Categories Menu

Recent articles

On the Tony Awards

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 | 3 comments

Guest Contribution from Randy Thom

It was announced that the people who run the Tony Awards have decided to cut two of their awards categories….the two sound design categories.

This is a sad piece of news for all of us in sound.  It’s yet another slap in the face for an important art form that struggles for recognition.  The people who run awards shows feel constant pressure to populate those shows with pretty people, famous people, and people who are highly entertaining when a camera and microphone are pointed at them.  Advertisers pound their fists on tables in anger when their ad follows an unglamorous and unknown statuette recipient’s earnest “thank you.”  One year when I attended the Oscar telecast, and left the building at the end of the show in my tux, a guy ran up to me in the middle of the street with a pen and paper in his hands screaming to me “Are You Anybody?  Are You Anybody?”  I said “Sure!” and he smiled big as I handed him my illegible signature.  Though the Tony Awards have promised that they may, in the future, occasionally give an award to an especially noteworthy job of sound design, the message we should get loud and clear from their announcement today is that as far as they are concerned we, sound designers, are not ‘anybody.’  How sad, how dumb.

The Negative Space of Sound

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 | 7 comments

Guest Contribution by Jeff Talman

Seong Moy, my drawing professor at City College of New York, had students lightly shade their sketchpads with hand-smeared charcoal to prepare a background for the drawing. This neutral background helped to create an illusory sense of depth in a 2-dimensional medium. The negative space of the drawing was activated by this treatment. Had there been no shading, no defined background, the objects in the drawing would not have existed anywhere, but would have been only representations, floating and free of context. The background helped to create a space in which to work.

Similarly, audio engineers know how important the background silence is in recording. In the early days of Audio CDs engineers learned that absolute silence between tracks created a void that the listener could find to be unpleasant, as if the CD was somehow unnatural because it did not exist in any space itself. The problem was compounded in that LPs had a consistent background sound. So sound on the early CDs seemed to ‘drop out’ between tracks. Soon engineers added low levels of ambient, background sound to fill these voids just as the charcoal smears did for the drawings.

(more…)

The Secret World of Foley @ AFI Docs

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 | 0 comments

FOLEY_NEW_POSTER_wide_web

Hidden within the program of the 2014 AFI Docs festival is a short film that provides a glimpse inside the world of Foley recording, mixing and performance.

The Secret World of Foley follows artists Peter Burgis (Edge of Tomorrow, The Monuments Men, Kick-Ass 2) and Sue Harding (The Selfish Giant, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Philomena) as they work their way through a challenging series of moves, walks, and other sync sounds. A deliberate ploy by writer/director Daniel Jewel was to not have any dialogue in the film, or wordy explanations of the Foley techniques involved. On the best way of showcasing the work and talents of Peter, Sue and sound designer Glen Gathard, Jewel says, “I thought we could create a specially shot short film and and then film the Foley Artists interpreting that film, with props of their choice and then cut between the two ‘films’. So without any words, we would get the sense of what Foley Artists do to bring films to life.”

The effect of this juxtaposition between the film and the Foley performance is quite mesmerising, and The Secret World of Foley will be screening on Thursday 19 June at the Goethe-Institut in Washington D.C. and Friday 20 June at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland as part of the AFI Docs festival. Those not going will be able to catch it online later in the year, once it has completed its run of festivals.

The Secret World of Foley official website
2014 AFI Docs homepage
Third Man Films on Twitter

SAE Sound Design Contest

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 | 17 comments

SAE Sounddesign Contest

The SAE Sounddesign contest has just been announced. Contestants will be asked to create the audio (foley, sound design, atmosphere, no music) for a short monster animation, and the first through third place winners will take home a share of over 5500€ worth of prizes from companies like Rode, Boom Library, iZotope, Avid, SoundBits, Sugar Bytes, Fluid Audio, and Presonus.

The contest is open to all, and will be judged by Thomas Johnson, Axel Rorbach and Saro Sahihi. Boom Library has also offered a few sounds from their high-quality construction kits for use in the contest (though their use is optional).

The SAE Institute offers education in a number of media production fields. Submissions for the SAE Sounddesign contest will be accepted until June 23rd, 2014. For more information, see the SAE website.

The Story in Surround – Game narrative and sound

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 | 1 comment

Venn-diagram-of-narrative-and-gameplay-copy
I recently came across the Frictional Games blog and have spent the last few weeks trawling through it’s archive. It provides a wealth of informaiton on game design, and in particular discussions on the point of game narrative. One particular post, 4 Layers, a narrative design approach, written by Thomas Grip, Frictional’s creative director, raised the concept of the mental model, and the impact this can have, not only on game design, but also on a players experience of a game. (more…)

A Moment (Month) of Silence

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo by flickr user Jonathan Haeber. Click image to view source.

Photo by flickr user Jonathan Haeber. Click image to view source.

Anechoic chambers aren’t necessarily “silent,” but what other image can you actually use to represent the subject. The nature of silence, like nearly every other aspect of sound, is truly a subjective idea, because true Silence…the complete absence of sound…is impossible to experience unless one has a medical condition which induces it.  [If you want to get solipsistic, we don't even really have a way to confirm that THAT is an experience of Silence.] So, how do we then talk about Silence if it doesn’t exist? We focus on the the relationship between sounds that tells us something is quiet, the idea that a given source can be silent within an environment, and…of course…the subjective identification…the acknowledgement that we can experience silence, even if the world isn’t Silent.

Join us, as we take a moment of silence.

Next month’s featured theme will be “Vehicles.” Designing Sound is made special by the many volunteer contributors who come to us share their opinions and thoughts. If you’re inspired by this month’s theme or the next, or have something off-topic you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to contact: “shaun @ [this website]” …We look forward to hearing from you!

Art of Surround

Posted by on May 30, 2014 | 2 comments

Acousmonium_1980_photo_Laszlo_Ruszka__c_Ina
Acousmonium, INA-GRM, 1980. Photo by Laszlo Ruska.

Surround (Oxford Dictionary)

  • (verb) [with object] – Be all round (someone or something)
  • (noun) – A thing that forms a border or edging around an object.
  • (adjective) (Surrounding) – All around a particular place or thing.

Based merely on a technological approach, one might think that Surround sound is just the technique of reproducing audio signals in a particular array of speakers that distribute sound around space in order to give a three-dimensional illusion for the ears…

Surround is not visual really, is not something we can see. Surround is not just a technique of distributing sound, but the consequences of it. It’s a characteristic of sound itself, natural to the sonic phenomenon and responsible of the entire notion of the “auditory field” which is more than simply one dimension of space, but a multi-layered, multi-dimensional representation of sound.

In this article I aim to explore different experiments and perspectives toward the use of surround sound and the experiments between space and form, getting out from the image/film relationship in order to explore how sound “alone” can be enriched by the process of multichannel distribution, which has been deeply explored aesthetically, psychologically, musically, etc. (more…)

Audio And VR

Posted by on May 28, 2014 | 4 comments

There’s been more VR content made in the past year than the last twenty combined, thanks to the emergence of the Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus and other such virtual reality (VR) devices. There’s lots of innovation happening on the visual front, including new methods of gameplay, narrative structure and visual design. The obvious question: what’s happening on the audio front?

There are discussions about audio for VR across the Internet but most of them are related to the technology behind binaural/3D positional audio. There also is lots of academic research related to auditory interfaces spanning the past couple of decades. A search on Google Scholar will lead to lots of good material worth reading. [This post is focussed on first person game like environments, where audio-visual realism and synchronisation is necessary]

Over the past two and a half years I have been involved with Two Big Ears where we’ve been developing 3Dception, a very very efficient real-time and easy to use binaural audio engine that works everywhere (you can head to the website to watch and download demos). During this period I’ve had the opportunity to design sound for about fourteen augmented and virtual reality projects including games, interfaces for the visually impaired and audio led tourism apps. My experience so far, especially when working with binaural audio, has shown that some of the ‘tricks’ we take for granted in non-VR applications don’t work as well. This article is a summary of a few things that I’ve learnt, as a designer, when dealing with such technologies.

This article is by no means exhaustive. My hope is that it can be expanded as more sound designers experiment in this area. I’ve also made a copy of this article on a wiki which I hope to update as I continue work in this area (it is on wiki to facilitate community contribution!). I’m also currently working on a short playable game t (more…)