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How to score an action movie trailer

Updated on February 29, 2016

The best DAW for scoring action movie trailers

For composers trying to get placements in film, TV and video games one of the most popular formats is the action trailer or action scene. Since most of us do not have the resources to rent out a 35 member orchestra and a huge recording studio for hours at a time we need to use our Digital Audio workstation. There are a few names that come to mind but the best for strictly composing is Apple's Logic Pro. However to compose a really high end professional sounding tracks you will needed some 3rd party plugins to help you out. Some of these plugins include Action Strikes from Native instruments, Heavyocity Evolve and Omnisphere.

Tutorial For Composing Action Trailers

Laying down Action Percussion

At the Heart of any action trailer or scene for any movie is your percussion. The two best software plugins for laying down cinematic percussion is Heavyocity Damage and Native Instruments Action Strikes. Each on allows you to lay down professional sound percussion for almost any action scene or trailer. Each allows you to play and combine percussion loops or lay down your own track from scratch. They cost around the same price but Damage will take up 30 gig of hard drive space while Action Hits will only take up around 3. For my personal studio I general use Action Hits for my percussion.

Mastering Strings

Laying down your strings

Anyone who composes or listens to any action trailer or is involved in film scoring in any way knows that strings are a cornerstone to most action scenes. You will generally need at least 4 to 8 separate tracks for strings so that it sounds real. My personal favorite is the Orchestra library that that comes with Native Instrument Kontakt payer. They sound real and pristine. You get multiple articulations so you have the feel of a live orchestra playing. You will need to understand both staccato and sustain string playing. But the different articulations will allow you to do many things to improve your tracks. Keep in mind no software will ever totally replace a live orchestra but you can get about 90% of what you will get live. SInce the people who listen to action trailers are movie goers or video game players they will not be listening to every single articulation to tell you if it was done live or via software.

Laying Down your track

Spice it up

Once you have the base of your track laid down its time to spice it up. There are a couple of plugins I like to use for this purpose. They include Omnisphere, Evolve and Rise and Hits. Omnisphere is probably the deepest synth on the market to day. It give you so many different sounds it will take years to use all of them. My favorite sounds in Omnisphere are the choir sounds. I also use evolve which is focus specifically for film and TV scoring. Rise and hits is a specialty software plugin from Native Instruments that does exactly what the name says. It allows you get a crescendo, a build up and climax in your tracks. These are all very crucial elements to making an action movie trailer.

The finished Product

Listen to your finished product

Once you are done recording, you can arrange your track anyway you like. I always save my masters and the original file just incase I want to back and make changes. Although making a quality track may require an investment in high quality software it is still affordable. The goal is get placements in production music libraries and to get noticed by media producers and music supervisors.


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