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Music Monday: Your Turn. Score a Mini-Film as a Composition Exercise.

Last week Tara Bush posted a 14 second mini-film Into the Tunnel (Milk F*ck)….

The first of a few mini films from our trip across the US. Filmed by Maf Lewis, music by Tara.

Scoring to short video clips is a great exercise for composers as limiting the time allows you the opportunity to score in one session. This can be really great if your stuck on another project, or your just looking to exercise and stretch your skills. Exercises like this can also help you refine your scoring/syncing to picture skills. 

Walking in Snow

Tara’s and Maf’s film inspired me to do a one session video edit & scoring session Sunday morning. Here is my 1:30 mini-film called Walking in Snow.

Composer/Producer Notes

I shot the video while walking in a recent snow storm near dusk in Louisville, CO just outside of Boulder using a waterproof Samsung HMX-W200 (down-rezed). While it was a very pleasant walk indeed, I found a few creepy frames when I watched the footage back - natural images that looked like faces of creatures. Seeing this, I decided to edit the film and compose a score that will make it much more sinister.

I edited the film first using Sony Vegas then imported it into Ableton Live in Arrangement view. Once in Ableton, I improvised using virtual instruments including Absynth 5, Rob Papen Predator, and Waldorf Largo. I also programmed against markers as cue points on the time-line.

Almost all the patches are from INIT except for an Absynth patch near the very end. The cello is not a sample, but a synthesized cello-like patch I'm working on for Absynth which was far enough along and perfect for this piece.

I used audio from the camera mic at the beginning (footsteps) and the end (snow crystals falling on the camera housing).

Constraining Yourself

A key to this exercise is constraining your self with time. I did the video edit in 30 minutes and the score in one hour. I took about another 20 minutes to add the title cards and upload to YouTube. Constraining your time means you won’t agonize over notes, patches, or arrangement, and it will help you sharpen your skills for deadline oriented work. Just go stream of consciousness.

More Ideas

  • Score Again with a Different Emotional Tone - Another step you can take with this exercise is to re-score multiple times with completely different emotional tones.
  • Score With Background Sounds from the Video – In this video I use the footsteps and ice crystals falling on the camera as compositional elements. I encourage you to experiment with ideas on changing the emotional contexts of the ambient sound with your composition. I was reminded of this idea by tweep Lux Seeker in a recent tweet in regards to some of his work  “The foreground sound, the footsteps, now sound darker. So sounds don't exist independent of others around them.”

Your Turn

Ok, you get the idea – now give it a try sometime. It’s great way to get the juices flowing.

Rescore “Walk in Snow”

If you think you’ll find the video editing aspects of this exercise a distraction feel free to use my film to score against. I placed it  under CC-BY-NC hoping some of you will -as I’d love to hear some different emotional ideas around these images.

Report Back

I’d love to see your work so report back with comment on this post or drop me an email.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
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