Interview with Composer Winifred Phillips
Winifred its a pleasure to interview you again.
Thanks, Shelia. It’s always lovely to be interviewed by you. J
As a writer, I know I have certain routines that I do to prepare me for writing. What are some of your routines when you are getting ready to compose music for video games?
First I listen to other music that I find personally inspiring or interesting. It’s especially useful to do this after the initial briefing from the game developer regarding the nature of the game for which I’ll be creating music. I listen to a lot of different musical styles and genres, in the attempt to stuff my brain full of ideas, musical tidbits, different approaches to musical problems. I’ll find myself subconsciously sorting through everything I’m hearing… saying to myself, “That instrument might work for the project, but it would have to be a lot softer and a bit lower” or “that style would really clash with the game, better stay away from anything like that,” or “I like that little fragment of rhythm, it makes me think of such-and-such character from the game, but it would have to be more staggered and much faster.” This kind of thought process helps me focus on what I want to create for the project.
My music producer Winnie Waldron is very involved in these planning stages. She works with me to define what the style will be, making sure that the final choice will compliment the gameplay and enhance the visuals. I find that when you listen to music just by itself, your mind tends to conjure up mental pictures to go with the sounds. Winnie is always focused on making sure that those mental pictures summoned by the music are complimentary to the actual pictures from the game. When all the elements of a game are working together to achieve the same effect, that’s when the experience is most compelling, I think.
What was different about working on the Sims project as compared to some of your others like Shrek and Speed Racer?
Electronic Arts made working on SimAnimals an exceptionally good experience. At the beginning, I was offered the job outright, without any sort of audition process. I really appreciated that. It showed how much trust EA had in me, and I can’t tell you how great that feels. The team on SimAnimals brought Winnie and myself into their studio, showed us concept art, animations, early gameplay, and talked to us at length about what they wanted the music to achieve. But after that, they gave us almost complete freedom to create the sound of SimAnimals. It was really a pleasure to create music in that kind of supportive environment. Also, Electronic Arts has released the music I created for SimAnimals as a soundtrack CD via iTunes and Amazon.com, which was really exciting! I’ve enjoyed great relationships with developers over the years, and working with Electronic Arts on SimAnimals counts as one of the truly special experiences I’ve had as a game composer.
Do you get to visually see the scenes before composing or do you have to compose from the written word?
It varies. On some projects I’ve had text descriptions of what will be happening in the game, on others I’ve had full-blown gameplay videos. SimAnimals was a combination of the two. The game design process is always quite fluid, and elements change constantly as the game evolves, so sometimes its necessary to work with just a text description. Sometimes that can be fun. I can let my imagination run wild. J
What's the first thing a person should do if they are interested in getting in the video game industry?
Be a programmer. In all seriousness, I hear that programmers are in demand right now. Most other positions are tough to break into, but word has it that really good programmers can write their own tickets. On a side note, audio programmers have interesting jobs. The new consoles (Wii, Playstation3, Xbox 360) have greatly expanded audio capabilities, which makes the job of audio programming much more multi-faceted than it used to be. Programmers specializing in audio can bring a very useful skill set into the development team.
Where can readers find more of your music that you've composed?
The soundtrack album for my latest game, SimAnimals, has just been released on iTunes and Amazon.com by Electronic Arts’ record label, E.A.R.S. (EA™ Recordings). I’m very proud of it, and I had a wonderful time creating it.
Be sure to check out the SimAnimals album online:
And learn more about Winifred Phillips at http://www.winifredphillips.com
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