What does a music editor do?
Music editors are responsible for all the music in a film or TV production, including the soundtrack and any music created by the composer. The extent of their role varies considerably depending on the type of production concerned.
On a medium-budget film, they usually start work while the film is being edited. They work with the director to decide on the purpose of the music, find a style to suit the story and mark the points in the film where music is required (spotting). Then they develop the temp (temporary) score.
Music editors then work closely with a composer, who is usually appointed by the director, and who composes the music using the temp score as a template. The temp score is also used by the film editors to achieve the right tempo with the cut. Music editors often act as a bridge between the sound and picture teams.
They attend all recording sessions, helping with any revisions and design a 'click track' which is used to help the musicians achieve synchronisation with the movie. Working with a specialist music mixer, they create different mixes, lay down the tracks and fit them exactly to the picture, ready for the final mix or dub.
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. This is sent to the Performing Rights Society and all exhibitors so that royalties can be paid every time the film is screened.
What’s a music editor good at?
- Music: know the history and construction of music, compose in different styles and genres, improvise, read scores, create themes quickly under the pressure of deadlines
- Understanding film production: appreciate the process and techniques of making films, know how music affects images and adds drama, have a passion for the industry
- Collaboration: listen to the director, translate the vision into music, be flexible, communicate the vision with the editor, composer and other musicians
- Using software: produce electronic scores using technology such as ProTools, use editing and mixing software
- Business: know people in the music, film and TV industries, build up contacts, understand contracts and copyright clearances, organise, communicate and negotiate