Masters of the Universe

16

Not really knowing much about mastering, except for fellow musicians saying I needed to send my finished tracks to external mastering services, has meant that this intensive has been incredibly informative and helpful. Having now completed two full days of mastering “hands on tasks”, has greatly expanded my understanding of EQ, dynamic EQ, compression and also multiband compression. It’s also been great to begin fine-tuning my ears to picking out the various frequencies that require boosting or attenuating. The spill over effect, skill wise, means that I am also greatly improving my mixes, as I know what is sought after as the end product, therefore making improved decisions further up the chain to supply better products ready for mastering.

12

Mastering audio – the art of listening

It’s also fascinating to consider that mastering is not just a technical, quantifiable action, but can involve creative, artistic decisions. For instance some tracks we mastered today, had a very “balls to the wall”, rock flavour to them. This meant that when I took out some of the low mids, I actually removed some of the energy residing in the bottom of the song. Unfortunately this led to a weakening of the power the original was giving.

Understanding the overall feel and direction of the song, can greatly improve the way you master the track and this is where creative decisions come into play. As an example, light, folk love songs, don’t need punching, loud bottom end. Similarly, heavy rock needs a pounding bottom end, to create a bedrock of power, to build the guitars and vocals from. Creative decisions, about how far in front of the mix vocals needs to be, or how present a distorted, gnarly guitar features, are all things that mastering engineers contemplate when working through songs. Some of these decisions can be vital to the finished song and the direction it moves in, so it’s important to understand that the power you have as a mastering engineer, is not to be taken lightly.

You have the potential to change a song’s intent and feel, therefore giving you quite an important responsibility.

13

 

Wyner, J. (2013) Isotope Inc. Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Mastering audio and the art of listening.
Marshall, K. (2019) Audio mastering and when to be creative.
Hiwatt. Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Sydell, R. (2015)
Why master your music? Everything I wish I’d known.
Landr. Montreal, Canada.

Mastering

junk 1

 

What is the dark art of mastering and why is it necessary?

According to the Los Angeles music production school, Icon Collective, The mastering stage involves a series of subtle audio processes including equalization, compression, saturation, stereo enhancement, and limiting. The purpose of mastering is to balance the stereo mix, make all the elements sound cohesive, and to reach commercial loudness.” This definition, sums up the final stage of the recording process really well. After recording, processing and mixing an audio track, the next most important stage is mastering. This is the final stage that allows your work to now enter the public sphere.

At times, even seasoned musicians / performers, have asked, “Why do we need mastering?”

Here is a check list of various enhancements, mastering can bring to the finished project:

  • Edit frequencies, by removing or attenuating, to improve the global level of the song.
  • Ensure an even distribution of frequencies
  • Take out undesirable noises, like pops and clicks throughout the track.
  • Finalise perceived loudness to match industry standards.
  • Create a final running order for the final album or EP.
  • Ensure there is space at the start and finish of each song.
  • Applying stereo enhancement adds magnitude and an even stereo field. Widening your mix will help it sound bigger.
  • Producers and engineers benefit from a second set of ears to identify problems missed during the final mix.
  • Songs released as an album or EP need to have consistent levels and cohesion to them. Mastering ensures this occurs.
  • Ensure transient spikes and dynamics are controlled.
  • Assigning an even spread of frequencies to ensure a tonal equity.
  • Apply ISRC information and metadata for electronic retrieval.
  • To ensure consistency across multiple platforms, appropriate sample rate and bit depth need to be applied.
  • On an album or EP release, gaps between songs need to be controlled via uniform fades.
  • Record labels require mastering as a prerequisite for their releases.
  • Create track markers for CD releases.

 

 

With so many mastering plugins now available for bedroom producers, the misconception that artists can now simply push their mix through a software bundle and the job will be completed, needs to be addressed. Critical listening is a skill that only improves over time and because professional mastering engineers concentrate their talents on this one aspect of the industry, it stands to reason that they are the obvious and most qualified to take on this task. Also, the aforementioned “second set of ears” scenario comes into play.

Having never really understood the importance of mastering, researching this article has been a huge eye opener. The various YouTube tutorials I’ve watched to prepare this blog, have been incredibly informative and given me a respect for the leaders in this craft.

 

Weiss, M. (2016) What is mastering?

Pro Audio Files. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYFDAlDOdVo

 

Wynder, J. (2019) Are you listening? Audio mastering basics.

Izotope Inc. Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-6Lnp8RB00

 

Rory, P. (2018) What is mastering and why it’s important.

Icon Collective. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://iconcollective.com/audio-mastering/

 

Eley, D. (2018) What is audio mastering?

TGM Audio. Mancehster, U.K.

Retrieved from: https://masteringtuition.com/tutorial/what-is-audio-mastering/

Documentary & Sound Production

junk8

Working on the audio for the documentary “No roads to health”, has been a real learning experience for me. Having completed two documentaries as freelance projects last trimester, this has been an extension of my education in this area.

Bullet  Mock up 4

On the documentary “Biting the bullet”, a film about a young female student from China, who has now taken up boxing, I created a soundtrack that moved through various emotions like sadness, abandonment, elation and hope. Rather than create a syrupy, schmaltzy music bed, I kept them melancholy when needed, but finished the movie with a sense of pride and hope for the future. I felt very confident going into the project about my skills in delivering what was required. The main thing I actually learnt from the process, was dealing with the writer and director of the documentary and going back and forth attempting to nail down what they were really after. This also proved the case in the other documentary I took on called “Relentless”. Amazingly, this also touched on combat sports, but followed the life of a part-time wrestler who was a plumber as his day job. On this project, the director changed ideas and thoughts throughout the project and even after things had been nailed down, reneged on deals and wanted more changes. This proved quite a frustrating situation, but an important learning process.

https://lateralaction.com/managing-creativity/

junk9

Being a creative practitioner, who is then also receiving instructions from other creatives, has the potential to be a challenging and headbutting experience. Each of us have our own versions and ideas, in regards to the project, and at times it’s difficult to see other approaches that aren’t like yours. Sometimes, it becomes a case of eating humble pie and following directions, even when you don’t agree. Having seen the final versions of “Relentless” and “Biting the bullet”, I still believed they needed the music mixed louder and in the future I will pursue my personal line and reasons for those decisions but ultimately defer to those in control. Art is an unquantifiable delivery and unlike mathematics, where 2 + 2 will always equal 4, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to music and inevitably it comes down to taste.

I shared the foley and mixing duties on “Relentless” with Nana Gyasi-Agyie , so it was also a great experience to source sounds to propel the narrative and use mixing in a creative way, that supported the visuals.

Working on “No roads to health”, has consolidated many of the skills I began while completing the other documentaries and I’m now reaping the benefits for the continued “real world” approach to these tasks.

https://www.documentary.org/feature/mix-practical-guide-navigating-post-production-audio-process

junk5

Hugo Mouren, missed the first two weeks of Post Production classes, so Ben and I were more competent with the process of mixing a film, due to us only just completing “Junk Male”. So with the Papua New Guinea film project, we split up tasks as follows. Hugo Mouren sourced some of the additional foley while on a trip to Phillip Island, Ben Spadaro handled all the administration and file management on our Google Drive and I composed and recorded the soundtrack. We all met outside of class times and have worked on the mix in both the S6 and D command. Rather than all three of us cram into one room, leaning over each other on the console, Hugo and Ben worked on finishing the dialogue mix and introducing all the foley that had been recorded and then editing and cleaning up the sound clips, which was greatly helped due to a demonstration by Tristan Meredith, on how to use the Izotope plugins. After recording the voice-over dialogue, I then used the D Command to clean up and edit it ready to be inserted into the project. Constantly working on both the S6 and D Command control surfaces, has also built up my speed and confidence on these consoles.

The soundtrack has moved through many different incarnations, due to the groups feedback of my work, but has always kept indigenous sounding instruments as the core sound.

After a review by Tristan Meredith, our lecturer, we had a timestamped set of notes to fix issues in the audio. This was a great way to have a fresh set of experienced ears, listen to our unfinished project. Ben and I booked the S6, out of class hours, for continued work on this documentary. Unfortunately, Hugo is now not available to help us further, as his mother has arrived from New Caledonia and is staying with him for a week.

I believe we created a quality version of “No roads to health” and have now further confirmed my love of film soundtrack composing. In both “Junk Male” and “No roads to health”, I have been able to compose and record the finished product in a few days, which also mirrors “real world” time frame urgency and demands of a high paced industry.

 

 

M. McGuiness. (2019) Herding cats, leading a creative team.

The 21st Century Creative Course – Lateral action. London, U.K.

Retrieved from:

Lesson 25: Herding Cats – Leading a Creative Team

 

M. Holme. (2018) The importance of sound in documentary films.

Medium – Online Publishing. New York, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:

ttps://medium.com/@1009405/flm225-the-importance-of-sound-in-docuentary-films-e0ff077fd704

 

J. Rouff (2014) Conventions of sound in documentary.

Dartmouth College. Hanover, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~jruoff/Articles/ConventionsofSound.htm

 

J. Lebrecht (2017) In the mix – A practical guide to navigating the post-production audio process.

International Documentary Association. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

View at Medium.com

 

 

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

 

Documentary sound production

junk 1

Our next intensive involved mixing, creating foley, voice narrator recording and soundtrack replacement of the documentary “No roads to health”. This short film highlighted the third world health situation on our doorstep, in Papua New Guinea.

In a group of three, including Ben Spadaro,  Hugo Mouren and myself, we took on the task of improving this documentary and giving it a new lease of life, audio wise. After multiple spotting sessions, we delegated tasks to complete during our week apart and then got stuck into the dialogue mix as our baseline to begin the project. Hugo took on the task of recording foley on his trip to Phillip Island on the upcoming weekend. He has a Zoom H4n and was tasked with finding sea sounds, rainforest, river rushing and water gurgling noises, babies heartbeat, water splashing in a sink and various other sounds picked up in our spotting sessions. Ben took on the task of administrator within the group. He prepared all the documents on our Google drive, so when we had completed tasks, we could mark them off as finished. Ben also did a lot of console work on the dialogue mix. I sourced a voice narrator and booked him in for the coming Monday to record the script of “No roads to health”. I have worked with this person before on collaborations of poetry and music. He has a very rich, resonant voice that has an Irish lilt to it and because the narration was to be a centerpiece of the audio, I felt his timbre would really lend something lovely to the film. I also put my hand up for the soundtrack composition but once again left it open for Ben, if he wanted to, to contribute as well.

The thing that struck me about the original soundtrack, was that it didn’t delve into sentimental and sad music but created a feeling of positivity and optimism despite the very troubling statistics. I decided to base a lot of the soundtrack around rhythmic percussion instruments, so I researched what constituted New Guinea music (or more accurately, multiple percussion instrumental playing in the region) sounded like and then began to record similar beats with the congas, bongos and percussion wood blocks and sticks I have in my home studio. Then using instruments that seemed appropriate to an island nation, I recorded music with fretless bass, marimbas, shakatak Asian flute, Rhodes electric piano and Fender Stratocaster guitar. I then proceeded to find sections within the documentary that would be strengthened with background music and began composing to the footage and feelings encased therein. Group feedback to my early music drafts, pointed out issues in regards to levels of various instruments and also the choice of possibly too upbeat music in sections that may have needed to be a little bit more somber. After lengthy discussions and comparison of other options we decided on the final music to go into the documentary.

How sound helps tell your visual stories

junk5

“The dialogue and background music usually come to mind first when considering sound design. While these are certainly vital in driving the plot and character development, they are only the most obvious elements in a production’s sound design. Your (project) needs much more subtle manipulation of sound to feel complete. Music and dialogue alone are not enough to construct the world of your film.” (Pavlov, 2019)

If you want to learn how to tell a story, edit a documentary

junk9

Working on this documentary, has further enlightened me about the use of audio to create narrative within the story. Say for instance when the team arrived in a village, one of the early sounds we hear, is a rooster crowing. This is quite a ubiquitous sound, to inform the audience we are in a native town. Another sound that placed our ears into the visual narrative, were extraneous noises from the airport to inform passengers of their boarding times. Other noises that might help the narrative, are cars and scooters beeping their horns during chaotic traffic scenes within Port Moresby. Before studying the importance sound plays in driving narrative, I didn’t realise audio was such a large part of telling a story. In certain sound recordists mind’s, audio coming from “off camera” is occasionally seen as something to be avoided and edited out in post-production. But having now understood how important these additional sounds can be to the narrative, it seems obvious to attempt to record as many additional foley and onsite audio as you can. This will help later in editing to add to the final product with a much wider pallet of audio to choose from.

Why sound design is just as important for documentaries

junk8

In the case of this documentary, the audio could stand alone and form the basis of a podcast or radio presentation. But the video on its own, loses it’s narrative without audio (dialogue, background / foreground sound and music) therefore it would not be able to function independently. This is why I believe Sean Cousins is quoted as saying, “In documentaries, sound is more important than pictures.”

 

 

A. Pavlov. (2019) Sound Design – How sound helps tell your visual stories.

Videomaker magazine, California, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:

https://www.videomaker.com/article/f04/19052-sound-design-how-sound-helps-tell-your-visual-stories

 

J. Morrow. (2019) Why sound design is just as important for documentaries and two ways to approach it.

No film school magazine, website and podcast. Brooklyn, New York. U.S.A.

Retrieved from:

https://nofilmschool.com/2018/04/documentary-filmmakers-talk-sound-design-during-dolby-masterclass-tribeca

 

G. Bayne (2014) If you want to learn how to tell a story, edit a documentary.

No film school magazine, website and podcast. Brooklyn, New York. U.S.A.

https://nofilmschool.com/2014/10/if-you-want-learn-how-tell-story-edit-documentary

 

 

Audio For Narrative

Blog Audio for Narrative

Using only audio for narrative, proved to be quite a challenging task for our next assignment. This required us to choose one of Chris Booker’s seven major plot types (Boddy, 2014) and then, only using audio,  tell a story. I chose, from the list of seven, “The Quest”.

My basic premise for the story, was to begin with launching a boat into the ocean. Then rowing out to sea on a calm, beautiful day. During the course of the sailing, a huge thunderstorm breaks out and suddenly makes, what was a peaceful, lovely outing, turn into a nightmare. The storm batters the tiny boat and pitches it from side to side and the sailor is fretting for his life. After a very harrowing time, the storm finally stops, but the rower has lost all his energy and merely drifts with the tide. Eventually the boat grounds itself on the beach of an island. This causes more stress for the sailor, as he now needs to spend a night in completely unfamiliar surroundings, sheltered up in the jungle for the evening. As dawn breaks the protagonist hears a helicopter overhead and rushes out to the beach to flag it down, so that he might be finally rescued. His elation is palpable, as he watches the helicopter land, spraying sand up on him, to be finally rescued and taken back to his family.

I had hoped to do this project completely with music, but after a few attempts I realised I needed some audio pointers apart from music. I had the rolling sea and water covered by arpeggios on the piano and then ramped it up with discordant banging on the keyboard to create a large storm, but some of the smaller intricacies, like introducing a boat to the narrative and eventually arriving at an island proved difficult to just convey with music. I used the sound of a harp to give the impression of dawn and the sun rising and strings to give emotional directions to the narrative.

My idea of creating the rescue from the island, also proved unattainable with just music so I created a sound on my synthesizer to replicate the helicopter. In fact some of the sound effects didn’t end up being purely music but were created on a synthesizer. I used a white noise generator and mixed various oscillators to create the wave sounds. Then I tweaked an existing patch I had, to give the sound of seagulls and wildlife noises on the island forest. The synthesizer also came in handy to create the storm and thunder sounds. I had some water foley I had recorded for the movie “Junk Male” and used those at various places in this assignment as well. Near my house, a new home was being built, so using the brick sand pile in the front yard, I recorded the beach footsteps.

Dream

This brings up the very interesting question of how do blind people dream? (Hughes, 2018) My understanding is that when one of our senses is missing, the other senses are quite heightened. So it stands to reason that a blind person would have much better hearing then I would, as I rely on sight as well as sound to identify where things are. I can only surmise that a blind person would construct their reality much more from audio and touch, as the sense of sight is missing. If a person has been blind from birth, then I’m guessing that their brain does not have a capacity for storing or recalling pictures. So sound is something that their brain can decode what is happening around them. The sense of touch and taste can only be used when things are very close, but when things are far away, sound would be their only way of recognising what’s happening around them. According to a National Geographic article, “How the blind dream” (Hughes, 2018), a study was carried out in Denmark that showed, blind people recalled taste, smell and touch in their dreams, at over double the rate as sighted participants recalled senses other than sight.

I really enjoyed this assignment, as it required me to go quite deep in my pursuit for a recognisable outcome. During the course of my composing of this audio clip, I kept sending it out to random people for feedback. This helped me not just remain in a bubble of my own understanding of what the sound was trying to achieve. Through constant revisions and more and more people added to the feedback loop, I believe I arrived at a noticeable audio piece, that conveys “The Quest” storyline.

Boddy, K. (2014) Everything ever written boiled down to 7 plots.
The Telegraph. London, U.K.
Retrieved from:
Hughes, V. (2018) How the blind dream.
National Geographic. Washington, U.S.A.
Retrieved from:
Hub, P. (2016) 5 ways to use music to tell a story.
Production Hub. Florida, U.S.A.
Retrieved from:

Love & attraction in film sound

 

Blog Header Love

Having explained what fear sounds like and unpacking the audio tropes of horror or suspense films, I thought it would be a great idea to explore the themes of attraction, belonging, love and anxiety, in terms of relationships. The film I had chosen was a love story between a man in a wheelchair and a blind girl. Many scenes required audio reinforcement to push the narrative along and enhance the visuals. Pushing the volume up of the birds and natural wildlife in various scenes helped to create that romantic background vibe. Enhancing the isolation Joseph felt in scenes by himself with audio, also pushed the narrative along, making the audience feel sorry for his character and wanting a resolution through his longing for Robin. To do this, we inserted mindless ads on the TV and accented the 2 minute noodles eating sounds. We also mixed his exasperated sighs up high in the mix, to communicate with the viewer, Joseph’s depressed state.

Working on the audio for Junk Male, has been really inspiring. I’ve always wanted to compose a slow building love story and this film certainly had that as it’s central theme.
Ben Spadaro and I split up the audio tasks within this project, to make it a workable collaboration. I took on the task of doing all the foley recording and sound effects. The first thing I recorded, was beach atmos close to the SAE College. This is where I could source seagulls, wind, waves and water sounds, in one spot. At my home studio, I filled a huge drum with water and then recorded myself throwing newspapers and advertising pamphlets into it, using my Rode Nt2a microphone. I was quite happy with the sound of papers hitting the water, but thought the reverberation off the plastic sides of the barrel, would make the newspapers and pamphlets hitting the water, sound strange. But in fact, it added to the sound really well and almost replicated the echoes bouncing off the columns and underside of the concrete bridge. The scrunching of advertising material directly into the microphone, was also a very detailed, lovely sounding bit of foley. I also used the rolled up paper flyers to approximate the bag rustle on the bridge and then using EQ, rolled off all the highs, making it sound like a backpack.
I then recorded myself and my wife as voiceovers for the TV ads in the movie. We decided to make the ads relevant to the storyline, so these included a horoscope ad that promised good luck for that day, a shopping channel clip and an advertisement for a dating site. These seemed to be the sort of mindless TV Joseph would have watched in those scenes. In the original soundtrack the clips were from wrestling, horse racing and a weather report. All of these featured American voices and taken from sourced clips. But I thought that each of those were not the type of thing Joseph would have watched, as both horse racing and wrestling would have elicited a response from the viewer, which in the Junk Male scenes, Joseph was totally devoid of any interest in what was happening on the TV. Tristan reflected, on his first viewing of this film, that the TV ads needed to be mixed louder, as nobody listens to their television that low.
The music soundtrack needed to be something that would add to the narrative, which I felt the original piano track did not achieve. I therefore assigned an instrument to each actor. Robin was a delicate piano which I recorded in the Neve studio and the other was an electric guitar for Joseph which I also recorded in the Neve rec space. Each of their instruments were played, when important, emotional scenes were on the screen. When the two characters were together the instruments weaved around each other. This then made the very final scene when Robin and Joseph appear to have taken their first steps to a long lasting relationship, much more poignant, because the two instruments now played in harmony with each other. The piano, picking out the melody and the guitar, being a third above,  thus making the two instruments finally come into sync.

In some ways, audio for a love story, is almost opposite to audio for horror / suspense movies. While the latter requires jarring, tense sounds, romance inhabits the peaceful and harmonious spectrum. In the music soundtrack, it would mean using a major scale and chord / melodic progressions that created a stirring of emotions. Mixing really adds to the feelings, by rising both the energy of the piece and the volume. Rather than just filling the the soundtrack with pads & large sweeping chords, romance is further enhanced by melody weaving in and out of the musical narrative. In our chosen film, there were also moments of anxiety by Joseph. One scene in particular, started with him buttoning his best shirt up, in preparation to seeing Robin. Because I had assigned the electric guitar to his character, I started an energetic, guitar part there, rocking between two notes, to heighten the feeling of his excitement. This continued while he pushed his wheelchair to the front of her house. At this point I wove in the piano (which was Robin’s character instrument) and the couple appeared destined for a romantic moment. When Joseph clammed up, through anxiety, I made the music turn darker, attempting to enhance the onscreen feeling of inner torture he was under. At our first showing of this mix, Tristan identified the pads in this section as being too loud. I have adjusted that in the mix now and certainly agree with him, as the result is now much more subtle, yet still achieving the goal of expressing Joseph’s inner pain.

Working on Junk Male, has been something I have really enjoyed. Having never been in a group with Ben Spadaro before, I virtually got to know him for the first time, while doing this project. He is a fantastic, collaborative partner and has a similar work ethic to me, so we really gelled, worked enthusiastically and relatively fast on our tasks. In the past, group members have, at times, been frustrating and lacking in quality control and skills, so it was a pleasant surprise to have such a diligent worker. This was definitely the reason we achieved a high standard product.

 

Storey, T. (2019) What makes a great “Meet Cute”.

Think Story. Winnepeg, Canada.

Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/GLRIg21mJBo

 

Leonard, S. (2018) How to create engaging romance in movies.

Screencraft. Beverley Hills, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://screencraft.org/2018/07/09/how-to-create-engaging-romance-in-movies/

 

Reed, J. (2018) 11 popular romance tropes & how to make them new again.
London, U.K.

Fear & Tension in Film Sound

 

6

Many people underestimate the power of audio to create emotion during a movie. Because we are naturally focused on the large visuals in front of us, the audio can slip by our conscious minds. But it’s an important part of aiding the visual component reaching it’s full potential. A classic scene in cinema, the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, is a case in point. Even though this is not strictly an audio sound addition, but more of a soundtrack inclusion, it illustrates how sound can ratchet up emotions during a tense and violent scene ,which I think the visuals alone would not have carried as much weight as the addition of the discordant violins caused in the movie. In this case, fear was chords of string instruments that didn’t sound settled. The notes were jarring. I believe this is what fear would sound like. Anything that does not let you rest, like a lovely, smooth sounding chord or a sound universally described as calming. Using the amplified recording of the filament of an electric lightbulb, made the movie Irreversible so suspenseful, because the audience could never settle. The buzzing and grinding sound of the filament having current run through it, was incredibly effective in creating constant tension.

There are many ways to create tension using mixing and audio within a movie. One of my favourite is the use of silence. During a particularly tense, slowly building scene in a movie, the sound design can be building from next to nothing, to a huge crescendo and then at the moment of climax, cut to complete silence, which only adds to the shock value you are seeing through the visuals. Another partial use of this technique, is during a war scene or section of a movie that involves a gunshot or bomb explosion. You can remove all the extraneous sounds and give the impression of the actor on camera experiencing ringing in their ears. This creates a large amount of tension and yet the only audio is the high pitched ringing and none of the explosions and violence you may be seeing on the screen. This is an incredibly effective use of audio to create discomfort in the audience.

A tried and tested way of increasing the anxiety levels of the cinema audience, is by using the Shepard Tone. This part of sound design is very effective.  In visual art, there are optical illusions. This can also apply to sound. Shepard Tone is actually an auditory illusion created by layering several tones separated by an octave. As the tones move up the scale, the highest pitched tone gets quieter, the middle pitch remains loud and the lowest bass pitch starts to become audible. Because you can always hear two tones rising in pitch, your brain is tricked into thinking there is always a consistent rising tone. It sounds like an instruments scale going on forever and never stopping. If the notes are rising in one continuous tone (like a sine wave), rather than single notes on a piano for example, the effect is very creepy and full of tension. Christopher Nolan the director for The Dark Knight (Batman movie), Dunkirk and Interstellar is a huge fan of the Shepard tone to put the audience on edge.

Since the changeover from silent movies to “talkies”, sound has evolved over time. Walt Disney is credited with asking his audio team to immerse movie goers in the visual and auditory sensation of the animated movie “Fantasia”, released in 1940. Thus “Fantasound” was created, but only ever implemented in a New York and Los Angeles theater, because of it’s prohibitive cost. The Disney system involved 53 speakers! Other surround sound systems came and went over the next few decades. In 1975, Dolby introduced two stereo audience facing speakers and two side of theater speakers. These proved immensely popular, with game changing films at the time, like “Star Wars” and “Close encounters of the third kind”, using it to it’s full potential. It was also now affordable for more cinemas to install than ever before.

5

The accepted format of 5.1 surround sound, is now a staple of commercial and home cinemas. But stepping back to the standard stereo system of a left & right speaker, a phenomenon called “Phantom Centre” (dubbed because there is no centre speaker) is caused by pushing sounds to the middle of the pan dial, thus not being totally in the left or right speaker, but seemingly coming from between the two speakers directly in front of you. (note: you must be in the centre of both speakers, to fully appreciate the “Phantom Centre” effect.)

10

 

Our first intensive was working on a short film to remix, add a new score, source new foley and generally improved the original product we began with. We viewed the two options and Ben Spadaro and myself chose the movie “Junk Male”. Even though the horror movie, “Darkness Awaits”, looked like an exciting option, full of tropes consistent with the genre, I was very drawn to the simplicity and heartfelt portrayal in “Junk Male”.
Beginning in the S6 mixing lab, Ben and I started worked on the dialogue mix, as our first job in the project. This actually took longer than I thought it would. There were quite a lot of extraneous noises captured by the vocal microphones, so we needed to use lots of EQ and changing of microphone sources, to find a clear string of dialogue.
Having completed an overall dialogue mix, we knew we would be returning to continue mixing the vocals as we began more layering of atmos, foley and soundtrack in the coming days. We then moved onto a detailed spotting session. Here we identified problems in the mix and thoughts about what the film director was trying to achieve in certain sections, so that we could enhance those moments in the film. After noting lots of time stamp comments on a spreadsheet, Ben and I split the job’s up that we needed to complete in the next few days. I took the role of recording on site for things like the beach atmos, seagulls, advertising pamphlets thrown into water and other sounds we identified as needing to be added.
Because the beach was so close to the SAE campus, I recorded seagulls, waves and general beach atmos with my Zoom H2n recorder. At home I then recorded advertising material being pushed into a letterbox, rolled up brochures thrown into water and all the other sounds we had written on our spreadsheet. I then uploaded these to our shared Google drive and Ben placed the audio on to the timestamps we had spotted on our
spreadsheet. We split the music up by me taking the role of movie soundtrack composer and Ben completing the TV advertisement background music within the lounge room scenes. My idea for the music within the movie, was based around assigning an instrument to the only featured actors, Robyn and Joseph. I recorded electric guitar parts for Joseph and a lilting piano for Robyn. When I considered they were thinking, in scenes without either actor, I used their assigned instrument. When they were on screen together, I had both instruments, weaving in and out of each other melodies. In the final scene, they actually play the same melody, but now in harmony with each other,which reinforces their new found mutual relationship finally coming together.

Both of us launched into this intensive very heavily, so we have already put a lot of work into this project and look like being able to show a nearly completed mix by our Wednesday first showing. (25/09/2019)

 

McGregor, L. (2017) The power of sound. Using Shepard Tone in Filmaking.

Premium Beat by Shutterstock. New York, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/shepard-tone-sound-design-filmmaking/

 

New York Film Academy. (2018) How to use sound to heighten emotions in a film.

New York Film Academy. New York, U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/use-sound-heighten-emotions-film/

 

Zarelli, N. (2016) How the hidden sounds of horror movies, freak you out.

Atlas Obscura. Washington D.C. U.S.A.

Retrieved from: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-the-hidden-sounds-of-horror-movie-soundtracks-freak-you-out

 

Fluance, S. (2018) The history of surround sound.

Ontario, Canada.

Retrieved from: https://blog.fluance.com/history-surround-sound/