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Picture before Music - or vice versa

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Mike Cohen
Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 8, 2008 at 7:31:02 pm

Interested in the preferences of the readers.

When cutting a promo, commercial or other piece with a set time (ie, 30, 60 etc), do you lay down music and voice over first, then cut picture to match, or cut picture to voice only, then add music later?
For me it certainly varies by the project.
Walter Murch, in his descriptions of editing films, has discussed editing dialogue without the sound, looking for the best performances based upon visual only, then adding the sound later (did I get that right?). Now that is definitely a refined skill.

Mike


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Charlie King
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 8, 2008 at 9:21:13 pm

I have never set anything in stone. Some projects were music driven and I edited video to match. Some projects were video driven so I edited video and usually vo and music were added later. Some projects were vo driven and music was added in post scoring.

I just can't believe you can set a standard that any one of these is going to always be first, and that is the only way to go.

Charlie

ProductionKing Video Services
Unmarked Door Productions
Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada


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Mark Suszko
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 8, 2008 at 9:57:03 pm

Agreed. I think Murch will also tell you, if you cut primarily to the music, best be darn sure that music choice really is locked-in first. Nothing worse than slavishly cutting to one beat, only to have the music you cut to, suddenly replaced at the last minute.


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Tim Kolb
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 9, 2008 at 3:02:33 pm

I think the answers thus far from Charlie and Mark capture it...

Walter Murch is certainly an accomplished editor and he helps us all expand the way we think about what we do, but that doesn't mean that you have to mimic every technique he uses...or that your brain will even work intuitively with any given technique.

I like to have the option to at least assemble elements with reference to the complete package...sometimes you need to sort of rough sequence the shots to determine pacing, then choose music...or you need to have some music running underneath to get a feel for how the visuals will come together...once in a while, I've been known to start roughing in using certain effects immediately as the affect how the material cuts together.

While many procedures in our industry definitely have fairly well-established optimal orders for efficiency...it's important to keep in mind that there is no wrong way to do many of the creative things we all do. Learn from everyone, then use what works for you. Your personal feelings about what works creatively for you are as legitimate as anyone else's.



TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

CPO, Digieffects


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Charlie King
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 9, 2008 at 3:11:22 pm

Yep Tim always says it better than I can, but we agree alot as with Mark. I have been told that I edit to music when there is no music. I guess this is probably true, in some ways. If I have no track at all to edit to, I will create the video to my pacing as to what I feel, then after I see it, then the music starts to enter my head. I am so thrilled when I add music and everything works and I don't have to change a thing, but sometimes I need a little tweek here and there. Ya just gotta go with what makes ya feel good.

Charlie

ProductionKing Video Services
Unmarked Door Productions
Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada


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Mike Cohen
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 9, 2008 at 7:15:42 pm

I agree there is no one definitive way to do it, always curious to hear other editors discuss their preferences.

I am sometimes pleasantly surprised that when I pick music (Firstcom in my case) and lay it in over my edit, it sometimes fits almost perfectly. Not from a cut-to-music point of view, rather the changes in the music sometimes match points in the video I want to emphasize. For example, some videos we make usually have about 30-45 seconds of introductory narration and visuals before the title sequence, which may be 15-20 seconds. If I pick a 3 minute music track, it sometimes fits pretty nicely with only a little tweaking.
Other times of course one is not so lucky.

Mike


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Tommy D'Angelo
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 10, 2008 at 4:41:42 pm

Interesting topic....I guess there is no right or wrong way...

For me usually the situation dictates the process. My preference is that if the music choice and VO is locked in early(which is rare), I'll lay down the music and VO first. Then I'll go through and throw in some rough add-edits on the blank video track. Then I'll start throwing in the video.

Normally for me, VO and music is the last thing is finalized so I'll try to get a rough pace going in my edit, but try to edit the rough cut loose enough to make it easier for me to make changes.

LOL once the producers, clients etc start making last minute changes everything gets thrown out the window anyways :)

Tommy D'Angelo
Editor
Punk Rock Kid
NYC by way of Westchester


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Del Holford
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 11, 2008 at 1:50:07 pm

I think Charlie kind of hit it when he talked about hearing the music in his head. When doing promos, interstitials, etc., I like to work that way. The VO has its own rhythm and pacing. I cut to that and then find a few cuts of music (SonicFirePro usually) I think will fit and then try them out. When they have the same pacing and rhythm as the VO it only takes a little tweaking of the video for the cuts to fall on the beats and still match the VO.

On long form projects it gets a bit more difficult because we don't always have a narration track from a pro; often a scratch track from the producer or writer. So we cut to the read and then hope the professional can match the rhythm and sync of the scratch. After audio post our projects usually hit the air date with no time to tweak the cuts. Not ideal but often reality.

Del
fire*, smoke*, photoshopCS3
Charlotte Public Television
del underscore edits at wtvi dot org


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Jason Powell
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 11, 2008 at 5:19:11 pm

Interesting perspectives...I began my career editing voiceover-driven commercials, so the workflow of laying down voice & music first and cutting to that is very familiar.

More recently I have done a lot of interview-driven corporate pieces where the interview gets cut first, and then the music is added last to drive transitions between segments.

One of the things I still remember from my college days was a presentation by a couple of creative directors from The Richards Group here in Dallas. They showed how the cuts on competing beer ads were almost identical. When you swapped the audio tracks on the ads, all the cuts still worked, down to the pouring sound effect.

One thing I do notice about editing to library music is that by its very nature, a "fast" cut is going to have the same beats per minute across the library. You cut to one of them, and your cuts still work when you replace the track. I sometimes fear I am hardwired to cut at 120 bpm no matter what the project!





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Charlie King
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 15, 2008 at 12:03:41 am

[Jason Powell] "One thing I do notice about editing to library music is that by its very nature, a "fast" cut is going to have the same beats per minute across the library"

In reality all music has the same beat pattern, measured in time, whether it is a slow ballad or a hard acid rock. The time of the beat is determined by the heart rate of the person leading the music. Since heart beats are around the 60 beat per minute rate all music is rated at about that rate. The kewy is the accent beats of the music and making the video match that.

Charlie



ProductionKing Video Services
Unmarked Door Productions
Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada


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Mike Cohen
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 15, 2008 at 5:11:18 pm

When I am previewing new music library CDs, for each track I hear I try to envision the genre of video it might go with, based upon our internal genres (education, promo, nursing etc). Then when I need a track, I hope to be able to remember the tracks or CDs I thought might work.
But sometimes the first CD I grab is exactly what I'm looking for.

This conversation about cutting voice and music first takes me back to old timey-time when we had to cut our voice over to Ch. 1 and music to CH. 2, then lay this, mixed down, to Ch. 1 of our master 1" tape, leaving us an empty CH. 2 for NAT sound.

If you had to make an edit to the VO, and there was music mixed in, you had to make the edit on your original reel, then find an insert edit point on the 1" master and pray that it would be a clean edit.

Oh those were the days.

Mike


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grinner hester
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 16, 2008 at 1:41:43 pm

Promos are often cut to radio spots themselves. They are always done to audio though. Even the ones with massive SOT, a bed is laid in first.



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Chaz Shukat
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 17, 2008 at 8:00:29 pm

For me it depends on whether the spot is going to be "based" on the music or if the music is more or less just "background" music. If the music is what is going to set the "feel" or the style or the pace or the structure, you really have no choice but to edit to the music (and hopefully, the music won't change). On the other hand, sometimes, like Murch, you can cut without music, get it to do what you need and feel like you want it to feel and then search for music that has that same feel and pace to fit. Sometimes, it will just fall in to place like you edited the picture to the music and it's just amazing.

Chaz Shukat
Author of "EDITING REALITY"
http://www.chazmoedit.com


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mark harvey
Re: Picture before Music - or vice versa
on Sep 18, 2008 at 1:52:56 pm

If the piece is a dialog based piece, such as an action scene in a commercial, the music is always added after initial rough cut and arranging of the scenes. (usually a 30 second spot begins life at around 50secs and gets chopped down)

If the piece is a promo without dialog (I edit sports promos and commercials for a living) then I will cut to music. I may lay down a few shots while waiting for the music to arrive just to see how the shots work together, but I will make the cut with the music down.

Regards

Mark
PS...sorry for the long absence, it has been a helluva year.

Mark Harvey
Senior Editor
Le R


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