Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer (Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Knight) will happily compose music directly for you, via his Vjam app. The free app (iPhone only) marries your iPhone video footage to movie-like themes composed by Zimmer and others. At his recording studio, he told us about the app, his background as a music video pioneer and why he doesn't shoot his own home videos.
Vjam for your video
The free app has 12 songs. Additional music starts at $1.99. Zimmer composed one free theme; others come from Sony's Extreme Music library. Zimmer created the app with rapper Pharrell Williams. "Everyone is taking videos with their devices. Isn't it about time that there's an easy, beautiful way to add music to it?"
"One of the things I love about an app as opposed to any other form of content delivery is that it can constantly be updated. We never stop writing, so there will always be new things coming, always new content being added."
Videos need soundtracks
"Music can give a new meaning and context to even your worst home video." For Gladiator, he and director Ridley Scott looked at a scene with music and without. "There was a sense of poetry missing. You can't have the image alone. The image which in itself is really boring to look at, with a piece of music suddenly comes alive."
His studio features multiple keyboards, guitars and computers, but he says "the computer is my instrument. My formal training is two weeks of piano lessons, and they didn't go well. Then, during the '70s, I started discovering this thing called computers. One of the things computers let me do is simulate any sound I can have, in an informed conversation with my director. I don't have to say, 'This is where the horns come in,' because they literally come in."
Zimmer was a member of the Buggles, a 1980s band who burst to fame when their single Video Killed the Radio Star was the first video shown on MTV's debut. "Guilty. We ruined a whole generation. The BBC wouldn't show it because we were blowing up a TV set." Music videos live on even if most viewing has turned to online, most notably on YouTube. "Now, the Internet has killed the video star."
Software for composition
He uses Steinberg Cubase. "What's nice about the software is we've had some input in it. Film composing is a small market, and they listen to us."
Fans around the globe submit their takes on his compositions via his hans-zimmer.com website. "It's very flattering. The sense of being able to talk to anybody in the world is great."
His own videos
"If you have Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott directing, you don't want to go out and shoot videos." He does "whip out" his iPhone for photos, though. "I see these devices as a sort of diary we can keep of our lives. I try to take a couple photos every day."
A Hans Zimmer playlist
From classical (Tchaikovsky) to singer-songwriter Scott Walker, rocker Dave Stewart or YouTube. "If you want to learn about music, go onto YouTube. You can see the greatest performers. Before you know it, you might have a musical education and not even realize you're doing it."
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