Background Music -
Obtaining, Selecting, and Distributing
I always say audio is at
least half of the viewing experience of a movie, but less than 5% of the
newsletters cover the subject. It took a jog from a subscriber who
asked for an issue about how to select background music, and where to
As good a topic as it is, it's not an
easy one... I've been wrestling for days with what to cover and
how to say it, ending up with 3 topics: obtaining music so
it's accessible to Movie Maker, selecting the right music and mixing
it into the project, and distributing the rendered movie.
should be pretty easy today... so much is online... easy
to search for and download, for free or a small fee. If it's
not immediately importable to your collection, you can copy it as it plays into a Movie Maker narration
file. Or, if you don't have the narration option on your system, you can
burn it to an audio CD and rip it back into your computer as an
importable WMA file.
during the editing phase is about what music you have in your
library, and how it fits into your movie. For home movies
it's best to use music you like. How to mix it into the visual
and other surrounding audio is the artistic part of the
your rendered movies is a potentially sticky part. Giving copies
to friends and family, or others, for free or fee gets you into meeting laws,
having rights, obtaining permissions, and paying
royalties. It can be complex, confusing, and
almost impossible path to do right.
Let's look at these 3 dimensions of
... before getting into
it, here are a few notes...
I've been playing with
moving title image overlays a good bit this week... rolling
some samples out to the Editing > Text > Custom Overlays
Next week's newsletter #92
will be about making such overlays... if you haven't seen any of them, here
are links to the 4 samples online.
Sailboat - goes virtually anywhere
you want it to
Intro - 8
parts of the opening frame move into place before the video
The Persian Gal and I
exchanged emails... she's been too busy with school to develop the
website page about using custom xml code, so I'll be updating it from this
point. Our mutual quest is to provide inspiration and info to help the
newbie get into this area.
to the main topic...
is so easy today that it's almost too trivial to warrant newsletter
space... whatever you want is available online... search the internet,
find it, and download... for free or a fee.
Once you hear it playing on your
computer, you can copy it into a high quality WMA narration
file with Movie Maker 2... this doesn't work for all systems as it depends
on the options of the sound card. On my new HP Pavilion laptop, the option
is in the drop down list as 'Stereo Mixer'. As music plays in the Windows
Media Player or iTunes, I use the standard narration feature of Movie Maker to
If you can't capture it using the narration feature, you
can record it to an audio CD and rip it back into your computer as a WMA
file using the Windows Media Player.
I get lots of tips about where
to get copyright or royalty free music. Most of the time I don't even
go to the site, instead adding the info to my database for the day I want
to explore it. When I started this newsletter, I went to my
database to see what was there... starting with 'A'
I didn't remember making a note about
Amazon offering free music, but a quick check and I
was downloading this tune.
The Amazon button said download for
free, and it let me do it.... I had logged into Amazon with my user account, but
didn't need to take this item to the checkout counter or
provide credit card info... it just downloaded.
The search for free music did double
duty for this one. The download was free, and the name of the music
track is "Free"...
I went to iTunes as
a cross-check of the name, but didn't find it... just one Joesfus album
While at the iTunes Music store
I noted a section of the main menu labeled "Free Downloads"...
which offered a 'Single of the Week'.... I got it just as a
Getting the free one was interesting.
Getting a free tune is actually buying it at zero cost... I could buy and
A surprise came when I went to listen to it.
I got a message saying this computer
wasn't authorized to play it. It seems I had signed up for iTunes on my older
Toshiba and not used it yet on my new HP. I gave it the authorization and
I'm now up to 2 of 5 allowed computers. I guess that means I can buy tunes
on an unlimited number of computers but only play them on those that are
authorized. I hadn't known that.
Sources of music
that is both free to download and free to use are few... in years of
following up and checking sites reported to be free, few are free
to beyond the downloading and listening for personal pleasure.
For most, there are royalties to pay or other restrictions that preclude
using them in movies that you distribute, whether you distribute them freely or
for commercial purposes. After seeing the headlines of it being free, the
restrictions are in the fine print...
Here's a short list of websites
that have free to get and use material.
Local artists and
bands are a great source. 6 albums in my library were given
to me by two local artists, with the understanding that I
can use the music wherever I want. Of course, I'll give them
credit and include links to their websites.
Randon Myles is one of the
Kalamazoo local audio artists who recently provided 4 albums of his material for
Music captured by your
camcorder is easy to get, but conditions placed on
using it can be tricky... can
I freely use my footage from Disney World and the Epcot Center? how
about the dance floor of a wedding reception or a local Irish Fest? street
corner performers in a big city?
When I wrote 'Do Amazing
Things' and was submitting a frame grab from a clip of a bus going down Michigan
Avenue in Chicago, I was asked by Microsoft Press if I had written
permission from the driver and passengers. I changed the picture to a
lighthouse. When I was writing 'Zero to Hero' and saying in the text that I'd
use a particular music track in a project... even with no CD in the
book and no actual use of the music... the editors decided not to include
reference to it, as if simply saying that a particular piece of music would be
great as background would be sufficient to need permission. I'm refraining
from saying in this newsletter what the music was... the endless
possibilities for not adhering to some requirement drives you toward total
silence and immobility.... or taking an unknown risk.
On the flip side of the coin,
there are lawyers who argue that you are free to take and use camcorder
video/audio in public places. I'd like to believe them... and follow their
guidance in lots of cases.
I could dwell on such issues
a long time... but let's move on.
Selecting and Using Music...
for a project depends on what music you have in your
library, how it fits into your movie, and how free you are to
Don't use any music unless you like
it... that's a big starting filter. Then it's a matter of selecting a piece and
mixing it in with the visual and other surrounding audio, with
the biggest part being the audio of the source video.
The actual mixing
is where you use your artistic talents or hunches.
Experimenting is so easy to do in the computer editing environment. You don't
have to plan it, but you do have to recognize when something is working or
When I start a project, I'll be
listening to some of the music in my library. Some times the
perfect piece somehow automatically links in my mind to the project at
hand. If it doesn't, then I'll do some homework and look for it, or choose one
that's less than perfect.
I don't believe in collaborative
artwork... so don't seek other opinions about what works or doesn't. Go with
your gut feel or intuition... or artistry.
You may be limited in your
selection to the music you are free to distribute... from there it's picking
something that aligns with the tempo of the video segment...
Here's something I put together for this
newsletter to help... one of the discs that Randon
Myles provided is titled 'Music for Film - III', and the titles of the
pieces suggest uses for them.
I strung together the first 20
seconds of each track and put them into this 9 minute video...
Click on the link to listen to and
watch the sampler, and on Randon's door to go to his
I used some captured iTunes
visualizations for the video, made with the Encoder as other pieces were
playing. if you think there's a link between any of
Randon's audio clips and the visualization, it's your mind making
the link... something you can rely on when showing your work.
You and your audience will make
mental connections between what they see and hear. Some will congratulate you on
your artistry in putting the audio and video together. If it's for
something you didn't do deliberately... go along for the ride and
congratulate them on being perceptive. On the other hand, if they
don't notice or comment on the things you put so much effort into, consider
When working the music on the
timeline.... zoom into the timeline so you can see the wave patterns in both
Make mental notes about the sounds that are causing the peaks,
and where they are. You can easily edit the project to align the audio events
with something visual or with a transition. Adding a transition at a particular
audio point can be something that enhances both.
Giving copies of your
rendered movies is a potential sticky point, even if it's to friends
and family for free.... are you meeting laws, do you
have rights, did you obtain permissions, and did you pay
royalties? It can be complex, confusing, and
almost impossible to do anything without some risk.
The more commercial your use is, the
more limited you are... or at least the more you'll be expected to pay royalties
for such use.
Let's go back to that music track I downloaded from Amazon... it
was a free download, but do I have the permission to distribute it as part
of a movie?
What does the fine print say
about my rights to do use it? I couldn't even find the fine print, nevemind
adhere to it.
I started with Amazon and couldn't
find any info about permissions or where to seek it...
The info tab of the properties gave a
website for the artist... it was obsolete, so I found this one by
The website gave a brief
chronology... the original band broke up in 1970, but members have continued to
be drawn together through the years.
I didn't find my downloaded track on
the website... or any references to where I could find the fine
Some argue that, if you don't find
any restrictions, you're free to use the item... I don't subscribe to that. If I
don't find statements saying I'm free to use it, I'll assume I'm not.... and use
something from my library that I know I'm free to use.
Have a great week...