The Soundtrack of Success: Combining Music and Film

by | Oct 24, 2023

In the visual world of cinema, music is not just an accompaniment; it is a powerful storytelling tool that can evoke emotions, set the tone, and immerse audiences in the narrative. From sweeping orchestral compositions of classic films to the eclectic mixtapes of modern blockbusters, to the minute sound design details that make a movie feel real; the role of music and sound in the audience’s experience of movies is undeniable. 

Let’s delve into the multifaceted role of a music producer and how it translates to the film industry, bridging the creative worlds of audio and film production. We’ll also take a closer look at how MediaTech’s Music Recording Arts Program, in conjunction with the MTI Digital film program, empowers aspiring artists to master these skills, offering a gateway to a world where creativity and technology harmonize seamlessly.

The Power of Music in Film

A long time ago in a land far, far, away, (Hollywood in the 1920’s), before the ‘talkies’ existed, movies were seen as a primarily visual medium. Some films from the time did have an orchestral soundtrack to run alongside the film, sometimes even performed by a live orchestra. Once sound syncing was introduced in the late 1920’s, many audiences and studios thought that film and sound syncing was a fad, but boy were they wrong. 

Imagine your favorite movie without its iconic soundtrack. Would it have the same impact? Would it be as memorable? Chances are, the answer is no. Music has the incredible ability to enhance the emotional depth of a film, providing an extra layer of storytelling that words and visuals alone cannot achieve.

Consider musicals like “The Sound of Music” or “Les Misérables.” Films like these rely heavily on music to convey the characters’ emotions and can become a character in themselves, guiding the audience through the story’s highs and lows. The swell of emotion on screen can be highlighted by a swell of a dramatic tune.

The magic of these musicals lies in their ability to make the audience feel the music in their hearts and souls, and the combination of the two mediums to form one cohesive, emotional product is one of the greatest innovations to film as an artform, despite early critic’s views on sound in film. 

Music isn’t only important in musicals though, especially in more modern times where musicals aren’t a top 10 most popular genre anymore.

For example, we have modern blockbusters like the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, known for their curated soundtracks. Films like these use a mix of classic rock and pop songs to transport viewers to a nostalgic place, often contrasting with the high-tech, otherworldly settings of the Marvel Universe. When done correctly, the result is a unique and memorable cinematic experience that wouldn’t be the same without the carefully selected songs.

Crafting the Little Sounds for Big Results

Beyond inserting stylistic, mood-determining songs to films, there’s the more subtle yet important art of crafting soundscapes that immerse audiences in the world of a film. Have you ever wondered how the boom operator magically caught the sound of footsteps so well on set while also capturing the important dialogue? Drumroll, please… because the answer is that on-set audio crews didn’t record the footstep sounds during principal photography. 

Enter audio post-production crew;  the sound designers and Foley artists. 

Think of classic horror movies like “Psycho” or “The Exorcist.” Horror films like these  used innovative sound design techniques to enhance visual tension and fear. The screeching violins in “Psycho’s” shower scene are etched into cinematic history, proving that sound can be as memorably terrifying as visuals; and in conjunction, sound and visual aspects largely enhance the audience’s cinematic experience. 

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” gifted the thriller/horror genre with a sound formula to be used for decades, as string instruments are still used heavily by modern horror productions, like in many A24 films.

Now, the work of a Foley artist is equally crucial in bringing a film to life. These unsung, behind the scenes heroes create the everyday sounds we take for granted, from footsteps on gravel to the clinking of glasses. Rarely are these effects captured during principal photography, as Foley artists work in sound proofed rooms recording unlikely items sounds to create recognizable sound effects. 

A legendary example of Foley that audiences take for granted is the sound of light sabers in the “Star Wars” series. The sound designer for the films, Ben Burtt, realized that the sound made when combining the sounds of a 35mm projector and a 70s tube TV was perfect for the on-screen weapon, and thus one of the most iconic sound effects of all time was created.

The sound quality of a film or TV show is one of the first signs an audience can detect as to how good a movie is, and bad sound design will be the first thing to stand out to any viewer. Unless working in experimental film, the sound and visual elements of film are basically completely inseparable. Without the expertise of talented music-minded professionals, movies and other media would feel oddly silent and lacking in the engaging realism audiences have come to expect with modern cinema. 

MediaTech Institute: Where Music Production and Film Meet

For those aspiring to enter the world of music production and recording for film, a comprehensive education is essential. MediaTech Music Recording Arts Program offers a comprehensive look at the music industry and all the applications of the skills our program covers; including how to bridge those skills into a career in film. By providing hands-on training in state-of-the-art studios, students learn the technical skills required to excel in the industry.

MediaTech’s Music Recording Arts Program can work in conjunction with the Digital Film Program, allowing students to explore the many opportunities in audio and visual storytelling. The availability of both programs in one institute offers students a unique combination of opportunities, offering students first hand experience in the collaborative worlds of Music and Film.

In the world of film, the soundtrack is more than just background noise—it’s the heartbeat of the story. Whether you’re a fan of musicals, blockbuster soundtracks, or classic horror films, there’s no denying the incredible impact that music has on the cinematic experience. Music producers and sound designers are the unknown magicians behind the silver screen, subtly creating a more immersive experience for audiences everywhere. 

If you are passionate about the art of film, music, or sound design, consider exploring MediaTech’s Music Recording Arts or Digital Filmmaking Program. By learning the technical and creative aspects of music production, you can become a part of the next generation of storytellers, shaping the soundtracks and sound landscapes of the future’s most memorable films.

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