Composing Music / Sound Design for Shorts

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Composing Music / Sound Design for Shorts

Post by ScottFarrell » 01 Apr 2017, 01:58

Hello, I'm starting to think about adding music to a short I'm working on and I was wondering what other people who are not musically inclined do when faced with this.

1. Should I find a a sound designer/composer and let them decide?
2. Is there any easy to use program to compose some basic elements to build upon?
3. Any typical workflow would be helpful.

Also, I'm looking into sound mixing as well and was wondering if anyone recommends hiring someone rather than doing it yourself. Especially if you've tried both ways.


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Re: Composing Music / Sound Design for Shorts

Post by slowtiger » 01 Apr 2017, 08:47

It's always a good idea to hire a pro if you feel uncomfortable with doing it yourself. That said, I'd never let anyone else do sounds or music for my films. I will, however, have the final Dolby mix done in a professional studio, since I don't have the experience nor the equipment to do it myself.

But the main reason is: I want all the fun for myself. I like collecting and recording sounds, splicing and editing them, make music, and so on.

You can have the same fun, even with a cheap mic. Just put together your idea of what sounds you like at which point in your film. It doesn't have to be polished. Use it as a temp track, so you can communicate faster with your composer/sound designer. Even if you throw away the whole thing and none of your sounds is in the finished track, the work isn't lost.

Since sound and image are equally important parts of a film, the idea to "add music" to a film strikes me odd. When I imagine scenes, I imagine them completely with sound and maybe music. Some parts may even start with the music, then the images follow.

Points you may find helpful:
1. Have a sound/music concept for the whole film, the same as you may have a mood board or an overall visual design. (example: for my last film, I decided to have no music, realistic foley sounds, and no voices other than the narrator.) Think about how sound may contribute to your story, how it could give information to the audience.
2. Try to match sound and image. You may have natural media in the images, so natural instruments might be a good fit. You may tell an intimate story, so one or two instruments may be better than an orchestra. If the story takes place at a certain point in history, the music should fit that as well.
3. Be specific. Don't say Orchestra when you mean Woodwinds. Try something different, something that hasn't been overused in numerous soundtracks. Use interesting instruments, and use interesting musical traditions - there's much more music in the world than European Classic and Hollywood Musical. (See 1.)
4. Plan ahead. If your animation and editing doesn't have a rhythm, no soundtrack will help that.
5. Don't be afraid to show off. If your story allows for it, a little musical number might be charming (Think Triplets de Belleville, the song starting eith household objects.)
6. Silence is sexy. Don't dunk everything in music, that's annoying.
7. Never forget the small sounds. Total silence isn't useful very often. Most scenes can use a bit of atmosphere in the background. Even in an empty room the floor might creak, or the street may be heard through the windows.
8. Room. This is something for the sound designer to take care of. Each recorded voice, each sound and each instrument needs to fit into an imaginary room, so all elements go along together, but stick out where necessary.
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Re: Composing Music / Sound Design for Shorts

Post by ScottFarrell » 01 Apr 2017, 19:45

Thanks for the great advice! I agree adding music this late is odd. Originally I had intended it to have no music (There's narration most of the time) but as I've been doing cleanup and trying a few test screenings people have brought up adding music so I want to try it out to see if I'm missing out on anything.

It plays out in a restaurant so as you said I have to find the balance of sounds and when they stick out and pull back in.

I think I'll probably go with a pro mixer.

Thanks for the post!

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Re: Composing Music / Sound Design for Shorts

Post by o0Ampy0o » 02 Apr 2017, 19:08

If anyone decides to try it yourself one of the things I have noticed in some DIY audio tracks are things that call attention to themselves and detract from a presentation of the illusion. One is an inconsistency between character tracks. Another would be characteristics that do not match the circumstances.

I am just a hobbyist so purely from personal observation and a desire to learn about the process it makes sense to record everyone under identical conditions if possible. Record it clean and pure then make adjustments and add effects. Once the voice tracks are laid down and positioned in their appropriate audio space, a layer of environmental "noise" can unify the audio landscape. In this case it would be the drone of all things going on concurrently in a restaurant.

Here are a few well-done (professional) examples in a restaurant-like environment from Birdbox Studios:

Last edited by o0Ampy0o on 02 Apr 2017, 19:21, edited 5 times in total.
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