This great short film on sound and the experiences of a sound designer Justin Boyd comes via the Audible Worlds forum.
There is fantastic attention to detail here in terms of both the recordings and the process. The film also demonstrates the very personal relationship that we all have to the sound environment, and the individual ways in which sound designers and recordists chooses to express it.
On developing your ear…
I purchased my first field recorder in 2010. Ever since it’s become a vital tool in my sound design process. As a result, I now hear the world in a completely different context. I hear a palette of colors, textures, and techniques with which I can capture many weird and wonderful things. Sometimes I record for the sheer joy of it, out of appreciation for the sound itself. On other occasions I might have a purpose, whether for a project or to add something new to my library.
The act of field recording has taught me to appreciate the difference between ‘hearing’ (a subconscious process) and ‘listening’ (a conscious process). Julian Treasure (The Sound Agency, London) has given several great TED talks, webinars, and presentations on the subject of conscious listening. I’ve found his commentary to be inspired and completely relevant to my process as a sound designer and field recordist.
Gordon holding the Neumann head in surf: Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA. Photo by C. Lamarca
Gordon Hempton is one of the world’s foremost nature sound recordists. He’s won an Emmy, been the subject of a documentary, is an activist for acoustic ecology, and…in what many may deem a tragic irony…is also losing his hearing. Our focus on field recording this month is the perfect opportunity add his voice to our little community here.
DS: How did you get into field recording…going out and capturing sound effects.
GH: I hadn’t planned on becoming The Sound Tracker. I was on my way to graduate school in 1980 and I had thought of myself as scientist. I was on my way to study plants and plant diseases. So, I had an experience on my way there. A beautiful thunderstorm rolled over me, and I came out of that experience thinking, “Gosh! Why is this the first time that I’ve truly listened?! I’m 27 years old. I’ve been in thunderstorms before.” I had been a musician. I had been all of these things, and so I discovered that I just had to admit that I really sucked at listening.”
Guest Contribution by Ian Palmer
There are a lot of technical articles on Designing Sound so I thought I’d try to balance that with this month’s theme of Reverb. We all know that reverb is used to create realism. Adding the correct or appropriate reverb to ADR will instantly make the dialogue fit better into a scene and remove the artifice of the replacement. However, we can use reverb in a creative way and in a wide variety of techniques. We must remember that what we do with sound always serves the narrative. Here is a small collection of examples in no particular order.
I’ll begin with a well known example from Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (1993). After an argument over a building’s foundations, the camp commander Goeth orders the execution of a Jewish engineer. A guard pulls out his pistol and shoots the woman in the head, instantly killing her. We hear the initial bang of the gunshot very clearly, we are also fairly close to the incident. Immediately after, we hear the gunshot bounce around the hills that surround the camp. Obviously, guns are loud but would a small pistol really create so much echo? I would argue that the echo is at least enhanced and deliberately exaggerated. The reason is that this is a very shocking and emotional moment and the echo exaggerates the shock that the audience will feel. This is a heightened reality where we are focused on a single element of that event through the sound. This link will play a clip of that scene, skip to 2:50 for the execution.
With news of a new plugin or new software feature every other week, it is easy to get lost in a myriad of technological ‘solutions’. It is easy to get lost in the “What plugins can I use?” thought. It is easy to forget that sound design is more about communication.
It might be interesting and rewarding to take a step back from the computer to pause………………..and……think.
What is the scene (or gameplay situation) about? What is it trying to communicate? Is anything else (acting, animation, music, voice over, dialogue) already communicating this? Can you support it, supplement it or add another dimension to it? What value is the sound adding to the scene?
It might be more rewarding to take another step back and grab a piece of paper – before you let yourself loose on your sound library. Write down ideas! Don’t be judgemental yet! Allow your mind to create. Allow yourself to be creative without boundaries.
Recently, I have started solving design problems by associating words with the ‘problem’. I find myself usually using cliches and then making them more sophisticated/different as I progress. For example, if I need to come up with a sound for a ‘lightning spell’, I ask myself these questions to begin with: