Users Manual for Bar Sheet DIY
Ok, here we go. On your favorite DVD player in view and earshot from your PC (with should have a working, non-muted PC speaker, I haste to add again), insert the short film you'd like to analyze. This can be a Disney short, but really most of the films of the 30s and 40s seem to have been timed to a beat throughout - Looney Tunes, Harman-Ising etc.
To get the feel of things, start like this: When the film plays, use my Beatronome program to tap out the beats of the music of a certain sequence. You should tap the number of times indicated in the little box right of the tap button, plus one. The beat will then show up below the button. You'll find it will normally be 'whole' beats: 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24. Tap several times to give you an average, and type the closest whole beat in the metronome bit. This may be more accurate in the long run than just transferring the tapped beat to the metronome. Rewind the sequence on the DVD, and press Play on the metronome when you hear the rhythm. Write down which tempo this sequence was in.
It gets more tricky when there are bits without music, of course. As you see in Mickey's Elephant, the music often just continues. Try to let the metronome run - and see if the action hits the beats. See if you can spot where the tempo changes, and continue doing this over again for the next part of the film. In the end you have a listing of which sequences are in which beat (I for one would like to see this!) If you are really persistent, you can now count how many beats there are in each tempo, and you can write this out on a simple bar sheet as the one I supplied yesterday. Now - what are you waiting for?
Oh - 'why would we even try', you may ask. Well, through this excercize, you can reveal the sense of stucture and backbone that were underlying the films of the time. And as such, learn more about what made these films great entertainment. So much has been published about the drawings, but this beat thing, this is all about direction. As Norm Ferguson said: 'timing is the essence of the thing'. It need not be a forgotten art anymore...
(Note for MAC users: you CAN use an ordinary metronome, most certainly. To convert between frames per beat and beats per minute, you can use the converter here on the right, if your math fails you.)