[During this month, I'll be doing weekly reports about “Secret for Great Film Sound“, a new webinar series hosted by David Sonnenschein and Ric Viers.]
Last week’s webinar was fantastic. This time, Ric and David talked a lot about production stage. Ric is an expert on recording no matter if it’s in the field, in the studio or on location. He explained a lot of interesting things about microphones, gear, techniques for recording great production sound, sound effects recording, etc and also talked about lots of challenges and problems he has solved in the past. The true voice of the experience!
Here are the answers to the questions you made to Tim Walston during january. And stay tuned because there’s one more article coming from Tim about his work on Star Trek.
Designing Sound Reader: Hey Tim. Thanks for the inspiring articles! I can see you often work as editor and designer, but I’m curious about how much mixer are you? Do you think is important for an editor to learn how to mix?
Tim Walston: Please read Tim Prebble’s article on this subject – it’s brilliantly written. That said, I usually “half-mix” my own material into predubbed sub groups for delivery to the stage. This way my sounds are presented the way I intended, but with enough separation for the mixer to have control on the stage. I don’t dip for music necessarily because I rarely have the final music. My goal is to preserve my intentions and reduce the track count for the mixer – be it by bouncing down my material into multichannel mixes or delivering a session with “virtual predubs” (many tracks of units funneling into busses). I’ve been called upon to mix assembled sequences for presentation purposes, but I would not call myself a mixer.
I absolutely DO, however, think that sound designers should learn as much as they can ABOUT mixing. If you understand how the mixer does his/her work, then you can better prepare your material for the stage, and spend your time as efficiently as possible.
[Written by Tim Walston for Designing Sound]
Disclaimer: I am writing these articles as an independent sound designer. Any views or opinions expressed here are simply my own, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any company, corporate entity or anyone else. Any images or sounds presented are subject to copyright by their respective owners, and are presented for educational purposes only. Any information given is correct to the best of my knowledge. No artificial color added. Refrigerate after opening.
I love the sound of jets. They are one of the few things that sound as great in real life as they do in films! (Good ol’ single engine prop planes are also a favorite of mine). Real vehicles at high speed create fantastic air distortion sounds that can’t be beat.
“Stealth” was directed by Rob Cohen. My main challenge was the signature sound of the near-future technology of the three superjets’ propulsion systems. In the film, they were powered by “pulse detonation engines”. The UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) was even more advanced, with “twin hybrid scramjet turbos”, and artificial intelligence and computational sounds.
Some internet searches on pulse jets showed me that the technology is real, though used more often in rocket type applications like the V-1 buzz bomb in WWII. I even found video of a guy in New Zealand who had built small ones in his garage for a go-cart. (That was 2004, I just checked online today and there are a lot more amateur pulse jet videos now!)
The real things are powerful and loud, but they oscillate so rapidly that they buzz like a huge “pfffffbltt”. I first tried the literal approach, condensing large machine gun and minigun sounds to approach the right speed. The results were too even sounding and lifeless. Real things are more complex and variable. I eventually created several usable combinations featuring a few layered pitches of an overdriven feedback sound I had made years before. Some very light flanging added even more movement. Once I had my “steadies”, I used doppler plug-ins to create maneuvers and pass bys.
These sounds established the unique signature sound of the aircraft, but they weren’t enough on their own. I processed nearly every jet recording I had access to with a combination of eq and modulation to artificially add the “pulse” sensation to real jet sounds. I used Waves Mondo Mod and/or the GRM Doppler plug-in to create the pulsing effect. Carefully shaped automation of both the speed and depth of the pulses kept it from sounding too static. The results worked well, and I applied the same techniques to explosion and thunder sweeteners as well.
In the past year, Rabbit Ears Audio released Hydrophonic, a new sound effects library loaded with a wide variety of underwater recordings. I just finished a new video where I worked a lot with this library, so I’d like to give you my opinions about it.
As Michael Raphael (owner of REA) explains in this fantastic article on Sonic Terrain, he spent a lot of time to develop this library. I think it really worth it. He got a lot of great recordings with a high value for anyone needing high quality underwater sound effects (116 files included. 24-Bit/96kHz WAV). Apart of bubbles and water movements, Michael also experimented with lots of different objects and environments, which means unique and cool sources.
Working with the library was very cool. I had to process a lot of the sounds in many different ways. I was able to get a lot of different elements from those recordings. I applied heavy pitch changes to get low drones, or processed with filters and doppler to get whooshes and movement, etc. The quality of the sounds allows you to get a lot of great things from them. Pretty flexible.
New Sound Lab has released the previously announced LAX Aircraft, a new sound effects library loaded with 44 aircraft recordings at 24-Bit/96khz.
This library features descending aircraft flyovers at Los Angeles International Airport. One unique aspect of LAX is that it’s nestled in the city, making it easy to stand directly under very low flying airplanes to capture a great sound.
A range of aircraft were recorded for this release, including the Airbus A330, Boeing 737, 747, and Bombardier 800.
Two different microphone positions were used: One facing the oncoming aircraft, and the other pointing in the opposite direction to capture the flyover and further decent as the aircraft lands.
Sounds were captured with a Sanken CSS-5 Stereo Shotgun mic in 120 degree stereo mode. The microphone was mounted in a full Rycote windshield kit and connected to a Sound Devices 702 recorder.
LAX Aircraft – $25 | 625MB | 24-Bit & 96khz Broadcast Wave format | Metadata ready
[Written by Tim Walston for Designing Sound]
Disclaimer: I am writing these articles as an independent sound designer. Any views or opinions expressed here are simply my own, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any company, corporate entity or anyone else. Any images or sounds presented are subject to copyright by their respective owners, and are presented for educational purposes only. Any information given is correct to the best of my knowledge. Some assembly required. May cause drowsiness.
I find recording my own sound effects to be enormously satisfying. It’s wonderful to be able to get just the sound you need, but can’t find in your library. It’s also an exciting creative exercise to find a great prop and just see what you can do with it. As you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of unexpected discoveries. As I’ve also mentioned before, I don’t record often enough. I’m usually too busy. Rather than expensive, exotic recording extravaganzas, my recording sessions are usually small, improvised affairs, or simply seizing an opportunity that has presented itself. I write this to underscore the notion that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to experience the joy of recording for yourself.
Early in my career, I sold my ADAT machines (remember those?) and bought a portable DAT recorder. I thought I exhibited great dedication to my new craft by bringing it with me on a winter trip to Minnesota, to visit… you guessed it… my in-laws. As a native of sunny Southern California, the snow and ice was new and exciting to me. I was recording everything I could, because I could. One night I went out into the snowy breeze around midnight, in my pajamas, boots, and a coat. It was 12 degrees F. Ah, what we do for our craft. Yes there are pictures, and no, you can’t see them.
During that same trip I recorded a plastic dog ball rolling across the linoleum kitchen floor. It had an interesting sound that reminded me of a large crackling rocket. Listen for yourself. First, is the raw recording and then a version with some 1999 style processing:
Great article on Gamasutra with useful information about working with audio in the iOS platform.
Since the launch of the iPhone, apps have been big, especially in the games sector, which has seen some sell like AAA titles. Major developers have added the iPhone to their list of available platforms for existing titles, as well as moved to develop unique titles just for it.
It has been a great platform for the indie developer too, thanks to its great accessibility, seeing games from very small groups of people reach huge audiences.
New opportunities have been opened up for people left in the wake of the recession to start their own developer ventures, setting up new companies and designing games, knowing there will be an audience for them.
It is the mobile nature, unique interface, huge number of users, great accessibility to developers and the nature of the “app” (short, simple, high quality games with a focus on playability) that has been incredibly useful to many developers.
With games being so large, though, and the bar for quality being set so high, what challenges does fitting such a big game in a tiny device involve? More specifically, what does this entail for the “audio guy”?
Via G.A.N.G Newsletter
[Written by Tim Walston for Designing Sound]
Disclaimer: I am writing these articles as an independent sound designer. Any views or opinions expressed here are simply my own, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any company, corporate entity or anyone else. Any images or sounds presented are subject to copyright by their respective owners, and are presented for educational purposes only. Any information given is correct to the best of my knowledge. Void where prohibited. Your mileage may vary.
Action movies are pure sonic playgrounds. The busier the scene, and crazier the action, the more opportunities we have with sound to enhance the experience for the audience. But with that opportunity comes the responsibility to clarify the action, and focus the audience’s attention. We want to thrill the moviegoers, not pummel them with audio. As sound professionals, it’s our job to bring to the mix all the elements we think are needed. A great mixer then sorts through the dialog, music and all the sound effects to find the perfect balance from moment to moment. The ultimate authority, in the end, is the director.
Rob Cohen makes movies that are great for sound. His action sequences are visceral, and visually dynamic. He also knows exactly what he wants sound to do for his films. I’ve had the good fortune to work on four of his films, and each one has been a blast.
Great interview on In Contention with Skip Lievsay (Re-recording Mixer, Supervising Sound Editor) talking about the sound supervision and mix of “True Grit”.
Continuing today with our week-long look at the below-the-line elements of the Coen brothers’ “True Grit,” we’re chatting with sound re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay.
Along with Carter Burwell, Lievsay is one of only two of the individuals we talked to who goes all the way back to “Blood Simple” with the Coens. What that says to me is that these filmmakers have maintained a sense of sonic consistency in their films over the years and put plenty of thought into the overall sound experience.
Lievsay was finally recognized by the Academy in 2007 for his and his collaborators’ work on “No Country for Old Men,” an understated piece of work that was fortunately not overshadowed completely by large scale productions that year. This year he delighted in tackling one of his favorite genres: the western.
Lievsay was responsible for integrating dialogue and music into the mix, while his partner, Craig Berkey, handled sound effects. He’s a candid and thoughtful fellow. Have a listen to our chat below, and again, make sure you check back throughout the week as we continue this series of conversations.
The Detroit Chop Shop is a location & post sound production studio that provides sound design, sound editing and recording services for all types of media. It was founded by Ric Viers, who has started a new video series called “Detroit Chop Shop Video Diary”, featuring weekly videos where he and his team show how they record/create sound effects and have a lot of fun.
If you want to follow the series, you can visit this playlist on Designing Sound TV, where I’ll add all the videos published in the series.