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University’s world-renowned composer reveals secrets of scoring for film, television, and videogames

Dr Stephen Baysted in Air Edel studios

A RENOWNED composer from the University of Chichester has spoken about what it takes to score an award-winning soundtrack for the film, television, and videogame industries.

Professor Stephen Baysted, of the Department of Creative and Digital Technologies, revealed his secrets following the broadcast of a new six-part BBC2 documentary featuring his latest work. The Professor of Film, TV, and Games Composition scored the music for Tom Kerridge: Lose Weight for Good: a six-part series airing each Wednesday featuring the Michelin-starred chef.

Professor Baysted said: “Hearing one's work on TV or in the cinema is of course a great privilege, but writing music for TV and film is a very different process to scoring for videogames. In TV each programme is subdivided into a number of sequences, or cues, and as a composer your job is to write music that accompanies the on-screen action in each one.

“Sometimes there are musical themes you can carry over and adapt from one cue to the next but, more often than not, in factual TV, for example, each cue requires an individual piece of music to be composed. Music is conventionally the final element to be placed into the programme before it is dubbed.

“As a result the amount of time the composer has to write the music is often extremely limited and compressed, an hour's TV per week is frequently the norm. When working on a series, however, it is not uncommon to be writing the music for two episodes at the same time.”

The BBC documentary marks the end of a busy and successful year for Professor Baysted who composed the soundtrack to the award-winning videogame Project Cars 2 and a new three-part Channel 4 TV series King Tut's Treasures. His repertoire also included a three-part series for US show NOVA, another Channel 4 programme on historical natural disasters, a documentary for Discovery Channel called Sharks and Crocodiles in The Northern Territorty, and a feature film on Claude Monet.

He continues to lecture at the University and will this year lead specialist degree courses on film and videogame arrangement at the Engineering and Digital Technology Park.

Engineering and Digital Technology Park

He added: “In video games the composer works in a radically different way, writing music to video sequences of game play or animatics. In many cases the music is conceived as multi-layered loops of material that can be rearranged in real time as the player progresses through the game.

“The videogame composer also generally has more time to compose the score, for Project Cars 2 I wrote the music over a period of five months, and one often has access to far larger music budgets than TV which allow the recording of orchestras and other live musicians."

Among Professor Baysted’s next projects to be broadcast are the films The Impressionists and The Man Who Made Them, and I, Claude Monet: detailed biopics about the artists and the milieux in which their most important works were created. These will air as one-hour ITV programmes from January. Stephen begins 2018 working on two video games and a third series of Ancient Mysteries for Channel 5.

He said: “In our new and cutting edge Composition for Film, Television and Games MA programme, which will be launching in January 2018, I will be bringing all these experiences and working practices directly into the module design and the teaching itself so that the students really get a sense of what it means to work as a professional composer in the industry and are trained to cope with its myriad demands and challenges.”

To find out more about Professor Stephen Baysted and his research with the University’s Department of Creative and Digital Technologies go to www.chi.ac.uk/cdt. Alternatively for more about his previous compositions go to www.stephenbaysted.com.