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Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 | 12 comments

Panning Reverb Returns

Guest contribution by By Douglas Murray

OK, here is the ugly truth for film post, or really any surround sound work… Most reverb plug-ins do not sound natural for applications using greater than 1 or 2 speakers. What you don’t want: a reverb that jumps to completely different speakers from the source. What you do want: a reverb that spreads out from the sound and helps localize it and define the space it’s in. While I haven’t tried every reverb or surround reverb plug-in for Pro Tools, it’s a very exceptional reverb that sounds localized around the position of the source signal without having to pan the reverb return’s output. The focus of this article is localization of reverb in post for sound effects, dialog, and other discrete sonic events. Localization is of less concern for more enveloping sounds such as ambiences or music, which seem to tolerate more general spatial spreading.

In this article I’ll describe:

  • why it is desirable to have the early reflections and reverb bloom outward from the direction of
  • the source signal as in nature,
  • how these principles must be exaggerated for the theatrical film sound environment,
  • how stereo reverbs require panning to work in a multi-channel world,
  • how most multi-channel reverb plug-ins largely disregard the direction of the source sound,
  • how to simulate reverb localization with existing plug-ins in Pro Tools (more work and less accurate than it should be, today),
  • And finally, I will describe a reverb plug-in that does what I want it to do. It seems so simple and obvious! Why is it so rare?
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Posted by on Dec 6, 2012 | 5 comments

Creative Uses of Reverb

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.

Emotional Effects

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.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 | 6 comments

Backgrounds: Sound Design Under the Radar

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.

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 | 4 comments

Ideas in Sound Design: Semiotics and Language – Part 2

Cross-posting from my personal blog.

In my last article, I talked about Semiotics and encouraged sound designers and editors to think of sound for picture as a language; or, at least, as a component of the language used by any given film. I’d rather not rehash the specific elements of Semiotics that were discussed. There are several ideas that I’m going to assume you’ve read and are familiar with as I proceed through this article. If you haven’t read that original article, I suggest you go do so now. The examples I’m about to discuss will have more meaning for you if you do.

I mentioned two possible approaches to applying signification in the development of a “sound language” for a project. The first is to work with existing signification, and the second is to develop your own; however, these do not have to be mutually exclusive. Both can contribute to your particular piece’s dialect. Remember that I am describing language as merely a “code” to convey meaning. So, meaning needs not be limited to ideas or thoughts. As such, let’s take a look at three examples of sonic code work, language, as used in moving picture.

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