Effective spotting

I'm new to this forum, so 'hi' :-)

I have to admit, the hardest part for me is spotting correctly. Do it wrong, and you waste a lot of time trying to write music to a teflon-coated scene that just shrugs off anything you write.

At the moment I have a little project on a friend's short that I'm quite excited about - it involves an epic space battle which is great, there's a lot happening. Most of the stuff I've done before has had a simpler emotional journey.

Dramatically this scene swings all over the place in a short space of time; from a serene floating opening shot, to the sudden arrival of the enemy ships, hoping our guys may win, losing a friend in the battle, They make a difficult decision on the mothership bridge which then turns the tide in favour of our guys only for a de-cloaking enemy to completely destroy the mother ship and with it humanity's last hope; the fighters flee into the asteroid field and get picked off one by one, only to be rescued by the lost fleet appearing out of nowhere - yay! - time to kick ass.

So I've played around with a lot of stuff to see what works. The difficulty is the contrast - it all happens in a short space of time. I feel like I need to support the big moments, but when I pull it back for the quieter stuff, like on the bridge, it feels like I end up mickey mousing it.

On the one hand I could I could do a kind of ostinato rhythm throughout the battle and use orchestration to modify the intensity with a few crescendo's over the top, etc. but it moves so fast as I said,  I worry it comes across as mickey mousing. The alternative is to wash over everything which ignores subtleties, such as the quiet tension on the bridge compared to the chaos of the fighters in battle.

Any suggestions gratefully received.


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  • You might be able to get away with what looks like mickey mousing if it's only implied, not perfectly synced.

    Personally I would probably try to soften the impression of going all over the place by dedicating the changes to specific musical elements in the cue. Example: say you go into the lose the friend -> bridge decision sequence - don't ease up on instrumentation or the general drive forward, but make the harmonic progression suggest first the shock of the loss, then the suspense and anticipation.

    One cool thing that's often done is lots and lots of meter changes. Couple it with subtle harmonic language adjustments and you can have the cue highlight key elements exactly as they happen even if its blasting off in a powerful tutti for its entire duration.

    Note that if the camera jumps all over the place, some work with contrast can be done on the sound engineering level. Think things like, audio level going down and slightly EQed as the camera enters the inside-of-the-ship scene. It gives the impression that the music is connected to the battle raging outside and the audience escapes it for a moment as they witness the key decision on the bridge.

  • Thanks Greg, there's some good suggestions there.


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