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Emotional Beings: A Creature Sound Design Discussion

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 | 5 comments

Cattle grazing through the fields

Cattle grazing through the fields

 

Guest Post by Beau A. Jimenez

Introduction

While on a calming walk, a car drives by me. As it zips by, some jerk in the passenger decides to scream at me as loud as they could. Being caught unaware, I jump. A feeling comes over me. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. I feel scared, concerned, and worried within a fraction of a second.

My roommate’s dog whines and cries as his master leaves the apartment. I can hear the sadness translate to my understanding. It’s a universal sound that says ‘Hey wait, don’t go!’ Through this sound, I can sense how much the dog cares for this person.

There are countless examples of vocalizations that make us feel something. There are emotive sounds that capture happiness, curiosity, sadness, pain, anger, fear and more… These sounds break the barriers of language and don’t need to have comprehensive words to understand their intent. As humans, we perceive emotive vocalizations in a deep-rooted, relatable way. These sounds are more felt than understood. They are visceral sounds that light up our brains in a profound way.

Within this article, I’d like to talk about what happens to us when we hear these vocalizations, talk about examples of emotive creatures in film that demonstrate expertly-done creature sound design, and give my own outlook on the significance and fun of creature sound design.

 

How We React to Vocalizations

We all have a reflex system built into us from birth. It’s a startle-response system that triggers upon an unexpected, loud, or jarring sound. This response can take us from an idle state to a state of high alertness within a fraction of a second. Centuries of predator & prey interactions have designed us to react in a fight-or-flight manner for our survival. That jerk-in-the-car’s scream caused my body to release certain chemicals inside my system, putting me into a temporary alert mode. It doesn’t feel great when you don’t expect it! But in film, it progresses the story and strategically steers the audience towards the sound designer and/or director’s intent.

A great example of a startle-response sound moment is the jarring picture cut into the ‘raptor feeding’ scene in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Dr. Alan Brand holds a supposedly vicious baby raptor is his hands as it coos sweetly & innocently. On the picture cut to the adult raptor cages, an absolutely terrifying blend of shrieks and squeals blare across the front and surround speakers. This puts the audience into a state of high alertness. As a result, the audience becomes cautious of the terrors living within the cages. (Which I believe is the exact goal of this scene!)

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Site Archives Updated!

Posted by on Aug 14, 2015 | 0 comments

MenuShot

It’s been long overdue, but we’ve finally updated the archive links to include the featured topics we’ve been running over the last few years. Just hover over the “Archives” tab in the menu bar above, and click on “Featured Topics.” Don’t forget that there’s a bunch of other cool stuff in the site archives, including links to the site’s previous feature system, “Featured Sound Designers.”

News: Close Listening: How Sound Reveals The Invisible

Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 | 0 comments

"Peace and Love" by Banksy

Photo: Adriane Kuzminski
“Peace and Love” by Banksy

As this is the month of favorites, what do you “heart”? In NPR’s Morning Edition, Christopher Joyce and Bill McQuay discuss how the invention of the stethoscope in 1816 revolutionized cardiovascular and respiratory diagnoses. They also visit the world’s largest collection of natural sounds located at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where, thanks to the invention of the phonograph in 1880, one can experience other living stories told through their nature patterns and harmonics.

This story is both an article and a radio segment, and it is part of Morning Edition’s weekly summer series on the “culture of listening” among researchers. The most recent edition contains more audio from the Cornell collection, featuring whale songs and their complex patterns and ethereal echoes from the bottom of the sea.

Interview with Steve Tibbo – Emmy Winning Production Sound Mixer for ABC’s “Modern Family”

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 | 4 comments

Image 3 Headshot

Steve Tibbo, CAS, with cart on set at “Modern Family”

GUEST CONTRIBUTION BY DALE CROWLEY

A few days after this interview with Steve Tibbo, he was nominated for the 6th time for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for his work on ABC’s “Modern Family”, where he has been the production sound mixer on every episode other than the pilot. The episode that was nominated is called “Connection Lost“. We discuss this episode in detail and talk about this complex undertaking as well as many other topics ranging from his work on Modern Family to the gear he uses to record on set and on location, and we also delve into his work in re-recording mixing, ADR, and sound design for film and TV.  This month’s theme is “Favorites” and “Modern Family” is my favorite TV Comedy and sound is my favorite subject. (more…)

News: Gathering Sky : Audio Journal #3

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 | 0 comments

Dren McDonald's score for his seven-piece ensemble.

Photo: Heike Liss
Snippets of Dren McDonald’s score for his seven-piece ensemble.

Dren McDonald shares his third and final entry on the audio production of Gathering Sky. Written during the game’s development, the first two entries focus on keeping an open mind when joining a team late in the game’s development and maintaining this flexible mindset while composing and recording a live studio session. In the final entry, a post mortem, McDonald further emphasizes flexibility by sharing his incremental process of designing “reverse” dynamics in FMOD before the studio session recording.

News: Tonebenders Podcast Ep. 37 – Matthew Marteinsson

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 | 0 comments

In the newest episode of the Tonebenders Podcast, two audio podcasts collide when Matthew Marteinsson of Beards, Cats, and Indie Game Audio joins Rene Coronado to delve into the unique challenges of audio for interactive media. Matthew brings his expertise on game audio to bear on workflow, session organization, and asset mixing and mastering, among other subjects. You can find the new Tonebenders episode on the page linked above, as well as on iTunes and Stitcher.

The Month of Favorites

Posted by on Aug 1, 2015 | 1 comment

Photo by Brad.K. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

Photo by Brad.K. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

What is your favorite… sound design project? synthesizer? resource? application? story? piece of gear? technique?

This month’s theme is, to say the least, open to interpretation.

I am sure you know that feeling. The one you get when you come across something that is just too good to keep to yourself and you feel the need to share it with any colleague that will listen. We know that many times what inspires us may also inspire others, and there is nothing better than being able to share something that improves someone’s knowledge base, workflow, or creative process. That is why I know that when my colleagues want to tell me something, I am all ears.

Within our own (slightly insular) professional circles, we regularly share the best of what we currently use, read, and hear. This month, our goal is to broaden our circles and share some of the products, projects, and stories that are our current favorites, and also to hear about some of yours as well.

Care to share?

We here at Designing Sound ALWAYS encourage contributions from the community. If you have a favorite story, thought, or technique you’d like to share, let us know. Feel free to contribute to this month’s theme if you have a favorite to share, or maybe next month’s topic is of more interest to you (which will be “Restriction”), or go completely off-topic. Anything is fair game. Please contact doron [@] this website to get the ball rolling!

The Business of Foley

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 | 4 comments

SoundDesignFoleyPropRoom
For the last 6 months or so I’ve been an avid reader of Stephen Follow’s blog. I stumbled across it when I was looking for some ideas for a class I was teaching and I’ve been hooked ever since. Amongst other things Stephen writes about the business of making films and offers a tantalising glimpse into the murky world of budgets and film finance.

Beyond some of the more eye-opening content on there (Iron Man 3’s 3,310 strong crew for one) I was drawn to a few sound related stats e.g. the average size of sound departments and also the proportion of a £1 million film budget which is allocated for sound (£16,882 in this particular case). Clearly there’s nothing like a good stat to confuse the issue and a figure like this presented on its own means very little but it did get me thinking about the economies of film sound and for this month, the specifics of the business of Foley. (more…)

Tax Considerations When Hiring Freelancers

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Image by flickr user reynermedia. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to veiw source.

Image by flickr user reynermedia. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

The path we take in our careers can be a fairly winding one. It’s hard to predict exactly where you’re going to wind up. For instance, last year I found myself in the position where, while working as an independent sound designer after years as a staffer, I needed a team of people to help me complete a project by deadline. It’s not a bad position to be in. I like working, and having the ability (and, admittedly, necessity) to spread some of that work out amongst my peers felt good. There are two ways you can handle that on the billing side.

  1. Have those people bill your client directly.
  2. Bill your client once and and have your team invoice you for their work.

I chose the latter, and it presented an interesting situation when taxes rolled around. This article is to offer some of the key information I learned in the process. I’ll apologize to those people outside of the U.S., because this is going to be specific to the tax system here. There’s a tiny bit in here that might be useful to folks outside of this country I live in, but I won’t be offended if you skip this article. (more…)