Project 12: Music to picture

‘Music to picture’
Music: ‘Little Birds’, from the album Touchstone © 2017, Brigid O’Neill

Although not a conscious decision, I have found myself returning to an earlier theme explored in my Assignment 3 film. The result of selecting a music track playing in my head, with a similar theme.

The stripped back sound of ‘Little Birds’ feels as delicate as birds wings. A slow, smooth rhythm, with a langourous and elliptical feel. Mainly a vocal track, accompanied by Uilleann pipes in the background, it’s a piece of music that I find hauntingly beautiful, probably because of its use of the pipes, which I love the sound of. Here, the pipes are used to create a layer of sound, a drone, which helps gives the song a floating, dream-like feel.

The message of the song is clear, from the perspective of a parent watching a child grow and finding her own path in life.

Fig.1 Logbook 5, pages 43-44


Fig.2 Logbook 5, pages 45-46

I wanted to convey the song’s dream-like feel. So I adapted an approach similar to that used by Jonas Mekas in his diary films.

To achieve this I realised I needed to find a way of capturing movement with the camera, both movement within the frame and the movement of the frame itself. So I decided to use a Sony A6500, as it’s small form factor would enable me to capture footage handheld while allowing me the greatest freedom physically in creating the effect I was looking for when moving the camera. My Sony FS7 would be too heavy for this.

Reducing the frame rate from 25fps to 5fps (something I have never tried before) and combining this with very fluid handheld camera movements, enabled me to experiment with a simple way of applying dream-like textures to the image. Although I knew that reducing the frame rate would result in a blurred image, I had no idea how the final effect would look or even if it would actually work for this film. It required a leap of faith. So, while keeping an eye on composition, I decided to let go and accept a more free-form approach to capturing footage, and see where the experiment would lead me.

This free flowing approach to capturing handheld camera movements, with slow pans and tilts, letting the camera drift almost randomly through the scene, and an occasional lift to the sky at the end of a shot, has resulted in the dream-like ‘texture’ I had hoped for.

The guiding rule behind the editing was to let the film work with the music. This involved cutting to the beat. Beginning with a rough assembly of clips over the music track and then re-ordering them several times in order to create an effective flow of images. Cutting to the beat required shortening and lengthening many clips to make them fit the beats. Some clips were slowed down to make them fit their allocated place on the timeline. Static frames at the beginning or end of several clips were cut out, to maintain the overall sense of movement within the film. Using the audio waveform was particularly helpful in cutting to the beat, as it helped me line up the start of a clip with the beginning of a musical beat.

Fig.4 Screenshot, edit timeline

As the music sets the tone and pace of the film, the images and editing had to work with this. Cutting to the beat has given the film its visual rhythm. Creating a rhythmical structure has given the film a form unique to the combination of sound and picture within the moving image. I’m very happy with the result.


List of references



List of illustrations

Fig. 1 Logbook 5, pages 43-44

Fig. 2 Logbook 5, pages 44-45

Fig. 3 Logbook 5

Fig. 4 Screenshot, edit timeline.