Sound Replacement – reflection

Reflection – team dynamics

Forming the team

The team dynamics in this project were an interesting part of the process of becoming a ‘well – rounded’ creative practitioner. I found myself in an interesting situation that required me to be both a determined and flexible collaborator.

The scenario played itself out like this. I joined a team of two people, Adam and Sean, who had chosen the animated short horror film as the focus of their sound replacement. Please click below to view our sound replacement inspiration:

Animated horror short – Riff & Alternate studios.

I was inspired by the work that they had chosen and needed to join a collaborative group after another group, I had attempted to create with two other students, (Shlok and Brendan), had disbanded. I joined Adam and Sean on a sound replacement class activity, we seemed to work well together, so I suggested that we should attempt a sound replacement project together.

Effective project management

Effective project management is something that I am aiming to refine. This is something that I will be continuing to refine as I move into the creative industries and hope to capitalise on my abilities to both conceive, deliver creative ‘products’ and hopefully gain work as a project manager.

Within a short amount of time, I found myself taking care of the project plan, without being named project manager and also creating sound asset lists that were linked to three, one minute sections of our chosen video:

Please check out the project plan by clicking here:

Project plan – animated horror short

Please check out the sound asset task lists by clicking here:

SOUND ASSET LISTS: 1 – 4

I checked with the other two members of the team if they were happy with me in taking a leading role in the project planning, creating the sound asset lists and guiding the project and they both agreed. This is something that was raised in my transferrable skills meeting with my lecturer Rose Parker. I felt that I could make a strong contribution to the group but I didn’t want to ‘take over’, but this sometimes happens in an effort to make sure things get done and recording sessions stay on track. The issue of how to get the best result for the group, get the best result for myself and get the best result for the group members without distancing myself from them, is on-going and work in progress.

Inspiring and relying on other group members

We were joined by another student, Shlok after the first week due to his project group falling through. The decision was made to add another section of the video to our sound replacement tasks, which would also enable us to complete an entire section of the video which included the dramatic ending. Everyone eventually finished their sound asset lists which, involved listening to every piece of added sound and documenting what it was and at what point it occurred in the video and things seemed to be going well. Motivating the other team members to finish these lists became critical before we started booking studio time and started recording the sounds that we had identified.

Within the second week of the sound replacement project, one of the founding members of the group, Adam, had to leave his studies at SAE due to landing a new job. This meant that we had to scale back the scope of our project and reduce the amount of sound replacement that we attempted to complete.

Adjusting to different work ethics and workflows

It also became clear that there were different levels of work ethic within the group and different approaches to work flow. One of the team members was over-committed due to undertaking another degree at another university. While it is understandable that people have other commitments outside of group project work, it became increasingly difficult to rely on this group member due to both study and work commitments. This created tension within myself as there seemed to be little regard for keeping commitments that were made verbally with myself and Shlok and little notice was given before simply not attending group meetings or recording sessions that were organised with us. One such occasion was recording the voice acting performance necessary for the husband and wife argument scene.

Another memorable occasion saw this group member not show up to a foley recording session and he had to be contacted and reminded that we were relying on him to sync foley sounds with the video. Eventually the team member arrived 90 minutes after the agreed start time. I was busy conducting a mixdown session for another project and it was agreed that Shlok and Sean would work on the sound replacement project. The studio was booked in Sean’s name. He was unable to attend the session for a very understandable reason but the simple courtesy of informing the other team members was forgotten. Dealing with these situations required me to reamain communicative and flexible but it also increased my resolve to take firmer control of the direction of the project. My inability to effectively communicate my frustration with this team member, offer solutions and possible consequences for not pulling his weight in the project is something that I will be reflecting on and hoping to improve within my own scope of project management. Communication with our lecturer about this development was timely and on-going.

Communication with this team member also didn’t improve once they were present in a recording session. There seemed to be little consultation and structure to the methodology when aligning the the foley sounds to the video. This is also something that. This created a ‘messy’ pro tools session which, and created ineffective workflow once the sound replacement process began. The roles didn’t seem to be clearly adhered to and indeed, these roles should have been stipulated from the start in the project management plan. I attribute this mainly to me not wanting to take over a group that I had effectively joined. In future, I will endeavour to address this issue even though it may not be seen as important by other group members.

Reflection – creating the sounds

One of the things that became apparent when working on this project is that capturing the sounds, necessary for this type of project was a lot of fun. One of my favourite moments was capturing the sounds of breaking glass and plates, that was needed to re-create the sounds of a violent argument taking place. I’m fortunate to have a Polish flatmate who drinks beer on a daily basis. He was kind enough to leave a few empty beer bottles in the recycle bin for me to smash with a rock that I found in our garden and I got to work recording samples for the project. You’ll notice that I had my safety glasses at the ready, zoom recorder and other necessary equipment such as a broom and dust pan at the ready, for this important work:

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One memorable difference in opinion about how a particular sound was produced,  occurred within the animated horror film at the 1:50 mark in section 1. The short film is set against the backdrop of a thunderstorm and the overhead light flickers and required an electrical spark or surge to be re-created. This occurred in section that I had designated for myself and was inspired by work that another student colleague, Shay Mitchell had undertaken for his sound replacement project. This involved utilising a small amplifier that was available for students to use. A guitar lead was simply inserted into the input jack for the amplifier that was deliberately turned up quite loud in order to maximise the sound that is created when the tip and ring of a standard TRS connection (1/4 inch jack) is inserted into a guitar amplifier.

Other enjoyable moments recording foley for this project included recording clocks from both the technical department and student services office. We had a choice of either standard battery operated wall clock or battery operated wall clock with a star trek logo printed on the clock face. The star trek clock was obviously chosen for possessing the ‘spookiest’ clock sound for our animated horror short film however no picture was taken.

File_001
Recording the first clock that eventually wasn’t chosen to be included in our sound replacement project.

Reflection – project outcomes

Exporting and syncing issues

The main thing that I remember from this project was the three hours that were spent attempting to sync the finished foley and sound effects with the video. While there hasn’t been any one reason for the problem that was encountered, I think that the problem may have arisen from a low quality version of: Animated horror short by Riff & Alternate studios that imported from you tube into the pro tools file that was used. The frame rate was 23.98 and this may have caused quite a few issues when we attempted to bounce out the quicktime file.

Earlier attempts to export the audio and video file were disappointing due to serious problems between syncing the foley that we created and the video clip we were using to place our foley and sound effects. The file was in sync within pro-tools, however, when we exported the quicktime file, the video and audio wasn’t in sync. We enlisted the help of experienced lecturers in post production and tech’ team representatives who were trained in film. The initial thought was to adjust the quicktime settings but this failed to fix the syncing problems.

The solution to the issue of syncing was to export the 2 track audio file from pro tools and import that separately into Premiere (video editing software). We needed to adjust the bounds of the video within Premiere because whenever we imported the quicktime file that we exported from pro tools the video quality was very poor and the size of the file was also very small. A new HD quality version of the animated short was located and then imported separately into Premiere. The audio track was nudged until the syncing issues were fixed and then both the separate audio and video files were exported as one quicktime file which was uploaded to you tube and can be accessed below.

Vocal and acting performances

Male and Female monsters

The original animated horror short film features a husband and wife arguing and then turning into monstrous versions of themselves. What was needed was both a male and female voice to create a domestic argument between a husband and wife that turns violent.

To achieve this I approached both a male and female member of our class, Izaac Wilson and Bronte Tally, to perform the roles of both the husband and wife who turn into monsters. The brief was that they had to argue with each other and then pretend to fight. I stopped short of asking them to start screaming like monsters as that may have been too ambitious to achieve in the one recording session.

The script itself was OK but was really interesting was to get our voice actors to sound convincing while they were reading the script to actually sound upset with each other; this was particularly important when the argument descended into a shouting match and then turn violent. Ultimately, we had to put down the script and find the best sequence of words and phrases that conveyed: the sounds of two people struggling, anger and escalating danger. I think the result was great and really highlighted the need for the actors to ‘own’ the role. Click on the link below to see the .pdf version of the script.

Animated horror short_script

Monster sounds

There aren’t too many things that I would change about our sound replacement project as I think that we’ve done a solid job for our first outing in this type of project. Two things have been identified which I would change in the future. These are:

  • The male monster scream – tone not convincingly menacing
  • The female banshee scream – volume level

The Female Banshee Scream

The female banshee scream was a classic performance from a film student that we found in a room next to the studio that we were using to record foley. The ‘screamo’ girl that we found put in a performance of a lifetime screaming at the top of her lungs and peeling paint off the walls of the studio. It was truly intimidating.  The only thing that should have been changed was the volume level of her scream that was used in the final 2 track soundtrack.

This could have been achieved by any of the following methods:

  • the clip gain feature within pro tools,
  • audiosuite plug-in: gain
  • audiosuite plug-in: normalize

Both audio suite plug-ins allow for the peak level to be analysed and the peak level to be set and would have quickly and effectively controlled the volume of the final output level.

The male monster roar

The male monster ‘roar’ was a great performance from senior SAE lecturer, David Page. David managed to sync his guttural roar to the movement of the animated monster really well, but didn’t manage to convey convincing ‘menace’. He also identified this after the recording but his performance was the most ‘considered’ as the voice seemed to match the movements of the monster.

Upon reflection, a pitch shift could have been applied to the clip to allow more of an unsettling tone to be generated, perhaps with distortion also added to give his voice an ‘edge’, which would also add to an unsettling atmosphere created.

Production techniques – applying effects processing to individual clips.

One of the many techniques that I learned how to do during this project, is to apply effects processing to individual clips and not being reliant on placing a plug-in in an insert channel in pro tools.

We did run into trouble now and again when we did apply effects processing to audio clips and not entire tracks when we re-opened pro tools files and couldn’t locate audio clips that we had labouriously processed with pitch shifting for example. In the future, more attention will be paid to ‘consolidating’ the clips in order to apply whatever processing  has been completed in order to produced the desired audio effect such as, pitch shifting in order to achieve a heightened sense of malice required to convincingly produce a monster roar.

 

The original version

 

Project team version

 

Summary

The experience of creating all the different sounds used within this short animated film was fantastic and allowed us many opportunities for creativity. The sound effect that I enjoyed creating the most with the group, was creating a thunder sound with the sample of the metal signal box being struck with my foot, and then placing both reverb and delay that was placed on the actual track within pro tools. The process of also adjusting volume levels to suggest the movement of characters within a 3 dimensional space was time consuming but really enjoyable. The creation, placement and processing of sounds and samples to produce sound effects for video is a fascinating process which requires patience and dedication but ultimately is a very rewarding process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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