The video "Asia Mon Amour" from photographer David Stewart got a lot of attention on Vimeo because of the soundscape. Stewart has made a "behind-the-scenes" video, where he tells the thoughts about doing the audio for the video.
- As someone much smarter than me said: "Video pushes and sound pulls", tells Stewart.
If there is one thing that will kill your video, it is bad sound design. However, the reverse is also true.
Putting in the sound of dishes clacking, even though it was barely perceptible, made the shot of the woman in the kitchen stronger.
- The sound pulls the viewer forward, prepares them for what is coming. The other probably quite obvious thing is that sound functions in the brain on a deeper less conscious level than visuals. This is something we discovered as we started layering the sounds in. We noticed that by putting in the sound of a dishes clacking (recorded separately in the kitchen of my studio) that even though it was barely perceptible, it made the shot of the woman in the kitchen stronger. So we did a lot of that. Little bits of tuk tuk noise, the Tokyo subway, bar sounds.
- This particular video, ASIA MON AMOUR, was shot over a 3 week period in Asia. We came back with about 2500 clips. When that happens, you need a genius editor. Lucky for me, I have one: Magdalena Lepke. She is the one who put together a road map as to how we should proceed.
As Walter Murch says in The Blink of an Eye "Don't go into the jungle without a road map." Once we had a rough cut, we started to think about what the audio would be. At this point we stopped editing and spent maybe 10 days figuring out how the sound design should be. Then we went back to editing and weaving the sound together. I can not stress how important the sound design is. If there is one thing that will kill your video, it is bad sound design. However, the reverse is also true.
I can not stress how important the sound design is. If there is one thing that will kill your video, it is bad sound design. However, the reverse is also true.
- I was not interested in making this into a "music video". I knew right away that I wanted separate musical selections for the separate visual sections. The question then was how to keep the four music pieces feeling like a whole. The answer was that thorough the under the entire piece, there is a recording that I made in Bali of a local drummer. In the beginning, and at the junctures of the main music pieces, we bring up to be more noticeable. That is the string we needed to tie it all together.
- The big obstacle of course is how to get your sounds. All the local sound was recorded in the camera or with a Zoom recorder and Rode mic. Some of the sound effects, like the fan, we purchased from sound effect web sites. Fortunately, I have a number of musician friends, and Blake Mills contributed the last track. The Pig Factory, who are just wonderful people, were nice enough to let us use the Shiffers track. But it was a challenge to find the right music and then make sure we could use it.
Going from stills to video
- My background is that I have been a still photographer for about 25 years. We started doing video at my studio about a year and a half ago. But it wasn't until the firmware update for the 5D Mark II came out that I got serious with it. Most of the fall of 2009 we spent learning as much as we could about doing motion. It was a huge and complex task, and not something that one can do a bit at a time. One has to jump all in, total body immersion, or it won't work. There are just too many things that can go wrong. Pretty much any imaginable mistake that could be made, we did it.
Back in the fall of 2009, there was not nearly the information there is now about how these cameras work, the compression, the lenses, pretty much everything was completely new. The acceptance by the larger film and video communities of what these cameras could do was not what it is today, just 10 months later. I mean, the big film rental houses here in LA would essentially laugh at you if you said you were working on a 5D Mark II.
My advice to someone who is making film is: learn to dance, because what you are making are pictures that move, so learn to understand what movement means in your body first.
- To me, the piece is very visual, a collection of moving stills. Oddly, the comment I get more than anything else is how much people like the music. I guess that means we did a good job on the sound.
- When i was living in NY, I studied African Dance with these live African drummers for about five years. Talk about an ego crushing experience: me, the middle aged white guy from the hinterlands in a class that was 95% woman, all half my age, and all of whom could really dance. Anyway, the thing is, I learned rhythm and sequence there. It comes back to me all the time when i am directing and especially in post. What is the timing? What is the rhythm? I have the rhythm in my head before i chose the music. The music has to match to the my feeling of the rhythm of the edits, rather than the other way. it is a physical thing rather than a mental thing. My advice to someone who is making film, is learn to dance, because what you are making are pictures that move, so learn to understand what movement means in your body first.
About David Stewart: Photographer/Director. Chosen as a winner for the 2010 PDN and AP26 for editorial photography. Winner of the 2009 Living Photograph contest. Obsessed with image creation. Stewart on Facebook.
Bonus. Have a look at this amazing little video: