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rockheyday

Preparing a demo-reel

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Hi people, For a while I have been studying music and searching for technical concepts at music production (particularly mastering). I started to compose for orchestral pieces. I want to work as a composer in film and/or game music industry. While completing my works, I will send my songs' mixes to a mastering studio to get a high quality sound. Of course, I do spend time for that, but it cant be as good as that a mastering engineer does. Well, apart from that, I need to prepare a demoreel so that I can use it for demonstration. This point is hard because preparing a demoreel is tricky and needs to be careful. I shall be grateful when experienced people help me about this issue by advicing. Thanks for helping..

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Four easy steps:

1) Make the demo reel short overall. Usually under 7 minutes total is good. There isn't a need to put full length songs in the demo. Make it a "sampler". Most HR or managers at companies spend very little time on each demo. My boss usually spends about 2-3 minutes on each demo. If nothing grabs his attention, he moves on to the next one. You need to make a great first impression within the first 15-30 seconds. This means put your most impressive work first. Check out my music sampler here:

http://www.madsenstudios.com/DemoReel.mp3

13 tracks demoed in 4:52. Plenty of variety of styles and (hopefully) enough material to spark a client's curiosity and interest in my services. From there, they can hear full version tracks on my MP3 player on my site.

2) Put a good deal of variety in the demo. The more styles and moods represented, the better your odds of impressing clients. Also consider using a variety of samples: retro, realistic and fusion. Not every game wants to sound like a Hollywood movie score.

3) Make the demo easy for the client to use and navigate. I choose to have a demo reel where the client pushes play once and then can listen. Too many buttons or options can get distracting, especially for a first impression. Keep it simple. Later, if they want more info or samples then give them more options.

4) Finally, make sure your demo only features your best, most recent work. Sometimes you have to wait for a while to promote something due to NDA and such. Keeping your demo reel current will allow you to always be ready to promote yourself at any time.

Side note: I also keep my music and sound design samplers separate. This helps clients choose what services they want to look into and hopefully save them some time.

My sound design sampler is here:

http://www.madsenstudios.com/Madsen%20Sound%20Design%20Sample.mp3

If this interests the client, then they can listen or watch full versions of the songs or trailers on my website.

Hope that helps.

Nathan

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Thanks so much Nathan,
Very useful..After searching little bit more, I decided to make my demoreel between 3.5 and 4 mins. I will compose more to make it in a variety. I am strict to use only orchestral instruments even though it is useful to use synth sounds to make sth different. Well, I will try to change my mind. I checked your demoreel. Generally, it is around -6db, and its sound quality and loudness dont decrease at stereo system. Did you use hardware to get the sound for that or other processing methods? Recently, I have this problem..Even though my songs mixes are good, mastering is a hassle..Plus, because of my crap system:)) Anyway, thanks so much again..

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Quote:
I checked your demoreel. Generally, it is around -6db, and its sound quality and loudness dont decrease at stereo system. Did you use hardware to get the sound for that or other processing methods? Recently, I have this problem..Even though my songs mixes are good, mastering is a hassle.


Hey,

I worked on each song at different times, then when I wanted to create a new, updated demo reel I put all of the songs in one session. Then I checked the balance from tune to tune making sure nothing was too drastically different volume-wise. Then I selected the segments I wanted to feature, cued up the cross fades and presto!

Mixing is hard but I don't rely too much on plug-ins for that. I find too many folks simply use various plug-ins (or presets of plug-ins) instead of using the most important tool: your ears. I just listen on a variety of speaker set ups and really try to make the sound as clear as possible.

Thanks for checking out my reel!

Nathan

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[quote]Mixing is hard but I don't rely too much on plug-ins for that. I find too many folks simply use various plug-ins (or presets of plug-ins) instead of using the most important tool: your ears.

Yea definetely you are right..The most important tool is the ears. I give the balance of the piece importance. I rarely use plug-ins while composing and mixing. Using plug-ins in a wrong way would be disaster. However, music industry give the sound quality importance at first:) Thats why, I started to search for technical concepts. One of my concerns is to make my songs as loud and clear as the reference songs I choose. They sound very good at my monitors, but at stereo system or in my car. Before looking for a mastering studio, I want to spend time to learn some subjects deeply. At least I can keep my mixes as clear as I can..Other people's experiences are very helpful like yours. Thanks so much..

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Nathan, this was extremely helpful to me, and my reel too was made with this in mind ;)

However, I would like to ask during what conditions the game industry guys are listening to the reels? Are they sitting by the computer with small nasty speakers, or in a conference room with a nice speaker system? I assume they do not listen in a normal studio environment...

I share the problem with mastering, mostly because any master always sounds different in a new set of speakers, and most music sounds awesome with good studio monitors. The problem is not the most accurate listening environment, but the bad listening conditions most people have in their homes/ipods/computers. I feel that I always compromise a bit too much, and I am almost never entirely happy with the result.

//Henrik

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Hensum- very good question.

Unfortunately the listener usually has way too much power over what the audio set up is like. So you can never really ensure a perfect listening session 100% of the time. Even with nice speakers and a quiet room, some folks may choose to have the sub turned to 11 which would effectively change the overall mix and delivery of your audio.

Some of this you have to just accept since almost every stereo system available today has some kind of EQ interface set up. Some of this you can prepare for. When I'm creating new audio I listen to it on a variety of set ups. The initial set up I use is my studio one. This is the highest quality in a nice, quiet room. I have the EQ set to normal and speakers set up correctly. Here's where the creation happens and this is where you need to have the highest quality speakers and equipment you can afford. From there I test the audio on:

*my iPod

*my laptop

*my car

*other stereo systems

*other computers

Testing on other computers is especially vital if you're making video game content. The trick to all of this is two fold:

1) Realize that each set up is going to change your sound somewhat. Nearly nothing sounds as pristine and good on laptop speakers vs. studio monitors. They just don't. Laptop speakers are generally too narrow in output and quality.

2) Instead of trying to make the audio sound perfect on each and every device you test, try to reach a good average. Understand how each system is going to limit certain things about your audio output, and focus on what is maintained. Try to make your audio sound decent to good on crappy set ups and very good on high quality set ups.

After testing on a bunch of set ups, make any changes that are needed and then put it out there.

As far as how folks are listening in the game industry: it varies greatly. When I was back at FUNimation, we were listening on mid-range speakers attached to a computer. They were decent speakers and got the job done. If it was specifically an audio based demo, we'd sometimes go into my office and use my equipment to listen. Sometimes not.

Finally, I believe that good musical writing or good sound design creation will come out even on bad speaker set ups. Is the sound somewhat inhibited? Sure. But if you have a great demo reel that has variety and solid content- that will show through. Another thing to consider: if someone has their stereo set up all messed up, then they're hearing ALL of their audio output that way. Maybe they prefer nothing but bass. Maybe they like hearing only the highs and none of the mids or lows. :) Rest assured, none of the audio folks I've known or work with are like this. Now other depts (like HR, art or programming) is another story sometimes!

I hope that helps!

Nathan

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