Use light to write better scores – Part 1: introduction

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Fasten your seatbelts. The journey you are about to embark will give you tools to overclock your brain and craft scores that are even more aligned to pictures. So, don’t be afraid and follow the light!

The power of lighting and colors

Labeled by health experts as “pseudoscience” chromotherapy studies the effects of the different colors (and their vibrations) on our bodies and minds. Whether or not you believe in the effectiveness of this alternative medicine method I think you will find interesting the composer-friendly, “down to earth” approach of stimulating one’s creativity through immersion in light and colors.

Light and the film composer

At the very core of a film composer creative process lies the ability to react to light. A director’s vision is expressed by mean of a series of pictures that capture the state of light of a particular place/atmosphere. It is the absorption of that light that, most of the time, triggers our inspiration. Light can drive our creative choices and influence the shape of our music. What if I told you there is a way to boost this effect and obtain scores that vibrate together with the pictures? It involves getting and installing a few LED light bulbs for your studio and changing their colors in very deliberate, specific ways.

Awaken specific frames of mind

When you are about to start a new cue close your eyes for a second and think of the color evoked in your mind by the given scene. Now take your lightbulb-remote (sometimes you can control the settings from your smart-phone) and set that color scene for your studio. It will likely take you less time to get “in the zone”. This method is particularly useful when you start working on themes but don’t have access to a video yet. Sometimes all you have is a script of a brief talk with the director. Once again, close your eyes, think of the color that a specific character, or event evokes in your mind and literally immerse yourself in that color. Here are a few examples that work very well with me (just to give you an idea, read along and then find the ones that work for you):

  • Fun/Thrilling space adventure: purple
  • Tension/Scary: deep red
  • War: desaturated green

Experiment

Aside from creating basic palettes I am having a blast combining different colors in different situations. In example I seem to get very productive very fast with a combination of cyan and magenta  (as in the below picture).

cyan and magenta light scene

Available tech

I created the above light scene using a LED bulb installed in my desk lamp (and set to magenta) and a LED lightstrip mounted right above my keyboard (set on cyan). The LED bulb is a LIFX (E27) with wi-fi capabilities. I can’t recommend it enough! I love it because it is compatible with homekit, with the major virtual assistants and with IFTTT. Thanks to the latter compatibility I was able to push this theory way further, more on that soon… The LED strip does not have network connectivity unfortunately but I’ll soon substitute it with a (slightly more expensive) LIFX Z.

The next chapter (test other section titles)

In the coming weeks I will expand this series with a few more chapters, I encourage you to read the next one in particular. It will walk you through a way to control your color scene directly from your DAW and in sync with the changes of mood in the video you are working on.

I have started playing with colors only recently but it has already helped me getting to short deadlines in time and without stress. Try it and let me know how it goes!


Also published on Medium.

Giovanni Rotondo

Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films, TV movies, documentaries and video games. More info here: giovannirotondo.com

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