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Old 19th January 2012
  #241
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You have given me the best solutions to my own questions. Sampling everything, templates, approaches to composition. Thank you.

Do you master your own material?
Old 19th January 2012
  #242
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Back in the 80's and 90's my records and remixes were always sent out for mastering.

In this decade I put the crush on my scores all by myself, usually just with detailed automation of compressor threshold and ratio on "my precious" - aka TC MasterX5 on Powercore. Although lately I've been trying to get Ozone v5 to do what Mx5 does, and it's pretty close. A lot more parameters to fiddle with, and I couldn't get Ozone 4 to sound like Mx5, but since Ozone 5 it seems to get really close.
Old 24th January 2012
  #243
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
Back in the 80's and 90's my records and remixes were always sent out for mastering.

In this decade I put the crush on my scores all by myself, usually just with detailed automation of compressor threshold and ratio on "my precious" - aka TC MasterX5 on Powercore. Although lately I've been trying to get Ozone v5 to do what Mx5 does, and it's pretty close. A lot more parameters to fiddle with, and I couldn't get Ozone 4 to sound like Mx5, but since Ozone 5 it seems to get really close.
Charlie I had sent you a PM but not sure if you check them.

I'm a contributing writer for musiccomposerblog.com and I'd love to do a quick interview (email or phone) with you in the near future.

Here's my contact: [email protected] . As a composer you are a huge influence on my work and I know many others who feel the same. I'm sure all would love to get a little more perspective into your process, as well as the gear you use. Hope you can fit it in! Cheers!

Thanks!
Old 3rd February 2012
  #244
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Zombie H's Avatar
 

Charlie any advice on good preamps for use in tracking with synths?

I want to make my Andromeda sound.....'thicker' 'darker' & 'eviler' in Logic

Im thinking of going to a Rosetta 200 for interface or that new Apollo from UAD and wanted a good pre to give some colour.
Old 3rd February 2012
  #245
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Charlie, can you please tell me what synth was used for the main bassline in 'Into The Void', and was the same thing used live?

I've heard people say it's a Waldorf Microwave Xt, Future Retro 777 or a Nord Lead 2, but no definite answer.
Old 4th February 2012
  #246
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kpsiegel's Avatar
 

Charlie I have to say this is one of the most interesting threads I have read on gearslutz. I appreciate the clarity and depth of the answers you have given to some excellent questions that others have posed. I especially appreciate the nuts and bolts insights you have given into how you go about your work. A lot of great stuff to think about.

Ken
Old 4th February 2012
  #247
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Zombie H's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kpsiegel View Post
Charlie I have to say this is one of the most interesting threads I have read on gearslutz. I appreciate the clarity and depth of the answers you have given to some excellent questions that others have posed. I especially appreciate the nuts and bolts insights you have given into how you go about your work. A lot of great stuff to think about.

Ken
i love how so much was done with just built in logic plugins
Old 5th February 2012
  #248
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Zombie H - As to preamps, I have no idea. I haven't really used a hardware synth more than once or twice in the last decade, and when I did I probably just had it going straight in to the inputs on a MOTU 2408mk3 or 24io. Back in the 90s I had a pair of 02r mixers for all my hardware synths (before I sent them all to the bottom of the ocean), but I certainly can't say they did anything good to the sound - before that it was Mackie 8-bus, and those were okay I guess... but noisy.

I have a pair of Neve 1084s, but I've never plugged a synth into them, and I have a pair of Avalon U-5 fancy-shmancy direct boxes, but I only got them (in the 90s) because of the passive eq curves and what they do for nasty clanky DI bass guitar. Right now I think my Eurorack is plugged into the U-5s simply because they were nearby in the rack and the cables would reach. I'm never at the point where I'm looking for that last little bit of sonic improvement, if something doesn't sound good right away I switch to a different instrument instead of messing about. I've never really compared one preamp or mic to another - I just put one up and if the meter moves and it's passing signal then we're good to go.

rmnc - I think that bass synth on Into The Void was Nord Lead, with modwheel controlling FM to get the grindy bits, if that's the sound we're talking about. On stage that part probably came off of tape, which back in my day would have been a Tascam DA-88 - so it would have been the actual album tracks transferred over.

And, yes, stock Logic plugins FTW! Once in a blue moon I'll use Omnisphere or Kontakt or some Arturia synth, but as to third-party plugins I never really use them. I have UAD all loaded and Waves Mercury, but I can't say that I've actually used any of those plugins more than once or twice when I was bored. Just looking at the list of Waves and UAD plugins gives me a headache so I usually just use the Logic ones - standard eq and compressor.
Old 5th February 2012
  #249
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Zombie H's Avatar
 

thanks for the detailed info

I agree the ClassA_U Compression circuit type in the Logic compressor does really sound great I've had a lot of fun with Logic and my A6 just using PSP Xenon for a bounce

I also experimented a bit in having a synth track being limited on the master strip with PSP Xenon and then also put the stock Logic limiter onto the same strip but instead of turning it down you can turn it up with some good results

I demo'd Ozone 4 and some of it's sounds are impressive too on synth tracks I like some of its imaging settings
Old 5th February 2012
  #250
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How many black Microwave XTKs exist? I heard the only ones ever made were given to NIN.
Old 5th February 2012
  #251
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquid360 View Post


How many black Microwave XTKs exist? I heard the only ones ever made were given to NIN.
Wow. Good pic of me gerning / derping like a boss. Herp derp indeed. With stage presence like this you can understand why I've retreated back to the seclusion of the film scoring lab!

There were two of the grey (aka "shadow") Microwave XTKs made for us. I wound up with both of them. I sold one for some reason a few years back, but I still have the other one. At one point I saw the other one on eBay being sold as NIN memorabilia for an outrageous price.
Old 6th February 2012
  #252
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Hello Charlie,
You mention using a stereo pair of Rode mics to record your live drums for soundtrack work. Just wondering what models of Rode mics you use?
Cheers
Old 15th February 2012
  #253
Clouser! I am a huge huge fan of your remixes of White Zombie, swinging sexy sound mang! You rule! So cool to see you on this forum. WOW.

Cluoser, what is your top 5 sytnhs?
Old 17th February 2012
  #254
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Downtown - The Rode mics I use are NT-2As. They seem pretty versatile and they are very quiet. The only mics I've actually liked were Jimmy Iovine's ancient 251 that I borrowed for Helmet, and the recent Neumann M-149, which I thought sounded great - I just haven't bothered to buy a pair yet.

Disease Factory - top 5 synths? Hmmm.... V-Synth, Microwave 2xtk, Virus Ti, Voyager, MKS-80. Back in the remix years it would have been Nord Rack 1, MKS-80, JP-8080, Minimoog D, etc...

More Human Than Human was just Novation BassStation and MKS-80. All of those SuperSexy remixes were just SampleCells, a couple of synths, and a Mackie 8-bus with a DP4 and a Quadraverb. To be honest none of the synths get much use these days, I don't generally use synthesizer sounds in my scoring work - not much call for bleeps, bloops, pads, and reso-bass these days. Once in a blue moon I use the EuroCrackStack with Sequentix P3 for thumpy patterns, but I'm generally more interested in manipulating acoustic sounds using Live, the excellent Granite plugin instrument from New Sonic Arts, and playing Omnisphere with the Haken Continuum. I also use a Moog guitar, Moog lap steel, and Parker Adrian Belew - all of these have some type of sustainor / ebow built-in, and 13-pin output to go to the Roland VG99 guitar modeller. The VG99 probably sounds like arse in terms of simulating all the vintage guitars and amps they use as a selling point, but I wouldn't know as I've never even checked them out really - I use it as a dronescape creation-station. It lets me get very clean pitchshifted ebow delayfreezer stuff by using things like the sitar and dobro models pitched down two octaves with individual-string hex-slowgear and multiple delays. So clean and so quiet.
Old 18th February 2012
  #255
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Holy crap. Now I've got GAS again.

Roland VG-99 GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer
Old 18th February 2012
  #256
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Yes, the VG-99 is pretty cool. When paired with a guitar with a hex pickup and 13-pin output, it's sort of a combination of a Variax and a Pod, but with some other cool stuff like on-board editing of alternate tunings, hex effects like octave, distortion, and slowgear that affect each string individually, and a very cool feature that allows you to stack two guitar+fx+amp chains and play them both at once. The dual-channel dealie lets you, for instance, layer an acoustic and an electric and play them both at once, or layer a bass model with a guitar model. It also has emulations of classic Roland GR synths, which can be handy, and a very cool freeze delay that you can freeze/unfreeze by waving something into the path of the D-Beam - which is like the Electro-Harmonix freezer pedal - smooth infinite tones with undetectable loop points.

I only really the thing for weird textures, but for this it is excellent. It's got a zillion fx at once, alternate tunings, D-beam and ribbon, a zillion incoming controller assignments, SPDIF out and USB editor and audio interface mode, yada yada yada. There's a tendency to dismiss modern Roland stuff, but this thing can make sounds I've never heard before, and with a sustainor-type guitar it just emits clouds of great stuff. No hum, no buzz, just boatloads of ultra-clean sustain. Very cool piece.
Old 19th February 2012
  #257
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thelordhastits's Avatar
 

Charlie - I sent you a PM but I'm not sure if you reply to them.

In regards to your EXS / NKI libraries, I seem to recall that you strip out kontakt instruments to EXS - forgive me if I'm wrong on that - but if so, what tool works best for you there?

Thanks once again!
Old 20th February 2012
  #258
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

I got the v-synth way back when it first came out, when there were precious few time-stretching boxes, and most of them used granular techniques which seemed to have a choppy, short-looped sound quality to them. The V-Synth was the first box I heard that had the same smooth quality as the phase-vocoder-type time-stretching I had used in the old standalone SoundHack program, which I used to stretch Rob Zombie vocals to extreme (32x) lengths, and which had a great smooth sound quality. The V-Synth did all of the vocal manipulations on the Rob Zombie track "Reload" from "The Matrix: Reloaded" soundtrack.

Guitars: I have a couple of old Les Pauls from the NIN days that I like; one of them has been retrofitted with a sustainor and one has some sort of hot-rod pickup in the bridge position that makes it very harsh and sharp, great for rectifier-type modern metal sounds. Both have had their headstocks snapped off on stage and been re-glued back together. I also like the Line6 Variax guitars - I have them all and one of the basses as well. These are great for getting acoustic-ish sounds when making weird textures, but I usually play with them laying on the floor and banging them with pencils and chopsticks and stuff, or with ebow. I like to pitch things down, and using the WorkBench software to edit the Variax settings I can do this. Mostly I use the Parker Adrian Belew and Moog guitars for sound design-type stuff, but when it comes to stumbling my way through conventional metal-sounding guitar chugs and stuff like that it's the hot-rod Les Paul all the way. All the rest of my guitars are just sound-design tools. I also have a Music Man Stingray bass with non-active electronics and an Fender Jazz Bass - the only Fender instrument I have.

Pedals - I have a few milk crates full, but the ones that are on my pedalboard and rigged up to a patchbay for quick experimentation are: MXR SuperGate, Boss NS2 gate, Boss PS-5 super shifter, Boss CS-3 compressor, Boss ODB-3 bass overdrive, MXR Hendrix Fuzz, Z-vex fuzz factory, Z-Vex machine, Experience pedal, Swollen Pickle, Tech21 bass compactor, Tech21 XXL, Frostwave sonic alienator, EH graphic fuzz, Fender Blender, Line6 green delay, Eventide pitch factor, OG Red Whammy, Frostwave Resonators x2, MoogerFooger LP Filter x2, Ringmod x2, Analog Delay x2, and Phaser x2. The Frostwaves and MoogerFoogers have all of their CV jacks wired to a patchbay next to the EuroCrack and the Voyager's VX control voltage interface, so I can use things like the Flame Clockworks, MIDI>CV, LFOs and envelopes to control them.

How do I start a song? Since I haven't done a song in ten years, I couldn't say! But back in the day I always would start from "the bottom" - drums, then bass, then guitar riffs, then everything else. These days I am only doing scoring, and always working against picture, so I always take a bunch of time mapping out tempo against picture - basically listening to a click and seeing how it falls against the cuts and action. Sometimes I put up a loop of a kickdrum or even a percussion loop of some kind and watch that against picture as I fiddle with tempo and start point until it looks like the cuts and action are falling rhythmically. One out of ten times I might try to actually match the tempo of any temp music that is there, but usually I just fiddle endlessly so that I get the right number of bars in a given action sequence or whatever. Even when the music is floaty and has no percussion, I take a lot of time to get the tempo so that the musical phrases begin and end where I want them - if there is any actual music other than ambient sound-design junk, I like it to be nice and symmetrical so that I'm never in a situation where a scene ends but my musical phrase isn't finished yet, or it finished too soon or whatever. For a feature film I often spend about a week just listening to click against picture as I map out each cue.

As to stripping out Kontakt stuff to EXS, if it's an unlocked library like Tonehammer/Soundiron/8dio stuff I usually clean up the instruments in Kontakt by deleting groups I don't need, save them to a new location, and then use Chicken Systems Translator to convert to EXS, where it will need further cleanup before being usable. If it's a locked library I have to go old-school and manually sample each note, each round-robin, and each velocity split. I do this in Logic, by creating MIDI tracks that trigger every note and velocity I need at intervals of four bars, then do an offline bounce which gives me an audio track with a new sample every four bars, then by holding option while cutting at bar 5 the whole track is cut into four bar pieces. I shorten these pieces to the right length all at once with keycommands, then select them all and double-click the region name in the parameters box in the upper left of the Arrange window and type in a name that ends with "-1". When you do this, Logic will increment the number at the end of the region name so that the region names end with 1, 2, 3, etc. Then I use "Export Selected Regions as Separate Audio Files" and now I've got a folder full of individual samples with unique names. Using a batch-renaming tool like "A Better Finder Rename" I can convert the names to more useful ones and then use Redmatica Keymap to build EXS instruments by drag-n-drop and "AutoMap Using Pitch Detection" or "AutoMap Using Mapping Info From Sample Names". I've gotten this down to a science over the years and can convert big libraries pretty quickly. It sounds like a lot of work but it's worth it as I can run hundreds of EXS instruments in Logic - it's just silly how efficient Logic is at this. If I attempt to use the same instruments in Kontakt it takes numerous instances of Vienna Ensemble and still won't all play without using slave machines, which is a big hassle. Besides, I like to adjust playback parameters like envelopes and stuff individually for each cue, and since EXS has a feature called "keep common samples in memory when changing songs" I can switch between cues on a project and it only takes five seconds to load them. Also, when I use Logic's "Save Project" all of the samples and instruments for EXS are archived into the project folder - this is not possible with Kontakt. EXS also never throws up any kind of "can't find the instrument / samples" error, it just finds them no matter what drive they are on. Since 99% of my sounds are coming out of EXS, so I can't really switch to Cubendo or whatever as none of them have any capabilities like this. I can still load cues from ten years ago and they come right up, with every single sound in place - this is priceless when working on TV series that run for years, or the SAW movies which we did for seven years in a row.
Old 20th February 2012
  #259
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Thanks for sharing the info!

I find Keymap pro super useful. Do you have any novel sound mangling uses for it or do you use it more as a utility?
Old 20th February 2012
  #260
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Charlie, can you give any insight into what's going on in this photo/that day in the studio?
The caption read "Charlie Clouser, Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre in the mixing process of recording the song "Even Deeper", though I never thought that matched what's going on in the image.

Can you recall what Dre contributed to the session/any material, or was it merely another pair of ears? I'm a big fan of both NIN and Dr Dre, so the image has always been of interest to me.

I really like the theme you did for American Horror Story. I think it adds the majority of the impact to the intro - I think the visuals would look harmless without the audio.
Old 20th February 2012
  #261
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

I stopped messing with the record industry once the downloading and laptop revolution started. The money just went away overnight. When I got into it, making an album was a big project involving lots of specialized knowledge, equipment, and talent, and it just started to get too easy, what with beat detective, autotune, plugins and loop libraries, etc. I've never actually used autotune on a vocal and don't really have an interest in working on (or listening to) the kind of music for which it's needed or appropriate. I did use beat detective on one project, but "upside down" - I used it to make the timing of programmed drums and cut-up loops match the fluctuating timing of a real drummer, not to quantize live drums. All the album programming I did was like this - on the White Zombie records I manually extracted the timing from the live drums and used that to trigger various samples, so everything sounded tight but was NOT quantized.

I was working on TV scores as a programmer back in the eighties and early nineties, so when I got back into it in the early 2000's I wasn't coming in cold, I already had years of experience and so it was more of back to familiar ground instead of "how do I do this". I was able to reunite with the composer who first hired me as a programmer back in the eighties and the two of us teamed up for a couple of projects - that's how I got my feet wet again. Soon after that I did the first SAW movie, and got a couple of TV series of my own, and here we are.

To me, record work was sort of like portrait painting - 8 bar intro, 16 bar verse, middle eight, blah blah blah - in a portrait, you've got to figure out how to make the person's nose look realistic, make them not look like the pretentious fool they really are.... whereas scoring is more like abstract painting - you can use whatever shapes and colors will create the desired effect and you're not stuck trying to work in the same repetitive structure over and over again. Besides, the timeline of the film provides a roadmap for everything, so you're not just flailing around in empty space wondering what might sound good. I had my fun in the record side of things, but after a couple of decades it had run its course for me and just felt creatively stifling and repetitive.

Another thing about the scoring world is that by the time they are hiring a composer, the process is too far along for them to scrap the thing - I worked on a few records that, for one reason or another, never came out or sank without a trace, rendering my points and publishing worthless. This sort of thing doesn't seem to happen to me in movies and TV - only one movie I did never made it to theaters, but we retained licensing rights to the score so I've been able to rent out that music many times over, and of course I still got my up-front fee.

I only use Keymap as an instrument building utility. I do all my sound design elsewhere and then just make simple EXS instruments with it.

Yes, I've seen (and done) some messed up things on tour - as you can imagine, a bill consisting of NIN, Manson, and Jim Rose Circus Sideshow will attract (and generate) a certain level of chaos, which is why I'm quite happy to just stay in the lab and lead a quiet life out in the country. Suffice to say we did consume mass quantities and met lots of really sketchy people!
Old 20th February 2012
  #262
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

That picture of me, Trent, Dre, and Danny Lohner was taken at Larrabee studios I think, when Jimmy Iovine wanted to put two of his big acts in the room together and see what happened. We brought a bunch of half-finished tracks from "The Fragile" and experimented for a week or so to see what he could add, and we fiddled with a few of Dre's tracks. I don't remember if anything from those sessions actually made it onto "The Fragile", and I don't think anything we did wound up on "The Chronic 2001" - but that photo would have been from that era, around 1998 or so. That issue of Sound On Sound with the Proteus 2000 on the cover should be a clue.

I'd love to say that the picture depicts me schooling a couple of noobs on how to rock the racks, but it's probably just me setting the MIDI channel on the Triton or something boring like that. I think I'm actually setting up a band-pass filter and some effects on the Triton piano sound to get a tiny distant tone.

I do remember that Dre's rig was just an MPC-3000 with a Triton, a Studio Electronics MiniMoog, a Nord Lead, and some JV type Roland module, and that he'd stripe the tape for six minutes with each part just looping and then build the song arrangement by recording mute automation on the SSL. Live players would record to tape and then be sampled into the MPC, where the parts would get re-looped back to tape so that Dre could build the arrangement on the SSL - at least, that's what he was doing when we were there.

I will say that after a few years of bad New Orleans dirtweed it was definitely nice to get blazed on the quality with Dre, Mel-Man, and Snoop!
Old 20th February 2012
  #263
Gear Nut
 

Charlie, question on scoring: you said you spend lots of time setting the Click to picture, finding a tempo that matches the action; could you offer some more detail on this process? I'm confused a bit, because it seems the editing of the picture would inevitably not follow any natural rhythm, so the tempo you found to "fit" with a scene would have to be a very rough fit at best, yeah? How do you end up nudging / shifting the parts of your cues so that the timing actually works? Do you automate the tempo at all, so it changes within a cue? or just find the best fitting tempo and get as close as you can with that?

thanks,
-Michael
Old 20th February 2012
  #264
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
Brilliant Thread, really insightful!

Oh by the way i sent you a message Charlie, do let me know if you got it, my browser is messing up lately
Old 20th February 2012
  #265
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Oh yes, I absolutely DO automate the tempo to create complex tempo maps and meter changes for most cues - only rarely will I have a cue with one tempo throughout the piece. With action cues it's common for me to speed them up as the action gets more intense, or if it's a SAW movie and someone is slowly being dissolved in acid or whatever then the cue might slow down as they go under. Sometimes these tempo changes are quite radical - a cue I'm doing right now starts at 96bpm and winds up at 132bpm, with a new tempo on every quarter-note, so it gets pretty frantic by the end. This also helps to make robo-beats sound less robo-like.

I use meter changes when, for instance, I need a bar of 5/4 to fill a hole and let the next passage begin on a downbeat instead of on beat two of the following bar. Creating meter maps in Logic is dead simple - just locate to the bar you want and manually edit the time signature in the transport bar. So if you want a single bar of 5/4 at bar 81, just locate to bar 81, change the time signature in the transport to 5/4, then locate to bar 82 and change it back to 4/4. Now you have a single bar of 5/4, and this will be reflected in the time ruler at the top of the arrange window. Easy.

This is why I run Ableton as a ReWire slave - it follows whatever complex maps are in the host program, without forcing you to duplicate the tempo map in multiple programs. Create a complex map in Logic and all the rhythms in Ableton will follow exactly, and if you've chosen "repitch" as the timestretch mode for any samples, they will slow down or speed up "tape style". In some of the torture cues in the SAW movies I would have some rhythms in repitch mode and some in beats mode, so that some samples would do tape-style slowing down and some would just slow down without changing in pitch. Very cool sounding and super-difficult to do any other way. Dead simple with Ableton as a ReWire slave.

Back in the day we used to use a program called "Q", or maybe it was "Cue List" or "Cue Sheet" - but it wasn't Auricle, which was (and may still be) the standard for tempo interpretation software but only runs on legacy PCs. Anyway, what you'd do is log all your hit points (either cuts you wanted to hit, or else specific moments in the action such as a gunshot, punches in a fight, or a car blowing up or whatever) as timecode points, and you could tell the software "I want you to find a tempo that would cause each of these hit points to fall on a quarter note" (or a barline, or an eighth note or whatever). The software would then do the math and tell you what tempo would cause these points to hit, and show you how many frames off each hit was, etc. It could be very time-consuming to manually find and type in all these timecode hit points, so the process would get very complex, but the point is that when working with this software you start to get familiar with how to work with tempo and meter changes to get things to hit.

I used to use Performer, which has quite elaborate tempo calculation features built-in - you can easily ask it to create a tempo that will fit exactly X number of bars in between two timecode points, so, for instance, you can get exactly 8 bars of music to last from when the car blows up, through the guys running for cover, ending with the downbeat of bar 9 falling right when they slam the door once they've reached safety. This is the kind of thing I do all the time. This is one of the reasons a lot of film composers still like to use Performer, as it is unrivaled in this department. It's had these features for 20 years and is still the king.

Logic has less complex tempo manipulation features, but you can still get it to create elaborate tempo maps quite easily, with the ability to anchor the beginning or end of a passage, create tempo ramps (accel / ritard), choose between fancy linear vs. exponential vs. s-shaped curves, etc. Logic also lets you create 8 alternate tempo maps within a single songfile (although only one is used at a time, the other 7 slots are just stash points for you to store alternate versions of the tempo map) which you can switch between so you can create one, say "hmmm, I'd like to try another" and make a different version of it without destroying the first map and without doing any "save as" nonsense. I don't know if other programs have this feature, but I've never seen it elsewhere. I use this feature a lot so that I can try different approaches without creating a bunch of different "save as" versions of a songfile.

If you've imported the movie into Logic, it can also automatically detect the edits in the movie and create timecode-locked markers at every edit point. This is amazing, and lets you see how these markers will line up to barlines - the locked markers stay where they are in absolute time and will slide back and forth against the barlines as you adjust the tempo. Of course, you can just locate to a barline and then adjust the tempo and watch as the movie re-cues to show you what frame now falls at that barline. Most programs will at least do this.

Anyway, after a decade or two of using these tools, I kind of got to the point where I can just watch the picture and tap along to a tap-tempo box - I have an iPhone app that does this, and I also have a few of these cheap Behringer boxes with a four-digit display and one button; you tap the button four times and it shows you the tempo you've tapped at. I think the Behringer boxes were $5 each at Banjo Center on blowout. I'll watch the movie and tap along to get a rough idea of tempo, and then get to work fiddling with the tempo list editor and sequence start point in Logic. I don't make much use of the tempo interpreter in Logic, as I find it's just quicker for me to manually edit the list, unless I want a long, gradual accel or ritard and want it to end at a certain point. With the interpreter, you can select, say, 32 bars and then tell Logic to insert tempo changes to cause that 32 bars to end at exactly a given timecode number - and you can control how often it will insert tempo changes; every bar, every beat, etc. So, select a range of time, bring up the interpreter, type in some numbers and select a curve shape, then see how it sounds. If you don't like it, undo, and try again with different settings. It can be a complex process, and you generally need to work from beginning to end, as any tempo changes you insert at the beginning of a piece will obviously throw off the timing of those that come later, so you kind of have to have your wits about you and have a plan.

While it's true that most editors cut picture as they see fit, as opposed to cutting against music, a lot of times I find that good editors cut with a rhythm of their own, and some like to cut against a piece of music so that the picture DOES wind up with an internal rhythm that is symmetrical. Kevin Greutert, who cuts the SAW movies, does this quite often. When watching the picture for the first time it will be obvious if it's been cut to the rhythm of the temp music - in this case I might try to match that tempo and see if that works musically. In any case, you'd often be surprised how easy it can be to make a tempo map that nails all the cuts and points you want to hit. Maybe I'm spoiled from working with picture editors who have good rhythm, but for me it's more of a chore than a challenge if you know what I mean. Not difficult work per se, just painstaking. Once you've got a good tempo map that lays against picture correctly, the whole process gets MUCH easier and more fun...

In any case, I take great care with this process because I want it to look like the actors and the editor were all dancing in time to the score. Every cut, every raised eyebrow, every punch in every fight and every door slam and gunshot. Even when I'm doing floaty cues with no rhythm and no obvious tempo, I still map them out quite carefully so that an exact number of bars or phrases fit in the designated time. ALWAYS. To me it just makes the finished film look better. Even on TV shows I do this, and somehow would get every outgoing cue to mesh up with every incoming downbeat, all of it in rhythm and on the beat. No "collisions" as I call them. When I watch a film that has a bunch of action music just plowing along at a fixed tempo and NOT hitting all the cuts and hit points, or ending halfway through a phrase, it really jumps off the screen in a bad way. Watch some old eighties movies like Beverly Hills Cop or something and marvel at the Linndrum just bonking away at 110bpm with no regard for what's happening on the screen to see what I mean!
Old 20th February 2012
  #266
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kpsiegel's Avatar
 

Charlie thanks for the insights. I was wondering how you get all your equipment synced up. It seems like you have a lot of things on midi and since you are scoring against film a lot of stuff has to be accurately clocked. Do you just gang up a bunch of midi patchbays together? Seems like there is not much out there that has more than 8 midi in/out ports and when you have a lot of equipment in play things get sort of nuts.
Old 20th February 2012
  #267
Lives for gear
 
charlieclouser's Avatar
 

I don't use external hardware MIDI instruments anymore, except once in a blue moon. Back in New Orleans I used to have 8x Unitors for a total of 64 hardware MIDI ports, but those days are long gone. All of my scores have been 99.999% EXS-24, with 1 out of 100 cues using a synth plugin - usually just ES-2, but I've used exactly two patches from Omnisphere (dream piano and bowed titanium) a couple of times, and I used Arturia Moog Modular once or twice to make some 16th note bass thumps. I've used Vienna and Kontakt legato string patches on three or four cues out of something like 8,000 in the past ten years, and I just got Alchemy which seems cool for stretching samples like the V-synth, but I haven't used it yet. I basically just use the instruments and plugins that come with Logic, except for TC MasterX5 on my subgroups as a mastering finalizer, although I just got Ozone5 to see if that can replace the discontinued Powercore and MasterX5 but I haven't used it yet. I do have UAD2quad fully loaded and Waves Mercury, but I've only used UAD Fatso and L3 a couple of times when editing drum samples I made. Really, it's all just Logic stock plugins... They sound fine and do pretty much everything I need.

For me it's more about making sounds with piano, guitars, drums, and scrap metal and then recording the results, processing them, and then turning them into EXS instruments or libraries of audio files that I can arrange and manipulate in Ableton. Bowed cymbals, scraping metal on concrete, dragging chains across piano strings - stuff like that is way more interesting to me than LP/HP/BP filter types and supersaws. I still have my MKS-80, SVC-350, Xpander and Prophet VS but none of them have been turned on in ten years - I keep them more out of a sense of nostalgia since I bought all of those brand-new, back when they were still current products you could buy at the music store - maybe I'll fire them up again someday if the right project comes along.

These days I use a little half-rack MOTU 5x5 MIDI interface, with only three ports in use - one receives MTC from the ProTools rig and sends MTC to a third computer that I use as a standalone movie-player slave, one port has the EuroRack on it, and one port has my Haken Continuum. That's it.

The chaos of working with hardware MIDI instruments just took too much time for too little result, and none of them really make the kind of sounds I need these days. If I want to use the V-synth or the Voyager, I just record the audio from them live - MIDI isn't even plugged in at the moment.

Back in the nineties I visited James Newton Howard's studio and he had an absolute wall of every MIDI sound module in history - recently I went back there and every single one of the synths was gone and the wall was a nice diffusor array... much nicer!
Old 20th February 2012
  #268
How often do you use your Eurorack modular? Is in mainly for generating sounds or processing sampled audio? What are some of your favorite modules?
And thanks for taking the time to participate in this thread!
Old 20th February 2012
  #269
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kpsiegel's Avatar
 

I should have recalled that you said earlier that you did pretty much everything inside of Logic. I am sure you will enjoy Alchemy especially for the type of stuff you are doing mangling up samples. I can't imagine what that would be like with that Haken Continuum controller. Holy crap! How did you find the learning curve on that beast?
Old 21st February 2012
  #270
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jeremy.c.'s Avatar
This is awesome. I get kind of insecure using all softsynth plugins and soft samplers and native DAW effects; after hanging around gearslutz I feel like I should have a wall of Moog and Nord units running through vintage 1176LNs.
I'm glad to hear a working pro uses tools where they're effective. I have always hated the MIDI clutter, much happier with that stuff ITB.
I'm doing music for games, so the style/workflow is a bit different than scoring to picture, but this is insanely useful info anyway.
Thanks Charlie for posting your workflow, very interesting!
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