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Lucas Vidal

Lucas Vidal: Young Composer with Enormous Talent

Posted on February 20, 2014, by Stefan Trowbridge

Lucas Vidal is one of the exciting discoveries of the past three years, breaking through with his work on US box office soundtracks for the likes of Fast and Furious 6 and The Raven. Dividing his time between Spain and the US, Vidal works with his partner Steve Dzialowski at LA-based Music and Motion Productions: their company offers a wide variety of production services ranging from film scoring in different musical styles to full-scale music productions.

Early days, Vidal: when did you begin to make and write music?

I started playing piano at age four. Very quickly after that, I learned the flute. When I was a kid, I would spend hours improvising while watching muted movies. I think that was my first encounter with film music.

This was surely followed by extensive studies?

Studying music holds a very important place in my life. I spent my youth studying piano and classical composition at the conservatory in Madrid. When I was 16 years old, I did a five-week program at Berklee College of Music studying saxophone. I was completely hooked. Subsequently I received a scholarship to study composition and film scoring at Berklee. I was fortunate to learn from some of the best teachers and be surrounded by amazing students. Four years later, I moved to NY to study at Juilliard and with Richard Danielpour. To this day, I keep taking classes with classical composers and I study scores at my studio while having lunch.

And you honed your recording and productions skills while studying at Berklee?

I’ve learned most of my production skills from the talented engineers and mixers I’ve worked with. They make it look so simple to achieve a great sound, but they all have their own recipe. At the end of the day, you really need to just follow your ears and your instincts.

Studio setup

  • 3x Mac Pros, one running Cubase with various electro instruments/plug-ins, two with Vienna Ensemble Pro
  • 2x 30" Apple Cinema Displays
  • 50" Samsung TV for video (running from Cubase)
  • MOTU 2408 audio interface
  • PreSonus Central Station for monitoring and talkback
  • Millennia HV-3D PreAmp
  • Mackie Control Universal Pro over USB
  • ATC SCM25As monitor speakers
  • Yamaha Motif XS8 MIDI controller/synth
  • Peavey PC 1600x MIDI controller faders
  • Yamaha Baby Grand
  • 2x Chameleon Labs mics
  • 2x AKG 414 mics
Studio at Music and Motion Productions
Studio at Music and Motion Productions

Tell us a little about co-founding your company Music and Motion Productions?

I met my business partner Steve Dzialowski at Berklee while he was studying music business. We put together tons of recording sessions after class and we created our company while at school. After we graduated it just made sense to go full speed ahead with the Music and Motion Productions. We now have a 5,000 sq ft facility in Venice, CA that we are very proud of. In April, we are launching a division called Chroma Music — with a new partner Chris Ramsdell — which will focus in music for motion picture advertising exclusively.

How did you set foot in the film industry?

I composed my first feature film while I was still a student. Back then I did as many short films as I could, always recording with orchestra. After a year in NY, both Steve and I quickly realized that we needed to move to LA. We got here without knowing anyone, and it was pretty scary at that time. But people were very welcoming and we just worked hard project after project.

Watch The Cold Light of Day - Behind the Scenes on Vimeo
Watch The Cold Light of Day - Behind the Scenes on Vimeo

What are the latest movies you’ve been scoring for?

I just finished Tracers, an action movie set in the world of parkour. The producers did the Twilight saga and it stars Taylor Lautner as well. For that film, the director wanted an electronic score and it gave me the opportunity to push my boundaries. Though we really focused on the dramatic element of the story, the action sequences are pretty cool too.

Do you have a specific approach when starting off on a new project? And how closely are you required to work with the film director?

Every project is different and I really try to approach each one in a new way. I always start by understanding the director’s vision. He’s been on the project for a year or sometimes much more, so he really understands better than anyone what the film actually needs. Music is just a piece of the puzzle so working very closely with the director is fundamental.

Do you see this a restriction to your creative process?

On the contrary, I find it easier to be creative when you are given a canvas and a vision. I really love to collaborate. It would be very boring for me to stay in my studio all day working by myself without having anyone telling me what’s good or bad.

Composing for different styles of music, where do you get your inspiration?

When composing for a film, it is easy to find inspiration because what’s on the screen brings you so much already. Then it is just a matter of working really hard and developing your ideas. I keep on studying what other composers do, listening to as many different styles of music as possible, and study written scores in my free time.

Where does Cubase fit into your composition process? And what drew you to Cubase as your preferred tool?

I come from a very classical background, and even though I’ve always been interested in technology I can’t call myself an expert. I’ve always had good people surrounding me and use the most intuitive softwares. I’ve been doing electronic music for a few years now but I really started having fun with it while using Cubase. You’ve made it so simple and I never feel limited. I often find myself meeting with the clients and having to do changes on the spot, which I feel very comfortable doing on Cubase.

Lucas Vidal deep in the compositional process
Lucas Vidal deep in the compositional process

What’s the best advice you have for aspiring film score composers?

Believe in yourself and never give up. It is very important to know that you can achieve anything you want. It’s just a matter of how much you really want to follow your dream. If you keep pushing and knocking on doors, you will be surprised that opportunities do arrive. But you need to be ready for them, so never stop learning.

Visit Lucas Vidal at www.mumoproductions.com.