AUP230 - Music Intensive

What was initially meant to be a music intensive, in the end it became a blend of music and post production. I was assigned to work on the music editing of a short film. That is, instead of composing to picture, I would source the music from royalty-free resources, find a set of tracks that'd fit with the genre and edit them to picture.

The initial challenge was to find a royalty-free music website; while there are plenty out there, I was looking for one that allowed me download stems for better flexibility in the editing process. Coincidentally, I have been researching about music services for a while due to my major project, which is entirely based on video production for YouTube. The best solution I found was Epidemic Sound, a Swedish production music library, whose goal is to help creators tell stories with quality music. A few YouTubers I follow subscribe to them, and I decided to give it a shot. For creators with less than 500,000 views per video the subscription price is $15, and the creator is allowed to use any of their tracks, free of copyright, and the best part is that all tracks come with stems.

Since it's this intensive is an academic project, I'm using the tracks for academic purposes. If the director enjoys my work and decides to use the tracks, he or she will need to purchase the license for them, which can be quite expensive. A full song costs $99 or $0.99 for each second. From this perspective this approach is quite disadvantageous, although for the sake of the assignment, it has been quintessentially helpful.

The film has got a noir cinematography style, and my intention with the opening scene was to musically reflect that. The opening scene illustrates the main character packing his bags for a photo shoot: you see him tying this shoes, placing camera lens inside the bag, zippering his jacket and directing himself towards the door. This scene reminded me a lot of the Dexter (TV show) introduction, where it shows Dexter's daily routine before going to work. What's clever about it is the perfect synchronisation between sound design, music and video. What I imagine it happens in situations like this is that the production team plans ahead and decides which music they are going to use and how they are going to film it in order to make it work seamlessly. Another example of this approach is the opening sequence of the TV show, True Blood. Despite not having being able to compose the score--I'm not a musician--, I searched for a track that'd fit the mood of the scene and then edited it to fit with hit points. Due to the noir feel of the film, I went with jazz.

What was interesting about using jazz is that it gave the impression that the film is laid-back and casual, while it is not. As it develops, the lead character is surprised by the presence of his wife in the apartment he's photographing from afar. In that moment, the score changes to a suspenseful mood, which I also referenced from Dexter as the series disguises itself from being suspenseful to thriller. Unfortunately, I can't publish the track here, but you can preview the video on the right to get a sense of what I was looking for.

Being a music project, I didn't want to work on sound design not to put a lot of pressure over my shoulders. I haven't been going through a good time lately, so I decided to play it relatively safe on this project and solely stick to two elements: music and dialogue. 

The dialogue edit for this film has been quite challenging as there are plenty os silent moments, not to mention that it was recorded very low, which therefore complicates the repairing process. A trick I've been using to rectify the lack of room tone is that of creating room tone out of convolution reverb.

The process is very simple, and powerful. What you’ve got to do is extract around 10 seconds of perfect room tone; it needs to be clean of extraneous noise such as pops, clicks and the like. Once you have finished the edit, export the roomtone to an audio file, instantiate an audio track an insert the following plugins in the exact order:

 - Signal Generator (White Noise)

- Waves IR-L

- EQ

Then, load the exported room tone into IR-L as an impulse response. You’ll notice that the white noise being generated will now have a reverb that simulates the ‘timbre’ of our original room tone. Finally, you’ll need to EQ the reverb to match the overall sound of the room tone and lower the output. 

And there you have it. Since I will be delivering the project only next Friday, April 6, I’ll write another blog supporting this one with further detail.