Did you hear that? Why the right soundtrack is essential

Renny Wijeyamohan Posted in Video
4 November 2015

A WELL-COMPOSED SOUNDTRACK (WHETHER BESPOKE OR SOURCED FROM STOCK MUSIC) CAN HAVE A POWERFUL EFFECT ON STORYTELLING - GUIDING THE VIEWER'S EMOTIONS TOWARDS AN ENDPOINT, WHETHER THAT BE JOY, SADNESS, ANXIETY OR EXHILIRATION.

The pounding orchestral scores of Ennio Morricone for example (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More) are a lesson in the capacity of a well-composed soundtrack to shape a viewer’s experience. The howling two-note flute melody that punctuates The Good The Bad and The Ugly, in particular, has become a universal cue for drama, danger and suspense, and is arguably now more recognisable than the film it scores. Of The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Morricone says, “I also used these realistic sounds in a psychological way. With The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I used animal sounds - as you say, the coyote sound - so the sound of the animal became the main theme of the movie.”

The psychology of a soundtrack, then, is key. A great way of understanding just how much sound can influence an audience’s reponse to a film is to watch a scene without sound. Take this example from 2015 blockbuster, Everest. The visuals, while watertight, border on the ridiculous without sound composition. We’ve completely lost the hope, suspense and fragility of man’s battle to master nature.

Now check out the same scene with the soundtrack in place here. It's a completely different experience. It opens up a whole new set of senses that weren't called upon in the first clip. This is a big budget film, shot in 3D that would look fantastic on an IMAX screen, and yet despite the high production value, it relies heavily on sound composition to deliver the real suspense of the scenes.

Now, not every client is going to be able to afford to commission a custom sound composition (usually reserved for TVCs, shorts, feature films and documentaries). In that instance, ready-made royalty free stock music is the next best thing. Bear in mind that there is a wide spectrum of stock music available and much of it is low quality. For that reason, it’s worth setting aside time to allow your production team to search for a soundtrack with the right tone, pacing and energy – that will not only complement your visuals but leave a lasting impact on the viewer.

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