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What gives music impact on screen?

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

The Acre Green team think about what creates impact sonically when paired with visuals.

We consume visual content almost everyday and as a part of that, music is a big factor. We sometimes forget it is there at times, that is how accustomed we have become.

Before listing your tips below, add one last sentence that sums up your paragraph or offers a smooth transition to your listicle.

Tip #1 - Reading the room

You wouldn't run into a quiet library screaming. Nor would you whisper at a rock concert. The same applies with music on screen.

The music needs to match the tone of what is there visually. Depending on what is being dealt with visually, it is important to work with the motion in the film. If there are long sweeping, panning shots, perhaps the music could match that with long drones, drawn out strings, synths or whatever else is desired. Equally a steady uplifting beat could work with more dynamic shots or activity on screen.

There are many factors to consider beyond tone. You need to consider tempo, rhythm, key, instrumentation etc. Tempo for example is massively important. Just by altering the tempo of music, it can heavily push or drag any scene. So, reading the room is important.

Tip #2 - Creating atmosphere

This seems quite obvious however when dealing with music composition, it can be easy to get straight into the body of the musical concept. Taking time to create atmosphere can really add to the visuals and can create a layer of drama that wasn't there previously. This is when music can offer something that is unparalleled and works in symbiosis with visuals. Atmosphere can come from dissonant chords, long tones and reverbs. The choice is up to the director and composer but the possibilities are endless.

Tip #3 - Don't be afraid to actually 'play'

The operative word within music is "play". Ideas, themes, concepts should all be played with. Being playful can apply to all types of music regardless of the tone and mood and open up avenues to creation that otherwise would have been left in the creative headspace. It is always better to pull back from ideas that have been put forward.

Tip #4 - Embracing sound FX and field recordings

This is a follow on concept from being playful, but using sound effects are important in music and not just a job for the sound designers. Sound effects in music can really be a powerful part of building an atmosphere and setting a tone. The subtle effects that lean away from conventional music sound are what make music stand out, but also create wonderful dynamic range in the music. Using real bird song, traffic sounds, recordings of a dinner party, the tap running and cat purring, can all be used in music that works well with visuals.

Think about that famous nike advert that used basketballs that made the rhythm section. Yeah. Awesome right?

Tip #5 - Stand out

At Acre Green we lean into individuality but it is not always easy. Embracing bold ideas and seeing how they work often can lead to positive surprises, especially when working with visuals and visual projects. Yes, usually there is a brief that will be guiding the creative direction, but within that there are pockets of creativity that could and SHOULD be filled. This is what defines great art, and inspires culture to think differently everyday.

With visual work so important to the impact on modern thought and culture, as music stakeholders, it is important we recognise that and apply the creative freedom to work we put out. So music that stands out is what takes everything to the next level.

Ultimately it's all about balance

There are many other factors we could have mentioned. We just wanted to give you a flavour. But ultimately it is all about balance and finding the right balance within the creative process. But leave a comment below.

What else do you think makes impact on screen?

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