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Talking Tunes With Sarah Schachner, Composer Of Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare

by Javy Gwaltney on Jun 28, 2016 at 09:30 AM

Sarah Schachner is no stranger to creating video game music, having served as a composer for Assassin's Creed Unity. Now Schachner tackling the final frontier with the rest of Infinity Ward and composing the music for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. We had the chance to chat with the composer about her work on games and film as well as Infinite Warfare.

How would you describe the music for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare?

This is the first Call of Duty where you play as the leader making the big decisions, and in this case, controlling a spacecraft. The future space setting is obviously a departure from past games in the series, but the focus is more on the weight of leadership your character experiences. Instead of concentrating on the epic vastness of space, the music aims to capture the loneliness felt in space and the burdens of war. The score is equal parts electronic and orchestral. It combines cold and aggressive analog synths with small, intimate string sections and a gnarly low brass ensemble. A lot of the percussion is from metallic found objects. It's not a traditional score by any means. We wanted to do something different than the typical epic orchestral action sound.

What was it like working on this versus other projects you’ve worked on?

Growing up playing games like GoldenEye 007, Halo, and Call of Duty, it was beyond exciting getting the opportunity to work on such a huge franchise that I'm also a big fan of. Working on a space project has always been a dream of mine, so the setting was just the icing on the cake. There was no temp music, and I got to be pretty experimental on this project. We recorded the orchestral parts of the score in Nashville. The entire audio team was incredible to work with, and it was really helpful getting to periodically see progress on the game in person at Infinity Ward. I've been working on this game for a year, so I'm pretty attached to it!

What are some of your inspirations for your work on the game?

I drew rhythmic inspiration from bands like Meshuggah and Tool for odd time signatures and poly rhythms. To give the orchestra an interesting sound, I basically treated the sections as if they were another synth, applying production techniques from electronic music to an orchestral context. Also, I don't think I realized how influenced I am by Stravinsky until this project.

What are some of the differences between composing music for a video game and for film?

Each format has unique challenges and rewards. You rarely have to score to picture in a game since you can't control what the player will do. You'll be looking at sample gameplay for inspiration to get the vibe and energy levels. It can be very freeing not having to deal with constant picture changes, but then you have to write two to three times as much music as in a typical film. In a game like this, you also have the whole arcade-style multiplayer mode, which you can't really compare to scoring a film. At the end of the day, whether a film or game, you're musically telling a story, one that is interactive and long.

What makes the music for this Call of Duty different from previous entries in the series?

I think the emotional aspect of this Call of Duty sets it apart in an interesting way. Also, the future setting allowed more room for creative experimentation than if it was tied to a past or present era. The developers at Infinity Ward really wanted to try something different with this game, and that was a lot of fun for me.


Our exclusive coverage on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare continues all throughout June, so keep checking the hub for deep dives into the weapons, characters, and interviews as we journey to the stars with Infinity Ward's new take on the longstanding series.