Saturday, July 08, 2006

The hills are alive.......

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With the sound of music, natch! What else? I've been researching the music used in silent films, and generally it's Ragtime or ragtime-related. It was the age of Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton, musicians who could wring incredible drama out of a piano. I really don't know, but my guess is that the music that came to be known as ragtime probably began in Vaudeville, to accompany the antics of the comedians onstage (which is where Buster Keaton got his start, as a child of 3 I believe, in his family's act). It isn't really what we currently think of as music.... a repetitive beat with melody and lead layered over it, always in the same time signature. It flows more organically, slowing down and speeding up and changing entirely to suit the action it accompanies (or just the imaginary movie in the player's head or whatever). It's uniquely suited for silent comedies, as so many of the sounds are perfect for different kinds of action. You can listen to certain passages with your eyes closed and automatically think of someone sneaking, or pouncing, or running.

Anywho, the point of this post is that I've added a musical track to Race the Wind. I also fiddled with the color a bit, I hated that pale washed-out purple color I ended up with when I uploaded it! The picture above is misleading.... it's from an even more recent 'cut', a sepia one where I really boosted the contrast because even in the improved (musically enhanced) version it still looks a bit washed-out. I kind of did a bash job on the editing of the clip to make it match the music better... a song I found called Dance of the Demons that already matched it unbelievably close, but parts just needed a little tweak to fit right. And somehow I chopped off the part where Buster jumps to his feet before he starts chasing the hat... but the point of the exercise is just to demonstrate the power of music in an animated clip. If you download the clip from StopMoShorts, it's encoded well enough to stand fullscreen viewing.

Now that I've had some time to reflect on this clip, and especially seeing it with the music, I see what I need to do in the future for these kinds of films. The smooth, floaty motion has got to go! I did that on purpose.... I wanted Buster's torso to float straight ahead, no bouncing up and down etc, just drift smoothly, while the arms and legs arc through their motions smoothly as well. It's obvious his feet aren't hitting the ground... that's also what I wanted. I was thinking about a certain kind of Starevitch effect here. But I don't like it so much now. The music really made me re-imagine the action, and it needs to be far more expressive... a performance based on pantomime. Stronger action, longer pauses, everything exaggerated. I suppose it was necessary to do this first though... it's my first run cycle after all. I think it's important to do the basic stuff beofre trying to get all performanc-y with it. But I think I want to reshoot the scene and build it into a short gag reel type of thing.

Here are a couple of the sites where I've been conducting my ragtime 'research' (if you can call listening to countless MIDI files research!):

Perfessor Bill

Ragtime Press

Exciting stuff... and one thing I really love is that apparently most American music written before 1922 is now in the Public Domain, meaning that as long as you can get ahold of the sheet music and find someone to perform it, then you can use it without legal issues.

15 comments:

Grant said...

The story and actions are more vivid or somehow complete with the added music. I especially like how the medium shot of Buster running and the wider shot containing him and the hat are reinforced by the different musical phrase used for each type of shot.

herself said...

Fantastic! I love the choice of music and see what you're saying about how it enhances the action/performance. Perfect choice.

I have a tech question that I've never asked... how's come, do you think, sound comes through at a low volumn on some clips and loudly on others, even though I keep my output on max?

(I know, I know, "max" doesn't like it either!)

mefull said...

It's amazing how much music can add to a film.
Nice choice Mike, it brings buster even more to life.

Darkstrider said...

Yeah Shell, I don't know why this track is so quiet. Kinda annoying, aint it? Might be becauase it was a MIDI file that i converted into a QT movie and added with QTPro. I don't know if that affected it, but after uploading it I discovered i can open the Movie Properties window and crank the volume level up a little. You might try that if you downloaded it... when the clip is open go into QT's Window pulldown menu and select Show Movie Properties. You can then click on Audio Settings and crank it up. Also, be sure to go into Presentation and set it to always play automatically when opened and to always play fullscreen. Also be sure to go into QT's View menu and click Loop (and then Save under the File menu ). That makes watching it easy and fun!

Darkstrider said...

Grant, I agree... I always have to laugh when it cuts to that close-up and the faster music starts.

It seems to me that the right music and sound contributes as much to an animated film as the animation does.

Heh... I had just opened the song file and was getting ready to start searching for a part of it that might fit somewhat closely, and when I started playing it from the beginning it matched almost perfectly! Talk about lucky!

Ubatuber said...

"when I started playing it from the beginning it matched almost perfectly!"

I LOVE when that happens, feels like fate :)

Great music choice, perfect for Buster, he's never looked better. I like vaudeville/silent film music b/c of the reasons you describe, the way it can change in the blink of an eye to reflect mood or whats happening on stage, sad, scary, silly. I like its melodrama :)

Ubatuber said...

Thought you might want to check out this site:
Incompetech.com - Royalty Free Music - silent film scores

Haven't listened to them all but they seem useful...

herself said...

Holy Schemole, Jeffery! Great link on the Kevin MacLeod music downloads! Fantastic stoybook stuff there too, all for a mere $5 spot donation and proper credit?! Schwing Schweet!

It sure pays to visit eachother's site, dewduses!!

Darkstrider said...

Funny you would mention that one Jeffrey. Incompetech is actually the first site i found on my search. In fact, for a while I had Work is Work queued up with the clip. Not a bad match, but not as perfect as the one I ended up using.

PhalangesPhil said...

Hey Mike you got a proper blog page now!
Cool i'll have to divert my links accordingly.

The music is cool too, adds a lot to action.

Darkstrider said...

Hey Phil, thanks for stopping by! I just added your link... it's taking me a while to get everything up to speed, but it's getting there.

herself said...

Hi Mikeee, fyi? you already had posted Phil's linkity link in your linkities, now you have deux, in case you missed it. Your previous Mummy post should ring a bell with Mr. Phil, eh?!

PhalangesPhil said...

Two links!! Herself is a sharp one, nothing escapes her gaze.

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