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Topic: What software for composing to film?

  1. #1

    What software for composing to film?

    Hey there everyone,

    I have been a long time ProTools user, and now I'm getting into the realm of writing music for film and video. ProTools is a little lacking in this area, so I am wondering what software is most commonly used to write midi music and sync it to video.

    I have been using Reaper, and while it seems to do pretty well with the midi aspect, the video playback is not working well for me. The few videos I have tried to playback within Reaper have all made the program playback very choppy, and makes it unusable. Are any of you using Reaper for video work?

    I know that some people are using Digital Performer. I have never used this program before. Does it allow you to play back a video within the program?

    For those of you composing to video, do you have your audio program play back the video, or do you have a separate program play back the video, and if you do that, how do you sync it up?

    I am at the point where I'm not too concerned with my ability to get the sounds I want, but I don't know the best way to get everything to actually work when it comes to watching the video and writing the music along with it.

    I would appreciate any advice I can get. Thanks!

  2. #2

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    MAC or PC?

  3. #3

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    Are you using PT 8? They made some fairly significant enhancements to the MIDI aspects of the program for this version and it seemed to me (at a brief perusal) that it had become a contender for film work.

    I use DP and it's terrific for film. I think that Logic and Cubase are the two other most commonly used sequencers amongst the pros. All have their strengths and weaknesses and it's a matter of seeing what feels best. However, if you're a longtime PT user who hasn't upgraded to PT 8 that might be worth considering, for the sake of eliminating the learning curve of a new program. Again, however, I want to stress that I haven't used PT 8 for film. You might already know it's lacking in features you want for scoring. But I was searching the program for things I couldn't do with it that I do in DP, and couldn't find any in a couple minutes of playing around.

  4. #4

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    I'm on a PC. i7 quad core with 6 gigs of ram running XP, 500meg video card, 3 hard drives (system, audio/video/samples). I've got protools, reason, kontakt, reaper, and the adobe CS4 suite loaded on it, nothing else. It doesn't even have an internet connection, it is a dedicated audio/video production machine.

    I haven't upgraded to PT8 yet, since I've heard a bunch of horror stories about it not working correctly yet, but maybe with the newest update it is running better for most people. The problem with PT is that it does all of it's processing in real time, so the performance from it is lacking when it comes to running many different processing streams (like you get when you have 100 different kontakt instruments all playing different things). Also, if I upgrade to PT8 I have to upgrade my waves plugins, and I don't find that to be an appealing idea (although I might just purchase altiverb instead, and then say goodbye to waves forever).

  5. #5

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    Are you approaching composition as a composer putting pencil to paper or more electronically, playing with ideas electronically?

    For the former, I really like Finale, for the later, on the PC I love Sonar (on the Mac I love DP, but you already settled that question.)

    It is important to try to come to grips with the differences between the two approaches. There is probably very little one can not accomplish in either tool, but each tool will make some things easier and some things, well, not easier!

    I use both, sometimes independently, and sometimes together (as together as is possible anyway.)

    There is a downloadable demo for Sonar at:

    There is a downloadable demo for Finale at:

    Best bet is to actually roll up your sleeves and see which one works best for you.

    Oh, and don't toss out PT just yet... while it isn't for everyone, if you are comfortable mixing in PT you'll probably want to mix your work there.

    Have fun!
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  6. #6

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    Sibelius 6 for notation is solid and has some film scoring apps built in. As for software for sequencing, the best I have found is Digital Performer but that's Mac only much like Sonar is PC only. Cubase 5 is pretty decent though and the newest 5.1.1 upgrade has some refreshing new looks and templates to choose from. I think Sonar 8 Producer would be a wee bit more stable mind you.

  7. #7

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    I'm not interested in the notation aspect of it, I already write all of my music now in the computer via midi programming and playing instruments live, and haven't used sheet music in several years.

    I didn't realize Digital Performer was mac only, I will have to check out sonar.

    Is anyone actually using Reaper for film work?

  8. #8

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    Just a fast note: PT8.0.3 runs flawless here. We are on a Dell/64bit PC/III core/16GB of ram. Kontakt 3.5 and or 4 runs inside PT8 8.0.3 smoothly as well. The upgrade from 7 to 8 to 8.0.3 was painless.


    ps. PT LE/M Powered may not the best choice when locking to film since they do not support SMPTE, yes? Sonar and the rest will not have an issue with that.
    Bela D Media | www.BelaDMedia.com

  9. #9
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206 USA

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    Something to be aware of when looking for a sequencer to score to film clips ...

    ... does it have the ability to lock audio clips to exact frames of the clip you're scoring?

    Maybe the more expert users can comment on this and define whether or not certain programs have the ability.

    I'm very interested in this also.


  10. #10

    Re: What software for composing to film?

    I can only offer my point of view about this.

    First of all, I have the video inside my audio sequencer. I see no sense in having it outside in a separate program...

    I score for film using Ableton Live. I can tell you it's not made for film scoring and there are plenty of nice film-specific features missing from it, if you are looking for those (like stretching midi, locking audio/midi to frames and even timecode display on top of the video). Anyway, I'm sure they'll appear in some form eventually.

    However, what it does have is (for me) a very intuitive workflow that inspires me to write music to film and without film. Despite its flaws, I still love working with it.

    Instead of looking too much for technical specs, try to find a program you like working with, some program that inspires you. Even if you find a program that can do everything but it doesn't inspire you to work with music in any way, you'll soon find yourself just frustrated.

    Having said these, I don't (unfortunately) have experience on PC-side programs particularly on film scoring, but I've heard that Digital Performer is very popular and tailored for this purpose. But... as long as you have a software that has a video window built-in, it supports the tools you use and you like composing with it and it sounds good to you, I don't see any problem there.

    Good luck!
    Film Composer - www.juhanalehtiniemi.com
    My latest project: Our first indie pop -single, produced in Ableton Live, available also on iTunes and Amazon
    Mac Pro 6-core 3.33GHz

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