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Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 | 18 comments

Sound Design Challenge #13: Creepy Advertising

The last challenge was awesome, and it was all thanks to your participation. We’re hoping to repeat that success this time with our new challenge. Our sponsor this time is Hart FX, owned and operated by Colin Hart. Colin is offering up his “Hart of Steel” library, which is a massive 22 gigs of industrial tools. I’ve got a copy of it myself, and trust me when I say…this is a very cool library. We’re excited and grateful to have Hart FX sponsoring the Challenge this time around.

We’re going in an advertising direction this time around. The picture above is a capture from the video you’ll be working with for this challenge. It’s an old, in-theatre, trailer advertising a screening of horror movies. You’re task this time around will be to create the audio for this trailer keeping the horror and advertising aspects in mind, as well as matching the sound to the period of the piece.

The rules for this challenge:

  1. Make sure to read and understand the General Rules and Legal Disclaimers as described on this page. Participation in the Challenge implies you have done so and agree to the terms listed therein.
  2. You must replace all of the audio for the piece. It should have a voice-over/narration track. You may recreate the existing narration, or write your own. It can be in any language you prefer.
  3. No music may be used in the piece.
  4. Approach this as a piece of advertising, but play up the horror aspects (yes, it can be “campy” horror if you like).
  5. The overall quality of the sound should match the time period of the piece: 1950’s.
  6. Your entry, the contest video with your final design mix, must be uploaded to the Vimeo group by Thursday, December 8th (5 PM U.S. Eastern Time).

To download the video for this Challenge, visit this page on The Open Video Project. Please note, you will need to download the MPEG-2 version of the clip (the MPEG-1 download link does not work). [Enough people are having issues converting this video, that I’ve decided to host a regular Quicktime through my site. Simply right-click and download this link.] If you’re a student, or just starting your professional career, and are looking for public domain clips to do some work with, The Open Video Project is going to be a great resource for you. We aren’t distributing the video this time, so it will remain available for as long as it exists on the OVP page.

As usual, I am looking for volunteers to assist in selecting the finalists for this challenge. If you are interested in helping out, please contact me here.

Good luck with the Challenge, and another round of thanks to Colin Hart and Hart FX.

As usual, I am looking for volunteers to assist in selecting the finalists for this challenge. If you are interested in helping out, please contact me here.


  1. This is a great challenge, unfortunately the video format is a bit cumbersome. MPEG 2 is not natively supported in Quicktime (maybe in Lion?) which is what most of us will use to play it in our DAWs. You need the MPEG 2 playback component for that. I also tried to transcode it with VLC, but the results were pretty bad. Any hints? Maybe you could put a transcoded version on vimeo?

    • Another useful tool for in the future is MPEG Streamclip. While it’s a public domain clip, distributing it becomes a bit of a grey area when we don’t have explicit permission to do so. Hence, my directing you towards the OVP site.

  2. Handbrake is your friend. The best video format I find is to use when processing video natively is the AppleTV 2 preset, but then I disable B and P Frames. To do this go to advanced and paste this.

    mixed refs=0:ref=1:bframes=0:weightb=0:keyint=1:min-keyint=1

    Then create new preset. And there you have it. This format works well in all versions of Nuendo and I guess Cubase also!!

  3. Thanks, Danny, that did the trick. The audio got messed up but that won’t be needed anyway.

  4. How are we defining music here? Does a synth drone fall under the no use? What about percussive instrument sounds and stabs?

    • Drones and instrument stingers/stabs are fine. Try to avoid anything that becomes too rhythmic or has a defined phrase structure (if you’re using instruments and drones that is).

  5. Hate to sound silly but I’ve converted the video and it seems to be in an iPhone Video style (i.e. vertical widescreen) Is it meant to be that shape or have I made a boob :)

    P.S The page with “General rules and disclaimers” contains a bit that is meant to help you set your DAW to “Television audio” settings , but the link is dead?

    • There was probably something in your settings that caused the video to switch to the different aspect ratio. Thanks for mentioning the issue with the link…it got corrupted/replaced somehow. It’s been fixed.

  6. Is there somewhere else we can download this. my quicktime doesnt support the Mpeg2 and i cant download the raw file to convert it to something else. Could someone post a link to it on youtube or something?

  7. The mandatory presence of the narration is a very very difficult task!

    • Ahh, but you can just re-record the existing narration. It can be you, your friend….a horse….if you know where to find Mr. Ed, that is. ;)

  8. Affirmative.
    But I have another boring idea. Maybe it would be better if one of the constant and important rules of the challenge was – “use only your personally created sounds”?

    I think then we all will able to prove that we can create our works from scratch. IMO it’s a little bit strange for me, when the participants in such competitions create their entry with the third-party materials.

    For instance. Is there a winner of Dominance War among the artists who created his work by similar methods? It would be very strange if they began to use stock libraries.

    • There have been challenges in the past where that was one of the rules, and there will be others in the future. There have also been challenges where everyone is provided with the same set of sounds, and could not use any but those. The goal of these challenges is to spark creativity and share unique approaches to sound design within the community. Using library sounds does not necessarily mean you are less creative, it is all in how you use the tools at your disposal. Even Ben Burtt and Randy Thom buy sounds from other people to use in their films.

  9. Although I am absolutely not eligible for this contest, I may try to find a few hours to put something together for this over the Thanksgiving weekend because it looks fun :-)

    Happy Designing everyone!

  10. Very challenging challenge this one. Well done

  11. This is a very interesting challenge. Most horror films and promos that I can find online are almost entirely music and voice-over. I’m curious to see what the judges find valuable. Sound effects and ambiance in this genre at the time were often very basic and uninspiring. I think it was much easier to record the pit orchestra in order to convey a feeling of tension or suspense than it was to have a nuanced non-musical Hitchcock-esque soundtrack. Especially in a promo.

  12. Great challenge. Can anyone post the entire narrator text of the original video? I cannot understand it all. So many thanks.


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