Timings Part II: Hit it
After the timing sheet is ready it is time to write the cue, but how does a composer make his music conform to those timings?
Here is how I do it, and it’s a pretty standard way.
First, I find the right musical idea for the scene along with what is the best tempo for the music. (“Tempo” is the speed of the music as expressed in metronome clicks per minute.)
Once I have my idea and my tempo I check my timing sheet to see what timings I need to hit in this cue and compare this with my click book page.
A click book page provides the composer with all timings in hundredths of a second for a given metronome marking. (example from my own click book I created in Excel format.)
From the timings on the click book I can see how close my current tempo matches the hits. Hard hits must be accurate between 8 hundredths of a second (00:00.08) and 125 hundredths (00:00.125).
If my current metronome marking is not close enough to my hits, then I look at tempo variations slightly above or below in the click book to find a tempo closer to the important timings.
(This all seems quite complicated, but it is a very efficient process.)
At this point the musical idea is chosen, the tempo is perfect and the click book is open for reference – all the is left is to write the cue!
There are a few other ways of timing music to image:
Cues can be written to be performed using free timing. This method has the conductor using a stop watch and visual clues provided on the film itself, but no click track. This takes a good conductor but can result in very expressive performances.
Improvising straight into the computer sequencer while watching the image, reacting to hits with or without a click track.
So there you go, this will hopefully give you an idea of how a composer times his music with your film.
PS: Timings can also be calculated without a click book. Here is the formula: ((tempo/60) x hit in seconds and hundredths ) +1.