Youtube Saturday: Looking at sound in Film

Yep, it's THAT time of the week again!

It’s been a while since my last post, but it’s finally back. This week’s youtube saturday is focused squarely on sound in films. This isn’t just limited to film scores, but dialogue, sound effects, atmospheric noise, and tips on how to get these best. But anyway, on with the show!

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The massive video editing extravaganza! – 50 tips! Part 8

Moving on to tips 36-40.

36. Title tools. Every editing program has them, but they can work differently. Learn how to use it. Try things out. Some of the more advanced editing programs allow you to create 3d titles. They can easily do scrolling credits as well, simply pasting a credits list from a notepad file can make extremely light work of it. Most of the time you can also do things with the individual letters themselves, spinning them around at different times, etc… You can be very creative with them, but it does have a learning curve. Just stick with it.

Titling with Sony Vegas - Drag onto the timeline and then write what you want seen

37. Affecting entire tracks. You can usually assign effects to entire tracks, allowing you to tint an entire sequence (or scene). This isn’t the only effect you can do this to. Any visual effect can be applied, although you usually want some form of colouring or feathering and such. Quick, easy and effective.

38. Saving effects. If you’re working on a special effects heavy film, you can often find yourself using the same effect over and over again. In virtually every editing program, you can store settings for effects, whether you drag the effect to a bin, or just create a new preset for the effect. You can then simply drag and drop the effect onto clips.

39. The joys of cropping. It can be very useful in picture in picture scenarios. You have a video to put into another one, but there’s a border/sections to cut out, etc.. Cropping in this instance is invaluable. Coupled with keyframes, you can also use it to wipe videos across the screen. In fact, you can have a virtual limitless amount of videos wiping and rewiping and such. Kinda cool huh?

The picture in picture effect. While not being cropping in the usual perpendicular sense, it's still effective for style

40. Using sound effects. Sound effects can be a joy to do. Just make sure that you have the sound effects for either the actions happening on-screen or immediately off screen. Having the sound of footsteps that never get acknowledged by the character and don’t actually show up can be distracting. It also implies happenings outside of the main story, not something you want to do. There’s a lot you can do with sound effects, but in general, you want to limit it, telling only as much as you have to.

Time to face the music

An image of Pro Tools at work. It goes hand in hand with AVID Media Composer

Sound in film cannot be underestimated. Sound effects within films add to the realism of the images going on screen. In essence sound effects help us accept what we see in films, whether those sound effects are created by said action or not.

Sound effects and dialogue are important in order to give a world substance. They are diegetic – come from the world we are trying to create, and are recognised by the characters in that world. We know that when an explosion goes off in a film, the characters react not just to the sight of it, but also the sound. Non-diegetic sound however, is different. It’s the music and such that is added to the story in order to emphasise the emotional and energetic aspects of the film.

Music can fill us with anything. For example, Gary Jules’s Mad World lends a sense of helplessness and depressive-ness for the film Donnie Darko. Likewise, the music for Resident Evil (the film) is full of energetic rock tracks, mirroring Alice’s ability and tendency to kick ass. Even the scene in Kick Ass, with the Banana Splits by The Dickies underscores both the energy that Hit Girl shows, along with her younger age.

Some films have an orchestra. I only have a guy that can play the triangle (me). Badly at that!

Overall, a soundtrack to a film is vitally important to a film. It’s one of the last things to be edited and if done right, can really invoke a lot of energy into a film. It’s the icing on a cake. This is no lie.

The rights to music though, have to be properly dealt with. Say for example the BNP using Kaiser Chief’s I Predict a Riot for one of their promotional videos. There’s always ways to get music for your films though, and still be able to show them publicly – such as do the music yourself, find a friend and corner work with them to get a suitable piece of music, or you could always purchase the rights from music sites, such as Jamendo.