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Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 | 5 comments

Emotional Beings A Creature Sound Design Discussion

Cattle grazing through the fields

Cattle grazing through the fields


Guest Post by Beau A. Jimenez


While on a calming walk, a car drives by me. As it zips by, some jerk in the passenger decides to scream at me as loud as they could. Being caught unaware, I jump. A feeling comes over me. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. I feel scared, concerned, and worried within a fraction of a second.

My roommate’s dog whines and cries as his master leaves the apartment. I can hear the sadness translate to my understanding. It’s a universal sound that says ‘Hey wait, don’t go!’ Through this sound, I can sense how much the dog cares for this person.

There are countless examples of vocalizations that make us feel something. There are emotive sounds that capture happiness, curiosity, sadness, pain, anger, fear and more… These sounds break the barriers of language and don’t need to have comprehensive words to understand their intent. As humans, we perceive emotive vocalizations in a deep-rooted, relatable way. These sounds are more felt than understood. They are visceral sounds that light up our brains in a profound way.

Within this article, I’d like to talk about what happens to us when we hear these vocalizations, talk about examples of emotive creatures in film that demonstrate expertly-done creature sound design, and give my own outlook on the significance and fun of creature sound design.


How We React to Vocalizations

We all have a reflex system built into us from birth. It’s a startle-response system that triggers upon an unexpected, loud, or jarring sound. This response can take us from an idle state to a state of high alertness within a fraction of a second. Centuries of predator & prey interactions have designed us to react in a fight-or-flight manner for our survival. That jerk-in-the-car’s scream caused my body to release certain chemicals inside my system, putting me into a temporary alert mode. It doesn’t feel great when you don’t expect it! But in film, it progresses the story and strategically steers the audience towards the sound designer and/or director’s intent.

A great example of a startle-response sound moment is the jarring picture cut into the ‘raptor feeding’ scene in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Dr. Alan Brand holds a supposedly vicious baby raptor is his hands as it coos sweetly & innocently. On the picture cut to the adult raptor cages, an absolutely terrifying blend of shrieks and squeals blare across the front and surround speakers. This puts the audience into a state of high alertness. As a result, the audience becomes cautious of the terrors living within the cages. (Which I believe is the exact goal of this scene!)

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Posted by on Sep 3, 2013 | 1 comment

Expectations of Noise


(This one fell through the cracks for our noise feature last month, we bring it to you now…better late than never. ;) SF)

I’ve spent most of my engineering career (the last 13 years or so) doing my best to eradicate noise from my work. Working to tape as a music engineer I became well acquainted with noise gates and expanders (equipment I haven’t made any serious use of in the last few years), but that was only one small part of the noise spectrum I had to cope with. Noise, in its infinitely varied forms, would creep into my signal chain through poorly maintained mics, badly thought out cable runs, and inadequately insulated recording spaces. 

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Posted by on Oct 19, 2011 | 1 comment

Ben Burtt’s Sound Lab for “Forbidden Planet”: Artifacts from the Krell

Ben Burtt explains how the electronic score of “Forbidden Planet” was created. The video is at the right side of this page.

Prior to the screening, Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Craig Barron and Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt investigated some of the secrets behind the making of the film. Barron examined the film’s breakthrough effects sequences that used miniatures and matte paintings, as well as explored how Joshua Meador created his animated “id monster” effect and combined it with live-action photography. Burtt explained how the electronic score was created, using newly discovered source tapes from the film’s composers, Louis and Bebe Barron (no relation to Craig).

via @vfxblog / @usoproject

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Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 | 0 comments

ARTSEDGE: Ben Burtt on The Sounds of “Star Wars”

This is one of a series of podcasts exploring the ways sound and sound effects can be used to help bring stories to life.

Meet Ben Burtt, Sound Designer for films like Star Wars,Raiders of the Lost Ark and WALL-E. Learn how he comes up with sounds that complement the amazing things seen on the silver screen – from laser blasts to whirring, buzzing lightsabers. Find out the story behind some of his signature effects and how he first got interested in sound design.

Listen here.

via @usoproject

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