Calum BowenMember Since 03 Oct 2011
Offline Last Active Aug 28 2013 02:37 PM
I am a composer and sound designer based in Brighton looking for work in the games industry.
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Katamari, katamari, katamari.
- Website URL http://www.calumbowen.com
Posted by Calum Bowen on 27 August 2013 - 03:48 PM
Posted by Calum Bowen on 26 April 2013 - 08:59 AM
I agree with Jason & Nathan about the length and redundancy of some of the similar styles. I found myself skipping through a lot of the tracks. I think, personally, they don't all need to start and end - you could cross-fade between tracks mid-flow and this might make the listening experience a little less laborious.
I think the orchestral style is where you shine so I'd suggest trying to get as diversity as you can within that. The more chirpy tracks at the end could have been placed between some of the quite dark and intense orchestral pieces towards the beginning of the showreel for more a immediate show of diversity.
Some feedback on Wolf Bane (track 4) - I was struck by how far right the drums were panned on this. I would consider centre'ing them as the panning seemed to weaken the effect of the drums and made everything sound a little imbalanced in my ears.
Those were my impressions! :~)
Posted by Calum Bowen on 23 April 2013 - 05:46 PM
Awesome tracks man, I was pleasantly surprised how good they sound.
I want to ask you something (if someone else knows it too, feel free to answer): in track 3 - Good Evening, how do you arrange a bass like that? are there any rules for the notes he plays, because he doesn't just hit the root note and that's it; He goes to town.
Thanks Kryzon! :~)
OK, the bass - as with a lot of latin music (and really most other music as well) the most common bassline is one that goes from the root to the fifth and back again. That's pretty much what I'm doing in the whole song. A way to get a little variation on this is to use a leading note - so if I was going from the chord of Cmajor to the chord of F major I'd be playing C and G for the C chord then just before going to F major I'd play an E to lead up to the F. You can also use the note just above the root note of the chord you're heading to if you're so inclined.
So using leading notes and sticking to the root and fifth (also feel free to throw in octaves!) is how I went about creating my bassline. I feel that unless it's a bass riff or a brief run that's leading somewhere specific, playing anything other than root or fifth or leading notes messy with the harmony a bit too much for my taste! I hope this helps!
Posted by Calum Bowen on 21 April 2013 - 04:54 PM
Posted by Calum Bowen on 22 February 2013 - 10:36 AM
Ah, OK! I'll have another look at the vocals in the main theme, python.
Ah! Thanks DumaFaa!!
Got some more news:
Posted by Calum Bowen on 04 February 2013 - 11:45 AM
But I generalise, of course. It's often the case for me that I've been playing around with a certain musical idea on the piano every now and then for a couple of weeks before I sit at the DAW and bring it to life. It's a funny ole business where you're making a lot of progress when you're walking in the park not thinking about much at all!
Posted by Calum Bowen on 04 February 2013 - 09:49 AM
It's all been said but I'll throw in my hat and offer my personal experience on the matter.
I think one of the main problems is that a lot of people who give quotes are hobbyist musicians or aren't relying on music for livelihood. So when they start to get paid, they don't need to really get paid all that much if anything. Everyone kind of thinks "well, i've got a friend who does some music, he can probably do it" and so audio's value becomes grossly undervalued. You're paying for the prestige and fans of a composer to come to your game, what can be a huge gulf in creativity and uniqueness between two composers, for their experience and reliability in doing the job, for their time and the masses of work they have to do, and for the wonderful, incredible, beautiful contribution they can make to your project.
Hobbyists may also tell you that a five minute track will take them half an hour to do. Don't let that skew your idea of the workload of an audio guy. I can only approximate but from my experience a 3 minute track may take around 2 or 3 days (minimum) to conceptualise, sequence, record, mix, master. Composers would be capable of making a 3 minute track in half an hour but I would hope it isn't something they'd be proud to release under their name. This estimation is also assuming that you'll get ideas quickly and you won't have to revise the track too much. Be wary of the quality that comes from a quick job.
I completely agree that rates, at least for me, are dependant on so many things - my workload at the moment, how much fun the project looks, how promising the title may be, how long it may take to complete, etc. etc. etc. But, as someone who is on the cusp of turning freelance (well, striving to) who is also charging something similar to the price in question, I will tell you, I work all day and night and for that price I'm not getting the bills paid. Audio freelancers who do an outstanding job need to charge that kind of price at an absolute minimum to not be homeless. It's just a shame that the general conception of price is based on the quotes of hobbyists etc. etc.
The idea of chip music vs. epic orchestral being the two sides of the price spectrum is a little naive I think. Same with composers getting paid per instruments/staves, as you have to define the price of the work by some quantifier and it seems per minute is the most common and in my experience the least problematic.
There's no real objective worth of any track, so guess-work isn't really needed. I suppose it's about people trying to find a good working relationship and being open about what their budget is and what they're after.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 04 February 2013 - 08:51 AM
I'd generally work on articulation and a really close attention to detail - there's lots of times when the patches reveal themselves to be not real. It takes a lot lot lot lot lot of work to iron out every possible clue that might call the orchestral instrument's artifice to attention but it's worth it in the end : )
Another thing is not to mix with the faders too much, try and think about the real capabilities of the different orchestral instruments in relation to one another. I hear drums that I can tell are just turned down on the fader and pizzicato strings that I can tell are just turned up on the fader. This creates an unnatural sound. Thing about it in the context of an orchestra - if you want the drums to be quiet, perhaps don't have big war drums just turned down on the faders, swap it for a tambourine or just a snare. I think that's really the key to mixing orchestral mock-up type tracks. If you want loud pizzicato, think about how you would achieve that with an orchestra- you would write forte but that wouldn't make it as loud as it is in comparison to the rest of the stuff now. You might want to double with pizzicato with staccato woodwinds or make the rest of the orchestra more delicate to let the pizzicato strings take more prominence.
The composition itself is good but a little on the generic side for my tastes. The guitar section was cool and unexpected. I'd strive for more changes of key, really strong melodies that re-appear in lots of different contexts, a more clear structure full of direction, a nice change of time signature when appropriate, a little more unique and playful orchestration.
Although, about the structure - I think part of the reason it sounds a bit "this section then this section then section" is as you've said before this is a kinda pass-the-parcel type collab with another person right?
Anyway, as has been said before, you've passed the bar in terms of the standard of the production and the composition but there's still more you can do to really excel.
Good job and good luck! : )
Posted by Calum Bowen on 26 January 2013 - 09:13 PM
Hey Python Blue. I've seen you around many places. : ) This business can be a slow burner and then all of a sudden just take off! Hold in there and maximise your chances for success! (That sounded like business spiel!)
I've enjoyed reading through the responses here. This is a particularly interesting thread.
I've got to echo Dan - personal relationships with devs and putting yourself out there with clean and quick links to your work is vital. In my own experience, most of the best paying work I've had has been through personal relationships.
I'll share 2 stories which attest to this:
I worked (dare I say it) for free as one of my first projects with a guy who was making a short radio play around 2 years ago. We chatted a lot about it and enjoyed working together. Subsequently, we went on to work together on a short film he was doing - after a little miscommunication I ended up doing this for free again. Sigh, sigh, same old getting nowhere, huh? Then all of a sudden I get an e-mail from someone saying she's putting on an outdoor theatre show and she's looking for someone to make the music since their previous composer dropped out. I guess there's not much suspense in this story - of course, it was the guy I worked with previously who suggested that I work on this theatre stuff. So, because of maintaining a good personal relationship and (although this isn't amazing advice) working for free, I was able to bag a gig which flew me to italy and paid me more than I'd been paid for anything before. This year I'm touring with them again and it's all thanks to just making a friend and doing a little work.
Other story, I chatted with another composer from a game I saw on a devlog somewhere just about composition in general. We had a lot of fun conversations about composition and showed each other our work. We continued to casually chat on facebook every now and then. One night, he offered to paid me to sequence one of his compositions. Now we're going to be working together on the company's next title for some precious dollars. Just really through friendship with the baseline knowledge that the other person can do the job!
I think the concept that other composers are your competition is only really upheld by insecure ones. We all want everyone else to succeed really. : )
So, for me, it's been a while but I feel I'm slowly getting towards a more steady income and this is largely due to gigs which came out of forming personal relationships with people.
So really there's been very few cases where a dev has lined up all the composers they can find and asked them to prove their worth. They know a guy or maybe they heard this guy was good from someone who worked with them previous. Equally, they may just be browsing some forums and if your profile is quick, easy and full of content, you'll be noticed. So back to the maximising your chances for success ... i guess it's just maximising your presence and the accessibility of your portfolio.
I wish you the best of luck my friend.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 19 December 2012 - 05:58 AM
I think this kind of sound is really appealing and would improve my game.
Does anyone know how this is done?
Sounds like cut up vocals stuck back together again in different orders. That's my best bet. (assuming your talking about the talking).
I'm sure there's a better quality video out there somewhere which might help people with discerning exactly what's going on with the audio better.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 14 December 2012 - 07:10 AM
Here's some new music I've made for Super Ubi Land:
This is the level (in World 1 like the other two tracks I've shown) - for most of the time you're riding on a turtle and jumping around, bouncing on things. The level of action and tension is less than in other levels. So the music is a bit more relaxed and much slower paced. 6/8 has always felt quite bouncy to me. Also, I saw this as an opportunity to bring some of the small wub parts from the earlier tracks and bring them more to the fore here. So in that way there's a progression and interactivity within the whole of the first world's music.
One thing I've tried to do is keep bringing back this melody or parts of the melody in different forms. Both as a challenge to myself to keep it fresh and also as a way to reinforce the main theme in player's minds indirectly. So you'll hear that the A section of this track is a 6/8 re-harmonisation of the main theme the B section takes the chords from the main theme's B section but introduces a new melody. You'll also hear that new melody later in the game. So making references throughout the game in order to strengthen melodic content is something I'm actively trying to do with this soundtrack.
Any more feedback is wonderful! I'll hopefully be finishing up some snow level music just in time for christmas and I hope to keep up this thread and give as much insight into my process as possible if people thing that's interesting.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 06 August 2012 - 11:34 AM
It's been a little while since i've been around these parts (mostly due to the demise of the "help wanted" section) but there's a good bunch of people here and I want to get more involved again!
So I'm currently working on the soundtrack to a platformer called Super Ubi Land:
My aim is to strike a balance between mario-type jazz-y march tracks and animal crossing's feel-good harmonicas/accordions/acoustic guitar as well as, obviously, putting my own stamp on it (which I hope specifically to be sharp/clear production). The kind of "audio brand" or signature sound is the kiddy vocals done by me that you'll find in most of the tracks but most prominently the main vocals.
I have the main theme:
Two (out of three) world 1 level themes:
and finally a few end of level/death/continue/extra accent/stinger type tracks:
My main problem at the moment is branching out and creating a variety of tracks with different feels whilst retaining a cohesive sound. My approach world 1 was to use a sort of template of instruments (they're all in a similar metre as well) so while they are not all the same instrumentation, at each of their core is an mbira/same bass/same drums/accordion/acoustic guitar. I also tried to use the main theme melody as the basis for a lot of the material in these tracks to keep things cohesive and familiar.
My set up is - macbook laptop, logic pro 9, using EWQL Symphonic Orchestra gold for most but also a surprising amount of free soundfonts, Mo'Fatt for the drums, a few live recordings of vox/guitar (with an sm57 & an sm58).
I hope that by posting a sort of "audio dev-log" here I can get lots of useful feedback but also provide a window for people to see into my process in creating soundtracks. Please post to ask about anything you like!
If anyone is interested here is a VERY early demo of the game (so you can see how it plays with some of my SFX in as well) and here is a video trailer.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 06 August 2012 - 09:16 AM
Keep it up and thanks for sharing so many details about the process.
Posted by Calum Bowen on 16 December 2011 - 07:40 PM
Within this soundtrack a lot of progress has been made for me and I delved into a lot of different genres (metal, dubstep, orchestral - it has quite a dark feel generally). I hope you enjoy the music I made and any critique is welcomed.
Hopefully there'll be more to come (and they'll make it to the end this time!)
Posted by Calum Bowen on 01 November 2011 - 12:58 PM
I've been listening to your stuff on soundcloud (i'm following also) - my main feedback would be that most of your songs seem to lack direction or an easy to follow structure. Also the samples are fairly synthetic (thinking of electronic cowboy - i don't know if the lead that sounds like a cheap guitar is supposed to be that or it'd rather be a real guitar or a more obviously synthy synth sound). Liaso Crescendo has this one melody but just pounds us with it over and over again but I enjoyed it's playfulness and the interweaving of different parts. Tick tock lullaby clock is also a nice piece but the lead and accompaniment i don't feel are well mixed - so it's quite blurry. This piece would also sound great with more high quality samples.
I don't have time to listen to them all right now and give more detailed feedback but let me know if you think my comments are fair and i'll listen to some more.