What is Spotting in Film?


Spotting is a creative process that the composer usually enters towards the end of filming, during the editing process. However, on some occasions, the composer is on hand during the entire film shoot. The composer is shown an unpolished “rough cut” of the film before the editing is completed. He also talks to the director or producer about what sort of music they need for the film.

The director and composer will watch the entire movie, taking note of which scenes require original music. During this process, the composer will take precise timing notes so that he or she knows how long each cue needs to last, where it begins, where it ends, and of particular moments during a scene with which the music may need to coincide in a specific way. This process is known as “spotting.”

Once a composer has settled on a composer, he can begin spotting the picture. With the composer, review the entire picture, scene by scene, to discuss the music cues – that is, the moments that are appropriate for music. When working with film, spotting should be done on a flatbed editing table so that you can go slowly back and forth over the material. Music expresses emotion. It bypasses the brain and works directly on the hart. Yet what might be right for the composer might be wrong for the director or producer.


Enhancing the Experience


The addition of music will greatly enhance the film or video experience, but so will do the sound effects. These two elements should not fight each other for dominance on the soundtrack. After the director and composer agree on where music should be placed and on a musical style that is appropriate for the piece, the composer has two challenges. First, to write music that enhances the visual imagery effectively. Second, to make the music fit precisely into exact music cues.

Traditionally, the music editor breaks down each music cue into a series of beats by employing “click tracks”. A click track is a synchronous metronome that is locked to the picture. It is now customary for film and video composers to work with the MIDI standard. With a MIDI-compatible synthesizer, contemporary can create an entire score in the privacy of their own home or studio.


Separate Spotting Sessions


The three main sound elements of a film soundtrack are dialogue, sound effects, and music. Each of these elements has its own spotting session, at which the “spots” in the film that need attention from the different departments are identified. It is very important that they play the film from beginning to end, in real-time, in the spotting session. This allows the music editor, music supervisor, and composer to ask questions about specific musical pieces or spots. They can also stop the playback for discussion. After all, a discussion is what the spotting session is for. However, the whole film does need to be viewed without skipping any section.


Film Editing 


Occasionally, a filmmaker will edit the film to fit the flow of music, rather than have the composer edit their score to the final cut. In some circumstances, a composer will be asked to write music based on his or her impressions of the script. Without seeing the film itself. Therefore, he has more freedom to create music without the need to adhere to specific cue lengths or mirror the emotional arc of a particular scene. A director usually takes this approach if he does not wish to have the music comment specifically on a specific scene. The music can instead be inserted into the film at any point the director wishes during the post-production process.


The Spotting Notes


The spotting notes are important from both creative and technical standpoints. They provide various pieces of information for each music cue. Also, they must keep this information up to date and accurate throughout the project. Database software can be used for this. It is essential to realize that the spotting notes can and often do change in the course of music composing, postproduction editing, and throughout the final dub (the film mix). They are, in many ways, quite fluid. The composer, music supervisor, or the director may make changes to the film that affect them.


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