48 Hour Film Soundtrack
Last month I participated in a 48 Hour Film project. We received instructions regarding required aspects of the film at 7:30pm on a Friday, and had to turn in the completed short (5 to 7 minute) film (video) at 7:30pm that Sunday.
Although there is a certain amount of preparatory work (assembling a team, renting gear, scouting potential locations, securing releases, etc.) that can happen in advance, all of the creative and production work happens within that 48-hour window: brainstorming, screenwriting, storyboarding, filming, composing, recording, editing, etc.
This was my first time participating. I had a ton of fun, but it was a really long weekend. I composed and recorded music for the movie's five scenes. All of this happened in parallel with shooting the film; I didn't have the luxury of seeing any rough edits or even knowing for certain how long each scene would be.
In addition to many hours in creative meetings, I spent about 16 hours in the studio over two days.
We ran into technical problems in the final two hours: we didn't get to render final audio thanks to a bizarre disagreement between the DAW and the host OS; our contingency plan was to submit our film on time with roughed-in audio. But then the flash drive that we bought as our delivery medium failed.
So we didn't make the 48-hour deadline... In fact, we were late by 26 seconds! Still, late is late.
The DAW started working again immediately after the deadline, so we have the final audio. Since we had already missed the deadline we rendered the final audio and submitted the finished film another hour or two later.
While our film isn't eligible for the competition due to the missed deadline, we still got to see the film screened in front of a large audience. That was a blast!
The soundtrack is available here. These are all M4A files. They work on iTunes.
I am not the sole composer. Credits are in the metadata.
The tracks are listed in the order of the movie's scenes.
The movie is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi short.
Track one is a chase scene. The sound reminds me a little bit of of an up-tempo Alice in Chains. The other composer, Todd Brabander, who also co-wrote the screenplay and acted in the movie, gave me the drum track as a starting point.
Track two serves as background for the first dialog scene. This scene was added late in production. The characters have just escaped from their unseen pursuer and believe that they're out of danger for the moment. The music is a simple, sparse distorted guitar over a synth pad. For me, the sound evokes some of Terje Rypdal's compositions.
Track three corresponds to a long scene in which each character tells how he had tried to save the planet, while calling into question the motives of the other characters. My instructions for this track were to "cover background noise"; I used a ton of compression on the bass and on all the guitar parts, and compressed the mix further. The track, therefore has almost no dynamics and sits well behind the dialog. The entire track is a single repeating figure consisting of a fingerpicked chord progression supported by the bass, plus three overlapping guitar figures that borrow from the three motives of the chase scene. I had originally envisioned assigning one motif to each character and bringing the character's motif slightly forward as the character spoke. I realized there wouldn't be time to mix to that level of detail and settled for a constant mix.
Track four signals a sudden shift in mood as the tensions between the characters suddenly flash over. This is a heavy track track with a simple drum pattern, four rhythm guitars (three are layered; the fourth one comes in halfway through), a three-part harmony line, and a closing whammy-bar/feedback solo. (It's not as indulgent as all that; the track only runs 49 seconds and appears in its entirety in the movie.) Unlike the other tracks which have a fairly spacious ambience, this one is bone dry. (I liked this track so much that I excerpted a portion to use as a ring tone.)
The abrupt end to track four is followed (in the movie) by a fraction of a second of silence, an audible cue and a cut to the final scene - a vicious attack on the characters. I went to the filming location to get a feel for this scene, which is a vignette of short cuts of implied violence each ending with a quick fade to black.
Track five is the prominent audio during the movie's attack scene. The track uses a single drum, a very dissonant repeated synth pattern, and some noises from a guitar. The intended effect is to instill a sense of discomfort to support the final scene of the movie.
Track six, which supports the film's end credits, is a hip-hop kind of beat done on a sequencer by Todd Brabander. (There are no guitars at all in this track.)
All the guitar parts were recorded direct from my Eleven Rack to my Zoom HD16. Drums, except for the first track, were generated by the Zoom. The synth sounds were from my Roland SH32. Mixing and mastering was done on the Zoom.
I played my two Koll guitars (one with HBs, one with P90s), my Kritz guitar (with three Tele-bridge-style PUs) and my Ibanez bass (with Bartolini PUs).