Universal Impact: Film & TV Composers Write for a Global Audience with Amphion
Aljoscha Christenhusz, Lee Jae-Hak, and Dean Landon on translating impact, sonic depth, and feeling-to-visual mediums
From the deep bass notes that shake the seats of a crowded theater to the thrilling highs of a full string section accompanying a heightened storytelling moment, the art of composing for film and television effectively requires total control of all elements, both sonic and emotional to ensure that the narrative and emotional goals of the project are coming across to all audiences. As the film and television industries have moved to remote production in response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, musicians around the world have been forced to make the most of their home recording setups. In order to ensure that they can continue to deliver top-quality work regardless of the situation, international film and television composers like Aljoscha Christenhusz, Lee Jae-Hak, and Dean Landon use Amphion monitors as a crucial part of their composing and mixing setups – allowing them to continue to create music that has the impact, clarity, and depth that bring these stories to life.
Christenhusz got his start in Los Angeles working on blockbuster films like Deadpool, The Dark Tower, and Tomb Raider. More recently he relocating to his native Hamburg where he’s focused on trailers for film and video game projects, emphasizing the importance of giving each project its own sonic identity. “Every film has its own ‘sound world’,” he explained. “This is especially true in trailers where you have to say a lot in a small amount of space – it’s crucial that you capture the feeling of the story and characters sonically without giving too much away.”
Most productions now expect a multi-genre approach that combines the traditional orchestra with elements from popular and electronic music. For Christenhusz, this means using all the sonic frequencies at his disposal for maximum impact despite the often-dense mixes required of film trailers. “I go for hits with a wide frequency range so that you can hear them no matter what the listening conditions are, be they in the theater or off your phone,” he said. “In order to have full control of that, I needed studio monitors that gave me all of that information.”
“Adopting Amphion gave me what I needed for that approach. My Two18 and BaseOne25 setup gave me a completely clear and linear response from top to bottom, so I know that when I add the sub frequencies in, you’ll be able to really feel it in the theater, while still translating clearly across the other devices that people often watch films and television on.”
Clarity and translation
For Lee, a Korean composer who has worked on a wide variety of South Korean films such as 200 Pounds Beauty, My Paparotti, and Take Off as well as numerous television and popular music projects, the importance of clarity in a composing and mixing situation is especially important. Matching the vision of his clients requires the ability to shape-shift musically and embody the qualities of the project musically. “For each project I study the style of my client which will inform the decisions I make in terms of musical style and instrumentation,” he explained. “Understanding these goals informs the direction that I take creatively.”
Working out of his personal studio in Seoul, Lee uses a diverse array of instrumentation that includes orchestral and pop elements. In order to ensure that he has the clarity he needs, he monitors with Amphion Two18 speakers. “The Amphions are very truthful,” he explained. “The amount of information and detail that they deliver helps me greatly when I’m making decisions in the studio. I’m able to work more confidently and catch errors right away in in the mix.”
“Important aspect of mixing for this type of content is that it needs to sit correctly with dialogue, and with Amphion I have unprecedented control of the depth and resolution in order to ensure that the music can be heard clearly without interfering with the dialogue track.”
Depth of feeling
Taking advantage of depth and sound field in scoring is also important to Landon, a veteran composer on staff for Warner Brothers whose work has also appeared across all of the major television networks including shows like American Idol, The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and more. Although he has written in many idioms in the past, the majority of his work in the last decade has been composed for a forty-piece orchestra. “I write for a lot of shows that require highly energetic epic pieces, with lots of colossal percussion and massive strings and horns,” he explained. “The challenge with this kind of music is making sure that it’s enhancing the visual rather than replacing it.”
“It’s all about depth of field in these situations,” he continued. “As I’m relying on orchestral libraries to create this music, I need the ability to place the players exactly where I need them like a conductor would. The Amphions give me the ability to imagine exactly where the players are sitting.”
Landon uses Amphion Two15 monitors as well as a Two18-BaseOne25 bass extension system in his private studio in Woodland Hills, CA, to give himself total control of the depth and clarity of this level of instrumentation. “With the current order to stay at home, the Amphions have undoubtedly made my job much easier,” he said. “You really feel as if you’re ‘in the music’, and I couldn’t be happier.”
More information about Aljoscha Christenhusz, Lee Jae-Hak, and Dean Landon.
More information about Amphion One18, Amphion Two15 and Amphion Two18