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music for a documentary

When music makes the video, discuss and recommend soundtracks for specific themes/subjects.

music for a documentary

Postby gail spiro » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:21 pm

Dear documentary experts out there -I need your advice. I'm in the middle of editing a very long family history that I've been asked to do for a client. Its mostly boring footage of the family patriarch telling his story. Fortunatley, I've got many many photos to superimpose on top of his footage to make it more visually interesting. My question is, I don't know whether to keep a muted music soundtrack underneath his footage, or if that would be too distracting. If I do use musci, I need advice on what music to use- his family is Jewish with Russian origins, so for his family history section I was thinking about perhaps some Russian Klezmer music. Then for the section about his service years in WWII, I was thinking of using some of the music he remembers listening to during that time period -the same goes for the remainder of his story. (For instance, the music he rememberws dancing to when he first met his wife, etc. Any help out there is much appreciated- this is very different than my normal work.
Thanks so much!
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby Chuck Engels » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:52 pm

Hi Gail,
I just did a similar project last year for the president of our company at the time, and did use a soundtrack behind the narration. I also paused the narration to bring up the music at times during various parts of the film which was mostly photos with a bit of 16mm footage thrown in.

The narration was done by my friend and was maybe not the best narrator but I'm sure his family loved it.
One of the keys is to find places to break up the narration, insert a classic song of the times or a memory tune as you have suggested. The more music you can get from the client the better, then it is just a matter of having enough material to put down while the music plays. Remember, you don't need to use entire songs, just the chorus will do or even a verse. Just photos and narration can be extremely boring, adding a nice music bed will help with the flow and add interest to the film. Don't forget that we have some great royalty free music tracks right here at Muvipix :)

Even though he only wanted DVDs I still did the entire project in HD and sent him a Blu Ray sample. Still hoping that someone will want a Blu Ray version but have had no takers so far :( I will post a sample if I get some time this week.
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby gail spiro » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:05 pm

thanks Chuck- I'd really love to see it! So you didn't find that the musci inder the narration made it difficult to hear and follow the dialogue?
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby Chuck Engels » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:13 pm

gail spiro wrote:So you didn't find that the musci inder the narration made it difficult to hear and follow the dialogue?


Not at all, but there is a matter of balancing the volume. Take a look at any of the great documentaries, they all have a soundtrack beneath the narration. Keep it subtle but audible :)

Here is a sample, Ken Burns' America - Thomas Jefferson
There isn't a soundtrack under the entire film, but there is under much of it.
I think you will get the idea :)
Be sure to watch at least the first 5 minutes and pay attention to the levels between music soundtrack and the narration or interviews.
The music may actually seem loud but it does not overcome the speaker.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRIfvH9stGs[/youtube]
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby gail spiro » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:21 pm

This is so helpful! Thanks
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby Peru » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:14 pm

Piano music seems to work well with documentaries.
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby Chuck Engels » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:24 pm

Got permission to post some of the video so here are 3 segments, beginning, middle and end.
I used motion backgrounds from Muvipix, music from Muvipix and a few other places, graphics from the client and from the internet. This is about 6 minutes out of a 30 minute video, hope it helps :)







One of these days I will have to get back to work on my family history documentary ::C
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Re: music for a documentary

Postby gail spiro » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:43 am

Chuck- Thank you so much for taking the time to put these up. It's really helpful to see how you were able to keep the music under the sound without losing our ability to hear and follow the story.
Nice job -I really like the way you inter played the motion video with some of the graphic images in the beginning, such as the birth certificate and baptism certificate. I have my work cut out for me with this documentary. I'm looking forward to being done!
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