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6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

Foley artists are pivotal for any audiovisual project once it has been shot and edited, as they’re responsible for taking care of any possible missing sound, and, as described in a previous article, a crucial step in the audio post-production process is also what foley artists can do: perform and create sound effects to match the moving images being projected on the screen.

Common sound effects we always hear in movies for example footsteps, chewing, drinking, clothing movement, doors being opened, keys jingling, etc., are created through a set of different recording techniques and materials. Foley is more than simply manually editing sounds. In fact, it not only is more than that, but also more time efficient, and provides audiovisual projects with a much richer character and realism to other sounds in the film. Whenever a foley artist can’t create a sound in the studio, sound designers and sound editors will be always up for the task.

That being said, have you ever wondered what’s the best way to mimic or recreate the sound of a fight? The sound of fists going back and forth and hitting another body? Or how can you recreate the sound of footsteps in a snowy road in a recording studio? What’s the best way to mimic a sword fight? Here are some tips for coming with foley sound effects:

HOUSEHOLD SOUNDS

Wooden Creaks And Floors

People stepping on creaking wood and squeaking floors appear in practically every film you’ve seen. Footsteps on old floors or people walking over an old house porch are perhaps one of the most used scenes in films. Foley artists have at their disposal a sheer array of floors and objects to recreate these sounds. The advantage of using these accessories is that the sound, in this case, the creak or the squeak, can be to some extent controlled. Once Foley artists have developed a proper technique, coming up with these sounds and performing these creaks saves the picture a lot of time, as sound editors won’t need to edit all sounds on Pro Tools.

Fire

Fire is one of those sounds that also always appears in the vast majority of films. Foley artists often resort to accessories such as cellophane, potato chip bags, and even steel wool. The most common technique for recreating fire sounds is to scrunch up the accessory and then release it; the effect will be, of course, rather subtle, but when recorded with the mic closely a somewhat low-level fire sound will be achieved.

Cash

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Money and stacks of cash have their own sounds as well. Traditionally, whenever a foley artist has to develop the sound of cash, they often resort to an old deck of poker cards or book pages. In order for foley artists to successfully achieve this sound is to use accessories, in this case, paper sources, with flexible and softer textures. In fact, the vast majority of the time, foley artists add actual bills in the middle of the paper roll, or on the top, or on the bottom, so they fingers actually brush its surface, creating the sound of cash.

ANIMALS

Horses

Galloping horses is one of those sounds whose technique to achieve it has practically remained untouched. Foley artist normally uses coconuts to recreate horse hooves, and it’s probably the most well-known foley accessory thanks to Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Several foley artists suggest stuffing the half coconut with some materials such as fabric in order to get a more realistic sound. Then, hit a compact dirt or whatever surface the horse is running on with the stuffed coconuts.

Bird Wings

Just like with horses, in order to achieve the sound of birds flapping their wings or taking off, foley artists normally resort to traditional and really orthodox accessories such as a vintage feather duster or gloves. It’s also important to experiment with different materials and perhaps heavier textiles to create a much thicker sound for larger species. An old feather duster can create a terrific effect if the foley artist can find a nice sounding one and hit it against all kinds of surfaces and objects to create different sounds.

HUMANS

Inhaling A Cigarette

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Ever wondered hoy films record the sound associated with a cigarette inhale? Foley artists often use saran wrap and other light materials to get this sound. By using saran wrap, you can get a similar sound to the fire sound mentioned above; however, it’s more subtle. Nonetheless, it is produced the same way as you would produce the fire sound: compress and then release, but make sure to do it controlled so you don’t overdo it. Make sure to have the mic close enough so you can capture the desired level of subtleness; otherwise, you may obtain a totally different sound.

An Introduction To Decibels

An Introduction To Decibels

What You Always Wanted To Know About Decibels

Many times in previous articles we’ve mentioned the word “decibel”. Of course, the world of sound and audio basically revolves around decibels. But what in reality does the concept of decibel entail? Here is our view on the decibels and how internalizing the concept can be useful if you either work as a sound designer, sound mixer, or even within the audiovisual industry. So, first things first: when it comes to trying to define decibels, there’s no better way than to put it this way: decibels are odd units, and there are at least three main reasons for such definition:

Decibels Are A Logarithmic Unit

When it comes to unveiling the intricacies of the definition of decibels, we first need to mention one of its aspects: a decibel is a logarithmic unit. Of course, our mind is not traditionally fond of logarithmic units, mostly due to the fact that we’ve become accustomed to deal with other types of units such as distances or weights, which are also present in our lives every day. Nonetheless, the concept of logarithmic units is highly useful, especially when we want to represent a sheer array of different figures or values.

If we were to take a value and make it 3, 4 or even 5 times bigger, we would see that the resulting figure would get incredibly huge on a logarithmic scale unlike on the traditional linear scale. Why? The reason behind this evident difference is that, while linear scales are based on multiplication, a logarithmic scale is based on exponentiation. Thus, if we were to increase the number 10 5 times, we would get to the value of 100,000. That indeed is really convenient whenever we want to get the full picture of a set of data ranging from dozens to even millions.

Some other units simply work fine on the regular linear scale, as we normally move within a rather small range of figures. That’s why it’s easy for us to measure the distance between cities; but what if we wanted to measure the distance between cities throughout the galaxy? (Of course, assuming we’re such an advanced civilization, that we managed to find life in other planets.) If we were to use a linear scale to represent the difference in distance between Los Angeles and Orion, the difference would be 1200000000000000 km, which is undeniably a really tough figure to look at; however, on a logarithmic scale, the difference would be just 16.8 log km.

The logarithmic scale offers a solution for this issue since it seamlessly provides an easy-to-understand figure while covering several order of magnitude. Like the cities used above as an example, some other natural phenomena can be expressed on a logarithmic scale, since they span through several orders of magnitude as well. Think of earthquakes, pH and, of course, sound and loudness. By using a logarithmic scale to measure and express some events, we can get a more accurate version of the models of nature.

Decibels Are A Comparative Unit

Once stated that decibels are a logarithmic unit, we have now a way to simply scale and measure different events, ranging from a simple whisper to a rocket take-off. Nevertheless, it’s not that simple. Every time we say something is 70dB, we are not making, in reality, a direct measurement —in fact, we are comparing two different values.

Decibels are the ratio between a specific measured value and a reference value. Simply put: decibels are a comparative unit. Stating that something is 30dB is as incomplete as saying that something is 30%. Thus, we need to specify the reference value we’re using, or, in other words, 20dB respect to what? What kind of reference value can we use then? And that’s what brings us to the third and last dimension.

Decibels Are A Versatile Unit

Given the fact that the vast majority of people associate decibels with sound, it’s clear that they cannot associate its measurement ratio with the value of any other physical property. These properties can be also associated with audio, like pressure or voltage, or may have little or even nothing to do with audio, like reflectivity. Decibels are found across all industries, not only audio. Take, for example, video, optics or electronics. So, after laying out all this information, what’s a decibel? A decibel is a logarithmically express ration between a pair of physical values.

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Screaming In Outer Space

No matter how much Star Wars tries to convince us of the possibility of actually conveying sound’s energy in outer space, reality dictates otherwise. Sound’s energy requires a physical medium to go and travel through. When sound waves disturb such mediums, there are actual measurable pressure alterations as the atoms end up moving back and forth —the louder the sound, the more intense the alteration is.

In Summary

A decibel is based on the logarithmic scale which, of course, works very well when displaying a large range of values. It is also a comparative unit that always uses the ratio between the measured value and the value used as a reference. Additionally, decibels can be used with any physical property aside from sound pressure. They also use reference values so the numbers being managed are more significant.

The Intricacies Of Mixing Sound For 360º Video

The Intricacies Of Mixing Sound For 360º Video

One of today’s most popular video formats is the 360º video. This format, which has been used by a plethora of influencers on YouTube (the platform in which the format gained its popularity), is seldom used outside social media channels, which is why there’s not a lot of information on how to edit sound for what is also called spatialized video. If you happen to have a project of this nature in mind, in this article we’ve shared the details on the intricacies of mixing audio and sound for this kind of video format.

The Visuals Will Determine Your Approach

When it comes to 360ª video, we’re basically talking about videos that represent the projected images as a single flat still. Thus, it is normal for viewers to perceive ceilings and floors as curved figures. In fact, rounded visuals suggest that 360º videos are a geometrical representation of a cylinder, which causes the seams to be curved; however, these also get flattened when they’re run through a 360º video editor software. So, under these circumstances, how do you even start outlining a plan to properly add audio to such complicated format? To being with, just like any other video format, a 360º video can also be split into different quadrants.

Think of quadrants as small parts of the whole sequence, and while it may look that sometimes there are duplicated quadrants, in fact, it’s just a visual representation of one quadrant split in two different, but equally long, parts. If you were to print the whole sequence as a linear chain of events, you would be able to fold the impression into a cylinder shape and see how each quadrant connects with each other—as it’s supposed to be. Having said that, approach each quadrant as a mini video. If you could separate each quadrant and add audio quadrant by quadrant, a spatialization software could also take it from that point on.

Organize Accordingly

Now that you’ve split the video into different quadrants, you can start thinking about the specific audio for each section. For specific audio, you don’t necessarily need anything else aside from a mono stem simply because you just want to pinpoint the sound. Some sound designers start by adjusting their mix template from the traditional 5.1 set of routing down to simply mono for both sound effects and dialogues. Music and score is an entire different world, and let’s leave it for later. Unlike typical dialogue recording, where a traditional edit would have just one track for each main role or character, the spatialized video focuses on quadrants. This totally goes against a sound editor’s normal workflow.

The same approach goes for sound effects, although some of the effects often cross quadrants. If that were the case, the best choice would be to crossfade uniformly across each quadrant in an attempt to match the timing of what’s going on in the action sequences.

The Music

When creating and editing sound for 360º videos, as a sound editor you often come across several complications, and music is not the exception. Music presents two different challenges; however, the most important thing is to always keep the current spatialization in mind for both music creation and post mix. If musical sounds, especially those created by the people appearing in the projected images —like someone playing an instrument—, cross different quadrants, it’s important to define what sound you want to pinpoint and place the instrument on its own mono stem.

The Mix

Mixing is pretty much like any other mixing you’re probably familiar with. Once you have split the video into quadrants and have been working on its unfolded format, the mixing should aim towards playing a rather balanced short. Since we are talking about a 360º format, some sounds will certainly draw viewer attention to specific parts or quadrants. That suggests that, when leveling each sound, the ones that should be highlighted ought to be played a bit louder in the mix.

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360º video format will certainly become more popular for other projects and platforms. Spatialization, for instance, can definitely differ from project to project, and the amount of audio and sounds crossing different quadrants and overlapping other sections of the project will be also different. As for the music, its treatment may entirely alter the way sound editors approach this kind of projects. The most recommendable thing is to plan beforehand and study the project so that you don’t fail in the early stages. Bear in mind that mixing for spatialized audio, or 360º video, requires way more tracks than a traditional project, and sometimes, if the video requires splitting dialogue, different musical tracks, different sound effects, the mix session will likely be of massive proportions —which is why, if you’re into this format, you’ve got to be sure you have a system powerful enough for the total track count.

Is Music Important For Films And Ads?

Is Music Important For Films And Ads?

Something several of the most renown advertisements of this decade have in common is that they all involve music, and not simply in the rather worn-off form of a jingle. Think of John Lewis, for example, whose traditional Christmas adverts are as famous for the music they include as the whole storytelling. Vodafone, for instance, also set the Dandy Warhol’s song, Bohemian Like You, for success, as it managed to enter the UK’s top five charts.

Since the era of advertising started, one thing was clear: music and TV go hand in hand, but why do musical elements fit so well in ads and other audiovisual projects? Let’s find out.

It’s All About The Emotional Impact

There are plenty of original soundtrack songs that are simply stuck in our minds. They remind us of a certain time, individual or place in our lives. As discussed in other articles, music and musical elements are pivotal for any audiovisual project simply because, in order to process music, we use the same parts of the brain that are also the ones responsible for triggering emotion and memory.

Because of the human capability of emotionally associating a piece of music to something either positive or negative (which depends on the context and nature of the sounds), the associated memory tends to equal in strength that exact same emotion. The theory does not elaborate on whether it applies to moments in our everyday life, which it does, but rather on how this phenomenon resonates on songs in film, or music in radio, or ads. As for the type of music that triggers this particular area of the brain, its nature is somewhat special —it’s not just any type of music, though. As shown in this study, a group of Australians reacted to a series of audio clips, and their reactions suggested that different types of music can produce strong, but very different, types of emotional responses.

Different types of melodies, key changes, chords, etc., can produce and cause different responses. A string ensemble, for example, when playing sharp and long notes in a major key, were able to cause feelings related to happiness in almost 90% of the people assessed. On the other hand, a dramatic shift from major to minor tonality elicited the opposite feeling in the respondents —sadness and melancholy. An acoustic guitar is highly associated with calm and sophistication, as suggested by almost 83% of the respondents.

The aforementioned examples show how important it is for filmmakers and advertisers to have a deep understanding of the emotion they want to convey, but most importantly, the emotion they want to cause in the audience.¡ —and what type of music is more suitable for such a purpose.

And It’s Also About Telling The Story

Although music and musical elements on their own are an unquestionably powerful tool, they acquire a far more authentic effect when they accompany a story within a solid narrative arc. According to a study, and after having analyzed more than 100 ads to identify which ones were more correlated with long-term memory, the fact that music in TV ads, for example, becomes way more memorable when the music drives the action of the moving images being projected. For instance, if the lyrics match what is happening. The visual part is eye-catching enough sometimes; but when melodic music comes in, it sort of creates a hypnotic effect on the audience which triggers the areas of the brain previously addressed.

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In a wider general sense, music and musical elements can definitely set the tone for a business’s or a brand’s personality, as well as to address a specific type of audience or portion of a specific demography. Adidas or Puma often target younger audiences when it comes to their activewear, for instance.

Creating From Scratch

Many filmmakers or advertises often choose existing tracks or songs from renowned artists; however, especially in filmmaking, many directors rely on composers to create an original soundtrack for a film. And it definitely works: Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore, Ennio Morricone, James Horner, etc., are known for having created some of Hollywood’s best tracks for films. Who doesn’t remember Jaws for its soundtrack? Or Star Wars? Or Indiana Jones? Or Interstellar? Or the Lord of The Rings? The list goes on and on, but most importantly, the fact that movies serve as the perfect opportunity to craft a compelling and emotionally aggressive soundtrack, confirms the initial thesis that raises the question: is music really important in films and ads? Of course it is, and of course, it will always be. Without music, some parts of the action go missing. There’s simply no way to engage with an audience if an emotive soundtrack is not present. Music helps to tell the story; music is what people remember and what gets stuck in people’s minds.

Are Sound Effects Really Necessary?

Are Sound Effects Really Necessary?

The Golden Age (the 1930s - 1960s), taught us a lot about sound effects. Artists such as Orson Welles and Jack Benny left behind a great compilation of techniques and developments that are even used by today’s sound effects artists in their own productions and works. When it comes to live performances, live and studio recording and even workshops, sound effects artists have at hand a diverse array of manual sound effects, as they seem to be highly fond controlling and playing these over electronic sampler keyboards that come with recordings. Of course, plenty of sound effects artists also use high-tech electronic samplers and other backing track devices depending on the nature of the project they’re currently working on; however, there seems to be a consensus regarding the unique style of manual sound effects.

In the past, manual effects were not the only option —some sounds were easier to produce and to obtain, like cars, planes and nature sounds; but when it comes to sounds product of the manipulation of an object, of course, a lot of that sound is how you manipulate the object in question. That being said, a lot of experimentation is required to get the right technique to produce the desired sound. A lot also falls under the umbrella of what experimentation often means —you need to test microphones and how the effect sounds over them. Always trust your ears if you’re just getting started.

Are sound effects really necessary?

Sound effects allow filmmakers and audiovisual project directors to tell a compelling a story. Think of a drama: a well-crafted sound, sound effects included, makes every story better, irrespective of whether it is full action, music, dialogues, etc. Sound effects are important, yes, but in comparison to other formats such as radio, where dialogue contributes practically 80% to the drama, music 10% and sound effects 10%, then they are not that pivotal. But if we’re talking about a sci-fi film, well, that’s another story —in film, sound effects add realism and, unlike radio, where if a sound effect has been misplaced no one will notice, the slightest mistake can cause a disaster.

Is sound really as key as video quality when producing visual projects?

As mentioned above, poor sound and poor sound effects can ruin any production regardless of its quality. Understanding that sounds, especially high quality sounds in movies and even video games are closely related to also understanding the true nature of a successful filmmaker or game developer. Think of all the times audio and sound, or the lack thereof, have made you rate, either positively or negatively, any project in particular. Additionally, think how both elements, audio, and sound, determines the reactions an audience is able to digest about the moving images or frames they are presented. So, are sound and sound effects important in films? It certainly is.

Sound in Film

Films are often produced using three different types of sound: human sounds (voices), music and, of course, sound effects. All of them interact with each other throughout the whole project and are crucial for films to provide audiences and viewers with the realistic aspect they expect to, subconsciously, recognize. As mentioned in earlier articles, dialogue and sounds must perfectly sync with the actions being projected —avoiding delays and, of course, being realistic. If a specific sound doesn’t match the moving image on the screen, the realistic effect is gone and the action itself is not believable at all.

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There are several ways to achieve high-quality, realistic sounds, and that is by using original sound clips rather than uniquely resorting to sound libraries for the desired effect. Another way to provide an audiovisual project with realism is by incorporating the so-called asynchronous sound effects —which are often used as background sounds in films. These sounds, unlike the ones matching moving images, are not directly related to the action occurring in a moving image; they, of course, help a film be as realistic as it can and should be.

As for music, if you have ever asked yourself how important the implementation of music in film and audiovisual projects is, simply recall all the iconic film scores you’ve come across within the past —with all certainty, film music is perhaps one of the elements we remember the most about a film, and it’s one of the aspects that determines whether a film stands real chances of being successful or not. Movies like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, and its iconic two-note melody, still brings back the memories of the big shark approaching its prey; what about George Lucas’s Star Wars? Years after the original trilogy was released, its musical score is still being used in today’s installments and is basically what builds up momentum during promotional affairs, and the list goes on and on. It’s practically impossible to simply overlook the importance of musical elements within today’s filmmaking.

Mixing Tips For The Balanced Soundtrack

Mixing Tips For The Balanced Soundtrack

Since we specialize in crafting the best sound for any type of audiovisual project, it was just about time for us to share some tips on how to achieve a balanced soundtrack and elaborate a bit more on what we at Enhanced Media do. The topics discussed pertain, of course, to the vast universe of film sound, but we will try to avoid oversimplifications while keeping it digestible, understandable and, why not, enticing. Be that as it may, this post is meant to be illustrative enough for you to develop your own knowledge regardless of whether it’s basic or not —learning something new will always be worth it.

Volume and Loudness

Too many people firmly believe that both volume and loudness mean the same thing; however, there’s indeed a crucial difference. When we speak about volume we mean the unit of sound that can be measured in decibels; loudness, however, is the perceived amount of volume. This depends, of course, on several factors such as frequency range and the noise. When it comes to crafting a balanced soundtrack—balanced also meaning homogeneous—both properties are no less than pivotal.

Simply put, when it comes to establishing how both terms interact with each other, we could assert that the physical volume must not be exceeded. In the vast majority of video editing programs and most multimedia software, the master volume is usually displayed with a decibels scale. It’s also important to mention that even though zero decibels can be achieved, zero does not mean inaudible, as some folks may think. Instead, it represents the maximum level before the digital clipping.

When mixing film sound, not only in the musical score but also in the dialogues, off voices and additional sounds, the master level may be at zero decibels, otherwise, the sound would go into what we call digital overdrive, cutting off the sine waves at the amplitude maxima —the highest and loudest rashes. This phenomenon is known as digital scratching, which, if you happen to work within the film or the audiovisual industry, is certainly known to you. Additionally, digital scratching ought not to be confused with confused with the popular term tape saturation, which is way older as it dates back to the time when magnetic tapes were used. Back then, and even today, tape saturation was rather a natural compression that would sound fuller and even far warmer than what is actually achievable today with software.

Traditionally, film score and music is used, and it has already been taken care of in the mixing room for immediate use and, chances are, likewise mastered —of course, that is, the soundtrack as if it was as made in the maximum volume, which allows sound editors to basically integrate it into the film or the audiovisual project. If that were the case, however, the only prerequisite for its integration is that no other plugin for artificial inflation is inserted in the master volume channel and the subsequent individual channels.

Music and its Sources

When it comes to choosing the music for your film, as a producer or as a sound editor you may as well use music from various sources. This means that you will be resorting to different soundtracks from different composers, studios, etc.; all of these tracks should have a clean level, but normally they happen to be uncommonly and excessively loud —which takes us back at the loudness and the perceived volume.

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Lamentably today, the vast majority of music producers have taken part in the loudness-war, aiming to pump up your music according to the motto: the louder the better. In the end, you just hear a shallow shriek, let’s be honest. This has its roots in the human mind, as humans and individuals seem to perceive louder musical sounds, in this case, film score or simply music, as better music. This course of action has left music so compressed and so pumped up, that nothing can be done to differentiate it from other lines of sound; however, bear in mind that reality dictates otherwise: the louder, the higher the chances for it to be utterly broken.

Today’s music, the vast majority of the stuff we hear on the radio has almost no dynamics —it’s just annoying, to some extent, but definitely loud! When it comes to filmmaking, film score and film music are supposed to support the project, not the other way around. But what if you were working on a purely technical video? Under these conditions, the goal would be to help the music support the storytelling of the images being projected. If the project begins rather quietly, the music should follow that same course of action. If there’s a sudden increase in tension, the music might as well be used to accentuate that change. Thus, you merge both volume and loudness into perfection.

The Evolution Of Film Sound: Music

The Evolution Of Film Sound: Music

Understanding today’s status of what is traditionally referred to as film sound demands certain background. How did we get here? That’s a question all film sound editors ask themselves at some point in their careers. Here we have compiled several important points of reference to understand how sound has evolved throughout the years.

A lot falls under the umbrella of film sound —music, movie image, silence, foley, dialogue, etc., are some of the elements that are directly affected by sound as an abstract term. The industry has learned a lot about how music and film score are totally under different circumstances than they were 50 years ago. Of course, this evolution has been determined by the use and constant development of technology, flavored by the ongoing use of social acceptance.

If we were to fast forward 100 years in time it would be really challenging to tell where we will be and would be equally hard to tell what composers will have made a name for themselves in the history of the film score to stand out and be dubbed as legends within the industry. Instruments, likewise, have evolved. Think of the Waterphone, for example —that acoustic instrument, highly popular in older films, mostly used in a moving image. Today, there is a plethora of sound effects and sound effects libraries that can imitate that exact same sound, and even improve it through the use of synthesis. History has taught us that music as a crucial film sound element has evolved a lot, not only in terms of sound effects but also in its own interpretation. Composers such as Hans Zimmer and even Walt Disney’s have completely changed the way we visualize and digest music.

Hans Zimmer, for example, is known for having taken part in a lot of successful audiovisual projects; but the majority of his work has been a major game changer within the industry —Hans Zimmer is a true artist simple because how his work blends with the images being projected. Writing music for a project and for moving images is something we see every day, but changing the entire mood of a film and its moving images is a complex thing only a true artist can achieve, especially if it’s done whilst captivating audiences of today’s modern society.

Walt Disney’s composers, on the other hand, kind of took a leap of faith when they decided to integrate music and musical sounds into their projects. They thought initially that including music would not be accepted by a modern society and middle-aged people, but the experiment ended up being positive, especially for younger audiences at that time. So, by incorporating music into film, the film industry helped man alter the way films are portrayed these days. Had they not taken the risk of using movies in the films, probably we wouldn’t be hearing of composers and original soundtracks.

And although many seem to agree that, at some point, someone would have done exactly the same, chances are Walt Disney managed to integrate music into films simply because of the name he had made for himself in the industry at that point in time, so, chances are, when the time came, no one even questioned him about what he was planning to do; but most importantly, without a big company behind that idea, who would have managed to pull that off?

The inclusion of music and musical sounds in films brought along subsequent jobs and positions within the industry such as foley artists, for example, and the recording of realistic sound effects in films and moving images. Once the idea of giving music and sound effects a key role within the whole conception and production of film, other ideas followed, but most importantly, other industries started to develop themselves according to the pace at which filmmaking was developing: software, music instruments, technology, Foley techniques, etc., all of them leaned towards filmmaking, not to mention that such development also allowed filmmakers to explore other genres such as sci-fi, 3D animation, fantasy, etc.

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It would be fair to assert that the evolution of sound was determined by social changes as well, not only the pace at which technology allowed the industry to develop. Music, as a key element of film sound, will certainly get to new shores —new instruments, new technologies, new composers, new ways of recording and merging music with moving images, and, why not, maybe new genres. And although films are considered essentially a visual experience and a visual medium —that is, more sight and sound—, the fundamental importance of the latter as a part of the storytelling process of any film plays a pivotal role from the beginning till the end. It definitely changed the way filmmakers used to think about the nature of cinema.

What is Foley?

What is Foley?

When we speak about Foley, we always refer to a sound effects technique for both live effects or synchronous effects. This technique was initially named after Jack Foley, a famous sound editor at the renowned Universal Studios. Basically, foley artists strive to match all kinds of live sounds effects with what is actually going on in the film. These sounds are done manually using inanimate objects and people.

This technique is an excellent way of adding the subtle sounds into the film, the sounds that often the production overlook due to all the intricacies involved during the shoot —the noise of the saddle every time a rider gets on his horse or the rustling of an individual’s clothing are just some example of those sounds that are not considered by the production up front, but those are necessary to provide the film, or any other audiovisual project, with that distinctive touch of realism. Otherwise, by using other methods, it would be rather difficult to achieve the exact same level of authenticity.

A good foley artist often takes the place of the actor with whom production is trying to sync effects, if not, well, the sound ends up lacking the necessary level of authenticity and realism to be convincing enough. Most foley artists, the successful ones, of course, are audiles —they can look at any inanimate object and picture what of sound they can get from it. A foley crew, on the other hand, includes several individuals. The walker, or the one who makes the sound, and a technician, maybe two, responsible for recording and mixing the sounds. The vast majority of foley recordings take place what other people would call storage areas —rooms full of laundry, pieces of metal, rocks, stones, a sandbox, metal trays, empty cans, forks, knives, broken guns, anything.

Foley artists start by watching the film in order to determine which sounds need to be added or replaced, which ones can be subject to some level of enhancement, and which ones they can get rid of. At that point in time, the sound on the film is composed mostly by the dialogue and sound effects crafted during the production of the project. These sounds are actually recorded on a guide track, often dubbed as a production track. Later on, technicians focus on other sounds that may be subject of playing a minor role in the film: crowd noises, the musical score, dialogue replacement (or dialogue re-recordings through ADR), other sound effects and, last but not least, sound designed effects.

It is not rare to have up to 80% of a film’s sound altered, edited or simply customized in some way once the movie has been shot. Some sound effects are easy to craft and can be added by resorting to pre-recorded and existing audio libraries; however, many sounds remain unique to every project. Think of footsteps, for instance. As foley artists watch the film, they identify which sounds they need to craft and create, and imagine ways to pull them off. Additionally, when it comes to noises, foley artists have to consider other factors such as the origin of the noise or who is making that specific sound and, most importantly, in what kind of environment. Some noises or sounds are too difficult for just one take, so foley artists must carefully combine different noises from different sources to perfectly represent the sound they are looking for. In some cases, foley editors can ultimately digitally alter these sounds to match what the film is projecting. In the foley studio, you will find all sorts of surfaces for simulating all kinds of footsteps, a splash tank, all kinds of chambers for simulating different variations of echoes, and the mixing booth where foley engineers record and mix everything. The process is quite simple: foley artists spend hours orbiting microphones and watching a huge screen as they try to synchronize the noises they are producing with the action being projected.

But why is foley so important anyway? Well, the vast majority of a film’s soundtrack is added during the post-production stage for several reasons:

Some situations are not real during filming

Think of swords in Vikings fights or punches that don’t make contact with the skin in fist fights. These sounds are, of course, added during post-production and have to really embody what the action requires.

fighting sound effects

Some CGI simulations are not from this world

The vast majority of CGI elements are ultimately not from this world: big monsters, lightsabers, flying vehicles, etc.

Some sounds cannot be recorded on set

Imagine recording on set, in just one take, the sound of a bird’s wings when it jumps into the air or a letter being taken out of the envelope. This sounds, even though we never pay attention to them in real life, are needed to provide the project with realism.

What are some of the most common sound stereotypes and logic flaws?

What are some of the most common sound stereotypes and logic flaws?

Sound is full of stereotypes and, sometimes, full of common logic flaws as well. These are the product of the pursuit of what’s simple and easy; however, studios and sound mixers in general, even though they are conscious of what they’re doing, sometimes they seem to be fond of integrating what the audience, subconsciously, expects to hear. Here is a list of the most common logic flaws and stereotypes you often hear in films—but perhaps do not belong to them.

Animals

This is perhaps the most traditional category where logic flaws can be found. The most common stereotypes when it comes to including animals in the scenes are:

Think of dogs, for example —they’re rarely, if not never, silent. Dogs in films always appear either barking or whining. The same thing happens with cats —they always meow or purr. Cows? Yes: they always moo. And that exact same principle applies to basically all animals even though in scenes where most animals wouldn’t be making the slightest sound. Rats, squirrels, and vermin, in general, are always shown making their characteristic noises every time they are projected in the screen. Dolphins? The more than traditional dolphin sound. In almost every film that involves the ocean, filmmakers always include an unnecessary dolphin sound. It's always the same sound, sometimes a segment of it. Snakes always rattle, and the list goes on. In fact, animal behavior is also predictable —dogs, for example, always know who is the bad guy and bark at them all the time.

Bird noises are always the same. Hawks always do that traditional screeching sound. In fact, that exact same sound applies for hawks, eagles and other big birds. Whenever a dramatic part of an adventure film is about to happen, the screeching sound always comes out. If there’s a mountain or a cliff in the background, either a hawk or an eagle can be heard screeching. Owls, on the other hand, always sound the same —like the Great Horned Owl. In horror films, for example, when there is a full moon there is always either an owl or a wolf making its traditional howl in the distance.

Bicycles, bombs, explosions and other objects

Yes, we know you’ve noticed it before: all bicycles have functional bells and whenever they come out in the film they sound. Bombs, on the other hand, always come with a fancy beeping timer display (the bigger the better, it seems), and whenever a bomb goes off, it takes about one to two minutes for the explosion to fade away. Speaking of explosions, these, for some reason, always happen in slow motion —and you have to make sure you are running away from the point where the bomb will go off so that the blast can throw you in the air towards the screen (in slow motion, of course). Additionally, if the film being projected is an action film, if there is a bombing scene, the bomb will always whistle whilst falling from the aircraft.

Cars always screech even on dirt roads; car breaks? They always squeak, and whenever a car turns, stops or pulls away, its tires must always make that particular squealing noise. On films with more budget, whenever a car comes out and makes any particular movement, it must increase its acceleration even if it was initially moving under 25 mph. On long roads, whenever a truck comes out, we always hear the traditional truck horn (with doppler effect, of course).

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Now, what about computers? Every button a character presses on a computer or a laptop makes some sort of beep noise; the text being projected on screen must make some type of typing or printer sound for some reason, even though we never hear that noise on a daily basis.

Environment

Easy: if there is a castle, there is a thunder. Storms start almost immediately: there’s castle, and subsequently, there’s a crack of thunder and heavy rain starts to fall amidst a plethora of lightning. Besides: thunder is always in perfect sync with lightning, no matter how far away the lightning occurred —and the same applies for explosions, as discussed, fireworks, etc. The wind always sounds the same. Oh, underwater scene? Let me just add non-stop bubbles throughout the whole scene. Doors always squeak. Phones? Universal telephone ring. The scene in San Francisco? Easy —cable and foghorn sound. Trains? The same old classic horn.

environment sound effects

And a fun fact: in U.S films being carried out in big cities, there’s always a police siren or horn in the background, whereas in films from other countries that thing never, never happens. If there’s fight or some sort of commotion in the second floor of a house, the individual or people in the first floor never get aware of what’s actually going on due to other sounds that are actually capable of muting or masking the chairs falling over, the yelling, the screams, etc., like phones ringing, the washing machine changing cycles, animals making their characteristic sounds, or the maid using the vacuum machine.

What Is Sound Design?

What Is Sound Design?

Despite the fact that sound design has always been a key component in the film and audiovisual industry, it still holds an air of mystery. In fact, the most common myth about sound design is that it is all about creating new sounds, which of course is not true. At least not partially. One may easily assume that sound design is all about coming up with enticing and neat sound effects; however, assuming that would not be fair with those who coined the term during Star Wars and Apocalypse Now. When we refer to sound design as a term, we need to resort to those films, as Ben Burtt and Walter Murch —Star Wars and Apocalypse Now respectively— found themselves working alongside directors who were not just trying to include attractive and powerful sound effects in their projects as an additional element of the structure they had already put in place.

It was by exploring the boundaries of sound: sound effects, music, dialogues, etc., that sound began to play a pivotal role in storytelling, shaping the picture in most cases. These experiments resulted in something different from what directors and audiences were used to. In fact, nowadays soundtracks change the way people and directors understand film sound, yet there seems to be a rather unorthodox conception of what a well-crafted sound design is. For many people, a well-crafted sound design is about recording high fidelity sounds and well-fabricated vocalizations like explosions or alien creatures; however, that is far from doing justice to the term. A well-orchestrated and recorded musical composition provides minimal to zero value if does not interact seamlessly with the film; having performers, actors, and actresses say a myriad of dialogues in every shot is not necessarily acting in the betterment of the production.

Sound, regardless of its nature, provides value and acts in the betterment of a film when it becomes part of the storytelling, when it resonates with what is being projected, when it changes dynamically over time, and when it makes the audience experience sensorial feelings. Filmmakers should actually pay special attention to sound every time they have an idea in their minds. Instead of simply considering sound as a mere component, filmmakers should strive to fabricate sounds, either on set or in a studio with a talented sound designer or composer, making it a pivotal contribution to influence their projects in different ways. Think of films like Citizen Kane, Star Wars or Once Upon A Time In The West. These films were thoroughly thought and produced in many ways, the sound being one of them, yet no sound designer appears on the credits.

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But that does not mean that every film should strive to mimic what the aforementioned films have done in terms of sound; however, lots of audiovisual projects may actually learn from them instead. Sound mixing varies from film to film, and there are films whose sound design is astonishing. Now, there are several sound mixing practices that actually take place way long before production begins: directors often have their actors and actresses hear the words around their characters, making it possible for them to play their roles in a much better way.

Other directors actually build their stories around the whole role that sound plays within the storytelling framework, although many others still have a lot to learn about the potential for sound. There seems to be a paradigm around the role of sound —like a generally accepted idea that suggests that good sound is only meant to enhance the images and the visuals being projected. Such paradigm would only suggest that sound is actually a slave within the project, and its implications would be less important and complex than they would be if directors could let sound act as a free element during the whole process.

Another misconception around the topic of sound and sound design suggests both directors and filmmakers start to pay attention, or at least think seriously, about sound is when the project is approaching its final stages and when the filmmaking process and the structure of the film are practically over. Many would say: how is a composer supposed to come up with an idea unless he is able to catch a glimpse of the final product? Some may argue that there is nothing wrong with this practice, and yes: sometimes it works uncannily well. But what’s the point in actually considering sound like a collaborative, functional component of filmmaking if it is only taken into account and addressed once the other processes are over? In order for it to reach its full potential, directors and filmmakers should not disregard the possibility of understanding the whole project within a collaborative framework, allowing sound to exert some of its wonders on the filmmaking process.

Apple Hires Steven Spielberg For Original TV Content

Apple Hires Steven Spielberg For Original TV Content

Apple has been selling TV shows and movies for a long time now. They have finally announced original content to take on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon. Being a bit late to the game theysure are coming out strong. Apple has signed a deal with Steven Spielberg to develop Amazing Stories, a reboot of a 1980s sci-fi show of the same name.

This really shakes up the new industry. With lots of money at Apple's disposal they could be an industry game changer. Considering that most of the big players in video now have nothing to do with Hollywood, the next few years will be very interesting as streaming becomes the only way people watch content outside of reality tv, sports, and news. Read more about this deal at this location.