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Posted by on Mar 20, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 12 – Documenting Vs. Experiencing

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I just got back from a two week vacation to the Philippines, and a lot of my more sound oriented friends asked me questions that were all variations on, “How much did you record?” The answer is just over a minute of audio.

It seems like a crime to go someplace so different from my everyday experience and not sonically document it in more detail. I’ve noticed one of my personality traits over the years though. If the purpose of my activity is not to be out collecting sounds (i.e. on vacation with my wife), I’m FAR more selective about pulling out my recorder. If I’m going to record a sound in said situation, it better be something I can unequivocally use without fuss in the future. If there’s music playing somewhere in the background…not recording. If HVAC hum is going to be present in an otherwise beautiful nature soundscape…not recording. The list goes on.

I choose to follow this philosophy because listening to record and listening just for the experience are two very different things. If I’m trying to record a sound, I’m not likely to notice how the leaves on a bush behind me are reflecting only the high frequency components of a power washer, or the unique way the different components of a helicopter modulate as it crosses the sky…seeming to break the normal laws of Doppler phenomenon. Being aware of unique occurrences of sound interactions in the environment gives me new ideas for mixing and sound design that I can use in the future.

That’s something I can’t always get while concentrating in an attempt to record a bird call in the tropics, using only a Sony M10, while the bungalow next to me blasts the AC and music echoes down from the nearby outdoor cafe.

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Posted by on Mar 13, 2016 | 6 comments

Sunday Sound Though 11 – Natural Spectrum Awareness

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I’ll be honest, I lied to you last week.

…well, sort of. Talking about spectrum and perception was really all a big set up for this week’s thought.

In his book, The Great Animal Orchestra, Bernie Krause discusses the idea of Biophony; that each sound generating organism evolved in such a way that it’s voice fit into it’s surrounding soundscape so as to not compete with other organisms. If a bird doesn’t have to compete with an insect or a deer’s vocalizations, or even wind for that matter, it doesn’t have to struggle to be heard by its peers. As a result of this, natural soundscapes tend to fill the spectrum of sound. They aren’t isolated into bands. As I discussed last week, the wider the spectral content, the fuller and louder a sound seems.

This has made me wonder about how our environment affected us as we evolved within it. Perhaps this activation of more critical bands was a selective element in our evolution. There are cases of animals becoming quiet when predators are present, which would decrease the spectral content of our environment. If a human’s surroundings didn’t sound as “full” as they usually might, wouldn’t that be a clue that something is out of the ordinary? Would that help an early human survive the rigors of life in the wild? Would that also explain why we are so sensitive changes to the spectral content of sound?

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Posted by on Mar 6, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 10 – Spectral Loudness

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…though this week’s is a physiological than philosophical

This week’s thought isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s something that gets brought up randomly throughout the community. It’s recurrent for a good reason though…it’s the idea that you can make something seem louder by expanding the spectral content without actually increasing the volume. A wider spectral pattern activates more of the inner ear’s “critical bands.” The more bands that are activated, the louder something seems…even if the dB-SPL measurement stays the same.

Then there’s the distortion/clipping side of the coin. It makes use of this very effect to increase the perceived loudness. Distortion adds harmonics, increasing the activation of critical bands in the inner ear, but remember that it does this by changing the waveform…giving it more time in the “crest/trough zone” per cycle. It changes the RMS measurement. Depending on how it changes the wave form crest/trough, it can also increase the empirical, not just the perceived, loudness level.

Thanks for indulging me while I reminded myself of this…awareness of the spectrum is important in sound design.

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 | 3 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 9 – Constructing Which Reality?

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

Though it’s not the first time Randy Thom has voiced his opinions about “detail” in sound design, his first personal blog post felt like it dove-tailed in nicely with one of the ideas I had planned for this series…so much that I thought I should push it forward in the schedule. The concept of “reality” in film.

I once knew a man who considered himself a great film sound aficionado, and he explained to me a game he and his father like to play that they called “bad foley.” Ignoring the fact that the term “foley” doesn’t actually apply to the targets of their disdain, it basically boiled down to picking out sounds that had no basis in reality. They viewed this as something that should be avoided. The quickest example he gave me was the sound that accompanied the helicopter in Terminator 2…specifically, the whoosh that tracked the search light as it panned through the building. This game of his bothers me on a number of levels, but there is one primary argument I have against it.

Sound design is not about re-constructing reality, it’s about constructing a reality…one that suits the purposes of the story and augments the characters’ perspectives. As Mr. Thom said, and I’m paraphrasing here, choosing which details to present can be “the most powerful choice.” There are times when that most powerful detail might just be something we would never experience in our own personal lives.

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Posted by on Feb 21, 2016 | 1 comment

Sunday Sound Thought 8 – Solipsism

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

Solipsism is the idea that the only thing that can be confirmed in life is the existence of one’s self. Whether or not we want to accept the possibility that this idea is true, an extrapolation can be made from the idea…one that is a little easier to accept. The only perspective that can be confirmed to exist is one’s own.

It’s impossible for us to see through another’s eyes, hear through their ears, or fully understand the complex impressions of the mind behind the words that people use to express themselves. Without a direct link between minds (something which we’re not currently capable of), it is impossible to truly share the sensory experience of another person. That’s something we can take advantage of in sound design.

Sound is solipsistic. Not every character needs to hear something the same way. The audience certainly won’t. Leaving room for them to interpret what those differences in character perspective (and maybe the realization that they have a different perspective as well), allows for a more complex story that feeds each individual’s experience and reaffirms their unique perspective. If you don’t believe me, go watch The Conversation (Coppola, 1974).

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Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 | 1 comment

Sunday Sound Thought 7 – Time Travel

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

No sound is perceived at its moment of inception. Sound takes time to reach our ears. By the time we perceive it, the physical event that spawned it may already be over. Even with those sounds that happen right in front of us, we’re still perceiving a previous event. The brain has latency…neural signals travel at 1 meter per second according to this article. So no matter what we do, we’re never hearing anything other than echoes of the past.

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Posted by on Feb 7, 2016 | 1 comment

Sunday Sound Thought 6 – Feeling Sound

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

Picking up an element from last week’s thought… “sound is the result of a physical event.”

It’s the vibration of physical objects in response to a state change in other physical objects. It can’t move through the environment without those carrier objects…such as air (yes, I’m considering gas a physical object here). It exerts force on those objects, which can then exert force on other objects. It’s how we hear. Pressure waves in the air around us exert force on and displace our ear drums. Our brain converts the resulting signals to sound.

Maybe hearing is not it’s own separate and distinct sense, but instead a kind of specialized function of the sense of touch.  The sound in our environment “touches” us, our brain just interprets it differently than a hand on your arm.

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Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 | 0 comments

Quick Tip: Using Templates in Wwise

WwiseTemplates_03WwiseTemplates_01

Guest post by Bradley Meyer

Like any tool in a game developers toolbox, Wwise is a deep, complex program with an owners manual longer than most novels. Who has time to read through an entire manual these days? I wanted to show off a simple, often overlooked feature in Wwise, which may not be readily apparent to someone who hasn’t read the manual. The ability to import a folder structure and apply a Wwise structure as a template to it can save a ridiculous amount of time when setting up structures in your project which may have a similar layout to other ones already in your project. With a little forethought and a few mouse clicks, the process of setting up complex structures in Wwise becomes an automated dream.

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Posted by on Jan 31, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 5 – Unexpected Language

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

All sound communicates.

Sound is the result of a physical event. Whether it be the wind blowing through the trees, air passing over your vocal chords, or electrons traveling through a piece of metal to/from a transducer, there’s a physical event happening. Sound helps us register and comprehend that event. It doesn’t really matter if that event has any immediate meaning to us, sound is there for us to use. Our environment is always speaking to us.

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Posted by on Jan 31, 2016 | 2 comments

Macros for Audio Production – Automating Your Workflow

This article was born out of an idea for a GDC audio talk proposal. Another one of my proposals was selected so I thought I’d turn the core idea of this one into a DS post in case it’s of use to the community.

Professor_Lucifer_Butts

used under creative commons, click for source

Do you use macros in your music/sound production? If the answer is yes, then this article isn’t for you. Given January’s theme is all about time management, I feel duty-bound to say you should make better use of your time and read one of the many other fantastic articles here on this site. If however, any of the following apply, read on!

  • “I don’t know what a macro is”
  • “Macros are just shortcuts right, like CMD C to copy?”
  • “Macros are only used by programmers.”
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