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Journalism Beyond Words: Dirty Wars

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 | 0 comments

Dirty Wars - photo credit: Christopher Barnett

As the documentary format moves further into the 21st century, audio is playing an ever increasing role in helping directors communicate their thoughts and ideas to the viewer. In a recent article posted to, Peter Albrechtsen goes in depth with Christopher Barnett, the sound designer for this year’s MPSE documentary sound design award winning film, Dirty Wars. The two discuss the specifics of documentary sound design theory at length, going over such topics as the interplay between sound effects and music, the need for authenticity over sonic perfection, and the placement of voice overs, in order to support the emotion of a documentary’s message.

Dirty Wars is an important film, revealing insights into an largely unknown covert military unit, and Barnett’s sound design frames the viewing experience perfectly. Read Albrechtsen’s article in it’s entirety at

Viviana Caro: A Career Working With Animal Sounds

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 | 4 comments

100_2152Guest Contribution by Leonard Paul

You’ve worked a lot with animals as a sound engineer, could you give a brief history of how your initial interest in audio restoration of bird sounds has led to being the recordist for the Colombian Mountain Grackle in the mountains of Colombia?

My interest on animal sounds started when I worked on my audio engineering undergrad thesis. I paired up with a biologist that was building an animal sound archive at the Humboldt Institute in Colombia and he needed the technical help of an audio engineer to help him develop the archive. One of the objectives of this collaboration was to produce the first CD of Colombian bird sounds using the material he recorded in different locations around the country. It was a challenging project since at the time there were no local audio engineers working in this area. They were working in either music, live sound or audio post-production and all the tools available for sound restoration were focused on those applications. I tested out filters from different software including ProTools, Audiosculpt, Canary and Matlab. After a year of research, I ended up programming filters on Matlab and applying them to each recording, based on the information from their frequency content. I found, among other things, that audio restoration for animal sounds is very subjective; sometimes removing too much “noise” from a recording makes it sound out of context and it’s not pleasant to listen to. I came up to this conclusion after doing a survey to people from different backgrounds (musicians, biologists and the general public). They listened to the same recording filtered in different ways and chose the one that was more appealing to them.


(Mis)adventures in Cat Recording

Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 | 3 comments

2012-10-25 15.19.54

Stella demonstrates how cat recording NEVER happens.

About three years ago, on a whim, I adopted a 6 month old kitten. I had dealt with cats before at friends’ and family’s houses, but had never owned one, and Luna (short for “Lunatic”) was full of surprises. After her initial “moving in” period, in which she hid under the bed for nearly a week, I discovered that Luna was an exceedingly outspoken individual that needed to make sure everyone knew that she was here and ready to conquer the world (or at least the apartment): (more…)

Capturing Personality in Animal Recordings

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 | 7 comments

There’s something I’ve noticed about recording animals over the years. Even if the animal is being cooperative, it can be damned difficult to really catch an individual’s personality. If the animal is trained, that’s wonderful. You may be able to get a variety of sounds out of them with the handler’s help…BUT…vocalizations recorded from trained animals can often sound rote. They seem to get into the mentality of reacting to commands. You may get lucky and get some more interesting sounds between the performed ones, but take a step back and think about how situations affect YOUR behavior. Do you act differently when your boss is around? Your parents? Your significant other? Your best friend? When you’re by yourself? Your situation tends to define which sides of your personality come out.


SFX Independence – Welcome to 2014

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 | 1 comment

The year is still fresh, but 2014′s already brought us a number of great new SFX libraries. Go back to analog times and the earliest days of digital with new collections from New Sound Labs and Dynamic Interference. Monkey around with HISS and a ROAR’s latest offering. Or just blow the whole thing up with help from Blastwave FX.


Event: The Two Ways of Listening (Workshop)

Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 | 1 comment


Photo courtesy of Hercules Lab.

The Royal School of Arts in Gent, Belgium, is holding six full days of listening technique and research this February and March. Elias Vervecken (sound recordist and foley artist) and Els Viaene (sound artist and field recordist) will each lead a three day workshop on listening, focusing on different relationships to the environment.

Starting from the point of silence, Elias Vervecken will investigate how noise can be made tangible and question how this relates to creating sound for image. Using the natural landscape as her starting point, Els Viaene will guide participants through investigation of the microphone as a subjective expression (rather than neutral observer) of the environment, and question how evocative aural pictures might then be combined with visuals.

The workshops will take place on 20-22 February and 20-22 March, respectively, from 10.00-18.00. The cost is EUR150.00 each or EUR250.00 if you attend both.

The language of the workshop is English or Dutch and the venue is Herculeslab – the conservatory’s audiovisual lab. Click on the link for more information and details on how to register.

As Bobby Darin said, “If I Could Talk to the Animals…”

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 | 9 comments


Photo by Doug Wheller, used under a Creative Commons License

Might want to be careful if you’re going to try recording this critter!

We use animal sounds all the time in sound design. Whether it be the twenty some-odd creatures that went into the sound of the Velociraptor in Jurassic Park, or the Elephant bray used in the destruction of the Titanic, they seem to find their way into every situation…sooner or later. This month, we’ve decided to take a look at the recording and design of animal…and creature…sounds.

What do you have to say?

Diego Stocco Introduces Sound Design Video Series

Posted by on Feb 2, 2014 | 8 comments

Diego Stocco introduces Feedforward Sound a series of advanced sound design technique videos.

These videos are primarily designed for producers, artists and audio professionals who wish to enrich their workflow in unique ways.

Rhythmic Processing is a technique that allows the creation of multiple rhythmic elements, in real-time, from a single instrumental part. The dynamic accents of the instrumental part (in this case an acoustic guitar) are routed into several plugin chains, each one creating a separate rhythmic element.

Designing Sound Discussion Group: SFX and Freelancing in Game Audio

Posted by on Feb 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Our panel is about to start. Recording Now Available!

The live stream is embedded below, but you’ll want to head over to our Google+ page if you want to ask our panelists any questions at the end of the presentation. As a reminder, our panelists include:

  • Gordon Hempton – Nature sound effects recordist and activist, also know as The Soundtracker
  • Douglas Price – Founder and President of Pro Sound Effects
  • Matt Piersall – Found and President of Gl33k
  • Rodney Gates – Audio Director at Sony Online Entertainment

And remember, we keep recordings of all of our past webinars! Here’s a handy link to the archive.

Dialogue on the move – panning in Gravity, Cars and Strange Days

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 | 11 comments

When I saw/heard Gravity last year it set me of on an exploration of dialogue panning to such an extent that I experimented with some fairly extreme panning in the film I was working on at the time. My experiment proved to be, well, inconclusive at best.  So I went back to Gravity to see just how the panning worked within the context of the film, then decided to look beyond it and discovered some interesting dialogue panning going on in Cars (2006) and Strange Days (1995) as well. (more…)