• Toby Ellis

Blog Introduction: Influences & Investigation – Music & Sound Studies – Reflect

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

Dear Reader…


Firstly, I would just like to start off this humble little blog of mine by saying a hearty hello and a very warm welcome to you! I’m Toby, a full-time UK composer and active researcher of Music and Sound for the moving image. As a student on the MSc (Hons) Music and Sound for Film & Games programme at the University of Hertfordshire, I find myself in an exciting position by which I have the pleasure of going wild with musical exploration and am seeking out as many equally enthusiastic souls that, like me, have too caught the bug, fallen indefinitely for the charm and become enamoured entirely by the art of crafting music and sound for moving picture.


I view my beginnings with music and sound as coming from a very advantageous angle, a mixture of rhythmic performance and studious musical theory from the early age of 11. Rocking and drumming out to my heart’s content, in love with the movies and the creation and experimentation to be had with texture and rhythm in sound. I have truly adored and worshipped the power of musical composition, sound and film for as far back as I can remember and performing and composing naturally with a musical instrument was and always will be a huge passion and a massive part of who I am.


Having been lucky enough even before the age of 21 to be given the opportunity to play with such a roster of incredible musicians in such multicultural genres and backgrounds of indie, jazz trios/quartets and big band orchestras for gigs such as festivals and stage play musicals, I believe has struck a chord prompting and forever changing my perspective on musical quality and the tuning when listening to an incredible piece of music in my second love of motion picture. My inspiration for composing music in the Film, Television, Video Game industry came at the age of 17 whilst looking into jazz and cinematic orchestral score for my college dissertation when studying music at the Norwich City College in my home county of Norfolk.


After falling down the rabbit hole of information my activity now and since that moment in the field of music has been for its entirety, figuring out the mechanics of, working and showing my passion for the sound in multimedia industry, writing music as well as producing sound design on exciting new short documentaries, comedies, dramas, cinematic video game trailers and 2d animations. As a recent first class honours music composer graduate in BSc Music Composition and Technology for Film & Games, I am looking to further utilise the skills I have developed in writing music and developing sound for visual media by working closely with more creative individuals on new and exciting projects for multimedia platforms.

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A link to my professional website can be found here: @www.tobyellismusic.co.uk

Now… Enough about me


On to the investigation…


Having taken a shine particularly to orchestral cinematic composers in both film and video game fields by composers such as the likes of: Dario Marianelli (Kubo and the Two Strings, Jane Eyre, Atonement), John Powell (Solo, How to Train Your Dragon), Henry Jackman (Uncharted, Captain America Winter Soldier, X Men First Class), Michael Kamen (Band of Brothers, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Greg Edmonson (Uncharted, Firefly), Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo, Wall-e, American Beauty) and more recently major breakthrough artists the likes of Ludwig Göransson on Marvels Black Panther and Jon Paesano on the Marvels Spiderman PS4 Video Game Soundtrack; this blog will be written with the overall aim to inspect and examine many of these composers works and in doing so how the power of music is currently used in across all mediums whilst primarily honing in on film, television and video games to effect the audience with such emotional splendour and gravitas. Particularly how orchestral composers use their techniques and varying approaches to compositionally harness that to accomplish such a successful situationally adaptive soundtrack.


To dig deeper, this blog will first and fore-mostly be exploring what I think to be an interesting and the recent revelation in the increasingly popular trend of engineering cinematic music into today’s video game industry to create a more linear, more immersive story based experience. With the additional twist of now including the complicated element of these constantly expanding open worlds sections in between for a player to explore. Recent industry triumphs such as Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, Ratchet and Clank and Marvels Spiderman PS4 to name a few are examples of where I can say with confidence this has been done superbly and will be sought into and documented with great intrigue. This with the aim of not only discovering the ways in which each composer tackles writing music linearly in this type of game, but also in how the audio team addresses the implementation and transformation of their work to effectively create a truly immersive way of playing.


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Weaved into this research I will investigate other more personal, and relevant especially to the ‘little guy’ amongst the emerging composers in the music industry. Such as that of learning where the industry of music & sound in videogames is heading; where to look to pick up the newest game music implementation engine for working as close as you can with clients and industry professionals today; understanding the purpose of mastering music beyond the realms of todays stereo/5.1/7.1 and into 3D audio and virtual reality in gaming; hyperrealism and techniques and opinions in modern sound design including the blurring between music and sound;  composing music that is fused to characters in film and possibly even how we chose between MIDI software libraries vs Live recordings in multimedia compositions. How close are we to accurately replicating an orchestra in our own little home studio? Are we there already? If not how do we get the best out of our samples?


Whether you’re an actively minded individual looking into bold and exciting ideas in modern composition like myself, or a complete novice looking to broaden your mind on the subject, the aim of this blog no matter what is to be made as a fun and interactive learning experience for the both of us! I will strive to deliver that consistency over the coming weeks and hope that I can inspire you to be, if not already, an active member of the composer/audio designer community.

Here’s hoping this new journal series finds you well, and that this little extension of myself is as informative and as currently relevant to the subject matter at hand, as we begin our journey with our best foot forward into the realms of the vast and revolutionary industry that is Music and Sound for Film & Videogames!

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