The ASC associate member has been composing, recording and editing original music tracks — a creative project and reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact.
ASC associate member Michael Cioni is now working with Frame.io, the cloud-based video collaboration company. He says that Frame.io is enjoying a massive explosion of work — perhaps accelerated by the pandemic and its distancing requirements. But throughout the quarantine, Cioni has been spending considerable energy on a more personal project, composing, recording and editing original music tracks — a creative project and reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact.
“I basically force myself to stop working and make music,” says Cioni. “I can’t really go and hang out with people in the evenings due to the quarantine, and being a sort of at-home musician is a habit I’ve had for years. My schedule prevents me from having the flexibility to get with a band. So part of my release — and also discipline — is to compose music.”
Cioni points out that the endeavor is not without benefits for his day job, as both involve time-base artforms. “Making movies and recording music are cousins,” he says. “You discover things in recording and editing that apply in both realms.”
Cioni began his musical training at age 4 on the violin. His mother, a pianist, also taught him and his brother, Peter, to play the piano. “I considered a career as a professional musician, but my parents warned me that it’s very competitive and often not very lucrative,” he says. “I said, ‘OK, then I’ll go to film school.’ Not exactly what they had in mind, either!”
When Cioni started working with RED Digital Cinema in 2007, one of his duties was to edit the company reels. Soon he was composing music to work with the clips from various RED users. Later he created music for similar reels at Light Iron for Panasonic (Varicam) and Panavision (DXL).
Along the way, Cioni learned to competently play nine different instruments, including cello and bass, so layering parts for orchestral arrangements is just a matter of spending the time to record many takes. He has released two records over the past several years, and he estimates that each one took about 600 hours to create. They contain cinematic elements suitable for soundtrack as well as grunge/alternative rock and occasional classical flavors.
His go-to software for recording is Final Cut Pro X combined with Logic. Recently, he began shooting his recording sessions with a RED Helium camera, a Kino Flo lamp and a short 18-150 mm zoom lens set close for added intimacy. “My objective was to be authentic and try a new format, I guess,” he says. “It’s like you’re watching the composition. Later, I do a picture-in-picture composite for my Instagram feed. But all recorded images are of the actual instrument audio recording. The vocals, the cello, they’re all happening in real time. I do add post effects to the track, usually some reverb and some EQ. But mainly, I’m letting the mistakes get through. I might turn down to de-emphasize a bad note. But I’m not editing and punching in. Perfection here is not my objective. Authenticity is.”
As a solo effort, it’s essentially more personal, he says. “Cinematographers know that when they’re shooting stills, the experience is different from working on the set. The set is very collaborative, and less intimate. David Mullen [ASC] is one of my favorite examples — you see his stills on social media, and he finds these intimate moments. It’s just him, and you get a sense of who David is in these shots. I wanted to capture these little moments of myself in these recording sessions. It’s nice to take some of the skills I’ve learned in my day job and use them in a completely different way.”
Check out Cioni’s Covid-related musical efforts on Instagram. His records are available on iTunes and Spotify, and a new album of songs will debut soon.