Basic Music Video Timing

"Better stay away from those/ That carry around a fire hose/ Keep a clean nose/ Watch the plain clothes/You don't need a weather man / To know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan

To be honest, once you start having a good think about your source then this sort of thing starts to some naturally. With a good ear and aided by the waveform graphics in premiere you can start to time lots of things really well. If you know what you are trying to achieve then it is possible to do it.

Obviously some stuff is easier to time than other stuff. In terms of what you can make out on a waveform, the salient points are always the changes in volume. Drums, power chords even a soft voice from out of the silence is very easy to time as you can see exactly what is going on in the waveform.

Here's a waveform that is really easy for timing as the sounds are very prominent:

We Will Rock You

Dum dum CHH... dum dum CHH... dum dum CHH... (Buddy you're a boy make a big noise
playin' in the street gonna be a big man someday....)

But what other things can you see in the waveform? What about this section of a song?....

Eternal Flame waveform

"Close your eyes.... give me your hand, darling'"

If you remember Eternal Flame by the Bangles, you might also remember that there is a triangle-type sound that goes "ting" throughout the entire song. This waveform goes [cello intro]"Close your eyes..." *ting* "give me your hand".

The triangle is easy to spot because it reverberates and so the wave isn't as regular a pattern. On the timeline this looks jagged/spiky.

So, timing to these sorts of things shouldn't be a problem.

How this looks in Premiere:

Here is a section from the timeline of my last amv: Instant Music Video (Blues Driven Naota)

Instant Music Video Timeline - with beats numbered

In the example above, there are 6 drum beats and each of them have been given a still shot of the town of Mabase. The first one actually blends in from the previous scene with a white matte in-between so it shines in rather than a simple fade. (It's a cheap trick, a better thing to do would be a blurry bleaching effect but I didn't have time.)

Anyway, as you can tell, each cut coincides with a peak in the waveform. A significant point to note with this section is that I haven't *just* used an image per hit. The last peak (6) also has a splash cymbal (you can tell just by looking at it as the wave is more jagged as the cymbal reverberates for longer than the drum). So, to coincide with the splash the transition actually partially flashes up white. Again, a simple trick but an example of how to be adaptive with the way you time things. If I'd just done another cut at point 6 it wouldn't reflect the change in the audio and I'd be breaking one of my own rules ^^;;;

Matching audio fades with video fades.

Fades are really easy. If your audio fades out (goes from a tall wave to nothing), all you need to do is expand your video track so that the Opacity Rubber Bands can be seen and put in points so that opacity changes at the same time as the fade - from max to min. You can see a few examples of the rubber bands in action in the above image (the red lines) although they are not fading alongside fades in the audio in that section.

If you want to fade into something, then you just put that something in a lower level on the timeline. Again, fades are very easy to time as you can see exactly what point on the timeline the audio is at it's max and when it starts to fade.

The proof is in the listening

Coordinating the cuts with what you can see in the audio is a useful technique but it's not the only one. In fact, it can become very very very difficult to do this if your song has lots of equally loud elements - distinguishing the part you want to time can be tough. You need to use previews and even perhaps export sections of the timeline to see if they really do work.

Premiere can be notoriously dodgy with its playback. It doesn't really have very efficient Direct Show routines so what you may think has timed correctly may, in fact, be a little off. Hence, the best way to tell is to export a section in a codec you can play back quickly (not HuffYUV ;p).

Unfortunately this doesn't really help you with the timing in the first place unless you want to try some serious trial and error (which I know lots of people do)

What you need are some advanced timing techniques....

AbsoluteDestiny - June 2002