Following on from this post, I’ve been going through some of these short films and noting any trends. There is a bit of variety and one or two of them do some more interesting things. Here’s a few I picked out.
I was impressed enough with the use of sound and the choice and editing of music in this one to contact the production company, who have been very friendly and referred me on to the composer and an editor they recommend. I really like the opening with acousmatic wave sounds against the title on a black bacground, introducing the sense of danger and power in the sea at night and immediately drawing us in. I think the choice of music works well to get the heartbeat going – even, maybe, simulating heartbeat. Ben Winters’ article in the journal Music, Sound and the Moving Image, Corporeality, Musical Heartbeats, and Cinematic Emotion explores this phenomenon in a very interesting way. (Winters 2008)
In addition, the way the ‘story’ the interviewees tell is structured and punctuated by the editing of the music. Sound design and foley also brought us closer to the ‘action’ in our bodies. It had me imagining what it is like to work as a volunteer in sea rescue and got my pulse raised as a result (while sitting in my cozy living room with a cup of tea…).
This is an awareness video for men, who, it is well known, find it harder than women do to discuss physical problems or to visit the doctor, especially if they are of an intimate nature. The orgnisation use a light, colloquial tone (you know, that ‘laddish’ thing…) and humour as a way to broach the subject of being aware of testicular changes.
No music is used in here – which I think is a good choice, personally; it replicates the casual, ‘down the pub’ kind of mood and keeps the soundtrack clean, neutral and unthreatened by anything remotely resembling ‘suspicious’ subtext.
The two choices they do make are the choice of the narrator – someone who, by his accent and delivery of the matching script, could be someone we, the audience, know personally – and colourful, slightly comedic sound effects throughout to enhance key moments in the animation, a key part of the identity of the film.
What seems to be the typical model in this genre?
Many of the films’ soundtracks were simply confined to edited interviews or voice-overs with some very generic ‘background’ music behind them. This music is generally looped figures in a major key, not more than four chords, extremely repetitive, typically featuring piano and perhaps sustained synths or strings behind it, maybe a little light percussion – drum kit or higher-pitched instruments on repeated ostinati. So it is extremely generic, ‘feel good’, and the definition of wallpaper music. If a more sombre mood is required, then simple, three-four chord ’emotional piano’ is often used.
Here’s a good example of a bland underscore:
And here is one where pure interview + ’emotional piano’ + strings is used, and in this case I think it is absolutely right for the subject matter. It actually made me a bit teary, so it did its job.
I think we have to be careful in this genre not to let our egos intervene too much or to look like we’re trying to manipulate anyone. However, equally, these films are competing for attention on social media. So I wonder if the soundtracks could be a bit more innovative sometimes. This is something I would like to look into further.
(1) Winters, B., 2008. Corporeality, Musical Heartbeats, and Cinematic Emotion. Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 2, 3–25.