Audeze teams up with Brian Lee White, half of award winning production duo Finishing Move

May 30, 2024

 Finishing Move is an award-winning production duo composing music and sound design for games, television, and film. Formed in 2013 by long-time collaborators Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White, Finishing Move is best known for their iconic video game scores including The Callisto Protocol, Borderlands 3, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Crackdown 3, the Halo Master Chief Collection and Halo Wars 2. With a sound best described as a hybrid-electronic score, the duo prides themselves on a cutting-edge sound design that combines synthesis, sampling, and live instrumental performances into unique sonic textures.
Brian Lee White wearing Audeze LCD-5 Headphones
"The LCD5's top to bottom resolution is just incredible, so the confidence boost in delivering excellent translation was nearly instant." - Brian Lee White
Here's our chat with Brian:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

We have been fortunate enough to have worked on some of gaming's all time greatest franchises, including Halo, Borderlands and Microsoft Flight Simulator, which has been quite surreal. On the score for Borderlands 3 and the various DLCs that followed, we had the opportunity to create a totally wild, “nothing off limits” soundtrack that combined various musical styles and genres. We were able to experiment with different instruments and techniques, and combine those with a super cool generative music system resulting in a truly immersive experience for the players. Additionally, our multiple collaborations with 343 Industries on the Halo series has been a great honor, getting to contribute to the iconic music of a beloved franchise was really a surreal moment for us. Also, shout out to the Crackdown 3 soundtrack. It's super underrated, so give it a spin, even if you haven't played the game!

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

Our job, first and foremost, is to create a unique, immersive musical experience that amplifies the project's overall vision. We work hand in hand with the developers and creative teams, ensuring our music fits the story, gameplay, and emotional swings within the game or media we're working on. But with games, it’s not just about writing cool music; it’s about how that music interacts with the gameplay as it unfolds in real time.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

We both got started in music at a young age, playing guitar, starting bands, and experimenting with different styles. Growing up, we were both big fans of 80s and 90s metal, groups like Megadeth and Metallica and other guitar centric stuff of that era. Later we both developed more eclectic tastes, especially leaning into the vast depths and micro genres of electronic music. Now having worked professionally for nearly 20 years, pretty much any style or genre can become an inspiration for our creative output. Whether that's coming from a client looking to capture a specific sound or even interesting sound sources we come across in life. The sound of an oven door creaking can be sampled and stretched out to become a haunting pad, garden tools can become unique textures to layer in with percussion, we love to treat all sound as having musical inspiration and potential.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

Hans Zimmer has been a huge influence on both of us. His groundbreaking work in film scoring, using musical sound design in large-scale scores instead of just an orchestra, was a game-changer. We're always on the hunt for new inspirations that push the limits of game music and expand what audiences get to hear. And of course, collaborating with talented artists and composers over the years has shaped our sound and approach. Recently we had a chance to work with the double bassist Yair Elazar Glotman on some really cool experimental source material for our score to The Callisto Protocol, where the bass was treated less as a traditional orchestral instrument and more as a sound design palette for us to warp into terrifying and mind bending horror soundscapes.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Game music has this unique challenge – you can't predict how a player will play or how a situation will unfold. This means a lot of trial and error in the composing process. Write something, pop it into the game, test it, and see if it works. Sometimes what you think will work doesn't quite hit the mark. Like this one time, we were scoring some super intense combat scenarios with zombie monsters. The immediate instinct was to go full throttle with the music – epic percussion, intricate orchestration, rapid tempos. But once all the sound design was layered in (imagine tons of bone-crunching gore sounds), it was just a chaotic noise soup. In a film or TV show, you'd be able to tweak the music during the dub mix, but games are different. Everything happens real time, based on the player's actions, so it's never the same twice. We ended up reversing our initial approach, simplifying the music, removing heavy rhythmic elements and focusing on tension-building layers that didn't crowd the mid-range. Would we approach it differently next time? Maybe, but every game, every map, every encounter is different, so you can't be sure what will work until you get in there and try it out. So, being flexible and ready to adapt to how the gameplay is shaping out is critical.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

Our go-to gear often depends on the specific project and its unique requirements. Because of the revision-heavy needs and asset complexity of video game production, we tend to do most of the mixing and finishing work entirely in the box, as most cues are broken into dozens if not hundreds of pieces that all need to be quickly exportable with a couple mouse clicks. We really like to develop bespoke sample libraries and sampler instruments that we build custom for each project and then use internally as we write cues. We also enjoy building and using unconventional instruments and recording techniques to add a distinctive character to our music. A few years back we even released a Kontakt instrument called “Post Human”. It features some of our experimental pad sounds we developed during Halo Wars 2.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Stay persistent, be open to learning from every experience, and embrace the random moments that come with being a creative professional. We didn't start our journey intending to become video game composers, but now it's a key part of who we are professionally. You never know where different opportunities or connections might lead. Develop your unique voice as a composer and always push yourself to explore new ideas and techniques. When networking and collaborating with other professionals, consider non-musical aspects too – like being reliable, being a good person, and just being someone people want to be around, even during stressful "crunch time". Above all, be passionate about your work and the projects you choose to be a part of. And don't sweat about being a "jack of all trades". AI tools will soon be able to do a mediocre job at everything, so having a truly unique and original voice is more crucial than ever.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

We've been using headphones for as long as we've been making music. They're essential for us. We use them for all the typical stuff – critical listening, fine-tuning details, and making sure our mixes sound good across different environments. We often test game builds on gaming headphones plugged directly into the controllers (Xbox/Playstation/etc) to get a real feel for how most people will experience the game, including any virtual spatialization/surround processing in the game engine. Headphones also give us a more focused listening experience, which comes in handy when working on detailed sound design elements or composing in a noisy environment.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

The LCD-5's top to bottom resolution is just incredible, so the confidence boost in delivering excellent translation was nearly instant. When you can reference your work and know for a fact you are missing nothing that might have slipped past you on monitors, that's worth its weight in gold (or maybe more, because these LCD-5 are so lightweight and comfortable there is zero fatigue).

We recently released our original soundtrack score to The Callisto Protocol on limited edition double vinyl, courtesy of Decca Records US. We are currently working on several new triple-A titles due out in 2024, 2025 and beyond that are yet to be announced, but it's safe to say there will be no shortage of opportunities to put more miles on the LCD-5's both inside and outside the studio.

Audeze LCD-5 headphones in the studio