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The Doghouse NYC

Case study about composing music for a commercial.

Case Study

Converse: Breaking Them In
in rhythm

We recently scored a spec spot for director Keith Ehrlich. It was pitched to the Converse Shoe Company. In this piece, we worked closely with the director to create music and images that were tightly interwoven.

In humorous and destructive series of shots, the protagonist in this spot scrapes, mangles, flattens, and dirties his new shoes in an effort to “break them in”. Each action is choreographed to sync with an underlying rhythmic score which punctuates the plot.

A good deal of planning was required in order to keep action on the beat. The music was produced in four basic steps.

Setting Up

Keith had a list of things that could be done rhythmically which he brought into the studio when we began to discuss the musical direction. With these as a reference we discussed style, energy and pace. It was decided that on the day of the filming, Keith would be playing music for the actor and crew to hear. This would both help maintain a tempo throughout the scenes, as well as establish rhythmic continuity from shot to shot.

The Temp Track

When the shoot was complete, a rough cut was brought into the studio in QuickTime format. Using Logic Audio, our Protools HD system, and a well stocked sound library, we began to place music to the QuickTime movie. As sound and picture went together, it became clearer what the final style and tempo of the piece should be. We created a looping demo piece of music: a temp track at the correct tempo. With this, Keith edited a new version; one that matched this new tempo map as closely as possible.

A Song is Born

Back in the studio things really began to come together musically. With this new cut, it began to be evident where musical drama, accented beats, sections and transitions were going to occur. Keith's edit decisions had now inspired moments that were musically interesting. It would be our job to shape our composition around these "hit points".

Of course, not all of the actions would line up entirely on the beat, but we could now see where the musical punctuations would need to occur and we were able to get things into the ballpark. Before the final cut, however, there was little point in laboring over these small timing issues. There would be another draft to come and the edits were still a moving target.

Massaging the Tempo and Picture

With the song structure and style formalized, Keith made his final edit. There were still a few visual elements that he wanted to change such as a color correction and some frame change edits. But he was also able to take advantage of this last edit to nudge a few of the remaining “out of time” elements onto the beat. What remained, we simply corrected in the studio; subtly manipulating the tempo of the piece and the timing of the instruments, to line up on a frame by frame basis.

This is how we arrived at the version you see here: accomplished via four main steps, both director and composer massaging the edits to match the beat. And though it sounds like a lot of back and forth, all these various drafts and edits actually happened very quickly. The planning had really paid off. Best of all, it ended up being a whole lot of fun.


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