In this article, Ben Hess – in collaboration with Epidemic Sound and Adobe Stock – is digging into the topic of planning your videos with music in mind.

As filmmakers, we know just how important music is for our projects. A scene can be totally transformed by choosing one song over the other. Typically, music is edited into a scene after it's been shot, and while there's nothing wrong with that – what if there was a way to incorporate that music into the actual scene? Well, there is, and that technique is called the needle drop.

The needle drop: your secret tool to success

So what is the needle drop? In Hollywood, it's typically used to play a popular song in a movie. The term comes from when someone would drop a needle onto a record player, and then that song would play out in the scene. While a needle drop usually refers to mainstream songs being used in film, you can of course still use any song you’d like to implement a form of this technique in different types of projects.

To pull this off, you essentially need two things: a scene where someone starts playing music and the right song; and there are so many ways someone can play music. You can go with vintage record players, cassette tapes, or even a jukebox. Other ways of playing the song would be someone putting on headphones or earbuds, playing music in the car, playing an instrument, or simply playing music with a phone along with a portable speaker. You can use the needle drop technique in a ton of different ways.

Here are some examples to draw inspiration from:

  1. A video where a girl is putting on headphones and listening to music.

2. A commercial where the athlete is running to the beat of the music.

3. Someone turning on the music on a cassette player.

4. A commercial where someone starts playing the violin and a montage of scenes start to play.

As you can see, the options are endless. The most important part is making sure you have a song that fits the scene appropriately, whether the person is actually listening to the music the entire time or if you simply use this technique to start the song creatively for a scene. The majority of the time you’d want to use a song that someone would actually listen to, and not necessarily a dramatic or suspenseful orchestral piece. However, you can use cinematic songs and such, for example, when someone starts to play an instrument – like the violin or piano – or when someone is listening to a relaxing song while they’re doing yoga. In other words: as long as it fits the scene, you’re good to go!

Why should I use the needle drop technique?

So, why should you use this technique in your projects? It’s all about showcasing your ability to creatively plan out and execute the projects you're making. By doing so, you’re making your videos stand out from the rest because you went the extra mile and made something unique.

Let's say a brand is looking to get a commercial made and they want to hear your take on it. Imagine how impressed they’d be with you, over another filmmaker, when you come up with ideas like these. Often it's the little details that have a huge payoff and this simple technique is definitely one of them.

Ready for a quick recap? It's pretty simple: find a song that fits the story you're trying to tell and then film with that song in mind. Plan your scene around someone playing music. It could be by wearing headphones, playing tunes using some old-school players – like a CD or cassette tape – or simply listening to music on the car radio or their phone. As mentioned: the options are endless.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next blog post with Ben Hess for Epidemic Sound and Adobe Stock, where we will unravel once and for all how loud the music should be in your videos.


Ben Hess is a director, cinematographer, filmmaker, and Epidemic Sound Ambassador. Check out his YouTube channel here.