The Sound Effects Bible
In this post, I will be focusing on subjects that specifically relate to my project and personal learning outcomes. The Sound Effects Bible is a book written by well known sound designer and production sound recordist Ric Viers. The book talks about the process of producing high quality professional sound effects. It covers a range of topics for a beginner sound designer to go off and record sound effects. The topics that will help me with this project and for me to utilise are as follows:
- Microphones- Different types and placements
- Recorders- Different types of set ups to produce high quality audio
- Sound Effects Encyclopaedia- creating that wanted sound
So firstly there are five main types of sound effects within film sound (Viers, 2008, 5):
- Hard Effects
- Foley Sound Effects
- Background Effects
- Electronic Effects/Production Elements
- Sound Design Effects
Specially relating to this project, I will be focusing on hard effects and electronic effects. Example of sounds found within the category of hard effects include car horns, airplanes, punches; they are sounds that don’t necessarily need to be performed and are sounds that are an absolute association to the picture. Electronic effects are exactly what it says they are; electronic sounds. Ranging from electrical buzzes/hums to mechanical noises. They are commonly associated with science fiction films which comes in great for Time Capsule.
Microphones (Viers, 2008, 21-38)
I have selected a few microphones and techniques used that specifically relate to my project and personal learning outcomes.
Stereo microphones- There are three main recording techniques that are used for stereo microphones:
The spaced pair technique is two pairs of microphones that are apart from each other creating a stereo image. The drawback from this that you can encounter phasing issues and experience sound dropouts.
The XY technique is when pair of microphones are facing each other anywhere between a 90 and 135 degree angle; this picks up a narrow stereo field and a wide stereo field. The XY id a popular technique when recording in stereo.
The MS technique uses two microphones. A cardioid microphone pointing forward whilst underneath there is a condenser microphone in figure of eight polar pattern. The drawback from this is that you need a matrix decoder to get the full stereo image of the microphones. This is a more advanced technique of recording and the benefits from it is so you can adjust whether the recording sound is close or distant.
Shotgun Microphones- These microphones are great for recording mono sound effects as they can have a direct hypercardioid polar pattern. They are designed to record sounds directly in front of them as the sides reject external unwanted sounds.
Stereo Shotgun Microphones- Like a shotgun microphone, they have a direct polar pattern to pick up sounds directly in front of them but instead of picking up a mono image they pick up a stereo image, resulting in a fuller recording.
Recorders (Viers, 2008, 48-63)
From previous projects, I have confidence in the field recorder that I will be using which is the Sound Devices 633 mixer. I have focused on these specific research topics that will help me when undergoing recording my own sound effects:
- Gain Staging
Gain Staging (Viers, 2008, 53)
The idea of gain staging is to set the gain to the highest point your desired sound will reach. It should not go past this point as it will result in a distorted signal when the audio signal is converted to a digital signal. This takes care and trained ears. If you set you gain level too high you could experience loud unwanted background sound and hissing from the pre amps.
Clipping (Viers, 2008, 54)
When talking about digital clipping, you need to understand the recorded wave form. Digital recorders have an absolute zero and if your audio signal goes passed this point it has clipped, resulting in your wave form being squared off, reducing the full dynamic range of your audio signal. This creates a distorted signal.
Limiter (Vires, 2008, 55)
In simple terms, a limiter avoids clipping. On digital recorders, you can set the highest level that you want to a signal to record at and the limiter detects if a signal is going to pass it and then adjusts the volume.
Creating the Sound
Ric Viers has given a whole encyclopaedia in this book on the methods of using objects to create a sound and narrowed them down in specific categories. The category that I will be specifically looking are Animal Sounds, Cartoon Effects and Science Fiction Sounds.
Animal Sounds (Viers, 2008, 214-216)
Recording animals can be very tricky as they can be very unpredictable. The go to microphone is generally a shotgun microphone as it can pick up a direct sound, reducing the background noise. You can actually create animals noises yourself, tapping your fingers on fruit can create the illusion of insects moving.
Cartoon Effects (Viers, 2008, 217-221)
Cartoon effects are usually comical and exaggerated sounds generally to represent actions. Instruments are a fantastic technique to use describe an action sonically. They can also represent the expressions on characters faces and the emotion they are experiencing. Different instruments voice different actions; an example being crash symbol representing clumsiness.
Science Fiction Sounds (Viers, 2008, 282-284)
Common techniques to record ‘futuristic’ sounds is to record everyday sounds that has the potential to be manipulated to become futuristic. Compressed air cans can add ominous sounds underneath mechanical object such as sliding doors. Synthesisers can be used to mimic robot sounds and rocket ships can actually be imitated by jets. When creating sound effects for science, it takes a good ear to find mechanical sounds from electronic devices such as DVD players, laptops and Television sets.
Initial Ideas for Sound
February 17, 2017, 11:22 am
Filed under: Production
Since my meeting with the animators I have been undergoing research on the theory side of sound design for film and animation.
To coincide with this research and to utilise my time well, I have analysed the animatic that the animators have provided me with to get an idea of what sounds need to be created.
So I have done so by splitting it off into four section to analyse:
- Character Design
- Opening Box- Metallic and electronic. Futuristic sounding
- Rocket Ship- Setting off, Travelling through space, entering the new planet and landing
- Fire and smoke from the box
- Electric flag popping up
- Perhaps a hum/throbbing sound for the box
- Toy/s swinging and moving
- Musical instruments
- Gun sound; either full impact or comical
- Rainforest type sound
- Luminescent/Glowing sounds
- Friendly environment
- Unique animal like sounds
Character Design- Who and What is the Character?
- Fury type creature
- Small & light
- Four claws on each paw
- Four Legs, switching from walking on all fours to then two
- Nerous from new sounds and experiences
As this animation is purely character driven, I need to be able to represent and describe the character through music. Mentioned above are the characteristics of the creature and music will play an integral part of porting this. But in parts of the animation it must also describe the environment.
- Slow paced music- This will both show the atmospheric part of the environment but also the curious aspect of the creature.
- Must be in a major key- This animation is about a curious and happy creature and the music must represent this.
- Drones could represent the environment and complement its bioluminescent features.
- Light hearted/ whimsical music to introduce the character and his curious mind.
- Electronic instruments to explain the futuristic aspects of the animation.
- Old jazz/swing music at the beginning before we enter the planet. This will represent the time period.
Creating Sound for Animation
‘Exploring the possible sources of sound-making is one of the most joyous processes for the sound designers’
A sound designer uses sound to portray meaning and emotion and does this by representing the art that the animators are creating. The audience then interprets the sounds heard and derive meanings from this (Beauchamp, 2013). So, the combinations of visual art form and the art form of sound have to work hand in hand with each other, conveying meaning to the audience.
Audiation is a term used to describe the psychological effect that sound has on the brain (Beauchamp, 2013). Sound designers in effect enter the brain of the audience, allowing them to be immersed into any film, not only visually but sonically.
Sound design is both an objective and subjective experience (Sonnenschien, 2001, 176). Not only does sound tell you what an object seen in a scene sounds like (diegetic sound) but different sounds convey certain meanings to everyone.
The Sound Elements
Backgrounds play an incredible role in animation. They provide a sonic backdrop for an animation, creating depth within the world it is in. When looking at creating backgrounds within a scene, sound designers often look at the SFX Stem (Beauchamp, 2013, 72):
- Hard FX- Sourced sound FX that are edited and manipulated
- Background- What is being heard in the background: Ambiance
- Foley- Sounds that represent what is seen on screen. They are performed
- WALLA- Crowds
- Design elements- Sounds the drive the narrative forward: Sounds that explain the narrative
How we identify characters
In terms of describing characters in any film, not just animation, visuals aren’t the only character description. Sound plays a massive role in allowing an audience to have a subjective character experience (Sonnenschien, 2001, 178). By having the audience experience what the character is experiencing, it creates a bond. Emotional associates are sounds that define the characters surrounding. The personality of a sound in a characters surrounding can identify the situation they are in, creating an emotional response from the audience (Sonnenschien, 2001, 179). Subtle sonic elements can describe the emotion that character is feeling; from just the sound of footsteps, the audience knows what emotion the character is experiencing.
Tutorial #1- 03/02/2017
This tutorial was to discuss what work and been done so far and what work needed to be done.
We discussed my group meeting and what the animators required me to do and narrowed down my Aims, Objectives and Outcomes. This would then allow me to research more in depth of my personal outcomes of the project.
When discussing the musical score, David heavily suggested sourcing royalty free music or acquiring an external composer. This was due to the fact that I am not being employed to write the musical score as that is an entirely different craft in itself. This is so I could spend more time creating the sound of Time Capsule.
Avatar- Background Atmosphere
February 15, 2017, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Benchmarks
My initial meeting with the team established what type of sound the animators were expecting from me. The film Avatar was one of the biggest benchmarks I needed to be taking influence from, especially when it came to the soundscape of the planet the animators were creating.
Christopher Boyes was the Supervising Sound Editor, Sound Designer and Sound re-recording Mixer and played a massive part in creating the sound of Pandora; the planet where Avatar is set.
‘Pandora was a rainforest 10 times over. I mean you have bioluminescent plants and fireflies and all sorts of life that was just vivid in its colorisation and it just kind of gave you a licence to be very specific with different elements. Whether it would be insects flying by or weird animal like sounds but not like any other animal you’ve heard in the background’
(SoundWorks Collection, 2016)
To start off by looking into what I heard in the rainforest of Avatar, I chose three separate scenes where the sounds of the rainforest would be different. These were:
- The first encounter in the rainforest
- Rainforst at night
- Luminous rainforest at night
I decided to use these three scenes in particular because they all had unique soundscapes and even though it was still in the same rainforest, they each had different personalities. This will come in useful when I decide what personality I want to give to the animators planet.
The first encounter in the rainforest (0:25:30)
Scene description: Exploring the jungle for the first time. Immersive, unique, new and a subtly sense of tension.
Background Sound: Generic rainforest background
Animal like sounds:
- Bird Crying
- Mikey Calling
- Insects flying
- Incests crawling
- Big animal yells
- Ominous calling
- Generic bird song/calling
- Animal type whistling
Rainforest at night (0:33:35)
Scene description: The dark side of the rainforest, scary, isolated and intimidating.
Background Sound: Generic rainforest background
Animal like sounds:
- Menacing monkey howls
- Territorial bird cries
- Growls from wold like creatures
Luminous rainforest at night (1:21:00)
Scene description: Romantic and enchanting
Background sound: Subtle rainforest background and swamp like sounds
Animal like sounds:
- High pitch flocks of birds
- Bird calling