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Grammar of music videos?

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Jon Fidler
Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:15:27 pm

Hi

Just a quick question. Nearly all videos I see seem to just cut on the snare drum/accented beats and roughly go in time with the speed of the music, nothing seems to go in time with the vocal phrases and just seems kind of random or its just a a story overlaid on the music. Is this all there is to the technical side of music videos most of the time or am I missing something here?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:47:29 pm

WHne I was younger and less mature, I made it my goal in every music vid to cut EVERYTHING exactly on the beat.

Only when I got older, did I start to feel that this felt very mechanical and inorganic and predictable, and I started playing with cutting just ahead of a beat here and there, and by golly, it looked and "read" better, subjectively. I think you could compaer it to what a human drummer does with his patterns and fills versus a very simply programmed drum machine.


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Glen Montgomery
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:38:43 pm

Funny you bring that up Mark, last night I was at a screening of David Fincher's Zodiac where they played some of his music videos and the MC brought up that exact point. Here is a link to one of them







If you notice there are a couple places where you would totally expect him to cut on beat but the hits come just a little behind picture cut. Excellent point about the "human" drummer.

Editor / Motion Graphics Artist
http://www.GlenMontgomeryIII.com


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 23, 2011 at 11:39:35 pm

IMO there is no formula or 'correct' way to do this, but there are probably incorrect ways to do it.
Everyone has their own style, but here is some of my thoughts on this.
Cutting repetitively on the 'one' is boring.
Sometimes it's good to do it for a bit and build tension, then unexpectedly hold the shot, or cut on the upbeat.
And how you would cut something that is 4/4, is a lot different then a 3/4 waltz pattern or a 5/4 jazz signature. Different, but yet not defined.
Fills are sometimes a good place to cut since you're often free from the beat for a moment. Sometimes cutting on a rest is unexpected and works well.
And a lot depends on the visual subject. Deciding when to cut on a live music performance (either in post or at the switcher) is a lot different than where you're cutting something conceptual.
Following lyrics explicitly with visuals can seem rather cliche' and has to be approached carefully.
Knowing when to front time the visual and cut, vs when to back time and cut can make a huge difference on the feel even when the cut lands in the same place.
Leading the beat slightly is better than lagging slightly, since our brains are wired to accept sounds arriving after a visual event.
I think it is all about the feel, and you know its good when your shot change goes by unnoticed.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com

I have a system, it has stuff in it, and stuff hooked to it. I have a camera, it can record stuff. I read the manuals, and know how to use this stuff and lots of other stuff too.
You should be suitably impressed...


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adam taylor
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:27:30 am

i often tried to sync some action or motion within the shot to a specific element of the music, such as a rain drop falling on the beat, but the cut happening at some other point.
Almost the opposite to what you mention about cutting on the beat - i was cutting off beat so the visual focus happened on beat.

adam

Adam Taylor
Video Editor/Audio Mixer/ Compositor/Motion GFX/Barista
Character Options Ltd
Oldham, UK

http://www.sculptedbliss.co.uk


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grinner hester
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 26, 2011 at 8:25:56 pm

Rythm is a good thing to have when cutting music videos. It's a great thing to discard too. I think we all gravitated to cutting on the kick when we edited our first music videos. We then started cutting per lyric, or vice versa. Story telling rules though and sometimes that means off beat or making up a beat of yer own. The last music video I edited, only the rough cut was cut to the beat. By the time the dust had settled and all the powers that be stated their case, it was just a bunch of shots cut to words that will mean very little, if anything to the the viewer:
http://www.youtube.com/user/TrueBlackmoresNight#p/a/u/1/mZC_PT6g6Kk
Would I have sooner shot more according to the song? Well sure. But then, I would have written a cooler song in the first place. lol
My point is we don't always get to wear every hat in the piece. This is where the true art of the edit comes into play... pleople skills. I mean afterall, if producers leaned whatt he buttons did, we'd not have gigs. At the same time, they often want to and need to be led in an edit session. These are the times you can place the cut at the right spot.



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Jon Fidler
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 29, 2011 at 7:46:55 am

Thanks guys

In response to an earlier comment, how would the time signature effect the way in which you would edit the video?


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Mar 29, 2011 at 9:23:31 am

Jon,
"In response to an earlier comment, how would the time signature effect the way in which you would edit the video?"

IMO.
Putting aside the tempo, different time signatures will give completely different 'feels' to a piece of music. This is part of why some music sounds like "space", or "water" or "the passing of time" for example.
I can only speak in general terms, since it's not just the music that influences shot transitions for me, but the visuals too. They have to compliment each other.
But for comparison, listen to a jazz cut like Dave Brubecks's 'Take Five', and then listen to a typical classic rock song with a 4/4 pattern. The 5/4 shuffle beat of Take Five would lead me in a different direction on cut placement, shot selection, etc than the rock cut. Repetitive cuts on a downbeat (the one) wouldn't work very well on something like Take Five, with it's loose flowing feel. But a rock song might almost demand repetitive cuts in some spots.
It's not just the tempo difference. The random loose shuffle feel of Take Five comes from the time signature, not the slow tempo.
There is a lot of waltz pattern music, that has the same tempo as a jazz song like the Brubeck cut, but yet they feel completely different.

I'm not a musician, I play drums. So I'm not the best guy to ask how to explain this. There has got to be some editors out there that know something about music.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com

I have a system, it has stuff in it, and stuff hooked to it. I have a camera, it can record stuff. I read the manuals, and know how to use this stuff and lots of other stuff too.
You should be suitably impressed...


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Bill Davis
Re: Grammar of music videos?
on Apr 14, 2011 at 10:09:19 pm

LOVE the line. "I'm not a musician, I just play drums." CLASSIC.

But essentially, Scott has =this exactly right. Editing - by it's very nature - has tempo. Whether you realize it or not, the very act of cutting is essentially changing time - which IS, by definition, setting a tempo.

Beginning singers often sing "on tempo." And there's nothing actually wrong with that at all. It's just kinda boring when it's the ONLY way you approach your structuring of passing of time. Without variation in time (or at least SOMETHING related to time like arrangement, dynamics, or amplitude) - you risk monotony. And that's something most human's don't do very well with in long stretches.

But do a quick google search on "Sinatra phrasing" and you'll probably find volumes of analysis of how Frank (and, for that matter,every really great musician on the planet, in out of the Jazz category ) goes well beyond simple "put it on the beat" playing and uses a variety of off tempo techniques to take the music to places that make it a richer experience to listen to.

Edits ALWAYS have tempo. Whether or not you realize that and begin to learn to consciously control it - that's another thing!

FWIW.

(from a former university music major - who had to grow up and learn that love can't always overcome a lack of significant talent in a particular area!)

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner


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