Since the beginning of civilization, emotion of mankind has resonated in the harmonies of music. From simple rhythm, to complex melodies creating earworms we groove to throughout the day.
Music prompts passion on a primitive level. Rhythmic beats pulsing to the pace of life itself. That organic attraction, at times identified as work of the devil, energizing our primal core and causing hips to twist and shout. Every genre from the blues to funk, rock to disco, and most recently EDM; all vibe to that 4-on-the-floor primal beat.
Why does music affect us in such raw, primal, emotional ways? Consider the timing of rhythm. The pacing of fundamental melody. The anchor guides the lyrical story from beginning to end.
If we survey the world around us, similar patterns in timing and pace begin to emerge. These repetitive, multiples of four found in core nature and physics, parallel the basic four-beat bar we find in music.
These multiples of four in energy and time resonate with our most basic primal soul, invoking emotional spirit, stirring primitive energy.
If we relate visual production to music, each creative element becomes an individual instrument. From scriptwriting, direction, cinematography, music scoring, graphic design, motion animation, and editing. They all work together as individual instruments in a grand orchestral visual composition.
The script becomes sheet music, offering a clear beginning, middle, and end. That guide helps the conductor, also known as the director, select the right tools to build the visual instruments, creating a foundation to share the empirical journey. Accurate color balance, clear audio, motivated lighting, well composed shots, altering the pace of an edit, adding a visual crescendo, or tuning the color of image… all work together to creatively tune the visual and support the final composition.
Applying that four beat pulse pacing to visual production, creates a mystical hidden layer calling on our primal emotion. Such pacing eases the viewing experience through comfort of familiarity, removing a layer of mental processing to make the viewing experience more organic.
Cut to the Beat
When the visual pacing dances in sync with the soundtrack, the harmonious impact can become exponential. Editing in-time with music helps create emotional notes. Creating a faster pace on any given note, adds energy. Editing a slower pace by cutting at the measure of a song, establishes deeper emotion.
One of the most successful examples of this theory is found in Star Wars. Without the genius of composer John Williams, creating music to support and elevate the visual story, Star Wars would have failed. His concurrent successes and impact highlight the significance of music sparking emotion with complimentary visual pacing.
The application of transitions can also evoke emotion. When dissolves are applied, either fading to black or in-between shots, it eases the mind allowing a subtle path for emotional connection. More recently, the introduction of higher-end transitions like digital swish or snap zooms can be effective tools to energize a scene. However, like any exciting new production tool it can be tempting to over-use such effects, nullifying their impact from subtle tool to distraction.
Music Should Support, Not Distract
Just as overuse of special effects or fancy new production styles can destroy a production when overused, music holds the same danger. Depending too much on music to drive your production will become a distraction. Being too deliberate with edits can do the same, unless there’s motivation to highlight the beat.
Every element in a production should offer a supporting role, creating that elegant balanced dance which allows all elements to rise above. Too much focus on any element creates distraction.