Diablo III Cinematic Introduction: Re-scored - Diabloii.Net

Diablo III Cinematic Introduction: Re-scored


Some time ago, a Diablo gamer and composer named Mario Vaira posted a thread in our Fan Creations Forum to point us to his all-new (audio) version of the Diablo III introductory cinematic. It’s fascinating to compare it to the original, especially after viewing Blizzard’s version, with DiabloWikiLeah‘s narration over the Middle Eastern-style vocals, so many times.  Mario used more classical-style music without any narration, and it makes clear how strongly the music and sound influence our perception of a film, since it almost seems like a whole new movie, with such a different, yet still fitting, track. Check it out below.

Intrigued by the video and his creative process, I fired off some questions which Mario was kind enough to answer. Here’s a quote; click through for the full interview, after you enjoy his remix of the Diablo 3 cinematic.

Mario: Everyone hears and writes music in their own style, and the best way I can describe my approach is that to me, all music is Tension and Release. To use the Diablo III Cinematic trailer as an example, it’s clearly split up into two halves. With any visual piece, I try to identify these big movements (the two halves), and then look for moments I want to accentuate (the night before the battle, the attackers at the gate, the huge roar, etc). The video editing is a big factor as well – I specifically set the tempo of the second half to really maximize the video edits of the final battle sequence. Once I have those key moments, I write a piece of music around them, knowing that I want to get bigger here, or slow down there. I try to map out the highs and lows, the tensions and releases, before I write.

For the beginning half of the trailer, I interpreted it as a heavy sadness; a eulogy to the glory of what was, with the sorrow of what is left. I wanted it to feel regal, but mournful. As the sadness builds and settles into a seaming finale, there’s a hint of something on the horizon – the marching snare as a distant call to arms. Suddenly the enemy is here! Everything switches, the pacing and the music is helping paint a picture of another epic struggle, building up, until everything is overwhelmed by a huge, evil, powerful force… and it’s gone – the vision passes, but the warning has been heard…

It sounds a little over the top, but tapping into the base emotions of a piece of film of animation is the best way for me to really be true to the subject matter, as i interpret it.

Here’s Mario’s version of the cinematic introduction.

Click through to view the original, as well as read the full interview. You should also check out Mario’s site, Five Fathom Studios. He’s got lots of music to see and listen to, and some more re-scored video game trailers as well. I enjoyed his Halo 3 remix.

 

Mario Vaira Interview

While watching Mario’s version, I realized that this wasn’t just two minutes of some theme he’d had lying around. As you’ll see when you watch it, it’s been composed specifically for the Diablo cinematic. The music matches the visuals; there are high notes timed to the scene cuts, crescendos during the dramatic moments, a glissando when graphics flash or explosions occur, etc. I found myself full of questions. Who was this guy? Did he not like the original Blizzard music? How did he match up the sounds so neatly to the visuals?

Rather than issue a post about the video studded with rhetorical questions, I played dress up as a journalist and fired off a few questions to the composer. He was kind enough to answer them, as well as upload a higher quality version of the video, and here’s the transcript.

Diii.net: What’s your background in music?

Mario: I’ve been pursuing music seriously for 16 years – I fell in love with playing the guitar in high school and couldn’t put it down. I did about a year of post secondary studies in jazz theory, composition and performance, but then decided it was somehow a good career decision for me to move to Vancouver to become a rock star. I joined a band, got a record deal, toured relentlessly and had an amazing time with my best friends. The band eventually broke up with everyone going their separate ways and I found myself wanting more. I had my guitars, a shure 58 mic, a casio keyboard, and a beat up PC with a stock soundblaster card in it. I went to radioshack, bought 3 or 4 bulky adaptors to try and Frankenstein it all together, and decided to try everything – produce, write, compose… I knew that as long as it was music, I’d be happy.  I received some amazing opportunities composing for a few short films that led to some TV series work and most recently some feature films. Video games are next on my list.

I love writing, producing and performing music in almost every genre and instrumentation, and I still get happily lost in it for hours and hours whenever I get the chance. I’m still a small guy in the industry, but that gives me the freedom to wear many hats as a musician without feeling like I have to be “The Hip hop guy” or “The Classical guy” – I can just be me.

Diii.net: What sort of tools do you use to create your work?

Mario: For all you tech heads out there who love the details, I’m on a Mac Pro 6-core 3.33GHz, running Logic 9 as my primary DAW software. I use a mix of live instruments , (tons of guitars, percussion, synths, amps, a Rhodes MkII, children’s toys, etc. ), and software instruments, (Big guys like Native Instruments Komplete & Miroslav Philharmonik, and smaller vendors like Stillwell Audio). I use a RME Fireface 800 as the heart of my DAW, and a UA 6176 as my main mic / instrument pre. For mics I’m partial to the AKG 414 series. I basically try to use everything I can get my hands on, and I’m not done yet…

Diii.net: What’s your background as a gamer? What types of games do you like, and were you a big Diablo 2 fan?

Mario: With a name like “Mario”, I either had to become a prolific gamer early on, or write off gaming altogether. I chose the former and was a serious NES kid who remains a big Nintendo fan. I actually played more Diablo I than II, and I have a lot of respect for the series. I’ve had just about every console out there, and I love most games of every genre. The music is always a big standout for me, of course. Imagine writing a piece of music that someone is going to listen to for HOURS, over and over – what a challenge! Every game you truly love is guaranteed to have amazing music. Put that and a great story together and I’ll get into anything – FPS, dungeon crawlers, top down shooters, etc.

Diii.net: How do you match up the music to the visuals? It’s got to be hard to time it right since you can’t just edit the video to match, the way Blizzard’s cinematics dept can.

Mario: Everyone hears and writes music in their own style, and the best way I can describe my approach is that to me, all music is Tension and Release. To use the Diablo III Cinematic trailer as an example, it’s clearly split up into two halves. With any visual piece, I try to identify these big movements (the two halves), and then look for moments I want to accentuate (the night before the battle, the attackers at the gate, the huge roar, etc). The video editing is a big factor as well – I specifically set the tempo of the second half to really maximize the video edits of the final battle sequence. Once I have those key moments, I write a piece of music around them, knowing that I want to get bigger here, or slow down there. I try to map out the highs and lows, the tensions and releases, before I write.

For the beginning half of the trailer, I interpreted it as a heavy sadness; a eulogy to the glory of what was, with the sorrow of what is left. I wanted it to feel regal, but mournful. As the sadness builds and settles into a seaming finale, there’s a hint of something on the horizon – the marching snare as a distant call to arms. Suddenly the enemy is here! Everything switches, the pacing and the music is helping paint a picture of another epic struggle, building up, until everything is overwhelmed by a huge, evil, powerful force… and it’s gone – the vision passes, but the warning has been heard…

It sounds a little over the top, but tapping into the base emotions of a piece of film of animation is the best way for me to really be true to the subject matter, as i interpret it.

Diii.net: Is your career goal or dream to create music for video games?

Mario: The production values of games today are amazing, and I’d love to write for a good title. We can do so much with all aspects of game development these days with the type of processing power and storage space that’s available. The story, the visuals and the music can be so expansive, and all of these can work dynamically together. This is where things get exciting when I imagine what it’d be like to work on a big game. Instead of, for example, the same generic battle music being used for every fight, we could make musical pieces with many different movements or interpretations that interact with what’s happening on the screen. If you are losing the game, the music reflects that and becomes more desperate. When you fight back, the music mirrors your comeback.

These are very small examples of the potential of what I refer to as dynamic composing. The thought of working with a team that wants to push the boundaries of audio production for their games is very exciting, even in terms of a traditional score. I’m looking forward to the day when I can jump into the gaming world from the developer’s side.

Diii.net: What do you think of the music in the Diablo series so far? DiabloWikiMatt Uelmen‘s theme for Tristram from D1 is one of the more famous game music pieces around…

Mario: Matt’s pieces have really stood the test of time and I love how organic his pieces feel. “Tristram” is a great example of this for it’s instrumentation and pacing – it doesn’t feel forced at all. I can’t wait to hear how the score evolves with the story of the next game.

Diii.net: What did you think of the sound/music of the Diablo 3 cinematic as originally released? I thought their choice of eerie Persian style music with the female vocals was distinctive and unusual for the genre. Did you not care for the original, or you just wanted to try a different approach to it?

Mario: The music for the trailer is great, and very bold – it’s a sound that I don’t personally associate with Diablo thus far, but that’s a good thing – you never want to repeat yourself. I took it as a glimpse into what’s to come in the story and evolution of the series. The reason I wanted to re-score the trailer was for a personal challenge – if I can take something that’s dear to so many people and reinterpret it in a way that engages them and gets a positive response, then I’m on the right track from a purely emotion perspective. My interpretation of the trailer won’t appeal to everyone as I’m not Matt and I don’t have his sound, but by trying something new I get to challenge the audience and myself, and it is the feedback from others that always helps you grow as an artist.

Diii.net: Have you listened to the samples so far released of Diablo III’s music? Any thoughts?

Mario: From what I’ve heard so far, I think it’s fantastic. It’s less “dungeon-y” than before, less brutal. There’s more emphasis on depth and evolution of mood and emotion (New Tristam, Caldeum), and the arrangement of the new Overture is amazing – shades of a Basil Poledouris epic re-imagined for a new generation. Very moving and powerful.

Diii.net: Do you pay really close attention to the music in games? Any game themes you really liked, or thought weren’t as good as they could have been?

Mario: I’ve learned so much about music from games, especially early on when developers were so limited with what they had available for sounds and processing power. Think back and listen on youtube to some of your favourite gems from back in the day. Timeless pieces of music from games like Megaman II (Metalman & Dr. Wily’s theme), the music from 1943, Faxanadu (way underrated), or the overworld music (Terra’s theme) from FFIII/VI on SNES – all great games with music that defines it. The Castlevania series, Super Mario series – they all had multiple themes that were very memorable, very strong, and in cases like the NES games, they had only 4 mono channels for synthesized music, and 1 more for very limited sampled sounds. With tools that any modern day composer would balk at, these men and women made masterpieces, and that’s very inspiring to me.

A few personal favourites…

  • Megaman II: Metalman:
  • Faxanadu: Mantra
  • Final Fantasy III / VI – Terra’s Theme

Thanks again to Flux and the community for listening, and for the opportunity to share some music with you.
—mario

Thanks to Mario for his creative efforts and interview replies. In closing I’ll plug the same thing HolyKnight does in his weekly fan art posts; our Fan Creations forum is a great place for anyone interested in creating or enjoying the creative arts connected to the Diablo games, whether they be visual, audio, or the written word. That’s where Mario’s music first came to our attention.

Here’s the original version of the cinematic, for the sake of comparison.

Tagged As: | Categories: Diablo 3, Diabloii.Net Interviews, Fan Stuff

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  1. Hmmm, I like this but I think I’d still like it if shields actually blocked. Just at a lower, more reasonable rate than they did in D2. In general I like for different items to have different properties.

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