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What Jurassic Park Can Teach Us About Music Choice

November 11, 2014

Jurassic Park may have one of the best and most recognizable film scores in recent memory. Nominated for numerous awards, John Williams’ masterpiece is almost as synonymous with the movie as the Velociraptor. Just mentioning the title can instantly take you back to the moment we first hear the iconic melody: Dr. Grant, played by Sam Neill, sitting in a field of knee high grass, pulling his glasses down from his eyes and peering off into a field to see the mighty Brontosaurus strolling casually through a field. As the film cuts to the Bronto, the music comes soaring in – the brass and woodwinds blasting the triumphant opening notes, the strings softening the staccato eighths and quarters ever so slightly, giving the tune the unmistakable flow from note to note. Jurassic Park, released in 1993 (to give this some perspective, that was the same year Clinton took office for his FIRST term), revolutionized computer generated effects and animatronics and served as a benchmark for filmmaking thereafter. And the incomparable Williams delivered a score that only served to enhance the monumental achievement that was, and still is, Jurassic Park.

But what if that music didn’t have the impact it needed to have for that moment? Would it have been as memorable or as synonymous with the film as it is today? What is the music was just plain bad? What if it was this?

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But the fact remains; the song is iconic because it’s good and because it’s perfectly appropriate for the moment. The hook keeps you engaged and is easy to recall after the movie, and the scene is nearly synonymous with the melody.

Music choice has the same effect in any video production, regardless of the scale or budget. The music has to match the tone you are trying to create; and in some cases, the music is what sets that tone. It also has to help engage an audience that is often easily distracted by anywhere between three to four different devices at a time, all of which are begging for your audience’s attention. Think about big-budget, national commercials. How many of those spots utilize an already established hit for its music bed? But what’s even more telling about the impact music choice has on a video production is this question: How many songs actually peaked in popularity BECAUSE of their use in a commercial? This isn’t done by accident. Producers and directors take meticulous care in selecting an engaging and catchy music bed. In some cases, this means you’ll be humming the tune long after the commercial plays. It’s sort of like top of mind awareness of a tonal quality.

Music choice doesn’t just enhance a spot, it helps create it, define it. And it should be just as engrained into the production process as scripting or editing. Often the task for selecting a music bed is saved for last and it doesn’t receive the attention it should. But think about how selecting a promising music bed early in the process can help shape the edit; think about how music can seamlessly weave in and out of lines of dialogue. And don’t think you have to shell out thousands of dollars for the rights to a pop song; there are plenty of websites offering inexpensive rights to catchy, well-crafted songs available for almost every budget and possible scenario. So listen for that hook, carefully consider the tone of your spot, and don’t settle on the first thing you hear. Give the music time to grow on you. Often some that seems catchy at first can be down right annoying after just a couple listens. Whichever method you choose to select the music for your production, just make sure you’re giving it the importance it deserves, and if all else fails, just call John Williams. I’m sure he’s not too busy.

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