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Live Music Versus Digital Music In Films

Updated on June 20, 2010

Going Digital With Music

When searching for custom songs to be composed for film and video, one question has been growing in popularity as of late - should I use live music recordings or digital?

Nobody can argue about the quality of professionally produced tracks completed at a professional sound studio. Advances in technology however have increased the capabilities of many smaller studios and even home studios to create comparable music. Some may even argue that new software programs can give the same quality music for film as can be recorded by live instruments. I'm a true believer that nothing can capture the true soul of music better than live recordings. There just seems to be something missing in digital. When it comes to cost however, this loss may not make up for the added expense of paying for live music to be recorded.

Some of the costs for live work include the tape or storage device to be used for the master recording, the studio or sound-stage rental, paying the engineer, producer fees, musician fees, orchestrator fees and final mixing/mastering costs. In order to still get live music yet minimize these costs, some filmmakers accept temp tracks or scratch music created digitally before deciding on the exact score to be recorded in the studio.

The ease of which digital film is edited can also create a problem when using live music. Some filmmakers are editing the video right up until the release date. If the music has been composed and recorded to match portions of the video, then last minute changes will create problems with the initial score recording. If the music needs to be re-recorded, this will be additional costs and there may not be time to get it finished.

This is where digital can have some benefits. Most background music can be composed simply using a laptop. The music can then be sent digitally to the filmmakers and edited to match the video at the last minute remotely by the composer. The fact that the music is created with software, it eliminates problems such as background noise and fidelity issues. Of course, songs that include lyrics will have to be recorded live but these are not the standard types of songs used for underscores to scenes in a film. In terms of cost, a digital track can be composed by a single songwriter/composer and ready for film in a short amount of time. It can also be edited quickly. This drops the cost of getting music for film incredibly.

If digital sounds like the right path for your film or video project, there are many ways to get custom music composed online. One way is to seek out composers that you are familiar with from past films and videos. Many composers have their own websites or MySpace pages where their work is displayed for you to sample. Another option is to search for composers and songwriters using search engines such as Google or Twitter Search. Working with a single composer can limit final options but will ensure you get the music you need. Another option is allow multiple songwriters the chance to write the needed music and just select the best song. This technique is known as crowdsourcing and can be one the of quickest options to get custom songs created for film and video.

Thanks to the internet, there are now many options for getting unique music created for film and video projects. The question of whether or not to use live music versus digital may just come down to the size of the budget for the film. Smaller video and film projects may be best served hiring a composer to create digital tracks for their movie. When it can be afforded though, such as in big budget films, nothing can compare to live recordings.

Can you tell the difference between live or digital?

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