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Posted by on May 15, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 20 – Pulling Focus

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

A few weeks ago, I talked about the idea of a sonic version of the “visual zoom.” This past week, I had the realization that there’s a sonic analogue to another camera trick…pulling focus. Quite simply, it’s pulling a fuzzy picture into focus using the lens (or maybe taking it out of focus). Depending on the budget, the camera department on some projects will have a single person dedicated to “pulling focus.”

I can think of two key ways we can emulate this in sound, though there arguably are probably more.

The first is with reverb. Think of the a wide open and very reverberant space, with a single speaker blasting out a spoken announcement. Depending on you location in that space, the reflections may make it impossible to actually interpret what is being said. If you move closer to the source…giving yourself a more distinct time separation between the source and reflections…you’re likely going to have an easier time comprehending what’s being said. The sound is more in focus.

The second way is by applying atypical recording techniques with your microphones, especially with those that have a less-than-flat frequency response as you move off axis. The shift from off-axis to on can increase the clarity of the sound you’re recording. Additionally, you may be adjusting its position to the source in a way that alters the timing of the sound’s arrival at the capsule…adding doppler shift to that change spectrum! Don’t think that’s an interesting sound design technique? Someone people might disagree with you. Watch one application demonstrated here.

 

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Posted by on May 1, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 18 – Dependent Perception

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I’ve had this one in the topic queue for a while, but couldn’t quite figure out how to approach it here…until a few days ago.

I walked into a restaurant’s restroom just as someone was leaving. The toilet, which had just been flushed, was refilling. I’m sure most of you can call up in your head the sound of a toilet basin refilling its water supply. This one sounded different. It was far more harmonically complex than the usual peaks you hear in the bed of white/pink noise, and it created this incredible drone in the tiled room. Then the toilet stopped filling, and I realized that the additional complexity was coming from a fan vent in the ceiling. This vent noise, 8 feet above and two feet to the left of the toilet, had sounded like it was coming directly from the toilet…like it was part of that other sound.

The way we perceive sounds in our environment can be greatly dependent on the presence of other sources of stimuli. In this case, both sound were affected by the other. One was enhanced by the presence of another sound, while the other was spatially altered by the first. This phenomenon was entirely dependent on the vagaries of the way our brain processes stimuli. As soon as the toilet stopped, my perception of the vent’s source changed to match its actual location. There are other examples. Michel Chion coined the term “entrainment” for the effect that visual elements in film have in our perception of a sound’s localization.

It’s just another reminder that everything, including sound design, is about context.

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Posted by on Apr 24, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 17 – Sonic Zoom

I struggled with the idea of posting one of these today. A friend of mine, and to much of the community as well, Jory Prum passed away Friday night. Ultimately, I think it’s important to keep moving forward in life. We’re working on collecting some thoughts about Jory to post later today/tomorrow. For now, here’s something I think he would have appreciated discussing.

Filmmakers love a good close up. The tight framing of an actor, prop or movement…in the right context…can really lend weight to a moment in the narrative. It’s a clear sign to the audience that “this” is important, “this” is something you have to pay attention to. There are two ways this is achieved in the crafting of a visual piece: the hard cut, and the zoom.

We have the same tools available to us in the auditory realm. If we want to highlight a particular sound element, we can strip the others away. If we want the hard cut, we simply cut the sounds out. To replicate a zoom, we can strip those surrounding elements away more slowly…deliberately…to draw the audience in to the experience of that one element.

What would really be interesting though, would be to explore the ways in which we might also replicate the “Dolly/Zoom” effect.

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Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 | 2 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 2 – The Best Ideas

This is probably evident to a lot of people, but your boss has a huge impact on how good your project sounds. I’m talking about the director, or the game designer. If you want to get any of your ideas into the project, you have to get them to buy off on it. This is probably an obvious statement, but how often do we remind ourselves of it? MPSE does an awesome job of honoring those directors who appreciate what good sound brings to their films. Kudos to them! Without the support of the boss, even the most skilled sound professionals will have a hard time contributing their best work. It goes deeper than that though.

I can clearly remember the first time I realized how important that top level boss is to making an awesome sounding design or mix. I remember hating that specific idea my boss wanted me to do…not try, do! It was an order. I remember the first time I realized that the problem wasn’t the request, but my approach to that request. That moment changed the way I did everything ever since. If we want our ideas entertained, we need to entertain the ideas of others.

Of course, that’s not to say that every idea that comes down (or goes up, mind you) is a good one, but there at least might be the kernel of a good one buried somewhere underneath.

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