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What would I need to do to write for Film/TV/Radio/Media?
Old 8th September 2015
  #1
Gear Nut
 

What would I need to do to write for Film/TV/Radio/Media?

I'm serious. Reading a couple of posts here it's clear there's this whole industry I know nothing about. It doesn't help that, like many industries, if you aren't "in the know" it's difficult to learn about because just learning the lingo can be daunting/confusing/offputting.

Can I be a small fish?

Let's say I'm not looking to make millions or even thousands.

What's the bare minimum I need to put sound to something like a little local documentary film, or maybe get a gig writing the intro theme to a local news show or something?

I've got a synthesizer (modern Roland with great sounds).
It's got a sequencer, and I have a computer with sequencer as well.
I know how to use them, quantize, multi-track and so on and so forth.

Do I need some kind of software like Final Cut Pro to be able to import the film to then import into a sequencer (I would assume so)?

And then I'd need a computer to run that of course (computer I have now wouldn't cut it). What else, portable drive for transfer of said video file?

What's the delivery method - I would assume someone involved with the film is going to be mixing dialogue and sound with any music added in - do they prefer a multi-track audio format or just a stereo (or must it be surround nowadays) mix?

Do I just send them the file and they sync it up (or cut it up) how they see fit?

Do people work without video? i.e. does someone say "I need 30 seconds" and that's what you give them and they import it. Do people ask for, or do you provide multiple options in case something you make doesn't fit with their vision, but if you had a couple of options they might pick 1 of 3 or something?

One of my colleagues did a score for a Discovery Channel show - and I know it boils down to contacts and who you know, but he's a jazz player who travels around and someone recommended him and I know he used like a synth and had to buy a SMPTE or other time keeping kind of device but I don't know that he necessarily had any great computer and DAW to do this.

But I'm thinking so much more can be done "in the box" now...

I'd go so far as to maybe take some videos and strip the audio from them, and then add my own music as examples and try to hawk them to local film-makers. I'm classically trained, as well as a pop music person, and I work in many genres and I can "fake" a lot of other genres, so I think I could provide a decent variety - you know if someone wants something "classical sounding" or "techno sounding" etc. Jack of all trades and master of none though.

At this point, I don't have any hopes or even delusions of being famous or even making a living off of it. It would be like my gigging in bands over the years - walking around money. But I'm getting older and gigging isn't going to be tenable for much longer so I'm looking for something to replace that creative output, and walking around cash, and, maybe have something with my name on it with maybe at least a little more longevity.

Is this like gigging, where I need to invest in all this gear, do everything for practically free, with little return on investment? If so, I've done that already, so it's not that bad, but investing is the difficult part.

Or is it a "if you're not serious about it, you shouldn't even get into it" (which I could say about gigging musicians but that never stops people from trying - or failing as it were).
Old 8th September 2015
  #2
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acmusic's Avatar
 

If you still have questions after exhausting your online investigating, feel free to contact me through the website in my signature (I can't deal with GS PMing).

atb,
kjb

Old 8th September 2015
  #3
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Sonsey@mac.com's Avatar
 

Just a few questions huh? It can be daunting to start out at ANYTHING, but remember that everyone starts somewhere. As Alice would say: "Begin at the beginning and end at the end." But, in order to give you a beginning, here are my answers to your questions. As always, mileage may vary, but this is what I've learned


Quote:
Can I be a small fish?
Of course... if you WANT to be. For every big fish (Elfman, Zimmer, etc) there are hundreds if not thousands of us who just pay our mortgage and get to do something we really love. The "problem" is if you REALLY want to be a big fish, and aim for small fish territory, or the other way round. Ask yourself what you REALLY want (and only you can give the right answer).

Quote:
What's the bare minimum I need to put sound to something like a little local documentary film, or maybe get a gig writing the intro theme to a local news show or something?

I've got a synthesizer (modern Roland with great sounds).
It's got a sequencer, and I have a computer with sequencer as well.
I know how to use them, quantize, multi-track and so on and so forth.
These and a desire to do it. Oh and actually being able to compose well helps. I started doing promos and such for my local cable access channel with a D-10, an FB-01 and a copy of Cakewalk 1.0.

Quote:
Do I need some kind of software like Final Cut Pro to be able to import the film to then import into a sequencer (I would assume so)?
Need? No... have them send you a Quicktime of the "finished" product. Most if not all sequencers will let you import a Movie and work from there (unless you're actually running Cakewalk 1.0). However, a basic understanding of video editing and converting software (as simple as iMovie and moving on up) doesn't hurt. There's a wide range of video codecs and formats out there, and not all play well with everything. Being able to convert a video quickly to a format and size you need is generally easier than trying to get them to re-output.

Quote:
And then I'd need a computer to run that of course (computer I have now wouldn't cut it). What else, portable drive for transfer of said video file?
To paraphrase the Matrix... "Drives.... lot's of drives". In a digital medium, you can NEVER have enough storage and backup space. And some cloud based storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, whatever) is a good idea for moving stuff back and forth - the cost of Dropbox for a year is about the same as two or three Fedex shipments. Do NOT get caught up in Gear Lust. It's easy to say "If I just had THESE samples or THAT computer or THAT reverb, then I could really make music!"... Start with what you have, learn it, build from there. Put another way, did you start gigging with the BEST instrument money could buy? Or did you start with something decent and build from there?

Quote:
What's the delivery method - I would assume someone involved with the film is going to be mixing dialogue and sound with any music added in - do they prefer a multi-track audio format or just a stereo (or must it be surround nowadays) mix?

Do I just send them the file and they sync it up (or cut it up) how they see fit?
There is no single answer to this. A lot depends on the project, and the budget. Sometimes it's as simple as an MP3 file, sometimes it's full surround Stems. Here's a piece of advice. Get in the habit of asking about deliverables EARLY in your project. It will save you much grief, and generally makes you look like the hero - not the villain. For low budget, and simple TV stuff, a good stereo mix will often suffice. P.S. Mixing Music for Film and TV is different than mixing for a record. There's lots of good advice here and everywhere about them, so do yourself a favour and learn about it.

Quote:
Do people work without video? i.e. does someone say "I need 30 seconds" and that's what you give them and they import it. Do people ask for, or do you provide multiple options in case something you make doesn't fit with their vision, but if you had a couple of options they might pick 1 of 3 or something?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. As you're probably starting to understand, every project is different, and while there are general rules, they can often change. I've been asked to do 3 different 30 sec pieces for an Ad without ever seeing it, and I've had to hit specific marks on another. Again, asking about workflow and deliverables upfront, will help you along the line, and also help you determine which gigs you take, and which you don't

Quote:
But I'm thinking so much more can be done "in the box" now...
It CAN all be done in the box... lots is. Having said that, adding real musicians and real instruments goes a long way. Since you're currently gigging it's safe to assume you play. Adding your instrument will help define your sound which is ultimately what you're selling.

Quote:
I'd go so far as to maybe take some videos and strip the audio from them, and then add my own music as examples and try to hawk them to local film-makers. I'm classically trained, as well as a pop music person, and I work in many genres and I can "fake" a lot of other genres, so I think I could provide a decent variety - you know if someone wants something "classical sounding" or "techno sounding" etc. Jack of all trades and master of none though.
Most media composers are exactly that. You need to be able to "fake" a style convincingly even if you've never played it. Alf Clausen of "The Simpsons" tells a great tale about having to do a bunch of Klezmer stuff, which he knew nothing about. You certainly could do the video trick... many have, but also consider heading down to your local college/university film program. If you're going to be doing stuff on your own time, at least get a feel for dealing with all the OTHER aspects of film composing (people skills, arbitrary deadlines, changes to your absolute BEST EVER work because the director doesn't like it, etc). Heck, maybe you can even get a few bucks. Dr. Bill here talks about earning while you learn and that's a really valid point - find the clients who are at YOUR level (and they are out there) and work with them. Get your experience with the people who are ALSO getting the experience.

Quote:
At this point, I don't have any hopes or even delusions of being famous or even making a living off of it. It would be like my gigging in bands over the years - walking around money. But I'm getting older and gigging isn't going to be tenable for much longer so I'm looking for something to replace that creative output, and walking around cash, and, maybe have something with my name on it with maybe at least a little more longevity.

Is this like gigging, where I need to invest in all this gear, do everything for practically free, with little return on investment? If so, I've done that already, so it's not that bad, but investing is the difficult part.

Or is it a "if you're not serious about it, you shouldn't even get into it" (which I could say about gigging musicians but that never stops people from trying - or failing as it were).
You CAN make a living off it... many do. Many do it as part of a larger creative business, including things like gigging, teaching, producing, etc. Do you NEED to do it for free with no ROI? No. There are opportunities out there. Different from the ones that were there even 10 years ago for sure, but they are there. There are MANY people who will tell you that you HAVE to work for free when you start out, and there are MANY who will tell you that you don't (myself included). I'll leave you to go through that whole argument (and there's a lot of it!) yourself. That's a call YOU will have to make for you.

Remember, we all started somewhere... your place is no better or worse than someone else's, as long as you keep moving forward. That sounds really "new-agey" but it's true. Pick a point and start from it. Learn from your mistakes, and those of others when you can. You might just surprise yourself. Good Luck!
Old 9th September 2015
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Thanks for the encouraging response Howard!
Old 20th August 2019
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Just a few questions huh?
I just wanted to thank you again for your encouragement and help.

I've been away for a while. I now have a better computer and have been working on some things in the last 2 weeks that I feel are really starting to come together and I've learned a lot from people here.

Re-reading your response to my questions reminded me that I'm still thinking pretty similarly as before, though with the help of the kind and wise forumites here I'm starting to be able to get a little more "directed learning" and not spin my wheels.

I did remember to thank you before, but I just wanted to say so again.

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