Still, he calls that film an exercise in what the post-production company was capable of doing. The project that followed was The Last Samurai, which began with the idea of instrument design. "It ended up being just Hans and myself in the studio at 4am in the morning, with him triggering taiko drum sounds with a modular synth and manually creating different velocity layers," Mark recounts. "He had one hand on the filter cut-off frequency and the other holding a Marlboro Light, and it was exactly the studio experience you'd always dreamed about! We spent weeks recording [them], using what was unbelievably expensive digital outboard gear like Sony's convolution reverb, and just doing sound design."
When it comes to the scoring process today, it has largely remained the same. Having around two or three months to work on a film and think it through, Zimmer often begins with sound design, recording a new vocabulary of sounds to kick off the composition process: "Dunkirk, for instance, was all about ticking clocks and little noises; with Interstellar, it was working with church organs."
Wherry's job, then, is supporting Zimmer's vision from a technical standpoint, and many times this begins with creating MIDI plug-ins for Cubase. "Since Hans comes from that modular world with step sequencers, he'll often ask: 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a MIDI plug-in that does this?'" Mark shares. However, supporting the creative vision doesn't stop at developing plug-ins.
Early on, whilst working on Batman Begins in 2005, Mark developed a networked MIDI system to overcome the limitations of the solutions that were commercially available at the time. "Back then, we were using Emagic's Unitor eight-port MIDI interfaces in a 64-port configuration," he explains. "Since we were moving two studios to England to work on that project, it made logistical sense to find software-based alternatives where possible. So, I wrote a Windows driver and then crossed my fingers it would work!"
Since the very beginning, Mark had a desire to bring more server-oriented technology into what was essentially a personal computer-driven environment. "In the early 2000s, people were using individual computers as samplers and it was a very old-fashioned way of building a studio, connecting everything with MIDI and audio cables," he tells me. "At that time, you'd be rebooting the computer every couple of hours, usually due to a crash, compared to the server world where you might be required to do that every few months. So there was a big chasm in the reliability and the general infrastructure between the two domains."