Selecting a Soundtrack


Creating a Video From Start to Finish


Lesson Info

Selecting a Soundtrack

As we kind of move off of this idea of like storyboarding, and this idea of editing choices, there is a major choice that we do have to make and it involves a soundtrack, okay? And that soundtrack can be really, really challenging for us because a lot of times, we don't know the perception of music, we don't know how the client's gonna respond to it. With client profiles a lot of times, you've gotta be so specific with the type of music you pick because if it's too fast or too slow or too rocky or too, you know, country, or whatever it is, it could detract away from someone who's watching that video. So picking the most neutral and picking the most non-invasive song is probably the best, and then picking something that's gonna just gradually, slightly, lightly push your edit, okay, and give it a beat and a tempo. That's what selecting the soundtrack will do. So the thing that I like to hang on is just not pick songs you know. There's a million reasons why you shouldn't do that, okay. A...

few of them is like often times we pick songs we know, we have emotional attachments to them, okay. We pick emotional songs, we're like, "Oh gosh, I love that song," you know, "That Adele song is so good," you know, and you put it in the edit. Just 'cause you have an emotional attachment to that song doesn't mean your client has the same emotional attachment. Whereas a song may be reminding you of something very great in your life, it could potentially be reminding them of something horrible in theirs and now you've just attached this video to that horrible memory. That's just the obvious one. The next one is it will date your film. It will date your film because I can think of a lot of wedding videos, right, a lot of wedding videos that had some music on it and you're like, "Outside of the fashion, I know this was the '80s." All right? So, in addition, don't use copyrighted material. We're at the point now where if you upload a video to YouTube and it's got copyrighted music, they'll kill it. They'll tell you to take it down, so don't even do it. For a number of different reasons. It's expensive. If you end up using it, getting the rights for it is expensive, lawyers. And then there's plenty of music elsewhere, and I use a service called Triple Scoop Music. Triple Scoop Music provides royalty-free music, so you purchase a license for something and then it allows you to use that song in perpetuity for whatever you're using it for, okay, and you can buy different levels of it and whatnot, but it's all royalty-free and the music is actually pretty decent. They've got thousands and thousands of songs, which is both a benefit and a curse, you know. But anyway, I've got a question back there. Do you offer your clients like options for songs? I do, I do. Like and let them pick? I do. This one I didn't. Because of the speed of the edit, what I tend to do is during the rough, okay, I did this with a couple where I provided the same rough with three different songs or I ask them a lot, like, what type of music they think they want and then usually I go in the opposite direction, you know, just to kind of give them something that's a little bit different than what they're used to. I know what my musical tastes are and so typically a lot of people don't like my musical tastes, so I'm pretty safe not like using my stuff, so it's pretty easy. And your question? Do you have any thoughts about the Triple Scoop Music Service in particular versus, I know that there's a royalty-free music available through the Creative Cloud on Adobe. You know I haven't used Creative Cloud's royalty-free service. You know, I think what I like about Triple Scoop is they've been doing this for a long time. They've been in the business of providing royalty-free music as long as I've actually been a photographer and I know that they're very passionate about providing their users with new, fresh material. Their system, which you can pick a song, is actually pretty neat. You can pick by like mood, you can pick by genre, you can pick by instrument, right, you can pick by different things and pick a key word, for example. And I think like the tool of selecting a song on that website I found to be more I guess easy than some of the other sites that I've tried, and I'm a little biased 'cause I've known them for a long time, and so I just think that they have such an intimate familiarity with the needs of photographers and filmmakers that the service they provide is really top-notch. And they come from the photo space, you know. They have lots of roots in the photo space so they know what photographers want and they know what photographers need, but a lot of their artists are actually like signed artists that are recording under a different name, you know, a lot of their artists are phenomenal real musicians that are creating this royalty-free music but not just publishing under their band name or whatever it is, so it's really, really neat. It's a really, really cool service, okay. So selecting a soundtrack. Dedicate time because it's important. You can spend so much time crafting your story and then what ends up happening is you pick the wrong song and it tanks it. It just makes it just go whooooo, right. When you're picking a song, so do you only go for like music only, or would you actually pick a song that has singing in it and when? You know that's tricky, that's tricky. I'm an instrumental guy and that's me. I'm an instrumental guy and that's me because I don't want words competing against what my client's saying. But I do know that there's a possibility for you to use like lyrical songs underneath what someone's saying, like if it's a really emotional piece. You know, you could do that to kind of drive that emotion. I've just erred on the side of instrumental just simply because I don't want, I really just don't want anything to distract away from what the client is saying. So picking that emotion, picking that thing that you can really hang on is something that is gonna really help your edit. I'd rather prefer you do that because you've gotten yourself so far at this point. You're actually about ready to deliver. All you gotta do is get it to color grade and then back through and you're done, so the last thing you wanna do is pick the wrong song and then have to go back and pick another one later. Now when I talk about dedicating time, I actually like to listen to music when I edit, but a lot of times, that can be distracting and you know, if I'm editing on my laptop and I try to do Spotify that can tank it, you know, so what I'll do is I'll cue up Spotify on my phone and I'll put my headphones on and as I'm working I'm just editing, you know, and you're wondering, "Well, how can you hear what he's saying?" I will a lot of times put my headphones around my neck and just let them play ambiently as I'm working and trying to listen, 'cause I need something to drive me. I need to hear something in terms of rhythm so I can get the internal rhythm of this film going. Some people like to generally pick a song. They pick a song, they go onto Triple Scoop, they download a test song, they throw it to their timeline and they edit to that, just generally. They don't really edit to it, they just throw something in there just so that it can actually take up that empty space, that open space a little bit, so you get that opportunity just to be like, "Oh, okay, here's what it could sound like." Then a lot of times my first song that I pick is, I don't ever use it. It just gets me in the general direction of what I think or feel like this edit's gonna be. I'll show you, I went through like a ton of songs for this edit because I was looking for something that would just help drive it, but not overpower it because here's the thing, if I picked a rocking song and paired it here, it would be so intense, right. If I picked a too soft song, they'd seem wussy. If I picked like a medium song, that might be it, but if it had like too many high notes, it would seem silly. So these are words that I'm using because these are the types of words you have to think about as you're listening. Is it silly, is it fierce, is it scary, is it funny? Okay, question. Are you ever using more than one song? Try not to. I try not to use more than one song because remember our edits are two or three minutes and thirty seconds. Our edits are very, very short, so think about all the work that goes into picking one song and then multiply it by two for a two-minute video. That's almost unbearable for me, right? I need to know when to say no and that's what I say no to for myself is like I'd only use one song, but however, there's always a caveat, right? If you like the beginning of one song and you like the end of another, you could cross fade them if they're on the same key and there's like other things that you can just fade one and go into the other. You can do that and that's something that is possible as well. Timing clips and edits with the beat of the music. I mean, obviously if it's a dance track, that makes sense, but I mean is that always critical or only in certain cases? That's a great question. I think stylistically as you guys reach into your edits a little bit more, you're gonna find out that when you cut to the beat, it's gonna give you a feeling. When you cut to the offbeat, it's gonna give you a feeling. When you don't cut to the beat at all and just let it play, it's gonna give you a different feeling, so I encourage you to practice with that because it's gonna provide you an understanding. Like I, for example, if I'm filming a piece and it's fast-paced action, I will cut to the beat every single time because as we're like, 'cause the song's in there, yeah, and they're gonna watch it, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, if it's like the beat's here and it's like all the cuts are off, it's like, oh. If the beat's one thing, and you're cuttin' to the offbeat, right, it's gonna be really, really offsetting and that could be a thing you want, to get people to stop, "Whoa, hey, it's like syncopated." "I get this." Oh, yeah, I delved in a lot of music too. See I had a lot of interests growing up. I guess that's why I'm so different, I don't know. Different. All right, so moving on. So tips for picking a soundtrack. Use a three-word system. A three-word system is like pick three adjectives. Happy, silly, fun. And try to pick a song that's gonna hit those three words. Think about the film that I'm trying to do for Ivan. I wanted do inspirational, I wanted to do family-like and I wanted to do does it feel like a community, you know, is it camaraderie? So things that invoke or evoke that type of emotion from you, that type of, you know. Think about adjectives. Think about three words that you can use to truly, definitively identify that song as part of your film. Then think about how it makes you feel, and please, please, please, use something royalty-free. And it's only because if you guys were to go to a website and see your image and your movies on someone else's site, uncredited, how would that make you feel? And I know that it's like so different because sometimes recording artists are making multi-million dollars, but there are a lot of recording out there that aren't making anything. So I'm kind of like a big karma person, right, so let's make sure that as a group, as a collective, as a group of artists, that we respect all forms of artwork. That is so important to me, you know, because there are so many things out there that people pour their heart and soul into and you guys are gonna do the same thing and we've got to respect everyone who's on this side of the art wall because we are all really, really struggling jus to find a voice to be creative. And when we have the privilege of using other people's work in our own, we wanna make sure that they're compensated for it. All right, so Hollywood uses music and these next two slides, I love them so much that I resurrected them from my last class. And I love them so much because it just hammers home just the way music makes us feel when we watch a piece of film. So Hollywood uses music for emotional impact. So here we go, ready? Ready. Some of the best cinematography in the world is about to happen right now. (piano music) (laughs) All right, right? So that, that felt really, really love and like feelings and stuff, right? No words, no audio, right. Stripped all the audio out. Really, really simple shot. It was in the parking lot. I was at a workshop learning how to use a red, you know, and we shot that and I was like, "You know, we're gonna use this." And the thing is right. What did I say earlier? What did I say earlier in the class? Every time I get back to this ground level with everyone, it's we were able to watch that silly, horribly shot, horrible cinematography piece of clip because it said something. It was silly, it spoke to us. You don't need to make your first project something astronomically amazing to say something. You just gotta shoot something now so you can learn how to say something. So now this one. Hollywood uses music to enhance the mood of a scene. So what are you gonna think about this one? Same scene, same exact scene, different music. (triumphant orchestra music) Okay? That was, uh, I was like Superman like yeah, let's go do something. Same clip, different song, different feeling. This is so, so, so powerful for us because now we're gonna look at the heart of the story. What's gonna be here, what's gonna be here? It's gonna change the mood, it's gonna give and evoke something different for us, and. (light piano music) Not quite love, it's just more sweet. Yeah, it's less different, but I mean, same clip, same clip, different songs. It's like two best friends, right, as opposed to two lovers before, you see? And that's what's so great about what music can do for us when we actually pair it with an edit. That's why you have to pay attention to this. That's why I'm dedicating that time to this. So important. So important, and I love that because there was no other way for me to convey that simple message than by just to resurrect those old slides because it was just too perfect. So what do you guys think? How we doing? Do you ever listen to royalty-free music on your off time or like if you're. My biggest issue is listening to Spotify walking going, "Man, this would be great to an action scene." "How much is a Beastie Boys license?" $12,000. Do you ever intentionally try and pick music out so that when you do have a project come up or like keep songs in a can where this song won't work for this project, but man the next one I have really action heavy one, I'm gonna save this one for later. So what I do in my daily life is I'll listen to a lot of Spotify or to like my iTunes, you know, and that kind of thing and I'll take note of what I feel when I hear a certain instrument or a certain beat. What I feel when I hear a certain type of music. And then what I'll do is when I go into an edit, I'll switch from listening to my personal music and switch to listening to royalty-free music that feels like what I have cataloged in my brain for those adjectives of like funny and silly and happy and all those things. So there is a definite switchover. I think that streaming royalty-free music like on a device like an iPod right now is a little difficult for me 'cause you gotta go to the website kind of thing, but it's really easy when I'm at a station, to just cue it up and just let it play, and you can build. You can go through and just build every time you click something and build a list and you just play that playlist as you're editing just so you can kind of get a feel for what types of music would work for this edit. That's exactly what I did for this one. I went to Triple Scoop, I cued it up, just streamed it and then just kind of edited, just kind of edited. And I was like, "Ah, I don't like that one." Just kept editing, and then once I got to a song that I kind of liked, I put that in the timeline. And Triple Scoop's got a great little feature. You can download a track and it says, "This is a test" every like few seconds, but you can put it into a timeline and can actually edit to it and just keep workin'. So it's a really, really. That's how I do it and I think it's practical. To stand up here and say, "Yes, I listen to royalty-" "free music all the time." "It's good, it's good." You know, it is good, but I like my music that I listen to. I listen to a lot of like electronic music and I think it's really, really something that I'm passionate about and so I consume a lot of that type of music because there's so much of it coming out right now, but because I listen to a lot of EDM, it helps me understand what sorts of electronic music would work for this type of stuff and I think there's a lot, a lot of quality royalty-free electronic music that is different, is just different enough that will allow you to kind of like give yourself an edge when you're picking a song for a client and a song for a video. Can you, going back to sort of the tempo of things, can you describe again the difference between fast-slow and long-short? So fast-slow pertains to how fast you're cutting between clips of video, okay. So if I've got one clip here and one clip here and I wanna cut multiple clips together, is the time between each cut slow or is the time between each cut fast? In the terms of long and short, are the clip lengths long and short because the clip lengths can still be long and short but you can still cut quickly between them or slowly between them 'cause you pair two long clips together, it's gonna be a long, but then you can put other stuff on top of it. As you edit, you're gonna start to think in timelines. Your base timeline is gonna be constant. It's gonna be constant. And what you're gonna do is that second timeline's gonna be an accent. And how many times you put stuff into that accent is how fast or slow that cut's gonna be. So I think of it. My roommate in college played drums and I like to think I'm a drummer, but I'm not. If you just think of your video track one as your base drum, the constant dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, your video track two is that snare, is the ka every four beats, so dut, dut, dut, ka, dut, dut, dut, ka. So all of that is what I think about. It's all I think about that second track is it's my accent. It's my accent. It's either the ring of a cymbal. That's how I think when I edit. Because I think in tempo when I edit. How does it feel, feel, feel, now, feel, feel, feel, now. And then based upon how that tempo feels, I'll put clips into there that will either make it slower or faster. But I keep that first timeline very constant and I accent all of what's happening on that first timeline with things on top of it. With regard to transitions, there's like a billion and one transitions and half of them are pretty goofy looking. For me personally, I find just the direct cuts sometimes just look professional, they're just clean, they're simple or graduated fades or whatever. What's your kinda feeling on transitions? I think practically speaking, we are in an era right now I think where we're slowly shifting back to like a dissolve. For the longest time, we were on a hard cut. You'd cut, cut, cut, cut and it just goes hard cuts. And it's very aesthetically pleasing for a lot of us. But I think given some of the types of stuff that we've seen recently, there have been a lot of dissolve cutting where you know to show passage of time, to show kind of like things happening at the same time. There's also been a lot of in-frame cutting where it's like different components, you know, framed up into different things, so I think that's stylistic. I think at this point, transitions are stylistic. I'm really a hard cut person. I don't do dissolves except at the very end and at the very beginning. If I do a dissolve, it's typically to show that something has happened over time on the same thing. But that's for me, I think that dates me. If I were to try to change my editing style a little bit, I'd probably try to think about what sort of things I could use in the way of transitions that wouldn't be hokey, right, that wouldn't be dated in a few years. The benefit of doing a hard cut is it's always gonna look, at least in some way, shape or form, current because you're not throwing a treatment on top of it. You're not throwing something on top of it that says, "Well, this is what we did in the 2016s." And a good example of that is back in like the early 2000s, there was like that green cast finish that everyone was adding to their films because of The Matrix and then when you look at something now from that era, it's very, very easy to tell what era of film that came from. And then, there's also that bleach bypass look from 300 that people started using a lot, so you can really start to look at pieces of film and go, "Ew, well that's dated." Right? And you want someone to look at your film with fresh eyes so the least amount of stuff you do to it in the way of treatment or transitions generally keeps it have a longer shelf life, you know. You want that, you want a long shelf life out of your stuff.

Class Description

"A tumultuous amount of technique and process info given by Victor in this class. Just wonderful. Well done." - Michael UK

Creating a film or video is a decision-making process from beginning to end. From what type of story you want to create, where to film, how to capture audio, editing your story together - the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing. Victor Ha will make this process attainable by laying out the foundation to set yourself up for success in the planning and pre-production phases. Victor will show you how effective planning can make your shoot and edit faster and easier. Understanding this workflow and adding video to your portfolio can increase your business and expand your creative offerings. In this class, Victor will cover:

  • Pre-production techniques like creating shot lists and shoot schedules 
  • How to use your DSLR to capture video 
  • Capturing the right footage for the edit 
  • How to piece together a rough cut in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 
  • Producing multiple pieces from one shoot 
This class will take you step by step from concept to completion so that you can begin creating films with your clients and friends within 48 hours.

"Love this class! Victor really knows how to break things to simple language so you understand and retain. He also teaches you all the fundamentals before you ever fire up your camera. Victor is Ha-mazing!" - Jerry Suhrstedt


Beatriz Stollnitz

Victor is an incredible instructor, clearly passionate about teaching videography to photographers. His teaching style is engaging and energetic, and the content is interesting and useful. I was very fortunate to be part of the audience for this course.

Lynne Harty

Victor is a wonderful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher - I learned so much. Thank you.