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You watch great films and videos made by other creators and think, “What am I missing?”. There’s that pang of jealous admiration we all get when someone solves the puzzle of how to create content that feels impactful, professional, and just plain good. Suddenly, you’re wondering if selling (or at least pawning) your soul to buy a RED camera is really entirely out of the question.
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Getting mired in the idea that producing phenomenal work is contingent on having a phenomenal budget is natural; we all like shiny things, and expensive productions are nothing if not shiny. But, at the end of the day, every last filmmaker, editor, YouTuber, and videographer out there is in the business of telling stories, where an understanding of what makes for a great one is worth its weight in gold.
All That Glitters
For all the similarities that exist between video and life, one of the most pronounced differences is that many of the best things in film are free, or at least affordable enough to fit even the most meager budget. It’s the intangibles – the moods, feelings, and emotions – that live in viewers’ heads and hearts for months, years, and lifetimes after the credits roll. No tears were shed during the last scene of Titanic because of the model of lens James Cameron chose to use.
You don’t need a master’s in psychology to figure out what it takes to pull a heart string or strike a nerve. Just call to mind your favorite scene or video, one that gave you chills, dropped your jaw, or made you smile. Think about the textures, the colors, the music – the pieces that don’t just register, but resonate. These are the elements of striking, professional video work that money can’t buy – the ones that any amateur creator who focuses their energy in the right places can achieve.
So, you get your writing airtight and hone your sense of visual composition to the point where you can frame a scene like a painting using an iPhone. The only thing missing, the unsung hero of every stellar visual creation from YouTube to Cannes, is the perfect music.
Mood, Music, and Magnetism
Books have been written on the impact of soundtracks, textbooks even. Names like John Williams and Hans Zimmer echo through the annals of film history with the same gravity as Spielberg and Scorsese. In short, the music you choose for your project is kind of a big deal.
If this were a fact that more amateur filmmakers and videographers would take to heart, then a lot of amateur films and videos would feel, well, less amateurish. It can be confusing, even intimidating, to try and dive into the world of music as someone whose craft revolves around visuals. But, you know how to tell a story; all that’s left is making sure it’s complete.
We could muse that music is half the story, three-quarters of the story, 76.2% of the story; but, the truth is, a soundtrack is a story in and of itself, telling the audience things that only it can. Sometimes it does so almost invisibly, unnoticed until the audience feels their heart rate raising and their eyes widening.
Indulge us in a quick metaphor, and take a brief trip down memory lane to childhood science experiments. Your project is a table, the audience’s perception of it a sprinkling of iron filings on top. The magnet underneath, whether it be a dark score adding dread to a horror short, the bright background music that gets a vlog to pop, or anything in between, is your opportunity as a visual creator to shape that perception.
A Crucial Step in Picking the Right Music: Don’t Pick the Wrong Music
So far we’ve been talking about music as some elusive force of nature. In truth, not a huge stretch but, in reality, there’s more music floating around out there than any filmmaker, editor, YouTuber, or videographer could know what to do with. We’ll get to the good stuff in a second, but here’s a few things to avoid:
1) Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” putting an exclamation mark on the guys’ trip to Vegas in “The Hangover” made for an awesome scene. Well, remember when we said that the best things in film are surprisingly affordable? That doesn’t apply to your favorite songs, unfortunately, and, while it’s tempting to try and sneak one in, it’s best to keep “dealing with legal ramifications” off your to-do list.
2) Major editing software like Final Cut come with some bits of music built right in, free to use, and some of them even sound kind of cool. However, not only are you limited in your ability to find a piece of music that fits the project just right, you run the risk of cheapening your work with something that’s been used over and over again. Ideally, your soundtrack won’t remind viewers of a car commercial.
3) There are loads of freelance film composers out there, but inconsistency, price, and timeframe can all be prohibitive. Why spend time searching and vetting when you could find exactly what you need for whatever you’re working on, any time, in one place?
In essence, don’t risk getting sued by the Beatles, don’t detract from a professional aesthetic with heavily recycled loops, and don’t get tangled up in a battle of creative differences with a guy who thinks he’s the next Danny Elfman
Finding the Perfect Fit: Unique Films Call for Unique Music
Hopefully, there’s a small epiphany or two to be had after taking a closer look at what a key role music plays in film and video work. We’ve covered enough about the philosophy of it and the possible perils; if you’re ready to elevate your work, here’s how to do it.
Scoring your project to perfection is something of a Cinderella situation: “if the shoe fits”. What one project calls for isn’t what another needs, and the range of music you’re choosing from needs to match the range of feelings you’re trying to evoke – expansive, to say the least.
We set out to create a one size fits all that’s anything but impersonal, to take our experiences as filmmakers, editors, DJ’s, and composers, and distill them down into a platform that could bring exceptional music to exceptional creators. What we ended up with is Jambox, and we’re honestly pretty damn proud.
A subscription model means you’ll always have access to a massive library of music and sounds made by people who know that you’re relying on their best work to bring your own to life. Throw in a state-of-the-art website, and seeking out the perfect track just became as easy as browsing Netflix for a good show. Shooting a short Western about a cowboy who always wanted to be an EDM DJ one week and a documentary about a pack of roving wolves with a real rock and roll attitude the next? JamBox has you covered.
We love great films, and we’d love to be a part of yours. Get in on the adventure at Jambox; it’s a huge investment in your work for a small price, and we’re always here to help.