November 3, 2014

The Process of Scoring Your Own Films Just Became Insanely Simple

film scoring xhail
The internet is full of awesome music-licensing platforms like Marmoset and The Music Bed that excel at helping filmmakers find the perfect tracks for their work. However, for dramatic filmmaking, nothing beats an original score composed specifically for your film.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to (or a high enough budget for) a dedicated composer to score their film. That's where an ingenious new website called Xhail can help.

In the simplest of terms, Xhail is an online musical idea generator that composes entirely original pieces of music when the user inputs a genre, emotion, or idea. The software uses real performances from actual musicians, but combines them in ways that create music that has never been heard before. Where the real ingenuity comes in, however, is with Xhail's ability to edit and manipulate tracks in order to specifically tailor that music to the visual media that it is being paired with. Say you need a cymbal hit to accentuate a punch in a fight scene, or you need a slow swell of stringed instruments to come in at a particular moment to accentuate the emotion of a dramatic scene. Xhail will be able to do that.

Xhail

It's incredibly easy to be skeptical of this concept. Computers have never been particularly adept at creating music because they're, well, computers, and therefore lacking in the intrinsic humanity associated with creating art. But after watching this preview, you might very well be as convinced as I am that Xhail will have a unique place in filmmakers' post production toolboxes in years to come.

There are a few concerns that I have about Xhail, both as a filmmaker and as a musician. First and foremost is the actual "originality" of the music being generated. If people use Xhail as much as I imagine they will, the tracks that it generates for certain genres might become hackneyed and instantaneously recognizable despite the fact that they are technically "unique" from the perspective of the computer that generated them. If Xhail ends up generating music that sounds too similar to music that has already been generated, or it reuses certain musical ideas in different contexts, it might not be particularly useful to people who want a genuinely unique score for their project.

The way to combat the issue of Xhail's music becoming stale over a period of time is to make it a viable revenue stream for musicians so that they're incentivized to keep creating original content for the site (which would keep the site's musical generations fresh). However, since we don't have any idea yet what it will cost filmmakers to license a track from Xhail, or how that will translate into profits for the artists whose musical ideas were used in that track, it's very hard to say what kind of value proposition the site actually represents for creatives. The Xhail site says that sales are split 50/50 with artists (and that they retain rights to the music they contribute), but until we know exactly what it will cost to license a track, it's entirely up in the air as to how much incentive musicians will have to contribute. 

Ultimately, despite those concerns, Xhail seems like it will be an incredibly useful tool for filmmakers who want unique pieces of music for their content. To learn more, head on over to Xhail's website    

Your Comment

28 Comments

I always love videos for apps and software like this. They make it look so easy that it's almost magical. Which is never the case in the real world. And depending on how involved you get in the process you are essentially composing music from pre-recorded stems or "samples". So the composing process isn't necessarily faster. You would essentially be kickstarting your composition with what it generates.

Looks like some pretty clever tech, no matter how you slice it. I still wouldn't trust myself to "compose" something for my piece. I'd still rather get someone else to do it, even if they were using this service.

November 3, 2014 at 11:24PM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
975

Intriguing. I bristled right away because I'm a musician, but there's a little more to it, it seems, then click-a-button-and-here's-your-song. Interesting bit of createch to keep an eye. Thanks for sharing!

November 3, 2014 at 11:27PM

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Geoffrey Young Haney
writer & director
100

I could easily see using this as temporary audio.

I think the greatest use to me personally will be for transposing ideas to someone better at music than me. Instead of sending a blank slate, I can send a rough idea of what I might want to someone scoring music.

November 3, 2014 at 11:41PM, Edited November 3, 11:41PM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1375

That would be an awesome use for this software, as a sort of communicational tool to bridge the gap between directors and composers.

November 3, 2014 at 11:49PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4503

I think this is awesome and don't want to undermine it's complexity and power. With that said, I also don't think it's a replacement for something I want people to take seriously (at least by my standards). I can't wait to use it though. The ability to quickly put together something in an hour or two that really pinpoints an idea I have will be great. I actually wish it was marketed less as a replacement and more as a tool for connecting production members.

November 4, 2014 at 12:46AM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1375

Along those lines, the site should refer users to composers.

November 4, 2014 at 6:32AM

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Charlie K
1389

Would I use this to score a feature? No.

I would use it for more accurate temp track, corporate/commercial video and other short form pieces without question.

The price will be very telling, I am curious to see how much one project costs.

November 4, 2014 at 10:32AM

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I'd like to see a version of this that actually can generate artificial music by algorithm. I'd like to see it do so free of charge. Supporting musicians is great and I plan to do a lot of it some day. It is toward the goal of getting to that place that a free or extremely inexpensive serviceable option should exist.

November 3, 2014 at 11:45PM, Edited November 3, 11:45PM

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Donald L. Denis
writer, director, cinematographer, editor; filmmaker
76

Interesting idea.

The problem with that business model is that once the price is lowered significantly, people perceive that as the price. Not many will pay more afterwards. And, they'll use it to force musicians to offer their services for less money.

Secondly, it's hard to develop a product you plan to give away.

November 4, 2014 at 6:31AM

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Charlie K
1389

I wonder how much this important tool is going to cost.

November 4, 2014 at 4:41AM, Edited November 4, 4:41AM

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Suuna Peter
Editor/Director of Photography/ Director
74

This is probably a cool idea. But as someone who splits his time between being a filmmaker and being a musician, I hate it from the very pit from whence my creative energy flows. ;)

November 4, 2014 at 10:53AM, Edited November 4, 10:53AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
966

Thank God for my Abilities.... i'll do my scoring maself. :D

November 4, 2014 at 11:27AM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2342

At first glance it looks a lot like Garageband.

November 4, 2014 at 12:14PM, Edited November 4, 12:14PM

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Tom Abray
Indy Videomaker
297

Did I miss where it said HOW MUCH?!

November 4, 2014 at 1:46PM, Edited November 4, 1:46PM

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Diesel Pfingsten
Founder, Film Cartel Los Angeles
67

I usually just compose and record my own original stuff on Cubase and Reason, but I will definitely try this out

November 4, 2014 at 4:42PM

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Tony Wesh
Filmmaker/Photographer
94

My exact workflow as well. =)

November 4, 2014 at 7:44PM

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Caleb Price
Director
462

Interesting idea! But I do agree that after a time, the music will become recognizable... I scored my own project entitled; THE GIFT, but it was just Christmas Music I played, Haha. Please check it out here! http://www.calebpriceproductions.com/

November 4, 2014 at 7:43PM, Edited November 4, 7:43PM

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Caleb Price
Director
462

I am trained as a musician and do composing work, computer programming as well as video work. When I look at this (XHail) I can say that it is a clever piece of work, but the results are never going to match that of real creative musicians/composers. Music tells (or enhances) a story, has unique creative content and is multidimensional.

Filmmakers imagine this: to make your life easier in the future, a new website will be created for you called "XSCRIPT!". No more need to write a script! Just type in what kind of story you want (scifi, western, drama...), and each time you press the button, the website will create a unique script for your movie! Wow, ain't that great, all problems solved!

Would one really expect that if you hit that button often enough that a story like "the shawshank redemption", "the godfather" or a film-version of Tolkiens "Lord of the rings" etc. would be produced? I think not.

November 5, 2014 at 3:13AM

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Erwin Hartsuiker
CineVideo-NL videographer
722

Amazing! And its irish!

November 5, 2014 at 4:04AM

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devtank
photographer
74

This looks like one of the worst ideas i've seen in years... What's next, an app that uses prerecorded scenes that you can re-arrange as a 'unique' movie?

I don't know about you guys, but I find original soundtrack is one of the most important aspects of a movie... What would Requiem for a Dream be without Clint Mansell's scrore? There Will Be Blood without Jonny Greenwood? Hitchcock without Bernard Hermann?

What is this strange future where when the credits role, it will say, soundtrack randomly generated by musicbot 2.3.

AARGH!

November 5, 2014 at 5:45AM

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Michael Van Ostade
Director
246

Seems a lot like Sonic Fire from SmartSound which I use all the time for short videos. It automagically cuts the sound to the length you tell it and allows you to customize the intruments and 'hits' on cues from your video.

November 5, 2014 at 12:14PM, Edited November 5, 12:14PM

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I agree it is very similar to SmartSound w/SonicFire Pro software. I use that on occasion, and find it can work very well. I am a musician, so I understand how some will cringe at the thought of these kinds of products, and canned music in general. However, in the hands of someone with musical knowledge and good editing skills, the results can be acceptable. Sure, it won't replace a proper composer, a room full of musicians and a recording studio....but some projects don't have a budget for that.

November 6, 2014 at 3:31PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
346

I think some are not seeing the value of this for low budget (corporate) work.
Obviously this wouldn't be used on a feature film. Its insane to even think that. Hence comparing this to something like "xScript" or "xCut", is not the right way to look at it; in my opinion.
But especially when it comes to corporate films, low budget commercials etc., this is gold. It's a real pain trying to find that right music track on any of the platforms available. Sometimes the budget simply won't allow composing a score; but the way a film is told, it would benefit a lot from having the music go up at *exactly* this or that moment, have it start in a certain way, and end in another way. being able to do just that with a "few" (i'd imagine its a bit more complicated that shown in the video) mouse clicks, is really really helpful. It obviously depends on the variety of genre, music styles etc. But I for one, am very excited about this product for my future work.

November 5, 2014 at 12:34PM

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Markus Koepke
Director of Photography
154

I'm curious how fluid it will really be since it's web based. It's frustrating many online music libraries seem to take a few seconds to buffer up a single track or stutter if you try to jump through the track for preview. If they have to (data) compress the audio to ensure smooth playback, it might defeat the purpose of trying to compose something of sonic quality for your video. It's certainly an interesting concept.

November 5, 2014 at 1:31PM

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Einar Johnson
DP / Editor / Creative Director
178

As an IB Film & Media Studies teacher this poses some interesting questions about 'originality.' The sound designer role has always been difficult to assess and I suspect examination boards will need to be aware and informed about the process used to 'compose' the music.

November 6, 2014 at 5:57PM

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Iain Williamson
Head of Film, TV & Media
1

What was very interesting for me, as soon as I saw the video, is that these guys are Irish! I could tell from the accent, but I looked a tiny bit into it, and apparently they actually did make the music for the Terry Pratchett animation trailer. Here's the official trailer: https://vimeo.com/88069708. I notice though, that the film's actual score was done by a different company. If this Xhail works out though, it could be great for low-budgets and students.

November 12, 2014 at 4:34PM

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I'd love to be able to score my own film. Until then, I'll use Soundstripe. http://soundstripe.grsm.io/ethanloomis

They're offering 10% off with code STRIPE10.

July 11, 2017 at 4:53PM

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Ethan Loomis
Videographer, Loomis Video
85

I used to search all over the internet to find music for my videos. Once I found Soundstripe, I've never used any other site because Soundstripe has unlimited access to their entire library of high-quality songs for a small fee. It's worth it for the amount of time that I've saved in the long run and it's more affordable than any other comparable service. You can search by genre, mood, instrument, etc. and their customer service is top-notch. If you're interested, you can get a 10% discount off a yearly membership with promo code STRIPE10 at this link: https://soundstripe.grsm.io/ethanloomis

May 22, 2018 at 1:17PM

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Ethan Loomis
Videographer, Loomis Video
85