Shaping your Cinescore music with hints

by Gary Rebholz

As you become more familiar with scoring your videos, DVD menus, and other projects with Cinescore, you'll naturally begin to venture into more creative territory. While the music Cinescore gives you when you select a theme and variation sounds great, it won't be long before you find yourself wishing that you could craft the composition to really fit your particular project. Of course, with Cinescore you can do just that and hints provide the tools you need to accomplish the task.

It's important to start with an understanding of what a hint really does. Hints give you a method by which you can customize the section, mood, tempo, or intensity of your composition. For instance, if you want the composition to start out quietly, you might set the initial hint to an intensity of 15% and perhaps choose a more mellow-sounding mood. If partway through the song you want the music to kick into high gear, you can add a new hint and then change the intensity setting to 100% and select a high-energy mood.

Let's take a look at how to use hints and through the process gain a thorough understanding of just how they work.

First, make a time selection that matches the length of music you want. For the purposes of this discussion, make sure you have a video that is at least three minutes long and make a time selection that lasts for three minutes. Launch the Cinescore tools, choose a theme and variation, and then click OK to close the Theme Chooser. In the Generated Music dialog, select a composition and fit it to the exact length you requested if necessary.

As usual, in the Timeline area you see the section arrangement and the intensity curve that make up your composition. Let's focus on the intensity curve since it's easy to see the results of any changes you make with hints.

Since Cinescore always wants to generate music that changes over time to keep things interesting, the intensity curve typically transitions from low to high over the course of the composition. And depending upon the length of the composition, it can do so several times. You can use hints to change the intensity curve and force it to take the shape you want.

Notice that the Hints track in the Timeline currently contains one hint marker at the very beginning of the composition. Every composition has this initial hint. Click the hint marker. The Hints tab now becomes visible in the Project section of the Generated Music dialog and you can see that it contains a number of properties. These property settings define the music that Cinescore has created. Preview your composition.

Now, change some of the settings for the hint marker. For instance, select a different mood, adjust the tempo, or change the intensity setting. Preview the composition again and listen to how the changes you made to the hint settings affect the way your composition sounds. You can also change these settings while previewing your song.

While it's fun to alter the first hint in your composition to see how different you can make the piece, things really get interesting when you add additional hints. The more hints you add to your project, the more you can shape and craft your composition.

For instance, find an area in your intensity curve where the intensity falls to a very low level. It's likely that the curve begins to rise again almost immediately. But what if you want the intensity to stay low and steady for a specific section and then instantly jump to 100%? Hints make it easy to accomplish that task.

First, click the Hint timeline at the location in the project where you want the low-intensity section to start. This places the Timeline cursor at that point. Now, click the Insert Hint button to drop a new hint at the cursor location.

In the Hint tab of the Project section of the Generated Music dialog, set the Intensity Change property to Yes. This reveals several other intensity-related properties. Since you want the intensity low, enter 5% for the Amount property. Further, since you want the intensity to be steady at this low level for a while, set the Mode property to Hold. Now look at the intensity curve and notice that it remains at 5% for the rest of the composition. To make the effect even more dramatic, test out different settings for the Mood Change property and see if you can find one that sounds a bit more mellow than the current one.

Since you decided earlier that you want the intensity to remain at this low level for only a specific section of your composition and then you want it to jump immediately up to 100%, you're going to need another hint. You can add as many hints as you want, so that's no problem.

Click at the location in the Hint track of the Timeline where you want the intensity to jump to 100% and click the Insert Hint button. Set the Mood Change property to a more raucous mood and set the Intensity Change setting to Yes. Set the Amount property to 100% and the Mode property to I. You now have the instant jump in intensity that you were after.

Sooner or later as you're working with hints, you'll come across a situation where you place a hint but you don't hear the effects of the new hint settings until sometime later in the project from where the hint actually sits. What's going on?

Here's where you have to understand the nature of hints and how Cinescore builds a composition. It's important to remember that Cinescore is going to make every effort to keep you from making music that doesn't make musical sense. Therefore, if you place a hint and try to make a change at a point in your project that doesn't make good musical sense, Cinescore will delay the results of your hint until the time is musically right. You typically see this if you place a hint at somewhere other than a boundary of one of the sections in the Sections track of the timeline.

If you're not exactly happy with your results, you can tweak the position of your hint to see if you can achieve your goal. Sometimes you can, but what if you can't? Let's say, for instance, that you have identified an important hit point in your video to which you want to time a musical change, like an intensity change. Further, that hit point in the video doesn't match a section boundary and you can't seem to force your hint to make the change at the spot you want. Of course, Cinescore gives you the tools to make the change happen exactly where you want it, so let's explore that a little.

Click the OK button to close the Generated Music dialog and add the generated music to your project. Now, play your project and find a hit point in your video that you'd like to match with a change in the music.

Click the music event at that exact hit point in the video and press S on your keyboard to split the event into two separate events. Look at the time display and note your cursor position—you'll need this information shortly. Now, right-click the second of the two audio events and choose Edit Generated Music from the context menu. This opens the Generated Music dialog again.

Double-click the time display in the Timeline, type in the time you noted a moment ago, and press Enter. Your cursor moves to that location in the Timeline. Click the closest hint to the left of the cursor. This selects that hint and you can now change its property settings. Change the intensity and mood to match the feel you want at that point and then click OK to add the adjusted music to the project.

Play the project from just before the split point in the events. You'll notice that the original event remains exactly the same, but the event after the split point has your new hint settings so that the change in the music happens at exactly the point you wanted it to and thus now matches the hit point in the video. In other words, the changes you made to the hint in the Generated Music dialog affected only the second event while leaving the fist event in its original state and since the split point between the first and second event corresponds with the hit point in your video, the musical change happens at precisely the right time.

Once you understand how hints work, you can use them to really shape your compositions and customize the music you generate with Cinescore. Now that you're a master of the hint technique, you'll find it easy to obtain the exact results you're after!