First off let me preface this with saying conventions in general are notorious for complete lack of staff communication and organization. Had I not have had free Internet in the hotel I'm posting from right now, I would probably have missed out on the early autograph session.
Basically I checked the webpage in the morning to see if anything had changed on the schedule pertinent to what I was doing, and found that Eminence and Sakimoto were doing two signings, one was at 12:30 ~ 1:30, followed by a change in the scheduling for the panel Q&A session (3:00 ~ 4:00) and autograph session two at 6:00 ~ 7:00.
Autograph Session 1
This one, since it wasn't announced or on the printed pamphlet they handed out in registration bags, was pretty low key and there was only about 50 or so people total in line. I started out waiting for it in front of the room it was supposed to be in only to find out the lines started at the other end of the hallway, so I walked down there to jump in a line that wasn't even close to full.
Most of the people in line had either the autograph page from the event handout to sign or their Eminence cds to be signed with him and the entire orchestra. I saw a few FFXII LE's, Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics soundtracks here and there but not many people had them. I had him sign my FFXII LE and Game Sound Legend Vol. 6 ~ Soukyuugurentai. He was pretty suprised to see Soukyuugurentai, he said he personally only owns one copy and informed me that it's worth like 200$.
Autograph Session 2
This one was announced and was after the panel (more on that later) and had a TON more people. Typical of many conventions they screwed up the lines. I was waiting in the line that they had told me to wait in this morning with like 9 other people only to find out that they had started the line at the door to the autograph room. But fortunately it worked out, they came over and gave us tickets and pushed us to the front of the line since it was there screwup. I looked over the line and there was easily 250 or more people lined up for this one, as it was the announced both in the pamphlet and at the Q&A session.
I had him sign FFT and Perfect Prince this time, and he was equally amused that I had Perfect Prince, which he said the LE of the game (that came with the soundtrack) was limited to only 500 copies. Then I had Eminence sign my Eminence CD that I bought there.
P.S.: I had no idea they had Eminence CDs, did anyone else? I guess they prerecord them and sell them at the concerts for which they perform or something. I grabbed all three they had, A Night in Fantasy 2004 (Studio Ghibli covers), World of John Williams, and Passion (Game and anime covers).
I wrote everything down on frantic scraps of paper I could muster from my friends from the book and whatnot, so this is going to be very rough and somewhat unorganized. Keep in mind they were 30m late for the panel and we only had a good 30m worth of questions.
The first question was by some woman I was sitting near, who is apparently going to school for her masters in video game composition or something.
She had noticed that some of the synth he uses is not something that is physically possible for an orchestra to play and she asked what determines the style he uses. His answer was that it was mostly budget for the game he is working on (naturally) and that if the music budget doesn't have enough money for a full orchestra (it usually doesn't) then he will try to go above and beyond what an orchestra can do. He also said that he "curses the day when they ask him to translate something from synth to orchestra".
A gentlemen somewhere behind me asked a very long open ended question, something to the extent of "What were your inspirations for starting when you composed your first soundtrack, Magical Chase, and how did you meet Iwata". The translator (which by the way was Hiroaki Yura, the violinist from Eminence) was I think a little confused by all the questions at once but did a good job of relaying.
Sakimoto said he met Iwata during his student years at an arcade center when they were about 17, they were both purely game fans back then. He said they have a long relationship since then and that they work very well together, and he was 24 when he composed Magical Chase. As far as Magical Chase goes, when he was brought onto the project the game was almost entirely done and they just needed the score to be composed. He said the game was well done, and that it was a long time ago and apologized. He asked if anyone knew what Magical Chase was and only 2 people raised their hands, but he was happy that at least 2 people knew. He also said something about back then himself and Iwata composed very rhythmic pieces for games, compared to nowadays.
I think I asked the next question, not sure what order it was in, but I asked him if he had any plans on collaborating with any other famous composers like *cough* Joe Hisaishi *cough* and if there were any plans on bringing any full concerts to the U.S.
Yura explained that it's not really up to them. If a producer wants them to have a concert in some place, they will set it up and contact them regarding interest, but it seemed like there was little they could do to arrange it themselves. It is a very expensive project to lug an entire 150 piece orchestra to another concert hall, let alone an entire country. He gave a figure of somewhere in the range of 2 million US$ to do it, so basically it's by invitation only.
Someone asked how much he had worked with Uematsu on Final Fantasy XII and he responded that it wasn't that much since it was a very large scale project, there is not a lot of collaboration. We know that Uematsu only really composed on song for it so I imagined it wasn't much, if any, anyway.
The next question was about the difference in composing for a video game as he has done all of his career and composing for Gonzo's new anime, Romeo x Juliet.
He answered that it's mostly the same except for when he composes for an anime, he has to compose for the scene and capture the mood of the particular scene or event. When he composes for a game everything it's mostly just battle themes, etc (I think he meant everything is predefined, battle, boss, world, etc, compared to an anime, not sure). He said that the process is different as well. In a game he creates bits and pieces of songs and tests how they work (in the game?), and then they ask for modifications based on how it works. He said there is a lot of time wasted in testing. For anime, he said in general they have a meeting of all the executives and they basically tell him exactly how they want the anime to sound, and he shapes and molds the sound they want to individual scenes and moments.
Someone asked if game companies ask him to compose a soundtrack or if he offers his services to companies. He gave a simple answer that he gets a lot of incoming messages asking for him.
The next question someone asked why the song selection on the Passion cd is so and what is the process for it being chosen. Yura said that he is given several cds of music to listen to from the producers and he listens to them and picks pieces. He picks music based on emotional values, speed, etc, and he specifically mentioned often has afterthoughts after-the-fact. I think his exact quote was "Ah crap 33% of this is Bandai music!".
The woman sitting near me asked another question, and asked about the Faulknerian aspec of his work? I am not sure the exact word she used but it must have been a term referring to the classical aspect of his work, she was very well versed in music as I had listen to her talk to someone before the panel started.
Sakimoto responded that he is not aware of any style in his work. He doesn't listen to a lot of classical music, has no classical music training, and has the knowledge of a "primary school level" in regards to it. He wasn't aware of any of these stylistic references. She asked that the Light motif (?) was then purely coincidental, and he said yes it was, which impressed her. I'm not sure what that is either, but I assume it's classical music oriented.
He went on to explain that he started off as just a game fan and game programmer when he begain. He works from what is asked by the company(ies). If they ask for an orchestra vs. big band (I believe that's what he said) he will have to research it, because "that is his job as a composer."
The next question was how closely on FF12 did he work with Matsuno (I think that is the name of the director), the producer or director that either left or got fired or something, I'm not sure entirely what the question was. Sakimoto answered that he had little intercollaboration between people on the FF12 team, there was over 150 people on the team when he started which grew to about 500 at the end, and that in a project that big there are people that specialize in every area, so he wasn't always able to discuss details.
The next question asked him if he was aware of any fan remix sites that frequently remix his work. Sakimoto answered that he is aware of some Japanese people that remix his work but not of any American ones, and that he is happy that there are people who do it and would love to visit the sites if he knew them. I think the guy handed him an ocremix card or something similiar so he could check it out. I think the Japanese remixers he was talking about were possibly doujin based, I don't know of any jp remix groups simliar to ocremix.
I don't remember what the next person asked, it was something along the lines of how he works together with producers and directors on a soundtrack, but I think Yura misinterpreted the question as how does Eminence and Yura and Sakimoto collaborate.
Sakimoto explained that everything is oriented around the budget. It determines if it is synth or live (the soundtrack, I guess?) and that when the music budget has enough money he will call up Yura and ask what can be done. Yura replies with some figures, which range based on how many performers perform and what sections they have, saying something like an 86 piece orchestra with 2 brass and double wind will be more expensive than an orchestra with just 2 brass and some violin rows? He said Sakimoto always requests the best players, and that they always get a tight group that works well together, mostly because they already know anime and game music well. They said something about the fact that it's a little different live because they have images and fmvs and stuff playing during the show, and people always clap and respond well to them.
I asked him if he had any plans for any future soundtracks coming out, whether it's for games coming out that haven't been released yet (like Odin Sphere) or for some of his older games and he said that his company (Basiscape) is very busy right now even though they would like to. He said he is pretty sure there is an Odin Sphere soundtrack in the works but he did not have any information on it (Woo?!)
Someone also asked him if he can tell us what he is currently working on, but they both explained that the gaming industry is very tight on information that like that, and they are bound to confidentiality agreements in every circumstance, plus the fact that the leaks are often easily traced back to the origin. Sorry .
Someone else asked him what kind of tools he uses when he creates music, and at first he responded generically with that he uses a mini sequencer, but then went into more detail about what he uses. He says he has 2 Macs and 7 PCs. He uses a Mac program called Vision, and that the 7 PCs are setup to a keyboard he uses to compose tunes and uses the 7 Windows PCs to combine the music. He said that his recording studio is very warm.
Another question was whether or not Eminence had any plans to actually compose music for a game or anime (I assume instead of reinterpret or rearrange). Yura said he would love to but the it's too hard because of the cost. Not very many projects have the kind of money it takes to hire an entire orchestra.
The last question before the panel was wrapped up was how often he has to compose under deadlines. He jokingly responded that, "the more friendly they are, the shorter it (deadline) is". He has often been asked to compose things "within the hour" and he hates himself in those situations.
Enjoy, that's the majority of the panel. It was sloppily written down but it's a good read! Kurt may be able to elaborate on some of these things but he does not have Internet.