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Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 | 0 comments

“Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices” – The McGurk Effect

Want to see something that’ll mess with your head?

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Now, you may not have noticed anything all that strange watching the video, but mute the sound and watch it again. After that, close your eyes and listen to just the audio. Notice anything strange now? You’ve just witnessed one of the more interesting perceptual illusions, the McGurk effect.

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Posted by on Dec 7, 2014 | 5 comments

Designing Sound Discussion Group – Psychoacoustics for Sound Designers

You can watch today’s webinar here on Designing Sound, or…if you’d like to ask questions…you can join us over on Google Hangouts to participate more directly. If you’d like to ask some follow up questions, please reach out to us through our contact page, ping me on twitter or drop a comment below.

Additional media used during the presentation after the break.

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Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 | 1 comment

It’s All in Your Head…

Image from Flickr user Allan Ajifo, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Image from Flickr user Allan Ajifo, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that all of the sounds we hear in our life are actually the result of post-processing in our brains? That what you hear might not actually be what the person next to you hears? The combination and coordination of organs that goes into the interpretation of fluctuations in atmospheric pressure is truly a marvel. We’ve given ourselves a pretty hefty challenge this month; we’re going to be focusing on Psychoacoustics. It’s not an easy subject to approach from a sound designer’s perspective, but we’re going to attempt it anyways.

…and rather than put together a separate announcement post…

This coming Sunday (December 7th), at 3:30PM U.S. Eastern, I’ll be hosting a webinar version of my AES “Psychoacoustics for Sound Designers” presentation. So, mark it on your calendars, and come to the site to watch…or go directly to our Google+ page so you can interact and ask questions during the presentation.

Next month’s featured topic will be Education. As always, we encourage contributions from the community. If you would like to contribute to this or next month’s discussions, or have something off-topic that you would like to share with the community, contact shaun {at} this website.

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Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 | 1 comment

Sound for the Documentary “Out of Nothing”

Nosferatu

photo courtesy of Chad DeRosa Photography

Guest Contribution by James Bretz

The documentary Out of Nothing is my first feature, and the first feature for our entire P-51 Pictures team. It’s more than just a story about motorcycles. It’s a human story. It follows four men who follow their passions and dreams, and it tells one of many stories that are a part of a larger community of individuals and teams involved in motorcycle land speed racing.

When looking over the footage that Director Chad DeRosa had shot over the course of two years, one word came to mind. Scope. It was Chad’s and Producer Andrew Lahmann’s goal that the film should look and feel large. We wanted Out of Nothing to be experienced as more of an action/drama narrative than an informative style of documentary

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Documentary Sound – A Discussion with James LeBrecht

JamesLeBrechtDesigning Sound: Would you mind giving our readers a little bit about your background and how long you’ve been working in audio post?

James LeBrecht: I’m the owner of Berkeley Sound Artists, and we’re located in the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley. We’re kind of a small company. I think the term “boutique shop” would sound little bit pretentious, but we’re kind of the right size to feel personally involved in projects. We primarily focus in sound design and mixing, and our prime emphasis is in documentaries. I started the company in 1996, thinking that maybe we’d be doing a lot of multimedia work, CD-ROMS, etc.…and we did do some of that. We did some work for a now defunct educational software company called Theatrix. But very early on Patti Tauscher, who worked with me for many years, she came to me and said, “I met this guy. He’s got a documentary, and I think we should do the sound on it.” So we wound up doing this film for Steven Olsen, and it immediately became apparent to me that…here’s a niche that people weren’t really focusing on. A lot of houses do documentary work as “fill-in” work. Some people are really kind of dedicated to it, but that’s our prime focus. Plus, being in what is known as the Fantasy building…

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Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 | 3 comments

Constructing Reality for Nonfiction Film

Western_FinalMix

Photo courtesy of Seth Emmons

Guest Contribution by Lawrence Everson

The relationship that documentary cinema has with truth, realism and subjectivity has long been a lively debate. Likely since its origins as a medium (do a quick Google search about Nanook of the North‘s impact and also its staged shots, for example). Documentary sound design is an often overlooked aspect of the craft that inhabits a particularly interesting and sometimes invisible corner of the debate. In narrative films, sound design largely fabricates fictional environments, but in documentary cinema we as sound editors, designers, and mixers are often tasked with designing a reality for, well, reality, as it were. But whose reality? And what even IS documentary reality in the end? Where is that line drawn between immersive world-building that makes a film come alive, versus blatant misdirection and manipulation of the audience? Is it possible that the realities we build can ultimately be more real than the reality of the moment a scene was shot? (And is recording documentary sound on a commonly mono shotgun mic plus lav even a particularly accurate way of capturing reality?) Is the emotion of a scene more true than the literal fact of a scene?

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

Tonebenders Interview with Mark Levinson

Since we’re in the middle of our documentary month, I though it would be worthwhile to point out the latest episode of the Tonebenders Podcast. It’s about a month old now, but if you should really give it a listen if you haven’t already. In it, Timohty Muirhead interviews Mark Levinson, director of the recent documentary Particle Fever. Did you know that Mark has also worked extensively as an ADR supervisor? You should probably listen to it now…good thing I’ve embedded it below.  ;)

 

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Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 | 3 comments

Documentaries

docCrew

Image by flickr user ryantxr, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

When we start talking about sound design most people will automatically think about it in relation to action or sci-fi films; maybe horror or animation. Occasionally, you’ll find people talking about the use of sound in a drama…frequently in those cases, the idea of employing hyper reality. It’s a far more rare occasion to find people talking about the use of sound in documentary. The most common concerns with sound for docs is dialog intelligibility and noise reduction. Those are important, certainly, but the contributions that sound can make to a factual narrative can be profound. There’s also a lot of work going on in the doc community, and we’re going to try and shed some light on it this month.

Guest contributions from the community are a big part of what makes this site special, and we know a lot of you have some connection to this month’s topic. If you’d like to contribute to the discussion this month, or are interested in taking part in next month’s theme (psychoacoustics)…then contact [shaun {at} this website].

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Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 | 4 comments

What’s The Deal With Procedural Game Audio?

Guest contribution by Martin Roth

We’ve all heard of the promises of procedural game audio. A veritable Valhalla where sounds are created out of thin air, driven by the game engine, eliminating the need for huge sample libraries and tedious recording. Sounds great! So why aren’t we hearing more of it in games today? We’ve all experienced Rockstar’s work in GTA 5; those bicycles sure do sound great! Some indy games such as Fract or Pugs luv Beats have dabbled. But it seems that if procedural audio were all that it promised, it would be much more common. What’s the deal?

The hard truth is that while the idea is great in theory, no one knows what they’re doing in practice. The field is lacking in design principles, tools, and technical performance. This is especially true considering the end-to-end workflow. On one end, high-level tools are needed to give designers the flexibility to explore sound and its interactions. On the other, low-level tools are needed to make those creations available where they’re needed, be that on the desktop, mobile, console, embedded systems, web, or anywhere else. The end-to-end workflow is key to the adoption of procedural audio.

For the purposes of this article the terms proceduralgenerative, and interactive as they relate to sound and composition will be used interchangeably. Their distinction is important, but we’ll leave that for another article.

Scarce Design Resources

The field suffers from a lack of resources to learn how to make procedural audio, including standards for judging its merits. Undoubtedly the best learning resource is Andy Farnell’s book Designing Sound. The presentation focuses on design from first principles, but may leave those without a technical background struggling to understand the reasoning (but don’t let that stop you from reading it!). The book is written for clarity, not for absolute performance or maximum sound quality. Resources are otherwise scattered, usually compensated for by personal interest or continued education specifically on the topic.

Tools, Well Almost

Undoubtedly there many excellent tools available to design sounds, especially musical ones. A near fifty year history of electronic music has created a wealth of knowledge, best-practices, and interfaces for exploring sound. But here the end-to-end argument is critical. Unless the designer can run the sounds on the target platform, the tools are not helpful except as a part of the creative process.

In order to satisfy this requirement, the available tools are generally limited to any number of audio programming languages (or even general purpose programming languages). There include Pure DataMax/MSPSuperColliderCsoundChuck, C/C++, the list goes on. Many of these have robust and knowledgable communities supporting them. All of these tools allow the user to “do stuff” with sound, but how well they meet the needs of sound designers is debatable. Many would say that the learning curve is far too steep. The target audience for these tools has typically been those more interested in experimental work.

This leaves us in the difficult situation where the ideal solution is fragmented between tools that satisfy the high-level design requirements and those that satisfy the low-level technical requirements.

Low-Level Really Is Low

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Synthesis Tips for the Non-Synthesist

Massive_Screenshot

Guest Contribution from Steven Smith

Introduction

In some ways it seems quite strange to find myself authoring a post on synthesis that has as its main topic: “Not everyone needs to be a synthesist”. But from another angle of practicality, it makes a great deal of sense. Many of us already have found ourselves naturally diving into certain areas of synthesis from within the field and somewhat skating around others.  So…  If you are not a synthesis geek, this article is for you. 

‘Why would it be helpful to explore this area?’ you may be wondering. Even though today’s virtual instruments commonly ship with hundreds or even thousands of presets, many users will still find themselves passing over sounds that are not quite right. Yet with some fundamental knowledge and strategies I feel most non-synthesist could quickly address some of these sound’s shortcomings and reshape them close enough to quickly put them in service.

This is precisely my goal. I hope to address some fundamental strategies and principles relating to synthesis and synthesizers in order to facilitate what I like to think of as quick fixes. Even though these strategies will not work 100% of the time, you should find them coming to the rescue quite often. 

From the onset it will be my intention to populate this article with images from multiple synths. This is a small attempt to expose you to as many different views as possible. Given that each synth designer has its own GUI strategies (in addition to its own sound design strategies), I hope this will further help the usefulness of the material presented.

There is also a body of knowledge that we must have to enable us to find sounds, change them, and then Save these changes. Let’s jump in…

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