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Exclusive Interview with Mark Mangini and Dave Whitehead of “The Rite”

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 | 1 comment

The following is an exclusive interview with Supervising sound editor Mark A. Mangini and Sound Designer Dave Whitehead about their work on “The Rite”.

Designing Sound: What ideas did Director Mikael Hafstrom have about the sound design for the film? Did he reference any past exorcism movies for inspiration or homage?

Mark A. Mangini: Mikael did not come to the film with any preconceived notions about the sound of the film. He was open to hearing new ideas and felt that our work would be an exploration; constantly evolving as we discovered together what worked.. We knew we didn’t want to sound like any other films so it was understood that a great deal of experimentation was in our future.

All of us wanted to avoid exorcism movie cliches like overzealous pitch shifting or devilish sounding voice replacements. It was clear from the beginning that the performances, especially Anthony Hopkins’, were quite remarkable and needed little if any work, as they played quite convincingly on their own.

The charge from Mikael was to heighten tension and create dread with sound, where-ever possible, while never allowing it to challenge Father Michael’s skepticism. i.e. if the audience sees or hears something that Fr. Michael didn’t or didn’t acknowledge, what could he be so skeptical about? If he saw a “spinning head” or heard demonic sounds, what was keeping him from believing? As such, up until the final exorcism, everything done in VFX and sound is fairly understated allowing the audience to maintain the same doubt as our protagonist. Everything you see and hear could have a real world explanation. This made our job particularly difficult as we were always having to play “devilish” or “eerie” sounds with just enough believability so as not to beg the audiences credibility and investment in Fr. Michael’s quest for the truth.

Dave Whitehead: As I was working from New Zealand I was only able to talk with Mikael once. Mark is such a great communicator, the notes from Mikael were clear and concise. The most important challenge was the arc in which the demonic experience was delivered. It had to be slowly drip fed and not shoved in your face from word go.


The School of Video Game Audio, Online Education by Game Audio Professionals

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 | 6 comments

Perhaps many of you have wondered sometime if there’s any kind of online school for learning how to create audio for video games. Well, the wait is over and the first online game audio school will be launched in the next summer. It’s called “The School of Video Game Audio”. Here are the official details:

The Facts

  • The games industry is changing and expanding every month as a 60+ billion dollar industry
  • The games industry needs new employees that are experienced enough to start immediately
  • There are few options for audio professionals and students to acquire current practical knowledge of advanced game audio concepts in an easy to access and affordable manner

The Solution

  • Real world practical, leading edge training in the areas of speech, music, sfx, and presentation for games both technically and creatively
  • Program materials and course streams from beginners to seasoned audio pros wanting to get into game and interactive media
  • Students choose from pre-planned curricula as well as one-off specific courses
  • An easy payment structure that combines a monthly subscription with clear costs for exactly the courses the student desires
  • The program is created and run by leading industry experts and educators
  • Course material presented via video, real-time game engines, e-books, tutorials and tele-seminars
  • Courses can be started at any time and are online 24/7
  • Utilizes leading industry middleware solutions such as Wwise, FMOD and Unity
  • Courses are constantly refreshed to deal with the ever-evolving creative and technical needs of the game industry
  • This course strives to be the most advanced comprehensive and affordable program available

The Educators

The School of Video Game Audio was created by industry veterans Gordon Durity and Leonard J. Paul who have a combined history of over 30 years in the industry and over 20 years teaching audio for games. Their combined experience and dedication to the art and science of game audio has given their students the competitive edge in the industry. Their goal in creating the school is to raise the level of game audio on a world-wide scale by making it accessible and affordable to everyone who strives for excellence in this exciting field of development.

Sign Up here

Ric Viers Special: Exclusive Interview

Posted by on Mar 4, 2011 | 0 comments

I bet many of you have seen Ric Viers featured in this blog several times. But do you know how he get started? What are thier influences? Philosophy?Here’s an interview I had with him, where we discussed all those things and more!

Designing Sound: How did you get started and how has been the evolution of your career?

Ric Viers: That’s a funny story. I started off as a location sound mixer for television. This was not my intended career path. I graduated from Full Sail University with the intention of being a writer / director. I moved back to Detroit, but couldn’t seem to find any work. So, I looked for ‘back doors’ into the business. Despite the fact that sound was not my main focus at Full Sail, I felt that I could get a job as a sound engineer because their film curriculum had a strong concentration of sound courses.

I knocked on a few doors. Actually, I knocked on a lot of doors. No one was hiring. I quickly found out that freelance work was in abundance at the time, so I looked for companies that were willing to let a newbie on their shoots. Fortunately, a great company called KDN was willing to take the risk on me. This led to several years of location sound work for me.

I was constantly trying to better my craft and would often borrow equipment from KDN on the evenings and weekends to really understand the gear and thus, make me a better recordist. In the mean time, I was producing my own film shorts on Mini DV cameras and cutting them on my home computer. This is very common today, but back then this was a brand new concept. Digital video and audio was just starting to empower the little guys and began to level the playing field.

The one thing that I realized was missing from my productions was sound effects. For Christmas one year, my wife bought me several sound effects CDs. These were consumer-level CDs and weren’t very good, but it gave me something to start experimenting with for my films. I received a sample CD from a ‘professional’ sound effects company and was very disappointed in the quality. These sounds didn’t meet my expectations for what I thought should be professional and I certainly wasn’t going to spend any money on buying them. What to do?

I remember saying to myself “If this is what is considered to be professional, I would be better off recording my own sound effects.” So, that’s what I did. I borrowed a shotgun mic (Sennheiser MKH-416) along with a DAT recorder (Sony TCD-D10) from KDN and headed out into the field. I had no idea how significant that decision would be. It was an impulsive decision that led to a lifelong career.

I absolutely loved recording! It was sonic photography! I recorded for about a year, until one day my hard drive became full (which was hard to believe, since I had a whopping 2Gb hard drive.) I was cleaning out my hard drive when I discovered that I had over a thousand sound effects that I had recorded. I figured someone out there would probably be interested in buying this stuff.

I jumped on Yahoo (Google wasn’t around back then) and searched for “Sound Effects Companies”. The first company that came up was a sound effects company located in Canada. So, without even thinking about it, I sent them a demo. I received a call the next week from the owner. He was very impressed with my work and told me that the stuff I sent was “cleaner and better produced than the work he gets from guys in Hollywood”. I was shocked. I was using a spare bedroom in my apartment to create material that would impress a mega sound effects company! He commissioned me right on the spot to record a library of impact sound effects.

And so I did. Keep in mind, I was still trying to pursue a career as a filmmaker. I figured I could create sound effects libraries on the side until the right opportunity came along. But, something happened the day I received the final product: a professionally manufactured CD that had my name in the credits! I felt empowered. I thought to myself “Maybe I can do this?” “Maybe I could become a sound designer?”

To date, I’ve worked on over six hundred different sound effects products for companies around the world including Blastwave FX, a sound effects label that I started back in 2007.


Stefan Strandberg on the Sound of “Battlefield 3″

Posted by on Mar 3, 2011 | 1 comment

Game Informer has published a great video interview with audio director Stefan Strandberg talking about the sound of Battlefield 3. Among several things, he explains the approach on the sound design in Battlefield 3, talks about the new challenges on this title and also shares some footage from a very unique recording session the audio team had.

The award-winning team behind Battlefield: Bad Company 2′s terrific sound design is back. Lead by audio director Stefan Strandberg, DICE got up close and personal with the sounds of battle during a live military exercise. Their recordings and subsequent lessons learned could make Battlefield 3 the most realistic sounding war experience in gaming.

Video on Game Informer | Also on Designing Sound TV

Via @soundesignblog

March’s Featured Sound Designer: Ric Viers

Posted by on Mar 2, 2011 | 1 comment

If you are a regular reader of Designing Sound, you probable know about Ric Viers, great person and a true multi-disciplinary of sound (and probably one of the funniest ever). Ric will be sharing a lot of cool stuff this month, so stay tuned!


Ric Viers has worked in the film and television industry for over thirteen years. His location sound credits include nearly every major television network, Universal Studios, Dateline, Good Morning America, Disney, and many others. His sound design work has been used in major motion pictures, television shows, radio programs, and video games. In 2007, Viers launched his own label, Blastwave FX, to celebrate the release of his 100th sound effects library. To date, he is considered to be the world’s largest independent provider of sound effects, with nearly 200,000 sounds and more than 600 sound effects products to his credit.

About The Sound Effects Bible

According to George Lucas, “Sound is half the experience.” The Sound Effects Bible is the complete guide to recording, editing, and designing your own sound effects. If it snaps, crackles, pops, crashes, booms or bangs, it can be found somewhere in this first-ever book on the black art of Foley and sound effects. Imagine how your movies will come to life when you use the tried-and-true sound techniques that give films like The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and There Will Be Blood deeper dimensions in storytelling.

This definitive book covers microphone selection, field recorders, the ABCs of digital audio, understanding digital audio workstations, building your own Foley stage, designing your own editing studio, sound design, and much more.

Ric Viers – Credits

The Sound Effects Bible

Blastwave FX

McDSP User Profile: Harry Cohen

Posted by on Mar 1, 2011 | 1 comment

McDSP has published a new user profile, featuring sound designer Harry Cohen talking about his favorite McDSP plugins.

In college, Cohen studied computer science.  “Mostly, I spent time banging around with different bands as a keyboard player though.  I suppose you could call familiarity with synths and samplers kind of an education for what I am doing now.” He continues, “I backed into sound design by accident.  I was doing some piano overdubs at a studio in Burbank that was just getting into post production; the guys there asked me if I was interested in doing sound effects for a film, and I said yes.  My early career rose with that facility and allowed me to meet directors, film company people, and other editors and designers in the post production world.  Eventually, I accepted an offer to migrate to Soundelux,  which is where I have been ever since.”

The type of films Cohen works on are bigger than life, and to accomplish that he gives a little secret about his method. “Analog Channel has been a real godsend for putting some analog character and attitude into sounds that I need to be powerful; like vehicle engines, guns and creatures.  It played a big part in creating a ‘vintage’ sound for the movie inside a movie for ‘Inglourious Basterds’. I also often use it instead of a limiter on lots of different material.  Analog Channel helped the snakes in ‘Snakes on a Plane’ sound so mean! It added great attitude to the cars in ‘Death Proof’; and helped create convincing explosions in ‘World Trade Center’. “

Continue reading…

“Secrets for Great Film Sound” Webinar Report #6 – The Final Mix

Posted by on Feb 28, 2011 | 0 comments

[During this month, I've been doing weekly reports about “Secrets for Great Film Sound“, a new webinar series hosted by David Sonnenschein and Ric Viers]

The last week we finished the webinar series, discussing a lot of things regarding the final mix

Ric started giving a lot of advices and overall overview of mixing. He talked about how to focus the audience with the mix and also stems workflow, how to find balance in the mix, dealing with processors, and more. All his examples, anecdotes and advices were really useful for me.


Peter Albrechtsen Special: Backgrounds in the Foreground

Posted by on Feb 28, 2011 | 5 comments

[Written by Peter Albrechtsen for Designing Sound]

Let’s start with talking not about choice of sounds but choice of words.

In the US, background ambiences are called backgrounds – or just BG’s. In Denmark, though, we call them atmospheres. For me, that’s actually a better word to describe this part of the soundtrack, as background sounds can add so much texture, feeling and – yes – atmosphere to a scene. It’s an amazing tool to shape a scene, not just mapping out the geography and time of day, but also setting the mood, creating a vibe and building an underlying rhythm. It’s one of my favorite sound design tools because it works quite subliminally and can be extremely effective, nevertheless.

I want to start out showing a commercial I did a couple of years ago, which I think showcases ambiences in an interesting way. It’s an IKEA commercial directed by a very visually and aurally imaginative Danish director, Martin de Thurah, who really created this commercial with sound in mind. Here it is (even though this youtube-link isn’t exactly the greatest quality, sorry):

YouTube Preview Image

First of all, I need to point out that the sound design of this commercial wasn’t just done by me but by two talented colleagues as well, sound designers Morten Green and Mads Heldtberg, the latter also being a very skilled composer. It took a lot of experimentation and building of sounds to establish the very different universes and small tales that unfold very, very fast in this commercial.

If you’re very strict in the way you describe the layers of the soundtrack, some would probably point out that several of the sounds you’re hearing in this commercial aren’t really background sounds but foley and effect sounds. But still several of the small scenes are utilizing these foley and effect sounds like they’re part of a background ambience track – like the typewriter on the boat, the radio program at the apartment buildings or my toothbrush rattling in a glass at the end. This is not the point for me, though. What I find interesting is how the sound sets up a world of each image that goes beyond what the eye sees. The backgrounds really set the tone and the background sounds are in that sense very much in the foreground.