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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Music of the Spheres

By Phil Plait

When space and astronomy based time-lapse animations started becoming popular a couple of years ago, all it took was some cool imagery to get noticed. But over time we’ve seen a lot of such animations, and (unless the footage is really dramatic or unusual) it’s tougher to draw attention now.

Nicolaus Wegner—who has created quite a few stunning storm time-lapse animations I’ve featured on the blog—knows this. He wanted to make a video highlighting “… how important and amazing our Earth is.” Using footage from various space probes and astronauts on the International Space Station, he put together this short video. “Final Frontier,” to do so.

Mind you, we’ve seen a lot of this footage before. What makes this special? Hint: Listen to the music as the images roll by.

The music Wegner used is called “Falling Short” by Danny Odon. It’s electronica, and as the video starts (with images of the Sun, Pluto, the comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and more), it’s eerie, driving. But when the video cuts to shots of Earth it becomes more melodic, fluid, and soothing.

Then, building a bit in tension, it cuts to very odd and disturbing tones as the video shows the weird moons of Saturn in motion seen by the Cassini mission, reminding us that our solar system is a bizarre place once we leave the confines of Earth. It’s a clever bit of storytelling, allowing the music to set the tone and manifest the theme without having to overtly state it.

I’ve said this many times, but the choice of music is critical to short videos like these. I’m a soundtrack geek, and when I watch movies, TV, and short films like this one, I find myself paying as much attention to the music as the footage. Working together, they inform our brain far more than either can on their own.

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