Taking the Cue in Context
OK, you are a filmmaker and getting ready to listen to a cue from your composer. This is not an easy thing and many filmmakers listen to demos the wrong way.
Here are some important things to remember as you listen.
1. This is a demo
As a filmmaker, how do you listen to a demo?
Listen to the melody and the mood, not the quality of the recording. Clarity and expression will come later, as will live instruments to sweeten, or even better, a live recording date. Trust that the polish will come.
Demos are like layouts in animation (stick figures walking through a gray world) when compared to using live instruments.
You can discuss instrument choices, density of textures and anything that is pertinent to the story-telling and the mood of the scene. You will not be able to get in your composer’s head and imagine what the final cue will sound like, so you have to take that leap.
Once a cue is approved, it is fine to ask how close to final the cue is and what work is left to do on it.
2. Take the cue in context
Consider the music that comes before and after. Just like scenes and other story elements, music is experienced in the context of what precedes it and what comes after.
For example; the start of a film can have lighter, slower music which on its own might appear too slow. But the musical plan is pick up the pace and intensity gradually from cue to cue, creating a great buildup that would have been impossible had it started too fast too soon.
Consider the cue’s place in the story. This is related to the first point, but while that was from a musical point of view, we must always consider the story and the effect the cue will have on the story-telling.
The story should have an arc, so should the music. For example; the first action scene should sound different than the last. If the music is the same for all action sequences, it homogenizes the story and creates no sense of forward momentum.
So consider a cue in the context of what will happen later or earlier in the story.
Consider other audio elements. Are there sound effects to be added later that are not present in this rough cut? Perhaps the music feels too thin and piercing, or even drops out to make room for the explosion all together. That’s a good thing but may feel empty when you listen on its own.
Share your thoughts: Any other ideas and considerations for filmmakers to properly assess a demo? Leave a comment.