Imagine a movie without a music score!
Right from its beginnings, music has always been an integral part of the filmmaking process.
This can take the form of an entire song, instrumentals, small snippets, or even a pop anthem complete with the lyrics.
Most of the big-budget films are ‘self-contained’ and have sound engineers and composers to provide the film score but if you are a small budget indie producer or a first-time film producer working on a shoestring budget, you will have no other option but to do the film scoring yourself.
For film scoring, you will need the best film scoring software that has power and the breadth of features to create flawless results.
In this article, we review some of the best DAW for film scoring that you can use for your next film production or which can help you hone your skills as a film composer.
Logic Pro X
Apple’s Logic Pro X is undoubtedly one of the best film-scoring software tools in the market.
It is fully owned by Apple so this is not a cross-platform software that you can also use with Windows.
It is a super-intuitive Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that you can use for music production and multitrack recording functions.
It works perfectly with Mac OS X and you can even use it on-the-go with your macOS products such as the MacBook Pro laptop.
Logic Pro X is fast, delivers superior performance, and offers you a more robust platform for music compositions.
It is also a costly option and you should go for it when you are looking for a power DAW tool for your film scoring.
It is a DAW that has been made by Apple for Apple products so don’t expect to use this with Windows or Linux.
It packs up a set of robust features for music production and is recommended for pro producers and composers who are adept at the mixing board.
You can use it for various kinds of productions including product demos, commercials, rich media EPUB ebooks, or for your instructional videos.
- It has an interface that is intuitive and easy to use.
- Logic Pro X has an excellent mixer bay that enables you to instantly see the levels where you are playing everything. It enables you to see the entire mixer at once. The interface tries to accurately emulate analog mixing with some degree of success.
- You get both soft-synth and MIDI sequencing. The MIDI sequencer in Logic Pro X is not only intuitive but also very straightforward to use when recording and sequencing your MIDI notes.
- You can use it on the go with both macOS and iOS devices.
- Get top-notch quality mixing and mastering.
- This being an Apple product, there is no PC support. This also means that you cannot use Logic Pro X in conjunction with the various PC mixing software which are a dime a dozen.
- The window configurations can be overwhelming as you have to do with different windows which may not be easier to navigate, at least initially. While it features screencasts that you can toggle between, the user interface could be a bit overwhelming.
Overall, Logic Box Pro works well for Mac-based music production as well as for the recording and mixing environments and will lend itself perfectly to film scoring.
It is also nice that this is a DAW that you can use for your on-the-fly music recording and production arrangements.
You can carry your Mac laptop along and take it with you on-site.
The main downside is that you simply cannot use it in a PC environment.
For film scoring, you will in most cases be torn between a Cubase and Logic Pro X.
Cubase by Steinberg Technologies is a well-rounded, robust and comprehensive DAW for film scoring.
Its audio quality is excellent and it has impressive editing capabilities.
It also features top-notch programming and MIDI functionality.
It is one of the best software options for film scoring uses. You can even use it for large facilities.
Cubase has plenty of professional tools for music production, recording and editing.
You can use it for any studio role, be it in songwriting, tracking or editing.
You can also use Cubase for mixing.
It’s an all-in-one DAW that will handle everything that you throw at it.
Cubase is easy-to-learn and deploys cutting-edge technologies.
This is also a very stable DAW.
- It is easy to learn and simple to use and offers you a simple learning curve.
- You can easily use it to write your music to video
- Quick rendering functionality
- It’s a moderately-priced DAW that is easily accessible to most beginners or small-time film producers.
- The shortcuts are difficult to learn.
- It can really hog your computing resources
- The Cubase upgrades do not have sufficient features to make them a good investment.
Cubase is a great cross-platform audio editing and songwriting tool.
It is one of the best film scoring software tools that you can easily use to write music to video.
It allows you to easily import your videos into sessions.
You can easily sync the music to the videos.
The learning curve is not as steep and it is easier and merciful even for beginners.
Besides, Cubase is an all-in-one film-scoring DAW software that you can use through the entire workflow of music writing, recording, mixing as well as mastering.
You can export the back-out in a single step!
Avid’s Pro Tools didn’t initially have MIDI capabilities and was audio-only but over the past few years, it has tried hard to play catch-up with some of the top film-scoring DAWs for MIDI.
However, it is an impressive DAW for audio and is hands down regarded as the best in this category.
Some film composers use either Cubase or Logic for their compositions and Pro Tools for audio mixing and mastering.
Pro Tools’ audio workflow gives you superb speed along with ease of use.
Even if you find Pro Tools inadequate for composing, it will still come in handy for both mixing and mastering so it is worthwhile to learn how it works.
Knowing how to use Pro Tools will enable you to undertake ever-increasing composing and mixing projects and collaborate with a lot more people.
- Pro Tools perfectly integrates with various UAD devices. This can help you save on your CPU processing as its offloads the processing power to the dedicated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips that are in the external hardware.
- Get Multitrack Recording as well as Arrangement of Music. This is perfect for recording and arranging your music and is one of Pro Tools main highlights.
- Pro Tools provides impressive import and export capabilities. You can use Pro Tools to easily import and export multitrack files in such a way that emulates the traditional analog multitrack recording.
- Pro Tools’ loop-based production offers you something of an old-school-style recording where the track must be recorded from live sources. Pro Tools’ features are better suited for the production of loop-based music such as hip-hop and electronic music.
- Pro Tools utilizes a sample-based production technique where you mostly need to use the MIDI for triggering the samples. It is still possible to sequence the samples, however, but you will do it without deploying the MIDI for triggering a sampler plugin.
- Creative Ideation: When using Pro Tools, the DAW ‘expects’ that you have already ideated what you want to record so it does not have creative ideation tools that can help you create or produce music.
- Pro Tools has a subscription model costing $30 per month or $300 annually.
Pro Tools remain an industry-standard software option if you want to do professional audio recordings for your music.
It is recommended for professional music studios but it does work for home studios as well.
Motu Digital Performer
Digital Performer is a DAW that is specifically designed for film composers making it a great option for film scoring applications.
You will love its “chunks” feature that enables you to load multiple cues as well as timelines into a single project.
This can save you lots of time during your compositions while also boosting your workflow.
With its “conductor track”, you will be able to instantly create streamers and punches for your conducting and is a useful feature for live recordings.
DP is an impressive program for MIDI editing and scoring applications.
It has native plugins that sound good although you can extend its capabilities with UAD plugins.
The audio sounds great and it is also a flexible and convenient DAW.
- Excellent MIDI editing and scoring capabilities.
- Fantastic sound
- Get free and frequent minor upgrades and updates
Nuendo is like a pumped-up Cubase and provides superb MIDI and composition features.
It has a comprehensive suite of post-production features and can also integrate seamlessly with WWise for gaming audio.
You will also get dialogue and sound effects editing capabilities.
Nuendo provides comprehensive audio functions including audio surround and binaural capabilities.
It is built with ADM to cater to the rising demand for Dolby Atmos audio mixes and which also enables you to import relevant files with their object automation data still in place.
Nuendo has also expanded its immersive audio capabilities and now supports dearVR Spatial Connect which enables you to operate Nuendo’s audio features within a virtual reality environment.
- It’s a flexible and powerful DAW
- Top-notch video rendering
- Video cut detection feature
- ARA 2 support
- dearVR Spatial Connect for immersive audio
- Gives you a high-quality audio engine
- Workflows are perfectly streamlined.
- Crossgrade pricing
- At $1,000, it is a pricey DAW and only serious professionals will consider splurging that much to get their hands on the DAW.
- Nuendo is not recommended for beginners due to its ultra-comprehensive functionality. The breadth of stuff that you can do with it is simply mindboggling.
- Its audio alignment features could do with further improvements.
- HiDPI support is still inadequate on Windows
Nuendo is an expensive DAW that offers you lots of raw power and is therefore only recommended for serious professionals.
Other DAWs to Consider for Film Scoring
Apart from the above, there are other DAWs that are worth giving a look.
They might not match the power, features, and performance of the above that we have reviewed but they still do certain things well.
Some of them might match the quality and performance of some of the top brands while others simply don’t stack up.
- Ableton Live
- FL Studio
- Adobe Audition
- ACID Studio
- Studio One by PreSonus
- Bitwig Studio 3
- MAGIX Samplitude
- Harrison Mixbus
Ultimately, what matters is whether you get the desired results with your DAW for film scoring.
If you are unable to afford the top DAWs for film scoring, you can still get the results you want if you take the time to really master the DAW you are able to lay your hands on.
You can also sign up for the free trials available in the top DAWs if you’d want to get a feel of the terrain.