What is a Music ‘Polaroid’?

The ‘Polaroid’ (before mix):

Polaroid Picture

Finished Music Cue (after mix):

Tower Bridge

If a music cue is labelled as ‘Polaroid’, then it is a musical sketch, for demonstration purposes only.

Music cues are made initially as these computer-rendered ‘Polaroids’, until all of them have been finished to the director’s satisfaction. The music recording & mixing session then takes place, to bring all music cues to glorious cinematic life.

Some composers waste a lot of time making ‘Polaroids’ sound like the finished product, early in music production. That’s like making architects’ plans with cement. While doing this may delight a director temporarily, it impinges on composition time which can more fruitfully be spent making the score finer in the long-term for the director’s film.

A ‘Polaroid’ music track may necessarily use slightly weaker-sounding, ‘place-holder’ sounds, before the music mixing session. Without wasting time, the composer will take steps to make the demo music cue resemble the final mix as far as possible at that longer, early stage. Leaving the recording and mixing stages to the end in this way, optimizes the music production time. Smiley

Once music is recorded and mixed, it becomes locked to an extent and more laborious to change. Rest assured: music mixes can also be tweaked during the mix after all ‘Polaroids’ have been approved.