Recently I got to speak with Dan Romer about his work composing the music for the upcoming Ubisoft game Far Cry 5
How did you get into composing and what are some of the past games and projects you have done?
I used to play in bands and produce pop music. When I was in my last year of college, my old friend, Ray Tintori asked me to score his short film called “Death to the Tinman.” He introduced me to Benh Zeitlin with whom I scored “Death to the Tinman.” Benh ended up directing “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” which I scored with him and that ended up being my first feature. From there on out I was scoring films. Some other projects I’ve done include “Beasts of No Nation,” “Mediterranea,” “Chasing Coral,” “Jim: The James Foley Story” and “Gleason.”
How does scoring a game compare and differ with other forms of composing and which do you prefer?
The bulk of the score for a video game is loop-based as opposed to specific moment-based, which is a completely different way of writing. As far as which I prefer, they’re both very different. If I’ve been doing nothing but loops for a month, then it’s really fun to score a scene. If I’ve been doing nothing but scoring scenes, then it’s really fun to score loops.
What lead you to composing for video games?
I’d always wanted to compose for video games but Far Cry 5 was the first one that I’d signed on to. I grew up playing video games and it’s a medium that I have an emotional connection to, as much as I do to movies and TV.
Where do you find your inspiration when composing?
I’m generally inspired by the point of view of different characters and the emotions that they’re feeling. But the real truth about music is that there are only 12 notes in the western system and you’re just reordering notes to make new chord progressions or new melodies. The inspiration in anything is just trying to find patterns in randomness that are pleasing to you.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced scoring Far Cry 5 and what have been your greatest triumphs?
The biggest challenge I had while scoring Far Cry 5 was keeping the intensity up for large amounts of time without feeling fatigued by it, which means that I had to come up with many different types of intensity within a course of a couple minutes so players never get tired of one of them.
My biggest triumph is when a combination of sounds clicks for a certain character and it feels like the music is working.
When I played an early version of the game, I noticed that the Cultists had their own radio station. Did this present a challenge for you from what appeared to be a more country inspired sound otherwise?
The radio station has turned out to be a much more interesting journey than we originally thought it would be. I’m very excited to share the music we’re making!
How many hours of music did you compose for the game and how much made it into the final build?
A massive amount.
When scoring the game, how much lead time did you have and were graphics and animation made available early in the process?
I had character designs and concept art very early on but I’ve been given enough time with Ubisoft to mull over different ideas and different sounds.
How much leeway did you have with the creation of the score or did the games producers give you the framework that you had to work in or was it more of a collaboration?
We started with a very specific sonic pallet in mind but they’ve been very, very open to my ideas and it’s been a collaborative process.
What else do you have coming up that the readers can look forward to?
I scored “Chasing Coral,” a documentary about climate change’s effect on coral reefs, which was recently released on Netflix. I’m currently composing “Good Doctor,” a TV series about a young autistic surgeon who has savant syndrome, which airs 10pm ET Mondays on ABC. I also scored “Brimstone & Glory,” a documentary about The National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico, which will be released very shortly.