Case Study: The Expanse

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For me, one of the most innovative films of the last decade is Neill Blomkamp‘s thoughtful, sci-fi romp District 9. And a key element of its appeal is Clinton Shorter‘s dynamic score.

Clinton has been a customer of mine for a while, I am pleased to say, and had mentioned the possibility of working with me on creating something bespoke for one of his projects a while ago. Recently that opportunity came up, but… sometimes things don’t always go as smoothly as you’d hope!

He invited me to create some sounds for him to use on season two of The Expanse, a quirky and original sci-fi TV series. We decided to go with ZebraHZ and Diva on this project.

We kicked off with Clinton sending me some existing cues from the show, which he wanted adding to with some nice, modern synths. I managed, somehow, to completely misconstrue what he was after and send him a collection of patches that were a bit too organic and not analogue enough. I had over-compensated when seeing the instruction “not too synthy”. This became all too clear when Clinton mentioned he liked the Diva patches better than the ZebraHZ ones! But what was our loss is your gain, dear reader, as those unused sounds will feed into a future commercial release for Zebra.

I went back to the drawing board and, thanks to Clinton’s excellent feedback, we got back on track with some really fun and atmospheric synth sounds.

However, such are the machinations of the televisual world, after we had done this work together, there was a creative shift in direction that meant that The Expanse score stuck to a more orchestral and organic vibe already established in season one. A handful of pads snuck in, but the rest had to sit on the sidelines.

Fear not though, they will rise like the phoenix from the ashes to live another day. And, hopefully, Clinton and I will work together in the future, as we had good fun despite the slightly disappointing outcome. After all, it’s about the journey and not the destination!


  • Kav
    15/11/2019, 5:10 pm  Reply

    Hey Matt, as a huge fan of The Expanse myself, this case study caught my eye. Can you reveal which soundsets include the presets that didn’t get used? I suspect perhaps Praxis is one, but that’s a guess and I have no idea which of the ZebraHZ sets it might be. Love your presets in the various U-he factory sets. I already make regular use of Oxide too, and plan to expand my collection soon.

    • Matt
      15/11/2019, 6:15 pm

      The majority of the sounds that didn’t get used ended up in Zebra Vellum. 🙂

      Glad you’re enjoying Oxide.

    • Kav
      24/11/2019, 5:51 pm

      Thanks Matt, looks like Zebra Vellum just went to the top of my wish list in that case 🙂

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