Demystifying Music Technology: Media Ventures

Demystifying Music Technology: Media Ventures

Our final tech-talk from Christopher Steller

Christopher Steller
Melbourne, Australia

Demystifying Music Technology: Media Ventures

Our final tech-talk from Christopher Steller

How times (and technologies) change

It seems appropriate this month to talk about scoring for video, with the announcement of an upcoming tour from film scoring giant, Hans Zimmer. Over the last few weeks Zimmer has announced his Scoring Masterclass training sessions, which will begin in 2017, (https://www.masterclass.com/hz) and a tour, including Australia, also in 2017 (the Facebook announcement video has had 59,000 views as of this moment). If you haven't heard of him, check the 'music by.....’credits of the next movie you watch....or possibly the last half dozen or so.

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Oh, I can't tell you the secret to his success, but maybe some comments about his technology use and methods.

Zimmer adopted computer music composition in its early stages, relying on sampled instruments for creating his musical ideas.

His early composition work utilised large numbers of hardware samplers - mostly the Roland S-760 rack-mount unit - in those earlier days the samplers were connected via SCSI to relatively small hard drives for storage, and the S-760 was quite unique with its attached monitor for editing instrument samples (the market at the time was fixed on Akai and their ubiquitous S-Series rack units.)

Zimmer was a huge fan of the early ‘PC-based’ NemeSys Gigasampler, one of the first disk-streaming sampler packages (samples don't load into RAM, they are read straight from the hard disk). Gigasampler went through quite a few years of development and ownership, ending its days with TASCAM as GigaStudio3. Zimmer had commissioned the development of a software shell that could have multiple versions of the Giga software playing simultaneously, allowing him the ability to play his orchestra parts with several computers - one with Steinberg's Cubase providing the note information to the others streaming orchestral samples with Gigasampler.

And what do you do when your work load needs more orchestral variations? The LSO sessions: preparing parts and getting the symphony orchestra to play exactly what he wanted to record and develop in his own customised sample library. Simple!

Zimmer's current system revolves around a Cubase setup and orchestral samples manipulated by a custom touch-screen controller. If you look at the image of his setup, you'll notice the layout with a weighted keyboard controller, touch-screen, and displays for DAW software (arrangement page & mixer page). If you search for more images via Google, you see more screens for video monitoring, so the process of scoring synchronises smoothly with the images. A good example of a comfortable and ergonomic working environment.

This isn't about replacing the orchestra (as I've pointed out in previous articles), it's about creating a convenient and comfortable working environment for composition in this medium when you are serious about your craft.

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Well, it's been an interesting and exciting year for music making, with some sad points along the way with the loss of many of our musical heroes, but as we welcome the Christmas season, it's time to plan for 2017. I hope you've enjoyed sharing my research and endeavors, and I hope you have a good break. Stay creative, and keep in touch.