Story, a senior thesis film. It was a ton of work because I only had 2 weeks to compose, edit, and master! And, the film was a silent! I have some exciting unannounced mobile game projects on the horizon! I'm also scoring Far Stars and RPG MO. I love scoring Far Stars because it is a sci-fi game! I'm hoping to work on more sci-fi games in the future! And, RPG MO is alot of fun to score because it is a cool browser based MMO.
03/30/13New Composing Credits List Format
I was up late last night revamping my composing credits list. There was nothing wrong with the original list format that I had before. But, my previous credits list made me appear to be just a video game composer. I also compose for film, animation, and television as well. So, instead of putting all of my composing credits on one page, I've separated them into categories: Video Games, Television, Animation, and Film. I have slightly more game credits than film/TV/animation right now. I'd love to do more TV and animation projects - hopefully I can build up these two credits more. I also like this new format because I added some cover art for a lot of the credits (particularly in the video game section). Any credit that I couldn't find a good picture for is just a simple black background with white letters. The negative side to this format is I can't fit much info each photo caption. If I decide I don't like this new format, I can always go back to the traditional list.
02/12/13I'm Composing Again, FINALLY!
Finally back up online! I got my activation key today for my orchestral package and I can officially start composing again after tons of computer trouble. My new machine and the software works great! But, for amazing CPU performance, I'll need to invest in a machine with multiple cores, a terabyte hard drive, and a ton of memory. 6 gb is okay - but it still isn't quite as powerful as some of the machines that the big time composers have.
02/08/13Almost Back Up & Running Again!
It really sucks when the hard drive dies! But, I got my new machine today and it works great! My new Dell laptop recognizes my Midi keyboard and the ASIO drivers work. My DAW, Sonar 6, works on Windows 7! And, I got it to run a few basic VSTs. So, my task for tomorrow is to reinstall my crucial VSTs (Project SAM, Garritan Personal Orchestra, Garritan World, Kontakt 5, and Independence Free). I need Independence Free for my rock guitars, drums, basses, etc. Can't wait to start composing again!
02/07/13New Laptop Coming Tomorrow!
Ordered a new Dell laptop and paid for overnight shipping. So, I should have it tomorrow! Yay!
Not really looking forward to getting all my composing software up & running again because it is a Windows 7 machine instead of Vista. I'm hoping Sonar 6 or Sonar 7 DAW works on the machine. And then, I'll need to get my 5 crucial VSTs working on the machine as well: Project SAM Orchestral Essentials, GPO, GPO World, Kontakt 5, and Independence Free. I use these 5 VSTs the most. VSTs aren't the most stable programs. It kinda sucked not being able to compose all week because of the dead hard drive. I'm probably going to try to recover files off of my Maxor backup drive first - I'm not sure whether or not it actually has any software/programs on it or not. At minimum, I might be able to recover simple stuff like .mp3 files and photos.
02/05/13Ordering a New Laptop
IDE hard drives are old, out of date, and hard to find. So, I'll be ordering a new laptop in a few days. I would have ordered it today if stupid Amazon.com accepted PayPal. The new laptop will have more memory (6 gb) and more hard disk space. The fun part is going to be getting my DAW and all of my VSTs back up and running. And simple stuff, like getting the new machine to recognize my Korg keyboard when I plug it into the USB - I might need to install drivers for that. On the bright side, Helidroid Battle, a game I worked on, will be available on Google Play this Friday! Can't wait!
02/04/13Hard Drive Doesn't Fit...
Got a new hard drive today and learned that my HP laptop uses the older IDE hard drive instead of the newer SATA model. So, it fits in the slot but, the connectors don't fit! So, I have to find an IDE model drive that will fit in my HPdV6000. Yay! This really sucks! I'll be looking at IDE drives tonight and hopefully I can find one that will work in my laptop. If the next hard drive I get doesn't fit- I'll have to buy a new laptop.
I wish I had the money to get a nice Mac desktop workstation with tons of power, memory, etc. But, I'm kind of limited right now to Windows 7 laptops in the $300-$600 range. But, if I find a replacement hard drive that works in my HP - that will only cost ~$70-$80 and then I can still save up for ~$1000-$1200 for a more powerful machine.
02/01/13Haven't Blogged in Awhile... & Computer Trouble!
A couple days ago, my hard drive crashed! Ordered a new hard drive and it is on it's way! The laptop I use for composing is around 5 years old - typical lifespan for the machine. The plan is to replace the hard driive and load Windows 7 on to the machine. Not really looking forward to reinstalling all of my VST software and DAW. On the bright side, this new hard drive will have more space than the dead one! I've used Sonar 6 as my primary DAW for years. I'm worried that when I switch to Windows 7 that I will have to learn either Sonar 7 or Sonar X2 - I already know that Sonar 7 has a more complex interace than Sonar 6. But, Sonar 6 is pretty old and it is important to keep software up to date - so I might have to spend a few days larning 7 or X2. But, before I even get my DAW and VSTs running, I'll have to get the hard drive and operating system up first. I'm still saving up for a better computer - which is why I'm hoping that replacing the hard drive and loading Win 7 will work. ~$50 for a hard drive. ~$400-$600 for a new emergency computer. My laptop has 4gb memory. I'm hoping that when I get a good machine, I'll have more than 8gb of memory - all of the VSTs use lots of memory.
I'm waiting for several unannounced projects to come out! Most of them are mobile games and due to be released later this month (hopefully!). The more quality games and apps I have out, the better. In the composing world, the credits a composer has is almost more important than the music. I'm hoping that one of the indie projects that I worked on will hit it big like Angry Birds. All of the large developers/publishers usually hire 'name' composers for their projects. I'd love to score a hit gaming franchise like Splinter Cell or Mass Effect someday. But, for these type of games, companies like EA and Ubisoft usually hire 'name' composers (Jack Wall, Inon Zur, etc.). How do you break down the barrier and make name for yourself as a composer?
The gaming industry is pretty divided - ranging from the indie/unknown to casual game companies to global publishers/developers (Ubisoft, Sony, etc.). People usually refer to large scale games being made by companies like Ubisoft as AAA titles. What makes a AAA title? Maybe a more important question what separates companies like Ubisoft, Sony, Atari, etc. from an indie developer? Let's see, a company such as Ubisoft has: 1. Massive Capital/Revenue, 2. Multiple Studios Located Worldwide, 3. Corporate Hierarchy, and 4. Distribution and Marketing Power/Reach. This separation seems really similar to the film industry - ranging from struggling indie filmmakers in L.A. trying to 'make it' to global distributors/production empires (20th Century Fox, Focus Features, New Line Cinema, etc.).
10/19/12Types of Composers: Do You Have to Be a "Name" Composer to Make It?
Working on some exciting mobile projects right now - haven't had a chance to blog much. As usual, I've looked up random film and game composers. The types of composers I find are:
1. High profile/In-Demand/Name Composers: These composers score several high profile games or films every year (ex. Jack Wall, Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, Inon Zur, Jason Graves, etc.). Some of these composers have 2-3 credits of major hit titles every year. What do these guys have in common? Many of them have scored major game and/or film franchises (Only high profile, top notch composers are lucky enough to get invited to audition for a major gaming franchise like Call of Duty).
2. One Hit Wonder Composers: I've mostly seen this issue with game composers. These are composers that score a huge, hit game and then they go back to doing smaller independent films and such. For instance, Sean Murray scored Call of Duty Black Ops,Call of Duty World At War, and True Crime: NYC. But so far, there aren't any major game credits beyond that. Wataru Hokoyama did an amazing score for the PS3 game Afrika. This is the only Sony game listed on his credits - why hasn't Hokoyama scored more Sony games? And, Christopher Tin, composer of Civilization IV (the first game composer to win a Grammy Award for a song composed for a video game soundtrack). I would think that after coming up with a hit song for Civ IV and winning a Grammy - he would be scoring lots of games. But, since Civ IV - it looks like he's back to scoring indie films. And, Leon Willett was the composer on Dreamfall: The Longest Journey - a high profile project. But for Age of Conan, Funcom selected Knut Haugen. Each Splinter Cell game used a different composer. What goes through the minds of music supervisors when they audition and pick composers? Why is there a different composer for every Call of Duty game?
3. Lower Profile Composers: These composers work on alot of projects each year, make a living, and aren't as well known as composers like Jack Wall or Hans Zimmer. Ari Pulkinnen scored Angry Birds - the ultra successful mobile game franchise by Rovio. Lots of people have heard of the Angry Birds theme. But, many people don't know the name of the composer behind the theme.
4. In-House Composers: Being an in-house composer is both a good thing and a bad thing. This is mostly applies to the video game world. Contract composing work is only lucratve when there is a steady stream of work (a constant flow of $700-$2000 per minute of completed music - and hopefully 20-60 minues of music for each project). Grant Kirkhope was a composer at Rareware for many years before it got bought out by Microsoft. Jared Emerson Johnson is the in-house composer at Telltale Games. The pros of in-house work: steady income and usually the in-house composer will always score whatever games are produced by the company. Negatives: I think one negative is that a composer is sort of locked into the company - ex. Robin Beanland is known for his work on Rareware games - but will he ever score something high profile outside of Rare? And, the other negative is if a company goes under - the in-house composer goes back to freelancing (ex. Grant Kirkhope post Rareware and Big Huge Games).
5. Unknown Composers: These composers score lots of film or game projects, may or may not make a living doing it, and are unknown in the gaming or Hollywood community. But, as I've noticed with the one hit wonder composers - even if an unknown composer gets a big break and lands a contract with a huge company like Activision, it doesn't mean that they will become well known like Inon Zur or Jack Wall. Breaking into Hollywood as a film composer is even tougher than games - thousands of indie films are produced. You really need to meet that golden contact that manages to get a deal with a major studio like 20th Century Fox to break in as a film composer.
Bottom Line: Video Game and Film Scoring - tricky business to crack. The term "making it" is subjective. How does a composer join the ranks of Jack Wall or Hans Zimmer? How do they make a name for themselves and score multiple huge Hollywood films or high budget game projects every year? Once a composer becomes high profile like Zur, Zimmer, or Wall, how do they always stay in demand?
09/19/12Rovio's Bad Piggies looks similar to Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Just watched the trailer for the Angry Birds spinoff, Bad Piggies. Players build creative vehicles for the green piggies to ride in. This sounds very similar to the gameplay mechanics of the Xbox 360 game, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts! In BK: Nuts & Bolts, you could build wacky cars and ride around the levels. Nuts & Bolts was pretty far off from the original concept of the original Banjo Kazooie N64 games - lots of people say that Rareware went downhill when it was bought out by Microsoft. Bad Piggies looks like a fun game - it isn't anything like Angry Birds. I think it is cool that Rovio is doing something different with the franchise.
09/02/12Call of Duty Black Ops II Special Edition "Care Package"
Black Ops II is coming out soon and I haven't even played Black Ops I yet! Once I get an Xbox 360, I'm going to have lots of games to catch up on (Mass Effect, Lost Planet, GTA IV, etc.)!
Anyway, Treyarch is releasing a special edition Black Ops II "care package". It will include the Black Ops II game, Black Ops II soundtrack, coins, steelbooks, avatar props, bonus content (Nuketown maps), and the best part- a remote control MD-27 Dragonfire Drone quadcquadrotor! And, it all comes in a gigantic, black case! Sounds pretty awesome! But, is it worth the extra bucks? And there is a catch - the "care package" that includes the quadcopter costs $179! While, the version without it costs $79. So, I guess this means these packages are for hardcore COD Black Ops II fans only!
While I love the idea of the quadcopter, I think I'll just wait until next year to pick up a used copy of Black Ops II. Every major game franchise is super commercial and hyped up. COD is a multi-million dollar game franchise. So, here's my question: how do games become major franchises? Well, most of the major francises are either developed and/or published by a big company (Ubisoft, EA, Activision, etc.). Games aren't alone - there are also major film franchises as well (007, the Expendables, etc.).
08/16/12Myst III PS2 Port is Horrible
Just got my copy of Myst IV today for Xbox. The Xbox version of Myst IV is 100x better looking than Myst III for PS2. The graphics are 100x better on the Xbox version of Myst IV than the PS2 version of Myst III: Exile. And, Myst IV actually fills the screen of my HD TV. Myst III does not - which is odd because I own other PS2 games that fill the HD screen.
Myst IV - great graphics and music. Everything is alive in this game. Currently I'm on the Haven and Spire levels. Haven is cool because of the natural elements - all of the animals and plants. In Myst III, I was clicking everywhere and had to rely on YouTube video walkthoughs and guides to solve some of the puzzles. Myst IV has this great help system if you get stuck on a puzzle (I pretty much get stuck on all of the puzzles in all of the Myst games!). I think another reason why Myst IV is better than Myst III is because it was developed by Ubisoft and there was a bigger budget.
Amazing how Angry Birds became an instant hit! While I'd love to score the next AAA title or a game from a major franchise (ex. Myst, Splinter Cell, Mass Effect, etc.), I'm turning my focus to phone games. Angry Birds is a hot mobile game and has an amazing main theme by Ari Pulkkinen. He did sound design for the game as well. Heck, the Angry Birds main theme is right up there with the main themes from Mario and Zelda. And, it is often performed at Video Games Live. The nice thing about phone/ios games is that alot of them are produced. It can be lucrative work for a game composer. I recently finished scoring an unannounced title - I'm hoping it becomes a big hit like Angry Birds!
08/11/121964 Cinderella vs. 1957 Cinderella
Before I was into film and game soundtracks, I was a huge fan of musicals like The King and I, Cinderella, South Pacific, etc. Loved all of the Rodgers & Hamerstein films. My favorite musical isn't even a Broadway show. Cinderella aired live on CBS in 1957 and 1964. I own the 1964 Cinderella VHS starring Lesley Ann Warren. Years ago, back when I lived in NYC, I watched the VHS so many times that I almost broke it! When I learned that there was a version of Cinderella that came out before the Warren version, I really wanted to watch it. However, I managed to buy the original cast recording and listened to it on my old CD player. I learned that the version with Julie Andrews was in a format called kinescope and looked up places that might screen it. Finally, in 2004, they aired the 1957 version on TV and released it on DVD.
Verdict: Julie Andrews beats Lesley Ann Warren on vocals. Once you hear Julie Andrews voice, Warren doesn't even come close. And, on a side note, I didn't think Brandy's voice made the cut in the 1997 version of Cinderella - that was probably the worst. I liked both of the voices of the princes in the '57 and '64 versions - couldn't believe that Stuart Damon ended up on General Hospital in later years! I'm surprised Rodgers & Hammerstein didn't have a Broadway production of Cinderella. Most of R & H's films were adapted from the original Broadway shows.
I really like Broadway overtures because I'm a huge fan of film soundtracks. I love the overture for the 1964 version of Cinderella. It was conducted by John Green. Sound of Music and Oklahoma are probably my other favorite overtures. Most Broadway fans probably focus more on the songs than the orchestral parts.
08/06/12Alchera in Dreamfall is Hard...
I just got Jade Empire & Dreamfall today! The last time I played Dreamfall was like 2007 - a long time ago. I rented Dreamfall in 2007 and got stuck on Alchera - the part of the game where you have to move the devices with the symbols in the right way and avoid the monsters at all costs. I keep getting killed by the monsters in this part - it is so annoying. I like levels where you get to play Zoe. I'm not thrilled with the parts of the game where you have to play April or Kian. Dreamfall is a great game but, this level isn't my favorite.
On the other hand, Jade Empire is kind of fun! Lots of button smashing. It has lots of adventure/rpg elements to it and the combat elements aren't overpowering. And, it has great graphics - Bioware knows how to produce great games! I can't wait to save up money to buy an Xbox 360 so that I can play Mass Effect, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Sonic Generations. I'll also have to save up for a PS3 so that I can play Journey and Heavy Rain. Xbox has better graphics than PS2. But in the case of Xbox 360 vs. PS3 - the graphics look amazing on both systems!
07/21/12PS/2 before PS2? Retro Computers from the 1980s!
Okay, this is random. I've been watching lots of old episodes of The Computer Chronicles on my Roku Box. Alot of the episodes are funny to watch (especially the ones from the mid 1980s!) because of the type of computers they had back then - slow, lack of good graphics, etc. It is 1 am and I'm watching a 1987 episode now about the IBM P/S 2 (IBM Personal System/2). Apple was always in the lead when it came to having a user friendly interface. Watching this, I could help thinking about the Sony PS2 - the hosts keep saying P/S 2. Playstation didn't exist in the 1980's lol. I'm guessing that Sony didn't have the 1987 PS/2 in mind when they developed the PS2 lol. Check out YouTube clip here!
07/18/12Gun - A Good Xbox Game
I'm still behind on the console front - I have an old Xbox. I don't own a 360 yet. But, I might get one soon because there was a good deal at my local Game Stop on a used 360 under $200. But for now, I'm stuck getting old games for my Xbox - most old Xbox games run between $1-$5 now. And, when I tried to trade in my old Xbox games, Game Stop wouldn't take them!
I played Gun back in 2005. Back then, I was stuck in the first town, trying to defeat the Apache at the bridge. Sadly, Gun doesn't have any cheat codes (something I love using when I play games!). But, as long as you have enough juice in the whiskey bottle, you can keep killing the bad guys in the game. My favorite part of Gun is the horseback riding element. They don't make enough horse themed video games. In the past, I've played Mary Kate & Ashley Winner's Circle and Saddle Club: Willowbrook Stables - loved both games because of the horseback riding! The side missions in Gun are also cool - such as herding cattle,pony express, catching criminals, etc. I've played Red Dead Revolver as well - I think that Gun is more open ended and gives players more freedom to roam around to complete side missions and stuff.
Gun doesn't have the most memorable soundtrack. Nor did Read Dead Revolver. I still think that Outlaws has one of the best soundtracks because each theme in every level is memorable. The soundtrack in Gun seems more like in-game music rather than the memorable, catchy tunes of Outlaws. I wasn't humming any of the tracks from Gun or Red Dead after playing the games.
07/08/12Wrath Unleashed - a Unique Game
Wrath Unleashed is an unusual Xbox game. It is a strategy game that involves various light and dark creatures. And, when the creatures mash up together on the odd 3d board of hexagonal spaces, it becomes a traditional fighting game. Wrath Unleashed also has a great soundtrack by Jack Wall. The main theme is my favorite. I don't own the game, but managed to play it on the Lucas Arts Xbox demo disc.
I think this is one of the most unique Lucas Arts games. It was developed by The Collective Inc. and released by Lucas Arts. They are known for producing Star Wars games, Outlaws, Monkey Island, etc. Wrath Unleashed doesn't really fix into that mix. I wonder why the game wasn't super popular?
06/26/12Call of Duty Black Ops better than Other Call of Duty Games?
Even through I suck at Splinter Cell, I've always liked covert ops over traditional military combat shooters. I wasn't a huge fan of Halo or Halo 2. I hated Full Spectrum Warrior because it was an RTS game. And, I don't like Ghost Recon - it is a first person shooter, and you don't even get to see the firearm that you're shooting in the game. I love Splinter Cell - I just get so frusturated by the gameplay because it is so easy to get caught by the bad guys if you're too close to them or in the light area of the stealth meter. If I had to pick a favorite tactical game, it would be Rainbow Six and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. In these games, you play Ding Chavez, the head of an elite group of special operation troops (it isn't like leading a platoon/company in Ghost Recon). I love the amount of choice that you have in gear/weapon selection in Rainbow Six. It is a shame that Rainbow Six: Lockdown really sucked. Once I get an Xbox 360 (hopefully it will be ultra cheap by the time the 720 comes out), I will pick up Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Black Ops II because I liked the Rainbow Six games so much.
I played the James Bond games growing up. Goldeneye for the N64 was great - it had lots of cool cheat codes! World is Not Enough for N64 was okay (I hated the Bank Level - so easy to screw up). I didn't like any of the Bond Xbox games. And, Tomorrow Never Dies, a third person shooter for the PS1 sucked! Mission Impossible for the N64 is probably the best third person shooter. Embassy Function was my favorite level in that game.
06/19/12Scoring a Cartoon Series Must Be The Best Composing Gig Ever
Scoring a long term cartoon series must be alot of fun! I was watching some old episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground, and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog on Netflix the other night, paying attention to the underscore. Different composers scored the various Sonic the Hedgehog tv shows. I'd love to score a commercial, animated series someday. I'd love to score a cartoon that's like Sonic the Hedgehog, Transformers Prime, or some other sci fi/action series. Why? If the show stays on the air - the work can be pretty long term. And, I think it would just be a cool experience to score something that kids watch on Saturday mornings. When I was little, I watched the various Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons whenever I got the chance on Saturday mornings. Sonic SatAM has the best theme song, "The Fastest Thing Alive". Also, for both TV and cartoon series, usually composers don't have to worry about recording tracks with live orchestra because it would be way to expensive to do that every week. Sample libraries are improving every year.
06/16/12When I Move Out, I'm Going to Save Up to Buy an Xbox 360!
Hopefully by the time I move into an apartment, I'll be able to get an Xbox 360! Wonder how far away the Xbox 720 is from release? Usually when the next-gen console comes out, the old consoles decrease in price dramatically! I think I saw a few Xbox consoles for sale for like $50 online. I was too busy in college and had no time to play a 360. I'm looking forward to the day that I can own debug units for the next gen consoles! I've read that some composers work with them so that they can see early footage of the games they are scoring. The games at E3 this year looked amazing! Loved the footage of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Watch Dogs, and Lost Planet 3! I'm waiting for the day in which next generation console is like a Star Trek Holodeck - where a player could literally be in the virtual world. That tech is probably light years away. 3D tech is getting there, but there are still a few hitches with the technology.
06/07/12No More Adam Sessler on G4?
While I was watching the coverage for E3, I noticed that Adam Sessler wasn't one of the hosts. Instead, Morgan Webb was there with other people like Kevin Pereira. I don't even remember any Xplay episode without Sessler? I was reading on Facebook that Sessler left the show. Huh! Xplay will never be the same without Adam Sessler. At least Morgan Webb is still a host. There were some pretty cool games at E3! My favorite video game composer, Jack Wall is scoring Lost Planet 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II - can't wait to hear those soundtracks!
There were other cool games like Halo 4, Watch Dogs, and Rayman. Ubisoft, as usual has some great titles. Watch Dogs looks really killer - the whole ability to hack into electronic devices like traffic lights within the game or listen in on cellphone conversations is such an original concept! I have a new reason to buy an Xbox 360 now! Also, the new Assassin's Creed takes place during the American Revolution lol!! The whole concept of Desmond Miles, on horseback, fighting the British - LOL!! Finally, there's a game that takes place during the Revolutionary War. We've seen plenty of Western themed first and third person shooters. But, not alot of Revolutionary War themed first person or third person shooters.
06/03/12Sliders: A Cool Show!
It is a shame that Sliders went off the air in 2000. The cast included people such as Jerry O'Connell, Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd, and John Rhys-Davies. The series started in 1995 and ended in 2000. It was about travelers that went to parallel universes using a device called a timer. I'm more of a time travel fan myself but, I liked the whole idea about infinite numbers of parallel earths. My favorite episodes of Sliders involved alternate histories or time oriented alternate universes. For instance: a USA in which the British won the American Revolution, the time Quinn visits himself as a boy (because time on that earth moved at a slower rate), and a prohibition in which caffeine was illegal!
Multiple composers worked on the series. Mark Mothersbaugh (famous for composing the Rugrats theme) scored some episodes and I think he composed the title theme. Dennis McCarthy scored some episodes. Danny Lux and Anthony Marinelli also scored a bunch of episodes. The main theme was basically the same each season (with only minor variations). They made great sci fi shows in the 90s! Too bad we don't see many shows like Sliders anymore. Awake was pretty cool, but it only lasted one season on NBC!
05/22/12The Mansions in Tomb Raider & Graduation!
I'm officially a college grad! I've graduated from St. Lawrence University, with honors. I now officially have my B.A. in History and Communications - a very useful degree for composing soundtracks lol. I wish I was Lara Croft - she has some great mansions! Too bad she's only a character in a video game. Although, I bet Angelina Jolie has some pretty cool mansions that look even better than Lara Croft's houses. Wonder when Jolie and Pitt plan to tie the knot? Whatever! I don't really care about the lives Hollywood movie stars much anyway! It must be a cool job to be a reporter for a show like ET or Access Hollywood. I think being a composer is better than an actor because they are more behind the scenes and can keep a low profile.
Tomb Raider is a massive franchise. It started as a series of video games. Eventually, they made big time Hollywood films about Lara Croft. I like Kate Walker from the Syberia games more than Lara Croft. Microids makes some great games. Tomb Raider is higher profile than Syberia.
My favorite track in Tomb Raider II is Venice Violins! You can hear this track when Lara is in the big open area, inside of her mansion, that has a radio that she can turn on. It is near Lara's massive swimming pool. Nathan McCrae did the score. The old butler guy in Lara Croft's mansion, who always held a tray of tea, was annoying. Even when you tried to lock him in a closet or something, he still found a way out to annoy you. Why did Core Design add a butler to Lara's mansion in Tomb Raider II anyway? I know that some of the other Tomb Raider games had mansions. I only played Tomb Raider III a little bit.
I never really liked the controls in the Tomb Raider games. I've played Tomb Raider on both PlayStation and PC. For instance, I sometimes got frustrated to get Lara to jump and grab a ledge. I had a much easier time maneuvering the characters in the Sonic games.
05/11/12Wolfenstein 3D is Better Than Doom!!
I've played the original Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. If I had to pick which one was better, I'd probably go with Wolf 3D. I hated the stupid, nasty looking monsters in the first level of Doom. I think Doom is a harder FPS than Wolf 3D because some of the monsters don't die after one shot. In Wolf 3D, the object of the game is to collect gold, kill Nazis (and their German Shepards), and get through the level. I still like the old Wolfenstein 3D better than the new games released on Xbox.
But, if I had to pick the best 90's first person shooter of all time, it would have to be Outlaws. Outlaws has the best soundtrack and a great storyline. I've played the Quake games as well. I think Quake is a little better than Doom. Lucas Arts' Dark Forces is another classic FPS that's on the same par as Outlaws. These were the days before Knights of the Old Republic.
05/09/12The Beach Boys: They Don't Have Bands Like This Anymore!
Listening to lots of Beach Boys lately on Spotify! The Beach Boys have amazing vocal harmony! The Beach Boys are better than the Backstreet Boys. Personally, I think Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga suck! Music has sort of declined since the 1960's when we had amazing groups, with REAL VOICES, like the Beach Boys and the Beatles.
My favorite Beach Boys songs are: Kokomo, Good Vibrations, Surfer Girl, Barbara Ann, "Fun, Fun, Fun", Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, & Surfin' USA. Brian Wilson is one name that comes to mind with the Beach Boys. They are still around today. I get a kick out of the Barbara Ann parody song called, "Bomb Iran" by Adam Kontras - which is a funny song featuring George W. Bush and Co. The whole video starts with Bush planning out possible attacks with Risk game pieces. I wonder who actually sang on the song "Bomb Iran" - they sound just like the Beach Boys.
I read that the Beach Boys didn't even surf. And yet, they composed so many amazing surf themed songs. These guys made it in California. It seems like bands that make it big have it better than film/game composers. You often hear licensed music in games and films. For instance in Titanic, more people are probably aware of the song "My Heart Will Go On" than James Horner's actual soundtrack (although here's a case where James Horner actually composed "My Heart Will Go On" - Celine Dion was the singer). Most people probably think Celine Dion wrote "My Heart Goes On". Fast Five is another example of a film with lots of licensed music. Brian Tyler composed the score. But, there's lots of music by famous bands and artists in it as well.
What causes music to evolve? How did we get from the lyrical, melodious music from the 60's to today? Today's generation might listen to the Beach Boys and like Lady Gaga better. Why? I wonder where music is headed after Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber - how low can it go? Film soundtracks have evolved as well. The sounds of film scores from the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's are very different from modern soundtracks. Films like Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Time Machine (1960), etc. had a distinct warm sound to them (especially in the string sections). You don't hear this sound in today's film scores. Honestly, I'm not thrilled with alot of the stuff Hans Zimmer has done lately. I think Jack Wall is 100 times better than Hans Zimmer. Brian Tyler is good as well - he just needs to be given a chance to do more films like Partition or Children of Dune - he has the ability to do amazing scores that aren't just heavy chase/rock/electronic themes.
I think the Beach Boys are better than the Beatles. The Beach Boys are a true California boy band. I don't know how to surf either.
05/05/12Jack Wall & Brian Tyler Score Call of Duty Games
Wow - I'm not really shocked but, two big time composers scored Call of Duty games. Brian Tyler scored Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and just found out today that Jack Wall is scoring Call of Duty: Black Ops 2! I've been listening to lots of Brian Tyler and Jack Wall stuff lately - I love doing electronic scores - similar to the stuff you hear in Splinter Cell or Myst III: Exile. Awesome! I can't wait to announce the title I'm working on! But, for now, I'll have to keep it under wraps. Once I get through my History honors thesis defense next Wednesday, I'll be able to get back to composing. And then, after senior week and graduation - I start the job search - not looking forward to it...
I love all these stealth action games by companies like EA, Ubisoft, Activision, etc. like Rainbow Six, Call of Duty, Splinter Cell, Army of Two, etc. They are all so awesome! I remember buying the first Call of Duty game for my Xbox - I had problems with the game freezing a lot. I love the Splinter Cell games but, I'm not really good at the stealth part. That's why I loved the Rainbow Six games - the stealth components aren't the same as Splinter Cell and you have the added benefit of having a full squad with you.
That is, unless the bad guys decide to kill off the rest of your squad - going lone wolf in Rainbow Six is really hard. I've never played Call of Duty: Black Ops. Sean Murray scored the first game. I wonder which franchise is a bigger deal: Mass Effect or Call of Duty? They are both very different games.
04/29/12Lego Video Games: Lego Universe & Lego Island
The most recent Lego themed video game that exists today is Lego Universe. It was scored by Brian Tyler. I've never played Lego Universe but, it looks cool and the music is awesome! The Lego Universe Coda theme and Elephant Encampment are my favorites.
Prior to Lego Universe, they had a PC game called Lego Island. I actually played Lego Island - it was a fun game! Lego Island was developed by Minescape and released in 1997. The main goal of Lego Island is to capture this character called the Brickster. You play a pizza delivery guy, Pepper Roni - he delivers a pizza to the jail, causing the Brickster to escape. You can also play Laura, a cop.
04/28/12Tommy Tallarico: The Brand
Tommy Tallarico is a world famous video game composer. He's in the Guinness Book of World Records and has scored tons of video games. Back in the 90's, before he and Jack Wall founded Video Games Live, Tallarico was actually scoring video games. He's worked on cool Sega Genesis titles such as Cool Spot, Aladdin, etc. I like the music he did for Cool Spot and Aladdin. But, as soon as he founded Video Games Live in 2005, Tallarico is doing less composing because he's on tour. Jack Wall was the conductor for VGL until 2010 - he stepped down so that he could spend more time composing.
I would bet that Video Games Live is a bigger revenue generator for Tommy Tallarico than contract composing work. Sure, every now and then, Tallarico might score a game - like Advent Rising for example. The Video Games Live concert tour is popular all over the world!
I looked at the Video Games Live website and noticed that they list all of the game franchises that they play selections from. Notice - VGL's setlist consists of music from popular game franchises. Why? Probably people want to see live renditions of Mario or Sonic rather than stuff from more obscure games. And, VGL is probably a good revenue generator for video game companies. Also, varying the setlist is hard because of the whole performance rights issues and stuff - Video Games Live has to get permission from companies to play certain arragements.
Tallarico lives in a cool house, has a Spiderman room, lots of cool guitars, etc. I don't see Tallarico as the 'composer' anymore. He's almost more of a showman - always on tour with VGL. He also has a $695 SFX Kit for sale on his site. Tommy Tallarico has made himself into a brand - probably more so than most game composers because of the whole VGL. I wonder where Video Games Live will be in 20, 30, or 40 years from now?
04/25/12Video Games Live Should Feature Video Game Orchestra from Berklee!
The Video Game Orchestra should do a few shows for Video Games Live! I'm surprised that they haven't. I mean, VGO performed at PAX East. But at the same time, VGO is mainly a group of college students. Video Games Live contracts real symphony orchestras. Also, VGO plays different arrangements. For instance, VGO plays Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Medley. Video Games Live has been playing the same Sonic 1 Medley for years! Video Games Live is aware of the Video Game Orchestra at Berklee School of Music in Boston because Jack Wall was a guest conductor back in 2009 for a VGO concert. The Myst Medley that VGO played at that concert is the same as the Video Games Live arrangement.
VGO's performances of Gutsy Garden Galaxy and Sonic 2 Medley are my favorites! I think the Sonic 2 Medley beats the Video Games Live arrangement of their Sonic 1 Medley. Myst Medley isn't performed enough by Video Games Live - it isn't as popular as Sonic or Mario. I'm hoping to see either a concert by the Video Game Orchestra or a Video Games Live show. Hopefully, I will get to compose for a game that becomes the next Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario - and get to watch one of these groups play my music someday - that's my dream!
04/22/12PBS Mountain Lake Video Games Live Show: It Was Cut Down, Edited, and Too Short!
Just finished watching Video Games Live: Level 2 on the Mountain Lake PBS station up at college. I remember when I saw Video Games Live: Level 2 in 2010 on PBS. It was great! My favorite selections from the first PBS broadcast was "Sonic the Hedgehog Medley", "Mass Effect Medley", "Myst Medley", and "God of War Medley".
I'm guessing that VGL: Level 2 never aired on the Mountain Lake PBS station before last night, around upstate NY or Canada. Tommy Tallarico was actually interviewed by the Mountain Lake PBS station to talk about the show, his career, the evolution of game music as legitimate medium, etc. I was hoping to see "Myst Medley" and "Mass Effect Medley." Instead, they decided to cut down the show for PBS Mountain Lake - I didn't get to see some of the other songs. I wonder why some of the songs were cut out? I really wanted to see "Mass Effect Medley" and "Myst Medley" on PBS Mountain Lake - what a shame! I'm wondering who made the decision to cut out some of the songs from the set list? Was it PBS Mountain (for time purposes)? Or did it have something to do with permission/performance rights? At least they didn't cut out "God of War" and "Sonic the Hedgehog Medley" - if they did that, that would have been really bad! They had to have Sonic - that's an iconic game theme, right up there with Mario. Myst is a little more obscure. But, Mass Effect isn't obscure - I'm surprised that they edited that segment out for the show - I mean, BioWare is a major developer in Canada and Tallarico is promoting a upcoming VGL show in Montreal.
I recently watched a live concert of VGL on Twitch TV. It features the new conductor, Emmanuel Fratianni. I'm not a huge fan of Fratianni - it's not that's he's a bad conductor - he's just not the same as Jack Wall. Jack Wall is a known composer in the gaming industry, scoring epic titles like Mass Effect and Myst III: Exile. It is always cool to see the original composer conduct their work - this was the case with parts of the "Myst Medley" and the entire "Mass Effect Medley". But, it was probably hard for Jack Wall to compose for big time games while touring as a conductor for VGL. That must have been crazy. I think composing on top of college work is bad. I can just imagine being a plane, hopping from show to show AND composing for a big time game title at the same time. Can't do both! I think they should bring Jack Wall back to maybe guest conduct a few shows or something. Can't wait to see what projects he's working on! I'm going to be the next Jack Wall someday - I'm scoring a game now that I can't talk about yet! Composing is my destiny and my life. I love composing electronic, atmospheric and duduk stuff because I'm so inspired by the amazing, epic music of Jack Wall! I hope Jack Wall composes more soundtracks that have couple songs featuring duduk!
04/21/12Miami Vice Soundtrack
If you are into 1980's retro, electronic soundtracks, Miami Vice by Jan Hammer should be at the top of your list!
Electronic music was pretty big in the 1980's. Feature films such as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, and Blade Runner had electronic scores. Miami Vice was scored by Jan Hammer. My favorite songs from Miami Vice are: the main theme and "Crockett's Theme". "Crockett's Theme" is a great ballad type piece. Miami Vice proves that you can do a soundtrack using pure electronics and create the same emotional impact as doing a piece with a live orchestra. Don Johnson played one of the main characters, a detective in the Miami Vice squad. When Don Johnson was in Miami Vice - he was pretty hot back in 80's. By the time he was in Nash Bridges, he put on a few pounds and didn't have the same flair that he had in Miami Vice. Electronic music has come a long way. Jack Wall noted that one of the inspirations for the Mass Effect soundtrack was 80's stuff like Blade Runner. But, Mass Effect sounds more modern than electronic stuff from the 80's.
04/20/12My Video Games Live Song Requests
Video Games Live plays alot of awesome, live orchestral arrangements of video game music! My favorite VGL medleys are: Sonic Medley, Myst Medley, Jade Empire Medley, Mass Effect Medley, Civilization IV Medley and God of War Medley. They don't really perform the Jade Empire Medley much. It isn't easy for Video Games Live to simply perform new songs because they have to get permission and rights to play them - lots of legal stuff they have to do before they get a song or arrangements of songs approved for a set list for one of their shows. So VGL, here are my song requests:
1. Outlaws Medley: The Outlaws soundtrack is epic! Video Games Live could do a whole medley consisting of songs from Clint Bajakian's Outlaws. Bajakian is at Sony now. Although some of the tracks are pretty close copies to Morricone's work, it is still a great soundtrack! My favorite tracks include "Anna's Theme", "Showdown", "The Last Gunfight", "Outlaws" (Main Theme), and "Sanctuary". There might have been one VGL show that featured a track from Outlaws that was played within a medley of Lucas Arts songs. I think Outlaws should have it's own medley.
2. Syberia 1 & 2 Medley: Now Microids isn't an American company. And, Syberia isn't as hot as Halo or Mass Effect. But, I think a medley which combined Dimitri Bodiansky's/Nick Varley's Syberia I music with Inon Zur's Syberia II tracks would sound amazing! But, Microids/Anuman Interactive is probably not at the top of Tommy Tallarico's list of game companies. Tallarico is often requesting permission to do songs from big companies like Capcom, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, etc. Everyone in gaming knows Zelda. But, only a niche audience of adventure gamers are familiar with Kate Walker.
3. Conker's Bad Fur Day:I'm surprised they haven't tried this one yet. Although, it is an M-rated game and some of the music might not be suitable for the kids sitting in the audience, Robin Beanland's soundtrack is amazing! My favorite tracks are "Live", "Conker the King", and "Windy".
4. Banjo Kazooie: I'm also surprised VGL hasn't done an arrangement of Banjo Kazooie. I'm pretty sure the University of Maryland's video game orchestra performed an arragement of Grant Kirkhope's score. Again, VGL might not have rights to play either Conker's BFD or Banjo Kazooie yet.
5. Bomberman's Hero: This would sound amazing in a medley! My favorite track from Bomberman Hero is "Redial". And, the score was done by a female compoer, Jun Chiki Chikuma! This score might be slightly less orchestral than some of the other stuff but, hey, if VGL could do Sonic the Hedgehog, I'm sure some arranger could orchestrate a couple songs from Bomberman.
6. Outcast Medley: This score is so underrated and unknown! Outcast was released by Appeal, a Belgian developer that is now debunked. The score was done by Lennie Moore. I think I nice orchestral VGL medley of Outcast songs might be: the Main Theme, Lumina, Cyana II, and perhaps one of the arena battle themes. I'm amazed how Lennie Moore got the gig to score Outcast - he did over the internet, posting an advertisement on an online forum! Then, he ended up scoring this epic game, took a field trip to Moscow to record the score with a live orchestra! Landing great composing gigs involve luck!
7. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: Play!: A Video Game Symphony has performed a medley of songs from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey by Leon Willett. The game was developed by Funcom. Dreamfall is an amazing sci-fi, adventure/RPG game set in the future. My favorite tracks are "Hospital Room", the main theme, and "Casablanca". Again, this could be a rights issue. Play!: A Video Game Symphony is based out of Europe and like VGL, they also play live, orchestral arrangements of video game music.
8. Titanic Adventure Out of Time: Yes, this is a pretty obscure game. But, it has an amazing soundtrack by Erik Holt and Scott Scheinbaum! The opening theme from Titanic Adventure Out of Time is epic. Why haven't we heard of these two composers? And, what are they doing now? Cyberflix, the developer is out of business. I don't get it - the whole developers going out of business despite producing great games (ex. Appeal produced Outcast and now the company is debunk). I wonder why and how this happens. Now, there could be rights issues with Titanic as well - using it in the show. However, it's not like the video game was related to the actual film - the storylines are completely different. I actually like the storyline in the game - it is more interesting than the plot James Cameron's romanitcized Titanic movie. Let's see: Jack & Rose romance VERSUS sinking vs. secret agent goes back in time to obtain Rubyiat from the evil Colonel Zeitel, there are multiple outcomes, crazy subplots like Georgia's necklace, playing poker with Riviera, etc.
9. Ecco the Dolphin Medley: I'm surprised they haven't tried this one. Both Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco Tides of Time have amazing scores. Ecco the Dolphin would be an amazing medley for Video Games Live! I wonder if they ever requested permission from Sega for this one. Sega allowed Video Games Live to play Sonic. As a side note, E.V.O: The Search for Eden might sound amazing in a medley as well - a hit SNES game by Square Enix (which is now simply Enix).
10. Piano Arragement of Mission Impossible N64!: Mike Pummel did an amazing score for the N64 Mission Impossible game! I could see Martin Leung, VGL's Video Game Pianist playing a medley of tunes from "Embassy Function" - that would sound amazing.
11. Lego Universe Medley: Brian Tyler did some amazing music for Lego Universe! My favorite tracks are the main theme and "Elephant Encampment". It's a fun score and I'm sure the kids in VGL audiences would love it! Now Brian Tyler mainly scores films. He recently scored Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - this is the big, hot game right now. Even though we see some top Hollywood film composers like Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler do video game music - they aren't really known in the game community. Has Tommy Tallarico met Brian Tyler or Hans Zimmer? Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler were recruited to do games because companies noticed their work in films. This is a one way thing - will we ever see Jack Wall, Christopher Tin, or Tommy Tallarico score a big time Hollywood film? It's all about who you know in the game & film industries - who are the gatekeepers in Hollywood (how does one direct a major franchise like Fast & the Furious?
12. Okami: Okami is a Japanese themed game with amazing graphics. You get to play this cool, white dog. Okami is a piece of art. My favorite track from Okami is "Reset". I'm sure an orchestrator could come up with a great arragement of this for VGL!
13. Sonic 2 Medley or Sonic 3 Medley: The Video Game Orchestra at Berkelee College of Music in Boston already performs an amazing arragement of songs from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The Sonc 1 medley at VGL is great but, I think they should also do an arragement of songs from Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 - to change things up a little. I wonder why VGL only sticks with songs from Sonic 1? Is it a permission issue? VGO has no issues playing a medley of Sonic 2 music. Sonic 3D Blast would sound amazing with a live orchestra as well!
14, Wolfenstein 3D: This would sound amazing - Wolfenstein 3D in some kind of medley! The score is by Bobby Prince and the game was developed by id Software. The main theme and level one theme sound great!
15. Pharaoh:: Okay, this is another obscure game. This city building game has some amazing music! The composers are Henry Beckett and Keith Zizza. My favorite theme from the game is "Theme 2".
So that's my top 15 requests for VGL! Video Games Live tends to perform selections from popular game franchises: Mario, Zelda, Myst, Street Fighter, Sonic, God of War, etc. They don't perform alot of less known stuff.
04/19/12Great Films Involving India
The first three films that come to mind when I think about India are: Partition (2007), A Little Princess (1995), and The Secret Garden. What do these films have in common? All three of them have something to do with India and have fantastic music! In terms of favorite soundtrack - I think A Little Princess by Patrick Doyle is slightly better than Brian Tyler's Partition soundtrack. While I really like Brian Tyler Children of Dune score, I still think Partition (2007) is his best work. It's a shame that he doesn't do more scores like Partition. I'm going to review my favorite tracks from each of these films:
A Little Princess (1995): An amazing score by Patrick Doyle. This version of the film is a heck of a lot better than the version that starred Shirley Temple. In the film, Captain Crewe sends his daughter Sara Crewe to a nasty boarding school run by the evil Miss Minchin. The story takes place in WWI and there's a whole India element to it - Sara Crewe and Captain Crewe lived in India for a while. The first track that caught my attention in A Little Princess was "Crewe and the Soldier." It's a fairly short piece that consists mainly of strings and can be heard when Captain Crewe tries to pull a dying soldier out of a trench. However, Crewe ends up fainting from the nerve gas around the area. The track, "The Trenches" is based on the "Crewe and the Soldier" piece - but doesn't have the same emotional tug. The track "Papa!" is an exciting piece - you can hear it at the end of the film after Minchin calls the cops on Sara and Becky. Of course, Sara gets trapped on the roof in the rain but, there's a happy ending. Again - this track makes great use of strings. There are a lot of great choir pieces in this film such as "Tyger, Tyger" (aka the William Blake poem) and "Angel Wings". "Tyger, Tyger" is a fast choir piece - mainly vocals. "Angel Wings" has a great build up to the primary melody that can be heard throughout the whole film. Now, the tracks I've mentioned here aren't really ethnic or have elements of India in them (ex. no sitar, etc.). And of course, the main theme of the film, "Kindle My Heart" does have sitar and a few ethnic instruments - Doyle's approach to A Little Princess seems to be - stick with a traditional European classical score and throw in some Indian elements here and there. But that's fine - most of the film takes place in WWI era New York.
Partition (2007): I want to see another score like Partition by Brian Tyler. The film was directed by Vic Sarin and stars Kristen Kruek. Some film score critics seem to criticize Tyler for his heavy use of electronics/guitars in his scores. But at the same time, hello film score critics - when you are scoring films like Fast Five, Transformers: Prime, Alien vs. Predator, Battle: LA, etc. - you can't exactly do a score that sounds like Children of Dune or Partition. Brian Tyler has established a reputation as the young Hollywood film composer that scores big time action movies. Some of the action films he scores are either mediocre or completely bomb at the box office. For example - I loved his score for Timeline but, the film died. Partition isn't a well-known film. Tyler proves to be as much of a duduk master as famous video game composer, Jack Wall (just listen to Wall's Myst III: Exile)! My favorite tracks from Partition are: "Partition" (Main Theme), "Water", and "Naseem's Journey". The main theme is mainly slow, lush strings - no action - just a simple, beautiful melody. I noticed that Brian Tyler puts his action type scores at the front of his website - his softer stuff is more buried. If I was Brian Tyler and wanted a break from action movies - I might move the tracks from Partition further to the top of the mp3 player set list. I mean - the first song on his set list when you enter his site is Fast Five. Don't get me wrong - the main theme from Fast Five is amazing - but it's an almost techno, string type score with electronic elements. "Water" is a beautiful piece that features duduk. It's a very simple melody - parts of this piece remind me a little of the Ecco Tides of Time main theme (I wonder if Brian Tyler ever played Ecco Tides of Time or heard the theme at some point?). And finally, "Naseem's Journey" is basically a acoustic guitar (or at least something that sounds like one) version of the main theme - simply gorgeous. It might be cool to see Brian Tyler and Hans Zimmer do something together - James Newton Howard and Zimmer tend to score lots of films together. Honestly, Zimmer is overrated. Yeah - his scores for Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King, and Gladiator are great. Personally, I'd pick Jack Wall over Hans Zimmer any day - his music is a lot more interesting to listen to.
The Secret Garden: This score is composed by Zbigniew Preisner and sounds a lot more ethnic than A Little Princess. There's more India in this score. My favorite track from this is "Leaving the Docks" - it's a simple melody with some kind of flute and piano. "Walking Through the Garden" has a great choir part - another wonderful melody. We don't many scores by Preisner in the U.S. The same goes for Carlo Siliotto - the composer of Fluke - one of my favorite film scores.
04/15/12Skunny: Save Our Pizzas!
Remember the game, Skunny: Save Our Pizzas? This was an old dos game by Copysoft. Before Conker, we had Skunny. Skunny was a cute squirrel! At one point, Conker was a cute squirrel too (until Rareware gave him a makeover in Conker's Bad Fur Day! So in this game, you play Skunny. The main antogonist of the game is the Evil Chef of Cadiz! Cadiz stole the pizza recipe. Skunny has to travel back in time to Ancient Rome get it back. This almost sounds a little like Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?!
The first level of the game has a pretty catchy theme! Most of the Skunny games are traditional platformers. But by far, the Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games are the best platformers. Can't run any Dos game nowadays without a program like DosBox (which is a dos emulator) because Vista machines won't let you simply enter Dos like the old Windows 95 and 98 machines. While the gameplay isn't great - I love the storyline - Skunny the squirrel traveling back in time to "Save Our Pizzas" from the Evil Chef of Cadiz! And yes - I think that Conker is a Skunny rip off! Rareware must have noticed the Skunny games when they developed Conker.
04/13/12Why is the Hollywood sign so famous?
I'm going to start blogging about California alot because I love it so much and hope to attract California (particularly LA people) to my website! You know that famous Hollywood sign in CA? Why is it so famous? The press always portrays the rich & famous celebrities as insulated from the bad economy. I think it would be a mess to be a famous celebrity - look at what happened to Lindsey Lohan (from Parent Trap to the slammer!). And, really, who cares about the Kardashians - why is that even a TV show? It seems like every TV show that is on is some stupid reality show. So, back to the Hollywood sign. The Hollywood sign was built in 1923 to attract real estate. I wonder if anyone has tried to climb the hill where the letters are? That would be a prank!
Ah yes, another feature of Hollywood is the "red carpet". Plenty of composers have appeared on the red carpet: Brian Tyler, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, etc. But, most of the time, on shows like Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight - we rarely see interviews with film composers. Someday, I'd love to be interviewed on the red carpet at a big movie premiere!
You see - Hollywood is a mindset, a social construction of reality. Hollywood consists of various people in different roles. Each of these people have varying degrees of power from different angles. For film composers - it's about finding that right director and maybe knowing some top producers. The gatekeepers are the rich, studio executives - they ultimately decide whether or not to greenlight a film. That's where the real power in Hollywood is. If I'm going to make it as a film composer in Hollywood, I will need to find a director that makes it. For instance, Brian Tyler scored films directed by Gabe Torres, Richard Donner, etc. Here's my question? How do you become a movie director in Hollywood? Video games are permanent - a development studio is built and people who are good stay there. After a film is shot - the filming crew goes off and work elsewhere.
04/12/12The Fun Times I Had in Southern California & Why I Want to Go Back!
Where is all the action for composers today? CALIFORNIA! More specifically, Los Angeles and parts of Southern California. Hey, maybe if I blog about California stuff, more people from California will visit my site lol!
Here's a list of fond memories I had of being in California:
1. Universal Studios' Mummy Ride!!: This was such a cool roller coaster at Universal Studios! The coaster is just like Disney's Space Mountain, except better! The first time I rode on Space Mountain, I was holding on for dear life and probably shouldn't have gone on the coaster in the first place. I was lucky that I didn't fall out! But, by the time I went on the Mummy Ride, I was older and the roller coaster was more secure. Alot of Disney's rides are still kind of old. The Mummy Ride coaster traveled at high speeds and the environment was nearly pitch black (just like Space Mountain!). What's the twist? The Mummy coaster moves forward for most of the trip and then suddenly stops. After it stops, it brings you back to the station in reverse! That was the awesome part! I liked the first two Mummy films. The third film, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was pretty bad.
2. Carl's Jr.: There are alot of cool places in California that we don't have up in the Northeast! I don't know, I just liked eating at Carl's Jr. The burgers were pretty good and it was a nice change from the usual Burger King or McDonalds (which get boring after awhile!). I used to travel to stay at my aunt's house in California during summers, during my middle school years. My aunt pushed me to try new foods that I would normally never eat like sushi, chimichangas, weird Hawaiian hamburger steak w/ gravy, and taquitos. I needed an occasional junk food break.
3. Taquitos at Molcasalsa!: Yes, I actually discovered that I like eating taquitos. Molcasalsa is a really cool Mexican restaurant chain in Southern California. Molcasalsa has great taquitos because they are so simple! It is simply fried, rolled, hard tortilla/taco type shell, pork, and cheese on top. A little guacamole on the side and it's lunch! I so want to live in Hollywood or Southern California! I could build my composing studio and eat a bunch Molcasalsa taquitos lol.
4. Seaside Lagoon: During one of my California trips, literally after being picked up from the airport, I went straight to Seaside Lagoon, a waterpark in Redondo Beach, California. The actual harbor is called King Harbor. This was so awesome! It was my first time at a waterpark and I enjoyed going down the waterslides! Southern California weather is great (most of the time)! It gets so cold up in the Northeast.
5. Lake Gregory: Lake Gregory was kind of cool! I never knew there was such a thing as 'bicycles on water'. Lake Gregory features these really cool water bikes that have massive wheels. It was also a fun lake to cool off in.
6. Lake Arrowhead: Had fun times in Lake Arrowhead. It is a beautiful area in California. I watched some cool concerts up in Arrowhead and had fun playing on the baby grand at the house.
7. La Habra Heights: I wonder if any composers live out in La Habra Heights? It's a nice, cozy part of Southern California. La Habra is famous for avocados. Had a good time horseback riding in La Habra Heights.
8. Anaheim Angels Games & Angels Club House Resturant: Not a big sports person but, I remember an amazing dining experience I had at an Angels game. Of course there was the traditional baseball fare of hot dogs. Had this really good fish dish of some sort at the Angels Club House Resturant. So much better than the regular stadium food. The whole Club House resturant/lounge idea in baseball stadiums reminds me of what they do at some airports. For instance, Continental Airlines has the President's Club - good food and lounge. Go LA!!
The point: Where have all the composers gone? Well, most of the good stuff is out in Southern California (there's also so stuff in San Francisco). I've never been to San Francisco. I want to live in Southern California and build my composing studio there.
04/11/12Brian Tyler and His YouTube Scoring Session Videos
When it comes to film composers today, Brian Tyler is probably the coolest! Why? He knows how to perpetuate a cool image and produces really well edited video clips that feature scoring sessions for some of the films he works on. Composers like Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard don't have their own, self-produced videos that show scoring sessions. Also, Brian Tyler has pretty hardcore scores that mix a lot of rock and electronics (ex. Fast Five). The demographic audience for Fast Five is probably 18-35 year old males or something like that. Brian Tyler also likes cars.
When Brian Tyler makes one of his scoring session videos - I think he's overlaying the completed, mixed track over video footage of the scoring section. In other words, I don't the camera isn't recording live audio from the session. For instance, in his Fast Five YouTube video, it flashes back and forth between Brian Tyler on drums and the orchestra. He might be coordinating the final mixed audio (which is what people hear on the soundtrack) with his conducting so that they line up? I wonder? I think that Brian Tyler's videos are really cool and inspiring!
For some reason, I like listening to the Battle LA main theme, Fast Five, Terra Nova, etc. even more while I'm watching one of Brian Tyler's well-edited YouTube videos. I wonder if Brian Tyler simply has a few friends with a camera to put these together or if he uses a professional film crew - after all, he lives in Los Angeles! Here's the thing, I can listen to Klaus Badelt's "He's a Pirate" or Jack Wall's Myst III:Exile Main Theme and be blown away right away. These tracks are unique and catchy standalone tracks. The big problem with film scoring is sometimes, tracks literally correspond with what's going on in the picture. A great track must be able to stand on its own. For instance, when I listened to Brian Tyler's main theme from Partition - I loved it! This track in itself is beautiful alone. Brian Tyler - do more films like Partition and Children of Dune!!!!
04/10/12Cool Video Featuring Composers of Mass Effect 1!
Love this video featuring the music and composing team from Mass Effect 1! This is so cool! It is crazy how originally Mass Effect started with one composer, Jack Wall. It went from one composer to multiple: Jack Wall, David Kates, Richard Jacques, and Sam Hulick. Richard Jacques is known for scoring a few Sega titles. And, it turns out Jack Wall actually did use some duduk in Mass Effect for a few of the songs! I'm pretty sure the lead instrument in "Vigil" is duduk. Jack Wall's use of duduk in Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation is what made these soundtracks rock. So, why not use duduk again in Mass Effect? A little bit of ethnic instruments mixed with tons of electronics is cool! Mass Effect is inspired by Blade Runner - but alot cleaner. After all, Mass Effect can't have music from the 80s because it takes place in the future.
04/09/12Microsoft FSX is the Best!
I love Microsoft's FSX flight simulator! It is sort of a video game - except that you don't get to shoot at things in the air or anything like that. It's a flight simulator that's meant to train pilots. You can set time of day, weather conditions, locations, and select from a wide variety of aircraft. My favorite aircraft to fly in FSX were the FA/18 'Blue Angels' Hornet, F22 Raptor, Douglas DC-3, WWII aircraft, and other historical planes. I'm pretty bad at the flight training components of the game. Prior to FSX, I owned Flight Simulator 2002. The graphics in FSX are 100x better than the 2002 version of the game.
After a while, I got bored playing with FSX - the game is really meant for actual pilots. Flying a plane is difficult and requires patience! At one point in time, I was considering taking flying lessons one day. But, I'm kinda scared away by this because there are too many stories on the news about small planes crashing because of engine problems and such. Same goes for helicopters. FSX doesn't simulate real plane crashes. Hopefully, someday we won't need planes because someone will invent teleportation technology ala Star Trek!
One thing that stuck out to my in FSX was the amazing music. The title theme is awesome! Lots of heavy strings and horns. It is composed by Stan LePard. I wonder, how do composers score games by Microsoft Game Studios? I guess you could ask the same question about any company (how do composers land gigs with BioWare, EA Games, Ubisoft, Activision, Atari, Microids/Anuman Interactive, Sega, etc.).
04/08/12MSNBC's Lockup: Good TV?
For several years now, MSNBC's documentary series, Lockup, has been really popular. I have to wonder, why is the American public so interested in watching footage from inside prisons & jails? Maybe the poor economy has something to do with it. Also, the American public seems to be intrigued by what it's like in the inside, prison life. Lockup is a documentary series in which filmmakers show viewers a glimpse of what it is like inside America's jails & prisons. Lockup is produced by 44 Blue Productions.
I actually watched Lockup for awhile. When I first started watching it - it was interesting and I was intrigued. But after awhile, alot of the episodes are the same because the topics don't change. The documentary series attempts to dramatize something that's mundane - prison life. The topics that Lockup crew covers is pretty much the same for each episode: cell searches, prison gangs, inmates that cause trouble, inmate raps, etc. Locations range from Rikers Island to San Quentin. They even filmed a few episodes in some international countries. Here's the thing about television - producers always want to show drama. Every Lockup episode features an inmate that causes the most amount of trouble. Why? Well, that's what makes good TV and boosts ratings. Also, producers and prison administrators decide what viewers can and can't see. Both sides have a specific agenda. There is no such thing as an 'all access pass' for a camera crew - especially inside of a place like a prison. I was trying to find out who composed music for the series - 44 Blue Productions seems to use multiple composers. You even see the drama in Lockup's score. Television would not be the same without the unseen 'underscore'. You're not really aware of the underscore on TV shows but without it, the shows would not be the same. Jack Wall noted that "music is the unseen character in a video game." The same is true for TV shows & films.
So, what my final verdict? MSNBC's Lockup is 'good tv' for MSNBC. Will Americans get bored with the series at some point? Maybe. There are only so many prisons that the crew can film at. There are so many other great topics out there that would be great for a documentary. Maybe MSNBC should do a documentary series on struggling actors, public schools, etc. Another question: Does a program like Lockup deter crime or does it glorify prison life? This is where being media literate is important. Nothing is 100% real on TV because of the motivations of producers. Producers decide what parts of the documentary is filmed and how the footage gets edited. Just watch The Truman Show - everything on TV is a 'pumped up' version of 'reality'. Today, the media is one of our biggest socializers.
04/07/12Video Games With Fish Have the Best Music!
I don't know if this is true or not but, it seems like every game that I've played that involve fish have the best music. For instance, Ecco Tides of Time by Attila Heger and Ecco the Dolphin by Spencer Nilsen have amazing soundtracks! My favorite tracks in both of the Ecco games are the main title themes. But, I like the main theme from Ecco Tides of Time even more than Ecco The Dolphin's main theme. Like most of the old systems, composing for a Sega Genesis game was no easy task! Composers had to try to find creative ways to create tracks - despite having limited channels for audio. The Genesis sound chip could only do so much! As for the SNES, E.V.O: The Search for Eden has an amazing score by Koichi Sugiyama. Alot of games published by Square Enix, like E.V.O, seem to have great music. I also recently discovered an obscure Japanese fishing title, Tsuri Tarou, also has an amazing title theme. Ecco Jr. also has some great music. I thought Ecco: Defender of the Future's music was okay but, not quite as good as the 1st three Ecco games. Ecco: Defender of the Future was released for the debunk Sega Dreamcast. I remember playing that game - it has amazing graphics - I loved it! It's a shame that Dreamcast didn't survive - it faded away just like Sega Saturn.
I wonder why is the music in these games that involve marine life/fish so amazing. I mean, I even think the Ecco the Dolphin soundtracks and games are 100x better than the Sonic the Hedgehog games. It might be something about the mystery of the ocean, the deep underwater caves, and marine life that inspire composers.
04/06/12I Love Spotify!
Spotify is a great music app! In many ways, Spotify is a 'legal' version of old shut down music sites like Napster. I can listen to tons of video game and film scores on Spotify, for free! So, if I can listen to this music for free, how is Spotify legal? Easy, they use advertisements - that's how the artists/record companies get paid. Although, I must say, even with the payment through ads system - I'm wondering if this has an impact on MP3 sales. The CD is probably dying and close to old news - it's all about the iPods and MP3s now!
Tracks I love to listen to on Spotify include game and movies themes. I also listen to lots of themes from Broadway musicals. A long time ago, I went through four years of acting school at Biz Kids NY (which included musical theater, dance, mask, acting, etc.). This was a period of time before I thought I was going to be a composer. I was thinking about acting and singing. I used to actually sing - but, I haven't used my singing voice for several years now. Instead of being destined to become the next Julie Andrews or hot actress, I'm destined to become the next big time video game composer like Jack Wall! I'll break in. When I have a chance to score a game like Myst III:Exile or Mass Effect - that’s when I'll know that I've made it. But until then, I'm going to keep pushing.
Stuff I've been listening to alot on Spotify lately: music by Jack Wall, Cinderella (1957), Video Games Live albums, King & I, Diary of Anne Frank, Mission Impossible, etc. Lots of game & movie music - more than what I can list here lol! Spotify is cool because you can listen to all this music, before paying for it. For instance, I learned that Jack Wall, my favorite video game composer & source of inspiration, released Quirky Orchestral: A Magical & Off-Kilter Adventure as part of APM Music Library. I think some of the tracks on it are cool. “Country Nuts” is my favorite track from that because it’s a cool blues theme.
I'm also a 'classic film score junkie' - I love listening to old film scores that no one seems to talk about anymore. And a lot of them are on Spotify! Alfred Newman was an amazing film composer - known for composing the 20th Century Fox logo theme, Diary of Anne Frank (1959), and other great films. His sons Thomas and David Newman are now famous Hollywood composers, following in their dad's footsteps. However, Thomas Newman scores much better movies than his brother David. David Newman isn't held in the same regard as his brother and tends to score mediocre or crappy movies. Other classic film scores I like include: Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), Anastasia (1956), Gone With the Wind (1939), The Time Machine (1960), Lassie Come Home (1943), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Now, of course most people know the title themes from Lawrence of Arabia and Gone With the Wind. As for the other films like The Time Machine (1960), Lassie Come Home (1943), etc. – their soundtracks and composers seem forgotten. So here's a question - lots of film score fans today love Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean and James Horner's Titanic. But, what will happen to these soundtracks and the reception of them in 20, 30, 40, or 50 years? How about in 100 years? Everyone knows the Beatles because they were a popular music group in the 1960s. But, usually only particular audiences 'love' film scores. Let's just say this - the way people are going nuts over Lady Gaga is same feeling I have when I listen to new film or game soundtracks that I like - for instance, if Jack Wall comes up with another theme like Myst III: Exile for whatever projects he's working on now, I can't wait to listen to it! Jack Wall's Myst III & Myst IV: Revelation music inspired me to do tracks with duduk for both of the projects I'm working on now. I wonder what will happen to video game music in say, 50 or 100 years from now. Maybe by that time, the next gen video game will involve stepping into something like a Star Trek Holodeck - that's the next step for games.
04/04/12On James Horner & Boring Hollywood Film Music
James Horner is a great composer. I love the soundtracks he did for Mask of Zorro, Braveheart, and of course, Titanic. These movies had lots of great, catchy melodies. James Cameron is Horner's director buddy. In the Hollywood biz, the composer always buddies up with a director. And a lot of the times, the director might use the composer again. Interestingly, in the case of Brian Tyler, Robert Kraft, CEO of 20th Century Fox music, "opened doors" for him. Every film composer has a different way of breaking into Hollywood. It usually always starts with scoring a small film that gets noticed by the right people in California.
I was not impressed with Horner's Avatar score. I still need to see the movie! Nothing memorable about Avatar soundtrack - compared to Mask of Zorro & Titanic. The problem with Hollywood is they use the same composers: Hans Zimmer (he's used way much - gets boring!), Brian Tyler, James Horner, James Newton Howard, Howard Shore, Klaus Badelt, Harry Gregson-Williams, etc. You only see a new name pop up every once in a while. Hey, scoring Hollywood hits (or flops in the case of Brian Tyler) is how these guys make their livings. But, I wonder Hollywood, why don't we see famous game composers scoring the next hit blockbuster or Academy Award winning film? Like seriously, if Jack Wall scored Avatar, it would have sounded 100x better than James Horner. Horner is good at doing scores with bagpipes & Irish flutes – he should stay away from orchestral/electronic hybrid futuristic type scores like Avatar.
As you can see, the lives of famous film composers on Hollywood revolves around relationships - Hans Zimmer knows Chistopher Nolan, James Horner knows James Cameron, Michael Giacchino knows J.J. Abrams, etc. Maybe these Hollywood directors and studio executives don't listen to enough game music? Or, game composers are too busy to even bother seeking out feature Hollywood films to score? The answer is probably 'yes' for both.
04/03/12Not All Video Games Based on Products (aka Advergames) are Bad...
I've played alot of video games - ranging from Myst III: Exile to Conker's Bad Fur Day. I've played alot of games that were based around a particular product aka advergames. Most of them were pretty bad. For instance, I was always frustrated when I played Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool and Chester Cheetah: Wild West Quest - the gameplay is just bad, these two platformers don't stand a chance againstSonic the Hedgehog! And, I remember playing Chex Quest, the CD Rom that came for free in a Chex cereal box in the late 90s - that sucked big time! But, there are two games that I've played that are based on products that are good:
Cool Spot (Sega Genesis): Cool Spot is 7UP's mascot. While the sequel sucked, this game was pretty cool. And, the soundtrack was composed by video game composer super star Tommy Tallarico and it was developed by Virgin Interactive. This game has killer music - the Wild West theme, Playin' Da Blues, and Beach Music were my favorites! The game is a platformer and you play the Spot, the 7UP mascot. It was fun to shoot at crabs in the first beach level. All of the levels in Cool Spot are really cool - ranging from a toy locomotive (where you hear Western Tune) to the insane bonus level where Spot floats around in a 7UP bottle. Heck, I'm just getting thirsty for some 7UP now just by writing this lol! While I think Chester the Cheetah is cute, If I had to pick between purchasing Cool Spot or Chester Cheetah for Genesis, I would pick Cool Spot - the gameplay and design is 100 times better than the Cheetos game.
America's Army: Not an advergame in the same sense as Cool Spot but, its purpose is to get people interested in joining the U.S. Army. I couldn't even get passed the basic training round. I automatically failed the first task - hitting targets in the firing range. Since I couldn't get through the training, I never got to play actual campaign levels in the game. It's a tough game because it's meant to be realistic. America's Army is a free game developed by the United States Army and there are always new updates.
But, the majority of advergames suck. To name a few more: Most of the Barbie games, McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, Spot Goes to Hollywood, etc. Hey, if they start making advergames with graphics like Myst III: Exile and Mass Effect 3, we'll be in trouble! Just imagine a game about Coca-Cola with beautiful 3D rendered environments and options such as exploring a 3D version of the Coca Cola plant in Atlanta, solving Coke vending machine puzzles - is this the next step for advergames? How does a person not get bored playing an advergame? Personally, I love Coca-Cola - which is probably a bad thing in the long run lol.
04/02/12Remember "Computer Chronicles"?
Computer Chronicles was a big deal TV show back in the 1980s and 90s! This was created way before the G4 tv channel and shows like Xplay. You can view most of the episodes (if not all of theme) on Archive.org. So many great topics - its funny look back at the technology that considered 'state of the art' back in the 80s and 90s. Computer Chronicles covers a variety of topics that have to do with technology such as 'watching a video on the computer' (which was state of the art at the time), the latest Sega Genesis games, early laptops, etc. I'm particularly fascinated by the episodes that aired in the 80s because it shows how far computers and games have come. Computer Chronicles was hosted by Stewart Cheifet.
This episode on "Portable Computers" is hilarious! It's originally aired in 1985. The laptop is the size of the suitcase! No tiny, Sony VAIOs here! In this video, they use weird terms like "lap-computer", the idea of 'calling' a computer (days of modems) - no world wide web yet! We take laptops for granted today - they are getting smaller and more powerful. The question is, what is the next step for gaming & computers? Probably something along the lines of the Star Trek holodecks. A technology in which we could literally transport ourselves into a digitized world ala Star Trek. There are so many great episodes of Computer Chronicles - you can see how far we've come with technology.
04/01/12Video Games at the Smithsonian!
Video games are slowly gaining recognition as a valuable medium. There is now a video game exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. Video games have come a long way since Pac Man. The amount of money it costs to produce a ‘AAA title’ or blockbuster hit is in the millions (ex. Mass Effect 3) and hundreds, if not, thousands of people are involved in the game's production and development.
And of course, video game composer superstar Tommy Tallarico is featured at the Smithsonian exhibit. I wouldn't call Tallarico my favorite composer. Jack Wall is my favorite composer - I think his music is way better than Tallarico's. But anyway, Tallarico has the right business people behind, met the right contacts, launched the world's famous Video Games Live show, and is makes tons of money. Reading around the web that people are complaining that the Smithsonian game exhibit isn't "interactive" enough. Video games by nature are interactive (and the soundtracks for them have to be very adaptable & flexible to the decisions that the player makes).
Now, the next step for video games will be to gain recognition at the Academy Awards & Grammy Awards. Games are recognized by the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs). That further legitimizes them as an important medium. Video Games Live has done a great job getting game music recognized as a legitimate art form. Like Jack Wall said, "Music is the unseen character in a video game." Christopher Tin won a Grammy Award for his hit song "Baba Yetu" from Civilization IV. He won it because he released the song on his own album, "Calling All Dawns." But, this is still a small step in the right direction - it is the first video game song to win a Grammy award.
03/31/12The Bioware 'Cupcake' Incident - LOL!
In protest of the Mass Effect 3 ending, fans mailed 400 cupcakes to BioWare's offices in Edmonton. LOL! Cupcakes! If all protests were as creative as that - there would be less violence in the world. All protests that happen around the world should involve the mailing of cupcakes! Maybe we'll see more incidents like this with other gaming companies. Imagine: Bill Gates cupcakes (Microsoft), Atari cupcakes, Sonic the Hedgehog cupcakes for Sega, etc.
So, what did BioWare do with the cupcakes? Donated them to charity. I wonder BioWare made sure the cupcakes were safe before mailing them out to charities - I'd be afraid that protest cupcakes might have a nasty surprise baked inside or something - you never know nowadays with the weirdos and things that get sent through the mail.
The actual cupcakes themselves look pretty cool - the N7 logo is quite detailed in the pictures! I'm sure Commander Shepard would be proud of cupcakes made in his honor!
The Mass Effect games seem more popular than Jade Empire. Will BioWare ever produce Jade Empire 2? Maybe. But, right now - the Mass Effect & Dragon Age franchises reign.
03/30/12Disney Movies & Hegemony!
I've learned all about the actual messages in most Disney films boils down to one word: hegemony! Let's look at some examples:
Pocahontas: Has every Native American stereotype in the book! In Disney's take on the tale of Pocahontas, they have her fall in love with the white, handsome John Smith. And of course, Pocahontas is attractive as well - in some sense, every 'couple' in a Disney movie is the same - a guy and a girl, a heterosexual couple. Will there ever be a Disney film that depicts two characters that are homosexual? Or does that fly in the face of hegemony? Would that spark a controversy?
Homeward Bound: Ah, yes, Homeward Bound, the amazing Disney movie about 2 dogs and a cat that get lost in the wilderness! Such a happy family in this movie! Bruce Broughton composed an amazing score to Homeward Bound. In most Disney films, the families are always happy and they usually have lots of kids. Also, most of the kids in Disney films that play primary characters are attractive. Let's look at the family in Homeward Bound: Jamie Burnford (he owns Chance, the American Bulldog - he's Peter's little brother in the family), Peter Burnford (he owns Shadow, the wise Golden Retriever - Peter is Jamie's big brother), Hope (the little sister - she owns Sassy the Himalayan), Laura Burnford (the mom - takes care of the kids), and Bob Seaver (the working Dad!). Do we see something idealistic about this picture/family? The two brothers are of course very handsome, Bob Seaver is handsome and the breadwinner of the family (he goes to work), Hope (seems to have less lines than the two brothers - we think about Jamie and Peter than her!), and Laura (well, she's the mom, takes of the kids, ok...!). I'm not saying Homeward Bound sucks because it perpetuates hegemony - almost every Disney movie repeats this pattern. Making films that go against dominant cultural norms is risky because of the amount of costs and such. Will Disney family movies ever stop perpetuating hegemony? No! The only way that would happen is if all the top decision makers at Disney were replaced by people willing to take risks and produce films that defy the dominant culture! But, that's going to happen anytime soon!
The Parent Trap: The days before Lindsey Lohan got in trouble with the law. She was amazing in the 1998 film The Parent Trap! Again, all of the family members in this film are attractive and rich. In the film, the twins meet by chance at a summer camp and stir up a plot to reunite their divorced parents.
The family dynamics & characteristics in Disney films are really similar. I could keep naming examples of films that demonstrate hegemony but, I won't because there are too many of them! I like Disney movies! Like most Americans, I grew up watching The Lion King, The Parent Trap, and Pocahontas. This semester, I learned all about media literacy and now have the ability to view every Disney film through a critical lens. Every film conveys hidden messages, even the seemingly innocuous movies by Disney.
03/29/12Tom Cruise was Kinda Cool in the 80s and 90s...
Tom Cruise is a cool actor. I think he was a lot more attractive during the 1980s and 90s, the days of Top Gun and the first Mission: Impossible. Cruise's image was a little marred with the whole scientology thing and various break ups. My favorite films that star Tom Cruise are Mission: Impossible, Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Rain Man, Valkyrie, Minority Report, and Mission: Impossible III. Cruise has starred in some many hit movies. I'm wondering how complex the 'green light' process is at a studio like Paramount Pictures or Universal Studios? Tom Cruise probably has good business people - managers & agents behind him. Any successful Hollywood actor needs to have smart business people working for them.
I'm not saying that Tom Cruise isn't hot anymore. I don't think he's as hot as he was back in the days of Top Gun or Mission: Impossible. The same goes for lots of Hollywood actors. Harrison Ford was pretty hot back in the 80's when he starred in the Indiana Jones movies. Why do you think the actor who plays James Bond is replaced every few years? The huge problem with acting is the reality of aging. Plastic surgery and Botox can only go so far. I like composing because: I can do it anywhere, anytime, for life. I will be composing music for life because that's what I love to do and that's what I'm good at!
What is 'Hollywood'? Is it a culture? Is it a social construction of reality? Is Hollywood like The Truman Show? Movie studios and companies aren't 'static objects'. I learned in an organizational communication class that organizations aren't 'static objects'. Organizations are made up of individual people. Each person within these studios has different degrees of decision making power. If I'm going to break into Hollywood as a composer, I need to find the right aspiring film director or producer (or video game director or producer) that makes it big (ex. getting the green light on a TV series or big film). It's harder for actors to hold day jobs while they try to break in because they have to travel to various casting calls/auditions. At least as a composer, I won't have to worry about that. I can just email off a demo reel. But here's the thing about demo reels, most will be thrown in the garbage. Lots of game companies (especially the giants like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft) don't accept unsolicited submissions. On the film side, it's all about knowing a director that breaks into the industry (this would mean starting out with small California produced films and working your way up, hoping that someone in a position of power (or with connections to the big time studios) will notice you. In this sense, there are probably more opportunities for game composers - there are lots of Indie game companies out there.
03/28/12"Harry the Handsome Executive" - A Cool, Old Game for Mac!
I own an old Macintosh PowerBook and had lots of cool games on it. Games like: Munchies, Slick Willie, and a cool robot game called Quagmire. But, I really enjoyed playing Harry the Handsome Executive by Ambrosia Software. Has a great soundtrack as well!
Harry the Handsome Executive makes the office more fun! You play this character, Harry. Harry works for a company called ScumCo. Your objective is to make it through each level without getting killed by mangers that throw darts, among other things. Harry is not like Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario; he's cooler because he has an amazing swivel chair that shoots things!
The score by Eric Speier is also amazing! My favorite themes from Harry the Handsome Executive are the Main Theme and "Welcome to ScumCo" (the level one theme). The Main Theme is a nice, light orchestral theme. "Welcome to ScumCo" has a cool jazz feel to it. Ambrosia released the game in 1997 - the sample libraries sound pretty good for an old Mac game.
03/27/12Microids Makes Awesome Adventure Games!
Microids is such an awesome game company! They are owned by Anuman Interactive, a massive game company in France. Microids is located in Montrouge (Paris) France & Montreal, Canada. I've only played two games by Microids: Syberia & Syberia II. They're both awesome! The graphics in the Syberia games are amazing. Currently, based on looking at Microids' Facebook fanpage, they are working on Syberia III. Kate Walker, the protagonist in Syberia isn't exactly Sonic the Hedgehog, Lara Croft, or Conker but, she's still kinda cool. Although, it might be an interesting concept if Microids/Anuman Interactive made some kind of Syberia: Action Edition! It would be so cool to move Kate Walker around like Lara Croft - maybe she could fight mammoths and stuff!
Anyway, Microids is known for their amazing adventure games like Amerzone, Still Life, and Post Mortem. Syberia is a work of art and way easier to play than Myst III:Exile. My favorite places to explore in Syberia were: Valadilène & Barrockstadt. Syberia II focuses more on Kate Walker traveling through the wilderness after the mammoths. I really enjoyed the plot in Syberia 1 where Kate has to deal with Momo, a little boy - she has to give him a mammoth doll. At some point, I'll have to play more games by Microids. Notable composers who scored games by Microids include Inon Zur (Syberia II) and Jack Wall (Ben-Hur: Blood of Braves). Not sure who scored other games by Microids yet - those are the two off the top of my head.
03/26/12Brian Tyler: The "Car" Composer
Brian Tyler is known for his cars. He owns lots of expensive cars and is one of the most successful, young Hollywood film composers today. Now, Brian Tyler isn't known for scoring top films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In fact, most of the films that he scores either die in movies or are only mediocre. For instance, Timeline and Battle: Los Angeles both busted at the box office. But, then, Tyler does 'ok movies' like Fast & the Furious, Fast Five, and Brake. Notice - all of these films have to do with cars! Brian Tyler loves scoring stuff that have to do with cars. He even scored the video game, Need for Speed: The Run.
Now, would Rachael Portman ever get the chance to score a car film like Fast Five? Um...probably not. But this is another issue entirely. We all know that the film and video game scoring industries are male dominated. Hey, back to Brian Tyler and cars.
Brian Tyler used actual car parts to score Brake. This is so cool! Brian Tyler is known for being able to play exotic instruments and often records himself playing them for all of his scores. This almost sounds like the same type of work an SFX guy would do - going out and recording sound effects. Tyler actually recorded alot of the score by pressing various buttons and (possibly the engine sound) of a real car. What is Los Angeles known for: Hollywood, cars, beaches, Paramount, Universal, movie studios, and Brian Tyler. Brian Tyler has made the right connections - the fact that he got to revamp the Universal Studios logo theme means he probably knows top decision makers/movie executives at Universal.
One question: Will we ever see Brian Tyler score another film like Partition (2007) or Children of Dune?
03/25/12Ubisoft Has a New Splinter Cell Game in The Works!
Ubisoft's Splinter Cell franchise is one of their best! The quality of the gameplay and graphics is right up there with Myst and Mass Effect. Gamespot did a report on it yesterday. According to it, Jade Raymond, head of Ubisoft Toronto, announced that they are going to develop a version of Splinter Cell that would dive into a "neglected series theme". I wonder what theme the team felt was neglected? All of the Splinter Cell games are great! I find Rainbow Six easier to play than Splinter Cell. I remember my parents bought me the first Splinter Cell game for Valentine's Day when it came out - great graphics! The problem was, I don't think I made it passed the 2nd or 3rd level - the game is all about maintaining stealth and completing objectives without getting caught or killed. That's pretty tough! In Rainbow Six, there is more freedom to shoot at things and bad guys (because it's a tactical, first person shooter).
I wonder who will be scoring the next Splinter Cell? Every Splinter Cell game had a different composer. The job of the music in the Splinter Cell games is to be as ambient as possible and adapt to the player's actions (the whole permutative music concept - read an online article about the interactive nature of the music in Splinter Cell). It would be cool to see Jack Wall score another Splinter Cell game. I still don't get why Ubisoft contracted a different composer for each game - what was wrong with Michael Plowman (who scored the first Splinter Cell?).
03/24/12Famous Game & Film Composers That Attended Ivy League Schools
I was curious if there were any famous video game and film composers that attended ivy league schools. Alot of famous film and game composers didn't study at music conservatory. Unless you plan to teach music, it's probably not a good idea to get a degree in composition or study at a conservatory because of the whole 'day job' that you'll need to get when you graduate. I'm going to get some kind of day job when I graduate from college with my History major/Communications minor (not McDonald's - but hopefully something in social media strategy or something).
Here's a list of my favorite composers that I found out did some studying at ivy league schools:
Brian Tyler: Famous film composer attended Harvard University. Tyler got a master's degree at Harvard and got his B.A. at UCLA. He was a History major. Harvard University is in Massachusetts - must have been a long trek for Tyler to go to grad school after UCLA. Now, he's one of the youngest composers in Hollywood, working on major films and video games. His most recent game project was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. My favorite track from that is "Russian Warfare". Next to Children of Dune, Brian Tyler's best score is Partition (2007) - too bad not many people seem to think of that one.
Thomas Newman: Ah, Thomas Newman, the greatest of the Newman clan of composers, attended Yale University. Alfred Newman was his dad, a famous Hollywood composer doing scores like The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and the 20th Century Fox logo theme! Of all the Newman brothers, he scores the best films. Here's a partial list of films Thomas Newman scored: Road to Perdition, The Green Mile, Revolutionary Road, etc. He is slated to score the next 007 film, Skyfall - this should be interesting, I wonder, is David Arnold (who's scored most of the current Bond films) taking a vacation? Thomas Newman gets the best films because he made the right contacts. David Newman scores lots of crappy movies. And, Joey Newman - um...have we heard of him? Randy Newman does ok - he scored Seabiscuit and established a career as a solo artist as well.
Christopher Tin: He's known for "Baba Yetu!" from Civilization IV. In fact, Tin won a Grammy Award for "Baba Yetu!". Tin attended both Oxford University and Stanford University. What do all famous composers have in common? They score a project that becomes a hit. Jack Wall scored Myst III: Exile and became an A-List game composer. Same with Tin - right place, at the right time. "Baba Yetu" is Tin's most famous work - but, he did do the score for the rest of Civilization IV, right? Why is "Baba Yetu!" so famous and stick out so much? Well, it's a great song and very global. Tin proved that video games must have a category at the Grammy's. If people in games can get BAFTA awards, they should get Grammy Awards too! Scoring music for games is a real, complex artform that should be recognized.
Michael Z. Land and Peter McConnell: The superstar former composers known for their work at Lucas Arts. Land and McConnell attended Harvard University. They are known for their work on titles like The Secrets of Monkey Island and Sam & Max: Hit the Road. They also pioneered the iMuse interactive music system for video games. Working at Lucas Arts would be a dream job! These guys, along with Clint Bajakian, were in-house composers at Lucas Arts - that must have been a sweet gig. Most composers are contracted out because it's cheaper. Once in awhile, you hear about famous in-house composers. For instance, Robin Beanland is an in-house composer at Rareware.
03/23/12Time Travel TV Shows and Sci Fi TV Shows: Often Go off the Air on NBC, ABC, and CBS
I swear, whenever there is a great show on NBC, CBS, or ABC that has to do with time travel or parallel universes, it goes off the air quickly. For instance, I loved the time travel show Journeyman on NBC - it was such a shame that NBC killed it. That didn't last long - it was about a guy named Dan Vasser, a reporter who traveled through time. It kind reminded me a little of the book, The Time Traveler's Wife. It only lasted 13 episodes!
Life on Mars was another great time travel show that died on ABC. They tried to remake the British version of Life on Mars. It's about an NYPD detective from 2008 who wakes up in 1973 NYC. The twist of the whole show was in the last episode where we find out that Detective Sam Tyler didn't time travel at all! Instead, he was on a ship headed to Mars the whole time. The environment he was in, 1973 NY was simply a simulation to make the time pass. I was sad when this show when off the air - I thought it would last longer than Journeyman.
Quantum Leap is a great show about time travel and originally aired on NBC in the early 90s. It had a long run, 1989-1993. Maybe audiences back then were smarter and not confused by the time travel/paradox elements in the show. Then again, in Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett is simply leaping into different bodies and tries to change history with the help of his hologram buddy, Al. We don't see shows like Quantum Leap today. The hot stuff on TV today is reality shows like: Survivor, 16 & Pregnant, Jersey Shore, etc.
I'm hoping that NBC's new show, Awake, doesn't suffer the same fate as Journeyman and Life on Mars. Awake is about an NYPD detective, Michael Britten, who finds himself going back and forth between two alternate realities after a tragic car crash involving his wife and son. In one reality, his son Rex survived the car crash and the wife is dead. In other reality, the wife survived the car crash and Rex is dead. But, Britten goes back & forth between the two realities by sleeping. In other words, he'll be with Rex one day, go to sleep, and then wake up with his wife next to him. This is a really cool show. I'm not confused by Britten going back and forth between the two realities. But, I kind of fear, since we don't see shows like Awake on NBC often that it might go off the air.
03/22/12Lots of People are Upset w/ BioWare: Mass Effect 3's Ending
Alot of people seem outraged about Mass Effect 3's ending. First of all, I wonder, these gamers must be pretty darn good and fast to even make it to the ending of Mass Effect 3, only a few days after release. There's no way you could beat a game like Myst III:Exile or Myst IV: Revelation in that timeframe. Then again, the Myst franchise has a pretty select audience. People weren't ranting & raving about Myst III: Exile and that had alternate endings.
BioWare released a statement by Dr. Ray Muzyka today regarding the release of Mass Effect 3. In it, Muzyka notes that some of the crticism that has been out on the web about the game is "destructive" rather than "constructive". I sort of agree with Muzyka - I kind of want to hear why the ending is so terrible? I'm sure BioWare will release Mass Effect 4 - so, it isn't the end of the world that people are upset about Mass Effect 3's ending.
Personally, I think that BioWare should develop & release Jade Empire 2. Games like Halo and Mass Effect 3 are real commercial blockbusters - millions of dollars to develop. I wasn't thrilled with the soundtrack of Mass Effect 3. Jack Wall's "Vigil", from Mass Effect is great because of how simple it is. It's a shame that Jack Wall didn't get to score Mass Effect 3.
At the end of the day, Mass Effect 3 is just a video game. You can't expect every story in every medium to have perfect endings. The writers at BioWare had to make creative choices and I'm sure they thought hard about the script. Writing a storyline for a big blockbuster game is probably harder than writing a Hollywood screenplay because of the interactive nature of the game. At some point, I'll have to buy an Xbox 360 so that I can play the first two Mass Effect games!
03/21/12Educational Video Games: Must Be an Interesting Gig for a Composer
With video games like Mass Effect, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst III: Exile, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age: Origins - there are plenty of ways for composers to get inspired to score these types of games. Heck, if I had the opportunity to score a game with lush, 3D environments like Myst III: Exile, I'd be coming up with tons of drafts of compositions featuring duduk, clock chimes, atmospherics, orchestra, etc. What about games like Jump Start 1st Grade or Dora the Explorer: Lost and Found Adventure?
I played Jump Start 1st Grade when I was little. It was developed by Knowledge Adventure, a major company that makes educational games. Some of the other Knowledge Adventure games I played were 3D Dinosaur Adventure and 3D Undersea Adventure. The main theme song in Jump Start 1st Grade is pretty catchy! Not sure who the composer for Jump Start 1st Grade was. The main theme has a choir - I wonder what those recording sessions were like? It's one thing for a chorus to do a recording session of the Myst III: Exile main theme (which is along the same lines as doing a Carl Orff piece), but, Jump Start 1st Grade? Hm...that have been an interesting scoring session.
The composers of educational games don't seem to be noticed like the composers of major titles like Mass Effect and Halo. Music is crucial to any video game's success - especially the main theme! If the main theme sucks, people might assume that the game sucks. The success of a game composer depends on the type of games they get to score. A composer scoring a massive BioWare epic is more likely to get noticed than a composer scoring the next Barbie game.
03/20/12Nanosaur: A Cool Dinosaur Video Game w/ Catchy Music!
I was in elementary school when I played Nanosaur for the first time! Nanosaur is a really cool video game in which you play a heavily armed dinosaur that looks like a Velociraptor. This dinosaur is called a Nanosaur. The Nanosaur is from the future and is sent back in time to collect dinosaur eggs and return them to the future (through time portals) before the big bang hits. I've always been a fan of time travel games and films. The goal is to guide the Nanosaur through the level, following the blue and green compass arrow before the timer runs out. You have to shoot various dinosaurs like T-Rex's, Pteranodons, and Dilophosauruses along the way. Nanosaur was originally released in 1998 for Mac. I remember always waiting on line in elementary school to play this game on a colorful iMac computer in the classroom! I just loved moving around the cute Velocriaptor Nanosaur around and shooting at enemy dinosaurs! Being a PC person, I had to wait awhile until Pangeasoft released the PC version of the game so that I could download a demo at home. Nanosaur was composed by Mike Beckett and Jens Nilsson. In the demo version of the game, the first theme that you hear is pretty catchy! Pangeasoft should remake create Nanosaur 3 for a next-gen console like Xbox 360 - that would be so awesome! This is a very unique game and you don't see a lot of games that look like Nanosaur anymore.
03/19/12Fun Times With Game Genie & GameShark
I own a Game Genie and GameSharks - they are probably sitting in a box somewhere. Game Genies and GameSharks allow you to do super cool cheat codes in video games! I had a GameShark for N64 and Playstaton. I owned a Game Genie for my Sega Genesis.
I didn't use my Playstation GameShark very much. But, I had lots of fun with my N64 GameShark Pro. GameShark was made by InterAct. One of the earliest games I owned for the N64 was Goldeneye 007. Goldeneye is an amazing first person shooter for the N64. There were some pretty crazy Game Shark codes such as "Walk Through Walls". My favorite cheat codes for most games (with or without a GameShark) are 'unlock all levels' and debug mode. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 have the coolest debug mode - you can decorate the levels with various cool sprites from the game. I learned that the core of all computer programs is 1's and 0's - binary code - I want to see that in action! There are no cheat codes for the Myst games - I'll have to beat Myst III: Exile with a guide.
But, it seem like some N64 games had safeguards against GameSharks. Banjo Kazooie was one of my favorite games to play! I was playing through it normally but, I got to the point where I just wanted to see all of the levels! Banjo Kazooie didn't work with my GameShark. I would activate the codes in the GameShark screen and get a messed up, multi-colored screen. Some kind of GameShark conflict with Banjo Kazooie - maybe the programmers at Rareware put something in Banjo Kazooie's code that prevented player from using it with a GameShark?
The Game Genie predates the GameShark an was released by Galoob. I used the Game Genie on my Sega Genesis. The Game Genie is alot bigger than the GameShark. I wasn't as impressed with the Game Genie codes. For instance, in Sonic 2, there's a Game Genie code that can change the values of rings or make Sonic jump super high.
03/18/12Characteristics of Old RPG Games: Churches, Castles, and Medieval Times!
During the 90s, lots of RPG games were released. Most of them took place during medieval times. For instance, what does Quest 64, Crusader of Centy (Sega Genesis), Lagoon (SNES), and Sword of Vermilion have in common? They all take place in medieval times, there are always churches, and a king with a castle. These are the only three RPGs that I could come up with off the top of my head that has these features. I wonder why developers released so many medieval themed RPG games? This was especially the case during the days of SNES and Sega Genesis.
Even The Legend of Zelda, one of the hottest Nintendo games around, takes place during Medieval Times. With so many RPGs taking place during Medieval Times, I would think developers would get bored with the whole churches, castles, and monster formula. Some older RPGs broke away from this traditional formula. For instance, Earthbound for SNES took place in modern day. Dreamfall takes place in the future - that's an incredible RPG by Funcom with an amazing score by Leon Willett! Although Dreamfall and Earthbound don't take place during Medieval Times, they still follow the same conventions of combat. For instance, in Tomb Raider players can get Lara Croft to take out and shoot her guns anytime - it's all free roaming. In Splinter Cell, you can explore an area and slip into combat right away - there are no markers or signals or set spots where players have to engage in battle. In most RPGs, there's a fixed area where a player can fight. When the player isn't fighting, you can't get the character in the game to do combat moves. I think the whole marking and targeting systems in RPGs make combat less authentic for the player. I'm waiting to see an RPG that behaves more like Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, or Grand Theft Auto. In other words, no more fixed positions for combat, no more targeting system, etc.
03/17/12Cool Shows on G4: Xplay is Cool, But I Miss Extended Play from the Tech TV days!
I love watching Xplay on G4! Xplay is a great video game review tv show that's hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb. I wonder how you become a host on a G4 show? (or any TV show for that matter!). Producers and casting directors probably make decisions about who should host a TV show. I remember watching Xplay before G4 existed! The previous iteration of the show was called Extended Play and it aired on Tech TV (which is now G4).
I kind of like Extended Play better than Xplay. G4 seems to make the channel more gaming oriented than Tech TV. The newest host is Blair Herter. So, why did I like Extended Play more? Well, I still don't own an Xbox 360 or any next gen consoles. Xplay is reviewing games that I don't even play. I don't have time to play video games much between composing and college. When I watched Extended Play, I had and played great Xbox games like Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six: Raven Shield, Project Gotham Racing, etc. Also, Extended Play was simpler - plain game reviews with Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb! It was my favorite show on Tech TV. Attack of the Show is okay but, it isn't dedicated to game reviews. I think Sessler and Webb have good chemistry as TV hosts.
Judgment Day was hosted by gaming composer star Tommy Tallarico and it was pretty cool! Judgment Day was kind of like an Ebert & Roeper for video games - G4 should bring it back!
The current iteration of Xplay has 3 hosts now and I think they do more than simple game reviews! Extended Play was cool because it was just Sessler and Webb doing awesome game reviews - it was simple. G4 has made a great show more complicated. This isn't a bad thing - I just kind of miss Extended Play. Even Xplay was okay a few years ago before G4 changed the whole format of the show. Two things I want to say to G4: Bring Back Judgment Day and Change Xplay back to the old format or Bring Back Extended Play!!!
03/16/12Really Cool Video About the Composers Behind Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar Games is known for titles such as Grand Theft Auto. They came out with two cool western games: Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption. In this making of the music video for Red Dead Redemption they talk about the interactive nature of the music. Each piece that composers Bill Elm and Woody Jackson composed was considered a stem. For instance, when a player decides to mount a horse in the game, the music would change. That's kind of cool!
I love all the unique instruments and live players they used for the Red Dead Redemption score! Instruments ranged from traditional country/band (like harmonicas, guitars) to odd stuff (like some kind of detuned piano). Rockstar is another mega game company. Most mega game companies have audio directors. I love watching videos of all these recording sessions for video games. The big places and orchestras composers like to record at and with for games are: Skywalker Sound (recording space), Bratislava (With the Slovak Radio Symphony), Bastyr University Chapel (recording space), Northwest Sinfonia (orchestra), etc.
I've never played Red Dead Redemption. But, I've played Red Dead Revolver. It reminded me of playing Grand Theft Auto on horseback! Personally, my favorite part of Red Dead Revolver was riding the horse around! I still thought that Lucas Arts' Outlaws was a better game - I liked the storyline better. Sadly, you couldn't ride horses around the levels in Outlaws. The music made up for it - Clint Bajakian's Outlaws score is one of the best game scores around.
03/15/12What Happened to Music and Sound Test Menus in Video Games?
Remember the days when video games had music and sound test menus? I owned a Sega Genesis. I played great games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Aladdin, Ecco the Dolphin, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, etc. So, what did all these games have in common? There was a cool feature in the options menu that allowed players to listen to all of the music tracks and individual sound effects of the game. When I was young, I didn't really understand why the music/sound test menus were in the game. I'm guessing it was so that people at home were able to test out all the music and sound in the game so that they could see it worked properly on their TV sets? Today, we rarely see options for music test and sound test. It's common for video game composers to sell full scale albums of their work - so, it wouldn't make sense to include the individual tracks in a music test menu today. I always found the sound test menus boring. I enjoyed listening to the music in the music test menu.
Some games let you do funky stuff in the music and sound test menus. For instance, in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, you could use the sound and music test menu to enter cheat codes. I know the level select code for Sonic 2 by heart: 19, 65, 9, 17. Playing these numbers in the sound and music test menu allow the player to jump to any level they want. You can also play a set of sounds to activate a debug mode code as well. Doing level select and debug codes for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is way harder because you need to use Sonic 2 to do it. It's very tricky. First, you have to enter the level select code in Sonic 2. Then, you have to hold A on the Sega Genesis D-Pad and press start at the Sonic 2 title screen. Here's the fun part: you then have to leave the Genesis on (with Sonic 2 running), keep holding down the A button, and pull out the Sonic 2 cartridge! Then, you insert the Sonic 3 cartridge, press reset, let go of the A button, and press down twice in the main menu. Nasty stuff can happen when you just pull cartridges out while the gaming system is still on. It took me a few tries to pull off this code successfully - the whole switiching of the Sonic cartridges is hard!
I wonder how in a programming sense this code works - the fact that you have to use Sonic 2 to activate a code in Sonic 3. Maybe the Genesis has some kind of feature where it is possible to transfer code between 2 cartridges? Or, the Genesis might be able to store data from one cartridge. Then, this stored data can somehow be transferred to the other. Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 probably have a similar coding structure.
03/14/12Rapper "Coolio" Arrested in Vegas
I'm not a big fan of rap music. But, the one rap song that caught my attention was "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio. I'm not really surprised to see that Coolio was arrested in Vegas. This seems to happen to lots of popular artists and rappers. When I saw Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap, I was hoping that she would be one of the child stars that didn't end up in trouble. Coolio was arrested in Las Vegas for failing to appear in court a few years ago for a traffic ticket. Really? Come on Coolio - you made tons of money during your rapping career and you can't pay traffic tickets? Really? He was also in trouble for driving without a license.
I first encountered the song "Gangsta's Paradise" when I watched the film Dangerous Minds. It's a great movie! Alot of these school type films came out in the late 1980s and 90s (ex. The Principal, Stand and Deliver, etc.). Freedom Writers reminded me of Dangerous Minds. "Gangsta's Paradise" went really well with the film - I actually liked this rap song. I love Weird Al's parody of Gangsta's Paradise, "Amish Paradise".
There is a dividing line between film/game composers and rappers/singers/mainstream music celebrities. Alot of people aren't aware of who provides the underscore for movies because popular songs are placed in films. There are agencies such as Experience Music Group in California. Their jobs are to place artists' music into commercials or films - in other words, it's not a film/game composer agency like the Gofine/Schwartz Agency.
03/13/12Microids and Syberia 3
Microids and its parent company, Anuman Interactive are keeping pretty tight about Syberia 3. Not exactly sure when it's going to come out. I wonder what direction Syberia 3 will go? Syberia I was more urban based. Kate Walker runs around cool spots like Komkolzgrad, a university in Barrockstadt, and of course, Valadilene - a beautiful looking town in the French Alps. I fell in love with the graphics of Syberia 1 when I explored Valadilene! Syberia 2 is more rustic and out in the wilderness. Kate Walker, Hans, and her automaton Oscar go looking for mammoths. The soundtrack in Syberia 2 was also more rustic and exotic.
I really don't know how Microids and Anuman Interactive will open the third chapter of the Syberia series. How much further can you go after finding mammoths?! I wonder who they will contract to do the soundtrack? Dimitri Bodiansky and Nicholas Varley scored the first Syberia game. Inon Zur scored Syberia 2. I'm curious - I guess the composer they pick (I'm betting they've picked the composer already) was selected based on experience and the style of music needed for the game. Inon Zur is known for doing lush ethnic music (ex. Prince of Persia) - that's probably why he was picked to do the score for Syberia 2. Some composers do demos while others are picked based on their previous work.
03/12/12My Favorite Parts of Myst III Exile: The Animals, The Environments, and The Music (Especially the Duduk!)
Myst III: Exile is an amazing game! I really wish I could actually solve the puzzles and play it. Instead, I find myself focusing on exploring the amazing levels, observing the creatures, and listening to Jack Wall's awesome soundtrack! The duduk parts are amazing! Myst III: Exile was developed by Presto Studios and published by Ubisoft, the great powerhouse of the gaming industry. Myst III:Exile was released in 2000. It's 2012 and I still think the graphics are amazing!
I'll talk about the environments in Myst III in a minute. But, the first thing that caught my eye when I played it was the amazing life like animals. First, the "Squee" is really cute - the graphics are so amazing that you can notice the fur on the Squee. You first see the Squee in the Age of Eddanna. The Squee is a really cute, furry, and white squirrel like creature - it's really cute! There's a puzzle that you have to solve in the Age of Edanna in which you have to release a trapped Squee from a cage. Another really cute animal (and one of the first animals you see) in Eddana is this bird-like creature. It's one of the first creatures that you see in Eddana.
You begin Myst III:Exile in the Age of Tomahna. In this age, you meet Catherine, the wife of Atrus. Eventually, you open the book of Releeshahn and yay, you're in the next age, J'nanin. J'nanin is a beautiful age! I can't decide whether I liked Eddana or J'nanin more. Maybe that's because Eddana and J'nanin are both on the ocean - they are very beach-like. The white tusk and beach environments are my favorite parts of J'nanin.
Eddana has a great theme song. I'm learning the difference between in-game music and actual tracks. Jack Wall composed "Theme from Eddana". I think you only hear "Theme from Eddana" at the beginning of the level. Then, the music transitions to in-game music. In-game music is meant to be something that the player can listen to all day, without getting bored. It's all about music implementation. The duduk is heard throughout the Age of Eddana. There are lots of flowers in this level.
I know that if I'm going to want to hear more of Jack Wall's in-game music and soundtrack, I'll have to stop getting frustrated by Myst III's daunting puzzles. And, not only do I want to hear more music - I want to see what the rest of the levels look like! The whole logic of the complex puzzles are too much for my brain - I don't have a math and logic head! At least Syberia had slightly easier puzzles. I'd love to score a game like Myst III: Exile or Myst IV: Revelation in the near future.
The only ages I've managed to 'walk around' in Myst III:Exile are Tomahna, J'nanin, Edanna, and Amateria. Hopefully when I have time and a strategy guide in hand, I'll be able to get my way through Myst III. I bought the game because I love Jack Wall's soundtrack lol! Now, I need to play through the game. I'm dying to see what the other levels look like. The Myst games has a very wide, loyal audience. It's not a smash hit in the same since as Mass Effect or Halo but, it is special in its own right.
03/11/12Game Development, Not Easy: The time I had some fun with DarkBASIC...or not!
There was a point in time when I thought that I might try to create my own video game. I mean, how hard could it be? Thousands of games are created everyday. They make it look so easy!
A few years ago, I installed a free edition of DarkBASIC. I thought, maybe I would be able to create my own game. The truth is, I don't have any programming knowledge whatsoever! I followed the "Hello World" tutorial - that was pretty much as I far as I got. Since DarkBASIC simply lets you do lines of code, I was curious how that mashes together with graphics? You need a separate program to do graphics. It's one thing to develop a home brew game. But how about games like Myst III:Exile or Mass Effect 3? Games like these have massive 3d environments, state of the art engines, and hundreds of people working on them. And, the budgets are huge!
According to an LA Times report, when Modern Warfare 2 had a production budget of $40-$50 million! Wow! It was developed by Infanity Ward and published by Activision. All of the super-giant publishers: EA, Activision, Atari, Microsoft Games, Ubisoft, etc. have massive, Hollywood type budgets.
The real question I have is: how does someone get employed by Ubisoft or EA? Myst IV: Revelation was published and developed by Ubisoft Montreal. It was developed using the ALIVE Engine. The ALIVE Engine is the reason why the creatures and environment in Myst IV looked so life like. According to Wikipedia, eighty employees were working on this one game! Eighty! Holy crap - how does a team of eighty people pull and consolidate all of the graphics, programming, etc. to create one product? The computers they use for development must be pretty powerful. All of these big budget games (Halo, Mass Effect, etc.) have amazing 3D environments, move at ultra-fast speed, great AI, etc. So, back to the question: how does someone get employed by Ubisoft or EA?
If you are a programmer or graphic artist and you're applying for a job at one of these massive publishers - you either have to know somebody or be considered top knotch. The competition to get into one of these companies must be killer. Ubisoft and Electronic Arts don't just hire anyone. Genevieve Lord was a producer on Myst IV: Revelation. Curious how Ubisoft hires a producer? That must be an even tougher job to get. Lord is now a director at Champlain College in Montreal. Wow - that's big career change! If I was a producer at a company like Ubisoft, I'd want to stay in the position for life! Development teams at big publishers seem to be like a revolving door.
Interestingly, the crews working at BioWare are pretty much the same people. Casey Hudson worked his way up the ladder at BioWare - from artist to executive producer/lead on the Mass Effect franchise. Big jump - you have to know the right people to make career jumps like this - you can't apply to be the next executive producer for a game franchise and such.
This brings up another interesting point. How was BioWare founded? How did EA acquire it? BioWare was founded by doctors, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. If you are attached to EA or Ubisoft, you have power and massive budgets. They sold the company to EA - then, Muzyka got a sweet deal. In addition to being CEO at BioWare, he is also General Manager and Senior Vice President at EA. This is sort of the opposite of what happened at Rareware. Rareware was founded by two brothers, Chris Stamper and Tim Stamper. The Stamper Brothers walked away from a company they founded and moved on. The Stamper Brothers sold Rareware to Microsoft - why??? This was such as stupid move! BioWare produces amazing games. Ever since Rareware was acquired by Microsoft - the games haven't been that great. At least Muzyka is still part of BioWare and EA - he's got the best of both worlds. But, the Stamper Brothers handed everything over to Microsoft. What would cause someone to make a move like that? If I founded a game company that released best selling titles like Banjo Kazooie, I would not sell it to a big company like Microsoft. The whole concept: You are a founder of a big game company, you drive the creative vision of the company, you are very successful, and then SELL IT TO A BIG COMPANY LIKE MICROSOFT so you can get a paycheck. It's not just like selling a car - you are selling away creative vision, the company name, etc. to a massive publisher. Why would you want to get away from that for a paycheck when you can just run a financially independent company? It baffles me.
03/10/12Saddle Club: Willowbrook Stables
I remember playing Saddle Club: Willowbrook Stables on pc. Kind of like Myst on horseback? Hm...maybe not.
You probably automatically assume that this game is right up there with all of the crappy Barbie games. But, actually, I didn't think Saddle Club: Willowbrook Stables was that bad. The soundtrack by Dale Cornelius was excellent. I kind of enjoyed the amount of freedom you have to explore the island n horseback. Sure, he graphics weren't as good as Myst III:Exile and the soundtrack didn't feature a duduk but, whatever.
In the game, you can play as either Stevie, Lisa, or Carol (the famous Saddle Club trio. Too bad you don't get to play around Pine Hollow Stables! I liked the part in the game where you could design the horse. During the game, you complete various puzzles on Coventry Island. There are a variety of locations players can explore on the island such as a lighthouse, Prospect Tower, Althorp Manor, etc. Plus, players can tack, feed, and care for their horses. Okay, in some sense this game is similar to Mary Kate and Ashley's Winner's Circle, Barbie, Nancy Drew, etc. I've played Mary Kate and Ashley: Winner's Circle. In this game, you mostly compete in horse show events (ex. cross country, show jumping, etc). I liked Saddle Club because it is an actual adventure game where you have free reign to explore an island and do stuff. Maybe they should make a version of Myst that would enable a player to have the option to horseback ride or drive funky cars - that could be an interesting twist - what do you say, Cyan Worlds? Developers threaten to shut down the stables on the island due to financial issues. And, only one Saddle Club character is involved (ex. If the player decides to play through the game as Stevie - Carol and Lisa end up 'staying behind' at Pine Hollow Stables).
Sure, the game is for girls (the video game world is so gendered!) but, whatever, I really enjoyed playing this game when I was younger. The soundtrack by Dale Cornellius is excellent. The primary theme you hear in the game is mostly guitar and either an oboe or an English horn. The melody is really catchy. Are the eight year old girls who actually play this game paying attention to the soundtrack? Maybe - I played Banjo Kazooie back in grade school and was aware that the music was really good.
Officially on spring break! Yay! Lots of composing and papers to do. Have a massive History Honors thesis to write. Yikes! Long bus ride since I go to college in the middle of nowhere!
College is flying by fast - I still don't know what I'm going to do for a day job. But, ultimately, I will become a famous video game composer. The idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy means that a prediction will become true due to positive feedback between behavior and belief. All composers start somewhere. So, here's my prediction: I will be a famous video game composer - as well known as Jack Wall or Tommy Tallarico. Yay!
03/08/12Brian Tyler's Orchestration of the New Universal Studios Logo
So, it's the 100th aniversary of Universal Studios. Universal enlisted famous Hollywood composer Brian Tyler to revamp the Universal Studios production logo theme. Not only is the theme revamped, the logo itself is kind of cool. Universal's new logo will premiere when the film, "The Lorax", is released.
Brian Tyler isn't a bad composer and I think his remix of it is pretty good. He added some ethnic drums and choir. I love Brian Tyler's Timeline, Children of Dune, and Partition scores. Too bad he's not scoring many movies like that - the big studios like him for his electronic/action type scores like Fast Five or Final Destination. Have to wonder how the big movie studio giants decide which composer will score their production logo themes. Usually composers that get to do production logos are well established in the industry. Jerry Goldsmith composed the original Universal Studios logo theme. Goldsmith was an awesome composer - love the work he did on The Mummy. The composing business is all about relationships - being a composer in Hollywood and knowing the right people at the big time studios must be a sweet deal. Brian Tyler got his start pretty young - entering the world of scoring Hollywood studio features fairly quickly. So, who gives the green light to composers at some of these big studios like Universal and Paramount? Usually a film's director has the primary say regarding the composer.
Now, if I was offered the chance to score a big Hollywood movie - I would jump at it. But, I think game composition is a better route because the people are younger and there's more opportunity. There's lots of politics in the world of Hollywood studios. Scoring a TV show might be a cool gig because if it's on the air for awhile it can be steady work. How does one become a producer or director at a big studio like Universal or Paramount? Historically, the film industry moved from New Jersey to Hollywood because people weren't thrilled with Thomas Edison's strict regulations on film production.
03/07/12Titanic Adventure Out of Time: An Overlooked Game
I've been blogging so much about Myst, Ubisoft, Jack Wall, etc. But, I figured I'd take a break and talk about an overlooked pc game classic, Titanic Adventure Out of Time by Cyberflix. Titanic Adventure Out of Time has an amazing soundtrack by Erik Holt and Scott Scheinbaum. Sadly, this game seems forgotten and so is the soundtrack. It's a funny thing - some game soundtracks are memorable, the composers are superstars. A lot of people know who composed the soundtracks for Mass Effect 3 and Halo because they're hit games. But, Titanic Adventure Out of Time - oh, this is just some obscure game that came out in 1996. Cyberflix is out of business now anyway - so who cares about the soundtrack. Well, we should care about the soundtrack and some of these 'obscure' games need recognition.
When I heard the opening theme in the intro of Titanic Adventure Out of Time, I was blown away - it's amazing! Whatever VSTs/software Holt and Scheinbaum used were pretty good since it was made in 1995/96. The opening titles play during the opening cutscene. The cutscene shows a flyover of the wonderfully constructed 3d rendered Titanic, a blue night sky, the open ocean, and a pocket watch. Doing some digging, I learned that Holt and Scheinbaum's opening theme sounded similar to a piece called "Vltava" by Smetana Bedřich. Some elements in this piece are similar to the Titanic's opening theme. I think the opening intro is still the best piece in the game.
Piano plays huge role in Titanic Adventure Out of Time's soundtrack. You can hear a piano in almost every track in the game. It's amazing what you can accomplish using simply a piano as a primary instrument in a game soundtrack. There are a few other pieces that stand out in Titanic Adventure Out of Time as well. The theme that plays when the player is walking around the Grand Staircase is kind of catchy. The boat deck theme, although a little repetitive, isn't bad either. The theme that plays when the player is exploring Scotland Road/E-Deck is cool because it's mainly piano. The Cafe Parisian theme is a great piano solo piece - slow, melodic, and mysterious. The C-Deck theme is another great piano track with some light strings - great original melody as the player travels along the boring C-Deck hallways. The track "Rogation" has a great oboe or English horn solo. The "Cargo Hold" theme is a scary, haunting piano piece.
In addition to the amazing soundtrack, I had alot more fun playing Titanic Adventure Out of Time than the Myst games. I also got alot further in Titanic Adventure Out of Time than Myst or Myst III: Exile. When I wasn't in the mood to solve puzzles, Titanic Adventure Out of Time has a great option where players can simply tour the ship. This game has a great storyline. You play a British secret agent from 1942 that's sent back in time to April 14th, 1912 to prevent certain historical events from occurring. You're main job is the get a special painting and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (a special Persian book) from Zeitel, an evil German colonel. At one point, you have to diffuse a bomb in Zeitel's cabin. There are several different endings, depending on how you play the game. Some players can get involved in the side plots like replacing Georgia's necklace with a real one, dealing with Shailagh and Jack Hacker's baby , etc. And, of course, fighting Vlad, the stowaway in the off-limits part of the ship. When I played this game, my favorite part was convincing Officer Morrow to let me into the Wireless Room so that I could decode a telegram. You also have to convince him to let you on the bridge as well - that's harder.
This is a game for history buffs. I'm a history major and I love time travel. Titanic Adventure Out of Time has elements of both history and time travel. The puzzles are easier to solve than Myst, Myst III: Exile etc. but, I still wouldn't call it an 'easy' game. It's one thing to compose for a game. But, if a game composer wants to be known, they need to score a series of hit games like Mass Effect. I wonder what Holt and Scheinbaum are up to now?
03/06/12Cool G4 Interview with Jack Wall About the Music of Mass Effect 2!
Here's a cool interview that G4 did with composer Jack Wall about the music of Mass Effect 2!
In this interview, Jack Wall talks about some of the work he and his team did on Mass Effect 2. I love the story about how Jimmy Hinson got on board the project, working for Wall of Sound Inc. Hinson remixed ten of Jack Wall's songs from Mass Effect and Jack Wall noticed it. That's how he got the job - pretty tricky! The Mass Effect 2 soundtrack was okay but, I think I found more memorable tracks in Mass Effect. Then again, my favorite work by Jack Wall is the Myst III and Myst IV soundtracks.
Jack Wall noted that he and his team took a darker approach for the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack. Wall ended up doing 160 minutes worth of music for the game. Wow - that's alot of music. I'm not to the point in my composing career where I've kept track of how many minutes I've done for a game. At this point, I'm just trying to get the game project scored and do well at college at the same time. Jack Wall and the team must have had fun playing through the levels of Mass Effect 2 as it was being built. That sounds like alot of fun - to play a game like Mass Effect before it's released! In one part of the interview, Jack Wall describes scoring against "video captures" of particular parts of the game for implementation purposes. Composing a soundtrack for a game is hard enough - especially in-game music (as I'm learning now!). But, doing implementation on top of all of that composing - yikes! All of the work was done against tight deadlines. Must be lots of work! In this G4 interview, Jack Wall noted that he wanted to score Mass Effect 3. We'll never really know whether Jack Wall personally wanted to move on to other projects or if BioWare picked Clint Mansell over Jack Wall. Either or both cases could be true. Jack Wall says he wanted to move on to bigger and better projects. But then again, what could be bigger and better than Mass Effect 3? I'd like to see another score by Jack Wall that's like the work he did on the Myst games - those soundtracks are really special and overlooked. There's a bigger audience pool for games like Mass Effect and Halo than games like Myst III: Exile or Myst IV: Revelation.
My dream video game project would be to score something like Myst III: Exile or Myst IV: Revelation. Also near the top of my list would be a game like Splinter Cell, Syberia (Microids loves their mammoths!), and Mass Effect (because it's all electronic - I love doing electronic!). I'd love to do a game soundtrack in which the duduk was the primary star instrument in the majority of the themes. Can't get enough of that duduk!
03/05/12The Instruments of Jack Wall's Mass Effect and Live Performance
I know for both Mass Effect games, Jack Wall and his team used various VST's by Spectrasonics such as Atmosphere and Omnisphere. I'm still curious about the lead instrument in the song "Vigil". It sounds a little like a duduk but, I'm betting it's something in one of the Spectrasonics packages. I couldn't believe that they actually managed to do a live performance of Mass Effect - I thought that would be kind of difficult to take on because of the amount of electronic instruments.
I remember watching Video Games Live: Level 2 on PBS back in 2010. Both Mass Effect games were done primarily with virtual instruments rather than live players. I wonder if Wall of Sound Inc. was focusing on recording the music from Mass Effect with a metronome, thus allowing for sheet music that can actually be read. Doing tons of music for a primarily electronic score under time preasure - I would have probably ditched the metronome and just worry about getting everything recorded. Or, if this Mass Effect suite was orchestrated after the fact. I wonder who orchestrated the Mass Effect suite? Steve Zuckerman is known for orchestrating Jack Wall's Myst III and Myst IV games.
On Video Games Live, you can't see the synths that are producing the electronic sounds - they're just sort of there. The cameras don't show you where these sounds are coming from or who's playing them. Also, an oboe plays the lead part in "Vigil" instead of the electronic instrument. I was kind of curious how the whole live performance of the Mass Effect suite was engineered. Jack Wall has a heavy sound engineering background. I'm betting the electronic parts were played live on some keyboards - so that would mean they would have a keyboard up on stage with a computer loaded up with Omnisphere and play the parts live? I think the making the timing with live orchestra would be too difficult if all the synth parts were pre-recorded. They also have to get the volumes just right on stage so that you can hear the synths underneath the live orchestra.
03/04/12So, I'm On Gighive now!
Just learned today that I'm listed on Gighive.com. I submitted my website to them a few weeks ago - I wasn't expecting to get listed in their directory! I'm flattered! Gighive doesn't accept every website that's submitted to them. Maybe the one thing I don't like about Gighive is that once you submit your website to them, everything else they decide to do after is out of your control. The only thing Gighive allows users to do is submit their websites to be approved or disapproved. If your site is accepted for listing on their online directory, they take everything from there. Gighive does its research and it's homework when it comes to accepting or rejecting sites for its directory!
I discovered I was listed on Gighive after looking at my Dynamod Portal analytics. I think I just appeared on Gighive yesterday. Interestingly, they decided to use the part of my bio that talks about my experience as a film composer. Gighive completely left out the part in my bio that talks about my video game composition experience. I'm even listed in Gighive as a "film composer." I wonder why they didn't stress the fact that I score video games? And, these guys at Gighive did their HW. Not only do they have links to my SoundCloud and social media accounts. They also provided a link to my LinkedIn Profile! Huh? That wasn't even on my website in the first place - they went out of their way and found me on LinkedIn.
And back to SoundCloud, Gighive decided to feature my classical piano theme on their blog. Why that piece? Why not my demo reel? Well, we'll see whether or not Gighive drives traffic to my site.
03/03/12Ubisoft: A Quick Look at It's History and More on Male Dominance in the Gaming Industry!
So how did Ubisoft go from small company to third largest publisher of games in the world? This is some serious, commercial stuff. Games are no longer crap like they used to be back in the day of Atari 2600 (like their E.T. game - the worst!) or Intellivision. Ubisoft games like Assassin's Creed and Rainbow Six had hundreds of people working on them. Jesper Kyd scored all the Assassin's Creed games; I wonder what his hook into Ubisoft was? How do you get to score a massive franchise by Ubisoft? That's right, "franchise", not simply a video game. This is serious stuff and serious money. Myst III:Exile was developed by Presto Studios. Mattel owned the Myst franchise back in 2000 when Myst III was being developed. Jack Wall was really lucky - he knew Dan Irish of Mattel and that's how he got to audition for Myst III. And, the rest is history.
So, back to Ubisoft. Ubisoft was co-founded in 1986 by Yves Guillemot. Guillemot is the current CEO of Ubisoft. Ubisoft was founded in 1986 by 5 brothers in Brittany! It released its first game, Zombi, in 1989. After that, Ubisoft starts to expand globally at a rapid pace.
Today, Ubisoft's global headquarters is located in Montreuil-sous-Bois, France. It is ranked as the 3rd independent publisher in both Europe and the U.S. There is only one woman listed on Ubisoft's management team, Christine Burgess-Quémard - she's executive of worldwide studios. There are 5 people on the management team - not alot!
Ubisoft is massive! There are studios around the world (26 countries total!): Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Shanghai are the big ones! Let's see where some of the really memorable games were developed like:
Spinter Cell:Pandora Tomorrow: Ubisoft Shanghai
Myst IV: Revelation: Ubisoft Montreal
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Raven Shield:
Ubisoft Montreal/ Red Storm Entertainment
And the list goes on....
But then, there are some situations where Ubisoft is simply the publisher of a game rather than the developer. For instance, the N64 game Buck Bumble was developed by Argonaut Games and published by Ubisoft. Myst III:Exile was developed by Presto Studios and published by Ubisoft.
How did Ubisoft become the massive game developer/publisher that it is today? Did Guillemont have investors? Ubisoft has a smart business team and group of people. How does any company go from something that's started by a few friends to massive corporate empire? Here's the bigger question, how the heck do composers get the chance to score an Ubisoft franchise? Jesper Kyd has scored all of the Assassin Creed games. Maybe the better question to ask is, how do developers land jobs at Ubisoft? The competition must be fierce - unless you know somebody. I'll blog about EA later - another corporate game giant.
When it comes to scoring an Ubisoft game, the soundtrack release date is up to Ubisoft. I saw a tweet by composer Sam Hulick that said EA BioWare determine the release date of a soundtrack. It's probably the same deal with Ubisoft Music Publishing. I find the recent story of Ubisoft publishing it's own Assassin Creed "digital deluxe game almost comical - why the heck would Ubisoft download a pirated version of Kyd's soundtrack and sell it to the public? Who made that decision at Ubisoft? Who are the guys at Ubisoft music? Didier Lord is the head of Ubisoft Worldwide Music Publishing. I'm betting that games produced by EA and Ubisoft are subjected to lots of gatekeeping and there's less creative freedom because the development teams are huge. Small indie studios with smaller budgets have more creative freedom. Didier Lord is in a sweet spot - head of worldwide music at one of the biggest game publishers in the world. The problem with being a composer is its contract work. Composers can easily be replaced. Jack Wall gets contracted by big companies like EA Bioware and Ubisoft because he's established a name for himself. Now we're back to the whole gender issue - lots of males in this industry. Thus, lots of male composers contracted.
Ok - Winifred Philips got to score a cute game like EA's Sim Animals. Good for her! But remember, the audience for Sim Animals is probably little kids and girls. The primary audiences for games like Splinter Cell, Mass Effect, Halo, etc. are young males. Most of the people working on the development of these games are male. I'm not going to be known for scoring stupid Barbie games. I want to be known for composing on a hit game like God of War, Splinter Cell, Halo, Myst, etc.
03/02/12BMI: "Composing Women" Article
Here's a real interesting article by Lisa Zhito for BMI's Music World magazine about female composers. The article's title sum it up: "Composing Women: The Few, The Proud." Zhito mentions some names of famous female composers. Some names like: Miriam Cutler, Nan Schwartz, Starr Parodi, Jennie Muskett, The Angel, and Lolita Ritmanis, I've never even heard of! I only recently learned about Laura Karpman. I've known about Rachel Portman for a while.
This semester, I'm taking a Gender and Communication class - it's had me thinking about gender issues lately. Both the video game and film composing worlds are heavily dominated by male composers. These male composers are icons and idols like Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard/Howard Shore (Idols of the Film world). And for games, Tommy Tallarico/Jack Wall/Gerard Marino (Idols of the Game world). You really don't hear much about female soundtrack composers - I think this is a real issue. My favorite line in this article is by Laura Karpman. Karpman notes that she was fired from a video game project because the developers claimed that her music wasn't "masculine" or "muscular" enough. Then she adds that she used the rejected score for a first person shooter. Good for her!
Gender is socially constructed - I can make epic battle themes, electronic, and ethnic music just as good as a guy can. Like hello people, being female doesn't mean my battle music will be less fierce than Gerard Marino's God of War themes. Gender has absolutely nothing to do with skill or composing ability. I can compose epic electronic and ethnic music just as well as Jack Wall. My gender has nothing to do with my music. Too many male developers have these pre-conceived notions about what music composed by a female should sound like. My gender shouldn't prevent me from being as well-known as Jack Wall someday - in fact, I plan to be as famous as Jack Wall someday. I'll just need to score epic music for a game that becomes the next big thing like Mass Effect or Halo.
03/01/12More Ranting and Raving on Duduk!
Almost every track I hear that contains a duduk part sounds wonderful to me! I'm not at the point where I can hire a fantastic live player like Chris Bleth to play duduk parts on my soundtracks but, I think the Duduk (if you adjust the setting correctly) in the Kontakt factory selection sounds pretty authentic. Yeah, live players always add something to score - once I get contracted by a big company like Ubisoft or EA someday, I'll probably use live players because these companies would have the budget for an orchestra.
I haven't had to make any corrections on tracks I've composed that contain duduk. I love composing tracks with duduk, electronics, and atmospheric pad. For La Fugue Orpheline, the game I'm working on now, the Cosevamy Theme, Swamp Theme, Alternate Swamp Theme, Confusion Theme, and Middle Class Confédérés share one thing in common: duduk is the primary, lead instrument. I composed the Confusion Theme after listening to tons of Mass Effect by Jack Wall. The lead instrument in the song "Vigil" sounds pretty close to a duduk - although I suspect it's probably some kind of quirky electronic instrument in one of the Spectrasonics products. I really want to purchase Spectrasonics' Omnisphere VST at some point - it sounds awesome! The duduk is what really brings Jack Wall's Myst III and Myst IV scores to life. Brian Tyler's Children of Dune, was considered one of his best works. Guess what instrument was laced throughout the score? Duduk! Interesting we don't see tons of Hans Zimmer stuff with duduk (with the exception of Gladiator) - I like his Pirates of the Caribbean but, he gets boring after a while. Come on Hollywood, there are other talented composers out there (This is exactly why I think composing for games will be a better route to take. The gaming industry is a much younger crowd)!
So, what is so special about this Armenian piece of wood with holes in it? Why is the sound so distinctive? It's really hard to play duduk - only master players like Chris Bleth can achieve the proper sound. Duduks have double reeds! You can perform so many different expressions on the instrument. I own a duduk, a cheap one, and I suck at it!
For the game projects I'm working on now (I can say it's two of them, Fugue Orpheline being the first one), I can't make every track about duduk. In La Fugue Orpheline, I have alot of creative freedom - I can pretty much come up with whatever tracks I want - I've done lots of duduk stuff. For the other project - I'm forced to do different styles of music (Doing Asian music is a really interesting experience). It's a good thing I listened to lots of Jack Wall's Jade Empire! Garritan World is a pretty cool VST with lots of instruments from around the world like pipas, Persian ney, taikos, etc. Electronic and duduk music come really naturally to me because I've been listening to Jack Wall's Myst III and Myst IV for several years for inspiration. I'd love to score a video game like Splinter Cell, Myst III, Myst IV, or Mass Effect! I have a blast composing electronic and ethnic music for La Fugue Orpheline! Sometimes, I think traditional orchestration gets boring after a while!
02/29/12Tommy Tallarico's Cool House!
Tommy Tallarico made some big bucks as a video game composer. He's one of the biggest names in video game composing industry. His house is wild and pretty cool! Tallarico's 3 story house has a Spider-man themed room (with a life sized replica of Spider-man!), an indoor waterfall, an Elvis themed room, a Steinway, an Egyptian dining room, and tons of arcade machines! Tallarico's got some pretty cool cribs - he's managed to make loads of money scoring video games. Of course, the house is located in Los Angeles, composing capital of the world!
Tommy Tallarico sticks out as a game composer because he's got great business people working for him and managing him behind the scenes. Tallarico has made himself an icon that sticks out in the game industry. Tallarico is featured on G4 a lot (at one point he hosted Judgment Day and The Electronic Playground shows), and was primary founder of Video Games Live. He's made lots of money doing these extra activities outside of normal composing contract work.
The majority of the population don't often think about the composers behind today's films and games. It's simply music in the background. Heck, a lot of times, game companies like Ubisoft and EA will include music by popular bands in their games - how commercial! The soundtrack composer is simply in the background. People will take notice of the popular music by bands, but they might not notice the actual score/soundtrack. We live in a world where Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga reign supreme, they are idols to millions of fans. Personally, Jack Wall is my favorite idol! Sure, Jack Wall isn't a pop star like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber - but he's a great composer. Personally, I think Bieber and Gaga suck!
02/28/12Clint Bajakian - Lucas Arts Composer
Clint Bajakian composes some amazing music! After listening to his score for Outlaws in 1997, I knew that someday I would be composing for video games. I notice that some composers hit the jackpot and end up in full time positions - in other words, their sole occupation is to compose music for a particular company. Or, they just get contract after contract. Between album sales and contacts, they earn livings as composers. Then, I noticed other composers, like Laura Karpman (one of the few female game/film composers out there) have another full time job (Karpman is a visiting assistant professor at UCLA: School of Theater, Film, and Television), despite doing commercial projects. Huh? In my case, I'll want a decent day job for a while but in the end, I want to be able to earn paychecks by getting a steady stream of contract work (like Jack Wall) or work for a studio (Clint Bajakian is now a Senior Music Supervisor at Sony Computer Entertainment America).
I found it interesting that both video game composer superstar Tommy Tallarico and Clint Bajakian came from Massachusetts. Eventually, they both made their way to California to compose music. California - the land of sunshine and composing work (if you know where to find it). At some point, I'll follow the yellow brick road to LA and break down the gender barrier. I will score games and films for life - that's what I'm good at. Not only will I compose for games and films for life, I'm going to be known for it, just like Jack Wall and Tommy Tallarico. Clint Bajakian started at Lucas Arts. My favorite soundtracks by him are Sam & Max: Hit the Road and Outlaws. He also scored some Monkey Island games. Monkey Island isn't my favorite soundtrack - I was a bigger fan of Outlaws and Sam & Max. After Lucas Arts, he freelanced and then worked at Bay Area Sound. Now, he's suddenly Bajakian is a Senior Music Supervisor at Sony. Wow - that's a big jump and interesting path. From in-house composer to Lucas Arts, to freelancer, to Senior Music Manager at Sony. Bajakian is a talented composer. But, I wonder, how did he make the big jump working in a leading audio position at Sony? Connections?
So many successful stories with these male composers - they're like something you see out of Cinderella. Jack Wall becomes a superstar game composer, scoring huge hits like Mass Effect and Myst III:Exile. Inon Zur, big timer, worked his way up scoring some cartoons to epic games by BioWare like Dragon Age: Origins. And, most of the people in audio/music management at EA and Ubisoft are male. Steve Schnur is the worldwide executive of music and music marketing at EA Games. There are a bunch of audio directors at the various Ubisoft locations around the globe - mostly male. These various audio directors are basically like tycoons - it's a sweet position to be the gatekeeper - to decide which composers score a game. How do composers make the leap from scoring games by small indie studios to massive Hollywood budget blockbusters at places like BioWare, EA, Ubisoft, Atari, etc.? Sure, networking is one part of it. But, it's not like you can just send a demo cd off to Lucas Arts, EA, Ubisoft, etc. and expect a response.
02/27/12Jack Wall's "Quirky Orchestral: A Magical and Off-Kilter Adventure" Album Review
Interesting new album release by Jack Wall, "Quirky Orchestral: A Magical and Off-Kilter Adventure". Listened to the album on Spotify. The album was released by West One Music/APM Music. It's definitely different than his Myst and Mass Effect stuff. Not sure what kind of audience it is geared towards. But, I can see why "Quirky" is in the album title. West One Music calls it "production music". Some of these game composers release albums of music for use in trailers in stuff. On West One's site, the genres of “Quirky Orchestral” are listed as "Children", "Film & Drama", and "Orchestral". Curious what sample libraries were used to produce the tracks on the album.
My favorite tracks from "Quirky Orchestral" are: "Journey to the Stars", "A Walk in the Park", "Country Nuts", and "March of the Toy Soldiers". "Journey to the Stars" has some funky instruments and orchestration. The melody comes in short spurts. When I clicked on "Journey to the Stars", I was expecting to hear something more like Mass Effect or Myst. This album illustrates Jack Wall is a pretty versatile composer. "A Walk in the Park" was one of my favorite tracks. It almost sounds like a waltz; the beginning seems to bring up the image you might associate with Gershwin's "Walking the Dog" theme. Before I clicked on "Country Nuts", I was expecting to hear something like Conker's Bad Fur Day or Banjo Kazooie. "Country Nuts" is cool because it's a blues, with some cool acoustic guitar in the background. My favorite part of "March of the Toy Soldiers" was the jew harp in the background (or it might be some kind of VST/synth that's meant to sound something like a jew harp). That's a pretty rhythm.
Now, in regard to deciding whether this album matches up to Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1 and 2, and Myst III and IV, probably not. Then again, I wouldn't expect it to because each of Jack Wall's albums is produced for a specific purpose. You wouldn't find this kind of music in Jade Empire or Mass Effect. Who might buy this album? Maybe fans of Jack Wall. Everything that West One Music releases is meant more for placement in film trailers or ads. When a client wants a particular piece of music for a commercial, instead of hiring a composer to do the music, they go to a big library like West One, select a track, and that track is placed in the ad.
02/26/12My Favorite Tracks by Tommy Tallarico
Now, Jack Wall is a pretty big time game composer. But, Tommy Tallarico is probably the most well-known game composer. Not only does he score video games, he's also built a massive brand out of his business, not to mention he's also the primary founder of Video Games Live.
Tallarico's story on how he got started composing for video games sounds just like something you hear out of Cinderella. Tallarico graduated college, left Springfield, MA, and drove across to sunny California, with "no money". According to his story, he spent a period of time living under a pier at Huntington Beach. Yikes! Then, he got a job selling keyboards at a music store. And magic, he waits on a customer who happened to be a producer at a big time game company, Virgin Interactive. And presto, Tallarico got a job at Virgin and managed to work his way up as a composer - the rest is history! The problem with composing is you hear all about the success stories. You don't hear about the failures. And, most of the stories you hear about are these mega male icons - Tallarico, Wall, Kyd, Graves, Beanland, etc. Wait there's female composers? Ok, there's a small aside story on IGN about Winifred Philips and I just discovered the name of two more female composers, Laura Karpman and Penka Kouneva - these are the only names I've been able to find so far that kinda stick out. These three women aren't as known for their work as lead or solo composers. Ex. Philips did additional music for Little Big Planet, Kouneva works for big time Hollywood composer Steve Jablonsky, and I'm not sure how much solo composing work Karpman has done yet. The female composers are not known to the extent of Kyd, Tallarico, Wall, Graves, etc. Yeah, when I break in, I'm going to dissolve the gender barrier in film/game scoring. This is a problem - males dominate the film/game composition industries. Anyway, that's another post for another time. Now, back to Tallarico...
I read an article earlier where people criticized Tallarico's music. They said he was more about making money and didn't have great music. I didn't 100% agree with the critics. I would say Jack Wall's music is superior to Tommy Tallarico's music but, I wouldn't call Tallarico's music horrible. Tallarico is great at doing business, getting strong contacts in the industry, and probably has great people managing him. He did great soundtracks for some of the old Sega Genesis games like: Cool Spot, Aladdin, and Earthworm Jim. I really like the work he did on Cool Spot. My favorite themes from that game are: "Western Tune" and "Playin' Da Blues." I also like his "Desert" track from the Sega Genesis version of Aladdin. He writes catchy tunes. Tallarico met the right people at the right time (this seems to be the case with all these famous male composers). His show, Video Games Live, makes him one of the most visible game composers today. He was also inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008. One of the records he holds is scoring over 270 commercially released games. Tallarico probably spends more time now touring around the world with Video Games Live than composing.
02/25/12Cool VSTs: Spectrasonics' Omnisphere
Omnisphere by Spectrasonics looks like a cool VST! It has 5,121 patches, 2,740 soundsources, and 144 multis. At some point, I will buy this package. Spectrasonics' products were used by Jack Wall's team on the Mass Effect games. Too bad Spectrasonics discontinued Atmosphere. But, Omnisphere sounds pretty awesome! I love composing electronic/ambient. I'd love to do a project like Splinter Cell or Mass Effect in the future!
02/24/122003 TAXI Interview With Jack Wall
Really interesting article by Doug Minnick from TAXI, an A&R group that gives bands, signers, etc. an opprotunity to get deals with people in the music business. According to TAXI, record companies, music supervisors, etc. contact them to find new singers to sign or songs to place. Clients of TAXI include Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, MTV, etc. I'll probably end up joining Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G) when I become more established and known. In other words, I'll need to score the next big game like Myst III: Exile, Syberia, or Dreamfall before I join G.A.N.G.!
Jack Wall's credits include Myst III:Exile, Wrath, Mass Effect 1 & 2 and other amazing games. Jack Wall is the cream of the crop when it comes to game composers. Jack Wall noted that he founded G.A.N.G. as a resource for budding composers, giving them opprotunities to speak with people that have greater experience in the field. At some point, when I break into the industry, I'll probably have to network at trade shows such as E3 and the Game Developer's Conference (GDC). Usually, the big time audio directors from companies such Microsoft and Sony attend these conferences and there are informative panels held.
The most interesting aspect of this article is the topic regarding what composer's should charge for services. Since this article was written in 2003, the numbers might be a little higher or lower, depending on certain factors. Back 2003, according to Jack Wall, composers should charge $500-$1,500 per finished minute of music. $500 per finished minute of music is beginner pay while some pro composers, at the top of their fields, might charge $1,700-$2,000 per finished minute of music. Right now, I'm still at the point where I'm not known yet. The only way I'm going to get this type of pay is through an established game company (like Microids, Ubisofr, EA, etc.) or a game company that suddenly produces the next hit title. Wall notes that most game have an average of 40 minutes of music total - that's alot of music! I want to make a long term career out of composing for big time video games. I will break in - it's a just a question of when. I'm going to break this nasty pattern of dominance by male composers. I will be as successful as Jack Wall, Tommy Tallarico, Jesper Kyd, Jason Graves, Inon Zur, etc. Gender doesn't make any difference.
Jack Wall makes an important point that the video game music industry is "a business of relationships." The composer is a member of a creative team. Game producers and designers are just creative as the composer according to Wall. I often wonder how film makers and game designers break into the large companies. How does an aspiring director and producer get to do a big film for Paramount, Universal, etc.? In regard to games, how do game designers work up the chain to work for a big company like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Activision, Atari, etc.? Those big gaming companies are major publishers of games too.
02/23/12Conker's Bad Fur Day by Robin Beanland
When I played Conker's Bad Fur Day on the N64 for the first time, I felt sick. There is some gross stuff in this game. I played both Banjo Kazooie games when I was young back in 1998-1999. Banjo Kazooie rocked! Grant Kirkhope did great scores for Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie. I thought playing Conker's Bad Fur Day would be a similar experience. There's a reason it's rated M. Years later, when I had my Xbox, I got the remake of Bad Fur Day, Conker: Live & Reloaded. That's when I realized that the music in this game is amazing.
Robin Beanland scored Bad Fur Day and Live & Reloaded. My favorite tracks are: "Conker the King", "Windy", "Sloprano", and "Mr. Squirrel, I Think I'm a Goner." Rareware has a great staff of composers - known for creating strong melody lines for the games. "Conker the King" is the opening song of the game. My only problem with it is Beanland got away with bloody murder - it sounds just like (almost too close to) "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary." But, composer Henry Purcell is long dead and can't exactly sue for copyright. "Windy" is a great track! I have lots of fun jazzing it up on piano! "Windy" plays when Conker romps around one of the more pleasant areas of the game, Windy, and talks to Birdy the Scarecrow! "Sloprano" has a great melody, despite the 'potty humor'. Interestingly, the N64 version of the game, Bad Fur Day does not censor a curse word in the song. However, in the Xbox version, the curse word is bleeped out. Wonder why Rareware made a more mild, dumbed down version of Conker for the Xbox? "Mr. Squirrel, I Think I'm a Goner" is a minor track in the game - but sounds awesome! It has dramatic strings and such.
I wonder what sample libraries Kirkhope and Beanland used for Conker and Banjo Kazooie when they came out during the late 90s, early 2000s? In Live and Reloaded, Beanland obviously changed sample libraries - for instance, the Hapsichord in "Conker the King" on the Xbox version sounds alot more realistic than the N64 version. I've never heard of a Flumpet until I saw this video of Beanland playing it - kinda cool!
02/22/12Steve Forman's Tambourine Percussion Studio
When I was reading about the creation of the Myst III:Exile main theme, I learned that composer Jack Wall recorded the percussion at the Tambourine Percussion Studio in Highland Park, California. When composers work with live players, they don't always record all of the instruments together in one session. Myst III: Exile's main theme has a very complex rhythm. Jack Wall had the percussion bed for the Myst III theme recorded at the Tambourine Studio.
Apparently, numerous film composers use Steve Forman's Tambourine Percussion Studio to add percussion beds and layerings to their soundtracks. On his site, there are example percussion cues from Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Chris Beck and a theme from Jeremiah by Bruce Broughton (the composer who scored Disney's Homeward Bound movies!). This studio also has loads of interesting percussion instruments such as Bodhrans (Irish Frame Drums), Taikos, and my favorite, a "Coca-Cola Gong"- "a vintage Coke sign Gong. Excellent for Superball Effects," the site notes. I'd love to see what that Coca-Cola Gong looks like and play it! It never even crossed my mind that an antique Coke sign could be a percussion instrument! Cool! Foreman also produces & sells his own line of Irish bodhráns, a type of Irish drum! Cool!
02/21/12My Favorite Tracks That Utilize Duduk!
Okay, I'm back to blogging about duduk. I figured I'd just list some of my favorite tracks that utilize duduk that I have listened to so far. Here it goes:
1. Main Themes from Myst III: Exile by Jack Wall - This was the first time I ever heard duduk. This track inspired me to start composing numerous compositions using duduk. Jack Wall is the best and my all time favorite game composer! There are two versions of the Myst III: Exile main theme. One is played at the intro of the game (it's the shorter version) and the other, extended version is much longer. The extended version of the theme (which can be heard on Wall's site - the 1st song on his track list) only plays once at the end of the game somewhere (perhaps the credits?).
2. "Theme From Edanna" from Myst III: Exile by Jack Wall - No surprises - I was inspired to write the "Cosevamy Theme" for La Fugue Orpheline after listening to this piece. It is so simple and amazing to listen to. It's simply atmospheric pads, electronic instruments/beats, great vocals by Cindy Shapiro, bass and of course, DUDUK!
3. "Messiah" from Children of Dune by Brian Tyler - After listening to "Messiah", I was inspired to write "Middle Class Confédérés" for La Fugue Orpheline. Listening to tracks from Children of Dune taught me that duduk + strings actually work quite well together! Duduk isn't simply married to the atmopheric pad ala Myst: III & IV.
4. "Summon the Worms" from Children of Dune by Brian Tyler - Great use of duduk in this track with fast moving strings. The duduk doesn't play as large a role in this track as "Messiah". But, the presence of the duduk, however minor it might be, adds something extra to the track. Man, I love duduk.
5. "Water" from Partition by Brian Tyler - I'm not 100% positive but, I'm pretty sure the opening instrument in "Water" is a duduk. This is such a simple track. The big movie executives down in Hollywood should take another listen to Brian Tyler's soft, melodic music and hire him for more films like Partition instead of Fast Five and Battle LA! Too many scores are trying to sound like Hans Zimmer today - how boring! Visit Brian Tyler's site to hear more of his Partition soundtrack - it's amazing!
6. "Okirana" from Outcast by Lennie Moore - This is a great duduk track! Unlike the previous tracks by Jack Wall & Brian Tyler that I mentioned above, the duduk moves quicker in this track. There's a faster tempo in this track. Although the duduk is only at the beginning, it is amazing! After the cool duduk opening, it is followed by the full orchestra. Outcast was recorded in Moscow. Why isn't Lennie Moore as famous as Jack Wall? Hm... He writes some pretty good music - but he hasn't done anything big lately.
7. Myst IV:Revelation "Main Theme" by Jack Wall - Again, the duduk only has a minor part in Myst IV's main theme, but it makes big difference. The Myst IV piece is lighter than the Exile theme. For Myst IV, Jack Wall was trying to create a score with a more Eastern European flavor. This Eastern European influence really comes out in the song "Welcome", another one of my favorite tracks from the game!
8. Myst III: Exile "Airship Chasm" by Jack Wall - This track is amazing! The melody is great and the rhythm is awesome! I think one of the rhythm instruments sound like a Jew's harp - but it's more likely to be some kind of electronic instrument from a VST package (For the Myst III soundtrack in general, I'm curious which VSTs Jack Wall used for the ambient background and such? Did Spectrasonics even have a package back then?).
9. Myst III: Exile "Deadwood Ridge" by Jack Wall - This is one of those types of tracks where the player can listen to it all day. It isn't repetitive. It kind of reminds me of the type of tracks I'm doing for a project now - in-game music. I own Myst III: Exile on PS2 - I remember hearing this track in some cave area in the Age of Edanna. Again, the duduk is what makes this track work. Without the duduk, the track would be missing something.
10. Myst III: Exile "Swing Vines" by Jack Wall - This is an amazing track. Jack Wall seems to use a similar atmospheric pad backing in the Myst tracks - dying to know what software package/VST he used for the electronic and atmospheric effects. Again, the duduk only appears in brief segments but, it's a key instrument that makes the piece work. The duduk is the primary melody. If there was no duduk in this piece, it wouldn't really work.
11. Myst III:Exile "Teaser Trailer" theme by Jack Wall - This is cool track that demonstrates that duduk and bagpipes (or possibly uilleann pipes?) can go together. However, I like the duduk part better than the bagpipes section. I can see why this was only a trailer track.
I'm sure as I listen to more music, I will encounter more tracks that use duduk! It's an amazing instrument that unfortunately, I probably won't be able to play!
02/20/12Inon Zur: Video Game Composer
Inon Zur writes some pretty nice music. However, I prefer Jack Wall's stuff over Zur's. Then again, they write two different styles of music. Jack Wall is known for his ambient/electronic music (kind of the direction I'd like to head when I break into the industry) and Zur's music is more orchestral/ethnic. Zur has some pretty nice tracks. I really like Zur's score to Syberia II. It was more ethnic and diverse than Syberia I. But, I still preferred listening to Syberia I's soundtrack over Syberia II. I like Zur's Dragon Age: Origins music. His main theme for the game is awesome.
Zur has an interesting background - traveling from Israel to LA to study music and do composing. He scored some cartoons and a few b-movies before breaking into games. California is where the action is for composers. Ultimately, I will probably end up moving out to LA when my business gets off the ground.
02/19/12A Really Cool Article About "Permutative Music" in Splinter Cell!
Wow! Just blogged about Splinter Cell the other day and found this really cool article by Peter Kirn explaining the behavior of the music in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is composed by Amon Tobin, known for his electronic music.
When I compose for games, I'm used to doing it on a track by track basis. Then, the programmers implement the approved track into the game. This article by Kirn explains something called "permutative music". "Permutative music" is music that changes based on the "unpredictable actions" of the player. So, basically it's music that can adapt to the player's actions. This "permutative music" must involve complex implementation and programming knowledge. After all, the music would have to smoothly & instantly adapt to the player's actions, depending what they are doing in the game at a given moment. Films are linear - you score against a picture & you're done! On the other hand, games, although it's kind of cool that you're not confined to scoring against a picture, there are other challenges. Playing video games is an interactive experience.
I first stumbled upon the concept of music & audio implementation when I read about the work Jack Wall and his team (Wall of Sound Inc.) did on the Mass Effect games. They have a person on the team, Brian DiDomenico, whose primary task is to implement completed music into the game using a program called Wwise. In the case of the Mass Effect games, the music also adapts to what the player is doing.
I'm learning these about these challenges now on the project I'm working on. Movies have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. When someone downloads a game, they could leave it on all day if they wanted to. I have to write in-game music in a particular fashion so that a player won't get bored with it, avoid repetition, and make it more like music that lingers in the background. I consider myself a heavy thematic compose - composing themes with a beginning, middle, and end, with catchy melodies. In some situations, strict thematic writing is good. The main theme of a game has to be good - this is one of the factors that determines whether a game is a piece of garbage or art.
02/18/12Brian Tyler's "Timeline"
I see why people complain about Brian Tyler's music - he's not Hans Zimmer. But, I don't think Tyler is a bad composer. He just happens to end up scoring alot of crappy films that flop in theaters. Timeline is one of those flops - it did really bad in theaters. I remember seeing Timeline in theaters - I didn't think it was such a bad film. Time travel films tend to fail because general audiences are confused by the whole lingo of time travel: alternate universe, paradoxes, changing history because of certain actions, etc. I didn't have any problems following the film.
Back to Tyler's score. There are some pretty cool battle themes. I like the main theme that's laced throughout all the tracks. My favorite tracks from Timeline are: "Main Theme", "1357 France", and "Lady Claire and Marek". "Lady Claire and Marek" is a really nice example of Tyler's ability to compose soft, melodic themes. His "Partition" score is also full of soft, melodic themes. Unfortunately, directors seem to scoop him up for heavy, techno, electronic, orchestral hybrid scores (like Fast Five).
I get bored listening to Hans Zimmer after awhile. Hans Zimmer will always get to score the hit blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean and such. Will we ever see Brian Tyler score a hit film like Pirates or Lion King? Probably not because of Hollywood politics and the circle of Hollywood directors he's paired with. There is a strong tie between composers and directors.
02/17/12The Soundtracks of the Splinter Cell Series
I love the soundtracks from the Splinter Cell games. They are primarily electronic and ambient because most of the tasks that players need to complete in the games require alot of concentration. My "Stealth Theme" is inspired by the Splinter Cell soundtracks. I love composing electronic and ambient music.
Michael Plowman composed the first Splinter Cell soundtrack. The music is very limited during game play. It's shocking to me how I see some of these composers score a huge game and then go back to small projects. Huh? So after Plowman scores Ubisoft's mega Splinter Cell game, according to IMDB, he's simply been scoring TV movies/documentaries? One video game? What happened? What is the logic in the decision making process at Ubisoft and such when they pick composers? Why do some composers get to score one game and not it's sequel?
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow was scored by Jack Wall. Ubisoft hired Lalo Schifrin to compose the main theme. Here's another interesting decision by Ubisoft. So, they have Jack Wall do the full soundtrack and then Lalo Schifrin, the famous Mission Impossible composer do the main theme? Um....so the point of Schifrin was?
Next, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory's soundtrack was by Amon Tobin and Jesper Kyd. The 1st and 3rd Splinter Cell games were by Ubisoft in Montreal. Pandora Tomorrow was by Ubisoft in Shanghai. Again, why does Ubisoft keep changing composers around instead of sticking to one?
Splinter Cell: Double Agent & Splinter Cell: Conviction had some composers. Double Agent was scored by Michael McCann and Cris Velasco. Conviction was scored by Kaveh Cohen, Michael Nielson, and Amon Tobin.
Amon Tobin had a nice route into game composition because he made it as a solo artist, going under the name Atlus Plug. Bands and songwriters that make it big seem to have some advantages over mainstream composers - such as easy access to getting to score a big time game by Ubisoft. Ubisoft came to him and asked him to score Chaos Theory and Conviction.
It's a little harder for mainstream composers that simply do soundtracks. Jack Wall, Jesper Kyd, Inon Zur - these guys weren't known for being in a famous band. Sometimes, game companies will include several songs by popular bands into soundtracks. For instance, Jack Wall did the score for Mass Effect. There was a song included in Mass Effect, "M4, Part II" by the Faunts, a Canadian rock group. The inclusion of bands in game soundtraks might be for the enjoyment of the consumers. But, it might also be a form of commercialization for the game. Faunts is probably more well known than Jack Wall.
02/16/12Myst III: Exile Main Theme by Jack Wall
Cool article from MYSTerium, a Myst fansite in which composer Jack Wall talks about creating the main theme from Myst III:Exile. I first heard the Myst III:Exile theme during the spring semester of my sophomore year at college. This was around the same time I was recruited by Insacréajeu to score La Fugue Orpheline. When I heard Jack Wall's Myst III:Exile theme, I couldn't stop listening to his music. Jack Wall is one of my biggest influences. My favorite type of music to compose is electronic/ambient and ethnic mixed with electronics.
In the article, Jack Wall notes that the rhythm in Myst III's main theme is very complex. I'm very curious what the midi mock up of this piece sounded like before he recorded with live orchestra and choir. This is a heck of a piece to try to mock up. And, the choir was added later on - which is even more shocking to me. The choir part really makes this piece. The percussion bed in the piece is amazing. At the bottom of the page, it lists the musicians/instruments used in the piece. The name of the percussion instruments used to record the theme sound pretty cool: "Taos Drum", "Talk Drum", "Jun-Jun Chimes", "Bulap Bag full of rocks", "Sheet Metal", etc. It's amazing how Jack Wall and game composers easily mesh electronic instruments/samples with live recording - this piece certainly demonstrates a mastery of that craft. Guess Jack Wall has an advantage because of his engineering background and work as a sound engineer. It was recorded with the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra. Remember, this was back in 2000 - he used older software like Digital Performer. Yikes!
When I find the time, I'm going to take a crack at creating a piece like the Exile main theme - something that's epic, combining unique percussion elements, atmospherics, and booming orchestra. But for now, I'm a little busy working on a project, on deadline. I really want to score a game like Myst III:Exile or Myst IV:Revelation someday! I want to be the next Jack Wall!
02/15/12Video Games Live: Awesome!
I want to see a Video Games Live (VGL) concert someday! I think I will. Heck, if I attach myself to a hit game and I'm the composer - maybe I will be able to watch one of my own pieces being performed at VGL. Seeing it live is a much better experience than watching YouTube clips of VGL concerts.
VGL was founded by Tommy Tallarico, a world famous game composer. At VGL shows, live orchestras perform various video game themes. VGL tours around the world. Tallarico has made quite a name for himself (& lots of $$$) through VGL. He does more VGL now than composing. It's an interactive experience - while the orchestra plays, there's game footage that appears on a screen. The orchestra synchronizes itself live (in some cases) to the game play footage on the screen. From 2005-2010, Jack Wall was the conductor for VGL. He quit in 2010 because he wanted to go back and focus on composing. Can't believe Jack Wall was doing VGL and scoring top games at the same time - yikes! I really enjoyed watching the PBS special, Video Games Live: Level 2!
My favorite VGL songs are: Myst Medley, Sonic the Hedgehog Medley, and Baba Yetu from Civilization IV. Sonic sounds pretty awesome with a full orchestra.
02/14/12Lucas Arts: Great Games, Great Soundtracks!
Way back in 1997, Lucas Arts' Outlaws sparked my interest in composing for video games. Outlaws is a first person shooter that takes place in the Wild West! The soundtrack is amazing & epic! Clint Bajakian is a great composer. When he composed the soundtrack for Outlaws, he noted he was inspired by Ennio Morricone. Some of the tracks are very close to Morricone (ex. "The Last Gunfight" sounds really close to a particular track by Morricone). My favorite tracks from Outlaws are: "Outlaws" (Main Theme), "Anna's Theme", "Sanctuary", and "The Train". It's amazing how far games have come since Outlaws.
Sam & Max: Hit the Road is my other favorite Lucas Arts soundtrack. This is another great soundtrack by Clint Bajakian (also by Michael Land & Peter McConnell)! It's a wonderful jazz soundtrack. My favorite tracks from Sam & Max are: "Dino Bungie National Memorial", "Highway Surfing", "Savage Jungle Inn", and the Main Theme. It's a funny game about two detectives - a dog named Sam and a slick bunny named Max. It's an adventure game - old fashion point & click. It's alot easier to play than Myst III:Exile or Syberia! Now, Telltale Games produces Sam & Max titles - the only Sam & Max game that I've played by Telltale is Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die. This was a free download on Telltale's website. I personaly like Lucas Arts classic Hit the Road over the new Sam & Max titles by Telltale Games.
Alot of people love Lucas Arts' Monkey Island soundtracks. I've played a little bit of The Secrets of Monkey Island. But, I had more fun playing Sam & Max: Hit the Road. I wish Lucas Arts would remake Outlaws. Then again, maybe some classics aren't meant to be remade. For instance, after Sega released Sonic Adventure for Dreamcast, I think the next-gen Sonic games are pretty crappy compared to the original Genesis titles.
02/13/12Winifred Philips: Video Game Composer
Not everyone knows who composes soundtracks for games. But, if you were to ask an avid video game music fan questions like: Have you heard of Jack Wall? Have you heard of Jesper Kyd? Have you heard of Marty O'Donnell? The answer would probably be Yes. But, have you heard of Winifred Philips? Hm....
Winifred Philips is one of the few female game composers out there. Her tracks from Sim Animals are pretty cool. I noticed that she's done alot of work as an additional composer, rather than as a solo composer. For instance, Philips was only one of many composers working on Little Big Planet 2 and God of War. When I think of God of War, the first name that comes to my mind is Gerard Marino, not Winifred Philips. I see this sense of male domination in the soundtrack world - I don't like it. I'd love to see more solo composition work by Winifred Philips.
Personally, I want to be a known composer, just like Jack Wall. I will be the next Jack Wall. Gender doesn't make any difference and shouldn't be factored into deciding who gets to compose for a game. Sadly, there are more examples of work by male composers than by female composers - which might influence a developer to pick a male composer over a female composer. I intend to change this. Perhaps other factors might include: video games are probably played by more males than females and the whole gaming industry is male dominated.
Also, by chance, composers like Jack Wall (Mass Effect, Myst III:Exile) & Marty O'Donnell (Halo) are super lucky, composing soundtracks for hit games that sell millions of copies. In other words, Sim Animals wasn't flying off the shelves as fast as Mass Effect or Halo.
Bioware makes some great games - ranging from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect. It is a division of EA Games. Bioware is known for their great RPG games. It's a mega company, complete with it's own TV station (Bioware TV) and a reputation for creating amazing games. It's also big time because it's a division of EA. All these big gaming companies/publishers like EA and Ubisoft tend to buy out smaller companies. Bioware's main HQ is located in Alberta, Canada.
Companies I'd love to be contracted by someday: Bioware, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Lucas Arts, Rareware, Microsoft, Microids/Anuman Interactive, and the list goes on...
I thought the first two Halo games were a big deal. And they were, when they came out a few years ago. I guess Halo 3 is still a big deal. I wish I owned an Xbox 360 so that I could play the Mass Effect games. They're releasing Mass Effect 3 soon! Too bad Jack Wall isn't composing for Mass Effect 3. Now, I purchase games based on how good their soundtracks are! I'll probably get Jade Empire for my Xbox at some point. Will I actually be able to get very far in Jade Empire? Probably not! But, at least I'll be able to it's awesome soundtrack by Jack Wall. Jade Empire is another great game by Bioware.
If I'm going to be contracted by a major company like Ubisoft or Bioware, I'll need to attach myself to a project that becomes a massive hit. For instance, Angry Birds was produced by a small indie game company - look how that turned out! It was a hit, selling millions of copies. I need to attach myself to a project that becomes a hit like Angry Birds.
02/09/12Game Soundtracks That Feature Duduk!
It seems like any game soundtrack I listened to that features duduk I fall in love with! My favorite soundtracks that use duduk are: Myst III:Exile & Myst IV: Revelation. Outcast also has a great track that features duduk.
I'll have to keep an eye out for more game soundtracks that feature duduk. I love listening to duduk and love composing with duduk. It's such an amazing instrument. Last December, I got a duduk for the holidays - only problem is, I can't play it. I can generate some sound out of it - but nothing like what I've heard in soundtracks. It has a double reed and it's really hard to play.
A famous duduk player is Chris Bleth. He's played duduk for a variety of composers ranging from Jack Wall to Hans Zimmer. He played on both Myst III:Exile and Myst IV: Revelation. Great sound! Prior to listening to Myst III:Exile, I have never heard of a duduk. After I found out what it was, I fell in love with it's mysterious sound.
02/08/12Dreamfall by Leon Willett
Love the music from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey by Leon Willett! My favorite tracks from Dreamfall are "The Hos;ital Room" and "Casablanca." The whole story of how Leon Willett got the gig to do Dreamfall for Funcom is pretty amazing. He actually got the company to listen to his demo reel. That's pretty amazing! Another amazing feature of the Dreamfall soundtrack is that it was composed with mainly sample libraries instead of live players - the average person wouldn't be able to distinguish between the two.
I played Dreamfall a few times on my Xbox. I got alot further in Dreamfall than Myst III:Exile! In addition to the amazing soundtrack, I liked the adventure components of Dreamfall, where you could explore areas. I wasn't a huge fan of the fighting component of Dreamfall.
02/07/12Mass Effect 3: Jack Wall Being Replaced by Clint Mansell
Love listening to Jack Wall's Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 tracks! My favorite track by Wall is "Vigil" from Mass Effect. Reading articles across the web, there are some mixed reactions regarding Jack Wall's departure from the Mass Effect series. I'm sure Clint Mansell will do a fine job scoring Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect is more popular than the Myst games. Jack Wall scored Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation. I think the work he did on the Myst games is better than his work on the Mass Effect games. Then again, you can't really compare Myst to Mass Effect because they are very different games. When Uru and Myst 5 came out, no one seemd to complain about Tim Larkin scoring the last 2 Myst games. I really love Jack Wall's Myst III:Exile and Myst IV:Revelation soundtracks because they have the tracks have the right blend of melody and ambience. Larkin's Myst V was too ambient for me - not enough original melodies. Uru is a little better in terms of melody.
I love Jack Wall's Myst III and Myst IV soundtracks because they are so unique. It's not your traditional battle music - instead it's a great blend of ethnic/ambient/electronic/classical, seemlessly meshed. I can't wait to see what Jack Wall scores next! I really hope he does another soundtrack like Exile or Revelation - love his use of duduk. I could listen to Jack Wall's Myst soundtracks all day. When the music is addicting, that's a sign that you've created a great soundtrack. I want to be the next Jack Wall, score a big game like Myst III, Splinter Cell, or Mass Effect.
02/05/12The Soundtracks of Microids' Syberia Games
When I'm not listening to Myst III:Exile or Myst IV: Revelation, I'm listening to the soundtracks from Syberia 1 & 2! I like Inon Zur's Syberia II soundtrack. However, I like Dimitri Bodiansky & Nicolas Varley's Syberia soundtrack even more! I wondered why Microids didn't decide to use Bodiansky & Varley again. Inon Zur is fairly well known and popular, scoring games like Dragon Age and Lord of the Rings: War in the North. I wonder how that decision was made at Microids.
My favorite tracks from Syberia is the opening theme. This theme occurs when the player is in Valedeline - the strings sound great. I also like the track "Train to Komkolzgrad", again the strings sound wonderful. Syberia II's soundtrack has a more ethnic, rustic feel to it. Then again, Zur had to make it more ethnic/rusitc because the main protagonist of the game, Kate Walker, abandons her law career to pursue the mammoths in Siberia.
Both Syberia games are alot easier to play than Myst. I didn't last long trying to figure out how the heck to solve the puzzles in Myst III:Exile (instead, I was more focused on listening to Jack Wall's superb duduk music while struggling to figure out how to get out of the Age of Eddana!). I had to use an online guide to get through Syberia - so that was kind of cheating because the guide had all of the puzzle solutions. Microids is owned by Anuman Interactive, a French game company. I'd love to compose for a Microids/Anuman Interactve game someday!
02/04/12Carlo Siliotto's Fluke Soundtrack
One of my favorite film scores is Fluke (1995) by Carlo Siliotto. The film wasn't as poplular as other movies about dogs like Homeward Bound. The soundtrack is amazing. The film is about a dad (played by Matthew Modine) who dies after sliding off the road during a race with his business partner. The dad is reborn as a Golden Retriever and finds his way back home to his family. My favorite tracks from Fluke are: "Journey to Hopewell", "Memories of Another Life", "The School/Carol and Brian", "Death of Tom/Fluke and Jeff", "The Nightmare Becomes True" - I like the whole soundtrack! It's hard to pick one favorite! Carlo Siliotto has done more international films than U.S. films. He isn't as well known as Hans Zimmer. Would love to hear more soundtracks by Siliotto!
02/03/12Brian Tyler's Epic Call of Duty MW3
I love Brian Tyler's website! He's scored so many films and now he's scoring games. So far, in terms of games he has scored Modern Warfare 3, Lego Universe, and Need for Speed: The Run. Brian Tyler is known for his epic action themes. "Russian Warfare" is my favorite track from MW3! I also like "Battle for New York" and "Prague Hostilities". I'll have to get an Xbox 360 to play some of these cool games I'm missing out on like Mass Effect, Modern Warfare 3, etc.
Man, I really want to score a game by EA or Ubisoft! I want to be known as a famous video game composer like Jack Wall and Tommy Tallarico. A lot of these famous video game composers end up in California - that's where most of the contacts are. Although, there are some big time game companies around the world such as Crytek, BioWare (owned by EA), Anuman Interactive, etc.
02/01/12Canadian Magazine Article: Composing for Video Games
Found this really cool article about the video game music industry, "The World of Game Composing" by Peter Lawrence Alexander, that focuses on the business side of the industry. It features tips from famous game composers such as Jack Wall, Inon Zur, Jesper Kyd, etc., about rights, contract negotiation, etc.
When I read the article, I thought back to my experience I had with getting turned down to do a track in the style of Myst for 3D Training Academy because I wanted to keep the rights to my music. Yeah, I probably messed up on that decision - it happened a few years ago and I wasn't aware of the business side/performance rights. In the article, Inon Zur and other composers note that the publisher retains all rights to the music. Hopefully, the trend will change and someday, composers will be able to retain rights on their music.
Composing is a business - the creative side of the actual music creation is alot more fun than the administrative stuff. Once I break into the industry, earn a living composing for games, I'll probably get an agent at a big agency such as Four Bar Intertainment or Gorfaine Schwartz Agency. Right now, I'm trying to get my foot in the door. Gorfaine Schwartz represents lots of famous film composers such as Hans Zimmer. Every composer in this article uses live players & orchestras in their scores. Lots of messy business stuff associated with this as well (unions, etc.). I liked the part in the article that contained the contract checklist - when I make it big, I'll probably have albums/mp3s for sale at some point.
Alot of these guys note that they're often brought on board during the very early phases of a project and don't get a chance to even play builds of the game they're scoring. They also have to be aware of how the music will be implemented in the game. I've been scoring La Fugue Orpheline for 2 years now and have never played it - I basically work off a design document. At the same time, I have lots of freedom to be creative with the themes - quick, short pieces that can be looped. This isn't the case for another project I'm scoring (which I can't talk about yet) - the composition is more complex because I have to keep in mind how the player plays the game. It's not like a film where I can just orchestrate something pretty against the picture, get the director's approval, and be done. Luckilly, my first composing project was La Fugue Orpheline - so it's not like I'm making a leap from film scoring to games - I taught myself how to score films a little later on. Now, I'm learning that in-game music needs to be done a particular way so that the player doesn't lose interest - it can't be too repetitive. This is true in alot of games - the tracks are either looped or in some kind of playlist so that a player can play for 3-4 hours without losing interest - listen to the music all day. Unlike some of the composers in the article that don't get to play early builds/prototype of the games they score - I'm looking forward to playing an early build/prototype really soon!
01/31/12Brian Tyler's "Terra Nova"
Love the soundtrack from "Terra Nova" by Brian Tyler! Brian Tyler is known for his heavy action scores/heavy electronic scores such as "Fast Five". My favorite track from "Terra Nova" is "Cycles of Time". Brian Tyler doesn't get to score top A-List films - alot of the films he scores don't do well at the box office. Hans Zimmer is lucky, found the right directors, and ended up scoring Academy Award winning movies like "Gladiator." John Williams was super lucky - composing for films such as "Star Wars" & "Indiana Jones." SyFy's "Children of Dune" is one of Tyler's best work and of course, it features duduk. I love listening to tracks that feature duduk. I like the movement of the strings in "Cycles of Time."
01/28/12Jade Empire by Jack Wall rocks!
I love the Jade Empire soundtrack by Jack Wall. Jade Empire is produced by BioWare, the same company that created the Mass Effect series. My favorite tracks from Jade Empire are: the main theme, "A Night Out", "The Waterdragon", "Ballad of the Drunken Revellers","Dawn Star Theme", and "Fury, Hammers, and Tongs." Great use of Asian instruments and there are alot of great tracks that use percussion only. It's amazing the kind of stuff composers create using only percussion.
I'd love to get contracted by a huge company like BioWare (which is owned by Electronic Arts) or Ubisoft. There are tons of famous male composers that land these huge contracts with massive game companies. Don't hear alot about famous female game composers - this upsets me. I've read about Winifred Philips, a famous American composer - scored some games like Little Big Planet and such. But, on alot of the games she scored, she was one of many composers working on the title. She's not famous for her work as a lead composer or solo composer in the same sense that some of the famous male composers. Jack Wall, Jesper Kyd, Tommy Tallarico, Jason Graves, Gerard Marino - these names are huge in the gaming industry. People are more likely the have heard of Jack Wall and Tommy Tallarico than Winifred Philips. Why? Is it because Jack Wall & Tallarico met the right people, knew the right contacts? Are females less likely to want to score video games?
I see the same issue in film scores. Rachel Portman is the one famous name that sticks out in the film scoring world. But, Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, etc. seem more well known than Portman. Not alot of female film composers. Why?
I want to be a famous, well-known,video game composer, just like Tallarico, Wall, Graves, Marino, etc. They make a living writing music everyday for video games. I intend to do the same thing at some point.
01/20/12Jack Wall & Myst III
Found a cool Sound on Sound article about Jack Wall composing for Myst III: Exile. Music can make or break a game - I'll be starting on a new project soon that I can't talk about yet - have to compose lots of music in a limited amount of time! Jack Wall had lots of time to compose for Myst III: Exile.
Jack Wall got the chance to compose for Myst III because he knew someone, Dan Irish. The article notes he had to audition before a committee. I'll have to network and get to know some contacts in order to get to score a game for a big company like Ubisoft, EA, Bioware, etc.
I thought it was interesting how Jack used the Garritan strings library before recording live with the orchestra. Jack Wall's use of duduk in the soundtrack has heavily influenced my composing. For instance, I composed the Cosevamy Theme for La Fugue Orpheline after listening to Jack Wall's Theme from Eddana.
Composing can be an ongoing financial burden because you have to keep buying the latest VSTs and DAWs. I'm going to be using Project SAM Orchestral Essentials for the next project I'm working on because it will be way easier to work with & sounds much better than my current orchestral VST.
01/13/12Brian Tyler's "Partition"
Haven't blogged in awhile! Partition and Children of Dune are some of my favorite soundtracks by Brian Tyler. Partition stars Kristin Kreuk and is set in India. My favorite tracks from Partition are: Partition (Main Theme) & Water. The instrument in Water sounds like a duduk. I know that there's tons of duduk used in Children of Dune. It's a shame that Brian Tyler doesn't do more scores like Children of Dune & Partition. Instead, he's doing big action films like Fast Five & Final Destination 5.
12/31/11New Years Eve & SoundCloud!
It's almost 2012! I noticed alot of my musician friends use SoundCloud as a way to promote their bands. Now, I'm giving SoundCloud a try - mainly as a promotional tool. SoundCloud is also cool because I can share my tracks on Facebook with my friends and post them on my Facebook Fanpage. I'm not putting all my music on SoundCloud. Instead, I put up a few tracks: Cosevamy, Stealth, Rock, and Alternate Journey Theme. Hopefully 2012 will be an exciting year for me - I'm hoping for new, exciting projects.
12/23/11Jack Wall's Mass Effect Music: Awesome!
I read this article about how composer Jack Wall & his team scored Mass Effect 1 & 2. Yikes! I'd love to be contracted by a huge company like BioWare someday! Composing music isn't easy - Jack Wall and his team raced to finish composing the score: 65 minutes of music by Jack Wall and tons more by the other composers -wow! In addition to composing the music, Jack Wall and his team also do implementation. Alot of the composers also worked remotely - BioWare is in Canada.
Implementation is one thing you don't worry about when scoring a film. A film is linear. Implementing music into a game requires programming knowledge: seemless transition between music tracks in the game, additional mixing, determining when the music stops/starts, etc. For the Mass Effect games, the team used a program called Wwise to implement the music into the game. The article talks about the implementation process in great detail. Sounds complicated! I'm not a programmer - math was never my subject!
When I compose on my laptop, I'm beginning to realize why the big time composers use multiple desktop computers to run all of the composing software/VSTs. Tons of processing power! Jack Wall used a Mac Pro 8 Core and two PCs with pretty cool software. I'm usually a PC person but, alot of the pros seem to use Macs. Someday, I'll have to invest in some powerful computers, VSTs, a decent DAW (perhaps ProTools - Brian Tyler uses this), etc.
The bulk of the tracks from the Mass Effect games were electronic. The team only used a few live players - like the cello parts. They used ultra expensive VSTs like Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Project SAM Symphobia, Vienna Symphonic , etc. Omnisphere looks kind of cool - I like composing soundscapes. I really enjoy composing electronic music - probably because I've listened to so much Jack Wall. Sometimes, I like take a break from traditional strings/woodwinds/brass, etc. and experiment with electronic sounds/patches in Reaktor 5, Kore, H.G. Fortune. Omnisphere sounds awesome for electronic music - it's about half the price ($500) of Project SAM.
I like some of Jack Wall's tracks from Mass Effect 1 in particular. The main theme and Vigil are prettu awesome! But, I still think the tracks he did for Myst III & IV is some of his best work. He combined orchestral/electronic instruments seemlessly for Myst. I also like Jack Wall's track for the intro cinematic in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. I composed my Stealth Theme after listening to lots of music from the Splinter Cell games. My Stealth Theme is purely electronic.
On vacation, FINALLY! Long Winter Break! Got lots of composing to do between Noctis: The Probe, La Fugue Orpheline, and another project. On top of that, I'm going to be busy working on my History honors thesis, American Revolutionary War Music as Propaganda.
I'm hoping to purchase a new sample library/VST in the next few weeks by Project SAM. They finally released something under $1000 called Orchestral Essentials. It sounds awesome and it's about time I get a decent sounding orchestral VST.
12/11/11Finals Week, yay!
Not fun - it's finals week - 2 classes down, 2 to go. Can't wait to come home Friday night - it's going to be a long bus ride! Can't wait for Winter Break!
11/26/11Composing Production Companies
When composers make it big and earn big bucks, alot of them form their own production companies. Famous video game composer Jack Wall formed Wall of Sound Inc. Wall and a team of composers and implementers. Hans Zimmer, a big time Hollywood composer, formed Remote Control Productions. Lots of composers work for Zimmer as a jumping off point for starting their own careers. For instance, Harry Gregson-Williams started out by working for Hans Zimmer. He's known for films like Narnia.
When I make it big, I might consider starting my own music production company/studio. I'm guessing it would be interesting to work with other composers on a huge project. But, at the same time, I would only collaborate if I'm known as the lead composer. Every individual has a unique composing style - I like and prefer to compose solo, for now. Also, I don't personally know any game/film composers yet. When I make it in big time for games, I might consider joining G.A.N.G (Game Audio Network Guild) and attending E3.
On the opposite end, I might be interested in working for a big time composer. It would be a dream come true if I was ever offered the chance to work/apprentice for Jack Wall or Hans Zimmer. But, right now, my focus is building up my composing credits and contacts. I really want to crossover from doing amatuer projects to commercial projects - like a big time video game by Ubisoft or a major company. Or, a TV series or big time film. Who do they hire at Universal Studios, Ubisoft, EA, Paramount, etc.?
11/18/11Thanksgiving Break, YAY!
Finally, Thanksgiving Break! Can't wait to film some more YouTube videos and do some composing! Long bus ride tonight - wish SLU wasn't so far away.
10/30/11Recording with Orchestras
Found this really cool article written by composer Jack Wall on Gamasutra about recording with live players!
Wall talks about the variety of pricing for using live players, the benefits/risks, budgets, and details some of the technology used for recording sessions. Wall mentions that working with samples can be limiting. You can do things with live orchestras that aren't possible with samples. Jack Wall is lucky enough to work with live orchestras because he lands big time contracts with major companies like Ubisoft and EA. These companies have huge budgets for music. Sure, I'd love to work with live players someday - have my own recording studio (having a studio like Brian Tyler would be killer!) or have the chance to record with live orchestras around the world.
Wall mentioned that the replacement of a French Horn sample with a live French Horn player made the difference in the scoring of an E3 trailer. Then again, this article was written in 2002- shortly after the release of Myst III: Exile. Over the years, sampled instruments and VSTs have improved dramatically. I like using samples because of the amount of control I have over the product - I can take time to perfect a piece and easily make quick changes/adjustments. If I get the chance to work with live orchestras- I'll need a killer music team: a copyist, an orchestrator, a contractor, a music assistant, etc. Large orchestral scores are never produced alone. It's a big deal to record with a big time orchestra in LA, Eastern Europe, Seatle, etc. My biggest fear about recording with an orchestra is making sure the sheet music is perfect before the session. Wall mentioned that the musicians playing at the session will be paid - regardless of whether or not the session is a success. Man, that's alot of pressure.
Some of the tracks in Myst III & IV use full orchestra and others use a few live players. Theme from Eddana uses a duduk player, bass, electronics,vocals, and some percussion vs. the Myst III: Main Theme which uses full orchestra. All of the tracks in Myst are blended with electronic instruments/samples. I think Wall's use of duduk in Myst III & IV is what made these games stand out - it's an amazing instrument (that I could probably never play!).
10/28/11VGO Rocks Out on Myst!
Berklee School of Music's Video Game Orchestra (VGO) is awesome! Check out this video of Myst III/IV composer conducting selections from Myst! The medley includes: Myst Main Theme, Uru Gallery Theme, Myst IV Main Theme, and Myst III: Exile Main Theme! VGO's rendition of the Myst Medley would be even better if they had a duduk player! Myst III and IV have heavy duduk parts.
Jack Wall is an epic, A-list video game composer. Wall is the Hans Zimmer of video games! I aspire to be the next Jack Wall someday - to land huge contracts with companies like Ubisoft, EA, Bioware, Lucas Arts, etc. How do people end up working for Ubisoft, Bioware, etc. and lead projects? I want to find that one contact that ends up at a large game company like Ubisoft. The composing business is all about building contacts. It's all hit or miss.
The first Myst soundtrack isn't my favorite. Myst III & IV are my favorite soundtracks from the series. Why? Listening to Myst III & Myst IV was my first exposure to the Armenian Duduk - an amazing instrument. When I first listened to Jack Wall's Myst III Exile Main Theme, I wondered what kind of instrument was playing at the beginning. The duduk looks pretty hard to play - probably requires lots of air power. The duduk has a really distinctive sound. When I compose with duduk in my Kontakt 4, my VST, I have to adjust the it's settings to get the proper sound. It can't be too 'wet' or 'dry' sounding. A perfect duduk sound is somewhere in between wet and dry. When the duduk is 'dry', it lacks expression. When it's 'wet', the sound is too mushy.
Several of my pieces from La Fugue Orpheline feature duduk: Cosevamy Theme, Swamp Theme, Middle Class Confédérés, and Alternate Swamp Theme. I was inspired to compose the Cosevamy Theme after listening to Jack Wall's "Theme from Eddana" from Myst III: Exile. I was inspired to compose the swamp themes after listening to some Myst IV. I was inspired to compose Middle Class Confédérés after listening to selections from Brian Tyler's Children of Dune soundtrack. Duduk meshes really well with atmospheric pads.
10/27/11VGO Plays Sonic the Hedgehog 2! They Rock!
Sonic 2 was one of the first video games I ever played. I played lots of video games when I was little. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has some great music! Check out this amazing video of Berklee School of Music's Video Game Orchestra (VGO) performing selections from Sonic 2! The sax player rocks! All of the older Sonic games have great music. I think the soundtrack from Sonic 3 is my favorite: I like Desert Palace Zone in particular. But, I still think the music in the Ecco the Dolphin games may slightly beat Sonic. Ecco Tides of Time has killer music - especially the main theme. I'll have to write about the Ecco soundtracks later! VGO also does great live renditions of the "Myst Medley," "Donkey Kong," & "Super Mario Galaxy."
Back in the days of Sega Genesis, SNES, Master System, Nes, etc., composers couldn't use live orchestras or high quality samples/VSTs. Tommy Tallarico, one of the biggest game composers of all time talked about the composing process w/ the Sega Genesis- he literally had to play into the cartridge. The Genesis doesn't give you lots of sounds to work with. Just look up Tommy Tallarico and read about how he scored some of his first games.
I didn't make it in during the 16 bit era, when video games were new concepts. Video game music has gone from crappy bleeps to film score/orchestral/serious Hollywood movie budget music. Tallarico always makes a point that he got it when it was easy - video game composers were in demand during the early 90s.
10/24/11Brian Tyler's "Fast Five"
I think Hans Zimmer is better than Brian Tyler, I'll say that up front. But, I've been listening to alot of Brian Tyler lately - he's not bad. Check out this cool scoring session footage of Tyler's Fast Five theme! It's catchy! It's not Pirates of the Caribbean but at the same time, it's not horrible. I love watching scoring session footage because it inspires me. I'd love to be on a scoring stage in LA someday! Tyler's Battle: LA theme is okay - but had a little too much electronics for me. Tyler is a young composer - broke in pretty early. He came to LA and knew nobody! My favorite Brian Tyler scores so far are: Children of Dune, Partition, and Timeline. Children of Dune is considered one of Tyler's best scores. There's some pretty cool Duduk parts in Dune.
10/14/11God of War, rocks!
Check out this cool video of God of War composer Gerard Marino, conducting his God of War suite with the Golden State Pops! The God of War soundtracks are epic. Video game and film composers are the Mozarts and Chopins of today. I've never played God of War but, I think the music is awesome. In addition to the God of War suite, I also love the track "The End Begins to Rock." I wonder how Marino got connected with people at Sony to do the soundtrack? On his official website, gerardkmarino.com, it says that he left his stable career as a "strip-club DJ" and roamed the streets of Hollywood. That's a crazy route to take.
I read about so many famous game and film composers. Alot of them seem to start out their careers roaming the streets of LA and Hollywood. For instance, Tommy Tallarico, one of the most famous game composers of today drove all the way to Hollywood, grabbed a job selling keyboards at a music store, and by chance, met the president of Virgin Interactive. Tommy got into game composing by chance, simply because he waited on a customer at the store who ended up starting a big time game company, Virgin Interactive. Prior to getting the job for Virgin, Tommy was homeless, living under a pier. Brian Tyler, a famous film composer noted that he came to LA and didn't know anybody! Now, he's right up there with Hans Zimmer and James Horner, making big bucks.
I don't want to break into composing by sleeping on the street. The chances of breaking in while roaming the streets of LA seems like 0%. I'm hoping to break into the composing world, online. Yet again, I am posting on advertising forums, film score forums, throwing my YouTube videos around, posting around Facebook, in an attempt to catch a gig. I equate my promoting tactics to fishing. I throwing different ads around, hoping to catch a decent game or film. I'm scoring La Fugue Orpheline because of a YouTube video I put up. I got to score a documentary because of a forum post I put up on Film Score Monthly (FSM). Offers come in very randomly (usually when I least expect it). The majority offers I get are crap (video game projects that die, weirdos, etc.). But, once in awhile, I get a really good offer and jump on it.
If I decide to move out to LA, I'll probably find a day job (something better than selling keyboards at a store - I will have a BA in History and Communications). Then, I can try to network at game development conferences like GDC or E3. Right now, I can't just hop on a plane to LA and look around for composing gigs.
10/04/11Myst IV Soundtrack by Jack Wall
Check out this cool behind the scenes video of epic composer Jack Wall creating the music for Myst IV! He recorded the soundtrack with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava. It turns out, lots of film and game composers record there. It might be cheaper to record there, as opposed to recording at a scoring stage in LA.
I can't decide whether I like the music from Myst III or Myst IV more. They're both awesome! I like Myst III, especially the Main Theme. Overall, I like the diversity in the Myst IV tracks. My favorite Myst IV tracks are: "Jungle Landing", "Welcome", "Enter Serenia", "the Monastery", "Leaving Spire", and "Yeesha's Joyride."
In the video, Jack Wall explains how the Myst soundtracks are like film music (with something extra). He recorded the live orchestra on top of unusual/electronic samples (such as atmospheric pads and other unusual elements that you can't replicate without killer VSTs/virtual instrument software). Film composers seem to mesh orchestra and electronics alot - Brian Tyler is an example of a film composer who meshes orchestra and electronics (just listen to the main theme from the film, Fast Five). I'm a bigger fan of how Jack Wall combined orchestra and electronics. Brian Tyler is cool but, I'm not as thrilled about how he blends orchestra and electronic samples/instruments.
Recording with any live orchestra must cost big bucks! Game companies like Ubisoft and EA have plenty of funding. Video game music is not a joke. More and more big time game companies demand that composers record with live orchestras in order to maintain a compeititve edge.
10/03/11Hans Zimmer at Disneyland
Hans Zimmer is a great composer! I particularly like his Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks. About a year ago, I found this cool clip on YouTube of Hans playing selections from Pirates of the Caribbean live at Disneyland. Zimmer opens on guitar. Hans Zimmer is the rock star of movie composers today. He met the right people and managed to latch himself onto pretty major projects that became big time hits (like Lion King, Pirates, etc.). I'd love to be on stage at Disney someday, rocking out on my own tunes. I'd love to compose for Disney, Warner, or any big time movie company. Or, a big time game company like Ubisoft or EA Games. I just thought this clip of Zimmer was awesome! Pirates on electric guitar rocks. I wasn't a big fan of the latest Pirates movie - they took out Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. That was their first mistake. The plot was also pretty boring compared to previous Pirates movies.
Because Hans Zimmer is such a big time composer, he will never be out of work. He will always get a big movie to score. He came from Germany and managed to become one of the most famous film composers today. I wonder, who are these people that manage to make huge movies for studios like Warner Brothers and Paramount? How do film makers crossover from small independent films to big budget studio productions and make millions? Zimmer wouldn't be where he is today if he didn't make the right contacts. He got really lucky, forming contacts with directors such as Christopher Nolan (Batman), Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates), Ridley Scott (Gladiator), etc. How does one become the next Jerry Bruckheimer? To suddenly make millions on films and have your own production company?
09/24/11Lennie Moore's Outcast Music
I've been listening to alot of Outcast lately. Lennie Moore composes some great music! Outcast is an action-adventure game by Appeal. I was amazed how Lennie Moore got the gig, simply emailing Appeal after seeing an online posting about the game. He ended up recording the score with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in Russia! My favorite tracks from Outcast are: Okriana (great duduk playing!), Lumina, and Cyana II. I've never played the game and it came out a long time ago. Not even sure if it would work on Windows Vista. You don't hear enough about game composers - this music is great stuff.
I love reading about composers who get to travel around the world. Jack Wall traveling to Bratislava, Lennie Moore going to Moscow, etc. This is my dream job - to land major composing contacts, make a living, compose great music, and get a chance to travel around the world to record my stuff with orchestras!
08/18/11Welcome to My New Website!
Welcome to my new website! Dynamod Portals rock! As I am writing this blog entry, I am working on my new site (adding photos, music, importing my blog entries from my old Yola Site, etc.). Dynamod Portals have alot of cool features and great functionality! Plus, I finally have my own domain name instead of "samanthafoster.yolasite.com". But, I couldn't part from my old blog! I didn't want to start a new blog on this site because I put so much work into my Yola Site blog. So, I simply moved all of the entries to my new site!
07/28/11Bratislava & Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
I’ve been reading about various game & film composers and noticed that a lot of them do scoring sessions in Bratislava. For instance, Jack Wall did the scoring session for Myst IV Revelation with the Slovak Radio Orchestra in Bratislava. Brian Tyler recorded the score for the game Lego Universe in Bratislava as well. I wondered, why would a composer decide to travel all the way to Bratislava to do a live recording session? After all, there are scoring stages in LA. Perhaps it is cheaper to record in Bratislava compared to some LA scoring stages. I found two websites with info about the recording studio: www.bso.sk & http://www.musicrecordinginbratislava.com/. One reason that composers record in this space might be due to the wonderful acoustics. Check out the photos of the studios on the BSO website!
Wow! Recording with a live orchestra must be tricky and involve tons of pressure. Each instrument part must be perfect and ready for the session. Composers don’t usually prep a score alone, they usually hire copyists. Some composers conduct their scores while others stay in the mixing booth, watching someone else conduct the score. Time is money. Looking at the BSO website, individuals fill out an application for a price estimate, under "Recording & Production" services.
Under “Type of Session”, composers have a choice between 4 hours w/ 2 15 minute breaks & 3 hours 2/ 1 3 hour break. If a composer has an hour worth of music to record with the orchestra, there’s only 4 hours to record the entire soundtrack. Time is money. Composing is the easy part of the job. Prepping music for an orchestra requires a huge amount of effort & precession. Must be tons of pressure! Game companies and film studios set aside a certain budget for music. Composers have to stay within budget. It’s one thing to record with samples. If there’s a problem with a note or timing, I can press a few buttons to fix it. If there’s an issue with a score during live recording, that could be a problem. Some minor issues can be revised with a pencil. Another issue is players read what’s written on paper. Live players aren’t computers. Bringing your original music to life using sheet music and a live orchestra must be a scary experience. Composers have to hope the music sounds like the mock up version of the piece they created using samples/software.
I’d love to conduct an orchestra playing my music in a recording session for a big time game or film someday! I’ll have to learn conducting first! Samples can only go so far. Luckily, every year, samples are sounding better and more realistic.
Here is a segment about Jack Wall doing the music for Myst IV in Bratislava: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-7h1IHbnf8 . Here’s the segment on Brian Tyler scoring Lego Universe in Bratislava: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz9XDynOdgM . I want to make it into the industry like Jack Wall, Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, & all of the big time game/film composers someday.
Haven't blogged or filmed YouTube videos in awhile. This summer, I'm interning as a social media strategist for a start up company. I am glad I finally got a paid summer internship. I wouldn't mind a career someday in social media. It keeps me pretty busy during the week. I'm still composing for the French RPG La Fugue Orpheline this summer. Recently, I composed two new duduk pieces, inspired by video game composer Jack Wall. I practically listen to the music on his website (www.jackwall.net) everyday for inspiration. I composed two new duduk pieces for Fugue Orpheline. The two recent pieces I composed were inspired from the Myst III Exile soundtrack by Jack Wall. For the Cosevamy Theme, I was inspired by Jack Wall's "Theme from Eddana." For the Middle Class Confederes Theme, I was inspired by "Wheels of Wonder" from Myst III Exile. I wanted the Middle Class Confederes Theme to sound like a working clock. I have the Myst III Exile game at home for Xbox (I stopped buying new gaming systems after Xbox and PS2. I might need to get an Xbox 360 someday so that I can play Mass Effect. Love the music in that game too!). Honestly, I bought the game because of the music! I'm not too great at solving the impossible puzzles/logic games in the Myst series. The puzzles in the Syberia games are easier to solve.
I've been listening to alot of work by Brian Tyler lately. He's a big time Hollywood film composer, known for film such as the Fast and the Furious and Battle LA. Most of his themes are fast and seem to combine electric guitars/heavy drums. When I start to make some $ and hopefully break into the industry composing for games and films, I will buy better samples/software. I'll need a really powerful computer with lots of processing power to do serious, heavy chase music. I like some of Brian Tyler's softer selections too.
Last week my speakers blew out! Sound still comes out of them. However, the sound that comes out of them isn't loud enough for me to film new YouTube videos! I'll have new speakers next week (hopefully I can get them up and running without a hitch!). Since I can't film, I've spent time promoting myself on Facebook and YouTube. I'm also composing.
Yesterday, I bought a copy of Myst III Exile for my PS2! Love Jack Wall's music and hope to compose for a game like this in the near future! I love listening to the music in the game. However, when it comes to playing the game and solving the puzzles, it's really hard! I haven't been able to play the game without viewing YouTube walkthroughs and online guides. Syberia is much easier to play. I'm lucky I found a copy of Exile because it's somewhat old and hard to find. Couldn't beat the price of $3! The graphics are great and the soundtrack is spectacular. I aspire to compose for a game like Myst III or IV!
Finally, classes, papers, and presentations are over! Can't wait for an exciting summer, composing! I'm coming home tomorrow night, late. I'll be filming new YouTube videos on Saturday (and throughout the summer). My goal is to get a large composing contract (or a number of small, paid composing projects) this summer. A new demo video for La Fugue Orpheline featuring a segment of Expanded Hospital Theme will be coming out shortly! Can't wait to see the new demo with my theme! I used duduk, a layer of percussion,strings, atmospheric pad, and winds to compose Expanded Hospital Theme. I was inspired by Jack Wall's epic Myst III Exile main theme (which also uses duduk, orchestra, atmospheric pads, and percussion layering).
05/01/112 Weeks Until Summer Break!
Looking forward to summer vacation in 2 weeks! Since the economy is still pretty bad, I still don't have a summer internship. However, there are people who make a living composing for games and films. I am confident that I'll be able to make some kind of income this summer through composing projects (films in particular). This summer, I'll be advertising and marketing myself big time by creating new YouTube videos (targeted at very specific audiences), posting on Facebook fan pages, putting ads on online forums, etc. There's alot of luck involved and offers usually come in randomly. I'd really love to get contracted by a major game or film company but, I haven't met the right contacts yet. All the big time game composers get into the business because they know somebody that happens to get a lead position at a game company. And, composers usually get to score large Hollywood films because they know the director (I'd love to do some small CA film projects).
Had a great concert at college! I premiered my original piece, "Wamego" (which can be heard on the Photos page) with the band! I'm going to aim to compose a less complex jazz piece next Fall. The piano part (my part) on "Wamego" is very difficult. Can't wait to hear the recording!
Still not sure what's going on this summer. It sounds like I'll end up pushing harder for paid contract work this summer, composing for films. In order to do this, I'll have to film more YouTube videos (targeted at specific interests; each YouTube video contains an advertisement for my composing business) and advertise on online forums. There's lots of luck involved in getting composing gigs. I'll take film projects over games because they're more likely to be completed. Amateur game projects don't seem to go anywhere and end up crashing.
04/12/11Composing With Duduk
I love the sound of the Duduk! I first heard the Duduk in the epic Myst III Exile main theme by Jack Wall (which can be heard here: www.jackwall.net). But, there are limitations when working with sampled instruments. When I compose, I often use Kontakt 4 virtual instruments (VSTs) software. A duduk sample is included in Kontakt 4's factory selection. In order for me to get the sound I want out of the Duduk sample in Kontakt 4, I have to play around with the settings on the instrument (such as dry/wet, reverb, tone) in order to get it to sound exactly the way I want it. When I am talking about Dry and Wet, I am talking about a particular type of effect on the sound. If the Duduk sounds too "wet", it sounds too mushy and not accented enough. It also sounds bad/lacks expression when it is too dry. It takes forever for me to find the right settings to get the Duduk the way I want it to sound. If I had a live duduk player, this wouldn't be an issue. The duduk sound is so unique. It goes really well with an atmospheric pad in the background.
04/01/11Jack Wall: Epic Video Game Composer!
I love Jack Wall's music! The main theme from Myst III Exile is my favorite track. I love this theme because it's a perfect meshing of choir, orchestra, and atmospheric pads. It sounds epic! I think his Mass Effect soundtracks are okay but, they're not as epic as Myst III & IV or Jade Empire. The Duduk is used frequently in the Myst III & IV soundtracks. I love the sound of the Duduk and plan on creating more pieces with it in the future. I'd love to compose for a game like Myst someday!
To hear Jack Wall's music, visit his website at: www.jackwall.net
Haven't blogged in awhile! Had a hectic week at school between midterms and papers. Just got home! Long bus ride! Can't wait to make some more YouTube videos this week!
12/24/10Composing for Games vs. Composing for Films
Yesterday, I finished scoring a scene for a documentary. I am starting to get more used to film scoring now. I love composing for video games because you don't have to worry about creating a theme to fit within a fixed time frame. Music for games are usually completed way before the game is even finished. Also, there is more freedom when composing for games because the music doesn't have to be "background music". In a game, I can compose short, catchy themes (like "Cheerful Battle Theme"). In a film, the music needs to set the mood and somewhat align with what's going on in each frame/scene. And, in a film, the theme must fit within the timeframe of the scene. So, if I play a theme too fast for a particular scene in a film, I can't simply slowdown the tempo in my Digital Audio Workstation, Sonar 7 (just got this version of Sonar for Xmas!) because the music will play beyond the frame. For instance, when I composed the trailer theme for "Actresses", my first rendition was too fast. I had to rescore the scene, play the theme slower, and make it fit within the timeframe of the clip. In video games (unless you're dealing with animated cutscenes), I could simply change the tempo of the piece in my Digital Audio Workstation with the click of a button. The hardest parts of film scoring are: composing a piece to fit within the timeframe of the clip/scene & making sure the music evokes the right emotional reaction from audiences/ works with the scene (ex. Last Signals- I composed panic music- the music had to correspond to what was going on in the scene). I think I'm getting used to scoring films, composing music to fit within a timeframe (I try to go with the flow, experiment with themes, and see what works and doesn't work). Games allow for more freedom (I can have fun creating catchy themes). I like film scoring because the product (the film) is complete (all the composing occurs post-production). Games, on the other hand, are not close to finished (unless I am contracted by a large video game company someday, most Indie projects move at ultra-slow pace or dissolve). Games are more complex (programing, 3d modeling, sprites, concept art, AI, etc.) to produce than films.
Winter break is here, finally! The history of science final was pretty rough and difficult. Now I can relax, film more YouTube videos, and COMPOSE some music! I have 3 semesters of college left, I am a History major, and I don't know what I am going to do when I graduate. Dream-job: to be a well-known video game and film composer. Day-job: working in production for a television network, media, content for websites, marketing, etc. (Hard to get summer internships).
I've been thinking about my History major and keep asking myself, "What am I going to do with it?". While I was in high school, I loved all my US History classes and wanted to be a US History teacher someday. However, after taking an education course and doing a field experience in a History class, teaching isn't as fun as I thought. I am hoping that I can do an honors project/thesis in American History during my senior year (I am not sure which era I'd like to do- WWI, American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression, etc.). I want to be the next Hans Zimmer or Tommy Tallarico when I graduate. That's probably not going to happen as soon as I graduate.
11/26/10Found a New FTP!
I finally can offer clients the option of using Dropbox (www.dropbox.com), an FTP similar to Humyo. However, I still miss Humyo. Humyo was simple and didn't require a download. Dropbox is similar to Humyo, with the exception that you need to download it to your computer before using it. Dropbox will work well for now and is a good alternative to Humyo!
11/24/10Need to Find a New FTP Server (File Storage)!
When I'm done composing, orchestrating, and mixing a piece, I export final compositions from Sonar 6, my DAW (digital audio workstation), and upload them to a file transfer server (FTP). When I started composing for La Fugue Orpheline (the Runaway Orphan), I initially emailed .wav or .mp3 files to Insacreajeu. However, working with sampled instruments, audio files can be quite large! In order the email files, I often had to compress them! File compression is a bad idea! Compressing audio files destroys the sound quality! Solution? Humyo! Humyo (www.humyo.com) was a great FTP server because you get alot of free space for file storage. The French team gave me a username and password. Then, all I had to do was post .wav or .mp3 files to the server, so that they could download the files and implement them into the game. The process of putting audio into a video game is called implementation. Implementation requires programming/coding knowledge. Coding is required because music has to be triggered by certain actions that take place in the game. For instance, if the player decides to move the character from a field to a cave, the music will have to transition smoothly when the character is in the cave. If it's an action game, when the play encounters a boss to fight against, something in the programming language will need to trigger the battle music. I first read about implementation when I was reading about Jack Wall & Sam Hulick's work on Mass Effect 2. The implementation was done by Brian DiDomenico. Some video game composers can implement music into the game or they hire someone who specializes in implementation. I'm a History major. I would not survive one day in an Engineering/Computer Science school! For the 2 game projects I'm composing for now, the development teams will take care of implementing the music into the game. Thankfully, I just have to worry about composing and orchestrating good music to suit specific incidents/situations.
Yesterday, I went to Humyo to set up a new account. Humyo is no longer offering free file storage because they have been acquired by Trend Micro! Oh great! Now, I need a new FTP to offer clients! Thankfully, this change won't impact pre-existing accounts, so all my work for La Fugue Orpheline is fine and my personal Humyo account is fine. I'm actively looking for an alternative FTP that's free or low cost.
11/22/10Thanksgiving Break, FINALLY! (but, it's too short!)
I came home Friday night. The bus ride from college to home is really long! Not much to see on the bus ride, except farms (I go to a college in the middle of nowhere!). I started filming some new YouTube videos on Saturday. I can't film a ton of new videos during Thanksgiving Break because it's too short and I have lots of HW to do. Christmas Break and Summer are my best times to film new YouTube videos. YouTube isn't the only way I advertise my composing services. I also post on a variety of film score and video game forums. I've had both good and bad experiences with online forums. Some forums have no problems with me posting links to some of my YouTube videos in a forum post. Some forums have specific places to promote your website. Then, there are forums that do not welcome any form of advertising ( I was booted off one forum). I got a few offers from online forums. However, I still think I have my best luck on YouTube because I can keep filming videos, targeted at specific audiences. My top video right now is my piano rendition of the British Grenadiers March. I keep asking myself, the British Grenadiers March, why is that so popular? It has something to do with the search tags I put on the video and the use of video response.
Yesterday, I was contacted via online contact form for the first time. I hope more potential clients use my online contact form for initial contact. However, email is okay too.
On a separate note, college flies by pretty fast! After this semester, I have 3 semesters left until graduation! As a History Major, I'm hoping that I can get a job in production/media. Composing is contract work and super competitive. Contract work (unless I make it in and become an established composer for games and films) is unstable. Composers are usually contracted by game and film companies because they KNOW someone or got involved with a group of individuals who ended up forming a company. I hope that one of the projects that I'm working on now will turn into something bigger.
11/19/10THANKSGIVING BREAK is HERE, almost!
One more class and I'm packing for break! I'm taking a long bus ride home. I'm writing this entry at 3:40 am because I can't wait to get home and film more YouTube videos! The more YouTube videos I put up, the better! I'm hoping that by playing unusual video game/film themes or themes you would not normally think that you could play on a piano/keyboard, that I can reach audiences that other YouTube individuals can't reach. For instance, so far, I am the only person to play the 1967 Lassie Theme (I'm still trying to learn the 1950s Lassie Theme) & Myst Theme. This Lassie video appeals to a certain audience (either kids or older individuals that grew up during that generation). I'm hoping that some viewer watching one of these videos will, by chance, need a composer for their next film or video game. This actually happened! I got an offer once to compose a Myst-type theme for a video game creation school in Washington state. The instructor from the school stumbled upon my keyboard rendition of the Myst theme on YouTube. The instructor wanted a 'jungle theme' for a school project (similar to the Riven soundtrack) and asked how much the work would cost. I said I wanted $200 to compose their 'jungle theme' and to KEEP THE RIGHTS! The instructor ended up finding someone else for the task because he didn't want to give up the rights. Honestly, I think he wanted to find a college kid willing to do the work for free. Looking back, I think should have just composed the theme for free and given up the rights because the instructor did work/had connections to companies that I would be interested in working for in the future (such as History Channel). I've learned a lesson about the composing world and RIGHTS to music.
11/15/104 Days of School & Counting, until BREAK!
Can't wait for Thanksgiving Break! I'll be filming some new YouTube videos over break (although it won't be alot of videos because I only have a week off and HW!). While I enjoy and have a blast making YouTube videos, doing various piano/orchestral covers of game and movie soundtracks, the main reason I keep filming YouTube videos is to advertise my composing services and get my name out there! Composing job offers (free and paid) appear at the most random times! And usually, it's due to a person watching one my YouTube videos (I always get offers from videos that I don't expect to get offers from, kind of odd!). I'm composing for La Fugue Orpheline because the team discovered me watching my rendition of Ecco Tides of Time on piano! When I made that video, I never thought that it would lead to my first video game composing project! I never know when the next project offer will come in. Some projects simply fail (such as the Titanic YouTube video I was supposed to score) and other projects are wonderful (like La Fugue Orpheline!). Since I communicate with all clients online, it's a jungle and I don't really know who the people are on the other end- which is why projects can fail.
Just had a great time performing tonight in a concert at college! Just premiered one of my new jazz compositions called "Metropolis"! Love composing & improvising jazz on the piano! It would be so cool to compose a jazz soundtrack for a video game or film. I love music and composing. I'd love to make a living composing for video games and films after college! I have a backup plan, sort of. I am a History major and interested in getting a job in production and media after college. Production would be a great 9 to 5 job (hopefully I'll have something lined up before I graduate May 2012). Most famous composers start out working in an industry that has nothing to do with composing and suddenly, they hit a big break! I hope to do the same!
11/08/10Can't Wait for Thanksgiving Break!
This is my first blog entry! Yahoo! 2 weeks until Thanksgiving Break!
Can't wait to go home and film more YouTube videos! Insacreajeu will
be releasing a video featuring my Cheerful Battle Theme soon! Stay tuned!