In my journey to become the best filmmaker I can possibly be, I took the common advice from respected professionals to experience areas beyond directing to understand the full scope of production. Therefore, here is the first of my five most interesting experiences as a student of the arts, along with a few tips for DIY film making.
MUSIC AND SOUND
When talking about cinema in relation to history, sound and music ushered in a new era of filmmaking and storytelling that revolutionized how we view movies today.
On a technical level, there’s sound and music. Different, but necessary for modern audiences.
Personally, music goes back to childhood, constantly evolving as I changed along with my tastes. When I started playing an instrument, that also opened doors and provided another perspective into the art. It’s a story shared by many others.
Sound, on the other hand, is something that I’m still studying. It’s becoming more and more crucial in post-production, that films seem lifeless without the sounds of the world that they are set in (except outer space, but even there we expect sound.)
2010. In my last year at film school, the seniors were required to take a specialty course with either the head professors or the dean herself. I took a course on film as art and activism, a small class of 20 students taught by the dean.
She was a fantastic instructor, and started every class with everyone going around the room stating their name and a movie they watched. If they hadn’t seen once since last time, their grade would get docked. It was the type of thing to get everyone not only comfortable but close. It worked, since we all broke into groups near midterm to work on our final documentary projects.
My group members were pretty quick on the draw during our first meeting. Two of the girls wanted to drive up to a student protest in UC Santa Cruz about tuition increases to film the event, as well as get some interviews with some of the people involved. The deal was that they would get the footage and the rest of us would spend time in the editing room.
When it came down to editing, it was pretty pedestrian. I had cut this in a way that seemed safe yet informative to general audiences. The girls saw my edit first and thought it was fine. A fifth member promised to create brochures.
My co-editor and friend Kevin, however, sensed something lacking: “Where’s the music? There’s no sound design?”
I let Kevin go at the editing program and listened to the changes that he made. Here and there he started adjusting the sound levels, asking me to find several different types of music on my phone. About an hour later, I listened to his changes and the difference was obvious: my cut told a story, his told it mad.
So after much polish, it came time to screening. The whole class went around and presented their projects. Everyone did a fantastic job and really covered their causes quite well.
After we played our film to the class, the lights went up to find something unseen, at least for us. Our professor was in tears. Noticing her situation, she quickly admitted that the final interview in our film – regarding a student’s inability to afford tuition for teaching – had really affected her on a personal level.
Today, when I’m in post-production, sound and music play just as important a role as the image presented. Whether it’s adding the finer details to create a world, or adding a score to move the viewer, it’s crucial – unless it’s aim is silence – to take the auditory element seriously.
But we aren’t made of money and the resources necessary to make this happen. There are countless ways in maximizing the potential of a smaller production, with guides and how-to’s located all along the net. Here are a few things though that I had picked up in my experiences in the field:
• A handheld recorder might be a good way to receive stereo sound in the shot. I’ve seen huge soundboards, recorders, and mixers wheeled into large sets before, but a pocket recorder (such as the H4) with a pole and shotgun mic will surprisingly get the job done for that atmospheric sound.
• USB Microphones can be a great alternative to renting out a studio. Now, if people have the opportunity to ADR lines (audio dubbing and recording) in an high-end facility then that works. But a tightly controlled space combined with a decent computer mic can work wonders after some post- production.
• Licensing music can be a hassle. Unless it’s public domain or is allowed by it’s owner, using someone else’s music can be a hassle especially if it doesn’t contour to the product. This has it’s own options:
◦ Find free artists online who independently write and release music for reasons such as this.
◦ With some money, hire an independent composer to create tracks that are similar to the ones you wish to use.
◦ Compose it yourself.
Here’s an example of what music can do for your video: