Image is not my own screenshot. Taken under fair use from Wikipedia.
It's no secret that, in today's music industry, we are all expected to wear several hats - and, in many cases, it is absolutely required in order to find any sort of success. So maybe you're a composer or songwriter, and let's say you're working on maybe a TV show or a movie or a short indie film. Among many other hats you may have to wear, one that is very likely to come up is the music editor hat. So what is a music editor? What do they do? And why should you, the writer, have to deal with it?
What They Do
The job of the music editor can range pretty widely depending on what is needed of them and what a composer or their assistants are willing to do themselves. At the most basic level, a music editor is in charge of representing the music during the editing stage (and sometimes long before that), and representing the composer at the dubbing stage and making sure that the music is implemented and edited in the way that the composer intended. The composer and their assistants are still responsible for the music being correct in its composition and delivery and just about everything else, but when its time to put the audio to picture the composer is not always present.
Other duties can include putting together demos (mockups) of the score, creating edits to the audio on the spot, re-composing the score using audio only, and creating temp scores for the director before a composer is hired - I should note that this is more often the film editor these days, and many film editors are becoming very score savvy.
When Is This Your Job?
My first experience with music editing happened when I was Lawrence Shragge's assistant. It's very likely that, as a composer's assistant, you will be asked to put cues to video to send demos to directors; or when we needed source music, I would edit licensed songs so that they would be long enough and have an appropriate "in" and "out"; or sometimes a director wants a song, but not the vocals, so you can stitch the song together using parts without vocals. I also wrote up all of the spotting notes. Now when you're the composer, if you don't have an editor or assistant, it's all on you. Often times there will not be someone representing your music when the audio is being implemented, so it's up to you to make sure that the editor is using your music the way you intended it to be used. This is where spotting notes come in!
Sometimes scenes change after you've recorded the music ("but wait, I thought I was working with the final cut" NOPE). So guess what you get to do! No time to recompose, record and mix the cue again, so you get to chop up the audio of your score and make a new cue! This isn't always as horrible as it sounds, with a good film editor and a well edited scene, it can actually be pretty easy to cut up your score and make it work. I'm not going to go into detail of how to do this (maybe in another post), but know that you need to know how to chop up audio without ANY clicks or awkward fades. The final product should sound like you just pulled a brand new cue out that you just happened to have saved just in case. So know about zero-crossing, types of fades, how to identify downbeats, reverb tails, etc.
Delivery and The Dubbing Process
So, you've written all your music, it's mixed and ready to go and now it's time to meet with the film editor (or whoever is implementing the audio) and make a movie! So what do you need to bring?
One of the worst things that can happen at this stage, and an obvious sign that you're an amateur, is to show up unprepared - and I mean for ANYTHING. Bring ALL of your spotting and meeting notes, the individual mixes of your cues WITH A NAMING CONVENTION FOR THE TRACKS, your session(s), and backups of everything. Look at those capital letters, they're so big, they must be really important. You know what the second worst thing is at this stage? Wasting everybody's time. I bring my files and sessions on a flash drive, an external hard drive, on my laptop and I FTP them to myself, that way I have them in different locations and if one delivery method doesn't work, chances are at least one other will. The laptop is important because you may need to make more (Really? I know...) edits on the spot.
So let's recap everything:
Are you a music editor? Share your experiences in the comments!
Film | Music
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