Luca Fusi Sound Design | Implementation

28Mar/110

Game Audio – Trailer Music Edit

It's been a while! Our third term has been crazy busy over here, with more post audio work, lots of field recording, some on-set film collaboration stuff, Max/MSP classes and an animation I'm doing the sound for (with a few good friends) on the side. We've just passed a nice block of assignments, so I wanted to come up for air and post a piece of work before diving back in.

Game Audio II

Emotive Game Trailer Assignment: COD4

One of the realities of working at a small-scale game developer (or even some larger ones) is that if you're on-site as the sound guy, you'll occasionally get stuck with some non-developmental audio stuff to do. When the sounds have all been created and implemented and the game's headed for gold, your publisher will want promotional trailers - and you may be the guy to cut them.

For this assignment, we were to choose from a selection of popular game trailers (audio removed) and a handful of available library songs in a variety of genres, then cut, process and edit any number of those songs any way we saw fit to give some emotion to the moving image - accent cuts, create dips and valleys, all that good stuff. The artificial challenge here is that we were able to work only with the source songs as raw audio material, and couldn't bring in extra SFX to do impacts, bass dives or any other tricks we might want to use. We had to get resourceful.

In the end, I used bits and pieces from 5-6 of the potential songs to create the video below. Just a quick look at the original audio before we hit my edit:

SD49 Luca Emotive Game Trailer Sources by lucafusi

It all took off from messing with the pitch of the DnB song and realizing it sounded like a pretty cool beat in and of itself. That track was also the major component of my SPFX during the intro soldier segment and the gunshot to the screen. Here's the final result:

More in the coming days or week. Keeping busy!

14Mar/110

More Plankton

More goods from Phytoplankton after last week's session. It's great to be able to keep our skills pretty fresh with some of the amazing Native Instruments VSTs and standalone kits we've got in the Term 2 classroom, even as the rest of our program sends us further away from them. Not included is the strange, 19-minute soundscape that erupted in the middle of it all..

Locomotive

Four-parter cut up into little movements. If you want the whole thing as a seamless file, shoot me a mail or comment!

The Deep

The Sink

The Dive

The Surface

Once again, Phytoplankton is:

8Mar/110

Phytoplankton

Weapons of choice.

Weapons of choice.

Taking a moment here to link to our SD49 supergroup, Phytoplankton! A couple of friends and I get together on the weekend evenings and abuse our having a classroom that's totally kitted out with all the Native Instruments packages to experiment and jam.

Some good stuff in here from the last few weeks, cut out from a few hours of messing around:

Dinoflagellate

Chicken of the Sea

Deception, Pt. 1

Deception, Pt. 2

Also be sure to check out the Soundclouds/pages (some on the right-hand side) of the other guys (and girl) in the band:

7Mar/110

Quick BG Exercise

This term continues our focus on film post work - BGs, SFX, SPFX - and the bar's been raised. I'm starting to feel a bit of the frustration that's got to come with (and eventually be overcome to survive) a long-term career in sound, which stems from pouring hours and hours of time into little pieces that may eventually go unnoticed in the final mix, or get a one- or two-word response from a colleague that sends you immediately back to the drawing board. Gotta push through!

Here's a quick clip from a BG (backgrounds, ambience) cutting exercise we did in class last week, from a comedy called The Long Weekend. The only directive here was to make sure the jail felt well isolated from the office scene (instead of just somewhere in the back), to see how we could push the atmosphere of a scene with ambiences and clue the viewer in as to where everyone is before anyone speaks a word.

Have a listen and I'll break down my thought process and ambience, and a few things I thought I could've done better. Learn with me!

Considerations

My primary directive for the jail ambience was to make it feel very, very heavy, so that I could bring the tone up dramatically in the office and get some easy sonic contrast. Since this is a comedy, I didn't bother with subtlety - yes, that's my take on a guy getting the electric chair somewhere off in the distance - and baked enough reverb into each of these stems to give them some weight even before they hit the mix stage. It was my first day of playing with a rented copy of Waves' RBass plug-in, so I used that on the generator to give the jail BGs a ton of low-end presence, hoping to make this thing feel very deep underground. The futzed cop radio could've made it feel like the place was being very actively patrolled, so I tried to space this out and make it feel more like pages from some sinister intercom. some water drips, some really grungy, gross bodily noises from the nearby prisoners (we had authority to cut walla on this one) and the tried and true fluorescent light bulb buzz rounded it out.

For the office, there wasn't a lot I could do here that would keep my take from sounding like everyone's else in class, but I tried to keep things on the lighter side and make sure you heard lots of laughter. I wanted to give the impression of a late night or a shift change around the police station that had everyone in a great mood, in heavy contrast to our boy await his fate in Room 101 deep below. The exterior traffic sounds are there just to give the scenes a sense of movement with distant car bys, and to position the scene really close to the outside world. Again, contrast.

What Went Right

  • I was pretty happy with the overall balance of sound in the jail scene for sure, all the layers in there were chosen for a reason, and they got that thickness I wanted across. This was me taking some feedback from my last major BGs assignment and trying to put it into action with really careful layer selection, and I think I did a much better job with sound/texture selection here than I had before.
  • The spec BG coughs and grunts worked nicely (though I wish I had set them a little more distantly), and I had a blast doing the electric chair.. it's a bit distracting, maybe, but would be an easy thing to mute if the mix stage didn't dig it, and I was trying to get creative.

What Went Wrong

  • Too much verb! A first pass of mine was completely drenched in echoes, though, and after cutting the whole thing I finally bothered to look back up at the picture I realized that we weren't in the cavernous underground complex I had been scoring. I definitely crossed the line with my first pass, and it would've been something too saturated with echoes for the eventual mixer to do anything with, so I had to dial that back.
  • A couple of my spec BGs (one-off sounds) like the chain clinks and key rattles didn't sound great once I took all the reverb off, so I had to mute a lot of the content I had put in earlier after I took that out. I was running up against the class deadline, so I didn't have time to replace those with fresh sounds.. and so the jail BGs are sparse in some places.
  • The whole office scene feels a little "stock" to me, but I was a bit limited by the library on that one and didn't do a lot of sound design/processing on any of those ambiences. Again, I could've also put a larger variety of spec BGs in there, so one of my goals for next time is going to be to push for more detail.

Thoughts? Leave 'em in the comments!

Promise those train impacts (with some bonus discussion and layer breakdowns, etc.) will be up shortly. It's going to be a great term.

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5Mar/110

Term 2 Work, Pt. 3 – Train Car Physics Impacts

Intro to Game Audio

Impacts

Second set of physics impacts for our Intro to Game Audio class, same rules as the first - five lights (10"), five mediums (10'), five heavys (100'), five supers (100'+, hurled). Impact surface was concrete once again.

Train Car

Early impacts planning for the train car recording.

Early impacts planning for the train car recording.

The biggest goals with the train were to make it big at all levels (while still giving myself room to go up), and make it feel cohesive – not like a big pile of assorted junk. I really wanted the sounds to make you feel like a giant hunk of metal was moving around, so I thought a lot about timing.

Since I couldn’t record any sounds from an actual train car and nothing I could get from our props room felt “big” enough to get that vibe across, I resigned myself to using the Foley room stuff for high-mid and high detailing, possibly a little bit of color for the low mids if the pitching worked out well. I suspected I’d be using some really large metal groans to give my sound its defining shape, and that premonition was dead-on.

From what I recorded myself, the car door and some sheet pans were the biggest contributors to the final sound. The car door impacts didn’t do much for me, but I got some great stress sounds by standing on the thing and slowly shifting my weight around. When pitched, these gave a ton of character to the longer impacts. The sheet pans were used for high, ear-splitting scrapes across the concrete that I pitched and used later to convey a really stressful, fatiguing sound of this giant car sliding across concrete.

Had a lot of fun with the supers on this one, as well. Listening to some other students’ impacts inspired me to try to take really novel approaches to the intro/stinger of each super.

With more time, I would've given a little more attention to shaping the overall mix - there's a lot of really aggressive, nasty mid-high frequencies in here that made the impacts mixing a physically fatiguing process. I could do to strip some of that down a bit for repeat listening in a game environment. As well, I would've spent a little more time sculpting the low-end of these sounds to make it feel as big as a real train car might. These sounds in particular are definitely best listened to with a good set of speakers or cans.

All are provided below for your enjoyment!

[Light Impacts]

[Medium Impacts]

[Heavy Impacts]

[Super Impacts]

4Mar/114

Term 2 Work, Pt. 2 – Bowling Ball Physics Impacts

Intro to Game Audio

Impacts

Definitely the longest assignment of the term - each student was given a pair of objects (not literally, just assigned in name) to design 20 impact sounds for at different forces. Five lights (10"), five mediums (10'), five heavys (100'), five supers (100'+, hurled). Impact surface was concrete, with some flexibility here. We had a few weeks for this one and were encouraged to record as much original source material from our Foley/props room as possible.

Much of the below taken from my project post-mortem. Enjoy!

Bowling Ball

The first thing I did when you assigned this to us was to start conceptualizing all the different layers that’d be involved in each of my objects’ impacts, so I had a checklist to work from when it came time to record.

Early impacts planning for the bowling ball recording.

Early impacts planning for the bowling ball recording.

Approach here was to really imagine what was going to happen to the surface itself at the higher impacts, since the ball itself is a pretty one-dimensional sound source. Other than that, I just knew I’d want to record the ball dropping on multiple surfaces so that I could stack and vary the balance of those impacts to fatten up or thin the ball drop sound.

[Light Impacts]

The biggest challenge was trying to get the really impactful, transient crack I wanted for the higher impacts (as the ball would literally split the concrete), while still keeping the hollow thud of the ball sound there as well. I mixed the three different surface drops with some short LFE accents gave me the roundness of the ball, and then tried to use some snappy sweeteners like walnut cracks to give the impression of the concrete breaking. I couldn't find anything nicer than this in our library to fit the task; with a little more time I might've gotten luckier.

[Medium Impacts]

I focused on making sure that the listener was able to tell that this was, in fact, a bowling ball – and not just some solid heavy object – at all velocities. Structuring each fall as a series of bounces helped this a bunch, as did the tail-end rolls I had recorded.

[Heavy Impacts]

I started work on this guy before the train car to try to get my chops up before moving onto the more complicated sounds. Unfortunately, this meant that I was designing these without the aid of a ton of the tricks we'd later learn in Intro to Post Audio Editing, so making variations was slow.

[Super Impacts]

With some extra time, I would've put more effort into varying up the supers - I left off after the first one to get onto to other projects, and by the time I returned I was totally sapped for inspiration, so they're not *quite* at the imaginative level of my train car supers.

My other object was a train car - I'll have those recordings and a little retrospective up in a few days.

2Mar/114

Term 2 Work, Pt. 1

Intro to Post Audio Editing

BGs, SFX and SPFX

Without a doubt, this course was the term's heaviest hitter (and most prolific source of assignments), running us through the basics of selecting sound for an editing BGs (backgrounds, uninterrupted sounds that flow throughout an entire scene, like birds and wind), SFX (on-screen sounds like a rushing waterfall, a car crash, a heavily layered punch) and SPFX (perceptual or mood setting sounds, otherworldly stuff without a distinct source, sweeteners for dramatic moments).

Opening statement: It's been a long time since I was in school, and it's been longer since I've known a really life-changing teacher, but our instructor for this class has almost single-handedly inspired our class through this term. Really dig his work ethic and emphasis on organization, and it's clear that he loves what he's doing. So, a look at what I managed to produce while under his wing for a couple of weeks.

Son of the Dragon - Fight Scene 1 - SFX

Day one SFX exercise, pretty standard stuff - lots of whooshes and several layers to cover lows, mids and highs for the different hits. You might think that sync is a big issue with fight scene SFX design, but it was the easiest part of the process for me. If I could do this again, I'd get more highs in there and make the table drop a bit bigger.

I didn't do enough EQing to scoop out the bassy frequencies that were going to stack up here, so the final product lacks a lot of punch that would be there with better mixing. The compression on this really dulls it out; early lesson learned.

Son of the Dragon - Arrow Fly - SFX

Second SFX exercise of the term, tough because of the toolset we were still restricted to at this point. Key points we needed to hit were 1) the sense of some mechanism firing the projectiles from far off and 2) good, synced audio cuts between the arrow approaches (rising pitches) and bys (doppler-like effects as they crossed the camera). Used some pitched up F1 car bys for the arrow whizzes, re-used some of my favorites sweeteners and impact sounds from the previous SFX exercise, and slowly raised one resonant part of the EQ on a few wind tracks to give the whistling sense of the arrow getting close. Far-off catapult/arrow launcher guy deal was constructed from a couple of pieces like clanking metal, rattling chains, wood groans and arrow twangs.

Son of the Dragon - Fight Scene 1 - SPFX

Day one SPFX exercise, strung together quickly as king of a kung-fu stinger from some reverse cymbals, piano string scrapes and a rattlesnake tail. Ran a few elements through a lo-fi filter to try to give it that 70s sound. Neat idea, maybe a bit too musical, and definitely more towards the subtle side of SPFX design. The temptation to go big all the time is definitely there - especially since that's our teacher-mentor's style - but I like going towards the less impactful side of things with SPFX design and letting the punches, kicks and sword shings handle the big sounds. At least for this style of film. We'll see if my tastes change.

Born to Raise Hell - SPFX Moment #1

Early SPFX exercise, we were to choose a couple of visual effect-y moments from a clip and throw some abstract SPFX over them. Short and sweet for this one, made from a scream and a couple of resonant metal impacts.

Born to Raise Hell - SPFX Moment #2

Layered here - several breaths (pitched up and down), metal impacts, a bowed cymbal, some repurposed metal shing noises and low rumble (source unknown). Was pretty happy with the way this one turned out.

Son of the Dragon - Market Chase and Fight Scene - BG, SFX and SPFX

Final assignment for the course, three rolled into one - we were responsible for all audio here, with the BGs running most constantly from front to back. Anything missing SFX is likely because it was out of the bounds of the assignment. I mixed these together (they were submitted independently) after the fact to see if they'd all mesh up; usually, you won't have the same person responsible for BG, SFX and SPFX design, but I wanted to see if having one person (me) in all those three roles meant that I'd leave myself some good holes in one mix to fill up with another, maintain cohesiveness of sound sources, etc.

Tons of layers here, with the SFX being the most complicated and the session a total nightmare to get under control when it came time to bounce. This is the first project we'd been able to use elastic audio (dramatic pitching/time-stretching tool) on, and I used it to create the slowdowns and ramp-ups during the water impacts. Tried to differentiate the henchmen and the main character with different tonalities for their whooshes using some hissy sounds for the bad guys and low, raw animal sounds for the good guy's incoming swings.

With the SPFX, tried to keep these as kung-fu themed as possible again by sticking to Eastern and natural sound sources instead of going all the way to The Matrix side of things. I wanted to create the sense of the main character channeling some mystical power source for his moves, hence the spiritual chants. I think they went a little towards the subtle side again, but I'm good with that! SPFX for the table jump-up, slow-mo jump kicks and flying scenes were done with: reversed and crazy echoed Buddhist chants, a lion, dove flutters, monkey chittering, a 909 chap, a bullwhip, finger cymbals, reversed gongs, rattlesnakes and some sine wave rings.

 

Intro to Sound Designing

SPFX

TC Drug Sequence - SPFX

( Vimeo screwed up with this one and appended about 28 seconds of still video to the front of this clip. Skip to 0:28 for the start of the sequence. Sorry! )

Final assignment for our (too short!) Intro to Sound Designing class. I had a vision for this one, and it came together really quickly - very happy with the end result. Recorded several layers of breaths, whispers, gasps and crazy mouth noises, chopped them up and stretched them a bit with elastic audio and went very heavy on the echoes, delays and panning to create this chorus of voices in the guy's head. The siren was elastic audio'd a bit as well to get the pitch wind-down in there and has a chorus effect laid on it. Synth undertone is from an Absynth patch, tuned to fit the 909 bass kick hits at the beginning.

Other sounds include a manipulated lighter, pill bottle, heartbeat and some broken glass. I found myself thinking a lot about frequency content ahead of time on this one, why is probably why the mix came out so balanced.

In the next post, I'll go through my Game Audio impacts and give a quick look at my temp mix for a short section of a student film we had for our Mixing II course.

**All of these were just roughly mixed/mastered before I threw them up - any out of whack levels etc. are intentional in that that's where I am right now. We can watch my mixing ear improve as the year goes on!