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January 2009

 

Composer Ed Lima and Duncan Watt
A Fine Time for Fine Men

 

 

Ed Lima: Biography


Attended Berklee College of Music

Became Audio Director at Gearbox Studios in 2006.

Was Sound Designer on Doom 3 and Prey.

Official Web Site
 

Composition Credits (Games)

Brothers in Arms: 
Hell's Highway

Doom 3 (2004)
Empire Earth (2001)


 

 

Duncan Watt: Biography


Founder and Director of Fastestmanintheworld Music.

Played bass guitar and keyboards with the band, The Tea Party.


Official Web Site
 

Composition Credits (Games)

Brothers in Arms: 
Hell's Highway

Need for Speed: Underground
Need for Speed: Pro Street
Stargate Online TCG
Pirates CSG Online
Rogue Galaxy
Auto Assault

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composers Ed Lima and Dunan Watt

"I'm going to absolutely infuse this with heroism and make it "American." - the bald eagle with the quiver of arrows in its claw. I do that proudly in those cases, because that was a fine hour, a fine time for fine men...and that's how you say, 'Thanks.' - Ed Lima


Tracksounds grabs some time with composers ED LIMA and DUNCAN WATT to discuss their work on BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY.  The two share some specifics about how they worked together on this project, how this franchise's use of music is different from most other WWII shooters, and what lay in store for BROTHERS IN ARMS.

  All 10 tracks from BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY
 


Used by Permission

Brothers in Arms:  Hells' Highway by Ed Lima and Duncan Watt

BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY

Mixing at the Rudolfinum Studio in Prague.

The women's choir at the Hell's Highway recording session.

The orchestra warms up to record in Dvorak Hall.

 
   

CC: As Audio Director at Gearbox, how did you come to choose DUNCAN WATT to collaborate with you on BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY?

ED LIMA: Well Duncan and I have known one another both professionally and socially, and have had a healthily respect for one another, for some time. I got the opportunity to hire someone to work on this project for a couple of months - initally as an orchestrator and score-prep assistant. Duncan ended up excelling at the that and had so much to offer that he ended up co-composing. The role essentially grew to fit Duncan's abilities and talents.

CC: As Duncan's role evolved, how did the collaborative process between the two of you evolve?

ED LIMA: We worked with a lot of pre-viz material here. Being in-house, I have access to our animation department and story team. I was able to work with in-process footage of our cut-scenes. Our game is unique in that we don't score any action, so we are really only working with cut-scenes. In that regard, it was more like film or television scoring. So we broke the project up into cues and simply divided things up as to what each us wanted to work on. I don't think there was any specific sort of system in place by which I made those decisions. Duncan, do you recall us having any process in place for this?

DUNCAN WATT: We started out to work on some things even before we had cinematics to work to. We worked on our vocabulary and what some of Ed's visions were for the score. We decided early on to move in slightly different directions from what you would expect from a typical World War II score. It was great working with Ed early, so when the cinematics came in we were prepared. Some of the things Ed already had a pretty clear vision for, but others he would give me some basic sketch ideas. I'd also come back with some ideas that might be have been able to work towards what he was composing. A little later, when the cinematics came online, we began to tag-team it. There was a lot of back-and-forth in the whole process. Most of it was pretty collaborative all the way through.
 

CC: Ed, you had the final call on each track?

ED LIMA: Yes, but credit where credit is due. Duncan is a guy who doesn't require a lot of editing or correction. His ideas were pretty solid. By working with the story-team closely and having been involved with script-editing to dialogue production to dialogue editing and implementation, and being exposed to the material on a more holistic level, I was able to inform some of our decisions and some of our edits with the knowledge of what was coming down the line or a certain level of subtext that we wanted to hit on a particular character.

CC: You returned to some of the thematic material, namely the title march, written by Stephen Harwood Jr. in ROAD TO HILL 30. What influenced that decision and why was a different direction taken with the second game EARNED IN BLOOD?

ED LIMA: Well EARNED IN BLOOD was a funny game. If you look at the storyline of that game, it's actual a parallel storyline to ROAD TO HILL 30. It's not "The Empire Strikes Back." It's sort of a side story, expanded universe sort of thing. Now, HELL'S HIGHWAY, in every respect, was "The Empire Strikes Back," if ROAD TO HILL 30 is "Star Wars." So you have got to quote where you came from. Of course we do our new thing and we take it into a dark space. HELL'S HIGHWAY felt more like a linear progression of the story and characters.

CC: So was this a freeing decision or one that constrained you two?

DUNCAN WATT: Using HARWOOD'S theme, I thought of it more a like quoting - like a jazz musician might do. Everything is about how the emotion comes across and, for me, that theme brings back memories of having played the first, seminal game. So I wanted to hear that theme at that moment. I see it as a quote that tries to reach into the memory of all those gamers who played ROAD TO HILL 30. I didn't see it as constricting at all. It's a great melody and we did mess with it a little, too [laughs].

ED LIMA: Duncan is right. It's a great melody...a great launching off point for all sorts of themes and variations. I certainly don't feel like we were hamstrung in any way. We wrote a lot of new material that really didn't touch on previous stuff at all - particularly where orchestration and texturing is involved. We did things that the first two scores didn't do at all...with the glass bowls and Ligeti-esque type of female cluster, vertical stuff there. There was just no shortage of new things that we had to do. I think any composer or artist will tell you that limitations are inspiring, because once you know what your boundaries and parameters are you know how much space you have to explore. You can start exploring, creating and acting very quickly. Once you know where the cliff is, you can try to push close to it.

CC: Ed, you've been involved with projects like DOOM 3 and PREY which were more sci-fi/fantasy first-person-shooters, how does working on a game like BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY, which contains so much historical accuracy, affect your composition decisions?

ED LIMA: It's funny that you talk about this, because it permeates through everything. That sense of duty or respect or a debt to be paid...I think that anyone who works on a project like BROTHERS IN ARMS, BAND OF BROTHERS or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN will tell you the same thing. It permeates every decision you make. You touch things like humor with very delicate hands. Also the characters in this game have a lot of internal conflict and you have to touch that very, very carefully, because when you meet these veterans (and we've had many of them out here to the studio for bonus features and such) they talk about their brothers - the men that they fought and died with.  There's nothing even approaching any ill-will or animosity. Those guys just love each other with all their hearts. As far as how that gets into the music, there isn't something that I could site that overtly caused us to make any one decision. What I will say is that on a very high level, a creative level, we weren't afraid to go "big" or "heroic." Having met these guys personally, I'm going to absolutely infuse this with heroism and make it "American." - the bald eagle with the quiver of arrows in its claw. I do that proudly in those cases, because that was a fine hour, a fine time for fine men...and that's how you say, "Thanks."

CC: You've remarked elsewhere that you'd like to increase the amount of interactivity of music within games. As we talked about earlier, for HELL'S HIGHWAY, you're scoring everything but the in-game action. As you watched the game develop, were you ever frustrated in looking at sequences that you felt could have benefited from in-game music?

DUNCAN WATT: That's a phenomenally cool question, but I think I have a lousy answer. Right off the top, the decision was already made that we would only be scoring the cut-scenes, so it's not really applicable to this particular project. In the case of HELL'S HIGHWAY, I loved the decision, because, as many people have already commented that there is no musical score when you are in war. So if your goal is to be realistic, as wonderful as in-game music can be, it wouldn't be appropriate for the project.

CC: What was your biggest challenge in writing for this game?

ED LIMA: The biggest challenge for me was being lulled into a false sense of security in working with linear scoring. On a tv-show or film, by the time you hand the composer some footage to score, you are operating with the expectation, from the top down, that your timing is locked. That's important because if you are scoring to picture, then you are making a phrase 6 and 1/4 measures long because you want to drop out for a piece of dialogue and then hit the camera-cut that is 2 and 1/2 measures later, and then you want to change tempos and so on. You're dancing with your footage to a great extent. We approached the music for HELL'S HIGHWAY just as I have described - like you would on a film or television show. What I discovered, to my chagrin, was that what I called "locked" and others call "locked" were not the same thing. We ended up changing some scenes and cutting some things. We actually ended up doing some editing relatively late and so we had to repurpose material original written for scenes that got cut. I imagine this is what it would be like working with GEORGE LUCAS, where he is cutting film all the way up to three days before release. The things you have so meticulously timed out gets changed at the last minute. I think if I were to do this project again, I'd work in suites and then allow ourselves the opportunity to use them as building blocks that we can assemble later on.

DUNCAN WATT: For me, I wasn't involved in the implementation. This was Ed's project, so he sort of sheltered me from this. I think I had a little easier time with the whole score, where I'm just writing for music and translating some of Ed's ideas. The final orchestration fell to me and it was balancing how aggressive to make the music, how thick to orchestrate, how to handle the arrangement, so as to leave room for the sound-effects which were still to come. In a lot of cases these effects were still under production themselves. Trying to get that balance from off-site was difficult, so I leaned on Ed a lot. Even at the recording sessions, I was questioning if this was thick enough and I was trying to imagine the scenes and how they would come out. Making these decisions were very difficult, but, in the end, the arrangements are to be listened to in-place in the game and with all the different sound-effects and dialogue. I am happy that they are so easy to listen to on their own, but that was not ever the goal.

CC: DUNCAN, let me ask you about the latest addition to the BROTHERS IN ARMS franchise, HOUR OF HEROES for the iPhone. How did that come about and, since I haven't seen the game, was this a new piece or something repurposed from HELL'S HIGHWAY?

DUNCAN WATT: That was a repurposed piece from a previous project that I worked on for Gearbox and I'll leave it up to Ed to answer further...

CC: Sounds like were dancing some lines of legality here.

DUNCAN WATT: It's actually a deal that Gearbox made and one I'm very happy they made, but to answer the question, I didn't do any specific custom work for that game. I do really like the piece of music that's in there and it sounds great coming out of an iPhone [laughs].

CC: Do you think that we might ever see a BROTHERS IN ARMS game where there IS music during gameplay?

ED LIMA: I'll tell you, Chris...it's not impossible. We found at certain points as we were polishing up certain levels on HELL'S HIGHWAY that some parts would really be different with some music. We have a few "specialty" levels in the game: an extended sniper sequence and some tank levels. These are a bit of a departure from the "realism thing" but it's still fun as hell. At that point you're not playing Baker, so you're sort of away from canon. It would have been fun to have some sort of British armor march; something we would have done a little research for. That's one case where we might have skirted that line a little more closely, if we did it all over again. As far as complex, dynamic, interactive music systems...it's just not that game. I think that stuff is fantastic and it does make you feel like you are playing a movie, but BROTHERS IN ARMS is just not that series of games. It wouldn't feel right.

CC: Should the gaming community be getting prepared to hear more from you both on The Battle of the Bulge?

ED LIMA: Duncan? Oh wait. [laughs] Three games in, BROTHERS IN ARMS has been doing healthily. Anyone who follows the game industry at all knows how much in love with sequels this industry is and can reasonably figure that there is going to be another BROTHERS IN ARMS game in the future. HELL'S HIGHWAY ends on such an unresolved note in terms of the war and their relationships that you're more likely to see something continue in that vein than you are BROTHERS IN ARMS: MODERN COMBAT.

CC: What about you two working on a project together in the future?

DUNCAN WATT: I would absolutely love to. My experience on this was everything it should be. I can't be more proud of the work we did together.

ED LIMA: Yes...ditto that!

Brotherhood of Duty:  The Music of Brothers in Arms and Call of Duty: World at War



 

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Mark Griskey (2010)
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Jamie Christopherson (2010)
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John Ottman (2008)
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