Better late than never. Last month’s theme at Designing Sound was Acoustics but one person we really wanted to include during July had to get moved slightly – so here is a belated feature on one of the world’s true pioneers when it comes to exploring acoustic phenomena and auditory perception: Alvin Lucier.
The American avant-garde composer was born in 1931 and composed chamber and orchestral works since 1952, but Lucier and his critics count his 1965 composition Music for Solo Performer as the proper beginning of his career. It was the first work to feature sounds generated by brain waves in live performance – it’s written for ”Enormously Amplified Brain Waves and Percussion” (sic!) – and space, sound and psycho-acoustics are combined in fascinating ways in Lucier’s work, all the way throughout his career. The long-time music professor is still very active to this very day, moving between sound art, installation and abstract classical pieces.
We just wanted to take the time to thank our guest contributors this month:
For our featured Backgrounds and Ambiences articles…Chris Groegler, Chris Didlick, Douglas Murray, and Tim Prebble…Yann Seznec, Peter Chilvers, Robert Thomas, and Stephan Schütze for discussing interactive mobile applications…and thanks to Chuck Michael and Craig Henighan for sharing their thoughts on Dolby Atmos (as well as Josh Gershman and John Loose from Dolby for providing us with a little more data). And a big thank you also goes out to Ariel Gross for sharing his thoughts, and Brady Dyck for his interview with Rob Bridgett.
Thanks again gentlemen!
Remember…this is a site for the community, by the community. If you would like to contribute in the future, drop us a line.
Sitting there as credits rolled after a Dolby Atmos presentation of Brave this past summer, I felt excited for the potential of this budding format. Before the film, a few seated moms and dads were even verbally excited as the usher announce that we would be watching the film in a new sound format. During the film, the theater was saturated with sound, I truly felt immersed at times. Yet as I watched the credits fly by, I couldn’t help feeling that until sound crews sink their teeth into the format, we won’t really hear Atmos fully realized. For the format to really sparkle, films need to be designed, edited, and premixed with Atmos in mind or as Dolby would like it, premixed IN Atmos entirely. After reading about the impression Atmos left on Shaun at AES and trying to find a way to contribute to an already excellent month of ambient discussion, I decided I should contact a few sound crews that mixed in Atmos, ask how backgrounds are handled, and with that initial experience how they would approach BGs in their next Atmos mix.
Guest Contribution by Tim Prebble
I suspect growing up in a very quiet location on a farm in the South Island of New Zealand may have something to do with it, but I feel I have always been very aware of ambient sound. I have vivid sound memories from childhood, of ambiences! Waking up before the birds and waiting for them… The sound of the wind in blue gum trees and the sound from inside the shed when a bluegum nut fell off the tree and landed on the tin roof & rolled down… The sound of the Rangitata river when it was in flood and that time my dog swam out to an island & got stuck there for a while… what was he thinking?? Whether being sound obsessed is 100% normal I’m not sure, nor do I care, but when I first started working as a trainnee sound effects editor recording and editing ambiences was one of the first things I really relished. And decades later I still do. The contribution ambiences make to a film is so powerful, and yet they achieve their effect via the most understated duplicitous act: ideally an audience doesn’t notice them, but is deeply effected by them.
Guest article by Douglas Murray
photo by flickr user Bo47 (Bo Nielsen)
Remember, all rules are meant to be broken! With that principle in mind, let’s scratch the surface of the grammar and possibilities of an aspect of film sound design: backgrounds (also called BGs, atmospheres or ambiences).
Backgrounds offer a powerful opportunity to use sound for maximum impact. Movies essentially need to have background sound at all times. By adding background sounds to a scene we define what the scene is, where we are, and what’s happening around us, even off screen. We can also suggest to the audience how to feel emotionally about a particular scene by giving subtle or direct sonic cues incorporated into the background sounds.