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Paul Davies Special: Sound Design of Hunger – Exclusive Interview

Posted by on Sep 28, 2011 | 3 comments

It’s still Paul Davies’ month here at Designing Sound and now is the time to dig into one of Paul’s most celebrated works: Hunger.

This 2008 film tells the story of the fierce battle between the Irish Republican Army and the British state, which in 1981 led to a hunger strike in which 10 IRA prisoners died. A haunting, intense drama that has received worldwide acclaim – it premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, winning the prestigious Camera d’Or award for first-time filmmakers. It was also a major breakthrough for the lead star, Michael Fassbender. Paul Davies talks about the film’s extraordinary stark soundtrack:

Designing Sound: How did you get involved in Hunger?

Paul Davies: My initial contact for the film was the producer Laura Hastings-Smith, who I’d worked with before, on a film called The Lives of the Saints, directed by Rankin, the well-known British photographer. Laura, because of my work on this film, suggested me and Richard Davey (who had been the re-recording mixer on Rankin’s film) as the sound team for Hunger. I went for a meeting with Steve, which went well, and subsequently we were appointed as the sound post team for the project.

DS: The director Steve McQueen has a background in video art. How did that influence his filmmaking, particularly the use of sound?

PD: As you say Steve has a background in film and visual art, however my relationship with him was no different than with any of the other directors I have worked with in the past. Steve related to me as a narrative filmmaker, and not as a fine artist. The only time I was really aware of Steve’s fine art background was in our initial meeting which happened before the film had been shot and he showed me his visual reference book, which contained images of renaissance paintings and contemporary photographs from the period of the hunger strike. After this Steve’s concerns were with narrative and atmosphere, and how we were going to convey the emotion of the story in sound and images.

DS: How was your working process and your schedule on the project?

PD: As I indicated in the earlier section I had read the script and had a meeting with Steve about the conceptual approach before filming began. After this, because the film was actually shot in two sections three months apart, to allow Michael Fassbender the lead actor to lose weight, I saw a cut of the first two thirds of the film, before the second shoot and then saw a couple of versions of the complete film before starting work on the sound design with my assistant sound designer Chu-Li Shewring.

The sound post process started with a detailed spotting session with Steve and the picture editor Joe Walker, Joe had also compiled his own sound notes which acted as a basis for the sound design. Already from the cutting copy Steve and Joe’s intentions regarding the minimal use of music and the use of production sound effects recorded by Mervyn Moore the location sound recordist, provided a clear template for us to follow. The actual time we had for sound editing was actually quite short, four weeks each for me, Chu Li and Peter Shaw the dialogue editor. Fortunately Mervyns’ tracks were very well recorded and provided a firm foundation for us to build the sound design upon and also meant that we only had to record minimal ADR. Tim Alban recorded and edited the foley, which also provided a crucial element in the sound design. We knew that much in the way we had worked on Lynne Ramsay’s films we would want to be able to foreground well recorded Foley in the mix so as to “zoom” in to the characters in the film, to draw closer to them and feel their physical presence.


Hollywood Edge Products Survey, Free SFX, Discounts, Chance to Win Mechanical Morphs

Posted by on Sep 23, 2011 | 1 comment

The Hollywood Edge is doing a survey about sfx distribution and his products, with some good freebies, discount on next purchase, and chance to win Mechanical Morphs.

After completion you will be given a link with your free SFX comprised of sounds from this years releases, including Mechanical Morphs and the upcoming Segue Surround 5.1, as well as a coupon code for 15% off your next purchase! On top of that, enter your email to be entered into a competition to win a free copy of Mechanical Morphs!

The Sound of “Angry Birds”

Posted by on Sep 22, 2011 | 0 comments

Finland based composer and sound designer Ari Pulkkinen seems to be one of the most listened to composers in the world right now with over 250 million people who have heard his original Angry Birds theme. Pulkkine’s catchy theme was also recently performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra which was part of a music festival in the city.

Angry Birds has been praised for its successful combination of addictive gameplay, comical style, and low price. Its popularity led to versions of Angry Birds being created for personal computers and gaming consoles, a market for merchandise featuring its characters and even long-term plans for a feature film or television series. With a combined 350 million downloads across all platforms and including both regular and special editions, the game has been called “one of the most mainstream games out right now”, “one of the great runaway hits of 2010″, and “the largest mobile app success the world has seen so far”.

Ari has also worked on other very popular games such as Trine (PS3/PC), Dead Nation (PS3), and Outland (PS3/360). The games have received rave reviews and praise for their soundtracks and sound design.

SoundWorks Collection

Madden NFL 12

Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 | 1 comment

SVG has published a short article on the sound of ‘Madden NFL 12‘. It primarily features Jesse Allen, the audio director, describing how the crowd sounds were recorded and engineered in to the game.

The crowd-ambience sound on Madden 12 was culled from such sources as the local Jacksonville Panthers games and a number of NCAA contests. (EA’s NCAA title includes some audio assets provided by ESPN, which has an ongoing collaboration with EA Sports, but no ESPN audio appears on the Madden NFL series.) What you hear on Madden NFL 12comes from a total of about 50 hours of interactive audio files programmed to engage depending on the play.

“The crowd levels and nature change based on situation,” says Allen, “such as whether it’s a rivalry game or the Super Bowl, where the crowd sound gets huge, or a lopsided blowout, where half the crowd has left halfway through the game.”

The audio also follows the play around the field, with general crowd noise turning into more specific yells and hoots as the POV moves from the stands to the field. Logic programming takes all the circumstances into account and pulls and plays the appropriate files, as well as putting more information (i.e. volume) into the left or right channel as the player POV moves side to side the across the field.

All of that audio was gathered by a crew of freelancers, including Watson Wu and Chris Latham, who record stadiums in quadrants for 15-20 minutes at a time, using some gear that would be familiar to their broadcast counterparts and some that might not……

Continue reading here.

Interview with Malgorzata Polit

Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 | 1 comment

It took a little while, but the winner of SDC010 and I recently finished our interview. Appropriate, now that SDC012 is underway… ;)

Designing Sound: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in audio, and what work do you currently do?

Malgorzata Polit: My name’s Małgorzata Polit (Margherita to my Italian friends) and I’m a Polish soundywoman (lol) presently living and working in Italy. Since I was a kid, my passions and interests were always pivoting around the sound. First it was music which I got to know better while studying violin and piano from early school days with the help of marvellous teachers, whose wonderful work has had a great influence on my personality and feeling of music. After twelve years of musical education I found it obvious, that my future had to follow that path, I only had to find my place in the world of sounds – and that’s where sound engineering turned up. Having passed a series of entrance exams for the Sound Engineering Faculty at Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, I began the five years of fascinating studies on all the aspects of sound production, both from technical and artistic point of view. Right after graduation I worked for a year in one of Polish TV stations gathering practical experience, but my professional life got a new start when I moved to Italy and was lucky to find a job in my occupation right away. I still work there, at Top Digital studio in Milan, dealing mostly with post-production of commercials, dubbing, recording speakers. From time to time we have also a chance to face other exciting challenges. (more…)

Free Webinar with David Sonnenschein and Ric Viers

Posted by on Sep 20, 2011 | 0 comments

Previously featured sound designers David Sonnenschein and Ric Viers are hosting another free webinar on Thursday, September 22nd. This webinar is closely related to the ones they’ve offered in the past, and will touch on topics such as:

  • How do you talk to the producer to get the gig in the first place?
  • What kind of prep can you do with the script to keep in budget and get the best recordings?
  • What gear and techniques do you need to solve those tricky dialogue scenes?
  • How can you integrate your skills with the picture editor and music composer?
  • What tools are available to help audio support character, emotion and story?

David and Ric are extremely passionate about what they do, and always put on a unique presentation. The 1 hour webinar will run twice on Thursday: once at 9AM, and once at 6PM (both U.S. Pacific Standard Time). For more details and to sign up visit the information page at, or the one at

Creating An Immersive Experience

Posted by on Sep 20, 2011 | 0 comments

The August issue of ‘Post Magazine’ has an article about mixing to create an immersive experience – both in 7.1 and 5.1. It features interviews with Craig Henighan for ‘Real Steel’ (he also talks about crowd and robot design), Mike Minkler for ‘Fright Night’ (the remake) and Steve Pederson for ‘Final Destination 5′ (mixed in 5.1 and his thoughts on not using 7.1 and how it might have benefitted).

Even though home enter tainment equipment has become more sophisticated, experiencing a movie in the the- ater is still unsurpassed. With the increase of digital cinemas, a greater offering of IMAX films, the improvement of 3D technology and the growing popularity of the 7.1 format, theaters are able to offer the audience a movie experience like no other.

According to Robin Selden, senior VP, marketing at Dolby, Dolby Surround 7.1 is one of the fastest growing cinema audio formats in the history of their company.Their 7.1 format consists of eight chan- nels in the layout: Left, Center, Right, Low-Frequency Effects (LFE), Left Surround, Right Sur- round, Back Surround Left and Back Surround Right.With the addition of two surround speak- ers, mixers are able to more accurately pinpoint where a sound is placed.They also enhance the spatiality of the sound.

Continue reading here.

/via @lydrummet

Paul Davies Special: The Lynne Ramsay Collaboration – Exclusive Interview

Posted by on Sep 16, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s time for the next part of this month’s Paul Davies special. One of Paul’s most prolific collaborations is his work with Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, best known for her feature films Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk about Kevin, which have all been highly acclaimed. We Need to Talk about Kevin premiered at this year’s Cannes Festival and is released in the UK next month. This interview focuses on their special working methods and close creative kinship.


Lynne Ramsay

Designing Sound: How did you and Lynne Ramsay meet the first time?

Paul Davies: I first met Lynne when she was a student at the National Film and Television school in Beaconsfield, UK. I had already graduated, and was temporarily working in the sound department as an assistant to the Head of Sound, Gareth Haywood. Lynne was a camera student at the time, and I remember her being a regular visitor to the sound office to discuss filmmaking with Gareth, especially their shared love of Robert Bresson and Tarkovsky. However, I only really got to know Lynne well, some years later when I worked with her for the first time on Ratcatcher.

DS: How would you describe her as a collaborator and filmmaker?

PD: Lynne and I have developed a very close working relationship, and she has in fact become a good friend. We begin discussing projects a long time in advance of filming, and I receive early drafts of the scripts, and our collaboration progresses from there. With each film the working relationship becomes closer, for example I have already produced a sound sketch for one of Lynne’s proposed next projects, and I have seen a treatment of another, for which we are discussing the overall sound approach. Lynne is by nature very collaborative, and she always ensures that she leaves enough space for other to contribute while being very clear in her direction and conceptual input.

I should also mention the importance of Lynne’s other collaborators in post-production and their contribution of ideas and concepts Lucia Zucchetti and Pani Ahmadi-Moore the picture editor and 1st assistant from the first two features and all the shorts, Richard Flynn sound recordist and dialogue editor, and Tim Alban, re-recording mixer on the first two features also, Joe Bini and Adam Biskupski, editor and 1st assistant on We Need To Talk About Kevin, alongside Simon Changer and Robert Farr, music editor and re-recording mixer respectively. All were essential collaborators on these soundtracks, with everybody encouraged by Lynne to make their contribution. She is very good at building a collaborative, collegiate atmosphere on her films whilst at the same time being decisive when presented with choices in the mix, a very good combination to work with indeed.

DS: You’ve now collaborated on three feature films. Quite often, sound can be very tricky to talk about – how do you communicate about sound and how has your dialogue evolved throughout the years?

PD: Yes, sound is notoriously difficult to discuss with directors, but Lynne has a good ear for sound and is a musician herself, and over time we seem to have had little difficulty in discussing sound concepts and ideas. It certainly helps when I am able, as I was on the last film We Need To Talk About Kevin, to begin work early on in the process, as the picture is still being edited, this meant that I was able to submit work in progress, so that Lynne, Joe Bini and myself had something concrete to discuss and a basis for development of the soundtrack, and we were quickly able to see what was working and what wasn’t. However, by this time I am very familiar with Lynne’s tastes and generally know what works for her and what won’t. That being said

Lynne is always looking to progress as a director and in her film making language and techniques, so it’ s never a case of offering up what worked before, but always seeking to move on.


Sound Design Challenge #12: Lifeless Howl

Posted by on Sep 15, 2011 | 31 comments

Welcome to the next Sound Design Challenge! We’re excited to have Boom Library sponsoring this challenge, and they’ve donated a copy of their Creatures library for the winner of this Challenge. Please take a moment to thank them for their generosity by following them on Twitter and visiting their Facebook page.

So, what creative challenge have we got in store for you this time? I think it’s past time we got another video oriented challenge into the mix. So this time we’ve gotten permission to use a test animation from 3d animator extraordinaire, Marcelino Newquist. [Marcelino would also like us to mention the modeller/rigger Chad Vernon, whose rig he used in this animation.] The picture at the top is a screen-cap from this challenge’s video. (more…)

SFX News: Hybrid Electric Car, MIDI Factory, Metal Scrapes, SFX Bible HD Discount

Posted by on Sep 12, 2011 | 0 comments

New Sound Lab has released NSL007 Hybrid Electric Car (24-Bit/96kHz | $30).

This library features a collection of exterior and interior sounds from a 2007 Toyota Prius. A majority of the recording was conducted at El Mirage Lake, a six mile long dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert, 90 miles north of Los Angeles. This barren landscape, unique for its miles of completely flat terrain, is a popular filming location for automobile commercials and feature films. The recording sessions took place late in the evening and early in the morning, when the surroundings were completely silent. An ample collection of exterior pass bys, starts, and stop recordings on pavement, gravel, and dry lake bed are included. Speeds range from 5MPH to 80MPH from only running on the electric motor/battery pack, to pushing the Prius’ gas engine towards its max. Other sounds such as washer/wipers, electric motor and gas engine idling complete the collection.

Sounds were captured with a Sanken CSS-5 Stereo Shotgun mic. The shotgun microphone was mounted in a full Rycote windshield kit and connected to a Sound Devices 702 recording at 96khz.

The Sound Effects Bible Hard Drive (SFX Bible book also included) is now at $499 for students ($999 regular price).

Collection of 5,000 sound effects recorded by Ric Viers and his team at the Detroit Chop Shop including close to 2,000 new and previously unreleased sound effects. All of the sounds were recorded at 24/96KHz, along with a small selection of unique 16/44.1KHz sounds that were pulled from the Detroit Chop Shop archives.

Daniel Gooding released the The MIDI Factory, including 400 sounds (and their respective MIDI files)

Before there was wav files, and sound files, often times retro games used music to create a sound effect. This library was created on that same premise, and adapted to fit a wide variety of sounds that a designer might need. With the added bonus of the included midi files, you can create your own unique version of the sound as well, making this library a very helpful tool for sound designers.

Arrowhead Audio released AAS002 Metal Scrapes, including 324 sounds.

AAS-002 Metal Scrapes’ has been developed with a variety of tools including rusty knives, dirty spades, rotting pegs, files and steel brushes.