Music Editor

What do Music Editors do?

Music Editors help directors to achieve their musical ambitions on films, and provide a crucial link between the film and the composer. They structure the soundtrack, ensuring that all the components work together. For film music to work successfully it must be beautifully written, well performed and appropriate to the story and setting. In addition, it must be very carefully placed within the film, in order to complement the action, rather than detract from it.

Music Editors' responsibilities vary according to each film's musical content and budget. They are usually responsible for all the music featured on film soundtracks, including: performed music (e.g., a band or singer who performs within the narrative of the film), all sourced music (e.g., bought-in pop, jazz, classical music), and the score, written by the composer specifically for the film. On musical films Music Editors are responsible for how the music is visually portrayed, working closely with the picture editor to achieve the perfect fusion of image and movement.

Experienced Music Editors can save productions a considerable amount of money, and also contribute significantly to the overall atmosphere and mood of films by helping to create truly memorable soundtracks. As this is one of the most highly competitive areas in the film industry, it can take years for even the most talented, highly qualified individuals to become Music Editors.

What is the job?
On a medium budget film, Music Editors usually start work well into the picture editing process, developing the temp (temporary) score, which is made up of music lifted from other film soundtracks or sourced music, and helps the editor to achieve the right pace and emotional tempo; it may also provide a broad template for the composer, and help the director to identify the desired feel of the soundtrack.

Music Editors attend a "spotting session" with the director, picture editor, music supervisor, producer and composer, during which they note all music cues (providing the composer with a written template that is used to produce the score and the music supervisor with vital notes concerning all copyright clearances and budgetary issues). Some composers may also require Music Editors to produce a cue breakdown, which involves rewriting the script from a musical point of view, helping the composer to estimate the tempo and meter of the score.

Music Editors also communicate all editing changes to the composer in musical terms, e.g., if a number of frames have been cut, the composer must lose a bar or three beats of the score. Music Editors also design a "click track" for the film which is used during the recording of the score to help the musicians achieve the correct tempo and perfect picture to music synchronization. Music Editors attend all music recording sessions, to help with any last minute revisions or changes which may require additions or subtractions from the "click-track".

Music Editors work with a specialized music mixer to create different mixes of all the music tracks, anticipating potential problems such as a loud cymbal crash occurring at the same time as a line of dialogue. Using a computer software program, Music Editors lay down all the music tracks, fitting them exactly to the picture, ready for the final mix or dub which they must also attend in order to find quick, creative solutions to any last minute problems.

One of the final tasks for Music Editors on films is preparing the cue sheet — a detailed breakdown of all the music featured on soundtracks (including length and function). This is sent to the Performing Rights Society, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and all exhibitors so that royalties can be paid every time the film is screened.

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Job description sources include (but are not limited to) imdb.com, skillset.org and wikipedia.