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Great Film Scoring Programs

Updated on May 30, 2013

5 Great Film Scoring Programs

The film scoring revolution is upon us. Gone are the days where only those fortunate to have access to an orchestra or live musicians will have the opportunity to score a film. Musicians from all around the world now have cheap, accessible options to create scores that could potentially give the big Hollywood guys a run for their money. We are going to take a look at 5 film scoring computer programs that are the standard for today's composers.

If you are already familiar with any of these, maybe it's time for some practice. There's a website called Synkresis that allows composers to score filmmaker's unfinished short films. They are currently accepting emails so that you can be notified when it launches.

Pro Tools 10

Available on: Windows and Mac

Any major audio piece composed in the last 20 years most likely was somehow produced in Pro Tools. The reality is that Pro Tools is the industry standard in the music world. Most world class studios will have it on one or more of their machines, so it's probably a good idea to quickly become familiar with it. Because film scoring is exploding in popularity right now, composers will need a competitive edge to successfully land jobs. You will likely earn "bonus points" from post production engineers if your film is scored in Pro Tools, so choosing Pro Tools is definitely a smart move if landing commission based jobs is a major priority.

There are two major version of Pro Tools 10: Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools HD 10. Most composers will be perfectly content with the standard Pro Tools 10, as it has a video track and built in Timecode ruler, allowing for easy manipulation of sound/picture. The more expensive Pro Tools HD 10 is ideal for large video projects- allowing for 64 video tracks, video editing tools, and different video playlists.

For classically trained composers, Pro Tools is especially worth a look because of its integration with Sibelius 7. Pro Tools 10 has a Sibelius 7 score editor included which will allow for classical composition as well.

Any serious composer who expects to flourish in today's music industry needs to at least have some basic experience with Pro Tools, so making the ultimate upgrade to Pro Tools makes sense on multiple levels.

Logic Pro 9

Available on: Mac

Logic Pro 9 is the obvious choice for Mac users. While Garageband will satisfy your basic composition needs, Logic Pro gives the user every tool imaginable to score the perfect film. Don't be fooled by it's sleek, user friendly design- Logic Pro is every bit as powerful as the other industry leading DAW's on the market.

Logic's piano roll is much more detailed and detailed than that of Garageband, and will likely be a critical part of the film scoring process. Composers can easily synchronize QuickTime movies (and other video files) with your audio or MIDI. Key scenes throughout the film are easy to mark with the useful thumbnail track, or even Logic Pro's built in scene detection option.

Logic Pro is a fantastic option for Mac users because it is a world class, intuitive DAW made available at a truly great price.

Cubase 7

Available on: Windows and Mac

Cubase is Steinberg's flagship DAW which combines the company's incredible past technologies into a single workstation. Steinberg developed the vst format, which is used in hundreds of professional virtual instruments. These instruments are essential to today's film composer, so choosing Cubase means that you are in great hands.

Cubase 7 has a new Chord track which allows for easy labeling of chords and chord changes throughout the project. This is very helpful in the film scoring world as cues are often built around a few chord changes. Furthermore, Cubase includes a Chord Assistant which helps you selection chords in a typical progression. For classically trained composers looking to brush up on their theory, this is an incredible feature.

Since film scoring requires micro-editing in the piano roll, it is worth noting that Cubase 7 might very well have the best piano roll interface of any DAW. Combining a favorable aesthetic with useful visual information, the piano roll alone will likely win many composers over.

Digital Performer 8

Available on: Windows and Mac

Digital Performer has long been known as an indispensable media composing tool for Mac OS. Now it is on both Mac and Windows and has been greatly improved overall. Intense levels of customization saturate every crevice of Digital Performer- making for a program that you can truly feel comfortable with for years to come.

One of Digital Performer's strengths is it's Consolidated Window. With almost too many features on screen at once, you probably won't need to sift through menus to find the tools you are looking for. For composers who like to have everything right in front of them, this may be the DAW for you. Digital Performer also has 8 customization visual themes and control panels- allowing for you to feel right at home.

Digital Performer now has support for 720p and 1080p video which can be synced up to your project. Composers who need to impress clients with a flashy demo reel will find Digital Performer's stunning video playback extremely useful.

Get your copy of Digital Performer 8

Sonar X2

Available on: Windows

Sonar X2 is a Windows-only DAW that prides itself in being able to walk the musician/composer though every step of the audio creation process. Recording audio has never been easier thanks to unlimited tracks, a large variety of external effects and plugins, many essential recording tools. Film composers who enjoy using and manipulating authentically recorded sounds should consider Sonar X2's wide array of audio manipulation functions.

Sonar X2 has a redesigned interface called the Skylight Interface, which aims to be non-cluttered and intuitive. The new Smart Tool allows for predictive grid snapping and easy switching between editing/selection tools. If maximizing, minimizing, and organizing dozens of windows is not something you enjoy, then Sonar's new interface will probably be to your liking.

Sonar's video track is useful as it shows the different scenes as little thumbnails, so you generally know where you are at in the film when composing. With Firewire, you can even output the video to an external monitor.

Composers and musicians looking for a less "industry standard" but equally useful DAW should at the very least participate in Sonar X2's free trial.

What's your favorite DAW?

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      sealunar 3 years ago

      I actually use Mixcraft 6, but I eventually want to get Cubase 7. Very helpful guide.