I LOVE movies! But a movie without a soundtrack is not a movie. Why? Because soundtracks bring movies to life. (See America’s 100 Best Movie Soundtracks)
Before I started in video production, I was in music. In fact, my degree is in music performance and because of that, we’ve always placed a high emphasis on the soundtrack of our videos. In short, we believe that music has to be an integral part of the video, not just an add-on or after thought.
Through the years I’ve learned there are 3 rules that all great soundtracks follow.
Rule #1 – The Soundtrack Conveys
The soundtrack always helps the director move the story along by conveying the heart of the video. A great soundtrack helps to sets the tone, the mood, the feel and the pace of the video.
Probably one of the most iconic soundtracks is based on a 2 note theme. Can you name it? Before you ever see the shark in Jaws, you know he’s coming, how? By the soundtrack. And that soundtrack conveys how you should feel about his impending appearance.
Rule #2 – The Soundtrack Connects
Great soundtracks always help the film connect to the audience. What do you do when you’re watching TV at home and don’t want to be distracted? If you’re like me, you mute the sound. Why? Because the sound connects you to the film. Think of it this way, the soundtrack helps to weave the story together. There’s a reason theaters spend so much money on surround sound and sub-woofers – for the audience to experience the film, they must see, hear and feel it. In short, they must connect to the film through all the senses.
Rule #3 – The Soundtrack Complements
Have you ever watched a B or C movie only to be painfully aware that the soundtrack was terrible? If you have, you understand the third rule, a great soundtrack always complements the film. Put another way, it never draws attention to itself. It never screams, “hey listen to me”. If it does, it’s failed.
Great soundtracks always complement films. For example, I bet you can’t hum the tune to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or The Wizard of Oz without seeing them in your minds eye. Why? Because they just go together and complement one another.
Here’s a simple example from a documentary we produced last year. The first clip is without a soundtrack and the second is the very same clip with a soundtrack. Which do you like better?
So the next time you’re watching a video, documentary or film, ask yourself the question does this soundtrack follow the three rules? And if you didn’t think to ask yourself that question during the film…the soundtrack did it’s job.