Game Trailer Music: RememBear

My last entry was about how I created the trailer for the RememBear. This post focuses on the trailer’s music composition. If you’ve not seen the trailer yet, I’ll let you catch up below:

In my last post I talked about my storyboarding process and how I blocked out the story I wanted to tell. I approached the music composition with the same mindset, such as I could have written to the final storyboard without any video! I always talk about how important storytelling is in music, as in all art, and a videogame trailer is no exception.

We open with an establishing countryside theme, which is quickly interrupted by a sneaky, atonal bear melody. This is what the entire game is about in musical form – there is no respite from the incoming flood of bears! Since I’m using a woodwind quartet, The bear melody is in my lowest available register on the bassoon – a classic villain trope!

After building tension with a rising semitonal pattern, we switch to the Ranger’s theme, rather American sounding with it’s tuned percussion, military tone and homophonic arrangement. As the voiceover says, the player is the commander of a troop of park rangers and so a disciplined musical score reinforces this idea.

The ranger’s theme is finally interrupted by a bassoon, loudly playing its lowest note, as the bears appear to savage one of the rangers. This is intended to be a shock moment in the trailer and so the bassoon’s return is apt, and narratively this reinforces the concept of the bears interrupting the picnic. The lowest note on the bassoon is also out of key, which heightens the unpleasantness of the savaging.

Writing this score was great fun. Getting the tone right was surprisingly easy, but figuring out the clearest voicings for the different parts was occasionally tricky – I’ve not written much for woodwind quartets in the past! The instrumentation in the game’s title music was chosen to imitate Banjo-Kazooie, so I thought it best to use a similar timbre in the trailer for consistency. Creativity loves boundaries so being unable to introduce a French horn, for example, was both annoying and constructive – I hope you like the music!

The Making of RememBear’s Trailer

Hello!

By now you’ve probably seen the trailer for RememBear. This post is going to discuss how it came together and look at some of the decisions I made whilst creating it. Just in case you haven’t watched it yet, it’s linked below:

The original creative direction for RememBear was to revisit woodland characters as they might have been portrayed in old fairytales. No child should survive an encounter with a bear. This fairytale element led Joe (the game’s writer) to suggest delivering the tutorial in rhyme.

This was a brilliant idea and caused me to make this remark on twitter:

But is was not to be. It’s more important for a tutorial to be clear than it is for it to be awesome. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted and come trailer time, I knew that I had to explain the core concepts of the game through rhyming prose.

But how to go about that? I’m lucky to have been working on some animation production at work recently, so I’ve gotten quite handy with After Effects and Premiere Pro. It would be great to have seen my characters fully animated, but I’d run out of art budget and I believe that a game’s trailer should reflect its content, so I had to compile something awesome just using the in-game sprites.

I flick through the asset source. This is going to be easy.

First off, I storyboarded the trailer in a few panels, just to get a feel for the story I was telling. The image below is an early revision, but is the tidiest(!) image I have to share of this. On a small & personal project, this process is more like brainstorming and its aim is to create the foundation of the story you are telling. Putting your ideas into shots helps visualise the narrative.

(If you’re working with an animation team, please make sure your storyboards are tidy and well composed. Please.)

With the structure in place, I moved on to the script. Since I had my framework, knew I had to set the scene, introduce the baddies (bears), introduce the heroes (rangers) and end on a cliffhanger. Easy. “It’s picnic time in Bearsville park…”

I handed my completed script to Joe who smoothed a few things out. Meanwhile I wrote a quick ExtendScript that would let me generate a large forest scene in Photoshop (using the 4x Assets for the iPad) to use as my background. I needed a larger forest than the game’s play area to allow for lots of camera movement to keep the viewer’s interest. The production pipeline became clear:

I’d create a set in Photoshop, direct the actors in After Effects, then choose my shots in Premiere.

Just as I’d finished exporting the forest foreground into After Effects, Joe got back to me and I started recording voiceover.  

I recorded the voiceover to a metronome because the poem was very rhythmic and I knew I’d be adding music. This would prevent me from having to retime my animation at a later date! I added the sprites in time with the script recording and got ready to export. At this point, I could see everything coming together. Very exciting!

The next job was adding zooms and pans in Premiere, much as I was tempted to start on the music. I’m used to receiving a final cut of a video when I work as a freelance composer, so I thought I’d treat myself in the same fashion! Of course I knew I had the luxury of adjusting any cuts that weren’t quite fitting with the music.

Music composition will be the subject of my next blog post.

With everything timed, cut and looking beautiful, I added the app store buttons, blood splats, some SFX from the game and exported at good settings. Video encoding can be an artform in itself, so I took great care with this step and I advise you to.

How long did the process take? Working evenings and weekends, I’d say the Trailer took about a week to produce. It’s time well spent and I got to exercise my skills in areas outside of game development too. I’m really pleased with my trailer and I hope that you have enjoyed watching it!

If you’d like to know more about RememBear you can follow me on twitter, like the Facebook page or subscribe to my blog.

A Quick Catch Up

Hello!

A lot has happened since I last posted on my blog two years ago. My last post was to announce the arrival of Block Stock, a two player iPad game.

My objective with Block Stock was to learn more about games development and to find out more about the games industry. I wanted to learn the skills needed to bring a game to market and demonstrate them in order to get a job in videogames.

Try getting a creative job with no experience. It’s impossible. You have to make your own experience.

After Block Stock was released, I started applying for jobs, and because job applications are *boring*, I started work on Block Stock Solo – a one player iOS game with similar mechanics to Block Stock.

During the development of this game, I was offered a job at the BAFTA winning Plug-in Media. Of course I accepted – now I work with amazingly talented people making amazingly wonderful things. It actually pays me money too, unlike the market for local multiplayer iPad games. (Which are still the best iPad games).

Months after starting my flashy new job, Block Stock Solo was accidentally released. After that, I started working on my latest game, RememBear, which I am announcing tomorrow.

That last paragraph wasn’t the announcement. What is RememBear, I hear you ask?

You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.