We caught up with award-winning Film, Television, and Video Game Composer Inon Zur to get your answer to the wonderful questions that you have asked through social media last week. Inon shares his methods, favorite effects & plugins, and tips you shouldn't miss.
Inon’s rich portfolio includes epic adventure, fantasy and rousing action scores for major video game franchises as well as a variety of family, romantic comedy, drama, live action and animated series in film and television. His catalog of work is vast and includes titles like Prince of Persia, Dragon Age, and Fallout.
The music at the beginning screen of Fallout 4 was beautiful. What was your inspiration and drive for that composition?
Thank you! Fallout has such a wealth of inspiration that it’s immediate. The drama is extremely powerful and emotional, the events that are taking place, the story is very compelling, the visuals are very strong. You’re basically being hit by a very impactful experience and for a composer, it is a gift to translate such amazing imagery and narrative into music.
How narrow is the path to game or film composer? Is there room for new prospects or is it a very tight-knit industry?
I think the games industry is much more open than the film industry; there are always a lot of newcomers and so there’s always room for new talent. Producers are constantly looking for new sounds, new innovation, new blood, so there are definitely opportunities.
When composing for a game, how much of the game is usually completed when you are brought on? Additionally how much of the game would you recommend playing in order to compose interactive music that fits nicely into the gameplay?
It really varies. Sometimes I’m brought on when the game is almost complete, sometimes I’m brought in when the game’s concept is still on paper, so it’s not like a movie where most of the picture is already filmed and edited, so you need to take into consideration at what stage is the game. I do recommend you try to get as much information on the game as you can as far as gameplay capture, artwork, dialog, sound effects, anything that you can get access to, even if it’s still in preliminary production so you can get a good idea of what you’re working with.
How close do you work with the writers when composing?
Usually, I work with an audio director. The producers are also heavily involved with the music as it is a critical component of a video game, so they will weigh in, especially when it comes to the main theme and important key moments in the game.
How does the implementation possibilities of different game engines influence your workflow?
It really depends on the audio engine the studio is employing. For example, if I know we’re working with Wwise I will take into consideration all of its capabilities. If the audio engine is simpler or more limited it will also influence the way I write and the way I deliver the music because I know there are fewer possibilities.
What programs do you use in conjunction with your DAW's to integrate sound with film?
I’m working with Cubase 8.5 and ProTools.
What are your favorite effects to use?
I’m working with 2 outboard gear processors, TC 3000 and Eventide. I also use Altiverb and lots of power plug-ins like Lexicon and others. I find that the combination of effects is what makes the best outcome and not any single one. Each type of cue, or type of music, needs a different effect so the same effect doesn’t work for every music.
What's the best orchestral VST on the market right now in your opinion? Also for orchestral drums.
There are many – East West, Vienna, Quantum Leap, SAM Orchestra, Symphobia, Spitfire. Again, it’s the combination of many libraries, and for each project, I choose different libraries.
What are the most common feedback/corrections from the first mixes? Are you into granular synthesis/using grain synths?
It’s not about the mixes, we will first be dealing with the actual writing, the theme and if it fits. So usually the first feedback will be for the music, only when the music is complete will we then delve into the mixes. I usually work with more of orchestral sound design but when I’m using synth I lean towards more simple plug-ins like Serum or Zebra, which are great plug-ins and very friendly but also can be modified and manipulated quite easily.
Do you ever collaborate with unknown producers?
Where did you get all the money from to start?
Actually, I didn’t have any to start with. I came here to Los Angeles in 1990 and the little that I had, I spent on school. So I just worked really hard.
How different is an experience working on a cinematic score for a film in comparison with a score for a game?
Scoring a game is a longer experience, it varies between a few months to 2-3 years, whereas a film maybe a few weeks to 2-3 months at the most. You’re only liaising with an audio director and/or producer on a game while a film has a lot more decision makers so the process, at least with big budget films, is more complicated.
What are your Top 3 plugins currently?
Power plug-ins by Native Instruments, Waves, Audio Toys.
What sound library do you use? And can I sit in on a session and soak up all that knowledge!???
Almost all of the libraries on the planet at this point! On top of this, I created my own brand. Today I use a lot of my own libraries and create new ones, also with the help of Umlaut. Well, it’s a very secretive process and NDA's do not allow open sessions.
What tips do you have for someone composing their first video game soundtrack?
Learn what the game is all about, that’s really important, so get really in-depth with the game; learn and know the people you’re working with, what their tastes are, what they like, what’s their direction, how do they see the music inside the game; listen to other game scores and especially those in the same genre, just to get some inspiration and see what others have done before, if it’s your first time you may need to learn from previous works; last but definitely not least, listen carefully to the direction and make sure you’re composing music that is asked of you and not just something that you think is cool.
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