Creating Music for Film: The Editor’s Perspective

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Our Guide to Creating Music for Films: The Editor’s Perspective 

Union Street’s sound designers and music producers work to evoke emotion, reflect mood and reinforce messages in our visual mediums to act as the audible glue that helps transform the story into a complete composition.

From our tailored tracks to our archive of diverse sounds and music, everything we make is individual and often involves creative collaborations across different disciplines.

Here is little bit of insight into the process and how we make this happen…

We always start with having an idea about the atmosphere we want to create for the film we are working on as soon as the concept has been envisioned. There are always set ‘feels’ for audio for some genres but it’s all about thinking outside the box and making your film different.

When all the storyboarding and pre-production planning has been finalised we pass this onto the composer. There is a meeting to discuss what we want the music to ultimately do, our vision for it. The key changes within in the film, the special moments of emotion or drama that need to be highlighted and the type of theme music we can imagine. The theme music is regarded as the music which is most recognised and will become associated to this film, so it will cover the intro and the conclusive parts. It is usually the strongest piece musically to allow impact and depth from the outset.

Discussing the intention of the video is also very important. So figuring out the target audience and the purpose of the film is absolutely key. In Terms of purpose whether it’s a marketing video or a documentary on a social issue this all has to be evaluated, understood and communicated between the team to help the composer to know the correct feel and atmosphere he will create.

From here the composer can begin playing around with instruments and draft some sound concepts.

Once filming is complete and we come back to the editing table, we begin creating our first draft. At this beginning stage we use the draft sound concepts created by the music producer & composer to help and act as a reference to the style to inform the editing in terms of pace and flow.

The first draft stage is when we export and send to the music producer and composer so they now have rough visuals for the first time to go off. Now they can actually begin some hard composing and put their musical ideas together and start creating the audio story to complement the visuals. It’s all about harmonising and forging these two mediums together to create a complete composition.

The music producer will take all the composed sounds and instrumentals, mix this into a single track which we can edit to the first draft so when it is screened to the client they can really begin to see what their film will look and sound like. Impact and quality in the initial drafting stages is imperative. Keeping the client happy and on board makes issues a lot easier and you can take their feedback into account going into the second draft. But if your first draft was not on point, it could be detrimental to the working relationship as your client always has expectations from you which they may or may not have made clear (often not!). Always listen very carefully to what the client wants and balance that with your creative and professional opinion. Think about how you are going to keep the client on board and give them what they want whilst cleverly making suggestions and even changes based on your expertise and opinion.

Going into the second and third drafts of the score… The envisioned concepts and themes from the outset will now start to take a grip and ensure the viewer goes on the intended journey! Well that’s what we hope! It really is a case of trial and error at this stage, trying out different ideas or adjusting the tempo, volume, pace, different instruments, whatever you need to do to develop your piece. You’ll have to work very closely with the composer to bring everything together and work through to the final draft… it’s a painstaking and challenging part of the process – communication is key! But patience is the most important tool – allowing the composer to do their job – which they can only do if you work closely with them and make your ideas, issues or problems really clear. Tweaks left right and centre here!

Tying up any loose changes and possibly re-cutting some of the footage to fit the score is always necessary as cutting video and the timing between shots is always different to timing between beats and instruments. Frustration can occur when visual bits have to be cut down to have the intended overall impact. But vice-vera can happen – if the audio needs to be cut down in order to allow another bit of important footage to be inserted – this could alter the shole score. A good composer will keep their cool and figure out a way to make it stretch without the viewer realising.

Last thing to do is master the score so all the levels are at their best performance to maximise the cleanliness of the sound and to adjust and set the amplitude levels with the film. So double checking  any dialogue can be heard perfectly and the music is their to reinforce the content and set the correct mood and not to over power any elements. Raising levels to highlight certain points can control the viewer’s attention and engagement throughout the whole film. Clever little touches like this happen at this stage. Be bold and make quick decisions as time is often running out…

The finished product should be a complete composition with audio and visual behaving as one and producing a rich and entertaining experience for the target audience.

The times when we compose our own music to bring our films to life are when we feel more alive! Adding another dimension to our work with our own hand-crafted, beautifully scored soundtracks gives us so much joy we need to share it with the world. So here are all the tracks we’ve ever made for our films in one place. Chill out to the ambient sounds or check out the quality of our work. Whatever you do, make sure you visit us at soundcloud.com/union_street_ma