Taobao Rush Job!
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Some months ago, I got a call from one of the studios I work with regularly and they urgently needed music for an 8 minute web commercial (disguised as a short movie). As I was at the tail end of another mammoth project (the subject of another rant-filled post), I took on the project.
It is the trend nowadays that more and more commercials are published straight to YouTube, since it doesn't require expensive media-buys (paying for commercials to be broadcast on TV). And since uploading commercials to YouTube is free, companies are getting more liberal in extending the duration of their ads, to the point where many of them are produced to look like short movies.
I was actually back in Kuala Lumpur to move house, and there was still quite a lot of packing to do, but hey, a job's a job. I met the director at the studio and he gave me his vision for how the movie should sound musically. Imagine my surprise when the folks at the studio told me they needed the music in 2 days, for an 8-minute short movie with music required for almost all of it! Undaunted (well maybe a little daunted), I went back to my place and set up my trusty laptop with an additional monitor screen and a couple of speakers and my keyboard controller on my dining table and got right to writing the music, amidst boxes of stuff for my move. Thankfully my lovely wife was there to manage the moving while I was working on this.
In a couple of days I was done with a first draft and we met up with the director of the movie again. He was actually a little unsure if I would be able score this movie because he wasn't sure if I understood how to score specifically for this particular genre, especially since I don't speak mandarin. He was afraid that I wouldn't be able to understand the nuances of the emotions he wanted to come across to the audience. Thankfully, the producer provided a very good translation of the dialogue which helped me get to the heart of the story.
Thankfully, the director was quite happy with the direction of the music I had produced, but needed quite a few adjustments to when the music should come in and out of the scenes. So back I went to my makeshift studio at the dining table at my place to make the adjustments to the music. What I didn't understand at the time was why they were rushing to get everything done when the date of release was 4 months away. I guess the clients probably had a lengthy multi-level approval process, being the giant corporation that Taobao and Alibaba are.
In another couple of days I turned in everything and after some additional adjustments, I sent the music including music stems (for different mixing options) to the studio. I am so glad that the clients were happy with the result and thankful that I was given the opportunity to work on this project. I am especially gratified that I was able to take on this project even in a less-than-perfect situation like being in a proper studio. In this day and age, you just need a good laptop (with plenty of RAM), a good audio interface, good headphones, some ability to improvise, and the mindset that you don't really need a proper studio to do professional work. But you absolutely need a large dining table!