Here I’ll give a summary of the week’s actual sound design work in practical terms.
First scene – Andrew alone in his room
This scene features Andrew using drugs while alone in his bedroom. As discussed in earlier posts, I’ve produced some foley sounds to give the scene some weight, as well as making use of royalty-free sounds found on the web.
First, I wanted some kind of percussive, startling sound when Andrew falls onto the bed – artificial rather than diegetic. I found a metal clanging noise on Soundbible and loaded it into Audition. I wanted to make it shorter, so I used the shrink tool to reduce the overall length of the clip down to 5 seconds. Then, using pitch shifting –
– I raised the pitch and slightly increased the attack to the point where it sounded, to my ears, like a monastery meditation bell, but with more of a crash sound to it. Wanting a bit more percussion to it, I took out my phone and quickly recorded the sound of my hands clapping, and then loaded it into audition. Again pitch-shifting, shortening and lowering the volume, I placed it in the Intended to be a moment of tension-release, I started work on the sound that was meant to complement it – some kind of rising high-pitched tone, complemented with a lower-pitched rumble.
For the rumble, I used my microphone to record the sound of my friend’s car-engine from the other side of my house window. This proved to be a reasonably easy task; in line with the argument I’m making on the poster that sound design is being democratised. Of course, it wan’t especially difficult to get hold of a microphone and record a car engine pre- the digital age, but the point is, I took the SD card out of the recording device, sat down at a computer, and in minutes was able, with little experience of Audition, to alter it to my purposes with ease. It’s amazing that this tutorial refers to creating a drone sound in an entirely different brand of software, and yet as a beginner I was able to instantly and intuitively apply its lessons to working with Audition. With little knowledge of music theory I was able to find the tools described – pitch down, a tremolo effect and the “increase noise” tool – and apply them. When I was satisfied (insert reference to film here)
I paired this with the sound of a buzzsaw also found on Soundbible, that I used the noise reduction and tremolo effect on – so far, so good. I then shortened it to match the total length of the rumble and stretched them both slightly.
Second scene – argument at party
My main goal here, as I’ve previously said, was to create a strong, lively ambience that implies more people are at the party than the number of extras that were available for the shoot. This will emphasise the drama of the argument, with a sudden cut to silence implying that the people inside the house have all stopped to listen.
The camera-mic and main microphone audio for this scene was not the best, but I had to make do. I fetched up the “party ambience audio” with the volume slightly reduced to fit with volume of the scene, and then I looped a section which had no distinct specific sounds (to avoid repetition catching the audience’s attention) and extended this loop to fit the scene. I used the “add reverb” effect in Audition’s effects panel to add a little reverb and help to further reduce anything distinctive in the chatter. Then, from the moment the Emily character enters and begins shouting, I used the visual fader to make the party chatter drop off quickly but not abruptly, the way it tends to sound in real life. I checked Adobe’s own tutorial for this, and decided to use a cosine curve fade – slow at first, then rapid, and then a slow drop off for a final moment – in an attempt to mimic the way many conversations will stop one after the other when something dramatic occurs in a crowded place, remembering that in real life I’ve often heard the second half of the final sentence in the final conversation to stop. I’ll definitely include a subjective question about the party ambience in the questionnaire.
Besides this, I tried using self-recorded foley effects for footsteps during the minute or so the argument is going on, to limited success. While it wasn’t difficult to isolate the individual footsteps and place them in the timeline in sync with Emily’s body movements (her feet are out of shot) I found that I was struggling to aurally “place” them in the scene in a way that sounded natural. I reduced the volume to an appropriate level and tried adding some extra reverb, but I personally felt that they didn’t entirely “fit” no matter how much I subtly manipulated the pitch, timbre or attack it just sounded artificial.