Using Stock Music

This chapter in the book discusses how to choose and edit stock music so that it seems to have been scored for your video as opposed to just tacked on. The result can be a massive improvement in the overall quality of the production.

While I have been using the formula covered in this chapter for several years, it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been generally pleased with the results. Below you’ll find several different samples of the result with some notes on each.

As a note, one of the attributing factors to improved results came as a result of using the Audio Jungle website.  The reason for that is the ability to go to the portfolio of someone whose music you like. I might have found a piece that was a great piece, and the sort of thing I was looking for, but disappointingly it didn’t quite fit. So I’d go to the person’s portfolio on Audio Jungle and see what else he or she had. Not only would I find several more pieces that were generally suitable for the types of videos I do (and could ‘favourite’ them for future reference), I’d very often find the exact piece I needed. There might be several artists I generally like and I’ll check each one’s portfolio until I find what I’m looking for.

As I write this, the latest improvement on the Audio Jungle site is the ability to very specifically narrow down your search to the length you’re looking for (in addition to genre, instrumentation and tempo). So if my video was looking to come out at about 3:15, I’d set the parameters to 3:10-3:25 or something like that. This really speeds up the process of finding a suitable piece of music for what you’re working on.

Now let’s get to some finished examples. If you’re here to study the stock music model outlined in the book, do watch each video all the way through. Listen for the different cues of music (distinct phrases or melodies within the song), shifts in tempo, how certain edits align with the beat and even how often something the person is saying is complemented by the music.

Example 1:  PTA UK Case Study, Leyland Saint Mary’s High School

This is, so far, my favorite match of music to video.

It is also the first time I used two different pieces of music in a video, mainly due to it’s length.

The video is about how a PTA was formed in the aftermath of an arson fire that destroyed most of a school. The natural story-telling method is “Problem/Solution”. We start off with documenting the incidence of a devastating fire and it’s consequences, then end with how the formation of the PTA contributed to the successful continuance and improvement of the school. That required two different moods of music for each respective part of the video.

In the chapter I talked about how you can mark certain significant music cues to align with certain significant narrative or pictures. It happened several times in this video, but the most important one for me came near the end. The head teacher has just finished off her points about the past to the present and then shifts to what she hopes it will mean for the future. There was a point near the end of the music piece where there was a break and shift of mood to the final cue. This is a point I made sure to align to the narrative.  Other less important timings were accomplished simply by where and how I edited the B roll to the music. There were also some ‘happy accidents’ where the music seemed to echo the narrative without me doing a damn thing.

Example 2:  PTA UK, Annual Gold Star Awards

Another PTA UK video, this one much simpler. It’s essentially an assembly edit of an event driven by interview narrative. This was one of those cases where I found the music piece I knew it was perfect. It didn’t take me long to find it and I didn’t waste any time looking for anything else or anything ‘better’.

Confession: I just noticed in reviewing this that the volume shift of the music at the end was a bit too sudden. Whoops. That’s a mistake.

Example 3: Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust

This was a pure assembly edit with no narrative. Therefore I had total freedom to edit to the music without getting too robotic or crazy about it. There are perhaps a few dozen edits that are very specific to the music which will be very evident.

Again, for some reason, it didn’t take me very long to find this piece, but when I did I knew it was perfect. This video had different ‘chapters’ to it in a way. There was a section on working with special needs kids, and even a subdivision of dealing with wheelchair-bound kids, as well as a special needs tournament, but there was also a section on able-bodied kids as well as a subsection having to do with country activities outside cricket.

The piece of music I found had built-in ‘chapters’ to it and was of the right mood and tempo, so I knew it would work.

The video itself, was an unplanned one. The footage was part of a broader commission, but when I found out there was going to be a Marleybone Cricket Club fundraising dinner at Belvoir Castle with the Duchess of Rutland and various celebrities in attendance, I  offered to create a promo that could be shown at the dinner.

I took the best B roll that I had at that time (which totaled 8 minutes), then laid it all down on the editing timeline organized in blocks of shots that represented the various ‘chapters’ mentioned above.

I then put the music underneath, leaving room for the title sequence.

I put markers on the various significant ‘chapters’ in the music and then, block by block, whittled each chapter down to my best shots, and then edited them into the timeline to the music.

It was a very fast edit.

Example 4: Why Choose Redstones

This is a more typical example of fitting music to an edit. In this case because I was editing multiple interviews to construct the narrative, the narrative took more priority in the editing process. So in this case I completed the entire edit first and then selected a piece of music I felt would fit. This was also a case where, after finding the music, it was necessary to extend the music to fit the length of the edit. In some cases I timed certain action in the B roll to fit beats of the music, and in one or two cases I adjusted things so that the narrative would hit a certain music phrase or beat, but for the most part, this was a case of narrative determining the edit, finding music that would be suitable and then making a few adjustments to the edit in regards to the music.