July 14th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

"Music should be used as an interactive component for the viewer" - Cyrille Marchesseau (PAPER BIRDS)

Long before the global health crisis, French composer Cyrille Marchesseau (based in Bordeaux) was already used to working remotely. Whether for French, Argentinean or American productions, the author of the soundtracks for GLOOMY EYES, JAILBIRDS or PAPER BIRDS (among others) knows how to juggle between several time zones to create the right synergies and the best notes on each VR project.


Cyrille Marchesseau – How I ended up working on PAPER BIRDS is a simple story. I had done GLOOMY EYES with the same Argentinean production company 3Dar (directed by German Heller), with whom I have actually worked for almost 10 years. I started PAPER BIRDS with them after the phenomenal success of the first one - and a lot of collaborations on all media; commercials, animation, VR... It was 3Dar that brought me to virtual reality projects, focusing their productions in a very powerful cinematic storytelling.

C. M. – 3Dar showed me from January 2019 a prototype of the environment (the city) that fully convinced me. PAPER BIRDS was a heart project for German, with a very strong musical composition at the center of the story. It was a real gift to be able to compose for this film, to express myself fully by accompanying each stage of production (even before the writing!). Obviously German already had in mind some ideas like the bandoneon and a very Argentinean influence...


The music band:

  • Cyrille Marchesseau (Composer, Piano)
  • Juanjo Mosalini (Bandoneon)
  • Pierre-François Dufour (Cello)
  • Sébastien Poitevin (Percussions)
  • Nicole Salmi (Singer - Brazil)
  • Guy Bodet (Trumpet)
  • Cyril Babin (Double Bass) 
  • Pascal Combeau (Drums) 

Dealing with time zones

C. M. – Working with German and his team means total freedom - in the service of emotion first. It is essential, especially in the context of an international creation and almost 2 years of production, to be vigilant about the quality of our creations. With PAPER BIRDS, we added a very emotional aspect to the film on which German was particularly demanding - and pushed us in the right direction. In the end, we even had to cut more than 20 minutes of sequences, for which I had already composed the music. 3Dar didn't hesitate to make artistic choices, even if it meant sacrificing some parts of the film.

C. M. – The Covid year did not change much in our way of working. In fact, we were already used to playing with time zones. I work when they are sleeping and vice versa. We save a lot of time! It was obviously more complicated on their side with the teams in Buenos Aires. Like on JAILBIRDS (out in spring 2021), there's always the frustrating part of not being able to be in the same room - even if the creative ping-pong is omnipresent, even if it means doing some live creation by Zoom.


An immersive music creation: how to do it

C. M. – I always start with the creation of themes, the melody. Whether it's a few notes of piano, strings... With PAPER BIRDS, I already had the bandoneon to impose, influences of Argentinean tango. And then we found musical gimmicks that allowed us to create the emotion, the link with the spectator. We move on to the orchestration, sequence by sequence. In this case I called upon a cellist, a singer, many strings to propose a music at the same time air and concrete.

C. M. – I created a real “sound bible” for the film, and then let the teams focus on the visual creation. When I come back to the project, as is often the case, we had to move very quickly. In the end, this is also the musical intention: to create something dynamic, lively, instantaneous. We discussed a lot beforehand, but the musical production is concentrated in a short time. We then had to work on the interactive parts - initially 4 sequences mixing orchestral sounds, percussions etc. In the scene in the middle of the forest, we had to build up a crescendo. It is the music (spatialized) which guides, with the movements of the spectators, the scene.


C. M. – To propose an interactive sequence, I juggle between the composition itself and the idea that the viewer will dispose of it afterwards. But there are no restrictions in terms of creation. For a project like PAPER BIRDS, the music remains essentially an invisible actor in the film - just like in cinema. It doesn't have to impose itself more than that outside of a few sequences.

C. M. – We recorded a jazz quartet on PAPER BIRDS, and I like the idea of live music. We often lack budget and time to gather musicians, but it is essential for the final quality of the project. We held it here to organize this recording. I do everything in France, with the help of my publisher Cristal Publishing in La Rochelle (France). We also recorded a few things in Paris because of health restrictions.


C. M. – On JAILBIRDS, which is currently in festival, I worked with G4F in Angoulême (France) who provided me with all the sound design of the film - and to operate the integration, the mixing. In the middle of the Covid period, we had to move forward quickly, without physically seeing each other. See the director's interview

A real immersive music?

C. M. – We all would like to propose a more immersive sound, more 6DOF. But we often arrive at the end of the production, with a lack of time and distance. I would love to think more regularly about the 3D function of my compositions, when it is justified in the story. It remains complex to propose, even if we see orchestras starting to record directly in 6DOF. On the other hand, some directors want to continue to think of music as a background decoration without any other intention.


C. M. – It should also be noted that the technology is not yet fully adapted to this, especially on headsets that are not of sufficient quality to really embrace immersive sound. We have gained in ease of access to VR obviously, which shows that we are on the right track. If the overall quality of the sound is much better than in the beginning, it's still frustrating to not offer an optimal quality.

C. M. – 100% audio experiences are also great! You deprive the viewer of a sense, which increases the sensations tenfold. But it's a niche: I believe that the image remains essential to fully immerse yourself in a story. It's fascinating to think about concerts with binaural sound, for example. I believe very much in the possibilities of immersive sound when the equipment is ready - in video games, the PS5 already offers impressive things.


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