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Choosing The Right Music For Your Video: Q&A with Dan Fisher

Music drives much of what we do at Bottle Rocket Media.  Not just in post, but in prep and on location as well.  We are proud to be featured on the Universal Production Music website.  Check it out!

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If you enjoy finding the “perfect” music cut as much as Bottle Rocket Media’s founder, Dan Fisher, it’s a welcomed challenge. Dan is an Emmy Award-winning video editor who shared his thoughts on choosing good music for your video.

How do you choose good music for a video you’re editing?

There is nothing quite as subjective as choosing good music for videos. After all, a lifetime of musical influence is much bigger than any one video or any one editor. If you grew up within earshot of a radio or a television you have been raised with musical influence – obvious or not. Were you raised on country or R&B? Do you like electronic music or rolling piano melodies? Are you a top forty listener or mostly talk radio? All of these affect how we choose the “perfect” track(s) for a video.

At Bottle Rocket Media, when we are not working with a composer we need to keep the process fluid in order to allow for creativity as well as collaboration. The only way to do this is with a robust stock music library. I am a huge fan of music libraries. The good ones are great and the mediocre ones are terrible. There is no in between. With a music library, I can search in a variety of directions – emotional (upbeat, sad…), technical (beats per minute…), stylistic (electronic, acoustic…), even instrumentation (guitar, piano…). And a really good library will have a client services rep who knows the catalog well. This will save you time and help you gather more options.

What is the creative process on choosing music?

Seasoned editors develop a short-hand regarding what kind of music is “supposed” to work in certain situations. Typically, this is dictated by the emotional direction of the video and/or the region of the world where the video will be viewed. Of course, this only helps narrow down the choices. After this it’s anybody’s guess what will connect with the audience. For this reason, I always just choose what sounds best to me. No mind games. If it fits the tone and it sounds good I use it.

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When do you begin to think about music tracks and what is your starting point?

We include music in everything we do, from script to final video. It’s helpful for the director, the actors, the editor and even the motion graphics designer. If I do not get direction from the client directly, I take my cues from the script, storyboards, and treatment. The tone of the video is usually pretty apparent from the onset of a project.

What do you avoid?

We are very collaborative at BRM. We take ideas from everywhere and the best idea always wins. That said, after the initial kickoff meeting, the fewer conversations we have about music, the better. It turns out that many people, even some of the most talented industry colleagues, cannot visualize how music will work in a video until they hear it in the video. So I like to pick music and present it with the first version. It shortens the conversation, allows us to find the final cue faster, and we get to be more creative with choices as well. We have had a great success rate with this method.

I assume ‘feeling/mood’ plays a huge role, talk to me about that.

Yes. It is everything. The mood of the script, the mood of the person picking the music, the mood of the editor and audio mixer. If anyone of these is dramatically out of alignment the music usually doesn’t work as well as we thought it would.

Joel-Futterman-and-Ike-Levine

What are some mistakes people often make when choosing music?

To me most of the challenges surrounding music are in the non-fiction space. With scripted material, you pretty much know your end product before you start. Tone, talent, design, etc. And often you have a composer to write music specific to the final video. In the non-fiction space, you often have to switch musical direction after the first version of the video. The tone could be slightly different than planned, the music might compete with speaker’s voice or pacing, or the footage may simply inspire a new direction. All of these challenges are what makes non-fiction/documentary editing challenging and exciting.

And, after all is said and done, I always try and avoid stereotypes… At Bottle Rocket Media we approach all aspects of the process with a fresh and unique perspective, especially music. Finding the perfect cut of music is a fun challenge, and if you enjoy music as much as I do it’s a welcomed challenge.

Any technical tips?

Too often I find a cut I love that competes with the voice of my interview subjects or voiceover artists, especially with piano. A great way to make a music cut work when your budget doesn’t allow for a professional audio mixer is to use an EQ effect on the music. Just pull down the mids and the problem usually goes away.

Hey, thanks, Dan!

Have a video that needs the perfect track? Contact us here.

What Is Your Brand Tone of Voice?

Brand Voice and Nailing the Right Tone With Video

Can you imagine any of your favorite movies, tv shows, or web series with a totally different soundtrack-like, what if The Sopranos’ theme song was switched with the one from Friends? Or, what if all the ROCKYs were suddenly stripped of music and replaced with canned laughter? Think about it. Sound can be just as impactful as visuals when it comes to almost any video production. While SFX and complex scores have been traditionally reserved for the most prominent in entertainment, marketing teams now use the same tools & techniques in setting the right tone for their own brands.

At Bottle Rocket Media, we have great admiration for the maestros that have given us so many audio-visual experiences to remember; John Williams rocked us in Star Wars, Hans Zimmer took us into a dream world in Inception, and Danny Elfman creeped us out in Beetlejuice. And wanna talk amazing SFX? How about every Pixar Toy Story installment – featuring crack teams of specialists just to ensure Woody’s spurs sound ‘authentic.’

Well, here’s the good news.

Thanks to the digital age, the same intense aural impact can now be made without the need for an orchestra, a recording studio, or a team of Foley artists with horns and blocks in tow. Modern technology has gone light years beyond what we imagined only 10 years ago. With small-footprint crews manning 360-video, VR, and drone technology, brands in almost every industry are dropping cost-effective music video-style presentations that move fast and send the right messaging; carefully selected sound solutions are more accessible than ever before, helping to bring tons of new products & services out of the shadows and into the light.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the power of sound in video:

  1. Zoë Gives Us the Chills

Have you heard of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response)? It’s a lot more interesting than it sounds. AND it’s a technique that won’t break the bank. In this example, featuring the talented Zoë Kravitz and an ice-cold bottle of Michelob Ultra: Pure Gold, we can almost feel the whisper of her voice, her fingertips against the glass, and the sounds of the pour – awakening our tactile senses and creating a spinetingling experience that’s both captivating and memorable. Never underestimate the power of giving your audience real goosebumps!

  1. Tom Cruise Terrifies Us in SFX-less Trailer

We’re not quite sure if this almost soundless trailer for 2016’s The Mummy was a major league screw up or a brilliant publicity stunt. Without traditional SFX to back up the action, audiences are left to fill the void with their own imaginations. For some of us at Bottle Rocket Media, it made the video more profound – especially when hearing Tom Cruise scream for his life, unaided and unenhanced. No SFX, just pure human terror!

For others, the unorthodox style detracted from the weight of the scenes – creating more of a ridiculous or unintended comedic feel. What do you think?

  1. Sounds of Space Give Theme to Promo Video

At Bottle Rocket Media, we are committed to ensuring our own brand familiarity through consistent themes that help hit target audiences, yet remain in line with our unique voice and mission. So, it stands to reason we would attempt a promo piece incorporating the sounds of satellites, NASA dispatchers, and of course, the earthshaking feel of a blast-off at Cape Canaveral – all while prominently displaying some of the valued clients that have helped us reach the stratosphere of 360-degree video production and soar beyond it.

Ready to Sound Off to the World?

Getting your brand to sound just right is not necessarily a quick process, and it can lead to a lengthy, frustrating wild goose chase across the endless chasms of the Internet before anything promising sticks out. So, for those of you eager to dive in, we highly recommend taking a gander at KillerTracks.com, one of our main sources of music. Also, for decent SFX, check out MotionArray.com. Finally, there is always YouTube, with many amazingly FREE options to explore.

Still stuck? Click here to find out how Bottle Rocket Media can help your brand get heard.