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Niklas was inspired by the film and became so heavily attached with the music that he decided to write a blog post about the experience.
About doing the music to short film That Day by Danny Lacey
The film – background
Danny Lacey sent me the almost final rough edit of his sci-fi short That Day and it was time for me to do my part on it, to write the music. I’ve had the privilige to work with Danny before, doing music to short film Love Like Hers and that collab was really great, so my expectations were high on this one.
I got the script early, a few months back and I ususally start a project with just reading through a couple of times. Though having a good grip on the story, I’ve learned it’s a good thing to wait doing any music until you actually have the footage, because there are so many factors being added that’s not in the script, ie acting, directions, ligtning, camera work, sound, editing and change of scenes due to various conditions. Well in post production Danny sent me one rough edit feat temp music another one with just dialogue/foley on and a list of keywords.
For starters – the process
It’s been the busiest times ever and being working on other projects I started with just watching the film a couple of times during the first week. This is a great way for me to mentally adjust to the project, to tune in and visualize the composing process and outcome before actually doing anything. Visualizing seem to give that extra energy needed when you’re deep in there in the creative process and it will help you make decisions easier, most recommended.
I got very strong vibes from the end part of the film, also there was this great acting somewhere in the middle that felt quintessential, furthermore I liked the intro with temp sound Danny sent me. These were my starting points for buildding the score.
The sound palette
To give a project definition and recognizable character I like to work with a limited set of instruments and sound, similar to the painters palette of colours. My choice fell on these: Cither – for the suspenseful ’in the woods’ – scenes. Piano – for some of the dialogue parts and a few ”reflective” notes.
Synth combo – Using ”Iris” and ”Massive”, for creation of a rich multilayered fantastic giant chord. Orchestral drums & strings (sample based) – for additional depth using VSL strings, Symfobia and an Logic EXS24 .
Sound FX – from my own private library, a customized reversed glass hit effect. Giant reverb – 2C Aether , fantastic & smooth sounding , especially for very long reverbs.
Production session 1 – suspense in the woods and the ending
I wanted to try out the ideas I already had in my head. Early when seeing the rough I got this Em9 ringing in my head and there was this tempo in the scenes and edit. I found 164 bpm in 6/4 would nice for the suspenseful parts and that also worked great as sync grid for the rest of film and I set the key to Em.
First session was recording the cither with felt mallets, I already had this sound and groove in my head so it was just a matter of doing a good performance. I’ve got good use of my long experience from working as a musician to drama performances in the past. It’s quite easy for me to follow, to improvise and play along with a character. Did three takes in various lengths, think I used the third one in the end. I added a simple drum pattern to give the cither a bit more weight and pulse, done –think it worked really well with the most active woods scene.
Secondly getting the ending right, was crucial becacuse my plan was to recycle it in a lighter, filtered and modified form in the intro. I was using ”Iris” for laying out a first light, dreamy, a bit
nervy pad to follow and emphasize the dialogue, acting, camera work, lightning and that very special ending.
Prod session 2 – intro and mid dialogue
I got the preliminary ending and did some filtering to it . Added that to the intro. Also added a single piano note with an enourmous reverb tail, marking some kind of awakening form in the end part, reversed it and used it as a long swell in the intro. On top of that I played a few piano notes, giving a hint the Em9 idea, not too obvious though. I did an abrubt end to it and liked the vacuum bridge to scene 2.
I kept adding piano to (imo) the central dialogue scene, rubato arpeggio chords adding depth to what’s going on, decided to add strings and morph the piano notes into a dramatic reverb tail as well to build some tension into it.
Prod session 3 – the ending
I had the previous prel synth pad idea on this. Now it was time to make it gorgious and stunning. So I started to add layers from the ”NI Massive” synth. Recorded it in layers, used chourus and early reflections to make it bigger and smoother sounding, re-recorded the whole thing for a slight doubling effect. Finally added strings to the arrangement and a thrilling piano pattern at the end. The goal was to make it stunning, magic, to really move the listener, hope I’ve succeded with that.
Prod session 4 – the woods, multiple scenes
I used the recordings from session one, pitched them down and also did a pitched down reversed version. It worked surprisingly well and I’m very happy to recycle in this manner to keep the ideas tight and economic. In one of the scenes I also used a customized reversed glass for a great sync effect. Finally added a playful beat to one of the scenes.
Prod session 5 – all together, mixdown
I was fine tuning the envelope curves, matching them to both subtle things in the acting and more obvius focus or zoom effects. Then it was all about setting the right levels on everything and doing a final check before sending it over Danny.
Prod session 6 – Like it but.. alt version
Danny was very happy with it except that abrubt end to playful beat in scene 2, so I replaced it with an alt version of the beat underneath the cither in combo with sustaining the notes from the intro scene. He was right, I think the result got better.
All in all 20h was spent effectively, but I passionately lived/breathed/thought/worked with it mentally for about 8 days.
To me, my role in this was to bring up and support the meta level to the story – the end it’s just the beginning. I really enjoyed working with Danny and indirectly the team behind him, hope to do that soon again.
Enjoy the film, prel release this summer, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Niklas Aman – composer
Many thanks to Niklas for sharing the process, don’t forget to follow him on Twitter twitter.com/niklasaman
Take a look at this video Niklas made while scoring the music for Love Like Hers back in 2010.
Thanks for stopping by