Monday, 30 November 2009

Completed Film - The Last Piece


Completed the short horror / comedy called "The Last Piece" for DayZero Productions.

Three friends gather for a quiet evening in, can everything be as it seems as they fight over the last piece of chicken?
This is a great example of a tight script, excellent directing and perfect comedic delivery and timing from the actors and the script. I've worked on a lot of short films of varying qualities... this one really stands out as a quality piece of work.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Cubase 5.01 - Normalisation and Event Volume Handles


I am a long time Cubase user and fan but have hit a problem whilst working on my latest film that has driven me to post in the forum... my first post and it was a whinge!

I have two problems but I think they're related as they're both concerned with volume adjustment... you'll see below.

I'm working on a feature length film on the mix for the dialogue, foley etc so I've been provided with some long audio files.

As I've gone thru chopping up the files to remove useless bits, I thought I'd boost one of the audio events by pulling up on the square blue handle in the audio event in the project window and... BANG. Crashed Cubase and does so consistently in this and every other project I have.

So, as an alternative I tried to normalise the event up a few db (and only a few db) which seemed to work fine. However later on when I re-played that section, the clip I normalised suddenly went off the meters, totally clipping out in absolute distortion.

I've tried all the routine stuff.... re-import audio (plays fine), re-load project, re-boot machine multiple times and this still happens.

Now dear reader, please don't fixate on "normalisation" and whether it should or shouldn't be used, or how I'm using it. I know how to use it and always use it sparingly... I've read a lot of the posts in the forum about it and I agree that it's not a commonly used tool, but I have no course to get a better version of the audio, it's some foley shot on location, and it's the only clip I wanted to boost in volume.

To me this seems like a bug, but not having seen anyone else post anywhere on the net about it (and I've searched lots!!), I'm losing hope that it is a bug... maybe my system is poorly :-(

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

New Commission - The Point of Regret


I've kept this under wraps for a while... until I was well into it and felt like I'd really got my feet under the table. I've been commissioned to produce the score and sound design for a really cool feature length film called "The Point of Regret". Written and directed by Simon Tate of Emanation Films, "The Point of Regret" is a thriller with a twist, which has also broken new ground in gaining permission to film in Worcester Cathedral.

Everything about this film is really, really good from the story, to the direction, the actors and the production values... I've now got to match it with a great soundtrack!

I've been working on it for a number of weeks now, but only a week ago got the final locked edit, so now I'm syncing the music I already have to the picture - I think it does live up to the film, and both Simon and Dave really like what they've heard so far.

I've got about 5 weeks left til the first test screening (unfortunately I'll be away on holiday when it happens) but I've no doubt I'll get lots of feedback and probably some re-work. There may also be another test screening before the final version is locked for premiering and distribution.

What I'm Using...
I thought I would post more about the process I'm going thru, the libraries I'm using and the challenges I'm facing as it may help others. For now I thought I'd quickly mention some of the great sound libraries I'm using...

I've been using a combination of the following sound libraries:
VSL, Special Edition
Native Instruments Kontakt3, Absynth4
Cinesamples "Drums of War" - (amazing value)
...and a number of the excellent Tonehammer libraries: Anti-Drum2, Epic Toms, Bamblong and the icing on the cake is Barbary which has really lifted the soundtrack.

Bye for now

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Taking things for granted... OR... I wish I had a UPS...


Its a lazy Sunday morning and the sun is out... only its not a lazy morning (I'm working) and the Sun is blazing. So much so that its taken out the power in our street... 3 times so far and its not even midday yet.

I'm in the middle of writing the soundtrack for Simon Tate's feature length film "The Point of Regret" and have already lost work in 2 of the three mini-blackouts.

"Autosave!" I hear you cry in unison... well its on but its set to every 10 minutes so it doesnt interfere too much with the creative flow, anything less and it becomes a pain as it introduces a brief stutter into the proceedings. Not something I can tolerate whilst playing live instruments like a guitar, because you can guarantee that the moment it does hiccup, it'll be the perfect take I wanted.

So now I have a dilema... here are my options:
  1. Continue working bravely on and potentially losing work every so often
  2. Change the autosave setting to be more frequent (but then what about disk caching in the OS... hmm)
  3. Go out and buy a UPS for around £100 but really I need an air con unit too as me and my computer are melting in the heat, so that'll be £200-ish
  4. Throw in the towel for today, go out in the sun and go clean my now "green" quick-up pool whilst quaffing a few gallons of cold lager
I never thought I'd seriously consider buying a UPS but the same kind of thing happened a few times last year in the heatwave. So maybe this is a sign of future things to come and I should "embrace change" and get my ass into gear to find a solution.

As I move into the more professional end of being a working composer it's amazing how many things I've taken for granted that previously I would have "just lived with", power is one of them. The reason for this is simple... as an amateur you can tolerate the little (and not so little) hiccups as you dont have a deadline and a whole film crew waiting on your talented outputs.

The experience has made me question a few things about my working methods, like:
  • backing up my song data, which I do, but probably not as seriously or frequently as I should
  • recovering from a disaster... how long would it take me in reality to rebuild my computer(s)? I have over 110,000+ (120GB) worth of samples alone, not including virtual instrument libraries (VSL, Opus II, Kontakt, Tonehammer etc)
  • can I find all of the disks with my original installations on (probably but I may need to hunt out a few from the hundreds of disks I have stored)
  • I'm writing this faster (and saving a little more often) than I normally would in case the power goes again... and I'm sure I will be working quicker during the rest of today in my composition and recording, for a similar reason. I'm fairly sure quality won't suffer as I can write and produce very quickly, so maybe I could increase my workflow speed in general?
So maybe the whole thing has been of some use as I've stood back and learned from the experience.

I'll have to cling onto that thought so that the next time the man comes to read the meter, I don't share my frustration with him, my mains supply and some jumper cables :-)

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Film Music Industry Links


Here I'll make a list of useful sites connected with the film music industry.

VST Expression Maps for VSL & VSL+


VSL have released Expression Maps templates for their VSL SE and SE+ editions - and Steinberg are now providing them on their site too.

Review of


Quick review of the composition course run by Guy Michelmore called "Music for the Media".

What is it?
A 2 year distance learning course that teaches the technical, artistic & commercial aspects of composing music for media projects.

Who is it for?
The course is aimed at musicians & composers of various levels but they do state you need about 12 months experience in playing / composing and be able to produce a demo track to submit to the tutors.

So, complete musical novices would struggle and should maybe start with the basics.

What level is it?
The course is very well written so it manages to cater for the fairly inexperienced composer / musician, but some experience of recording & producing is desirable.

What's in it?
There are 11 modules that take you on a journey from "writing to a brief" which has no visuals, thru to a full-on 25 minute feature film, whilst stopping off at animations, documentaries & advertising along the way.

The final stop (module 11) is for the student to prepare a showreel and go out into the world & pitch for work!

What Support do you get?
Each module ends with a submission that is marked by working composer, who critiques each submission in detail.

You also have access to the tutors via email or the MFTM team by phone and in my experience they were always helpful.

£499 (GBP) at the time of writing but they also offer installment plans. This covers the two year course but if you do need more time you can extend the deadline by another year at an additional cost.

Obviously its best to contact them for current pricing.

The Course in Practice
After reviewing a lot of distance learning courses, I decided to go for the MFTM course based on the content, the pricing and the breadth of subjects covered.

I signed up and paid online, and then eagerly awaited the course materials - which arrived promptly in a few days. The course materials consisted of a large A4 4-ring Binder packed with the course notes and 6 CDs full of audio and video.

The course notes are nothing fancy being printed on plain A4 paper i.e. no glossy inserts or colour pictures, but that's a minor criticism as the actual content and style of writing is top-notch. The text is written in a laid back but inclusive style, almost as if you were in conversation with Guy himself (which was evident after I attended his annual seminars that support the course).

The CDs (now replaced with DVDs) are packed with interviews with composers, agents, directors and producers that have given their time to share what they think is important in composing music for media. Also, to support unit 4 onwards there are several Quicktime movies that are from actual jobs worked on by Guy.

In the opening text Guy asks you to resist the temptation to skip ahead and read all the course notes, which he does for good reason... I resisted for a few modules but then admittedly I did have a skim through the later units... it just makes you want to rush to those units, hence the request to stick with it step by step.

Also, Guy basically begs the student NOT to quite their day-job and expect to become a composer overnight - sage advice as the industry is diffuclt to break into, fees are sliding drastically and, due to the increased computing power and availability of software, the market is flooded with people calling themselves composers with little more than a DAW and some samples.

The Modules

Each module teaches something subtley or markedly different from the previous one as Guy demonstrates how you cant (and probably shouldnt) be a jack-of-all-trades, and how the producers and directors requirements demand different disciplines from the composer.

Units 1-3 - Music to a brief

These build your confidence in writing music to a brief and get you thinking differently to a traditional "pop" track composer i.e. working to specific timings, changing mood mid-flow, understanding a directors brief.

These modules are also used as a baseline (particularly Module 1) to establish your level of musical and technical skill in composing and producing tracks for the tutors.

I struggled with the initial module, picking over and over my first submission which was a total mistake and cost me about 4 months of the course in my focus on "getting it right". Anyone undertaking this course I would say "just do it" for the first three modules - and I dont mean rush them or dont put the effort in - I mean spend a couple of months on module one and then get it submitted!! The tutors will give you excellent and useful feedback and spur you on to get the next one done.

Unit 4 - TV Documentary

Unit 5 - Animation

In my opinion this is all about hitting the mark in the visual and developing themes that can be associated with the characters onscreen. I think this is one of the more difficult modules but it serves its purpose well in showing the marked difference from TV documentaries.

Unit 6 - Natural History

Unit 7 - Commericals

Unit 8 - TV & Film Drama

Unit 9 - Drama & Short Features

Unit 10-11 - The World of Work 1+2

I did the course from 2006 and finished in early 2008 within the allowed timescales so didnt need the extra time though the last few modules I was moving through at a fair pace of about one per month. There is no final exam or points system for you to achieve a pass-mark, its more about staying the course, building the stamina, technical and artistic skills and the working methods to prove you could make it as a media composer. Oh, and you do have to complete all the modules and submit them for feedback. If you complete the course you do receive a certificate "Diploma in Media Composition" to hang on your trophy wall.


A very well thought out course based on the real experiences of a hard working, Emmy-award winning composer. Excellent support from the MFTM staff and a rewarding course for it's experiences.

Monday, 13 April 2009



My name is Andy Stuteley (aka Stootz) and I'm a media composer with over 20 years exprience composing and producing music, with the last 2 years spent in the media industry earning both paid and collaborative media projects.

I've decided to setup this blog to comment on the progress of all things to do with my media composing work known as StootzMusic ( I'll talk about all things from the musical, production, commercial and business aspects of stootzmusic including the highs and lows. 

I'll also be commenting on the music industry, musical gear, music software, courses, film soundtracks and more depending on the time available.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.



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