Making a short sci-fi film and composing the soundtrack for it

Earlier this year, I was invited to join a group who had decided to enter the SCI-FI-LONDON 48 Hour Film Challenge which, as the name suggests, requires you to make a science-fiction film from scratch within 48 hours during a weekend. As you can probably imagine, this is indeed very challenging, but very satisfying and great fun.

I had been under the impression that I was mainly there to do the soundtrack, but in addition to that I ended up acting in the lead role! This was my first real experience of acting, and I have to admit that I enjoyed it and found it very interesting. I’d definitely give it another go if the opportunity presented itself.

I also contributed ideas for the overall concept and story, as did all the members of the team.

I didn’t receive a rough edit of the film until about midnight on the Sunday night, which meant that I only had about twelve hours of working through the night to get the soundtrack written and recorded. I’d already created some patches on my synthesizers and jammed some musical ideas and phrases, so I was as prepared as I could be. I brewed a strong pot of coffee and got on with it.

Our film is called 600 Days After, and here it is:

600 Days After on Vimeo.

This was our first experience of working together on a whole film, and we were quite pleased with the end result. There’s a lot about it that I’m pretty happy with, especially the way the music helps to create the dark atmosphere which gels with the story and my role in it. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one!

Arturia MicroBrute and MicroBrute SE monophonic analogue synthesizers

When Arturia brought out the monophonic analogue synthesizer known as the MiniBrute with its relatively unusual and quite aggressive Steiner-Parker filter, punchy envelope generator, and surprisingly wide range of other exciting noise-sculpting possibilities, I was very tempted to buy one but somehow managed to resist.

Then the MicroBrute came out with a lower price tag, a built-in sequencer and semi-modular capabilities, and my level of temptation increased accordingly.

When a special limited edition version of the MicroBrute came out, I knew I couldn’t resist any longer and ordered the white version. I liked the MicroBrute SE so much that I had also ordered a regular black MicroBrute within 48 hours. The white one became known as Good Brute and the black one as Evil Brute.

Having two conveniently tiny and sonically powerful monosynths with the inputs and outputs of a semi-modular system raises all sorts of interesting possibilities. They can be used entirely separately, with two separate sequences playing on their respective sequencers; they can be used separately but with some connectivity between the two with patch cables (e.g. using the LFO on one machine to control pulse width modulation on both machines); or they can be linked together to function as one doubly powerful two-oscillator monosynth.

I decided to film a video of Good Brute vs. Evil Brute demonstrating all of these possibilities and more. During the course of the video I build sounds and sequences to make the parts of a song, and at the end I play the whole thing whilst jamming a lead part over the top. If you don’t care about the geeky stuff and just want to see/hear the final performance, skip ahead to 13:35 in the video:

00:00 percussion parts; 04:00 bass parts; 07:22 bleeps; 09:00 lead sound; 13:35 final performance with all parts playing.

Audio hardware and software used: Arturia MicroBrute, Arturia MicroBrute SE, Apple Mac, Ableton Live, Audio Hijack Pro.

Video hardware and software used: iPhone 5s, Apple Mac, Final Cut Pro X.