Silas Hite is an Emmy-winning artist and composer. His unique and memorable scores have appeared in countless films, TV shows, and video games, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Sims 2, and even the iconic "Get a Mac" commericals starring Justin Long and John Hodgman.
Recently, he took on an envious creative opportunity: composing musical cues for the original Netflix program Chef's Table. The acclaimed, six-part docu-series profiles modern chefs and their innovative culinary creations.
iZotope talked with Silas about his experience using Iris and Ozone to produce the lush, intriguing soundtracks.
How did you approach writing the music for Chef's Table, and what were you trying to achieve?
I knew they were going to license some existing recordings of great orchestral pieces, so I knew I wanted my score to be able to blend in with that.
Why do you use Iris?
I was looking to create some new, modern sounds to add to my palette. I had seen demos and knew I could get the results I wanted with Iris 2.
What's your favorite "trick" in Iris?
My favorite Iris trick is to load my own samples, combine them with existing Iris samples, and blend from there to come up with fresh sounds.
What's your dream gig and why?
I have quite a few dream gigs, but one would be to create a score first and then have a director shoot a film based on my score. That's probably a common dream for composers!
Favorite Musical Moments from Chef’s Table
Episode 4: Niki Nakayama (n/naka) | “Expression”
I had just installed Iris 2 when I started writing this cue. In this episode, I was trying to blend a little bit of modern and electronic-sounding ideas with my real string recordings. I used a few of the Iris 2 preset sounds and then tweaked them a bit.
In this cue the "Wizard's Flute" preset was great because it had an Asian flute sound to it, but with a harsh edge. In the second half of the cue, I really emphasized the slightly distorted or harsh edge to make it a little less flute-like. There was a bit of a glide built in to the patch that reminded me of a sine wave being played on a Moog, so I pushed that up, too. Another Iris 2 patch that you can hear in this is called "Purity." It sounds a bit like a celesta, but mixed with a wind-up music box. It had a delicate sound that blended with the strings and Telecaster guitars.
Lastly, I used "Block Sine," another of the "Keys" presets. You can hear it once the piece kicks in about halfway through. I used this sound to double the muted Gretsch guitar part I played. With this cue in particular I really wanted to blend new and old sounds to come up with sounds that were intriguing and a little harder to identify. I also used Ozone to master this cue.
Episode 4: Niki Nakayama (n/naka) | “No More Doubt”
This is a long scene but it's my favorite. The music gets really wild and there is so little dialogue over it that you can really hear what is happening musically.
In the first half of this cue, I needed a pad or atmosphere to set the mood. I started with a pad called "Nice & Clean" from Iris 2. Then I blended in some sampled violin harmonics, a Rhodes piano, and then recorded a real violinist playing very long legato notes over all of that. I mastered it with Ozone.
Episode 5: Ben Shewry (Attica) | “A Monk's Offering”
It's just a nice, short piece that captures the frenzy of the kitchen. I mastered it with Ozone.
I knew I was going to have a large collection of tracks at the end of Chef's Table and I wanted to maintain a sonic consistency to them. Normally I work with a mastering engineer to achieve this, but given the tight turnaround, there simply wasn't time. I tried various presets within Ozone and found that there were lots of interesting options. I ended up gravitating toward a few different presets that seemed to put me in the right ballpark and then I adjusted them to taste.
For example, I really liked the way the "CD Master" preset brought out the higher frequencies in certain tracks, imbuing them with a bit more "air." Often it helped bring out more of the bow sound on the real string instruments, which I had close mic'd anyway to emphasis that. Occasionally it would bring out too much of the harsh character of the celesta, so I would just adjust it a bit to compensate, or simply EQ the celesta instead.
I ended up saving my customized presets and used them on all my tracks. I was very happy with the results.