Background music, pros and cons?

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Mxsmanic, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    When do you prefer to use background music, and when do you prefer to skip it?

    Licensing music costs money, and this gives me an incentive not to use it (I
    make no money from my non-commercial videos), but there are times when I
    wonder if it might be a good idea. My videos have only ambient source sound,
    which on the one hand does give more of a "you are there" feel, but also can
    be a bit dreary, and sometimes distracting (sirens, people saying distracting
    things nearby, etc.). On a few videos, I've added background music
    (royalty-free stuff designed for the purpose), but I'm undecided as to whether
    this improves or damages the video.

    I've heard people complain about music on videos, but I think they are talking
    mainly about videos made by teenagers that have ear-splitting, unlicensed
    popular music blaring from the sound track ... not purpose-written background
    music (I hope!).
    Mxsmanic, Jul 29, 2011
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  2. Music is its own discipline; if it's something you're not familiar
    with (in this context) it's worth looking for someone who is, who can
    work with you. I've been catching up on some old movies, from the 30s
    and 40s, and there's a HUGE line of demarcation between something like
    Frankenstein, which has no music aside from the opening and closing
    credits, and Bride of Frankenstein, which has an actual musical score.

    There's lots of library music available out there, and a lot of it's
    pretty good - even the buy-out stuff can be great, if you do a little
    searching. But you need to know how to use it, or find someone who
    does. For what it's worth, re: library music, a lot of the Universal
    horror classics use the score from Swan Lake rather than something
    custom-written for the films.
    Steven J. Weller, Jul 30, 2011
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  3. Mxsmanic

    Larry in AZ Guest

    That's an entire course. Refine the question somewhat....
    Larry in AZ, Jul 30, 2011
  4. Good question. I tend to not use it unless it contributes to the overall
    communication. It is great in lead and tail titles - contributes the mood,
    like your choice of graphics and typestyles. In the body of the video,
    however, there is a definite choice.

    Most Hollywood movies use it sparingly to add to the drama or comedy of a
    scene. Many amateur movies and videos use it throughout because they don't
    know any better, and they think that makes it more professional looking.
    Using none at all may make it more dreary than serious looking.

    So you evaluate each work and mess around with your whole music library and
    envision what might add to various parts - or not. In my latest commercial
    project, I had some dynamic music for the opening and closing titles, but
    was unsure whether I wanted to intrude on what the people were saying during
    the body of it. I ended up using that same similar music turned way down,
    because there were many takes of different people talking, which had to be
    boosted or lowered in gain to make the voices right, and so the music helped
    smooth over the differences in background noise and make the whole thing
    less disjointed in appearance. I stopped the music when the boss came
    onscreen, to emphasize his final comments and to separate the "background"
    music from the louder title music at the end. It worked great.

    Gary Eickmeier
    Gary Eickmeier, Jul 30, 2011
  5. Mxsmanic

    Ty Ford Guest

    Well put, Steve.

    The decision to add music changes everything, including edits and action.

    Notice what I did with the music on this trailer/previz:

    Even if it's a simple scene, you can still bubble it along with music.


    Ty Ford

    --Audio Equipment Reviews Audio Production Services
    Acting and Voiceover Demos
    Guitar player?:
    Ty Ford, Jul 30, 2011
  6. Mxsmanic

    Brian Guest

    Music can have an big impact on the movie depending on the type of
    movie. You can put the audience in a happy mood by playing some
    cheerful music at the start of your movie. Your video editor may have
    come with music you could use.
    I've wondered if you record someone (a friend) playing a popular song
    on the piano or guitar and you use this in your movie then is it
    copyright? Maybe someone in this newsgroup could answer this question.

    Regards Brian
    Brian, Jul 31, 2011
  7. Mxsmanic

    J. Clarke Guest

    In general it's necessary to license the composition in order to include
    it in a recorded work. There are some exceptions. If it's something
    that is going to be distributed to the public, used for a commercial
    purpose, or have high visibility in some other way you should talk to a
    lawyer about the details.
    J. Clarke, Jul 31, 2011
  8. Mxsmanic

    Brian Guest

    It's the "There are some exceptions" is where the problem is. There
    does not seem to be anything care about what the exceptions are. Maybe
    there are different rules for different recording companies.
    If a recording artist wants to get his music known to others then what
    better way then to put it in a movie and list their name in the

    Regards Brian
    Brian, Aug 1, 2011
  9. Mxsmanic

    Mike Kujbida Guest

    If the artist has never been signed to a label, then talk to him/her/the
    group and see if they're willing to do that.
    You may find some who are willing to do that.
    Once they've been signed though, it's a legal quagmire to get permission :(

    Mike Kujbida, Aug 1, 2011
  10. Mxsmanic

    J. Clarke Guest

    In copyright, exceptions come from both statutes and court rulings and
    it's a complicated area of law. I assure you that lawyers and judges
    care a great deal about what the exceptions are.
    No. There is no provision in the law that says that the copyright laws
    applying to company A are different from those that apply to company B.

    One company may have different policies than another concerning the
    violations that they will pursue, but that doesn't mean that the ones
    that they won't pursue are any less violations, and a change in
    management could very well get any such policy altered. However a
    company choosing not to go after you for an unlawful act doesn't mean
    that the act is lawful.
    Which is fine if the copyright holder agrees to it. If he's an unknown
    artist seeking exposure he might agree to let you use his work free or
    for a nominal fee. But you still have to ask and get permission.

    Again, though, you should talk to a lawyer about the details. As a
    general rule, legal advice obtained online for free is worth less than
    you paid for it.
    J. Clarke, Aug 1, 2011
  11. Mxsmanic

    CLicker Guest

    Speaking not as a movie maker but as a viewer, I've most enjoyed
    theatrical and at home presentations when the music director realized
    that the role of music is to enhance the viewing experience not to
    dominate it. Two examples: "Hard Candy" a film of 1 3/4 hours with but
    9 minutes of music - most of that subtle; "Intelligence" a Canadian TV
    show utilizing a synthesizer and an outstanding score by Schaun Tozer
    made the music a tool of the editor rendering it an integral part of the
    action's seemingly fast pace. Also, I'll add that in the 26 episodes of
    this too short lived series I recall no music playing while an actor is
    speaking, yet much of the dialogue takes place in the environs of a
    strip club.

    There are countless examples of poor music direction but the end result
    is so bad that none of these forgettable films comes to mind. Generally
    though, it's because the level is too high for the video situation and
    occasionally just plain nonsense in regard to the story.

    One other comment regarding sound tracks: for some odd reason many
    British videos (be they from film or TV) contain irritating levels of
    ambient noise. I'm guessing that either those audio techs and their
    directors believe this adds reality or that they haven't the know how,
    equipment, or budget to dampen its annoying presence. So accents are
    not the only reason we use subtitles for British video.
    CLicker, Aug 1, 2011
  12. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    What I've noticed is that British episodic television in particular uses
    almost exclusively production sound. The seem not to do nearly the amount
    of ADR, voice replacement in a studio, that is done here in the USA. I am
    not at all bothered by it. The location is what it is. I like the natural
    flavor of the sound. Britain's film and video industry is as capable as
    anywhere in the world. They could spend their money on actors doing ADR. I
    think they choose to spend it on glorious locations and splendid art
    direction instead. They get my vote.

    Steve King
    Steve King, Aug 1, 2011
  13. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    Only if the purpose of the video is to promote his work. You don't want music
    that draws attention away from the video itself.

    That's the problem of a lot of videos on YouTube. Some makes a video and then
    puts terrible music on it just because he happens to like a particular song or
    songs, even though they don't fit the video at all and are so irritating that
    you stop watching after a few seconds. (Not to mention that the music is never
    properly licensed to begin with.)
    Mxsmanic, Aug 2, 2011
  14. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    But that's music that is commissioned specifically for the film. It's
    definitely very effective, but hopelessly expensive for poor people like me
    (and probably for most professional video producers as well).
    This reminds me of a few U.K. television series that had loud and ridiculously
    inappropriate music in just about every episode. I seem to recall that ITC was
    a major offender, especially with some of its adventure and science-fiction
    The level of ambient noise is another question that I should probably ask. My
    videos often contain nothing other than ambient noise, with a few exceptions
    for which I've licensed background music, but I typically crank the noise down
    so that it's (hopefully) more of an unconsiously-perceived background than a
    distraction. On my little camera, there's an option to set the gain at a fixed
    level so that ambient noise is recorded with its actual dynamic range instead
    of being constantly boosted to a specific level.
    Mxsmanic, Aug 2, 2011
  15. Mxsmanic

    Justin Guest

    I think people in generally use music too often. How many September 11
    videos are on Youtube that have inappropriate music set? Same with
    various war zone videos. I really don't care to see something like 9/11
    over and over to the tune of Korn.

    In my opinion, if you're unsure whether to use background music - don't.
    Justin, Aug 2, 2011
  16. Mxsmanic

    Ty Ford Guest


    How much do you think the music for this trailer cost?


    Ty Ford

    --Audio Equipment Reviews Audio Production Services
    Acting and Voiceover Demos
    Guitar player?:
    Ty Ford, Aug 2, 2011
  17. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    I can't see a trailer anywhere on the site.
    Mxsmanic, Aug 2, 2011
  18. Interesting. It's a pretty big window, about the size of a 3x5 card and
    in contrasting colors, with a play button.

    Try a different browser or different settings in your ad blocker/script

    Or get new glasses?
    Gene E. Bloch, Aug 2, 2011
  19. Mxsmanic

    Frank Guest

    Who produced this damn thing, anyway? :)
    Or install and enable the Adobe Flash Player (and enable JavaScript if
    it's currently disabled).
    Another possible option. :)
    Frank, Aug 2, 2011
  20. Mxsmanic

    CLicker Guest

    For those items I'd mentioned that's surely true and I'd wager that the
    music for the 26 episode TV series was considerably more costly than the
    two tunes used in the movie. My point was that the drama in "Hard
    Candy" is in the writing and the acting and noticeable music would have
    diminished the tension; in the TV series "Intelligence" the very
    noticeable music significantly enhances the action sequences and the
    general pacing of the whole. In both cases the music becomes one with
    the other parts of the film, though in the former I was unaware of its
    presence and in the latter I thoroughly enjoyed its presence.

    If one is merely adding music for no clear reason, I believe someone
    else has already said: don't! If used should it be subliminal, liminal,
    or blaring?
    CLicker, Aug 2, 2011
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