[Written by Peter Albrechtsen]
Music is sound and sound is music.
That’s how it is for me. I’m a big fan of all kinds of music and music really influences all aspects of my work. I wanted to share with you some different songs and talk about how they’ve inspired my work. It’s by no means a list with all the artists I love – there’s no Kraftwerk, no Fela Kuti, no Miles Davis, no Slayer, no Philip Glass, no Nina Simone, no Boards of Canada, and, shame on me, no Radiohead. But nevertheless, here are 10 tracks (well, the first five) that have meant a lot for my work with sound:
Elvis Costello: I Want You
I can actually say that this song has been life-changing to me. When I went to the European Film College back in 1995, the film sound teacher played this song as his way of introducing himself and his course. At that point I didn’t know much about film sound but I was hooked immediately and I signed up for his lessons. Since then, there’s been no going back.
There was something about this track that totally mesmerized me. I’ve often been wondering why I had such a big emotional reaction to this song. I’ve got lots of respect for Costello’s skills as a songwriter and how he constantly evolves but I’m not a big fan in any way. This song stands out and I can keep listening to it – it draws me in every time.
Musically, it’s not advanced in any way. Rather, it’s the opposite: The sound is pretty hissy, the guitar playing is rough around the edges and the organ is severely missing some low-end. But it doesn’t matter. Actually, it sets for the perfect tone for the very rough emotions that Costello is singing about. And then, there’s the voice. You can just hear that every word is important to him. “I want you,” he’s singing over and over again and you just know that he means it. He wants his love. Now.
Working as a sound designer for film, I’ve learned from this how much performance means. Performance means way more than perfection. Actually, a great performance is often not technically perfect in any way but moving because of its faults, mistakes and errors. If an actor’s voice sounds a bit jagged it can add a lot of emotion to a scene. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for emotion.
The Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows
In the interview earlier this month I mentioned how classical music was here, there and everywhere in my childhood home but actually there was one more thing dominating the airwaves: The Beatles. My dad loved The Beatles right from the start and got most of the old singles and all the albums, of course. But he wasn’t just in it for all the wonderful melodies but just as much for all the crazy sound experiments that the band and producer George Martin did. “I Am the Walrus”, “A Day in the Life”, “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and this one, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, those are some of the tracks that got most airplay.
It’s simply astounding music. For me as a sound designer, I’ve learned from this how much you can get away with soundwise if your melody/story/script is strong enough. But I’ve also learned how much fun it is to play around with sounds – the most banal sounds can be amazing and provide a new emotional perspective and tell new stories if you pitch them down, turn them backwards, apply weird reverbs to them.
The album “Revolver” (from 1966, amazingly enough) stands for me as the Beatles’ masterpiece among masterpieces. It’s a tour de force and the first time Beatles really used the studio as an instrument in itself – and “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the prime example. Just check out the crazy solo that starts about a minute in, it sounds like nothing else, like nothing is playing exactly the way it should but amazingly musical anyway. It’s pop and avant-garde as one. Listening to this song makes me realize that the world of sound is one big playground.
[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. David and Ric talked about dialogue, sharing all kind of techniques, tips and tricks on recording, mixing and editing dialogue. Ric shared a lot of useful tips and things to keep in mind when recording on location dialogue, tips for recording voiceover, challenges on dialogue editing and mixing, and more. They also talked about ADR, voiceover, and the importance of dialogue in film sound. It was just fantastic!
New video at SoundWorks Collection, featuring Production Sound Mixer John Midgley and his work on “The King’s Speech”.
You might not know Production Sound Mixer John Midgley, but you definitely have heard his incredible collection of work including the first three “Harry Potter” films, “Children of Men”, and “Hotel Rwanda”.
John Midgley was recently honored with his second Academy Award nomination for his work on “The King’s Speech” and was previously nominated for “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” in 1999. In this 30-minute conversation, the SoundWorks Collection explore what it was like to capture these critically acclaimed performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. Find out how specific scenes in the film were recorded, the challenges that came with the film’s short schedule, and what it takes to be a Production Sound Mixer. God Save the King!
Bottle Rocket FX has introduced Scream Collection, a new sound effects package, featuring 441 vocal effects.
Introducing the Scream Collection (A Tribute To Wilhelm). This library pays homage to the infamous Wilhelm Scream first heard in the film Distant Drums as well as dozens, if not hundreds, of other films. This compilation includes 441 vocal effects ranging from startled gasps to all out screams.
I enlisted a few family members, friends and colleagues to head into the booth and leave their inhibitions at the door. What started as a, “screams only” collection, soon expanded into a larger body of work due to some of the stuff they were doing in between takes, be it laughter or snorts. Once I decided to do more than just screams, I came up with a laundry list of vocal effects I wanted everyone to try. I was impressed with their willingness to let it all out, although nobody was willing to let me videotape them while they were doing it. Some of the more comedic sounds were just too good to leave out. I also gained a new appreciation for tea and honey after recording my personal screams.
These vocal effects were all recorded and mastered at 24bit/192kHz, to allow you to pitch, stretch and squeeze to help create a wide variety of effects going beyond just simple screams. 24bit/96kHz files included as well. All of these sound effects are metadata-embedded wav files that can be read by Pro Tools, Soundminer and Basehead.
Scream Collection – $25 | 441 WAV files | 560MB | 24-Bit 96kHz and 192kHz versions | Metadata ready
Chuck Russom FX has released Gun Handling HD PRO, a new library loaded with 417 sounds from 13 different guns.
Gun Handling is a collection of Gun Mechanism and handling sounds. Featuring sounds from 13 different rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Included are sounds such as: gun cocking, magazine inserts/removes, bullets being loaded, dry firing, and more.
All sounds are newly recorded and mastered at 24bit 192K using a Sennheiser MKH800 high res condenser mic and a AEA R84 Ribbon mic. Both mics were run into Great River mic preamps to help make the sounds phat and huge.
- Kimber 1911 .45 ACP Semi Auto Handgun
- Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum Revolver
- Smith & Wesson SW9VE 9mm Semi Auto Handgun
- Walther P38 9mm Semi Auto Handgun
- Walther P99 .40 caliber Semi Auto Handgun
- Mossberg 500 Pump Action Shotgun
- 1897 Coachgun Double Barrel Shotgun
- Ruger 1022 .22 Semi Auto Rifle
- Ruger Mini14 .556 Semi Auto Rifle
- Saiga 7.62x51mm Semi Auto Rifle
- SKS 7.62.39mm Semi Auto Rifle
- Mosin Nagant M44 7.62x54R Bolt Action Rifle
- Marlin .357 Magnum Lever Action Rifle
Gun Handling HD PRO – $49 | 878MB | 417 WAV Files | 24-Bit 96kHz and 192kHz versions | Metadata ready
If you bought the old Handgun Foley Library, send an email to Chuck for a special upgrade price.
David Poland has made two great interviews at DP/30. In one he talks with Greg P Russell about the sound of “SALT”. The other one is with Mark Stoeckinger, talking about the sound of “Unstoppable”. Both are relatively “long” (33 and 45 min respectively) but fascinating.
And even better: they not only talk about their respective projects, but also discuss a lot of interesting thoughts about the craft and art of sound, including sound recording, editing and mixing, relationship with clients, conceptualization on sound, collaboration in a team, technical and creative challenges, different roles in post-production sound, and more.
Via CSS Studios | DP/30
The Recordist has released Prop Planes, a new library of the Soundbox HD series.
These airplanes are from a casual visit to The 6th annual Sandpoint Fly-In on a beautiful sunny day in North Idaho. A few minutes after arriving at the small town airport planes started pulling up and performing a quick engine run-up as they prepared for take off. Nobody bothered me as I was standing in the scorching sun with a Sanken CSS-5 on a boom pole. The airport security guys just waved as the drove by on ATV’s. Small town airports are great, you can wander around very close to the runway as long as you don’t step out on the runway.
I was able to get right up next to and behind the airplanes as they were getting ready for departure. I got some great recordings and the oldest flying Boeing airplane with minimal background destractions. Check them out below.
Prop Planes 01 – $20 | 30 WAV files | 24-Bit/96kHz | 607,3 MB | Metadata ready
Bonus: Frank Bry Special: Recording Airplanes: A Recordist’s Retrospective
Continuing with this series of articles dedicated to explore the Waves Sound Design Suite, now let’s move to a very special plugins included in the suite. I’m talking about the amazing Renaissance and the (recently added) V-Series.
The Sound Design Suite doesn’t include the whole Renaissance Maxx Suite, but it includes enough tools for sound design purposes. All those Renaissance plugins were based on vintage gear, so all they add a really nice warmth to the signal processed.
The same happens with the V-Series, three plugins that were also modeled from vintage gear. These plugins were recently added to the Sound Design Suite, and although they’re not “essential” tools, it’s very useful to have plugins with such incredible vintage warmth. The processors included were modeled from different hardware processors of Neve, including several legendary models, such as the 2254 compressor and the 1073, 1066 and 1081 equalizers.
Let’s explore each of those tools. Starting with the Renaissance plugins: