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Ant Neely: Not Fit for Human Consumption

Decks Drums and Penny Whistle Solos... By Ko Maruyama
Ant Neely, musician and Mac enthusiast has been scoring a show out of the Netherlands.  The actors use motion capture to grab all of the action then transfer the data to 3D characters.  While talking to Ant about the show, I also found out that he is also geotracking his latest CD...

I met Ant here in Hollywood several years while he was actively playing with Subthunk (  Since then, he moved back to the U.K., and was chosen to score Sprookjesboom.  I talked to him about his new work, and his latest personal project.

Ko: Hey Ant...

Ant: Hey Ko...

Ant - tell me about this television show you're working on currently? What's the name of it?

It's actually made in the Netherlands, but with an English Creative Producer, and is called 'Sprookjesboom' (English title is 'The Fairy Tale Tree').    It's an animated show, but not in a 'traditional' sense - the performers use motion capture suits so movement is mapped to 3d models on computers.  It is pretty amazing to watch the performers move about and see the characters on the screen follow the motions in real time.

What's the television show about?

There's a theme park in Holland called De Efteling - it's been around for a long time (since 1952) and is one of Europe's most popular theme parks.  One of the main attractions in the park is the Fairy Tale Forest - originally designed by the famous illustrator Anton Pieck.  'Sprookjesboom' takes place in that world, with characters such as the Wolf, the Dragon, the Giant, Tom Thumb and Red Riding Hood.  Pieck's amazing illustrations were quite dark, grim and romantic, so the producers of the show were determined to reflect the moods and quality of his artwork in the animation.

How did you get involved in the show?

When the pilot episode was being made a couple of composers were asked to submit scores and luckily mine was chosen.  We are now in the third season.

How does this differ from the freedom of writing your own music?

Up until scoring this show I had never done a purely orchestral score so it has been a great experience.  I have often used orchestral elements in scores, but always combined with 'bleeps and beats'.  I am fascinated by sounds and will happily draw from any source -  squelchy synths, dirty beats, French horns, the sound of a washing machine spinning up to speed or an oboe are all fair game to me.

For this show it was appropriate to use just orchestral textures and each character has a theme and these themes need to been woven into the rest of the score.  It isn't a 'frantic' type of show - it is much slower and more graceful then your typical animated program, but still there are a lot of  changes in gears and moods that need to be reflected or remarked upon.  It is really easy to take things like MIDI and DAWs for granted, but without the ability to change tempos and quickly try ideas I don't know how I could do it.  Composers like the brilliant Scott Bradley (who scored a lot of the MGM cartoons such as Tom and Jerry) wrote to infinitely more complex animations using a stop watch and got amazing results.  Next time you see one of those old cartoons pay attention to the score and imagine putting something that good together without today's technology.

Do television clients expect you to deliver all of the music as digital tracks.

Yes, I pretty much submit AIFF or SDII files for all my projects.

What software are you developing your music with?

My main rig is a Dual G5 running ProTools and Reason.  Synced up to the Mac I have a PC running  Giga Studio (for orchestral stuff).  In the past I have used Abelton Live on a laptop for gigs (with the band subthunk).

What lengths are you scoring?

It really depends on the project, most cues for Sprookjesboom tend to be less then a couple of minutes - but they may have a dozen changes in tempo / feel.  For non-animated work there tends to be a lot less fast gear shifts, more unfolding of moods then hairpin turns.  Doing work to animated pictures is a great way to cut your teeth.

Do you get video to score to? Or do you get generic direction for a tonal piece?

I get QuickTimes of the episode (sent via FTP). I have worked on other projects where the studio won't allow QTs to be sent over the web so have given me video tape instead - then I have to digitize the video and work to a QT (imported into ProTools).  I like to use QuickTimes as I don't have to wait on tape spooling to cue up different scenes - may only take a minute but deadlines are very tight so every second counts.


On a side note - you've recently finished a personal piece that you've released under a CreativeCommons license and you're starting a Geotracking project with a CD offer.

Yes, I have just released an album called 'Not Fit For Human Consumption' which explores territory between Fat Boy Slim and John Barry.  It is available to download on a 'pay what you are comfortable with' basis from my website -  My aim is to get as many people to hear it as possible, so if people want to download it and not pay anything that is ok - but if people enjoy it I hope they will chip in a bit to support the release.  If people would prefer a physical copy they can pick it up at

As the album is a Creative Commons release people can remix and use it for non-commercial projects.  It seems like a fair way to work as I used public domain voice over from old educational films on some of the tracks so I wanted to give something back to the 'creative melting pot'.

What's up with the geotracking?

I have never done the GeoTracking thing before, but it just seemed like a fun thing to do. The idea behind this is to leave copies of the album in public places with a note asking people to TAKE/RIP/BURN (i.e., take the album, copy it and then leave the original in another public place). Each CD is numbered (on the disc) so we can then track how far around the world they travel on a Google map: GEOTRACK NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION

Any plans to come back to the United States? and if not, can people in the UK find you playing gigs locally?

I am playing various gigs in the UK with different projects, ranging from jazz to improvised electronica.  We get back to the US to visit once in  a while and I am sure that sooner or later I will gig in LA again with subthunk  ( or one of my other projects.

Well good talking to you Ant!

Thanks very much Ko.

You can follow all of Ant's work on his website:

For rants, ramblings and general announcements - check out a chaotic blog in the BlogZone:

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:interview, editorial, television, audio, scoring, sprookjesboom, Sprookjesboom Park, subthunk, Ant Neely

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  • Ant Neely: Not Fit for Human Consumption by DMN Editorial at Jun. 30, 2008 11:51 pm gmt

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