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Life Lessons and Audio Education

Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 | 7 comments

Photo belongs to Vancouver Film School, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Photo belongs to Vancouver Film School, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Guest Contribution by April Tucker

Having a degree in audio can be a double-edged sword. This was a lesson I learned after one of my earliest interviews, not long after completing my Master’s Degree (in Sound Recording). I was new to Los Angeles and interviewing for part-time tech work. It seemed to be going well until the interviewer said, “I don’t even have friends with Master’s Degrees… why would I hire someone with one?” I had just been discriminated against for having a formal education.

There’s a lot of lessons about working in entertainment (like that one) that you hear about and prepare for, but you can’t really process until you experience it yourself. Another example is being out of work. Even if you’re financially prepared, nothing can prepare you for the mental game that happens when you’re going through it the first time.

Given that our field is very experience-driven, one might ask, what’s the point of formal audio education? As someone with two audio degrees (and ten years in the field), I can confidently say that there is value in some audio education; students can practice, experiment and fail in ways that you can’t do in a job. There’s skills that can be learned faster through focused learning or practice (like technical ear training, acoustics, or electronics). My concern with audio programs is that they tend to be too focused on teaching niche vocational skills (like large format consoles and microphones), or too short for a well-rounded audio education.

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Interview: Sweet Justice

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 | 2 comments

SJ_Logo_Full

 

Sweet Justice is a “full service game audio production company based in the South of England. Founded by industry veterans Chris Sweetman and Samuel Justice. With a combined experience of over 3 decades of frontline experience in the games industry, we have worked on a large number of AAA and independent titles. We have won multiple awards for our work within game audio.” 

I was fortunate enough to convince Chris Sweetman and Sam Justice to do an interview where we chat about productivity, education, staying fresh, and even telling a story with sound.

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It Never Ends…

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 | 0 comments

Photo by Matylda Czarnecka. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Photo by Matylda Czarnecka. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

First off, happy new year to all of our readers!

We’re going to kick this year off with a slightly different topic. We’re going to take a look at education. There will be some discussion of academic programs certainly, but that’s not necessarily the sum total of this topic. I know that personally, I’ve learned far more since finishing my “formal training” than I did during it. The courses I took certainly got me started and greatly affected the way I’ve approached my career, but it’s important to realize that your education never ends. Well, maybe it does, but it shouldn’t. Folks progress to the head of our field by shutting their brain down once they’ve got a piece of paper. The really good practitioners, and this is true in any field, continue to train, experiment and challenge themselves throughout their career.

So, what do you do to step up your game?

…and that’s not a rhetorical question. If you’re not new to the site, you probably already know that we always encourage and welcome guest contributions from the community. If you’re interested in adding to this month’s discussion, contact [shaun {at} this website].

Our Favorite Sounds of 2014

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 | 1 comment

 

Photo by Hunter Desportes

Photo by Hunter Desportes

 

The year 2014 has been one of many great articles, interviews, and discussions here at Designing Sound and we want to thank all of our readers for their attention, suggestions, contributions, and overwhelming support. There have been so many great films, shows, games and events this year that we thought we would share some of our favorites for you to go back and check in case you missed them!

This post is full of links and Youtube videos, so please be patient on the loading. I assure you it is worth it!

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Time And Psychoacoustics

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 | 5 comments

When designing audio we are often thinking of time across a large variety of units: samples, milliseconds, frames, minutes, hours and more. This article is inspired by a conversation I had with Andy Farnell about a year ago at a pub in Edinburgh, right before a sound design symposium, where we discussed about time and the role it plays when it comes to designing audio.

Like most other audio designers out there, I started twiddling the knobs and sliders well before I had an understanding of the underlying DSP. It was eye-opening experience to realise that almost every single DSP effect is related to time. So let’s start looking at a few common DSP tools used in everyday sound design and analyse how time and the precedence effect plays a role, starting from hundreds of milliseconds all the way down to a single sample.

Precedence Effect

The precedence effect is a psychoacoustic effect that sheds light on how we localise and perceive sounds. It has helped us understand how binaural audio works, how we localise sounds in space and also understand reverberation and early reflections. From Wikipedia:

The precedence effect or law of the first wavefront is a binaural psychoacoustic effect. When a sound is followed by another sound separated by a sufficiently short time delay (below the listener’s echo threshold), listeners perceive a single fused auditory image; its  spatial location is dominated by the location of the first-arriving sound (the first wave front). The lagging sound also affects the perceived location. However, its effect is suppressed by the first-arriving sound.

You might be familiar with this effect if you’ve done any sort of music production or mixing. Quite often a sound is hard panned to one of the two stereo speakers and a delayed copy (10-30ms) of the sound is hard panned to the other speaker. Our ears and brain don’t perceive two distinct sounds, but rather an ambient/wide-stereo sound. It is a cool technique for creating a pseudo-stereo effect from a mono audio source.

The first 30 seconds in the video below shows an example of the precedence effect in action. The delayed signal smears the original signal with phasing artefacts after which it seems to split from the original signal and become a distinct sound of its own.

Echos And Reverb

Echos are distinct delays. Reverberation is made up of early reflections which are delayed sounds that arrive first at the listener  (right after the direct sound) followed by a tail that consists of many such delays diffused into a dense cluster. Artificial reverbs are quite often approximated using networks of delays that feedback into each other (convolution reverbs behave a differently).

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Sonic Arts Award 2015

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 | 0 comments

sonic arts award logo

The third edition of the Sonic Arts Award is accepting submissions until 20 January 2015. Sonic artists, researchers and sound designers, and others, are encouraged to enter their work into one (or more) of four categories: Sound Art, Sonic Research, Soundscapes, Digital and Media Art. Each category winner will receive €1000.00, and there are additional prizes, including an artist’s residency at the Cardelli and Fontana gallery. The cost of submitting one work is €25.00 and full details of the awarding jury and entry criteria are available from the website.

A free album featuring some of the best entries from the 2014 edition is available to download.

sonicartsaward.it

Berkeley Film Foundation – Alan Splet Award

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 | 0 comments

The Berkeley Film Foundation has established a new grant in honor of sound designer Alan Splet. From their website:

Please join BFF in honoring Alan Splet by donating to a new grant that we have named for him.

Alan was a well-known and extremely admired sound designer who collaborated with David Lynch, Phil Kaufman, Peter Weir, Carroll Ballard, Frank Oz and numerous other filmmakers. Many Bay Area editors worked with Alan on Blue Velvet, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry & June, The Elephant Man, Rising Sun, The Black Stallion, Wind, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Dead Poets Society.

He was a visionary who not only created a unique sound for each film, he also helped to establish the Bay Area as a highly regarded locale for post-production sound for film.

The Berkeley Film Foundation is proud to honor Alan’s legacy by granting a deserving filmmaker the Alan Splet Award, beginning in 2015.

These are the kinds awards that encourage filmmakers to think about the use of sound in their film. As such, it’s very existence benefits us all. If you would like to contribute to the grant, you can visit their website (linked above), or go directly their donation page on Paypal.

Review: Dehumaniser

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 | 3 comments

Dehumaniser_Box_Pro11-copy

While it has been out for a while now, I finally got my hands on a review copy of Dehumaniser from Krotos LTD. Dehumaniser has gotten a good bit of buzz in the professional sound design community and rightly so. It is a rock-solid solution for quick and easy monster voices. Dehumaniser is “a software standalone vocal processor that allows the production of creature / monster sounds, efficiently in real time. It is designed to produce studio–quality sounds by using multiple layers of sound manipulation techniques simultaneously. Connect a microphone to your sound interface or even use your computer’s built-in microphone and create astonishing creature sounds in seconds, using your voice.”

The TL;DR version of this review is: Dehumaniser its pretty fantastic and you should probably get it. The speed and quality you get is definitely worth £199. What you make with Dehumaniser you might not use alone, but as a layer in an overall creature/monster vocalization. That said; it is certainly possible to only work in Dehumaniser and get exactly what you want for a vocalization. To do so you will have to dig a bit into the Advanced Mode and take advantage of the Animal Convolution, Pitch Shifting, Dual Plug-ins and many of the other 8 processing channels.

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“Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices” – The McGurk Effect

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 | 0 comments

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

YouTube Preview Image

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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The Field Recordist

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 | 2 comments

A short film about a lifetime of field recording from Lawrence Barker.

Best heard with headphones to appreciate the full stereo field.

This film is a personal reflection of my own passion for audio field recording over the past 45 years.

“Audio field recordings act as a powerful trigger, transporting me back to the original place they were captured………they are more powerful than any image captured on camera and even surpass those caught on video – they are quite magical!”

Lawrence Barker.