Movie-Music Maestro Tyler Bates (Bonus Material)

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In this portion of the interview, Tyler Bates discuses his gear and the way he''s expected to deliver mixes when he works on a movie.

Do you use Pro Tools?
Yes. I know there are a lot of composers who prefer to work in Logic or Digital Performer, and I''ve done that; I''ve worked on just about every platform you can think of. I ended up in Pro Tools because I did a score several years ago that, for the most part, was made up of live performances. There wasn''t a lot of programming, so I needed the platform to work more like a tape machine/editor that was easy to interface with other systems for both recording and mixing. Pro Tools is great for that. I did do some programming, and it was easy enough to get by. The MIDI was cumbersome and not very sexy, but I became used to it. Now that I have completed my work on Watchmen and The Black Freighter [Warner Premier, 2009], I am upgrading to Pro Tools 8, which should solve most of the major deficiencies that Pro Tools MIDI has had over the years.

Will you be using the new notation section in Pro Tools 8?
Yeah, completely. It''s much easier to see what''s going on in your work when you can look at a cue in terms of musical notes, as opposed to those MIDI note bars that are a pain to keep track of.

And you find the MIDI part of Pro Tools to be well developed enough for what you want to do?
It''s entirely prehistoric, but because there are so many live performances in my scores, the editing features and compatibility with other systems outweigh the arduousness of the scrolling MIDI window. I will be on Pro Tools 8 by the time this article comes out. I also think Pro Tools sounds the best of any DAW I have worked with. We also have to deliver music to temp dubs, sometimes three or more temp dubs on one film project. So if I have a lot of my work in Logic and some in Pro Tools, I have to transfer files from one platform to the next and deal with latency and other technical issues that can be frustrating at two o''clock in the morning. Pro Tools is the platform used on dubbing stages, so it''s just easier for me to be there from the start.

Can you define what a temp dub is?
At various stages of a film''s development, they''ll do a mix that''s fairly thorough, to present a movie to friends and family or executives within the studio, or to preview a movie for a public audience and get their response to determine whether the story lines are clear, the characters are developed enough, and the pacing of the film is appropriate.

Kind of like an informal focus group?
Yeah. It''s actually a great opportunity to see how your music, even in demo form, is translating on the big screen. It can offer a perspective unavailable anywhere else. It''s also different watching a movie with an audience. It seems like many mistakes become apparent from this exercise, just like playing a song you''re working on for someone.

How do you integrate Apple Logic Pro into your setup. Are you just using it as an instrument?
Yes, as a sampler [ESX-24]. I use it primarily as a sample playback platform, and I also use other plug-ins on the Logic rig to mutate sounds.

When you deliver your final mixes for a movie, you give them stems, correct?
Yeah. We deliver 5.1 stems of everything. Where there''s orchestra, there''s a stem for that. If the orchestra is recorded in sections, each section is mixed to a 5.1 stem of its own. If there is choir, there''s a stem. Any electronic matter, we try to break up—even just the ambient stuff—into three tonal ranges: low, mid, and high stuff, all in discreet 5.1 stems, whenever possible. There is also a stinger stem, which contains hits and crazy stuff happening in the music that a director may want to place specifically in the mix.

So you''re delivering a surround mix for each element of the piece?
Yes, we often end up with somewhere around 100 tracks that the music editor has on [the dub] stage. We do the best we can to approximate where the music should sit in the film mix, considering massive explosions, effects, and other elements that kill music in a film. [Laughs.] But when you''re on the dub stage, everything changes. Another factor is the way that dialog is treated with regard to EQ and reverb. So it really helps to give the mixers on the stage the ability to make adjustments to individual elements in the score so that the entire piece of music does not have to be buried if a single aspect of it is fighting dialogue or something else.

So within a 5.1 mix, you''re separating out the various stems?
Right. So, for example, there is a 5.1 dedicated to the choir, and the same for each section of orchestra, percussion, and so on.

The dub stage is where they combine all the audio elements with the picture?

Do you typically attend the dubs?
It depends on the situation. I find it very interesting. Most directors I work with prefer me to be at the dub to ensure that the score is playing as well as possible for the film.

Have you ever had situations where you see the movie and think that they made your music way too low or have destroyed the score by putting a strange EQ curve on everything?
[Laughs.] Sure that has happened. At the end of the day, you hope that the music helps the film and that the soul of it speaks to the audience, even if it''s a bit more subtle [in the mix] than you''d like.