The Oscars are known as a top acknowledgment for people in the entertainment industry Millions of people watching every year as Best Actor, Actress, and Movie is all conversation topics that float around weeks before the show airs. A televised program that runs for just under 4 hours and maybe half of the awards are appreciated, or better yet understood. It’s a known fact that a lot goes into creating movies, or even television shows, but the process from start to finish isn’t always recognized.
When it comes to the creation of visual entertainment we all know the general idea of writing, casting, and filming. While we are all aware movies don’t go straight to theaters after filming, the idea of what happens after filming is known but not truly understood. Post production is overlooked and by far a truly underrated art. Starting with editing and condensing scenes into everything the director has imagined, to finding that perfect song that will carry the viewer to the desired emotional state, the jobs lined up for post production are far more demanding than they let on.
As of lately, Lake Forest High School alumni Madison Peper offered herself as a resource to better understanding sections of sound supervising, only a section involved in post production. After she finished her first semester interning for a local Nashville business, 35 Sound, she let me pick her brain to find out a few more details about what goes on in more detail. What I’ve learned has definitely been intriguing and broadened my respect for the busy work post production crews are constantly dealing with to help get movies finished.
Post production of film media entails a list of different jobs that require a specific passion for detail. Editing film, or cutting out wasted film and piecing together the designated shots to create a flow of pictures that is both pleasing to the eye and respectful to the directors taste and message, is the first step in getting closer to a finished product. Hours of watching and re-watching different arrangements, cleaning up transitions and completely changing the feel of a movie are just a few options for video editors. While an important part in every movie, editing visually is not the only piece in post production; without sound, our movies would be extremely unappealing.
Sound editing is grunt work at best, but important beyond description. Sound editing has usually three elements that need to be covered. Dialogue– though it is usually dealt with during principal photography–music, and effects (any auditory information that isn’t speech or music). Almost all of the sound is added during post-production, even if it is only looping or cleaning up the dialogue that got lost or scratched over in filming, or adding in tapes to emphasize background noises to complete the realistic aspect of the film.
Way back when the first movies came out, there was no sound involved. Silent movies, still favorites across the world, were held back from their true potential as technology limited them to visual communication only. While no dialogue is necessary, miming and title cards helped lead the plot, as there was always something missing from the black and white footage. It was in 1895, a few years after the first public projection of movies when a Parisian film duo, the Lumiere Brothers, decided to give their movies something more. Accompanied by musicians and orchestras, silent movies were given a new depth as songs were written or improvised to build with the plot.
Since the first introduction of music to movies, technology has advanced and allowed for so much more than a live show. With the ability to place music, whether it be melodies or a whole song wherever,comes the challenge of deciding just that: where should it go? Spotting, only one of many post-production music jobs, is in charge of deciding where and when music will come up in movies. Peper spoke with great emphasis on the creative freedom that came with spotting, “Spotting is important because that is the music supervisor’s opportunity for creativity. That is when we have the chance to decide ‘this is where music should be and this is how music will change and enhance this scene.’”
Needing to take into account the feel of the scene and whether or not a build up is needed, spotting is important in helping the audience get the full experience of connecting with the movie. Spotters are open to a whole music library filled with tons of music artists and labels that are eager to be a part of anything. Ms. Peper, a lover of all music since she was young, talked about the extent of resources that are available.
“It all comes down to the sound and tone of songs. [The song] needs to carry the scene and help it reach the potential the writers and directors are striving for.”
It doesn’t always come down to choosing a song off of the top 40 list, but sometimes leads to collaborations with bands or composers to create that perfect sound and feel.
Production teams have definitely evolved past the live accompaniment, moving onto popular music or recorded original scores. It may sound simple placing music into scenes, but looking past the technology there is a legal battle waiting to happen as copyrights now play a role in soundtracks. Licensing is an inevitable hoop that movie producers cannot avoid.
Music is not cheap. Sure, a song can be bought for $1.29 on iTunes, but when a song is being put into a movie the price skyrockets. In an example, the opening scene from Wayne’s World is a complete jam session to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the popular track by Queen. The opening credits entail a drive around Aurora, Illinois with the group jamming out to the classic tune, and the barely over 2 minutes (out of the almost 6-minute song) cost somewhere between $100-175,00. It all makes sense, though, using spreadsheet after spreadsheet to organize labels, writers, and performers.
“Licensing is all about giving credit to the performers, songwriters, and labels.” While licensing is not cheap nor a glamorous side of the entertainment industry, giving credit to those involved is important in avoiding future lawsuits. As a young singer/songwriter, Peper knows any acknowledgment or payment is meaningful, “Getting a song synced can pay for an artist’s rent for a couple months if it is in the right movie or show”. Music in movies is not only satisfying in the completed product but beneficial to deserving artists and record labels all around.
Music, after all, is a key component in films. Music is what has you singing along with the heroine, what has your heart beating in anticipation, and brings tears slipping down your cheeks from laughter or heartache. There should never be a job overlooked when it comes to something as large as a film; each job is just as important as the next. So next time you sit down with a bowl of popcorn to watch The Academy Awards or to just enjoy a movie, pay attention to the small things, not necessarily the big names. Each tiny task that required hours of careful watching and listening, days of legal deals and endless possibilities, for the quality of our entertainment, would surely be lowered without the precision taken to create each piece.