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Digital Video Hacks
By Josh Paul
May 2005
More Info

HACK
#60
Cut to the Beat of Your Music
Whether editing a music video, your friend's wedding, or the next great action movie, music is a tremendous addition to help set the mood for a scene. If you can cut to the beat of the music, your scene will benefit even more.
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Digital video is an audiovisual medium, yet the audio portion of the signal tends to be neglected until late in production. If you are attempting to enhance a scene using music, you should choose music that is appropriate to the mood you are trying to create. Even after selecting the right music, if your editing doesn't take the music into account, your scene will not accomplish what you want and your audience will actually become distracted by your selection.

Marking Your Beats

After importing your music and, of course, your video footage, you can get to the fun task of editing your scene. You might find that as you are editing, you are missing the beats of the music. This can be especially frustrating if you are cutting a scene that is particularly music driven.

Instead of fighting with the music, you might find that adding markers to the music (or your timeline) can help you finesse your scene with more confidence. Setting the marks to the beat is easy; all you need to do is play the section of your timeline and press the keyboard shortcut for setting a mark on each beat. The end result will get you close, if not exact (depending on how fast your fingers are), marks for each beat of your music.

TIP

I have found that looking away from the computer monitor helps me concentrate on the music.

shows a section of music with enhanced beats.

Figure 1. A section of music with enhanced beats

To set your marks:

Avid

Assign a keyboard shortcut to the Locator button.

Final Cut

Mark → Markers → Add

Premiere

Marker → Set Clip Marker → Unnumbered

iMovie

Bookmarks → Add Bookmark

To make the process easier, learn what your particular system uses as a keyboard shortcut. By doing so, you will be able to just press a key (or combination of keys) on your keyboard, instead of using the mouse.

As soon as you have finished placing your marks, you can begin to make a few cuts using the markers as a guide. If you find that your cuts still don't hit on the beat, you might want to try finessing them one frame at a time in either direction. After a short while, you should discover your personal offset, which will be a reflection of your reflexes.


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