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Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 | 2 comments

Thanks to our November Contributors

We just wanted to take the time to thank our guest contributors this month:

For our featured Backgrounds and Ambiences articles…Chris Groegler, Chris Didlick, Douglas Murray, and Tim PrebbleYann Seznec, Peter Chilvers, Robert Thomas, and Stephan Schütze for discussing interactive mobile applications…and thanks to Chuck Michael and Craig Henighan for sharing their thoughts on Dolby Atmos (as well as Josh Gershman and John Loose from Dolby for providing us with a little more data). And a big thank you also goes out to Ariel Gross for sharing his thoughts, and Brady Dyck for his interview with Rob Bridgett.

Thanks again gentlemen!

Remember…this is a site for the community, by the community. If you would like to contribute in the future, drop us a line.

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Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 | 4 comments

Ambiences with Dolby Atmos

Sitting there as credits rolled after a Dolby Atmos presentation of Brave this past summer, I felt excited for the potential of this budding format. Before the film, a few seated moms and dads were even verbally excited as the usher announce that we would be watching the film in a new sound format. During the film, the theater was saturated with sound, I truly felt immersed at times.  Yet as I watched the credits fly by, I couldn’t help feeling that until sound crews sink their teeth into the format, we won’t really hear Atmos fully realized. For the format to really sparkle, films need to be designed, edited, and premixed with Atmos in mind or as Dolby would like it, premixed IN Atmos entirely. After reading about the impression Atmos left on Shaun at AES and trying to find a way to contribute to an already excellent month of ambient discussion, I decided I should contact a few sound crews that mixed in Atmos, ask how backgrounds are handled, and with that initial experience how they would approach BGs in their next Atmos mix.

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Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 | 5 comments

Dangerous Ambiences

Guest Contribution by Tim Prebble

I LOVE Ambiences!

I suspect growing up in a very quiet location on a farm in the South Island of New Zealand may have something to do with it, but I feel I have always been very aware of ambient sound. I have vivid sound memories from childhood, of ambiences! Waking up before the birds and waiting for them… The sound of the wind in blue gum trees and the sound from inside the shed when a bluegum nut fell off the tree and landed on the tin roof & rolled down… The sound of the Rangitata river when it was in flood and that time my dog swam out to an island & got stuck there for a while… what was he thinking?? Whether being sound obsessed is 100% normal I’m not sure, nor do I care, but when I first started working as a trainnee sound effects editor recording and editing ambiences was one of the first things I really relished. And decades later I still do. The contribution ambiences make to a film is so powerful, and yet they achieve their effect via the most understated duplicitous act: ideally an audience doesn’t notice them, but is deeply effected by them.

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Posted by on Nov 29, 2012 | 1 comment

Matthew Foust, Audiofile Engineering

Audiofile Engineering recently unveiled Triumph, not just an update to Wave Editor (with lots of new features) but rebuilt ground up to take full advantage of the latest features in OS X. I’ve been giving it a test run and will be sharing my thoughts in the form of a review shortly. Stay tuned for it because it will also include a big Audiofile Engineering app giveaway (including Triumph)!

While I take Triumph on a test drive, I thought it would be great to interview Matthew Foust, co-founder and operations manager at Audiofile Engineering, to find out more about the innovation that drives company.

DS: Tell us about the background of Audiofile Engineering. How and when did it all begin?

MF: It was, for all intents and purposes, an accident. Ev (Olcott) and I had been playing music together in Minneapolis for a while. We decided to open a studio together around 2000 and did a lot of recording of bands and writing/sound design for Hollywood (mostly movie trailers and cartoons). Ev had been coding since grade school. I had been working in IT doing architecture and scalable systems. Obviously, we’re both eggheads and Apple lovers.

Long story longer, our DAW of choice was MOTU Digital Performer which was the first to make the leap to Mac OS X. We updated our main DAW to Mac OS X and realized that, although our DAW was Mac OS X-compatible, nothing else was. Ev had tons and tons of samples that we needed to process and we had been using an old app called Alchemy that withered away. Thus we developed, for our own purposes, Sample Manager. Well, the lightbulb went on that other people might be interested in this. The businessperson in me realized that a) the studio business was going to going start contracting in a serious way and b) there was a vacuum of audio tools designed and built for Mac OS X. Audiofile Engineering was born.

DS: You’ve got quite a roster of applications – both for OSX and iOS. All of them have gorgeous designs and great functionality built in. It seems like a lot of time and effort is spent not just replicating functionality but also reinventing the wheel?

MF: Exactly. Our goal is always to rethink the way humans can and should interact with audio and music-making software. I think FiRe is a great example of that. We could have easily published a dime-a-dozen voice recorder app when the iOS App Store launched, but it wouldn’t have been interesting. We worked on FiRe for over a year because we wanted to replace a hand-held field recorder. That said, it had to take advantage of what these amazing devices could do that a field recorder couldn’t. It also had to do what other audio apps at the time weren’t doing. That’s why the real-time waveform view and SoundCloud integration were so important and worth waiting for.

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Posted by on Nov 29, 2012 | 4 comments

Ambience and Interactivity

[We are currently having a few problems with page formatting and embedding SoundCloud links, please bear with us until we fix it!]

‘Ambience’ is a word with a broad definition. It is perceived differently and can mean different things to different people. We are constantly surrounded by a wide range of sounds – some natural, some man-made. Ambient sounds don’t necessarily have to exist in the real world. We’ve all felt the power of music and know how subtle changes in a mix of sounds can add up to affect us at a subconscious level.

Continuing on that train of thought, I dug into the world of ambience in interactive mobile applications with:

Yann Seznec: Musician, sound designer, artist and founder of Lucky Frame – designers of award winning iPhone apps – Pugs Luv Beats, Bad Hotel
Peter Chilvers: Musician and software designer, best known for the series of iPhone apps created with Brian Eno – Bloom, Trope, Air, Scape
Robert Thomas: Interactive composer and CCO at RjDj – The Inception App, Dark Knight Risez Z+, Dimensions
Stephan Schütze: Composer and sound designer, Director of Sound Librarian and creator of the iPhone app Carmina Avium

DS: What does ambience mean to you?

YS: From a sound perspective, to me ambience is really a situational thing – it is sound that is occurring whilst something else is happening. So my current ambience is the hum of the computer, the typing of someone else in the room, a plane passing overhead outside. Those same exact sounds would stop being ambience in a different situation, so it’s quite relative.

PC: I think of ambience as the set of near-subliminal cues that quietly define an environment. They might be continuous sounds, like the rush of a river or distant traffic noise, or occasional point sounds, like the drip of a tap or a car horn. They invariably carry information the conscious brain is rarely aware of in the reverberation of the sound; they tell the size of the room the listener is in, the materials on the walls, the distance and location of objects and so on. I sometimes contemplate wearing a blindfold for a day to increase my awareness of these sounds. Then I remember that I work all day with a computer screen, and think better of it.

Ambience can be interesting when it’s used to evoke an imaginary world. The same ideas of distance and presence still apply, but the sound sources are unreal while still “natural” sounding. Obviously Brian [Eno] is the master of this kind of domain! With Scape, [the app that we recently released for the iPad,] we’ve provided a library of these types of sources, which the user can recombine in any way they want; it’s as much a way of building worlds as it is building music.

RT: To me its something to do with a place (which may happen to be real or virtual) which forms your state of mind or shapes your perception.

SS: Ambience is significant for me for a variety of reasons and I will refer to an App I recently launched to cite some examples, but I want to start with a brief story.

Here in the southern hemisphere it is springtime. My wife and I rent a small unit on a block with four residences and each have a very small garden space; nothing amazing but quite pleasant. Our neighbourhood in general is quite good for trees and plants. A few weeks ago we had the perfect combination of season, weather and environment. As I sat in our garden with my eyes closed I could hear about a dozen species of birds across the neighbourhood and smell the glorious scent of dozens of different flowering plants. I could have been anywhere in the world, on top of an amazing mountain range, in a royal garden or a magic forest. It was the non visual equivalent of a stunning landscape. Ambience is not limited to non visual components of our environment, but because we are so visual based as a species we tend to gather direct information from our eyes and emotional influences from our other senses.

As audio designers this provides us with an incredibly powerful method of communication. We can suggest locations, time or seasons, emotional states, potential risks and other information by what we present as an ambience. Carmina Avium is an App I spent the last 12 months developing. At its core it allows users to select from bird species and create their own ambience. It uses generative audio to create non-looping, non repetitive personalized ambiences in real time. In this case I have created a product to allow a user to simulate a natural environmental ambience wherever they may be located. Most people associate the sounds of natural ambiences with relaxation and focus, but I could have easily created the same App to create scary or spooky ambiences for Halloween or dramatic ambiences to which to jog to.


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