[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]
Nothing can be more peaceful than sitting quietly for several minutes at a time in a unique location recording the living world in front of you. Your eyes and ears are alert and observant of everything that’s happening as the recorder captures it all. There is a calm that comes over you and for the first time in a while, you feel relaxed and contemplative.
Then an airplane shows up. Or a chainsaw. Or a leaf blower, car horn, traffic, tractor, weed-eater, or any other man-made contraption that strives to ruin your recording. You find yourself recording much longer than you would normally need to in order to have enough material to edit out all of these man-made sounds and end up with a seamless representation. Regular, non-audio people don’t realize just how noisy the world around them is until they try to do something like this. Your brain may filter out these distractions without you realizing it, but the microphones don’t lie.
On the flip side, my personal field recording sessions can also leave the “pristine” natural world behind to purposefully seek out a particular noise source, or happen upon one. I always bring the recorders for unique settings like a cruise ship, or a Civil War re-enactment. Maybe it’s foot traffic in the reverberant Mayo Clinic lobby or a busy city street during an unexpected parade. You just never know when recordings of these kinds of things will come in handy, and that is half of the joy of doing it. They may sit dormant for several years until just the right circumstance comes along and you can pull them out of your sleeve.
The following is an exclusive interview with Supervising Sound editor and Sound Designer Tom Bellfort about his work on “Source Code”.
DS: How did you convey the feeling of confusion through the sounds that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Captain Colter Stevens hears as he wakes up the first time in Source Code?
TB: The first concept I experimented with was to sonically bridge Colter’s helicopter crash (which you subsequently see in reel 4 although this is hinted at in the very first train scene in reel 1). The very first sound you hear when Colter emerges in pod #1 is an eerie high pitch sound meant to convey hearing loss at the helicopter crash. This is followed by a muted and pitched down helicopter rotor fx. Colter does not know, if he is at the crash site or not. The rotor fx slowly becomes a heart beat and the High pitch eerie sound becomes squeaky creaky medical equipment sounds, mri, metal lung machines. In addition I added high pitched subway train brake squeaks, also manipulated in Altiverb and pitch shift. The attempt was to create a very subtle world which hoovers and is delineated from the intersection of the train, the helicopter crash and and Colter’s life and death situation.
DS: What continuity was there in the sounds that transitioned in and out of source code? Did they evolve as the film progressed?
TB: Each time Colter transitions into the source code (out of the train) the images we see are by and large variations of violent agitated movement, Michelle Monaghan and the Chicago “Bean”. The duration and sequence of each image was always different from transition to transition. And so it was hard to establish a leitmotif if you will to this area. It was always changing. There was a common sound in all for Michelle and the “bean” put I think because these transitions were so rapid, it is hard to distinguish these.
As to the transitions out of the source code back to the train; these, by and large stayed the same and this was the breaking apart of Colter’s being: The idea was to produce a shattering expulsion type of signature effect followed by a gliding effect over the lake and finally into the train; Colter jolted back into that reality. A combination of rockets, glass and tonal elements were used for the expulsion. Once I was satisfied with that design, I duplicated each element and then created an aliasing effect by removing a quarter to half a frame for the duration of each effect and then recombining these to create a staccato feeling of Colter breaking apart to be re assembled back into the train. Once gliding over the lake, processed brake squeals and train horns were used to get Colter back into the train. To jolt Colter back into that reality I used train bys and or bell bys to “wake” him back up.
Tim Prebble has released Blow Holes on HISS and a ROAR, opening a new catalog of ambience libraries.
Ambiences play a crucial role in every film: literally, emotionally and physically they define the world that the film exists in. Accordingly we endeavor to provide characterful multichannel recordings of dramatically interesting locations.
The ocean has an infinite range of moods, but when the power of an incoming tide becomes constricted it can lead to some awe-inspiring sounds. This library was recorded on a Sound Devices 744 recorder using a Sanken CSS5 stereo mic along with Sennheiser MKH70 and MKH816 mics. Four locations were chosen specifically for their unique sonic properties:
- Punakaiki Blow Holes – West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
- Alofaaga Blow Holes – Taga, Savai’i, Samoa
- CastlePoint The Gap – East Coast, North Island, New Zealand
- Muriwai The Gap – West Coast, North Island, New Zealand
Blow Holes Library | 24bit 96kHz | 1.52GB download | 2.17GB uncompressed
Here’s a Q&A with Tim, talking about the library and his projects.
Great interview at Thirteen with Alan Howarth, talking about scoring and creating sound for horror films, his early influences and experiments, anecdotes from works with Hip-Hop artists, and more.
RC: What’s the craziest contraption you’ve used to capture a wild effect?
AH: When I was developing sound effects for The Hunt For Red October I wanted to record underwater sounds, I rented a hydrophones for the take, but it sounded too tinny for my needs. So I wound up using expensive studio mikes with condoms stretched over them to make them waterproof. It worked great. I went recording in swimming pools and off Long Beach [California]. I got some great tanker ship propeller effects from an underwater perspective that got used for the submarine propeller cavitations effects.
The craziest place? Recording effects for Star Trek, I was recording sounds for starships and shuttles at the Skunkworks for Lockheed. I was in top-secret facilities recording hypersonic wind tunnels and advanced aero devices. A few times they would allow me to be in the hallway, but not in the room were the sound was being made. I would hand them a mike on a long cable and one of the Skunkworks guys actually went into the area.
Thanks to Matteo for the link!
Many thanks for everyone who sent me all those kind messages! The new editors are:
While there have been numerous videos and interviews on the sound of “Apocalypse Now“, Andrew Quinn’s posted two awesome videos on his blog, featuring discussions between Walter Murch, Francis Coppola and the rest of the team. It does show how important collaboration, ideation & conflict is when trying to achieve what is best for a film. Also featured are interviews with Richard Beggs and Randy Thom.
On a related note, here’s an interesting recent interview with Coppola on Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration.
The Recordist is releasing a new library called Toy Guns HD, a small but interesting sfx pack that includes recordings of two “airsoft” guns:
- Crosman Pulse R76 (Clear and Black) – 6mm Electronic Full or Semi-Automatic Military-style Rifle With high quality gear box, pivoting collapsible stock, tri-rail accessory mount and adjustable hop-up system. 350-round clip features rapid feed ammo dial. Includes UL-certified rechargeable battery with charger, shoulder sling and 500 heavy (.20 gram) airsoft BBs in easy-pour dispenser.
- H&K G36C Black Dual Power Rifle – The H&K G36C Airsoft gun can go between semi and fully automatic with the flip of a switch. The powerful motor allows this electric AEG gun to fire at a very high rate of speed for guns in its class. The foldable stock and adjustable hop-up allow for ease of use and quick reloading. The gun contains an adjustable rear sight for aiming and tactical railing. The 300-shot capacity will allow you to shoot for a long time between reloads.
Toy Guns HD – $10 | 62 sfx on 10 files | 19.3MB | metadata ready
Sophia Tong of Sound Byte has published an interview with audio director Stefan Strandberg, who talks about his work on “Battlefield 3″.
“Many people might think that we are trying to create the ultimate weapon sound in every single case, but it is the other way around. We create sounds that match the palette that we have decided upon. So it is not about creating an awesome gun sound; it’s about creating a war. This might sound trivial, but it is still a key aspect of the whole sound experience.”
[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]
The Blank “Page”
As we sit at our desks each day, creating new sounds for a game, it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to choosing your source material from which to design from.
Most of the sounds you hear in games or film are usually not a single recording edited and dropped into place to represent the things you are looking at. They are complex sounds that are arrived at through careful design and mixing and are usually comprised of elements that you might not expect.
Take a laser blast for example. Since none of them truly exist, we can use our creative license and create them from all sorts of source material, and no two Sound Designers will do it the same way.
Ben Burtt used recordings he made of a suspension cable struck with a hammer as the basis for the blasters in Star Wars. Others may use synth elements blended with existing real-world weapons recordings to arrive at their sound, often times run through a Doppler plug-in or using similar pitch-shifting effects. Even Formula 1 car bys can be pitched way up, creating an almost ricochet-type element that can become part of the sound. In my case, pitched-up ricochets themselves can be used, as I did for my original demo.
Fred Pearson has launched Arrowhead Audio, a new independent SFX company focused on producing royalty-free small sample packs for sound editors/designers with really affordable prices.
The company has been launched along with a new library called “Squelch, Squish and Splat“, a sfx package loaded with 455 samples at 96kHz/24-Bit. Some of the items used are: Grapefruits, Tomatoes, Oranges, Potato Mashers, Vacuum Pipes and Fruit Bowls.
- Lite – 100 samples | 16-Bit/44.1kHz | approx. $4
- Full - 220 samples | 24-Bit/48kHz | approx. $7
- Max – 455 samples | 24-Bit/96kHz | approx. $10
This is what Fred said about the process of making this library:
I had to decide what kind of sound effects I wanted to record and sell, and how to achieve this. The first pack I thought of was “Squelch, Squish and Splat”. This was because it was easy to get hold of the materials to create these sounds (which turned out to be tomatoes, grapefruits, baked beans and fruit cocktail amongst other things). I ended up recording the entire pack in roughly two hours of getting messy (with good friend Matt Meachem) with a Rode NTG-2, Rode NT-5, Audix D6 and AT 4050 through an Octopre which was recording into Pro Tools. The recording process was good fun and consisted of setting up the mic (with protective gauze) and leaving it rolling whilst we made sounds in the live room.
The editing process took a lot longer however. Matt and myself spent several days editing, cross-fading and normalizing all the sounds until we had got through the full two hour file. Throughout the process we found that the NTG-2 sounded the best, it had the flattest sound in regard to frequency with the least amount of proximity effect out of all the mics. It was also the quietest (best signal to noise ratio) which was one of our main reasons for choosing it consistently.
Find out more on his blog.
Arrowhead Audio on Twitter
Independent SFX Libraries