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Interview: The Composers Behind Mass Effect Paragon Lost
We had a chance to throw some questions back and forth with the composers of the upcoming Mass Effect animated movie Paragon Lost, David Kates and Joshua R. Mosley. They talk about the series having multiple composers on a single title, the transition of moving from the game space to the movie space, as well as the challenges and rewards of being attached to one of the most popular sci-fi brands in recent times. Check it out below.
Gaming Blend: With Mass Effect Paragon Lost being directly tied to the game I imagine that there may be similar musical cues or (character) themes that travel across from the game to the film? Or will the film have a completely different set of musical themes to play off of?
Mosley (Pictured left): The score for Mass Effect Paragon Lost is definitely influenced by the musical textures and colors of the game series and we wanted that to shine through in the score for the film. That said there is a fresh perspective to this score. We created completely different musical themes that were developed for the characters and the overall Mass Effect world. This score will feel very familiar but also has a strong cinematic approach.
Kates: We were directed not to use previous themes, but to maintain the overall sound of the Mass Effect universe as it was developed throughout the games. When Joshua and I put together our sound palette, we intentionally chose colors that reflect the history of the sound of the Mass Effect trilogy, but also move toward a cinematic quality. We created a bold new set of themes that have the opportunity to grow and develop as the movie unfolds. We think and hope everyone embraces this score in the same way as the games.
Gaming Blend: What's interesting is that, for David Kates, you've already worked on previous Mass Effect games and for Joshua R. Mosley, this is a first-time venture tackling the Mass Effect universe. For you, Joshua, did you have to play catch-up in listening to the soundtracks or scores of the previous games to get an idea of how you wanted to approach the score or did you and David already have something planned once you signed on to the project?
Mosley: First of all, I was a big fan of the Mass Effect games and their iconic scores. After finding out that I was hired for this project I further studied and listened even more intently to the scores - and of course David brought that genuine Mass Effect element that was very inspiring to me as well. It was a very enjoyable, creative process.
Kates: I recall Joshua did do a lot of research, listening to the other scores carefully, and as soon as he starting writing, every note felt like it was genuinely part of the Mass Effect universe. His compositions fit in as naturally as any of us who have worked on this historic franchise.
Gaming Blend: Games seem to have soundtracks broken down and cued up to span anywhere between 8 and 40 hours, with movies it's a heck of a lot shorter. Do you both find it more or less creatively restraining to fit certain music cues within a specific time frame for a movie, or to have to stretch the music or themes out to fit the lengthy playtime of a game?
Mosley: I wouldn't say it is more or less creatively restraining. They are just different in the nature by which you can develop your musical ideas. You can accomplish some very cool things in games versus movies and movies versus games. I truly enjoy writing for both media.
Kates: They’re both able to be creative exercises, but require different skills to achieve successful results. I’m very fond of scoring movies for the very reason you mention. When you are given a segment of a film that is timed, you know exactly what the story line is, and you are able to bring a distinctive commentary to that story that may not currently be on the screen. These restraints allow you to develop your music in a way that provides the audiences with an experience that is consistent, one they can rely on. What is fun and appealing about games is that you can play the game many times and the experience can be different based on how the music track plays each time. When I scored Battlestations: Pacific (Eidos) with Richard Jacques, we used a method that had three levels of energy going back and forth based on the player’s actions, and every time you played the game you would potentially be at different points in the score which brought spontaneity and excitement to the experience.
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