Prior to the release of Sony's reboot of Twisted Metal for the PS3, composer Michael Wandmacher (Dirve Angry, Piranha 3D, The Punisher: War Zone) discussed the intricacies of scoring music for an in-development videogame, plus a few quick tidbits on his latest horror film score - the upcoming The Haunting in Georgia.


The Girl in the White Coat poster


Mark R. Hasan: I guess this is your second or third videogame soundtrack?


Michael Wandmacher: Technically it’s my eighth, but working with a major label, it’s my fifth. The first three I did were movie-ports for Activision. They were the two Madagascar films and Over the Hedge, and after that I did Singularity for Activision with Charlie Clouser, and now there’s Twisted Metal.


MRH: I guess this is your first action-oriented game?


MW: Singularity was kind of a sci-fi / horror. It was a first-person shooter, but in terms of style of game play, Twisted Metal is much more of an open field, team combat kind of thing. The game play is actually pretty insane, and I would consider them different types of games, but they’re definitely both from the action genre. The music has a decidedly different feel in Twisted Metal than in Singularity.


MRH: The use of electric guitar is very heavy. How involved were the producers and writers with the music?


MW: They were very involved. There’s a few composers who worked on the game, and my main task was to come up with the themes for the main characters, and score all of the cinematics that are interspersed throughout the game to drive the story along, based on what each player does on each level; how they want to move the story along; and which characters are playing in that particular round of the game.

There were other people and other bands who did game play-type music or other types of interstitial music, and I’m not even sure what that was on their part, but for me the involvement was [score]. I was talking to the music supervisor at Sony pretty regularly, probably over a 2-3 month period where the game was being developed, and I had multiple discussions with the director of the game, and I would write things based on video as it was being developed.

The first things I saw were a lot of green screen type shots – very raw footage – and as they went through each pass of the video, it became more stylized, and then I would fine-tune music after that. The length of those cut scenes kept changing, so I would either have to add or take out parts, but it was really important to develop a specific sound for each character.


MRH: You mentioned the green screen, and it makes me wonder whether someone new to videogame scoring would be able to handle scoring scenes that have partial effects and rough renderings, or do you thing that at this point it really doesn’t matter, because most people have a cinema education from seeing films, seeing how their made, making them on their own, or just going to film school?


MW: I think it varies. If I was just starting out it would throw me to just see footage of somebody on a prop motorcycle; it’s not even a full motorcycle, just the handle and the seat, and they’re in front of a green screen, and there’s nothing else. You might see a couple of operators making the bike bump up and down and make it look like he’s actually riding it. Things like that.

You look at storyboards, or you see what’s called a wireframe sometimes, which shows you the most basic idea of how the character’s going to move. Let’s say if someone’s going to crash, you might be able to see the most basic timing of how that’s going to happen, but a lot of it you just have to imagine in your head and come up with how you feel like it’s going to flow, and hope it’s going to fit.

You get used to it after a while if you work on those types of projects. I’ve done a lot of genre films, too, and during the special effects sequences, in some cases you don’t even see the finished effect until the movie’s actually in the theatre. So you just take your best guess, and the more you do it the easier it is to visualize in your head, and come up with something that you know will work.






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