Auditory Storyboards

I'm in the midst of composing a score for an upcoming short, but unlike the last four, this one is different.

Sound is almost always the area that trips us up, I'm determined for that not to be the case this time. Our usual workflow for sound is this: Record Location Sound (often neglecting important moments) > Sync Location Audio > Edit > Record Foley, SFX, Write Music, Record Music.

This simply isn't a fast enough approach, we always run out of time during the sound design and music phase, having to accept sub-par sound to get a video up on time. So this time I'm going about it in reverse, based on the ease and relative tranquility we experienced when creating our unofficial music video for Resistance.

Reasons music videos are (in this case) easier:

  1. With little time to prepare, the music acts as an auditory storyboard. Allowing us to fill in the gaps as we go.
  2. Everyone knows when things are meant to happen. With everything laid out on a timeline already there is little room to miscommunicate movement and timing.
  3. Editing each shoot days' footage as you go acts as a progress indicator, letting you know if you're likely to fall short, or if you are missing vital shots or beats.

Now, this could all be done with an actual storyboard, but only if you have the time to create one, and an auditory storyboard comes with the perks of an animatic, without the extensive effort that goes into creating them. The one major downside of this approach is that it lacks visual details, for large shoots or more complex scenes this is unlikely a good approach, some would also argue that the music should be created in response to the edited short, not the other way around.

With that in mind here is my new approach to writing music for (some) shorts with quick turnarounds: After story is developed, write snippets of potential music > map out the short with temporary sound effects and music on a timeline > Develop music further until I'm happy with the direction its going in > Film and edit using the temporary sound and music as a guide for pacing and timing.

This is not an approach for everyone, but an interesting (and in our case very useful) way to approach scoring short films when spare time is all but non-existant.