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The Panel

On Sunday, April 17th, I had the pleasure and absolute honor to be invited to speak on a panel about film scoring through Beacon Hollywood. Accompanying me on the panel were some of the most talented and prolific composers and vocalists responsible for such works as Spiderman, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Punisher, and work on Rush, Tangled, Avatar…the list goes on. To be asked to be among talent of this level was beyond exciting. I grew up listening to some of these composers’ music.  Here’s an image from the promotional material that went out.

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It was an incredible night with wonderful questions regarding our process to approaching a scene, how we deal with staying on time and within budget among many others. For me personally, it was an exhilarating feeling to have people interested in how I approach my music. I was also able to showcase a scene from my upcoming film, In-Lawfully Yours starring Chelsey Crisp and Philip Boyd which will be premiering this fall. Needless to say, the event was incredibly inspiring and it gave me the itch to begin my next projects. Here are some photos from the evening and stay tuned for more news about In-Lawfully Yours!

 

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2016: New Year, New You

My goodness!

We’ll pretend it hasn’t been very long since I’ve written anything here. Welcome to my new (old) news page! I’ve decided to discontinue my blog in its old form, and use it as a news archive. It would take too long to recap the 2 years of updates, so we’re starting fresh today.

My website is now officially live! Welcome. Here’s the nutshell rundown of 2015.

I have scored my 4th feature film, ‘Jesse and Naomi’: A romantic comedy that will be released this year. I’m very excited for everyone to see it. If you’d like a sneak peak at some of the music for it, check out the ‘Sad/Breakup’ song on my Music Page.

Earlier in the year, I had the amazing opportunity to write music for the Tokyo Disney 2015 summer show which changed my life. In August I was in Tokyo to see the show live and it was a dream come true.

I have a new composing workstation, custom built by my dad – very fancy.

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Now you’re (somewhat) caught up! I’m gearing up for a new year of music, projects and excitement, so check back often!

New Rig, New Place, New Possibilities

It has been quite a while since my last post. But then again quite a lot has happened (I’m noticing a pattern here). First, I moved. Originally I was living in Costa Mesa, so every time there was music related things to do, I had to commute either into or through LA. If you’ve never driven through LA before, the stories are true. Every hour is rush hour. I’m now living in Burbank, and beautiful and quiet small town-feeling place outside of LA. It’s also where everything happens. Most every major studio is here including Disney, ABC, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, all of which are within a 10 minute drive from our apartment. Also, I’m about a 5 minute drive from Mike Post’s studio where I did the fellowship. I’ll be trying to pay a visit soon to see how everyone is doing. Now when I say everything happens here, it really does. On the 10 minute drive we made to get groceries, there was a TV show filming, a movie by Troma Films filming and something huge filming at a high school from Buena Vista Studios. Not bad for a trip to buy tortillas.

Now that I’m here, studio trips and networking will be so much easier. I felt like I couldn’t do too much networking because if I got a job, I’d be commuting a couple hours every day, and that’d be rough. So the hunt for steadier music work begins!

Now for the technical stuff. I also upgraded my music rig, in preparation for the next films I’ll be doing. Previously, I’ve been scoring all my films on a laptop. It was a pretty powerful machine, but it was definitely struggling under the weight of the features I did. I recently purchased the new 27″ iMac, so the new specs are as follows:

3.4 GHz Quad-Core i7 Processor
32 GBs DDR3 Ram
768 Gbs Solid State Drive
Nvidia Geforce 680 MX 2GB video card

 

New Rig all set up

In addition, I purchased a LaCie 6TB Thunderbolt drive, and set it to Raid 0. Here’s what that means. The thunderbolt drive is 2 hard drives in 1 case. Raid 0  means that when you put a file on it, it splits that file into 2 parts, and each part is put on one of the drives. That means when you access the file, it is accessed twice as fast. Perfect for music guys who need to stream thousands of samples to their computer in real time. Things are quite fast now.

You may remember a post I made not too long ago about my recent purchase of Vienna Ensemble. It’s the software that allows me to keep all my instruments loaded inside Vienna so that Logic is just being used for the music, and doesn’t load all the sounds every time. Well, on my previous computer, Vienna and Logic running at the same time was too much for it to handle, so I couldn’t use it. Now, on this new computer, I have spent the last few days getting Vienna up and running, and it works perfectly. It did take a lot of work though. My goal was to create a template. Many composers create a template that automatically loads up the instruments they use most often, so they don’t have to reload them all for each new project. I loved this idea, so I wanted to do my own. Also, because the routing between Vienna and Logic is so complicated, a template saves time. So here’s what I had to do. (Warning: Technical talk ahead!)

First I had to enter the dreaded ‘Environment’ in Logic. This is where you connect virtual cables together to make Logic talk to other programs. In the picture below, you’ll see that I created a virtual Instrument for each section of the orchestra, one for my synthetic instruments, and one for anything I need to add after the fact. Each instrument is just a placeholder. I then created 15 MIDI instrument channels for each section and routed them through Logic out to Vienna.

Next I created an instance of Vienna for each section I wanted, and loaded all the instruments I wanted to have ready for each new project. I left some free space in there as well for loading instruments unique to each project.

After that, I created all the channel strips in Logic, color-coded them and connected Logic to Vienna.

Luckily everything works beautifully. I did a stress test on the system, and there were no problems, and now every time I start a new project, I can save the time of having to load everything from scratch. Also, in the case of a feature film when I have dozens of cues, I don’t have to reload all my instruments every time I switch to another cue. I’m very excited to do this all for a real project.

 

So now everything is ready and waiting for the next thing to come my way. I hope my posts will be a bit more frequent now. Also, the website is making great progress, so stay tuned for that, as everything will be switching over to that site when it’s done, including this blog. Until next time!

Hollywood and High School

Sorry for the lack in posts! This is the last month in my current apartment, so I’m busy making all the necessary moving arrangements. A couple things did happen recently though, that I’d love to share with you.

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak to my old high school’s Music Technology class through Skype. I still keep in touch with my band teacher, as he is such a huge influence and source of support. Any time I can give back a little to the person and the school that helped me get to where I am, I’m all in. He asked me if I could Skype in one morning to talk about my journey so far and my process. As it’s a music technology class, I was able to share my screen and show them the software and virtual instruments I was using, and talk a little bit about my process. It was so great to speak with the class and answer their questions. I hope to do it again soon because I had a blast. Doing a Skype interview of sorts worked out very well, and I hope that it inspired a few of them to pursue music as a career. It was such a great experience and I will treasure the memory.

You may also remember a month or two ago, I wrote about about the opportunity I had to write the intro music for a theater chain in Pennsylvania called Hollywood Theaters. The final animation came out and is now in theaters, and I was given permission to post the video on the blog to show all of you. I’m so happy with how it turned out and very grateful for all the exposure this will have. I hope you enjoy the video, and if you ever find yourself near Philadelphia, stop into a Hollywood Theater, and you will hear my music!

 

Video Games

So I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Truth be told that’s a good thing at the moment. The two movies that I scored were my first two movies ever, and there was a lot of learning to be done with them. That’s a good thing, but what I didn’t anticipate was that it would be two movies back to back. I wouldn’t change a single day of the process, but by the end, I was tired. Luckily I don’t have anything huge lined up until the summer, where I may be doing another film, but that’s not official yet.

I’m currently working on a short western film called Dead Man’s Hand. I’m doing it as a favor to someone who helped me out a lot a couple years ago. This film is the perfect test bed for my new software (and I’m learning a lot about it here) as well as a great way for me to test my chops at a new genre. So far, I’m really liking the way things are sounding. You can expect a sample in the next day or two.

After the short, I may be doing a web series that should be very interesting. Then it’s the wait until summer. I’m moving (in more ways than one) in April. I’ll be relocating closer to LA, as well as moving my digital life over to the new website. On that topic, I’ve been getting some samples of the new site from my web designer and I’m thrilled at how it’s looking. It’s simple, elegant and easy to use. It’s all about getting to the music, and I don’t want anything flashy to distract from that. I’ll also be moving to my new rig once the computer I need becomes available. Lots of changes coming up!

So I find myself in a greatly appreciated slow period. But I don’t want it to be slow for long. So I’ve started doing some research into music for video games. It’s a great industry to be in, and the exposure is huge. I’m interested in trying my hand at some Indie Video Games. These are lower in budget, yet huge in creativity. At the moment, I’m reaching out to game developers to try to get involved with a few projects. This idea is in its infancy at the moment, but I’m excited to get started. I’ve already received a couple replies, so it will be a lot of fun to see where this goes. More updates to come!

School All Over Again

I’ve had a couple days with my new software, and it’s been a blast learning everything. Omnisphere has this incredible depth to it. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the limit of what it can do, and I’m okay with that. It will always be there to do what I need it to do. I’ll be working on a short film in the coming weeks, so it will give me the perfect chance to put Omnisphere through its paces, and I can’t wait.

Vienna has been the learning challenge, as it is changing my whole workflow. As I mentioned in my last post, Vienna keeps all my sounds loaded and routes them to Logic so I don’t have to reload instruments every time I switch projects, and I can easily spread my library on instruments over multiple computers with ease. The challenge has been learning how to do all this routing. Things are about to get very technical in here, so read with caution.

To explain why routing things with Vienna is a challenge, we first need a history lesson, and it all starts with MIDI. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and it is the programming language that we use to write music on a computer. The language also allows you to connect real hardware like piano keyboards, synthesizers and the like to a computer so that the computer can understand it. MIDI is a wonderful language because it is used universally by everyone, so it makes writing music with it very easy, but it has some limitations. MIDI was developed in 1983 when digital musical interfaces started to get more common. It was developed as a musical standard between all the competing audio companies so that they could all use the same language for all the devices and software they were developing to be used with a computer. MIDI has barely changed since its introduction, and because the language is a bit dated, software manufacturers need to come up with some clever workarounds to make it all still work. You might ask, why don’t they just come up with a new MIDI language? To answer that, you don’t need to look any further than the gas in your car. There are plenty of alternate fuel sources far superior to gas, like electric and hydrogen, but in order for them to become a global standard, you’d need to change every engine in every car and every fuel station in the world. No small feat. The same goes for MIDI. The digital music industry is built around MIDI, so everything would need to change if we adopted a new musical programming language. It may happen someday, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. So why does that make Vienna hard?

MIDI allows you to send signals over 16 virtual channels to your composing software, like a television that only gets 16 stations (which at one point was true, imagine that!). That means that Vienna (because it uses MIDI to communicate with Logic) can only send 16 instruments to Logic. Not nearly enough. My film scores, which are by no means huge use an average of 30-50 instruments, so I need more than that, and I’ve seen some larger projects that use 100 or more instruments. Vienna uses a trick to increase the number of tracks you can load at once. When I say that MIDI has 16 channels, those are output channels, meaning signals that are going from Vienna to Logic. But, MIDI also has 8 input channels, meaning 8 unique devices could be sending signals through MIDI at the same time. Because of these inputs, once I need instrument ’17’ and so on, I can switch over to input 2, and then 3, up until 8, giving me a total of 128 instruments that Vienna can route to Logic. So what happens in the event that I need more than 128 instruments? Because Vienna is a server software, I can load another instance of Vienna, which gives me another 128 instruments.

Now that I’ve got my head around the idea of how Vienna works, I think with time, the whole setup process will become second nature to me. I’m also going to build templates of common instrument setups that I use all the time so I can get a baseline going, but all in all, I’m excited to have this new workflow up and running.

In other news, I got in touch with a very talented programmer I know, Ansel Santosa who is going to be constructing a website for my music. I want to have a one stop shop for all things music related with a nice portfolio of my past and current projects. So within the upcoming weeks and months you can expect to see a lot of changes. I do plan on keeping this blog going, but it may move to the website once it is completed, but I’ll be sure to let you all know when that time comes.

With Progress Comes Change

My workflow over the last few years hasn’t changed much. I’ve always used Logic to compose my music and I’ve always used my EastWest sounds for my orchestra running off my laptop. But as my projects, vision and skill increase in size, I must adapt to those changes. After 3 day test, I wrote that I would slowly be upgrading my music rig over the coming months. It started with the simple addition of my little MOTU Microbook II. Apple has recently released their 27in iMac which will be replacing my current laptop when it becomes available, and I am eagerly awaiting that day. In the meantime, there was some software I wanted to purchase to increase the capabilities of my music. At first, I wanted to wait until I got my new computer, but now that I find myself in between projects, I figured this would be the perfect time to learn new software, as it will be changing the way I write music quite a bit.

First, it has become apparent that even though I primarily write for orchestra, other sounds are often needed to supplement the music. This was most evident in my most recent film, Barlowe Mann. In that score, I used a fair number of synthesized instruments, as well as real instruments that were heavily modified for the ethereal and often whimsical sound I was going for. I knew it was time to invest in some synths, and there’s nothing better to start with than Omnisphere.

Omnisphere is called a Power Synth. Not only does it come with over 8000 preset sounds, it allows for the creation of sounds, so it has nearly unlimited possibilities. This should allow me to create any atmosphere or non-orchestral sound I need for any project. I’m very excited to begin learning this new program. 
During another blog post, I mentioned a piece of software called Vienna Ensemble.
 I was first introduced to Vienna during my time with Mike Post, and its benefits were instantly visible to me. Here’s the nutshell version. Any time you close a track you are working on and load another, your composition software needs to reload all the sounds for that project, even if the sounds are the same. This wastes a lot of time and puts extra strain on your equipment. Vienna (among many other features) loads all your sounds into itself, so you don’t need to reload everything when you switch projects. It’s really useful. 
Both these programs arrived today, and I am installing them as I write. These programs, Vienna especially are going to drastically change how I go about making music, so there’s a lot to learn. I will be using this downtime to get everything in order for the next big thing. 
Speaking of the next big thing, I have received word that Corbin will be filming his next movie in April and it looks as of right now that I will be involved in the music for that one. Details are scarce right now, but I’ll be sure to write in as soon as I know. Stay tuned for more updates as I tackle these new programs!