What does a Composer do?
Composers write original music that reflects and communicates the atmosphere, character’s emotions, and story. A film score has to work with the film, rather than as a standalone piece of music.
Composers are usually given a scope of work at the start of the project. This happens at the stage where storyboards are edited in time with the soundtrack. They then can create a full score for the final film. Composers rewrite their score according to feedback from the Director, Producer, and Editor. A section of music might need to be a different length, highlight a different onscreen moment, or have a different feel to it.
Composers need to be aware of the genre they are composing for. For works such as feature-length musicals, or TV shows with a theme song, the composer might be involved with writing these. Or this might fall to a different musician, with the Composer sometimes scoring the backing for the songs.
On big-budget productions, Composers prepare the score, usually on midi files, for the orchestrator and copyist. In most TV and lower-budget films, Composers do their own orchestration. They also prepare the score’s electronic aspects for the recording sessions and deliver the score to the Producer, together with all recordable media. Composers often need strong music production, recording, and performance skills in order to realize their works for projects as music budgets are generally tight. They are freelancers and usually work from their own home or office.
What's a Composer good at?
Have a high level of technical musical skill and be able to compose and notate original, high-quality scores with interesting and distinctive musical ideas that fit the style of the animation
Be able to communicate a story and reflect its themes through music
Have good recording and production skills to create demos and professional-level scores, be able to use music composition software and music editing software such as Avid ProTools
Be able to work to a brief, act on constructive feedback, and compose music to contribute to the Director's overall vision, build extensive contacts with musicians who can contribute to your work
Business management skills
Understand legal and contractual aspects of the job as a freelancer contributing your work to a different project
Who does a Composer work with?
Composers work closely with the Director, Producer, and Music Editor (if there is one), as well as communicating with the Sound Designer and Editor.
How do I become a Composer?
Composers get jobs based on their portfolio. You need a high level of musical knowledge and technical skill, so generally, all Composers are formally trained in music. Some have specific degrees in composing for film and television. The most important thing, however, is that you have a strong body of work to demonstrate your skill and personal style. You also need to make connections with filmmakers and musicians. Even if you are working on live-action films rather than animations, it will give you invaluable experience insights into the process of adding sound to film.
Here are some more tips:
Watch a lot of films and listen to music: Watch as many films and television shows as you can and pay attention to how the music is scored. Get a feel for how music interacts with the film and musical styles vary between genres.
Build a portfolio: Start writing your own music. Learn music composition and notation software. Find filmmakers who need someone to write the music for their film and collaborate with them, or you can practice and add to your portfolio by writing your own new scores for existing films. Building your portfolio is essential.
Look outside the industry: Composers are needed in lots of industries – aside from live-action film and TV and games, there are also composing jobs in advertising and theatre. See if you can get a job in one of these fields and gain experience that you can later use to compose for animation.
For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.
You might also be interested in…
Department: Audio Post Production
- Sound Designer
- Combine all sound elements (music, background noises, dialogue, effects, and other atmospheric sounds) to create the unified sonic backdrop for a film.
Department: Audio Post Production
- Music Editor
- Creates the soundtrack for a film, contributing to the emotional impact of the film through sound and music.
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