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Documentary Sound – A Discussion with James LeBrecht

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 | 0 comments

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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The School Of Sound International Symposium 2015

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 | 0 comments

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The School of Sound has announced part of the lineup for the 2015 edition of the International Symposium. A unique series of masterclasses exploring the art of sound in film, the arts and media. We explore what sound does, how audiences listen.

Wednesday – Saturday
8-11 April 2015
Purcell Room, Southbank Centre
London

Speakers include

Choreographer SIOBHAN DAVIES in conversation with composer/performer MATTEO FARGION
Opera and theatre director PETER SELLARS
Sound artist and Foley specialist NICOLAS BECKER
Artist, filmmaker and writer JOHN AKOMFRAH
Installation artist IMOGEN STIDWORTHY
Radio producer PIERS PLOWRIGHT
Performance artist DICKIE BEAU
Sound/music composer GERHARD ECKEL
Filmmaker and composer NADIM MISHLAWI
Sound designer RANA EID
Interactive games sound designers MARTIN STIG ANDERSEN, JOANNA ORLAND with composer, audio director and consultant JOHN BROOMHALL
and yoiker ÁNDE SOMBY …
with more participants to be announced in the coming weeks.

Constructing Reality for Nonfiction Film

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 | 3 comments

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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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You Should Really Check Out the Freelancers Union…

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

This is not specifically sound focused, but I thought this would be a relevant post considering so many within our community are freelancers. The Freelancers Union just recently came onto my radar. It is an advocacy group here within the U.S. to support all of those people who don’t have a staff job. In my mind, the most interesting thing about this organization is that they are organizing group health and retirement plans. If you’re a freelancer, this really is something you should check out. Membership is free; the only fees you can incur come with signing up for any of the benefits packages. They even have this handy tool to help you identify what benefit packages are available in your area. If fit one of these descriptions (and I’m quoting here), “freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contingent employees and the self-employed,” I encourage you to check this out to see if it fills any of your needs.

Tonebenders Interview with Mark Levinson

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

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.  ;)

 

SFX Independence – November 2014

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

If you create independent sound effects libraries and would like us to consider your recently-released library for inclusion in a future roundup, use the SFX Independence Submission Form to tell us all about it.

Tovusound – India Ambience / CityBeeps Cologne

Tovusound have made available two ambience packs that will transport you to the heart of Europe and South Asia.

The India Ambience sample library contains the sounds of big cities, nature, people and vehicles. Featuring 178 sounds recorded in 96 kHZ / 24-bit ORTF Stereo, India Ambience should prove a welcome addition to sound editors, sound designers and audio producers needing to fill in backgrounds or transitions with sounds from the region.

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Invasive Insects and Immersive Sonics – Ren Klyce on the Sound of Gone Girl

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 | 0 comments

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Director David Fincher and sound designer Ren Klyce has worked together for more than 20 years, and their ongoing partnership is one of most acclaimed collaborations in the modern film sound community. Klyce has been nominated for five Oscars – one for Fight Club, one for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one for The Social Network and two for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Their latest work is the very successful marital thriller Gone Girl which has just overtaken The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as director Fincher’s highest-grossing film in the US. The movie is filled with so many twists and turns that you can’t really talk about it without revealing something – and this interview with Ren Klyce also contains spoilers, beware!

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Documentaries

Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 | 3 comments

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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].

What’s The Deal With Procedural Game Audio?

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 | 5 comments

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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The Making Of Thunderstorm 3 SFX Library Part 2

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 | 1 comment

Guest Contribution by Frank Bry

Check out part 1 of The Making of Thunderstorm 3 SFX here.

In this second and final article I will discuss microphone patterns, recording device pre amp settings, editing and the final mastering phase of this collection. Before I dive into all the technical mumbo jumbo I want to express that when I’m setting up and actually recording thunder and lightning I get quite excited. There must be something in the air, alien mind control beams or just the anticipation of getting the “ultimate” thunder clap or lightning strike. It’s very hard work and involves exercise, listening, tracking the storms and watching the skies. I feel like a kid in a candy shop and I feel the recording is the easy part. So, now we begin. Part 2: The Real Work Begins. (more…)