Friday, June 12, 2009

Adding Audio

When I created the One Holy Night video, I realized that adding an audio line would make the trailer a lot more effective. I originally wanted to use Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 cut on the Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme album “Silent Night/7 O’clock News,” which would have been terrific background audio for this particular story. But the chances of getting permission, even for a prohibitive fee, were too slight to waste the time trying. I figured if they actually allowed me to use it, I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway. So I resigned myself to doing a search on sites where you can download audio files.

I quickly stumbled across, where I found a track of wind blowing softly that I wanted for the trailer’s beginning and end. After doing considerable searching and comparing versions, I also snagged a recording of “Silent Night” with a lovely, haunting female voice at an affordable price. Good enough. That became my soundtrack.

For the Wind of the Spirit trailer, I wasn’t sure what kind of soundtrack would work the best, but I wanted something extraordinary. I’d decided the introduction would be the rolling growl of thunder at a distance. After listening to a bunch of versions on audiosparx, I settled on one that had just the effect I wanted. That took up about fifteen seconds, but the trailer was running about a minute and a half, so what about the rest of it?

I studied my images and began searching on sound effects and Indian chants that might fit. I found some hysterically funny files of stuff like an arrow being shot and thunking into a target, which sounds nothing like you’d imagine. I envisioned a long, hissing swish as the arrow arced through the air, followed by a satisfyingly solid clunk as it sliced into the target. Forget that. None of them lasted more than a couple of seconds, and they sure didn’t sound like a shaft hissing through the air. But I did find the sound of fire burning and some interesting Indian chants. They were all really cheap, so I bought them, while wondering how I was going to stitch them all together into a coherent soundtrack.

Then I decided to see if I couldn’t find a better Indian chant. I wasn’t really satisfied with the one I’d found, so on the off chance there might be something better that I hadn’t run across yet, I searched on Native American chant again. And this time as I worked my way down through the list of results, listening to each in turn, I hit the jackpot.

The first couple of seconds assured me I’d found my theme song. By the time it finished, I had goosebumps. It wasn’t an Indian chant at all, but a movie-style intro theme, and it absolutely blew me away! I was thrilled . . . and then I looked at the price.

$179.00. No cheaper personal use rights, either, just professional.

I got real close to the screen to make sure I wasn’t reading it wrong. Nope. I wasn’t.

I sat back, thinking rapidly. Okay. This is a book trailer, for Pete’s sake, not a movie trailer. Sure this theme is better than anything I envisioned in my wildest dreams, but get real. I’d already plunked down a larger chunk of change for my must-have absolutely perfect Native American images than I’d planned, and $179 more just wasn’t in the budget. I’d make do with something less expensive.

Except . . . this one was perfect!! And now I was going to be terribly disappointed with anything else. Oh, bummer. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided it couldn’t hurt to put it into my shopping cart so I wouldn’t lose it. Then I’d think about it for a few days. I could always come back and purchase it if I won the lottery. Of course, that would mean I’d have to start playing it, and I don’t gamble, sooooo . . .

So I clicked on the buy button. A screen comes up that asks you what rights you want to purchase, and there was a list of professional rights ranging from small business on up to movie and TV. Naturally I clicked on small business and was then deposited in the shopping cart. Not expecting anything, I glanced at the amount before closing out.


I let out a whoop that could have been heard from here to Nashville and raced to grab my credit card! All righty, then!!!! I was in business!!!! I downloaded that sucker in a heartbeat and immediately pulled up the trailer. I hadn’t gotten the timing right yet and not all of the effects and transitions were in place, but what the hay. I dropped that puppy into the audio line behind the thunder and fired her up.

The effect was jaw dropping. All of a sudden the entire video came together and flowed like silk!! It just swept me along from beginning to end, and hopefully does other viewers too. If you haven’t watched it yet, be sure to take a look and let me know what you think.

Because the theme is just barely over a minute long, I ended up having to splice it. That’s not too difficult in Movie Maker—couldn’t be if I managed to do it without even reading the directions. You can see the sound waves in the audio line, which helped me figure out where to make the cut. I pulled the track back from its end to cut off the conclusion, plunked the file in a second time, and pulled that one back from the beginning to leave only the end. Then by lengthening and shortening each segment bit by bit and running the video across the splice each time to test it, I was able to adjust it until I found a spot where the transition sounded reasonably natural, and where the two pieces together went all the way through the credit roll. So far nobody who’s listened to it has been able to tell where the splice occurs.

After I’d gotten all the transitions and effects the way I wanted them, I adjusted the length of time each image is onscreen to coordinate it as much as possible with the audio line, and it was finished. That’s all there was to it. If you haven’t tried putting together one of these videos, give it a try! It’s a tremendous amount of fun. It’s almost as much of a blast as writing the story in the first place, and if I can figure out how to do it, anyone can!

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