When it comes to making nature and wildlife films, most people think about the imagery. I mean think about it, when I mention the films “Winged Migration”, “March of the Penguins” or even the series “Planet Earth” and “Frozen Planet” stunning imagery immediately comes to mind. I know when I think of those films I can tell you my favorite scenes from all of them.
But, there’s something that all these films have that is often overlooked by far too many filmmakers and that is audio, more specifically, music.
Music Sets The Tone Of Your Film
I know when I first switched from still photography to video, music was the furthest thing from my mind. I was thinking about filming grizzly bears in Montana or whitetail deer in Iowa. Music never entered into the equation until very late in the process of putting my films together. I think the fact that I paid little attention to music showed in my early works.
My Secret Weapon For Nature And Wildlife Filmmaking
Quite often people comment how well the music fits my short films. What they don’t realize is that I often choose my music before I even switch on the camera and shoot the first frame of video.
Now I know this is pretty much backwards from the way most filmmakers work, but I truly do believe that by picking my music first I take my films to the next level.
Don’t belive me?
Let me share a little experiment with you and see if you don’t agree that music goes a long way in shaping your film into what you FEEL when you’re shooting it and not just something that is there playing in the background.
For this experiment, I grabbed a few random frames from some video I shot of the tallgrass prairie at Indian Creek Nature Center near my home in Eastern Iowa.
I used the same clips in the same order with the same duration for both of the video clips below. Watch both of them and see if you think the feeling of the film has changed dramatically from the first video to the second.
For this short video, I used fast paced, rocking music
This video is the identical sequence as above but now I chose a slow-paced, peaceful music track.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for nature and wildlife, I prefer the second video to the first.
For me, nature is all about peace and serenity and I tend to pick music that fits those feelings.
Making The Ordinary Extraordinary
So, here is my secret from turning the ordinary to the extraordinary.
I find and license a music track that fits the idea I have in my head from my film. I listen to a LOT of tracks before I find one that really moves me.
Once I find the right track I listen to it over and over.
I put it on my iPhone and I play it whenever I have a chance.
At home I put iTunes on repeat and play it so many times that I know every note by heart.
So now, when I go out in the field to get the shots I’ve put down on my shot list, I can “see” the music in my head as I’m looking for compositions and I shoot my shots to match the music.
When it comes time to edit my film, I’ve already laid down the music track. All I have to do is lay down the video which typically goes pretty fast because I edited the film in my head as I was out in the field shooting.
So find some music. Do a search for “Royalty Free Music” and select they type of music that matches the feeling you want to convey in your film. Then listen to that track over and over before you head out to get the shots for your film.
Try it and tell me if it doesn’t make a difference when you’re shooting your film.
Let me know in the comments below.
And as always, keep shooting the ordinary but make it extraordinary!
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