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Ideas in Sound Design: Deprivation and Barriers – Part 2

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 | 8 comments

Cross-posting from my personal blog.

This article is the follow up to Part 1 of Ideas in Sound Design: Deprivation and Barriers. I’ve gathered a selection of media to discuss the ideas presented in the original article. I will focus on three films and one video game trailer: Saving Private Ryan, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Fight Club and Mass Effect 3’s Take Earth Back (extended version). I’d first like to state that the interpretations I’ll be outlining simply reflect my personal perspectives on the films and/or scenes in question. I do not present the single interpretation, merely a single interpretation. If you have an alternative view that adds to or diverges from mine, then I encourage you to say so and share with the rest of the community. Second, I do not mean to exclude mediums beyond the linear cinematic (hence my attempt, perhaps a weak one, to include games by the inclusion of the Mass Effect trailer). My selections were based on pieces with which I was familiar enough with to allow me to coalesce my thoughts in an expedient manner.

Finally, the ideas of “deprivation” and “barriers” are not exclusively the purview of sound editing or design. They belong to the mix as well. And beyond that, the director, the DP, the scriptwriter, etc…but that broad a swath is beyond the scope of this article. The point is that contributions to a piece’s depth come from many places. So, I credit the below examples to all of their respective principal sound artists (Supervising Sound Editor, Sound Designer, Re-Recording Mixers), to the best accuracy that I can.


Sound & Vision interviews Mass Effect 3 Audio Lead Rob Blake

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 | 1 comment

The Sound and Vision Magazine website have published an interview with Rob Blake, the Audio Lead on Bioware’s upcoming Mass Effect 3. The interview discusses the musical direction of the Mass Effect series, the story behind the credits song of the original Mass Effect, effective control of the dynamic range in order to fully realise the sound design and emotional content, the salarian singing voice and what defines ‘Mass Effect’ sound design

What makes a Mass Effect game sound like a Mass Effect game compared to other games? What are the key things that set the series apart from other games?

You touched on it earlier: the soundtrack is quite identifiable. It’s an iconic mix between orchestral and synthesizer stuff. That’s something we felt strongly about and made sure stood out in the franchise. Sound effect–wise we have some great stuff. The weapons, for example, have these very interesting elements of different types of technology. The foley sounds have a sort of pneumatic and mechanical quality to them, so they sound unique.

Read the entire two page interview on the Sound and Vision Magazine website here

The Sound of an Android’s Soul

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Brilliant article on Cinephile talking about the sound of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s “Time of Eve”.

At a crucial reveal halfway through Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s Time of Eve (Evu no jikan, 6-part OVA, 2008-9, compiled into a feature film in 2010), teen Rikuo remembers a past conversation with his best friend, Masaki. Unbeknownst to them at the time, they innocently stand at crossroads. Masaki will continue his studies in law; Rikuo is uncertain, having given up his aspirations to be a concert pianist. Masaki ridicules his decision, for Rikuo has rejected his aspirations after seeing a robot perfectly perform a piece of music on the piano. Rikuo doesn’t mention to Masaki what was most disturbing about the performance: only at this point in Eve’s back-story do we realise that Rikuo was truly ‘moved’ by the robot’s performance. This is not your usual existential dilemma – a field in which teen-oriented anime excels, more than most Western photo-cine attempts at the same. Here in this near future (sardonically tagged as “probably Japan” in a pre-title card), the teen Rikuo has his world inverted because a robot achieved not a technically perfect actualisation of a piece of classical pianoforte music, but because to Rikuo’s advanced listening sensibilities (dedicated to encountering and hopefully generating such moments of actualised perfection) this robot’s performance emotionally ‘moved’ him. Japanese cinema and anime has consistently told stories in manifold genres that evidence this inversion, wherein everyday life is accepted to be ‘existential’ until one day a ‘humanist’ moment occurs and transforms things. Anime’s preponderance of ‘androids with souls’ is thus less likely to be formally motivated by generic machinations of science fiction, and more likely to be culturally determined by philosophical enquiries of dramatic fiction.

Continue reading (page 9)…

Q&A with the Audio Team of Journey

Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 | 0 comments has published an interview with composer Austin Wintory and sound designer Steve Johnson on their respective work on the upcoming PS3 title Journey. The interview briefly covers topics such as the challenges of working on a project without dialogue.

flOw had its aquatic environment, while Journey is set within expanses of sand. How will the sound of the game reflect the visual theme?

SJ: The last game was all about wind and grass. This one is all about sand and cloth. On the player alone, there’s the body foley, a cape whose sound is tied to length, wind speed, and player velocity, footsteps for the all surfaces, surfing on sand.

In my room at Sony I’ve got a cardboard box filled with dirty Venice Beach sand that’s become my ghetto foley pit. All of the sand waterfalls, rolling sand dunes, and player-sand interactions were recorded there. Having a variety of desert ambiences has been an interesting task too. For instance, one level is a super hot, still desert. What’s the sound of that? I finally made something mostly out of processed and panned roomtone.

AW: The music and sound design are very interwoven. Steve is doing a lot of foley work with sand and cloth, which is directly impacting the music I write. Just like the thesis version of FlOw was almost named “Darwin’s Island,” this game had working titles that were cloth-themed. “Woven” was a name that came up. That’s why I retitled the eight-minute suite that I performed at the Golden State Pops to be “Woven Variations.”

Read the full interview at

Slow Motion Bullets

Posted by on Feb 26, 2012 | 0 comments

Pretty cool blog post by Frank Bry on recording bullet passbys and impacts.

There is a first time for everything and recording bullet pass bys and impacts was a first for me. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at bullet recording but never had the knowledge or association with anyone that had a permit to use a gun suppressor. During the recording sessions for the M60 machine gun with the very experienced and amazing marksman named Richard from the local gun shop I began to inquire about what it would take to record some bullet impacts and whizz bys. I then consulted with everyone’s favorite weapons maven – Charles Maynes (my sincere thanks man!), and he gave me some valuable advice for these kind of sessions. I then explained what I wanted to accomplish with Richard and gave him the specs from Charles and we were off and running. The bullet demo in this blog post has some of the sounds recorded and played back at 35% of normal so you can hear the shot and the impact in greater detail, and they sound much more interesting slowed down a bit.

Continue reading…

Ren Klyce Interview

Posted by on Feb 26, 2012 | 0 comments

With the Academy Awards just days away, we’ve started working on our Oscar pools and that got us to thinking: what is sound design, really? We know that sound is so integral to film. It creates emotion, fills empty space, and adds context and texture to the picture. The problem, of course, is that, like editing, good sound design is almost indiscernible to the uninitiated. And it’s one of those categories that yield a best-guess vote in Oscar-night polls.

So we decided to get the skinny on sound by consulting one of the field’s leading artists, Ren Klyce of Mit Out Sound. Klyce is nominated for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing Oscars for his work on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and is one of David Fincher’s longtime collaborators. His other film credits include Fincher films The Social NetworkThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonFight Club, and Se7en, plus Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and Being John Malkovich.


Interview with Nick Wiswell, Audio director of Turn 10

Posted by on Feb 26, 2012 | 2 comments

The vehicle focused Track Time Audio blog has posted an interview with Turn 10’s and ex-Bizarre Creations Creative Audio Director Nick Wiswell,  covering the production of Forza Motorsport 4 and the pipeline of recording sessions to finished in-game audio for the car engines.

TTA: Could you talk a bit about the process a vehicle goes through between recording session and finished in-game? I think the work involved after the recordings are made are under appreciated by gamers because they just don’t know how much work goes on.

NW: It’s a long process, so I’ll break it down into stages like a recipe:

To record a car you will need:
* A car and a chassis dyno, or an engine and an engine dyno
* An 8 – 10 channel recording device with multiple microphones to capture the engine, intake system and each exhaust pipe sound independently
* A dyno operator who understands that “full throttle” means all the way to the floor, and a car owner who won’t freak out when you do that
* An hour or two of time

1. First thing to do is set up the car on the dyno (your dyno operator will usually do this for you) and set up all the recording equipment
2. Then run the engine, do a few throttle snaps and a power run or two, and walk around the car trying to find the spots that have the sound you are looking for
3. Then set up close microphones on the engine, intake, turbo (if fitted) and each exhaust pipe plus microphones at points where you found interesting sounds
4. Press “record”, set levels and ask the dyno operator to run through the following sequence:
·Full throttle power pulls in different gears or at different speeds (depending on the type of dyno)
·Held steady RPMS at 500 RPM intervals from close to idle up to close to redline
·Acceleration and deceleration through the gears (if possible on the dyno)
·Simulated track driving (if possible on the dyno)

View the rest of the interview on the Track Time Audio website

Ideas in Sound Design: Deprivation and Barriers – Part 1

Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 | 14 comments

Cross-posting from personal blog.

I’ve had two ideas take obsessive root in my brain recently. They’re not new concepts, nor are they new to me. My first introduction to them was 8 years ago now, but I find myself pondering them with the regularity that my dog wants food. [Now? Now?! ………..Nooooow?] They’re worth talking about in a public space, because I hope they’ll stimulate some engaging conversation in our community. There’s also the hope that said conversation will filter and focus these ideas into greater resolution for myself. If it helps others in the process, so much the better. These two concepts, as spoiled in the title, are deprivation and barriers.

I plan to cover these ideas over two articles. In this, the first, I’ll lay out my thoughts and musings on concepts introduced to me through the writings of Walter Murch and Michel Chion. They are two different arguments, yet I feel they are closely related and augment one another. In the second article, I’ll examine several scenes under the frameworks I present here.

The concepts (paraphrased):

  1. Deprivation of sensory information causes the viewer to extract greater meaning from art. (Murch)
  2. The Voice defines the barriers it transcends. (Chion)