Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Before adding music: Analyzing your video project, part of Introduction to Music in Film and Video.
- Let's talk about some things that we should generally always ask ourselves before adding music to any film. First, we need to really know and understand the purpose of the film and how each scene will contribute to this overall purpose. With this in mind, you may begin by simply creating lists of emotions, tones, ideas, and perceptions evoked by the film, and by each scene, and by key moments, and even by each character and setting.
After going through an exercise like this, it may become more clear about the similarities and relationships between scenes and settings and characters as well as the contrasts and surprises that exist. It's also important to go through the film and figure out what's happening emotionally, at the beginning and end of each scene, and how each transitions into one another. You should really pinpoint the main changes in ideas and themes, the key plot points, as well as major shift in character action or motivation.
That's because wherever there's a change in anything major, music is often involved. Also, it's necessary to figure out if there are specific music needs and requests. It may be that the plot or setting or character just screams for a certain song or style of song to be used in a particular part of the film. Or maybe the entire film's title is focused around a song's title or main lyrics. In this case, it's necessary to work out the rights to be able to license and needle drop a selection of that particular song into the film.
Now, of course, one more thing that's important to decide is when not to use music. You should really establish the moments that deserve to exist without the aid of score. Those portions of the film that need to breathe on their own. Bottom line, you should be constantly thinking about what your strategy is of when to use music and when not to use music, because your film will not be as effective if it contains a constant bombardment of audio wallpaper.
Then there are some scenes that might benefit from creative sound design rather than music. Any beat, tone, drone, or other sound effect has a tonality and a distinct set of sonic characteristics. So, often, you may want to convey your emotional undercurrents by using various sound design elements rather than music. Now, once the main emotions and tonalities of the film are clear, it's important to really dissect the pacing of the film and make sure that you plan for the tempo of the musical accompaniment to appropriately match it.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that slow music should accompany slow scenes and fast music should accompany fast scenes. Sometimes it can be the opposite or a combination of different types of techniques. In general, when you're planning to edit, it's generally recommended to cut your music to suit the edit and not the other way around. Particularly in long-form projects. Of course, in many types of short-form projects like commercials and music videos, cutting to the beat of the music is certainly acceptable.
But most agree that in long-form film projects, if too many edits sync to the beat, it can really take viewers out of the experience of the film. Even in short-form projects like music videos, if you cut to the beat of the music in an overly predictable way, viewers begin to anticipate cuts, which again, takes them out of the experience. So, all of that said, when you do cut to music, it's important to be thoughtful about each edit and to avoid predictability. So, once you've really worked to internalize the emotional intentions of the film and of each scene, and have worked to understand how the pacing of each scene contributes to the energy and overall arch of the film, it's time to bring music into the picture.
Again, there are numerous workflows that you can take from here, depending on quite a few factors. We'll talk about some of these options in the next movie.
- Understanding the impact of music on tone, emotion, subtext, rhythm, style, and theme
- Setting the music plan
- Working with preexisting music: public domain, Creative Commons, and production library music
- Working with a composer