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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Many Baskets

The computer I'm using to record the Elan Vital score is decent when it comes to editing a music video, recording a rock band, and producing a half-hour podcast, but the size of this film - length and layers - pushes the system to its limits. Even if your computer has a fast CPU and lots of RAM, it's still wise to never, ever, ever, ever, put all your eggs in one basket. In our case, eggs mean songs. By baskets, I mean Pro Tools files.

Consider this checklist for the film scoring process:

1. Make sure either your reference video has BITC or your digital audio workstation can read accurate SMPTE timecode. Check.

2. Beatmap the entire film in broad strokes, with more accurate mapping for pre-existing songs. Check.

3. Using the above file as your template, copy this file to use for each song individually. You'll inevitably modify the tempo and timing for the new songs in the score. If you're working on the entire score on the same Pro Tools file, then things will move around, causing lots and lots of frustration. Even if you have a good amount of RAM, it'll still not be enough, and frustration will ensue. Now that we have these caveats established, create separate files for all your songs, and have an extra template file to bring all the songs together. Check, check, and check.

4. Work on each distinct song as separately or as together as is wise to do so. To save myself the trouble of all the pitfalls mentioned above, I have identified 10-14 individual songs for the Elan Vital soundtrack - some have been already recorded, some have been demoed, and the rest needs to be written. There will be layers and layers of tracks for the score, so to keep myself on my creative toes, I've resolved to work on a different song every day. (The holidays will inevitably stand in my way, but I'm currently optimistic about being productive.) By the end of this (presumably) two-week period, I'll have a skeleton of a score.

5. With the songs recorded in separate Pro Tools files, output each song as an lossless audio file, and put them all together onto the extra template file mentioned in Step 3. Since you've worked on these songs within days of each other, there's a good chance that the songs will flow together well. There's also a good chance they won't. Regardless, congratulate yourself with the completion of the score's skeleton. Get some feedback from the director, and move forward with more layers, organs, and skin, and clothes!

I realize I've been erratically shifting from the second person (you in the how-to sense) to the first person (I/me in the personal experience sense), and vice versa, but roll with it...please?

6. Wash (write), rinse (record), and repeat Steps 4, 5, and 6 as necessary. I anticipate this cycle to be as thorough as the film deserves...and Elan Vital truly deserves a transcendent form of thorough...or is that a Transcendental form of Thoreau (which is redundant)?

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