Alumni Interview with Kazuma Jinnouchi

Name: Kazuma Jinnouchi

Major at Berklee: Contemporary Writing and Production

Graduation Date: 2002

Position Title: Music Composer / Supervisor

Employer: 343 INDUSTRIES (Microsoft Studios)

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of in your career thus far?

2013 is my tenth year as a professional composer. I am proud of myself that I survived my first 10 years. My career as a composer is making some progress and I’m having more and more fun writing music.

While working on music for video games, I’ve had great opportunities scoring for the games from some of the biggest video game franchises. As a person who grew up in Japan and studied in the U.S., I’ve always looked for opportunities where I can work on something that is well-received internationally, and I’m happy that it became my reality. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your current job?  

If you are an in-house composer, there are a lot of tech aspects to learn in the game development. I found it very challenging at the start since I knew nothing about it. What you do in-house is not only music, but also software development (dealing with audio data in relation to scripts and codes), while understanding the usage of the medium. You need to be able to translate all of your artistic input to technical terms. Each video game has its unique workflow, and it is very important that you know the fundamental basics. 

What would you say are the top requirements (skills, mind-set, etc.) for someone entering this line of work? 

Try not to focus on the music when you talk to the team. It is your mission to create a great piece of music, but when you communicate with the directors, producers, or artists, you should talk about how the music will influence the gameplay in relation to sound effects and/or visual materials. Ultimately, what you are creating is not just music, but the experience as a whole.

What is a normal day like in your line of work (assuming there is such a thing as a normal day)?

I start checking emails at home around 8:30 a.m., have breakfast, and then come into the studio around 10:00 a.m. Our audio team has a daily stand-up at 11:00 a.m. where we all get together, talk about the tasks of the day, and sync up with audio directors, producers, implementers, etc.

I spend most of the morning communicating with the team. I personally find it very important because there’s usually tons of information to continue catching up with.

In the afternoon, I spend most of the time composing/editing music until around 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and then go home and continue working in my home studio if I need to until I go to bed.

Sometimes I have meetings in the afternoon. Meetings are usually about music production pipeline, music implementation pipeline, or music review. When I have a music review meeting, it’s usually a big day for me. The creative director, executive producer, audio director, audio producer, manager, and narrative director will come in to my room and we will talk about anything involved with the music I compose.

This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?

I’ve seen major changes in the workflow, which really changed a lot of things. When I started in the industry back in Japan, the entire audio track was implemented by scripting; everything was text-based and it was not easy to learn. The tools I see in the studio these days have GUI and it more feels like using DAW, and to someone like me, they just opened up so many possibilities, and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way.

With more processing capabilities, I can see more and more audio plug-ins implemented into the game audio engine and mixing/engineering.

How has your Berklee experience prepared you for what you are doing today?

What I learned at Berklee became the fundamental of everything I do with music.  Since there was no video game scoring class when I was at Berklee, I learned all of the video game-related skill sets by actually doing it.

In 2006, video game scoring was new to me, but I always felt that I might be able to figure out how to reach the goal somehow, and this truly came from everything I learned at Berklee (such as the skill to write in many different styles or how to analyze what’s going on in the temp track, etc.). No matter what you do, these skill sets have always helped me to figure out how to write.

Once that’s figured out, everything from that point on is a matter of how you apply that idea to the project.

If you could offer just one piece of career advice to students, what would it be?

Keep writing great music! All of the production processes need to be great in order to have a great-sounding product and it’s 100 percent driven by the quality of your writing. This is true to every project I’ve worked on no matter what kind of project it is.