In 2015 I worked on the score for Great Human Odyssey, an Emmy-nominated documentary series about the origins of humans and how we have survived climate change. The filmmaker, Niobe Thompson, put together a fantastic short about the process of recording the score with composer Darren Fung. (My cameo is around 3 minutes.)
Why full orchestras are going away (for film and tv work)
Full orchestra recording for tv and film projects is becoming increasingly rare. Some of it is for practical reasons – like it’s hard for a composer to write, record, edit, mix and deliver on the deadlines we have today. The more players you have, the more expensive it is.
On top of it, some instrument samples are fairly convincing (which was not the case 15 or 20 years ago). You can emulate just about any instrument by playing a keyboard. It’s easier to change or fix parts, no need to book players or record.
Why we need players
Samples are not always convincing. It takes a lot of work to tweak and mix and even then, it still might sound fake. Real players, though, are going to have an energy playing together. Even a small group of players can capture something that the largest synth orchestra is never going to have.
It’s also about supporting our music communities and professionals. They’ve spent years of training honing their craft for opportunities like these. Even if you can only afford two players, that’s two people who you’re helping make a living.