Category Archives: Filmmaking

Our favorite Film Festivals for 2014

It’s the new year and time for UniqueTracks’ listing of this year’s favorite Film Festivals.

The major festivals, like Sundance and Toronto, are not listed here. I’ve opted for a more eclectic listing of festivals that I’ve actually attended plus festivals where our licensees have submitted work (I’ve also attended the Toronto festival but this list is for smaller organizations).

My favorite local festivals are:
Brooklyn Film Festival
Coney Island Film Festival
Williamsburg Independent Film Festival
Urbanworld Film Festival

This is a great one and fun…
Chicago Children’s Film Festival

Chlotrudis Short Film Festival
Anything from 5 to 20 minutes films. Really creative

Please view the complete list here.

Classical Music in The King’s Speech

Last year’s Academy Award for Best Picture, The King’s Speech, tells the story of how King George VI, who was never intended to be king, overcomes a debilitating speech impediment in order to better rule England during the perilous years of the 2nd World War.

The movie’s climatic scene, where King George successfully delivers a national radio address on the brink of World War 2 was set to the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. The piece starts softly and slowly and gradually builds to a dramatic, full orchestral finale. The entire movement is propelled by a an unrelenting ostinato rhythm that gains in force taking on an almost frenzied tone by the movement’s end.

Because the movie is a historical drama, it lends itself well to a classical music soundtrack. The story revolves around the English Royal Family. The music lends itself well to the regal atmosphere in the film.

This is one of the things classical music underscore does well. It can add a refined, even divine, beauty to a scene. Classical music is quite versatile as soundtrack but I hear it mostly used to underscore serious positive emotions like glory, bravery, eloquence, refinement.

There are exceptions however. Clockwork Orange is one, where extreme violence occurs against a soundtrack of (mostly) Beethoven’s orchestral music. Here the music creates a type of absurd burlesque, making a sarcastic societal comment on violence.

Terrence Malik’s new film The Tree of Life relies only on a classical music soundtrack as well. It makes sense, Malik’s storytelling is poetic and non-linear and attempts to bring a special type of beauty to filmmaking. The film zones in from theological and cosmological musings to capture the smallest human gestures.

French Canadian filmmaker André Forcier makes great use of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King in his film Je Me Souviens. This track was licensed from the UniqueTracks Production Music Library. You can hear it used in the film’s trailer.

Because the classical music recordings in the UniqueTracks library use authentic symphony orchestras, the tracks have a genuine, unsynthesized sound. UniqueTracks can license every movement of Beethoven’s 9 symphonies. including the popular Ode to Joy, the Choral finale from the 9th Symphony. We have Bach’s greatest titles as well as several full Tchaikovsky ballets.

UniqueTracks licenses royalty free music, sound effects and animated stock footage to media producers who, in turn, integrate the media into their DVDs, videos, podcasts, radio and TV advertising, Flash and Powerpoint presentations and music-on-hold programming.

Student Filmmakers Use Vimeo to Hone Their Craft

I stumbled across a fantastic group on Vimeo the other day. It’s the Student Filmmaker’s Collective. This great group of young filmmakers is really serious about honing their craft, and they’re using a Vimeo group to foster their skill development.


Membership in this group is open, but if you intend to post videos, be forewarned. This group not only takes their filming seriously, they have the video toys to do some amazing things.

To date, there are 749 members of the Student Filmmaker’s Collective. They hail from all sorts of colleges and high schools from around the world. With 1700 videos uploaded to the group you get to view many unique filmmaking styles.


The creativity of this young group is absolutely riveting. I found their use of lighting, camera angles, and unique perspectives fresh and captivating.

Take, for instance, the video by Victor Suarez entitled Night Eyes. The entire film is shot at night and Suarez’s use of light within the dark is captivating. Even more impressive is all the effects were done with only the camera itself.

Contrast that video with Joshua Stocker’s The London Chroming Company Ltd. Toned down color schemes really reflect the historical value of the film.


The exciting thing about this group is it’s ability to carry on discussions in the forums. They share their production techniques, items of interest, comments on films.

Vimeo is the Cadillac of video sites. Film quality is beyond that of the “talking head” videos on YouTube and the quality of the comments falls right in line with this standard. Unlike YouTube, unconstructive and hurtful comments are absolutely not tolerated. These students are all about helping each other improve their craft. If a comment doesn’t accomplish that, it’s removed.

Up and Coming Filmmakers

It’s going to be interesting watching the careers of these young filmmakers. In the meantime, check out their work in the Student Filmmaker’s Collective.

Royalty Free Piano Music

Piano Solos for Production Music
Listen to Retro Groove & Disco

We’d like to spotlight a few of our customers that have incorporated tracks from our popular Pianoscapes album of royalty free piano music into their productions.

The UniqueTracks staff is constantly uplifted and very proud of the creative way our customers use our royalty free music.

All About Us
Christine Swanson’s celebrated feature All About Us (the companion film to her feature All About You) is an inspirational and refreshing romantic drama inspired by a true story. When a filmmaking couple hits a brick wall in Hollywood, they set off to Mississippi to find Morgan Freeman and persuade him to star in their next movie. When life gets in their way, the couple soon discovers what matters to them most. Beautifully told with stellar performances by Boris Kodjoe, Academy Award nominee Rudy Dee and special appearance by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman against the backdrop of Hollywood and the Mississippi Delta, All About Us is an entertaining and heartfelt story that provides insightful commentary on the familial rifts that ambition often creates.

The title music to this feature uses Turnabout, a piano solo included in the Pianoscapes collection. Turnabout is also used in the trailer to the film. You can hear it about 20 seconds into the trailer.

Mark Divers is a freelance design consultant located in Corona California.

Click here to see this Flash animation
Click the image to see Mark’s beautiful Flash-designed Winter/Holiday greeting created for search services firm AltaVista. The card uses the piano solo “Daybreak” from our Pianoscapes CD as its soundtrack.

What strikes me most about Mark’s work is the personality and charisma imbued in each piece he creates. There is a striking originality about his designs, a visual dynamism, and, often, a touch of humor. For an example of Mark’s unique personality, just visit his company’s web site Diverstudio.

Diverstudio focuses on the creation of distinct and creative design packages providing companies with a sophisticated look to help them achieve a high level of success.

If you work with or outsource creative design for your company, take a look at Mark’s portfolio at

Deborah Vancelette is an independent filmmaker and actress living in California. Her first film, an eight-minute short entitled “blink“, first premiered in 2001. Since then it has received special recognition from over 35 international film festivals including the Zephyr Film Festival (Los Angeles), the Roma Independent Film Festival and the MethodFest Film Festival.

Not only did Deborah direct blink she did pretty much every job you can think of during the making of the film – producer, editor (first time), casting director, director of
photography, camera operator, sound design, grip, craft services… not to mention starring in the film.

For the film’s soundtrack, Deborah chose the piano solo From the Shadows from our Pianoscapes
collection. From the Shadows evokes a haunting, ethereal quality. There is a tension to the track, like we are watching, waiting for something to happen.

UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus the largest selection of royalty free classical music on the Internet available for licensing into your production. We license royalty-free stock music, and sound effects to media producers who in turn, integrate them into their DVDs, videos, podcasts, TV advertising and Flash presentations.

Royalty Free Horror Music


How to Create Background Music For the Horror Film Genre

The most effective and frightening example of background music I can think of is from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho. Famed soundtrack composer, Bernard Herrmann, created a chilling effect using piercing and screeching violins played in their highest registers. As the film progresses, when you hear that sound cue repeated, you know something really bad is going to happen. Another famous cue that works in a similar way is the 3-note phrase in the low string orchestra that announces the presence of the killer shark in the first Jaws film.

Soundtrack moments like the one in Psycho are great for portraying outright evil and horror but underscoring the feeling of fear can be done in subtler ways too.

Ordinary Actions become Extraordinary
Sometimes the background music notifies the audience that what they are seeing has a darker meaning. The movie Michael Clayton does this a lot. The on-screen events are quite ordinary – a women is getting dressed for work – yet she is accompanied by a chilling soundtrack.

The music acts against the scene, contrary to it. It is telling us that these events are not ordinary and have importance beyond their outright appearance. In fact, the background music is telling us that these normal events are somehow scary. Something terrible is going to happen.

The Audience Knows a Secret
Sometimes the audience is let in on a secret, maybe a dark secret, that the central characters in the story don’t yet know about. You watch as events unfold and you see them getting further and further into trouble. Here again, a dark or suspenseful underscore can work wonders by building the tension against what is happening on screen.

The Inner Struggle
Lets say, in your story, your main character, a salesman, is boarding an airplane but we in the audience already know he has a terrible fear of flying. The flight attendants are welcoming families and other travelers on board the plane. The airplane cabin is filled with rather innocuous, but pleasant background music. Then we cut to the main character boarding the plane. Now the music changes to full-on frightening, horror soundtrack. The music portrays his inner psychology – his feelings of fear.

News Event/World Crisis
If you create documentaries or news programming, then you may need, at times, to show painful footage from current world events. This is another time where dark underscore works well. It sets the underlying emotional atmosphere for the accompanying footage.

Part of every media producer’s soundtrack arsenal includes the ability to underscore fright, fear, and events that are difficult or harrowing. Horror music tracks are like the dark colors, the dark shades in your soundtrack toolkit. Using them paints a chilly or terrifying picture. – The online student film festival is an online filmmaking resource for film students and aspiring filmmakers from around the world.

The site features:

  • internet broadcasting of your film (upload it to their site) – viewers of your film can write a review, you can post contact information for those interested in your work.
  • forum discussions – discuss films on the site, introduce yourself to the community, discuss filmmaking tips and techniques, ask questions about screenwriting, pre-production and post-production, ask questions about which film school to attend at the unversity level
  • Filmmaking Articles – Online Avid Tutorials, Tools for writers, HD product reviews

Active topics on the forum right now include, requests for iMovie help, Making a movie from a book and a vigorous discussion of NY vs LA, which discusses which media center is best for a young filmmaker to begin their career in. There is also a discussion of universities which have exemplary film schools, like New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts.

The main element and greatest strength of the site is its abiltiy to broadcast films over the internet and enable peer discussion of each film. now has a database of over 800 films which is searchable by genre, popularity on the site, film title, and by film school. There is also this cool randomizer feature which will bring you to any film in the database. All the reviews and comments I saw where mature and honest attempts to be helpful. Everyone is in the same boat and the community really does try to share knowledge and creative ideas. The forum section is also very strong. There is a good deal of filmmaking information shared in the forum questions.

If you are considering a career as a filmmaker or are an educator with a media-production curriculum, I think that will become an excellent resource for you.

Filmmaking Resource Center

Very informative article on scene blocking authored by Peter Marshall in his blog Filmmaking Resource Center. Looks like Peter plans to provide a lot of nuts’n bolts how-to information through his blog.

Peter is also the author of the monthly newsletter Action Cut Print a great resource for filmmakers and television directors. It is free by subscription.

Peter has worked in the Film and TV Industry for over 32 years – as a Film and Television Director, TV Series Creative Consultant, Television Producer, and First Assistant Director.

Student Filmmakers Reference CD-ROM

Just wanted to wrap up this series of posts about student film with a link to the Cyber Film School “Movie Encyclopedia” CD-ROM that is published by Northwest Film School (in Bellingham, WA).

This product looks to be very well organized and packed with a lot of fresh and useful information about getting your first film finished.

Contributors to the encyclopedia include heavy hitters like:

Ron Bass
Screenwriter of Snow Falling on Cedars, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Rain Man.

Lawrence Bender
Producer of Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs.

Anne V Coates
Editor of Erin Brockovich, Lawrence of Arabia.

Mark Irwin, ASC
Director of Photography of Something About Mary, Scream.

Norman Jewison
Director of The Hurricane, Moonstruck, In the Heat of The Night.

There’s a short video blurb by Ron Bass talking about screenwriting right on the site that is great advice and shows the quality of the information in the encyclopedia cd-rom.

A listing of student film festivals

From the Director in the Classroom Film Festival Resource.

Up-to-date and detailed, this site has an ever growing list of student film festivals. The festivals are sorted by region, with contact info, guidelines and links to each festival page. A great resource for high school and college-age filmmakers, there are even some listings for middle school students.

The list is presented by The Director in the Classroom…

Director in the Classroom examines how filmmaking engages learners. The program gives students the tools, skills and confidence to take creative control of their research and presentation projects and to engage learning using video production.