Categories Menu

Recent articles

Tim Nielsen’s Answers to Reader Questions

Posted by on Sep 7, 2011 | 4 comments

Here are the answers to the questions you did to Tim Nielsen during the last month. And if you liked his special, I have some great news to share: Tim will keep contributing to Designing Sound as part of our editorial team! stay tuned.

DSR: In light of this Q&A, I have finally seen “The Prince of Persia” today with my wife and daughters – it’s so much more intense to watch childrens’ movies with actual children ;) I lost my critical listening after about 10 minutes and fell for the drama; hoped and weeped, and waited for that first kiss :)

Being a very demanding movie with a lot of action, CGI, unfamiliar places and magical devices, crowds, crashing boulders, and sand in all of its incarnations, it is beyond my grasp to assess the magnitude of work that needs to be done on such a project. I see a lot of names on IMDB, but that, of course, doesn’t tell much – some of the people might have took part for only a day, while some may have invested their heart and soul. Could you please, as close as you can, estimate how many man-hours was spent on The Prince of Persia (from dialog editing to printmastering), or, if that would be in violation of your NDA, then, how much man-hours do you think it would take to do a movie that is almost the same ;)

Tim Nielsen: Hi. It’s hard now to remember exactly how many man-hours went into something like Persia. But I’ll try to give you a ballpark. I think I myself was on Prince of Persia about 26 weeks, including my time from the beginning of the project until the end of the final mix. We had four main effects editors, and each of them was probably on about an average of 16 to 20 weeks. We had two or three Foley editors on slightly less than that. That would cover the effects side of Persia. But every project differs. Some have a huge amount of editors on for a short amount of time. On the first Lord of the Rings movie, we had a relatively small crew, only four effects editors and David Farmer, the sound designer, but we were on the project for almost a year. So unfortunately there just is not ‘normal’ amount of time. But for a large effects heavy film, I would say our post schedules usually run around 26 weeks total at the long end.

DSR: Crowds – considering the film dialog is in English, did you record or use English or Persian language crowds and group loops? I’m asking because I must admit I don’t remember really hearing any specific words, although there definitely was this ‘middle-eastern’ sound to them…. I’m a real crowd-fan and I’m always in fear, uncertainty and doubt about my films until I get good crows in there. Since this film is full of crowds, crowd reactions, different armies from all perspectives and what not, I wonder how you felt about the crowd sounds – and were they high on the priority list of Mr Mike Newell, the director of the film?

TN: Hmm, I can’t recall now exactly what we did. Certainly we did have some Arabic crowds in the effects side of things. I honestly can’t remember how we did our loop group, but in the crowds side of things, we mixed both English and Arabic. And actually, as you’re building out beds of crowds, it’s good that you can’t understand any particular words, that’s our goal. So we might even use other languages too, if the character of the voices is correct. On Persia, we had a recordist who happened to be in Africa, and was able to record some various markets, that although the language was French, was nondescript enough that we were fine using it. The key with crowds is that if you can understand any of the words, it has to be replaced in the foreign versions, so we try quite hard to make the crowds have the right size, the right perspective, but to layer and edit them in such a way that you can’t pick out any single words.


September’s Featured Sound Designer: Paul Davies

Posted by on Sep 2, 2011 | 6 comments

After enjoying a wonderful month with Tim Nielsen, it’s time to move on to our next great guest here at Designing Sound. It’s a pleasure to introduce this month’s featured sound designer: Paul Davies. Based in the UK, Paul has a long, impressive credit list, working as sound designer and supervising sound editor, and he will share articles, tips and thoughts with us.


Paul Davies was born in 1961 and first became interested in sound design through a passion for electronic music. Ran a small music studio in the mid-eighties, based in Cardiff, South Wales, and through this he became involved in the local filmmaking scene.

Enrolled in the sound department of the UK’s National Film and Television School in 1988. After graduation worked as a location sound recordist, sound editor and re-recording mixer on a variety of productions. In 1995 joined Videosonics, located in London, where he soon became head of sound editing and design.

Here he did several significant movies like Ratcatcher by Lynne Ramsay, who has since then become a key collaborator for Paul – one of his most recent works is Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin which competed at this year’s Cannes Festival and is shown this month at Toronto International Film Festival.

Paul left Videosonics in 2000 to set up his own sound design/editorial company, and these days he’s once again establishing a new company, The Project. The last few years, Paul has gained recognition for his work on acclaimed films like The American and Hunger and is currently working on a new Luc Besson sci-fi production, Lockout. At the same time, Paul is in discussions about developing a production music library project utilising Paul’s roots in ambient music.

We’re happy to have you here, Paul!

Nominations and Awards

  • Bafta TV Award Nomination for Best Sound (1998) – Touching Evil
  • Bafta TV Award Nomination for Best Sound (2003) – Shameless
  • Australian Film Institute Nomination for Best Sound (2005) – The Proposition

Selected Works

  • Love is the Devil – John Maybury – 1997
  • Ratcatcher – Lynne Ramsay – 1999
  • The Hole – Nick Hamm – 2000
  • Morvern Callar – Lynne Ramsay – 2001
  • The Jacket – John Maybury – 2004
  • The Proposition – John Hillcoat – 2005
  • The Queen – Stephen Frears – 2006
  • Hunger – Steve McQueen – 2008
  • The American – Anton Corbijn – 2010
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay – 2011

The Recordist Releases Prop Planes 2 HD and Beech 58P Airplane HD

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 | 0 comments

The Recordist has released two airplane sfx libraries:

Prop Planes 2 HD ($35.00 | 35 files at 96kHz/24-Bit)

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since the 5th Annual Sandpoint fly in and on August 13, 2011 I traveled to the Sandpoint Idaho Airport and recorded the 6th Annual Fly In. Included are 24-Bit 96K recordings presented as Broadcast WAV files with full Soundminer 4 Metadata of a variety of small modern and vintage aircraft on the ground and in the ripping through air. Included are high speed passes, take offs, landings and ground taxi bys. There is also a J5 Wright powered 1928 Stearman C3B starting its engine and taxiing down the tarmac that I was fortunate enough to get at the end of the show. The owner wanted the sound for his cell phone ring tone. I recorded the graceful aircraft as it was departing and flying by.


Beech 58P Aurplane HD ($75 | 78 files at 96kHz/24-Bit)

Presenting the Beechcraft Baron 58P propeller plane sound effects collection. The Beechcraft Baron is a light, twin-engined piston aircraft originally developed by Beech Aircraft Corporation and currently manufactured by the Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. The Baron is a variant of the Beechcraft Bonanza, and was first introduced in 1961. Since its inception, the Baron has always been near the top of the light airplane hierarchy. Expensive as it is to buy and to operate, the ‘next step up’ from a Baron is a very big one. Faster aircraft, with greater range and more load-carrying capability are generally turbine-powered and far more expensive.

Barons come in two basic types: the Baron 55 (short body) and Baron 58 (long body), with several subtypes. Introduced in 1970, the more powerful Baron 58 has club seating, double aft doors, and a gross weight of 5400–5500 lb (2450–2500 kg).

I had the opportunity to record much of this airplane and this collection is the result. Recorded at 24-bit 96kHz in stereo and mono this library contains 3 gigabytes of the many sounds this plane generates.

Also, Frank has published very informative posts on his blog talking about the recording sessions for these libraries. You can take a look at The Recordist blog.

Inside Look at the Creation of Movie Sound Effects

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 | 1 comment

New article of Mix Magazine dedicated to sound effects, featuring sound editors Harry Cohen, Christopher Assells and Jon Title.

From the clang of a sword to the roar of a monster to the rev of a car engine, Hollywood directors depend on sound designers and sound effects editors to craft the sonic elements that help add impact and interest, set the mood or ratchet up the terror of a scene. Working with Foley artists, re-recording mixers, composers and others, the creators of film sound effects have challenging jobs that require imagination, creativity and technical abilities, not to mention a great ear.

There are two primary job titles for those who create and edit effects—sound designer and sound effects editor—though the differences between the two job descriptions have become blurred over time, and both are essentially involved in effects creation.

To learn more about the techniques used to create effects for films, Mix spoke with three pros at Soundelux (Hollywood), all with sound designer and sound effects editor credits to their name. Harry Cohen has worked on such titles as Inglourious BasterdsStar TrekRobin HoodThe Green Lantern and The Perfect Storm. Chris Assells has credits on films like Fright NightThe Green HornetWall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Gladiator. Jon Title’s filmography includes Final Destination 5RedBlood Diamond and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Continue reading…

Vía musicofsound

Sound Scavenging Challenge’s Winner

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011 | 0 comments

Congratulations to SoundCloud user, Manuel, who won the popular vote for the Sound Scavenging Sound Design Challenge! He wins a copy of the Futzbox plug-in from McDSP (a sincere thank you to McDSP for sponsoring this challenge). Hopefully, there will be a forthcoming interview with Manuel as well.

As a reminder, the next Sound Design Challenge will start on September 15th. See you then.

Interview with Matthew Wood

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011 | 1 comment

Home Theater Forum has interviewed Matthew Wood about his work on the Blu-ray edition of Star Wars.

We met with Matthew Wood from Skywalker Sound to find out more about the sound mix and what was done to ready it for Blu-ray.  He started working on the Blu-ray audio back in 2007.  Here are excerpts from that presentation.  It was very obvious that he has a lot of passion for these films.  Please note that the questions came from multiple participants, including myself:

I’ve [Matthew Wood] been involved in the restoration and remastering of Episodes IV, V and VI since about 1996 when we started the special editions and all the way through the DVD releases now.  I’ve actually brought all 6 movies that I got the print masters from Skywalker Sound so that we can listen to some scenes today. The cool thing about Blu-ray is the fact that when I play you these masters, it’s effectively as what’s on the disc, it’s the file copy that goes on the disc, we have an uncompressed master on the disc.

Continue reading…

Using Logic for Post-Production Sound

Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 | 5 comments

[Article by Ian Palmer]

Dreambase is the result of Alex and Mark’s (two ex-Dolby employees) desire to setup their own post-production sound facility and work in the more creative side of the film industry. Dreambase is located in the former GWR radio studios with two edit rooms and a VO Booth/ Foley Room between the two rooms.

I visited there last year simply to say hello and was surprised to learn that they were editing and mixing feature films using Logic. Inspired by the recent Mix article I thought I would write this article to find out why they are using the DAW instead of the industry standard Pro Tools.

Ian Palmer: You’re a relatively new studio. What made you choose the Apple/Logic platform?

Alex Hudd: Initially it was for cost reasons. I had used Pro Tools since 2000 for music recording but as a Mac user was aware of what Logic was capable of, and the extensive tools it possessed out of the box. The software is so intuitive and the audio library browser is well integrated with the package that track-lays for sound design and composition are very quick to rough out and start working on. Of course Logic’s strength is the ability to compose and this had also been very useful in some projects that I have composed music for. The recording take management in Logic is excellent for ADR sessions as it’s very easy to find the best lines from multiple takes, compare them and bounce out to a composite.

IP: What have been the advantages of such a decision?

AH: We saved money on the initial start-up costs which for a studio can be quite considerable, especially as we had overheads like rent to pay each month.

IP: Have there been any drawbacks?

AH: Lack of compatibility with studios running Pro Tools exclusively is a drawback but the projects we have worked on have been mostly ‘in-house’. At the end of the day we can bounce out any number of stems to take to another studio and import into their own systems but not being able to pass over automation or plug-ins is a disadvantage time- wise.

Editing is not as quick as with Pro Tools as Logic doesn’t posses the equivalent of a ‘Smart Tool’. Also the I/O setup is pretty basic so complex bus routing is not as easy as it is in Pro Tools. We use both Logic 9 and Pro Tools 9 at the studios depending on the project we are working on. And with OMF/AAF interchange it’s easy to exchange files between the two systems.

IP: What hardware are you using?

AH: We use an RME Fireface 800 as the main I/O which is used with Logic and Pro Tools, plus a Rosendahl Synchroniser. We use the Euphonix Artist Series as hardware controller with has excellent integration with both Logic and Pro Tools.


Tim Nielsen Special: Interview on Backgrounds

Posted by on Aug 23, 2011 | 13 comments

DS: I know you’re quite of fan of background sounds for movies. What is it that fascinates you about this part of the soundtrack?

Tim: First, backgrounds are the bed upon which all the other sounds must be built. It’s foundation work, and I love foundation work. And as the first thing I cut on a project, it’s really the first layers of paint so to speak. So I love that, the very initial layer. Second, the backgrounds have the most power to sell time and space. If done right, you plant the audience clearly in the scene, in the location, and in the world of the film. Third backgrounds have an amazing ability to evoke emotion. Tension, sadness, agitation, fear, love, all of these can be evoked in the backgrounds and in subtle ways. The same scene, cut different, could evoke safety and comfort, or tension and danger. Even the simplest choice of room tones can have an effect on the emotion of a scene. Fourth I just love the types of sounds, winds and rain especially. I love listening to them, I love to record them, and I love to cut and layer them.

DS: What is your preferred background element to play with and why?

Tim: Wind and water. These are both categories of sound that have almost limitless possibilities. Wind can be cold or hot, gentle or piercing, howling, singing, whistling. It can move things around, move through and over things. And water as well, of course. It flows, drips, pours. Just rain by itself could fill an entire library. Soft rain, rain on an infinite variety of surfaces, thick rain, thin rain.

Of these, wind is the base of all backgrounds, when you include room tone, or simple ‘airs’. And it’s wind that I find distracts me the most if done wrong. There are also a handful of library winds that get used over and over, and I can’t say I’m immune from using them as well. But such is the nature, that when a director calls for a ‘whistling wind’, most of us will find the same commercial sound that you know will always work and sell ‘whistling’. I keep hoping to find my own perfect whistling wind. It’s eluded me so far. I’ve made some things with some deer netting that are ‘close’ but not quite perfect yet.

On something like Prince of Persia, wind becomes a major element of the soundtrack, and we spent a lot of time trying to build a library of wind for  the film, especially wind and sand together. Scott Guitteau went to Death Valley for us and recorded as much sand as he could. The recordings yielded a lot of new sounds and textures. We recorded a lot on the Foley stage as well. While this is of course useful for the main cutting of the film, it’s crucial to have that library built for the final mix so you can quickly find the sounds you made for the film. On Persia I built a library of just wind and sand gusts, which proved really useful, as we’d see some more detail in the final picture, and say ‘oh we can throw in a small gust there, see the sand blowing on frame left?’


Soundminer HD Now Supports iLok, Plus Discount on Ripper with v4/HD Purchases

Posted by on Aug 23, 2011 | 0 comments

Soundminer has released an iLok version of  Soundminer HD, which comes with new features, including unlimited databases and SmartDrag. Official specs below:

HD Searching features include:

  • supports advance mutli-field boolean search just like our noted v4 line.
  • supports direct in field searching
  • supports live linked searching
  • supports locked search within and search history paging.
  • supports new Live Filter and Launch pad search options.
  • supports Play history and the ability mark files as you go.
  • supports lyric searching
  • supports Library weighting.

HD Database/Playback/Transfer features:

  • supports WAVE, BWAV, aiff, sd2(mac only), and mp3 playback.
  • supports over 50 fields of metadata.
  • ability to edit Category and Description and UserComment metadata inline.
  • reads Soundminer V3 and V4 metadata, id3 and BWAV Bext data
  • supports unlimited Databases and Artwork.
  • import iTunes Library and Playlists as well as converts V4 databases.
  • large multi-channel waveform overview with the ability to resize and trim edit.
  • *New* SmartDrag mode for those who just canʼt wait….
  • High quality conversion algorithm built-in with advanced file renaming options.
  • Transfer History stores your pending transfers for intelligent drag and drop transfer
  • Support Pro Tools, Nuendo, Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Pyramix, Digital Performer, Logic, Vegas,Sound Forge, Adobe Audition, Peak, Ableton Live, Reaper, etc.

Soundminer HD is available in both Mac or Windows version for $199 or a Universal version for $299. Also until the end of September, Soundminer Ripper (Mac) can be added to a v4/HD order for $100.