Music for Animation – Tapas Relia

23rd Feb. 2008, 2:00 pm at the IDC Auditorium, IIT Campus in Powai, Mumbai

TapasWe had an overwhelming response to the session on Composing and Arranging Music and Sound for Animation that was conducted by Music Director Tapas Relia. The session was extremely informative and everyone present thoroughly enjoyed themselves as Tapas took the audience through the process of composing music. Tapas was accompanied by Sound Engineer/Designer Gaurav Chopra who also shared some interesting insights.

The session was kicked of with a brief introduction by Tapas.

“I have been composing and producing music for visuals for the last 7-8 years. ‘Producing’ does not mean financing but composing the basic melody, recording the instruments, arranging tracks etc.

3 years ago, I got a call from Percept Picture Company to compose music for the animated film – Hanuman. I thought to myself, “It’s an animation film. It should be easy, it will take me just 25 days to complete the composition.” But I was gravely mistaken. The process was extremely complex and tiring. I was tried in every way. The time it took me finally was 5 months but I fell in love with the procedure.

Sometimes the composition sounds beautiful but when you match the music to the visuals, you realise that it is just not working and you have to go back and start all over again.”

The relationship between music and animation

“To a lay-person, it might appear that composing for animation and for live action films is the same, but that is far from the truth. Live action film has real people playing the characters. In animation, the characters are lifeless. Animation is after all about breathing life into the characters and music plays a vital role in doing so. Music is the heartbeat that gives life to the characters.

It is interesting to observe that both music and animation are mathematical in nature. In music, there are beats, bars and a tempo for the composition. Songs run at “bpm” or “beats per minute” which is its tempo. Animation has its own rhythm – a frame rate or “fps” (frames per second). Never before has there been a better marriage of creativity.”

Next, Tapas showed an example of the process of composing for visuals with a scene from Hanuman Returns. He showed 2 versions of the same animated scene, each with different music at the crucial moment.

In this scene, Hanuman is born as a human with a tail and he shows his mother for the very first time that he is special. This has been depicted by having Hanuman’s mouth turning red.
“I first did a piece based on the black and white animatic given to me. But when they animated over it and came back with the sequence, I felt that it was not creating the impact that we desired.

There is only so much that can be done in live action because the actor is playing the character. In animation, there is much more liberty. I made the Hanuman track grand with brass and trumpets. That instantly made a difference – the second version was far more powerful and dramatic.

Till the effects and music are added, you will have no idea whether the animation is working or not. It is ultimately a creative call between the director and music director. Some 20 or even 10 years ago, it would have been difficult and expensive to try out multiple variations. It was all live, by hand, with real musicians. It was a laborious and expensive process. Now with the new technology at hand, one can churn out even ten versions easily, though let me make it clear that I do not work that way!”

“For Hanuman 1, I got a call after the entire film had been completed. Usually, the sound is composed first and then animated upon. But I had to work in the reverse order. Thanks to technology and software like Logic I could do so successfully. The first step was to import the visuals into the software and got the tempo (bpm) right.

Animators need to grasp the right approach to music. Remember the guy on the other side ie. the composer is no genius in animation, he often has no clue about the subject. Therefore you need to be very clear in terms of the story, genre, mood etc. Give the composer a great storyboard to work with, you need to convey idea clearly to him. Make a note of the precise duration of every shot, scene changes, character changes, everything down to milliseconds.”



Tapas explained the music composition for this ad with audio-visual clips of every stage.

“For this ad, I was given the complete animatic by Vaibhav. The concept was – ‘Amaron batteries give you more out of your car’.

Sample 1 – The Animatic
I was given a very precise animatic with the complete detailing of every scene and scene change. If you can not give an animatic, then make it a point to at least provide a detailed storyboard which the composer can align in his software.

Sample 2 – Basic Beats
Using just 3 instruments, I gave the basic rhythm and got the important sync points in beats. I achieved this in half an hour.

Sample 3 – Animation
Vaibhav animated the entire ad on the basis of the beats provided by me and came back in 3 months with the animation perfectly synced with my loop.

Sample 4 – Music
Now I had to give it melody, make it groovy. It was 5 days of work. The results sounded nice but there was still something missing.

Sample 5 – Effects
What makes the animation believable? Music, Voice and Effects!
To make the complete piece more interesting, more believable took us 3 more days as we added various sound effects.

Sample 6 – The Voice-over
Finally the dialogues were superimposed on the animation.

About the Software:
Tapas then gave a quick demo of how he uses Apple’s Logic Pro to compose and arrange music.
Step 1 – Line up all the visuals on a track sheet
Step 2 – Set the click track to the tempo – “click, click, click” – like beats for timing.
Step 3 – Communicate the tempo to the director.
Step 4 – The director has to keep that in mind while animating. There are softwares available to calculate the ‘bpm’. If the tempo is not followed, there will be a mess because unlike visuals, audio editing is complicated. It has to be chopped as per the beats. The ‘thoda sa khiska le’ logic doesn’t work here.

Gaurav Chopra is a Sound Engineer/Designer, who I have had the pleasure of working with is a pioneer in advertising sound mixing.

Ads are very often chopped from 60 seconds to 30 or 20 after running for a few days because the client doesn’t have the budget. They edit the visuals without the sound and then hand it over to the composer. At that stage, he cannot compose a new track, he has to edit what is there and align it to the visuals. That poses a problem as many a times the edited music and visuals do not sync. There are also editors who know what it is to edit to a beat, they call me and ask me what the tempo for the particular piece is and then edit on the basis of that. The Amaron Batteries ad was one such example.

Read further, what happened next in the Q n A session thrown open to the audience.

About Tapas Relia

Hailing from Ahmedabad, Tapas Relia is a Music Composer/Producer based in Mumbai for the last 12 years. He is one of the leading names in the Indian advertising industry with many trend-setting jingles, including the very popular “Kya Aap Close-up Karte Hain” for Close-up toothpastes and the Amaron batteries ad.He also has the distinction of composing for India’s most successful animated film “Hanuman” and the more recent “Return of Hanuman”.


About Tapas Relia – (click here)