Monthly Archives: November 2009

Here’s an early review of Dixie Dynamite from the co-writers’ hometown paper:

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously — instead, it’s content to provide the maximum amount of laughs and bizarre scenarios possible in 90 minutes. The score, which fuses Japanese music with Southern rock, supplies an even greater “what the heck?!” feeling to the proceedings. That includes one of the coolest versions of “Free Bird” I’ve ever heard.

Gave it a Grade ‘B’. More here.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

One panel at GameSoundCon discussed how testers of a major racing game were playing on a new build. The controls were so improved in the new version that their race times were down by 2 seconds.

The testers asked the developers – did they implement new engine control in the game? They hadn’t. The only change that day was a set of new sound files.

Greater sound realism improved the players’ driving.
So there’s a big benefit to accurate-sounding cars. Let’s say you have 50 cars in a game and want to simulate 24 different courses and road conditions. Combinatorially, you can’t take all the cars out onto all those roads. So the trick is to combine isolated engine sounds with isolate road sounds.

Enter the Tesla. The electric engine’s so quiet, it won’t interfere with clean recording of screeching tires and air rushes. So gaming sound engineers are all over these toys.

CrunchGear has an article, with photos.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Goldfrapp scored Nowhere Boy (an indie UK film about John Lennon’s youth), and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeas scored Where the Wild Things Are. From the article:

Although there’s next to no money to be made in writing for film, and all along the line the musician’s vision is subordinate to that of directors, editors and producers, the chance to be a mere cog in a much larger machine seems to offer welcome relief from the essentially solipsistic nature of songwriting. All that autonomy, freedom of expression and relentless self-analysis can be burdensome.

Depends, I guess, on the kind of songwriter an artist chooses to be. You can be a storyteller who aims to entertain, in which case, film-scoring is kind of a natural complement.

The more personal your style, the more you have to break away from your habits to help tell the story of a film.

And there’s this:

There are no plans to release the Nowhere Boy score because, says Gregory, the music isn’t song-based. “I’m not sure how relevant it is without the film. It’s a lot of long, held notes and plinks on the piano.”

It’s a big challenge to stay out of the way of a scene and still be listenable away from the film. Sometimes it’s good to write the music away from the picture, and then go back arrange to fit the scenes.

Here’s some Goldfrapp:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
One of the big topics at GameSoundCon was interactivity, with composers thinking hard about how do they write – and implement – music which changes as the gameplay happens. Musical beds and loops with sudden transitions at checkpoints are seen as outdated.

On the other hand, there is a long way to go. This interview of composer Inon Zur discusses how his score for Dragon Age is not so focused on interactivity.

The music is squarely in the Carl-Orff-meets-Metallica genre. Which is my personal favorite. Trailer awesomeness follows:

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

With the record industry sales collapsing, musicians – talented ones – are flooding into film scoring. But being a film composer is not the same as being a recording artist:

The emails arrive much more frequently now. They all say pretty much the same thing. Someone’s client is an incredible songwriter and film composer, and his new song sounds just like movie music.

“I get one about every 90 minutes”, says Fox Music president Robert Kraft in Los Angeles. “As the record business falls apart around us, unfortunately, everybody who’s writing songs and making his star turn as an indie artist thinks, ‘I got an idea. They still pay a little dough over in the movie and TV universe, so I’m going to reinvent myself as a film composer.'”

Read the whole thing (while you still can) in Google’s cache.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

While working on film music I’ve started to notice that a lot of movie characters have odd habits. They continually comb their hair, pop breath strips, or are concerned with astrological signs.Sometimes these odd habits feel tacked on, sometimes they don’t. I’ve concocted a simple test which can help a writer decide if an odd habit is working:

Does dropping the habit from the character affect this scene? If not, then it’s tacked on.

I know this sounds obvious, but it seems to work.
Here’s an example where the quirk is essential: Melvin Udall’s OCD in As Good as it Gets. His OCD drives conflict throughout the film – it causes his isolation (and thus his anger towards everyone), it drives his need for Carol to be his waitress (which causes him to hire a doctor for her son), and he has to overcome it in order to care for Simon’s dog.

Here are 2 scenes from the movie – can you imagine them without the OCD?

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

This is sublime in so many ways. It’s got George Costanza. A Miami Vice wardrobe. A Footloose-inspired jingle. And ginormous, planet-destroying styrofoam packaging.It’s enough to make you hope they come out with a Mad Men: 80s edition someday.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello
The director’s brother is a long-time friend, but I have to admit, Legend of Neil makes me laugh out loud.
Here’s one of my favorites – the closing webisode of season 1 (they just finished season 2). That dragon, he’s got the Shrek lady-dragon beat for personality in my book. Also check out how the last line of the episode is cutoff mid-sentence.
Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

Better than visual voicemail on the iPhone, because when you see the called in your list, you also see the text of the message:

Hi John, This is a man I had reached out to you about getting that base cabinet. I was wondering if you’re available anytime today after 5 if I could stop by and try it out and then possibly pick it up. If not, also what your availability tomorrow, but hopefully today because I have a car, so please get back to me. Thanks. My number is (*correctly transcribed* ). Thank you. Bye bye.

The only possible error was “base cabinet” instead of “bass cabinet”.

Everyone’s going to want this.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello

I’ll be at GameSoundCon Friday and Saturday. I’ll try and post anything interesting from the sessions.
One interesting note – the con has a 2-day Rock Band development training session. Looks like Viacom is serious about growing Rock Band to cover the long tail of bands and labels, not just blockbusters like Aerosmith and the Beatles.

Posted 8 years ago by John Piscitello