Careers in Film Scoring
Composer (Film, TV, Video Games, Visual Media)
Composers for film, TV, video games, visual media or theatrical performances, commercials, art installations, web content, etc. create music, either as instrumental pieces or as pieces that include lyrics. The composer’s role is often to provide a dramatic underscore, but composers have also created popular soundtracks that stand on their own. Required skills include music notation, sight-reading, active listening, critical thinking, creativity, and an awareness of both music history and current trends.
The composer in the electronic field has a particular specialty in using computer and MIDI technology throughout the entire composing and arranging process. The electronic composer may compose for a specific recording situation—such as film/TV composers who score/compose to enhance visual media—or a live performance situation, such as composers who create for live theater, music, dance, or art. This work may include producing MIDI mock-ups, which allow a director or executive producer to hear the compositions before the recording or performance process commences. For the electronic composer, knowledge of audio editing software is a must, along with the ability to deliver results in fast-paced environments.
A music editor is responsible for mixing and synchronizing music with a visual counterpart, such as a film or video game. The music editor often provides a temporary track that is used as a stand-in for the final score until that score is ready. The music editor must be versatile and possess a great musical sensitivity, a keen ear for balance, and an awareness of how music can make or break a dramatic scene or sequence. In addition, the music editor must be familiar with the technology used to mix and synchronize music in conjunction with visual media.
“Keep learning and never give up.”
- Lucas Vidal and Steve Dzialowski
The programmer uses software to produce MIDI keyboard/synthesizer tracks for inclusion in a score for visual media such as film, TV, video games, and commercials, or for art installations, live performances, and more. A programmer may also sequence a composition so as to enable the composer, music editor, or others an opportunity to hear it—and identify any problematic areas—without having to hire a full orchestra before it reaches its final performance or recording stage. A programmer must possess strong skills with music sequencing software and notation software.
An orchestrator is responsible for writing or transposing music based on a composer’s work or draft such that an ensemble or individual can perform it. Often, an orchestrator will transpose music from one instrument, voice, or electronic sound to another in order to accommodate the needs of a particular instrument, musician, group, or style. In film music scoring sessions, the orchestrator may also be called upon to conduct.
A music supervisor is in charge of music that accompanies a visual media project such as a film, TV show, video game, or commercial. A music supervisor may act as an A&R scout to find and license popular songs for inclusion as theme or background music and may select songs for the soundtrack. A music supervisor’s role may be limited to soundtrack music, or they may be in charge of all music for the project, including hiring and supervising a composer for dramatic scoring. A music supervisor must possess knowledge of copyright, licensing, negotiation skills, and budget management as well as a deep knowledge of music and visual media so as to pair the two together in a way that produces the intended impact.
A film/TV music contractor is responsible for hiring the musicians and tending to all the necessary contract obligations through AFM (American Federation of Musicians). It is in the contractor's best interest to procure the best talent possible while working within his/her budget guidelines.
The film arranger provides musical arrangements of a musical composition or song for film and/or TV usage. The arranger determines the voice, instrument, harmonic structure, rhythm, tempo, and other aspects of a song or composition, based on the conductor or film producer's specifications. Training in music theory, orchestration, composition, and harmony is required. An arranger should have experience as a copyist, writing music, and playing one or more instruments.
A film conductor's main duty is preparing an orchestra or ensemble for the finest performance possible in a film scoring session. This includes preparing the musicians for the sessions via rehearsals, and all other business affairs related to leading an orchestra. A conductor should have a strong ability on an instrument, in-depth musical knowledge, the ability to sight read, and great interpersonal and leadership skills to interact with film composers, studio orchestra players, music editors, orchestrators, and copyists. During a scoring session, the conductor is able to hear the comments of the producer in the studio control room and direct the musicians/orchestra accordingly. Often, the film composer or orchestrator will occupy the role of conductor, as well.
Copyist (Music Preparation)
In the film music industry, a copyist's job is also called music preparation. The copyist transfers musical parts from a score onto individual parts. This person must have strong notation and transposition skills, training in music theory, attention to detail, and neat and accurate copy work.
Assistant to the Composer
An assistant to the composer acts as a liaison between the composer and various other entities in the film, television, and music industry. The main responsibility for the assistant to the composer is to allow the film composer time to do what he does best, which is composing. This is usually an entry-level position and provides a unique perspective on the filmmaking process.
The sound designer is employed to develop and/or utilize a sound library to implement sounds and effects for a variety of potential clients, including artists/bands; films, television shows, video games, and other visual media; live theater; production and multimedia companies; and manufacturers. The sound designer typically uses an array of sophisticated electronic equipment to find sonic solutions in their work. A sound designer must posses a creative mindset, the ability to record and edit audio, and the discipline to manage a multitude of audio files across various projects.