Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Video: Song Editing

Song selection and song editing comprise some of the earliest steps in the creation of my videos. My videos are largely driven first by sound and then by visuals. Much like how I would suggest lighting follow the concept, I believe that the visual cues should follow the audio cues. The song sets the mood and creates the foundation for our story.

For that reason I sometimes draw inspiration from the lyrics of the song.

A little more about song selection. For fashion videos, progression and build are really important. Songs that offer no progression throughout the entire length of the track are poor choices for pairing to video. Just as a story must have a beginning, middle (and climax), and end, so too should a song have beginning, middle (and climax), and an end. The song, while not the focus of the video, must complement the video and push the story along. If it's flat or boring or too much of anything, it will fail to pair appropriately to the video.

With that said, the other consideration is also licensing. You can get into trouble from scoring your video with a track that you don't have a license for. For that reason, I've scoured for a track that allows us to use it with CreativeCommons rights as long as we attribute the track correctly.

How do I go into cutting a song? First my consideration for length. Assuming I've picked the right song with the right components/attributes for proper pairing, then it should have a beginning, middle and end. The thing is that most of the time I don't need the whole song. I don't need Verse 2 nor do I need Pre-Chorus 2. Nor do I need 16 bars for my video to start. I know that most of my audience doesn't have the patience to sit through 4 minutes of video. So I need to get to the point and tell my story (usually) within 1-2 minutes. That means cutting down the song so that it cues correctly.

I listen to the track and I make several decisions. I need to decide how much of the beginning, how much and what exact portion of the middle (including breakdown and/or prechorus), and then where I want to end the track.

With this particular track, I've decided use the first 2 bars of the beginning, then drop the 3rd and 4th, and re-enter with bars 5 and 6.

Why? Because the beginning drags. I don't need 100 bars to get to the chorus.

You need to also take this with a grain of salt. Without having the video in hand or the concept completely in place, you don't know exactly how long you need for the beginning. You may very well decide later that you need to re-introduce the beginning completely intact if you don't have enough time to tell your intro portion of the story.

Similarly I follow bar 6 with the bar starting at the 42" mark. Basically I strip another few bars in the beginning. I'm just trying to get to the first verse and chorus quickly. I let that run for 4 bars and then pull in the 2 bars at 1:01 to get us into the chorus.

Here's where it gets a little easier. You can let the chorus run once or twice for more length. I've opted to bring parts of the second chorus in to extend the length of the song but cutting out lots of the second verse and second prechorus so that the song doesn't "come down" from the climax/energy level.

A few things to consider. You have to follow the general structure of the song. You have to identify the intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, breakdown, etc. Otherwise you can't intelligently decide where to cut. Because you can't make random cuts. I mean you can, but it will sound completely broken. And the songwriters will be upset. So it's best that you follow the general structure of the song so that you can fuse pieces in a workable fashion.

To help you with this, it's best to look at the waveform of the song. CMD + OPT + W will reveal the waveform of the audio track. You can then use the tilde button to place markers throughout the audio track or the entire sequence. I recommend placing the markers on the audio track because putting it on the sequence is not going to help once you start splicing. Putting the markers on the downbeats allows you to splice without "harming" the track. It should sound like it was written that way if you do it correctly. Also applying a cross-dissolve here and there will effectively allow you to achieve seamless sound editing.

For the video workshop photographers, please see the FCP project file and the audio file for the soundtrack we'll be editing to. Also see the video tutorial that I've created for editing this exact song.

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