Luca Fusi Sound Design | Implementation

26Apr/113

An Introduction to Film Sound

I love you.

They're always switching it around, but for our class, Term 3 was our first time getting our hands dirty with production sound and the challenges of recording on a film set. Over the last month, we all spent around 8 12-hour days collaborating with students from the school's Film Production program, trying to make short movies - WITH NO ADULT SUPERVISION. Woo!

It was the first time we'd really been out from behind the editing desk in several months, and a super eye-opening experience. So much so that I'm no longer so sure of where I want to end up, audio-wise. The whole world of sound is just so damn awesome! I thought I'd give a little rundown on some of the things I learned from this experience, plus some background info on how sound for movies happens (as I understand it so far).

Fair warning: the more you learn, the more you'll want to pay attention to it at the expense of, y'know, actually enjoying the film.

How Sound Gets in Your Movies

A beautiful American morning.

Let's take a fairly typical, yet morbid film scene:

INT. HOUSE - MORNING

GEORGE is heading out the door for work. He picks up his briefcase, turns the knob and opens the front door, walking out into the sunshine.

EXT. YARD - CONTINUOUS

BIRDS are chirping. Here he encounters his neighbor, MRS. DANIELS, trimming the hedges.

MRS. DANIELS
Morning, George!

GEORGE gets into his car, throwing the briefcase onto the front seat, and drives off.

INT. CAR - MORNING

GEORGE is driving along LISTENING TO THE RADIO. He takes his eyes off the road to adjust his part in the mirror, and suddenly hears a loud HONK. He looks down to see a car heading straight at him.

CUT TO:

FLASHBACK

GEORGE's entire life flashes in front of his eyes.

BACK TO:

GEORGE CRASHES into the car in front of him and dies.

You can pretty easily imagine how these scenes will sound because, besides the effects that'd accompany his flashback and the life-ending car crash, it's full of things you experience in everyday life. As a result, you probably never stopped to think about how they got into the film.

Before I started into this program - or way back, before I knew I wanted to do it - I wasn't thinking about movie sound much at all. If I did, I probably I still naively thought that maybe the actors were just wearing little microphones that captured everything that happened, and maybe there was a guy at a big mixer with a lot of faders who made sure everything was at max volume before they finally shipped the film.

What Really Happens

The "existence of tiny microphones" and "guy at a big mixer with a lot of faders" have some basis in reality, but the rest of what I knew was completely off. Looking at that scene again from a "where did the sounds come from?" perspective, it might go something like this:

INT. HOUSE - MORNING

GEORGE is heading out the door for work. He picks up his briefcase, turns the knob and opens the front door, walking out into the sunshine.

Footsteps
George's footsteps (the ones you're hearing, anyways) were recorded after the film was shot on a Foley stage by a very coordinated guy in a pair of near-matching shoes on a near-matching surface. This would've been done by a team of at least two people: a Foley Recordist there pushing the buttons to make sure all the audio was captured while the Foley Artist walked the scene out.

Afterwards, these footsteps plus everything else would've been sent to the Foley Editor, who would clean up those recordings (edit out clicks and pops, put the best takes in place) before submitting to the Mixer (guy at the faders), that places it in with the rest of the film's sound and decides how loud he wants it to play.

Hand Touches
The sound of George's hands clasping around his briefcase and his touch on the doorknob would be Foley'd as well, using either a real briefcase or a prop that sounds like one. Same process.

Cloth
The swishing cloth of George bending down to pick up the briefcase? Also Foley, done like this:

Working hard!

The Door
The door opens, creaks and closes (every door in Hollywood must squeak like the most unique door in the world) etc. were probably selected by an SFX Editor, who could've pulled the sound of any random door from his personal library or one of the many professional libraries available. He trimmed the length of this door sound effect to match exactly what the door was doing in the scene itself (or just tried to get close, depending on his schedule) and eventually sent this material along to the Mixer.

EXT. YARD - CONTINUOUS

BIRDS are chirping. Here he encounters his neighbor, MRS. DANIELS, trimming the hedges.

MRS. DANIELS
Morning, George!

GEORGE gets into his car, throwing the trunk onto the front seat, and drives off.

The Birds
Sad news, these birds weren't real. I mean, they were real at one point, but for this scene they were selected from a library by a BG Editor, who is responsible for selecting all the ambient sounds that tell you where the scene is happening. The wind noises, the distant traffic - he picked them too. If there was an off-screen clock or a fridge hum in George's house, he would've been responsible for all that. When the BG Editor is done with all his stuff, he sends it along to the Mixer again.

Mrs. Daniels
Mrs. Daniel's Oscar-winning dialogue was, actually, probably recorded right there when they filmed the scene the first time, maybe even by one of those tiny microphones. Score!...

...Unless there was a plane passing overhead every time they tried to record it (common), or some crazy hobo yelling in the background, or a loud car passing by at the worst moment, or her performance just plain sucked. In these cases, Mrs. Daniels' actress would be called in to record ADR and redo her lines in a studio somewhere after everything was shot. She would be coached through this recording session by an ADR Supervisor while an ADR Recordist pushed buttons in the booth to capture every take, as Mrs. Daniels watched herself mouth the line on screen and tried to deliver it in sync, with the same emotion she did in the original scene.

This line, and any other ADR that needed to be done, would be sent along to a Dialogue Editor, who would choose a best performance from Mrs. Daniels' actress (or combine several), trim the little clicks, pops and mouth noises out of her speech, and subtly time-stretch or compress that audio to match her lip movements perfectly.

Ah, but Mrs. Daniel's line now sounds like it's been recorded in a vacuum, and is totally unbelievable when played sitting by itself in that scene. So the Dialogue Editor's got to take some isolated bunch of ambient noise (more like "ambient quiet") and make it into "fill," which doesn't sound like anything but a mash of what the audio on set that day was like. And that's the point. He puts this bed of "fill" under the re-recorded line from Mrs. Daniels so that it sounds more like it was recorded on set, and when he's finished, he'll send everything along to the Mixer again.

"It's digital, right? We can just take that sound out?"

Everything Else

Foley: George's outdoor footsteps, the hand touch on the door, the sound of him tossing his briefcase onto a car seat, the sound of him sliding his suit against the seat and maybe even his seatbelt buckling. Mrs. Daniel's hedge trimming snips would get recreated either in Foley or selected/edited from a library by the SFX Editor - or possibly done by both parties, leaving the Mixer to choose which version he liked the best.

SFX: the door close, for one. That same SFX Editor would also have to take some combination of a car starting, gear shift, engine reverse, tire crunches, engine accelerations and pull-away sounds from his library of hundreds or more and mangle them into sync with the picture. Easy enough for a car pulling out of a driveway, but imagine being the Sound Supervisor on The Fast and the Furious.

INT. CAR - MORNING

GEORGE is driving along LISTENING TO THE RADIO. He takes his eyes off the road to adjust his part in the mirror, and suddenly hears a loud HONK. He looks down to see a car heading straight at him.

CUT TO:

FLASHBACK

GEORGE's entire life flashes in front of his eyes.

BACK TO:

GEORGE CRASHES into the car in front of him and dies.

The slight hum of the AC in George's car and the occluded sounds of traffic outside are work for the BG Editor.

The sounds of George's car revving up, slowing down and driving are from the SFX Editor.

George's clothing swishes and seat creaks as he shifts around, his touches on the steering wheel and mirror, his hand running through his hair - all Foley stuff.

Music
But the music on the radio? That didn't just get thrown in there because it was the director's favorite song. The director might've had a say, for sure, but more than likely a Music Supervisor, with knowledge of the full film, thought hard about what should be playing in this critical moment when George dies. When he had figured all that out, he had to negotiate with the artist or label to get the rights to use that song in the capacity of the film and broker that deal. Finally, when the music has been cleared, a Music Editor will take the piece and select only the part of the song he wants to play in the car scene, trimming the audio to fit.

He will send it to the Mixer, who might add that "futz" effect (the tinny sound of something playing through a radio) to make it sound like that flawlessly produced track is coming out of the dude's little car system.

The Flashback
Suddenly, there's a loud honk chosen by the SFX Editor (honk = incoming car crash for the audience) and the screen flashes white and we find ourselves in George's flashback.

What was that sound that played when the screen when white? And where did this low, eerie rumble during the flashback sequence come from? Those were designed by the SPFX Editor, the guy who typically makes the sounds that don't really exist.

He might have reversed the sound of a cymbal, sped up a few whale calls, slowed down some of his own recorded breaths and done a whole bunch of other magic to arrive at these sounds. He can do whatever he wants and most of the rules don't apply to him, because we don't know what "having a flashback" sounds like. I mean, we do, from other movies, but there is no real-world flashback we can go listen to out there and compare, so he gets to personalize things a bit. When he is done, his sounds go to the Mixer as well.

If you noticed, all the voices and sounds in George's flashback were probably all washed-out and echoey sounding. The Mixer did that.

The Crash
And the car crash itself? Probably a combination of the SFX and SPFX Editors, especially if the crash happened in slow-mo. If George screams, the they might've recorded that line in ADR, and the Dialogue Editor will send a cleaned-up version of it to the mixer, or the SPFX Editor might just take a random scream from the library and mess with it until it sounds distressed and awesome.

Our Film Collaboration

With all the sound that comes after the film's been shot, what the hell were we even showing up to record?

Ostensibly, just the dialogue, even though we still need to roll the recorder during scenes where no one talks.

The first day or so we recorded, we had a few scenes like this, where we'd record a minute's worth of audio with only 5 seconds of "stuff that makes sound" happening. It was a little distressing, but as the days wore on, we began to feel a certain pride in even capturing those non-moments in the best detail possible.

I think that's one of the "things" about production audio, to try to record everything as if your microphone was the first and last stop for sound in the entire film. Sure, you really just need to try to get the dialogue, but why not take some pride in it?

The film is probably several months away from post-production and all those extra sounds being added in, and way before then, some producer somewhere is going to want to see progress on the film. And that progress will have a soundtrack: yours.

It's basically a two-part process, creating that soundtrack.

Booming

Booming is holding that giant black pole with the fuzzy blimp at the end of it, ever-so-slightly off screen, and maneuvering this into position to capture the best quality sound you can. Before we started this, I thought it'd be pure grunt work, but now I'm starting to see that it's a real art form for the guys who make a living out of it.

You don't just point the thing and stand in one spot until they turn the cameras off. What if the actors are moving around, turning their mouths? Standing up into sitting down? If you aren't constantly tracking the actors' mouths with your mic, a lot of that dialogue will end up getting up recorded "off-axis" (e.g. hitting the microphone from a less than ideal pickup angle), and those lines will lose a lot of body and presence in playback. They will sound "thin." That can be patched up, to an extent, but if it can't, you may be calling those actors in for ADR later. And Mrs. Daniels' rate to fly down to LA and re-record dialogue in a studio is not cheap.

So you move the mic around a lot to follow the actors' mouths (hope you've been studying the script!). But now the director wants to try another shot, start with a wide angle and then come in close, maybe pan around a bit. You need to know what that camera will and won't see at all times and have the good sense to stay out of it - tricky with a lot of motion. Don't forget that your boom pole's probably got a big mess of cables drooping down from it, as well; don't forget that those cables make noise when they clack against it. You'll probably have to find a new position to stand in. You might even have to climb something.

Mixing

Mixing is holding the recorder (or another few pieces of related gear) shown at the top of this post, pressing record when the take starts and twisting volume knobs to make sure everything is coming in at a good volume. That's the simple version. If it's a nice, quiet indoor shot with little movement, just you and one guy with a boom pole, it can be a pretty relaxing affair.

Now you're doing a slightly more involved shot, and you've got the boom operator's signal plus the incoming feeds of two tiny clip mics to balance against each other, it gets a little more involved. Now you're doing that shot on a dock in the pouring rain** and have to worry about the mics getting wet, sputtering and fuzzing out and ruining the entire take - even the perfectly sound boom track - if you don't turn them down fast enough.

You're watching battery levels, always.

The actors go from talking to shouting to pushing each other, thumping one another on the chest right next to your delicate little clip mic, and you have to ride that volume knob the entire way to keep the signal from clipping and becoming distorted.

And if anything in that take doesn't go right for sound, you need to speak up and get it re-shot or let the director know (easy when the director loves the sound crew and you're ahead of schedule; probably not so easy on a multimillion dollar film), or it's your butt on the line when that sub-par sound is playing for the producer in LA who's reviewing the day's takes.

**That rainy scene happened for us, and it was trying as hell. None of us ever want to go back to Cates Park, North Vancouver, ever again.

Final Thoughts

I'm not sure who works harder - production sound guys or editors - and I think it's just safest to say that capturing and creating great sound is equally tough, that you'd have to be equally insane to want to do either one for a living. I can say that I have way more respect for the production sound types after this experience, though.

Film sound guys wake up early, rush around, wait, have to deal with team dynamics, endure shitty weather, stay on their feet all day - but they get paid for it, the weather is sometimes gloriously sunny, and it's sure as hell fun. By the end of our collaboration, our little sound crew was pretty tight with those film students. We had a blast.

Now that I'm back in front of a glowing rectangle and cutting sounds in Pro Tools all day. It doesn't rain indoors, but I can't say which side of the process I enjoy more. I was hoping to rule things out with this program, make my decisions about the future a little simpler, but the doors won't stop opening.

Fingers crossed to land some great work on either end this program's finally out.

24Apr/112

Game Audio – Movement Soundscape

The third term of my time at VFS has finished, which means we're 6 months from reality. It's incredible to think about how much I've learned since starting here last October; moreso to try to imagine all the things I've still got to learn. There's enough for several lifetimes, and seeing the work my classmates, our teachers and the wide world of sound on the Internet puts out every day is super inspiring and challenging. It's time to start looking back through my most recent batch of work...

Here's an end-of-term project for our Game Audio II course:

Game Audio II

Reconstructing Movement in Game Audio:

Environmental Sound

The aim of this project is to record source material, and then to re-construct a simulated environment for the user/listener to establish more than one ambient game audio context. The project should take the user on an auditory journey transitioning the user through more than one ambient ‘zone’, as if the character is moving through the game world on a “spline”.

After hearing all the examples of past students' work we were shown in class, I was pretty impressed by some of the ambient shifts these former all-stars had come up with. Some really cool stuff, like underwater to above-water, nice examples of occlusion through shutting a car door in the face of a horde of zombies, etc.

But while they all had lots of imagination and detail, none of them really felt like they were moving to me so much as the environment was changing over time.

I wanted to do better, here; to get movement across at all costs, even if it meant I had to keep my concept a little more grounded in reality. From jump, I thought that this would be a great chance to learn a bit about binaural recording (the project was going to be played back/evaluated in headphones) and to try some in-the-field source recording techniques, stay away from the very close-mic'd dry recordings we'd normally do in our Foley rooms.

The goal was to keep the environments simple and just let the movement speak for itself. And in that respect, I think I did pretty well.

What is Binaural Recording?

Brief aside on what all this "binaural" stuff means:

Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses a special microphone arrangement and is intended for replay using headphones.
-- Wikipedia, "Binaural recording"

Sound waves don't just dive straight into our brains via some kind of "line in" jack: they have to move through air to get there. And as they do that, these waves bounce and reflect off your shoulders and chest, wrap around your skull, move through your hair, filter through your clothing, etc., all the while undergoing subtle changes in frequency, volume, and arrival time (e.g. hit your left ear just before your right ear), to name a few.

Obviously, our hearing receptors don't sit in an open, microphone-shaped capsule in front of us, they're buried deep in our ear canals. So by recording via two tiny, omnidirectional microphones positioned roughly where your ears are, you are going to record the sound not "as it sounds" in some pure, idealized sense, but as it sounds to you.

When played back, all of those subtle frequency/delay/arrival time changes you captured by recording this are interpreted by your brain in a way that makes you instinctively feel as though those objects are coming from where they were when you originally heard them. We don't hear "slight loss of frequencies around the 8,000Hz range because those tiny waveforms were absorbed by my haircut," we hear "behind." As an incorrect but illustrative example.

By recording this way we can capture much more detail than just "left" or "right" - we can get above or below, in front or behind, etc. And you can turn two channels of simple stereo into sounding like a whole 360-degree sphere of surround.

And yes, people build lifelike human mannequin heads, complete with density-matched materials to simulate the hard reflections of our skull vs. the soft, absorptive tissue of our outer ears, embed microphones in them and use these devices to do these sorts of recordings. At the fanatical level.

Raaaaaaaawr

This is a popular binaural recording example that might blow your mind - wear headphones.

There's a lot more to say on this than I can teach, so if you're interested, look around. Our ears are amazing.

Deciding on a Scenario

First, I brainstormed a few scenarios - I wanted something simple and real, with the chance to show off a lot of movement and cool perspective changes. The most interesting to me was that concept of a Metal Gear Solid-style infiltration, with some close spaces, hearing people filtered through a vent shaft, and eventual running/scuffling.

I "prototyped" some of my recording techniques by squirming around in a broken vent we have in our props room and adding a little bit of reverb to the signal, and got some really nice, claustrophobic results. I also affixed two omnidirectional clip mics to a pair of classes, hooked myself into a portable recorder and walked around our campus a bit to see if it'd work as a poor man's binaural setup. The results weren't 100% interesting all the time, but a couple of cool moments convinced me that this was an avenue to chase.

Planning and Recording

Vent decided on, I sketched out the rest of the soundscape and the environments it'd take place on - again, sticking to stuff that was close to campus so that I could use a lot of my own recordings. I had to figure out roughly how much time I wanted the character to spend in each environment, plus making sure that I was hitting the assignment requirements in terms of "signals" (in-your-face, attention-calling sounds like guard footsteps and key jingles), "keynotes" (middle-ground emitting sounds like vending machines, vents, a radio) and "ambiences" (persistent background sounds that give some subtle information about where you are).

With only 90 seconds to work with, I wanted to make sure you knew where you were as fast as possible whenever the environment changes. If you were in a vent, you needed to know within a couple of seconds. So I put a lot of emphasis on making those binaural recordings the "bed" of the piece, cranking them in the final mix. Normally, your ears tune out "room tone" as you hang around an environment, but I thought that if I were too subtle with these recordings, the cool perspectivey effects wouldn't come through.

Some things I recorded this way were all of the different room tones I wanted, the character's footsteps, and the stairwell door opens and closes - this let me put all of that easily within "his" perspective without having to do any extra mixing. I also spent a bunch of time tilting myself around like an idiot outside in our school's courtyard to get some really dizzying panning on the nearby traffic for the fight up on the rooftop. That, with some of the low- and high-end rolled off to give a "rooftop" sense of distance, became the ambience for the final fight on the rooftop.

For the main character's breaths, I used a single lav mic and just panned it directly in the center (when little else was) to give it a bunch of presence. Simple but effective!

All other effects were recorded in mono with the phenomenal Sennheiser 416. I love love love this microphone for what it's good for, and it feels great to finally be discovering favorites. It's extremely directional, which means I was able to walk around campus and point it at the tiniest little emitting spots on machines, coolers and various electronics and pick up their distinctive buzz without capturing too much of the rest of the environmental noise. That plus our Foley rooms' new preamps allowed me to grab some extremely clean recordings of all the other stuff I needed: guard boots, cloth punches, key jingles, mug and paper tosses, etc.

These recordings were also almost totally free of our floor's soul-crushing, inescapable 120Hz hum. As a result, I barely needed to treat these recordings with EQ etc. before I started cutting the final piece. Saved me a ton of time.

Finally, the brilliant guard dialogue was written by yours truly in a lame attempt to explain why these two guards just wouldn't shoot the guy on sight, plus give a little extra depth and a sense of threat to the whole piece.

I wanted to experiment a bit more with having my classmates (the two guards) read their lines a bit farther back from the mic and even "off-axis" (not facing the direction that the mic picks up sound in) to try to have that sense of people moving around and not talking directly towards the main character's ear, but stuck to just recording it normally and positioning it in the mix later on. The one "hey!" in the stairwell was recorded a few floors up and in the stairwell, though.

Editing and Mixing

My major discovery for this part of the project was WaveArt's Panorama plug-in, which I managed to convince our IT department to install a trial of on my machine. It's a 3D panner that uses some of those same binaural recording principles to subtly adjust certain frequencies, volumes and delay times in a recording to let you position objects wherever you want within a stereo sound field. And as an RTAS plug-in, everything in it was totally automatable.. which basically let me "draw" the path of all the objects in my soundscape according to where I thought my main user should be. Tooooooo freaking cool.

The Panorama interface.

The only shortcoming I found with it was that it doesn't respond well to really quick pans/head turns, as that's just too much math too fast for the plug-in to crunch. You end up getting a lot of phasey, washy sounds when you do it, so I had to keep the 3D panning stuff slow and gradual. Small price to pay! Being able to place the guard's voices below and increasingly behind the character as he moved forward was amazing, and I'm especially happy with how the quick front-to-back pans on the office objects (mug of pens, paper) worked in the middle of the chase. That plus the whirl-around as the guards open the door on the roof.

The next big victory in positioning everything in this environment came from messing around with multiple reverbs. When I started, I was using a standard low-pass filter (that "muted" effect) to try to make the guards' voices sound as if they were being blocked by the walls of the vent, but it felt forced. Sending their voices into the same claustrophobic, metallic-sounding reverb I was using for the main character's vent squirming, while keeping their dry voice signal down, worked way better. Favorite examples of verb usage in the soundscape are as the main character pans his head back up and one of the guard's voices seems to "move" into the vent, as well as the way I treated the alarm as the character bursts into the stairwell.

Final Result

Separated into stems because we had to turn them in that way, and it might give you a better look at what's happening in each part of the whole.

Ambiences Only:

Keynotes Only:

Signals Only:

Final Mix:

What Went Right / What I Learned

  • You shouldn't be scared of recording *in* a location when you want something to sound like it happened there. It seems obvious, I know, but up until this project, I really felt like the safest way to do things was to record sounds clean and close in a soundproof room, then control the way everything was positioned/echoing in a mix later on. For an assignment like this, I saved a ton of time by *not* doing this that way, and even managed to create some more realistic results by doing it. I couldn't have made that stairwell running happen as realistically in any other way but just recording myself jogging up them with two tiny mics clamped to my glasses.
  • A little noise isn't a big deal. Seriously. When recording room tones etc. with our tiny omnidirectional microphones, I had to turn the gain way up in order to get anything to record at all. Doing tihs added a ton of hiss and white noise into the recordings - the mics weren't meant to really be turned that high - but in the final mix, once all the ambiences were in and with everything else going on, you couldn't hear that shit at all. If I had spent any time cleaning those recordings up with Xnoise etc. before mixing them, it would have been totally wasted.
  • The Sennheiser 416T is awesome. So is Panorama.

What Went Wrong

  • In retrospect, the whole project took me way longer than it should have due to my own meticulousness - if I had gotten my shit straightened out with recording planning and done that all in one day, things could have happened faster, but because of this term's schedule, all my recording sessions were happening on and off through the end of the term. As usual, "organization will set you free."
  • I wouldn't have done the fall from the vent/ring-out as dramatically, if I could go back and do it again. It's a bit over-the-top and Gears of War-y, but it helps cover up the fact that there's not much going in that section of the piece besides some footstep scuffles. A straight ring with a less dramatic low-pass might've done it.
  • Not totally totally sold on the fall from the roof as well - I wish I had some closer-sounded traffic sources to gradually fade in to give a better sense of proximity. Struggled a lot with this last section!

Please leave any questions/thoughts/criticism in the comments!

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!