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How to score with GarageBand

How to get started using GarageBand to create a film score
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The instructions below
Below are the instruction for
scoring a scene with GarageBand.

Setting up GarageBand to create a film score

If you want to use GarageBand to do film scoring, try using a very simple setup.
  • Create only one musical cue at a time.
  • When you are finished with each cue, export it as an audio file. Start the audio file at the beginning of the movie. Each audio file will have long silence from the beginning of the movie to the start of the cue. That's no problem.
  • Finally when all the cues are finished, mix all the audio clips together just by dragging them all to a blank GarageBand project and start them all at the beginning of the movie.
The really hard way
Danny Elfmann creates a timing track (tempo track) for the entire scene BEFORE he begins composing. Somehow, he knows exactly how many beats per minute each cue will be and exactly when a cue slows down and when it speeds up.
He knows this before he composes a single note. Amazingly difficult. And with some programs (such as Logic Express), making tempo changes is almost impossible if you use this method.
The easy way
There is a much easier way to do film scoring. It takes just a bit longer but you can make changes in the tempo of any cue without effecting the other cues. To do this, you:
  • Create each music cue separately, as a separate project file in GarageBand.
  • Later, combine all the musical cues with a simple audio mix in a separate GarageBand project. Very simple!






Step 1





Step 1. Housekeeping: Before you start
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Step 1


Reduce the size of the movie

To conserve energy, it is a good idea to reduce the size of the movie before you do anything else.
For this example, I will use film scoring project movie from "Home Wrecker". This disk is available from your instructor on loan for one month.
Film Scoring Export File.png

Step 1: Export the movie [ File Menu, command-E. ]
You can convert the movie clips to a smaller, faster movie clip using Apple's Movie Player and QuickTime Pro.
Movie to QuickTime movie
Select the "Movie to QuickTime movie" option and then look at the settings (see next box below.)
The whole movie
I use the whole movie. I do not trim the movie or just use a tiny piece of the movie. That gets confusing fast. Using the whole movie is better.
Movie Player is a useful tool

Before

Film Scoring Movie Before.png

This movie looks great but it needs to be exported to a smaller, faster movie for use in GarageBand.





After

Film Scoring Movie After.png

Now the movie is smaller and faster and requires very little computer power.
Here are the menus and settings for doing the export

To make your movie file run faster by exporting to a new codec, you can change the settings to Photo-JPEG compression with only 12 frames per second at half size. The audio should be the same as the project so you hear it clearly.

Film Scoring Movie Settings.png
Check the audio and video settings.
Film Scoring Changing Frame Rate.png
Change the frame rate to 12fps.
Film Scoring Codec Change.png
Change the codec to JPEG





Step 2





Step 2. Set up GarageBand for a single cue
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Step 2

Set up GarageBand for scoring

You are ready to import the movie into GarageBand and begin scoring the first cue.
For this example, I will create the musical score for when the man and the girl think about what happened last night.
Once the movie is imported into GarageBand (by dragging the icon to the empty video track in GarageBand), you should also set up a region marker to be sure you only work with the movie just at the cue.
I set my beats per minute and other scoring information based totally on the cue I want to work on. The cue will be somewhere in the middle of the scene. I can ignore all the other cues because the other cues are done separately. While I am working on this cue, I don't care about the timing (tempo) for any of the other cues. The timing of the other cues can change and they have no effect on my music for the cue I am currently working on. This makes scoring so much easier!!!!
Movie Player is a useful tool
Film Scoring Drag Movie.png
Step 2: Load the movie into GarageBand
Once you open GarageBand, you need to import the movie to the video track. You do this simply by dragging the icon file from either the finder or from the pulldown list of icons under MOVIEs in GarageBand.
If you have a lot of movies in your movie folder, dragging the icon from the finder or desktop will be easier.
Here are the settings that make scoring much easier in GarageBand
Film Scoring Loop Region Off.pngFilm Scoring Loop Region On.png
The first thing to do is to turn on the "Play Cycle Region only" feature so you don't have to watch the whole movie.


Film Scoring Select Region.png
Now you are ready to begin adding musical instruments
Film Scoring New Track Menu.png


Then select the region you are interested in. Now every time you hit the space bar or you select record, it only plays the selected region.

Film Scoring New Instrument Region.png

Now you can add new instruments and create new regions (Command Click) and draw notes (also Command Click) and import Midi files. Have fun!





Step 3





Step 3. Export the finished music for the first cue
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Step 3

Convert the first cue to an AIFF file

When you are finished creating the music for the film cue, you need to export the music at full quality. You don't want to export the movie, or the audio from the movie; only the cue you have just now created.
Therefore, before you can export the audio clip to AIFF or WAV, you need to do a few things:
  • Turn off the looping of the region.
  • Hide the movie track (which turns the movie picture off, but not the audio for the movie.)
  • Turn off the audio for the movie track.
The film cue is ready for exporting
Film Scoring Completed Cue.png
Here are the settings that make scoring much easier in GarageBand
Film Scoring Select Region.png


You need to turn off the "Play Cycle Region only" feature.
Film Scoring Loop Region On.pngFilm Scoring Loop Region Off.png

To do that, simply turn off the region control.

Hide the video track to turn off the video track during export.

Film Scoring Hide Video Menu.png


Turn off the audio for the video track.

Film Scoring Audio Off.png

Even though it is hidden, the audio remains behind and must be turned off.


Now you are ready to export the cue. Only your music will be exported.


Film Scoring Ready to Export.png

Everything looks the same, except at the top of the screen where the picture track is missing and the region has been turned off.


Film Scoring Share AIFF.png





Step 4





Step 4. Set up GarageBand for the next cue
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Step 4

Set up GarageBand for the next film cue

You repeat Step 2 and step 3 for each film cue.
If you do not like one of your cues, or you want to change the tempo of one of the cues, this has no effect on the other cues.
Go ahead. Make all the changes you want.
In the end, you have a lot of audio files of great sounding cues. Each cue has a very long silence at the beginning of the audio clip.
Movie Player is a useful tool
Film Scoring Drag Movie.png
Step 2 and 3 repeated: Load the movie into GarageBand and begin a new cue.
Once you open a new GarageBand project, you need to import the movie to the video track just like you did in step 2. You do this simply by dragging the icon of the movie file from the finder or the list of files in GarageBand.





Step 5





Step 5. Set up GarageBand to mix all the cues
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Step 5

Set up GarageBand to combine all the cues

All the audio files need to be mixed together. This is very easy for two reasons:
  • All the audio is already at the right level.
  • All the audio clips start at the beginning of the movie. That solves all synchronization problems.
Just drag all the audio files to GarageBand, positioning the start of each audio file at the beginning.
If you want to export the movie along with the music, you import the movie file (this time, the original high res version) by dragging the icon of the movie to the video track.
Later, if you do not want to export the movie with the final music for the scene, you simple hide the video track and turn off the volume for the movie track.
Start the same way you start any GarageBand project
Film Scoring Final Mix.png
Step 5: Load the movie into GarageBand
Just like you did in step 2, you can import the movie to the video track simply by dragging the icon of the movie file to the empty video track.
Then you drag the audio file for all the musical cues to GarageBand.
You line up all the cues to start at zero.
Finally, you export the project to a disk, etc.
If you have any questions
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Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this film scoring class is Robert Elliott.
You can email me by clicking here. Crystal Clear app xfmail.png