The Art of Collaboration
PHS Short Film Festival/Screening
DATE: To Be Determined (last year was Wed., Jan. 11, 7:00 p.m. in C200)

Planning for the screening - please help!

Project Outline (Objective/Dates/Goals)
Google Doc Version of This WIKI Page

This is the landing page for the collaboration between Mr. Greth's film students and Dr. Watson's music production students.

Demonstration: The Power of Music and Sound to Support a Film's Dramatic Narrative

List of Collaborators (pairing filmmakers with music producers)
  • Hear examples of each student's music production projects completed thus far: CLICK HERE

VIDEO SCORING (and all composition) is PROBLEM SOLVING! What are my resources/players? What music does the activity (or lack thereof) in the video suggest? What is the video trying to convey and how can my music and SFX support that? To get started, take into consideration the following:
  • TEMPO of scene. In many cases the pacing of a scene suggests an actual tempo...try snapping a beat as you watch. perhaps use loops to get this rolling.
    Continuous. For some scenes, the visuals beg for a musical thread that unites everything in the form of music that (more-or-less) maintains a consistent tempo and style. This music may start big and build, it may be more like a pop song, or it may be mostly drums and synth pads, but whatever it is it causes the viewer to see all the images on the screen as part of a whole. For example (and this is just one of an infinite examples that could be given), imagine the scene involves a woman looking back over her dating relationship with a gentleman: where and how they met, the fun times they've had, when they fell in love, etc., etc. All of these short video cuts could be "glued together" via some form of continuous music (a pop song, an orchestral ballad, etc.). The music should still have highs and lows based on the way the video scene is arranged. For instance, there might be a crescendo and build up of instrumentation leading to a big impact on the moment the couple first kisses. Obviously, loops (which are repetitive and continuous by definition) are a viable option when generating "continuous" musical underscoring.
    Event Driven. Some scenes beg to have music which more literally mirrors the action on screen, where there are analogous musical events for certain dramatic events. For instance in a cartoon, a character tumbles down the steps to the sound of a xylophone playing a descending chromatic scale. Or, more seriously, in a tense scene where a submarine captain is laboring over his decision where or not to launch a nuclear missile, a long pedal tone in the strings suggests tension while dissonant brass chords swell and punch every time his finger moves toward the button and then, reconsidering, he pulls away. Event driven music is actually a little harder to create since all the music in a scene must posses a cohesive sound. Often this is done by using the same group of instruments, or a pedal point (long tone sustaining), or having the separate musical "events" build toward some other continuous music that is set in motion.
  • "HITS" and EVENTS. Normally when something striking, new, or otherwise important happens on screen, something corresponding happens in the musical (or SFX). Say you're scoring a car commercial and the scene opens with lots of close ups of the car's detail (i.e. instrument panel/dash, leather stick shift, aluminum wheels, etc.)...but then...suddenly there's a wide shot of the entire car! That's a "hit" and may suggest stoping the rhythmic loops you had going, or introducing new loops or instruments to the texture, or a tempo change, etc., etc.
  • FORM/SHAPE OF THE MUSIC: Let the ACTION/DRAMA/NARRATIVE OF THE SCENE dictate the FORM OF YOUR MUSIC. But remember, you have to be artistic, not just literal. You may use a leitmotif approach (melodic theme to represent characters/ideas) or or just create a mood with no themes. You might use and layer loops but eventually break into a theme or melody. Silence can be very powerful! Perhaps the music stops just before something big, them re-enters in a huge way. Or maybe the music stops as a character utters an important word. Above all, be sure the music supports the drama rather than distracts!
  • ENVIRONMENT and SFX. If your scene is a couple guys fighting in the street, and there are cars/traffic around, you need to do more than just have "action" music to enhance the fight. You need traffic sounds in the background. You need the sound of fists landing on cheeks, etc. Without these, even the best music will seem out of place.


1) OPEN GarageBand - Don't worry about Time Signature and Key right now (you can set those later).

2) INSERT MOVIE - Drag and drop the MPEG (or other) movie file into the Track Window. The Movie Track appears with thumbnails of the video - AND - an audio track appears with the films "program audio" (the dialog, etc. already in the film).

3) SPOT VIDEO and think through musical "feel" (meter, tempo, etc.). What kind of music goes with this scene? USE **THIS CUE SHEET FOR SPOTTING**. This should be done either with the filmmaker alongside, or via electronic collaboration with the filmmaker. Discuss how the music can enhance/support the scene. What is the filmmaker trying to accomplish dramatically? Make a list of visual events you'd like to be reflected in music (i.e. when a door opens, or a car engine starts up). Be creative about devising a musical solution to the dramatic/narrative problem presented by the scene.

4) OUTINE - Decide the sweep (or big shape) of the scene: show where SFX hits and musical moments (start of section, emotional high, end of section, accents, etc.) occur. This will help organize your score.

5) COMPOSE and/or ARRANGE MUSIC: Using your musical talents (i.e. I am a guitar player, I like arranging MIDI files, I am good at song writing, etc.) and what you know about LOOPS, MIDI and AUDIO RECORDING, DSP Effects/Plug-ins create a musical sketch to add to the film scene. It doesn't have to be the final, perfect version - you will revise later after feedback from the filmmaker. But if you do any "tracking sessions" (recording a soloists, instrumentalist, etc.), be sure you get it right. Use a click track and/or temporary drum loop to be sure the timing is perfect. It wastes time to have to do recording sessions again later.

6) IF NECESSARY, add SFX: Using what you know about working with audio, add sound effects as discussed with the filmmaker. Some SFX may be good to add as you are creating the music if they help you envision the way the score needs to work. For instance, a series of layered loops that build in excitement to an explosion may benefit from actually placing an explosion SFX in an audio track for SFX's. Here's a great video on adding SFX to film/video. Our film students probably ghave access to some professional quality SFX libraries. But you can find some reasonably convincing SFX libraries online for free as well. Here are a few I like:

7) When you want to share a draft with the filmmaker, or the final version, go to the SHARE menu and "Export Song to Disk." The filmmaker can drop the music in his/her program to see what you've done. Be sure to agree on EXACTLY when your music begins (i.e. at 0:02:35) so everything syncs correctly.

SCENE 1: Here's a scene from The Kid, an old silent film starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan:

"Spot" and discuss this scene as a class (optional: use the CUE SHEET).

Import it into GarageBand, analyze it for musical possibilities and sound (SFX) possibilities. Practice creating either "continuous" underscoring or "event driven" underscoring. Practice adding sound effects (SFX's) for what you feel are key sonic events.

SCENE 2: Here's a humorous commercial for business equipment:

"Spot" and discuss this scene as a class (optional: use the CUE SHEET).

Import it into GarageBand, analyze it for musical possibilities and sound (SFX) possibilities. Practice creating either "continuous" underscoring or "event driven" underscoring. Practice adding sound effects (SFX's) for what you feel are key sonic events.

Type up a brief summary of your meeting with the film maker. This should be about 1 typed page (double spaced) in a Google Doc, shared with the filmmaker, me ( and Mr. Greth ( Your instructor will tell you when this is due. Include:

1) Name of filmmaker and his/her gmail address (for sharing via Google Docs).

2) Working title and one or two sentence description of the film.

3) Where in the film do you and he/she see musical underscoring happening? What type (continuous or event driven)?

4) What is the tone and stylistic approach you believe you'll take. Don't feel like you have to envision everything right away, but at least come up with an initial plan. The more time you spend with the film - the creative problem to be solved - the more time you will have to experiment with solutions and see various options.
*THIS IS IMPORTANT. Do not make an aesthetic promise that your musical voice can't deliver! You have a personal compositional "voice". While you may be able to stretch yourself and be flexible, you can't suddenly transform yourself into something you are not. If the filmmaker wants a full orchestra, symphonic sounding score in the style of John Williams and all of your experience is in creating drum beat and alternative vocalizations, either: a. The filmmaker needs a different music producer, or b. You need to find a way to deliver the dramatic impact he/she was looking for, but with musical tools you are comfortable using. This is CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING. In the example given, maybe all that is needed is adding a cello improvising above your beats and vocalizations.

5) Any other creative considerations you discuss.

This major project is worth 350 points and will in a big way amount to your 2nd marking period grade. HERE IS THE SCORING RUBRIC FOR THIS PROJECT.

There will be several "CHECK POINTS" along the way when I will ask you to share your work-in-progress for feedback from me and peers. CHECK POINT GRADING**.