Sunday, April 12, 2015

[Yasmin_discussions] Why do Science Films often have such terrible use of music or sound

Dear Roger,

It's probably a mundane answer, but my suspicion is that the core issue is the cost of good sound and music. Hollywood films have good music because ticket sales support the costs of a high quality production. In my note on the subject of music, I mentioned some of the great Hollywood composers whose scores accompany serious films — Aaron Copeland and Cyril Mockridge long ago, Nino Rota, James Newton Howard, Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones today. If you think of great films with memorable scores such as Lawrence of Arabia or Spartacus, or the typical genre scores of outstanding Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven or Tombstone, you are listening to skilled composers writing full orchestral music for studio production. The sound alone of such a film probably runs higher than the total cost of a science film. This is even the case for a well-scored action movie such as The Expendables, where dramatic music enhances and works as reinforcement and counterpoint to the narrative action.

Ticket sales, commercial tie-ins, DVD sales, multiple market sales, HBO and Netflix after cinema, and a dozen other revenue sources give these kinds of films revenue that no science film can hope to achieve. Revenue supports total budget, and budget supports a proper sound environment.

It is extremely difficult to integrate good sound into a science documentary. Even the production staff on such a film generally lacks the experience of coordinating a major full-budget production. The people with full production experience who work in Hollywood are professionals — you wouldn't ask them to move into a completely different field, and science films are a completely different field. For that matter, most people who love Hollywood productions and earn a Hollywood salary wouldn't likely want to work on science films for the available salaries.

Given the economics of science films, I'd argue that skilled sound coordination of excellent music available for reasonable rights fees is probably the best one can hope for.

It's a matter of choices.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to get into a very lucrative business as partner to a relative who had become a very successful investing in California real estate. He wanted help from an intelligent person he could trust. He made millions back in the 1980s when a million dollars was worth more than it is now, and I knew I would become quite wealthy. I was grateful for the offer but I declined. I've done well in a life I love: I own a small house in a small city in Sweden; I have a safe and solid used Volvo instead of a BMW; I work with ideas and art instead of money — and I enjoy my work. Different industries support different lifestyles and they take different skills.

If someone has a way to get good original music for science films, I'd be interested to hear it. On the kinds of budgets available, my guess is that the available original music is bad original music, amateur composition, or student music. None of this is better than good music at reasonable fees.

Even at that, it's clear that few science films are willing to engage competent music coordinators. Low budgets and lack of thought answer your question. But thinking this through also requires reasonable choices. You can't hire a full studio orchestra and get a film-length score for the budget of a science film. I don't think this is bad. I think it is the way it is — I'm happy with my Volvo and my small house by the Baltic.



Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia


> On 2015Apr13, at 11:13, roger malina <> wrote:


> Any way ; lets back to the discussion that started as a detour in the Light is
> my business discussion- how should sound and music be used in
> an integrated way to augment the effectiveness of science communication films


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