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
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!