The Making of ‘Playball’ Soundtrack

Wednesday December 19, 2018 / Behind the Scenes

Recently we had the opportunity to work with international film star Chris Massoglia on a soundtrack for his short film, 'Playball'. It's a really interesting piece of content to work with because it's about 13 minutes in length but it's essentially a 'silent' film, meaning there is no dialogue. As a result, there is a soundtrack playing consistently throughout the film with no pauses. You could say the soundtrack is really a star of this film and we were excited to create something that was equal to what was on the screen.

One thing we (Jamie and Eli) pride ourselves on at SoundSuite is listening to the client and making sure the client gets what he or she wants. We had a meeting with Chris to kick off the project and we heard him say, "I want it cinematic and uplifting." That was great direction because already he had given us a clear place to start but we still had room to maneuver creatively. We sent him some examples of what that might sound like and he said it was definitely the type of thing he was looking for, so we were off and running.

In watching the film the first time through what struck us was how well done the film was. The story builds at nice pace throughout the film which allows for time to build the soundtrack along with it at a consistently increased pace. The film is very engaging and the actors chosen were both skilled and believable in terms of being the same person at different ages.

When we think of cinematic and uplifting, we typically think of orchestral music. But it's not as simple as just plugging in an orchestra because there are different instruments that bring different types of feels, and how we build up and layer those instruments is also important.

We started with a warm pad (synthesizer) and orchestral percussion, then introduced a grand piano and string instruments. But it's just as important which orchestral instruments we didn't use, for example we didn't use woodwinds or brass. Those instruments give more of an epic feel, and we weren't looking for that. Just strings and piano were enough to provide the foundation of cinematic uplifting music.

Another crucial component of music production is the timing of the piece. Because this is a baseball movie, we listened to a few scores by James Horner who wrote the original soundtrack for 'Field of Dreams'. He used 6-4 timing which is more like a slow waltz, and he did the same in 'Braveheart' and 'Titanic'. It's more of a gentle flow and not as repetitive, but it's also not as smooth and as you build it, eventually it becomes very epic. We knew we weren't looking for epic so we ultimately decided to use 4-4 timing which allows for both a smoother ride and can more easily build to uplifting without being epic.

In terms of tempo, we couldn't be too fast or too slow because again we are building throughout so we need flexibility in either direction. We settled on 120 BPM (beats per minute) which is a pretty standard mid-tempo.

We believe that any good movie soundtrack has a melody to it. Music producers like John Williams are the master of melody. The melody repeats itself over the course of the film but there is also variation in terms of instruments used, volume and pacing so it sounds familiar yet different at times. We think of the movie Schindler's List and when John Williams had Itzhak Perlman playing the melody on his violin, it just brings us to tears.

With 'Playball' we were not necessarily going for tears but we did move the melody to a minor key during the sad moments. Then when his Dad shows up we go back to the warmpad and a high tension string to elevate the drama of the moment, and finally we are back in a major key and give the ending not necessarily a happy feel but more one of contentment.

Chris listened to the final product applied to the film and told us, "I love the tempo and it really gives a cinematic feel to the film - exactly what I was going for!" and we were very happy that we were able to fulfill his vision for the soundtrack. It was a pleasure working with him and we are sure that he is a rising star in the film industry. For more of Chris, please watch 'Because of Gracia' which won several awards and is very highly rated on IMDb.

Are you working on a project that is in need of a custom soundtrack? We would love to talk to you about whether we might be a fit for collaboration; find out more about our easy process here.

Thanks for reading and Keep Creating out there,

Jamie & Eli


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