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Posted by on Jun 19, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 25 – When Less Is Not More

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 went to see a period war film last night, and something stuck out to me. Well a lot of things stuck out to me, but one thing in particular really pulled my attention. [ed. This was an indie film from outside the U.S., so stop looking at listings trying to guess which one… ;)] There was a scene where the film took the classic approach of slow everything down ever so slightly, strip almost all of the sounds, and alternate between a montage of violence and the protagonist looking shell-shocked. It’s something we’ve seen many times in many films, and it’s become a form of cinematic short hand to put the viewer within a character’s perspective. There’s also an assumption that, I think, comes along with the adoption of this approach: that it’s going to work.

In this case, it did not.

When used properly, the concept of less is more can be a powerful story-telling philosophy. It has to work in the context though, and less is more certainly doesn’t mean strip absolutely everything out. This particular scene did just that, everything was gone except for the oh-so-favorite shell-shock sound of tinnitus. The scene lost all its pacing, it dragged and felt way too long…despite the variance in pacing of the visual edit. There was something about the combination of context, use and duration of the treatment that just pulled me out of the story and made me wonder, “How long is this going to last?” The thing that hit me, as I sat there waiting for the film to get on with the story, was that sound could have fixed the pacing in this moment…it could have given the sequence an emotional trajectory. It just actually, for a change, needed more sounds to do it.

…not many mind you; a handful would have gone a long way…but that’s still more.

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 | 6 comments

Sunday Sound Though 24 – Proper Use of Clichéd Sounds

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…

Besides the obvious answer of, “DON’T!”

This week’s post was inspired by the use of the Wilhelm Scream in the film Warcraft, and various conversations surrounding its usage that spotted last night. One of which I got involved with, despite not having seen the movie. [ed. …and no. I don’t plan to…ever, if I can help it.]

Regardless of how you feel about it (I personally want the madness to stop) clichéd sounds can have their place, but it’s all in how you use them. If you absolutely must see if you can sneak it past the director and/or producer, then I can only see two ways of doing it:

  1. Bury it. Make it so that YOU have a hard time hearing it in the piece you’re working on. Only people who are actively searching for it should be able to find it. Don’t let it draw attention to itself.
  2. Use it in an exceedingly clever way. The problem with this is that as soon as someone has done that, you can’t use that approach again…ever. Sounds like the Wilhelm have been bouncing around for decades. It’s getting harder and harder to use it in a clever/subtle way. If you can’t do something new with it, DON’T! A good example of a clever use comes from Tron Legacy (2010):

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There’s one other instance where it can be acceptable to draw attention to a clichéd sound, and that’s by turning it into a self referential joke. If you can make people who are sick of it laugh, then people who aren’t aware of it will probably enjoy the joke without the full knowledge of what’s happening. The film Over the Hedge (2006) did this very well with a mosquito.

And that’s about it. Anything other than these three approaches is likely to earn you the ire of soundies and the general populace. You have been warned!

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Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 | 1 comment

Sunday Sound Though 23 – Training the Audience?

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 was watching Indie Game: The Movie on Thursday for the first time (yeah, I’m a little late on seeing it), and something Edmund McMillen, developer of Super Meat Boy, said caught my attention. He was talking about designing levels to train the player in the game’s mechanics. In particular, he was expressing the importance of giving the player the opportunity to discover the mechanics for themselves. He argued that throwing text up on a screen to explain it would be less effective, because most people would probably ignore or skip it. If they were forced to figure it out for themselves though, it would ensure they remember the mechanic while also giving them a sense of accomplishment.

This got me wondering. A few years ago, I wrote a two part article about semiotics and language as they relate to sound design. McMillen’s comments made me wonder…

Can we train our audience to understand the language we build in each project, so that we can affect them at levels above the sub-conscious? Can we do it in a way so that they are actively engaged in the discovery of meanings? How would that have to be structured, and how much buy in would we need from the film director or game designer to pull that off?

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Posted by on May 30, 2016 | 0 comments

Sound Design: Affects on Physiological Performance

This piece is a guest contribution by Darrin P. Jolly. Darrin is a recent Valedictorian from the Bachelor of Science in Recording Arts program at Full Sail University. Currently completing a Masters of Science degree in Game Design, Darrin is conducting research on the applied influences audio has in saccadic time performance.

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Darrin Jolly

Abstract

This experiment was designed to measure the influence audio has on the saccadic response time of users viewing a two-dimensional plane. With potential applications for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms, it must be understood that neurophysiologic processes can be difficult to grasp, and designing studies to assess these can be complicated to construct.  This pilot test was conducted to see if primed audio impulses improve saccadic responses as opposed to no impulse. Once the data was coded and results analyzed, the significance was not only relevant but also quite intriguing.

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Posted by on May 30, 2016 | 0 comments

Sunday Sound Thought 22 – Descartes and Sound

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…

Descartes is the philosopher who shared the idea, “Je pense, donc je suis.”

Cogito ergo sum…I think, therefore I am.

The idea that proof of one’s existence is verified by the simple fact of self-awareness. Taking that idea to heavy extremes can lead to the concept of Solipsism, which I’ve touched on before in relation to sound. I don’t intend to go fall into the Solipsism trap today; rather, I plan to contradict that extreme idea. Sound can serve as proof that there exists object outside of ourselves.

I talked about the physical nature of sound early on in this series. So, if sound is the result of a physical interaction and has physical effects on other objects in its environment, then the fact that an object can be a component in the creation of sound proves that the object exists in the physical realm.

Seems like pointless philosophy on the surface, but if you can apply this idea to a character’s experience of the world…maybe it will do something interesting in the story.

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