Posts Tagged ‘Music in video’

What do you think of music in this video?

May 15, 2009

Ever met a musician who overplays? His fingers fly over the fretboard or keybard, but he never really stops for a breath. That’s because he’s never learned to use silence as a musical tool.

One very effective way to use music in video and other multimedia projects is to use its very absence. That is illustrated beautifully in Edmund Fountain and Catriona Stuart’s “For Their Own Good,” a project they did this year for the St. Petersburg Times/tampabay.com. (Disclosure: I’m a former colleague of both journalists).

It’s a moving story, wonderfully told. The spare, piano-based music is just right for the project. And just as the piece approaches its emotional climax, the music abruptly stops – focusing attention on the most moving moment.

You can see and hear the piece here.

Angela Grant over at News Videographer recently asked her viewers their thoughts on the way music was used in the project. You can see my comments, and hers, on her site. Check it out – it’s an interesting difference of opinion.

Use of music embraced by New York Times

March 30, 2009

One of the reasons I started this blog was to celebrate and promote the use of music in nonfiction multimedia projects. So I was delighted to see this video from the Nieman Journalism Lab of New York Times multimedia producer Amy O’Leary explaining just how she used music in a groundbreaking election project.

O’Leary, one of journalism’s brightest multimedia lights, clearly explains why customized music so often can add just the right touch to multimedia work. In the election piece, she says, she searched in vain for appropriate music in the Times’ library of canned clips. Unable to find what she needed, she decided to create the soundtrack herself:

So using Apple Loops and GarageBand and Soundtrack Pro, I would develop a baseline score — so sort of a feel for a couple of the chapters. There were slightly different feels for the intro and the middle chapter and the later chapters. And then, after the piece was fully done, at the last minute, I would go back in and tweak the score. So I would make sure that a certain, you know, a cello hit would happen right when the photo was appearing and really adjust the score so that every moment was weighted, and that it was pulling out at the right moments and coming in at moments that were interesting. And trying to really — you know, it’s the difference between an off-the-rack suit and a custom tailored suit. It fits much better when you give it that level of detail and attention.

If you watch the Neiman video, you’ll see that O’Leary’s larger point involves the use of music in general. The Times, like many other traditional paper-based news organizations, is conservative in its use of music, fearing that improper or unskilled use of music could manipulate viewers’ emotions. O’Leary carefully explains how she insisted that original music was not only appropriate, but even necessary for her piece to reach its full potential.

It’s not surprising that so many journalists fear using music in multimedia storytelling – a fear expressed in this blog recently by Poyter’s legendary writing coach Roy Peter Clark. After all, most of us come from the traditional, conservative, high-minded world of newspapers. We are by nature suspicious of new storytelling tools — especially those used by radio or — gasp! — television.

But the very attraction of multimedia is that is has the power to engage all the senses. Why would we rob viewers of the power of music? Think, after all, about the great documentarians like Ken Burns, who used original music so effectively to help tell the story of the Civil War.

Can bad music distract viewers? Can overwrought music manipulate listeners’ emotions? Of course – just as bad words or images can distract or manipulate viewers.

The answer isn’t to eschew music. We should embrace music – that is, music used with skill and restraint. As we fight tooth and nail for viewers and readers,  I believe it’s a tool we can’t afford to do without.

Sean Daly’s Top 10 John Williams themes

March 28, 2009

My former colleague at the St. Petersburg Times, star music writer Sean Daly, has made public his provocative list of the best John Williams movie themes. As you listen to his choices, consider what makes Williams a master: instantly memorable melodies set in lush, evocative musical backgrounds. We could all learn a lot from the master. Thanks to friend/multimedia design wiz Desiree Perry for pointing this fun project out to me.