First Film Scored On An iPad – Inhumanity

Inhumanity is a grindhouse action film about a woman that becomes entangled in a mystery, involving suspicious deaths, a corporate conspiracy and a psychotic killer.

And it’s the first full-length film scored with an iPad running Korg Gadget.

We talked with composer Tony Longworth about getting the gig to do the soundtrack, how he got the idea to score the film with an iPad and what’s involved in scoring a 2-hour film with an app like Korg Gadget.

Synthtopia: Tony, when we saw your promo video for the Inhumanity soundtrack – and noticed that you did the score on an iPad with Korg Gadget – we had to learn more.

First off, what can you tell us about the film?

Tony Longworth: Well, Inhumanity is an independent movie, written and directed by Joe McReynolds and shot in Austin, TX.

Darcel Danielle as Jessa

I guess I’d call it an action-noir-thriller, because you can’t really pin it down to just one genre.

The movie centers around a character named Jessa (played by Darcel Danielle), who escapes death at the hands of a notorious serial killer.

The attack leaves her in a coma. Awakening from the coma, she discovers that her father has taken his own life. Unconvinced, Jessa investigates this suspicious suicide and uncovers dark and far reaching conspiracies.

Synthtopia: How did you get involved?

Tony Longworth: I’d worked with actor Ford Austin several times before. Ford plays Sergio in Inhumanity and while shooting the movie, Ford turned director Joe McReynolds on to my work.

Joe really dug what he heard, so we got to talking, I sent a few demos to him and I got the gig of scoring the movie.

Inhumanity Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_qmrJwkCJQ

Synthtopia: So, where did the idea of scoring the film with an iPad come from? Have you done previous projects this way?

Tony Longworth: This was the first time I’d scored a movie on an iPad and it was just one of those happy coincidences.

I’d just started using Korg Gadget on the iPad when Joe got in touch with me to discuss the Inhumanity soundtrack. At that time I was writing new music using Gadget for my two bands, Flesh-Resonance and Captain Creep, experimenting and seeing what Gadget was capable of.

The Korg Gadget synths just blew me away and Joe was looking for a soundtrack with gritty, dirty synths, so it was one of those lightbulb moments. I knew Gadget would be perfect for the task.

Synthtopia: Why score a film with an iPad? Did you have to sell the filmmakers on the idea?

Composer Tony Longworth

Tony Longworth: Well, to be honest, it was a pretty easy sell.

I wrote a selection of demos showing off a wide range of Gadget synths – different sounds, different emotions – and Joe was completely on board with it.

We did have a “Can this really all be done on an iPad?” meeting, where we discussed the feasibility of it all,.

But we eventually decided that there was only one way to truly find out and that was by actually doing it.

Synthtopia: So you got the job to score the film – what did the filmmakers ask for, in terms of a score?

Tony Longworth: Joe had a real strong vision for the music very early on.

He envisioned it as a synth-driven, gritty, grindhouse soundtrack, retro yet contemporary.

As the soundtrack started taking shape, I developed different sounds for different characters. I wanted to make it personal to these characters in the movie, and I wanted the audience to feel what was happening on screen through the music.

Joe was there, every step of the way, with guidance and inspiration. He’s a great guy to work with.

Inhumanity Score Preview:

Synthtopia: What can you tell me about your setup for creating the Inhumanity score? What type of iPad did you use, what software, what peripherals, etc?

Tony Longworth: My Inhumanity studio consisted of a 3rd generation iPad, Korg Gadget app, Korg microKEY Air keyboard, Sennheiser headphones and my iPhone, that was it for actually writing and mixing the music.

All final pieces of music were then exported and mastered on a PC.

At the beginning of the project I was writing the soundtrack without a MIDI keyboard, I was just using the onscreen Gadget keyboard. Korg heard about the project and kindly sent me the microKEY Air keyboard which made things so much quicker and easier. It’s nice and compact, so it fits perfectly in my backpack when I’m on the road.

Synthtopia: Are all the instruments heard in the soundtrack coming from Gadget, or are there other traditional or electronic instruments involved?

Tony Longworth: Everything you hear on the soundtrack is coming direct from Gadget, apart from some guitar overlays on the track The Perfect Specimen.

Everything else you hear are Gadget synths straight out of my iPad.

Synthtopia: Most Synthtopia readers have previously seen photos of composers, conducting an orchestra with a film showing on a screen in the background, or scoring a soundtrack to video in their DAW.

What’s that scoring process look like when you’re scoring a film on an iPad?

Longworth in his studio

Tony Longworth: The actual process itself involved the director sending me footage and explaining what he wanted for a particular scene, both in terms of emotion as well as sound.

Joe’s so good at explaining what he wants from a particular scene, we just clicked and we could talk openly, bouncing ideas back and forth, it all really helped with the creative process.

Once I knew what he wanted from a scene, I’d develop sounds and ideas then I’d play the footage looped on my iPhone and just go for it, start recording, see where it took me. Old school, I know, but it really worked well.

I considered syncing the video footage early on in the project but decided to keep the whole setup quick and lean, and doing everything freestyle added to the overall vibe of the soundtrack, in a positive way.

Longworth viewed footage from the film on his phone, while composing on his iPad

Synthtopia: With an iPad and Gadget as a portable studio, does that affect how and where you work?

Tony Longworth: It’s great, it means I can work anywhere and everywhere. I’m not restricted by time or location.

I have a small area in my home studio where I have this gear ready to be used and anytime I go on my travels, I just quickly pack it up into my backpack and go on my way.

I had my portable studio with me wherever I went when working on Inhumanity, so the soundtrack was written indoors, outdoors, on trains, in cars (not while driving I must add), in hotel rooms and in bed.

I sleep with my iPad next to my bed, so when working on this soundtrack, if I ever woke up with inspiration, I could quickly capture it. There were many times during the scoring of this movie that I’d awake at a ridiculous time with an idea in my head and I’d just grab the iPad before the idea got away from me.

I’ve also got Gadget on my phone, so there were times when I was traveling and I had to record something real quick. Instead of grabbing my iPad out of my bag, I could just grab my phone out my pocket and do it – the joy of cloud storage!

Synthtopia: It seems like there were quite a few upsides to the iPad & Gadget combo for you. What are the downsides to doing a project like this on an iPad?

Tony Longworth: There’s definitely more upsides than downsides when using this setup.

From the point of view of the Inhumanity soundtrack, I really can’t think of any major downsides. The whole setup just gave me so much freedom and this freedom inspired me so much.

I can understand that some composers work best being rooted to just one location. Before this soundtrack, I would have said I was the same. But it seems a constant change of scenery really works for me.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a downside: there were a few times when I was working remotely without power and either my iPad or iPhone died on me.

Luckily, I didn’t lose any work, but when you’re in the moment and that happens, it’s like the end of the world. I now carry a powerbank with me wherever I go.

Synthtopia: I’ve asked you a lot of tech-related questions – what about the music itself? Can you tell us about the musical ideas you wanted to use or explore on the soundtrack?

Inhumanity is described as ‘a brutally bad-ass grindhouse film’

Tony Longworth: Well, from early on I wanted to create themes for various characters in the movie, not theme tunes as such, but certain sounds for a particular character, a certain feeling for them.

As soon as the killer is on screen, the audience needs to know that, not just visually, but they need to have that feeling. I wanted to do that for all the main players in this movie.

Thanks to Gadget being so vast and versatile, I had so much scope to play with and I think I succeeded in making this a reality. I’m really proud of this soundtrack and the movie itself, it all came together so well.

Synthtopia: There was a peak of synths being featured in soundtracks in the 70’s and 80’s, especially in horror and genre films. Synths offered a huge palette of sounds, on a relatively small budget. And a lot of those scores – like the work of John Carpenter or Brad Fiedel – hold up very well.

How do you see scoring Inhumanity on an iPad falling into that tradition?

Tony Longworth: Retro synth soundtracks are making a comeback in movies these days. I mean, the movie Halloween is getting a reboot and with it a brand new reimagining of the theme by John Carpenter himself.

I do like to find movies with more non-traditional soundtracks and there’s a lot of them out there that are so alternative but work so well. Just listen to some of Trent Reznor’s soundtrack work, stunning stuff, and as you mentioned, Brad Fiedel’s work on the Terminator franchise.

My whole goal behind creating a movie soundtrack is to bring something different to the mix.

Synthtopia: Now that you’ve scored a film with an iPad, would you want to do it again?

Tony Longworth: Oh, most definitely. Now that I’ve done it once, and it worked like a dream, there’s no reason at all that I won’t be using Gadget for future movie scores.

To be able to score wherever I am is just amazing.

I’m currently working on new music for my bands Flesh-Resonance and Captain Creep using Gadget, again I’m writing when I’m out and about, not just in my studio, and yes, I’m writing in bed, too.

Synthtopia: For readers that want to check out your work, where can they see Inhumanity, and where can they get your soundtrack?

Tony Longworth: The best place to start is my website, which has all the latest news and links to everything. You’ll find all my music, including the Inhumanity soundtrack, on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, CD Baby – basically most places you can stream or get digital downloads from.

You can now stream the movie on Amazon Prime and iTunes, as well order it from Amazon, Best Buy, Family Video and Grindhouse Video and you can buy it in-store at Walmart.

Please also check out my Patreon music page. The people who fund me there get all my new music first, before it’s released free to everyone. There are some Gadget creations over there, too, so make sure to check it out.

Synthtopia: Tony, thanks for taking the time to tell us about your work!

Tony Longworth: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for your interest in our movie and my music!

Photo credits: Tony Longworth, Amanda Norman

23 thoughts on “First Film Scored On An iPad – Inhumanity

  1. Sorry to be a bummer- I swear I’m not just being a troll here. I got really excited by the headline and the idea. But wow that piano sounds like total crap. Not much depth or life in any of these sounds tbh. In spite of the rapid progression of technology, there are still many reasons why a Yamaha Montage costs 4K and an iPad costs a few hundred bucks.

    1. Are you talking about the M1 piano, it’s from a 30 year old workstation, give it a break ? . You can purchase a couple of Ivory libraries in Korg Module, they’re not massive, a couple of GBs (scaled back from the desktop libraries), they’ll appear in Gadget as well.

    2. And there’s a reason why a great piano costs 20K more than a Montage.

      You managed to miss the point of the article entirely.

      Do you think this movie is going to be filmed in 70mm with Skywalker Sound?

      The point of these films is to make something cool on a low budget, which means making the most of what you got. Nobody watching the movie is going to know or care that it’s a sampled piano.

      Also – while you were worrying about whether your piano samples are accurate, this guy scored a 2 hour movie with a f***** iPad.

      1. > Also – while you were worrying about whether your piano samples are accurate, this guy scored a 2 hour movie with a f***** iPad.

        ftw.

      2. Haha okay…That’s all fine, and I have nothing against this composer or the film or the trailer. Sorry I offended you or your family lineage. I also have an iPad and make music on it. I love it. And I agree that 99% of people won’t care about the tone of the piano.

        My point is that although I have heard many friends and online folks say to me things like, “digital is digital”, “who needs a Kronos when you can just get Omnisphere?”, or “I sold all of my workstations, now I just use an iPad”, and things of that nature, I wanted to talk about the now-common false equivalency going on with digital sounds.

        Ipads and plugins in general (even top notch like Omnisphere) just do not sound as good as pro workstations. That’s it. So I wish people would stop acting like it’s all the same.

        1. I’m not really on-board with workstations ALWAYS sounding better than plugins. I would never chose orchestral sounds from my fully upgraded M3 (or even a Kronos) over a great sampled library. I love the immediacy of composing at a workstation keyboard, but prefer the power and quality of software like Omnisphere and EWQL for deeper recording and more considered composition.

    3. “Sorry to be a bummer- I swear I’m not just being a troll here.” << I don't think you're genuinely sorry flappy. Rings kind of hollow.

      No one said an ipad was as good as an expensive piece of wood with strings and hammers.

      1. I feel ya. Nonetheless I would like to state that people everywhere, on the internet and IRL, act like it’s all the same in terms of tone quality. Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who disagrees.

  2. I get your point, T. When you have an instrument (app) that is designed to have a small memory footprint, it will often be sampled at a low rate, or have a short loop, or some other compromises to make it take up less storage/memory. I wonder what the fidelity specs of Korg Gadget instruments is (bit depth, rate, etc.)

    That said, I think the score is effective.

    What made me cringe was the idea that he was going to do the whole score with an onscreen keyboard. Good thing he got a keyboard. That probably helped add some dynamics.

    1. “Good thing he got a keyboard. That probably helped add some dynamics.”

      The old-school synth soundtrack composers managed to make dynamic scores when theirs synths didn’t event have velocity sensitive keyboards.

      They made the most of what they had!

      1. “The old-school synth soundtrack composers managed to make dynamic scores when theirs synths didn’t event have velocity sensitive keyboards.”

        Yea, they used volume knobs.

        There’s a difference, those scores had what could be called “macro-dynamics” by riding levels. They lack the kind of phrasing you can do on acoustic instruments, or a velocity sensing keyboard. That doesn’t make the music bad or wrong, just a difference.

        “They made the most of what they had.”

        Sounds like you are suggesting that ancient acoustic instruments weren’t available to people who had synths?

  3. The iPad and its tons of Apps has become a Workhorse in my Studio for SoundDesign, Musical and creative Work all together. I treat it more like an Instrument rather than a DAW and track whatever I play with it directly and track the results into Nuendo where the rest of the Dialogue, SoundDesign and Editing and Mixing happens. Especially the Granular Synthesis Apps such as iDensity, iPulsaret, Borderlands Granular, Samplr and others find their Way into my work. The Sources that are mangled, processed and build the whole basis of the outcome usually derive from on-set recordings that I make alongside the filming process. So while there isn’t an entire Film Soundtrack, that spans from the first second to the last of a film, available yet, I still used the process of using the iPad exclusively for that kind of work throughout entire films. Small excerpt here

    I do not think that the inclusion or exclusion of any kind of technical device or solution inherently determines the quality of the outcome, it is the specific aesthetic of it that can elevate the overall quality of a filmic and sonic or narrative experience. Hence, seeing a Horror B-Movie for me implies some sort of “shabby” sound aesthetic – “shabby” being used in the most positive sense of the word here – and therefor elevated the overall aesthetic of the specific medium in a rather humorous way for me. Although: I only watched the trailer here… Whoever, whatever first on whatever device doesn’t really make any point to me: It either works by becoming a whole within the general aesthetic approach, or it doesn’t. I know that this comment misses the point of reading all this on a tech-blog, which I myself frequently read and enjoy 😉

    1. I was wondering if that was a typo, honestly. My iPad 3 starts to gurgle once I’m over 8 gadget tracks though it depends on the instruments used, of course.

      Also, in case there’s a chance for a follow up… “Everything else you hear are Gadget synths straight out of my iPad.” There was no mention of an interface. Were these really sent out the headphone jack into the computer? Because, awesome.

      Would also be curious to know how these were actually integrated into the final sound mix. Just flown in and manually aligned as the editor/director saw fit? Did they use any techniques to communicate specific start positions?

      1. Hi I scored this soundtrack – when finished, each track was exported and uploaded to Dropbox.

        I then downloaded on a PC, mastered it and sent it to the director with instructions on where to sync that piece in the movie – hope that answers your question.

  4. Really interesting interview and project.

    My take away is that this guy scored a film with less gear than most of us have in our studios and it’s sort of threatening to some people.

    I’ve always thought that one of the reasons people like Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer need so much gear is that they’re getting paid big bucks to knock out a soundtrack in three weeks – so they have to have everything on hand. If they had time or less pressure, they could get by with a lot less.

  5. Im not impressed by the idea of scoring a film with an ipad. I can score a film by farting into a microphone on queue. The question is whether the score is good or not. If its good and immersive and not distracting, then thats the impressive part.

  6. It’s probably impossible to tell what it really sounds like from a youtube video that is very short, but to my ear the sounds and music are fine but the mixing and mastering seem slightly dull/muddy and monophonic – but maybe they were going for a bit of retro 1970s late night movie sound? I think I am wanting a bit more frequency separation to hear the parts more clearly, along with a wider stereo image and feeling of space.

    Besides the annoying lack of sympathetic resonance, I don’t have many complaints about Gadget’s pianos (well at least since they fixed the voice stealing algorithm); Ivory and Wurly sound fine, and the M1 piano is still widely sampled and used today in spite of – or really because of – its sonic limitations and history as the “dance piano” sound of the 1990s.

    Other iPad pianos aren’t bad either; I kind of like Colossus, which has some sympathetic resonance as well as “hermode” dynamic tuning – something you can’t get (yet at least) on an acoustic piano.

  7. The funny thing to me it’s always someone that so call is an expert on something com_lains about something no matter what profession. When will people learn audience doesn’t care all they care about is the feeling that the mood gave them. Just like the movie grudge. It’s just someone’s mouth open making a aaaaaahhhh sound we did as kids and now it’s the signature sound of the grudge. No disrespect to anyone. But cool love this article.

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