W.K.L. Dickson’s experiment

Walter Murch writes:

I just finished synching something up for the Library of Congress. An Edison film from 1895 of William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (the real inventor of motion pictures at Edison’s lab) playing a violin into a big megaphone, with two of Edison’s guys dancing. The soundtrack which had lain in a bin of broken Edison cylinders until it was finally put together recently and somebody made the connection with this this 17 second fragment of film. (the cylinder is a couple of minutes long)

Problem was the film was shot at 40fps, not 24, and the sound was running wild on a cracked 1890’s cylinder. Plus intergovernment agency red tape (the film is in the hands of the Library of Congress, the sound is at the National Park Service). So they sent it to me (neutral mediator) to put in synch, which was easy enough given the time-stretching and – compressing powers of the Avid.

Sean Cullen, my assistant, digitally crunched the film to 30fps (video) and I then found various possible synch points and adjusted the length of the track accordingly. Before the film begins you hear someone say “The rest of you fellows ready? Go ahead!” (the first “speed” and “action” captured on wax).

I guess it is now officially the oldest synchronous film in existence, beating the previous recordholders by 25 years or so.

It was very moving, when the sound finally fell into synch: the scratchiness of the image and the sound dissolved away and you felt the immediate presence of these young men playing around with a fast-emerging technology.

As far as we can tell from Dickson’s writing and the circumstantial evidence about the Kinetophone machines that were manufactured, there was not what we today would call sync. The sound and picture did move at the same time, but whether there was actual mechanical linkage at the time of recording or reproducing is a question yet to be resolved.






Making your film sound great. part 1

Obtaining solid sound design is essential to a film’s success. So what steps can you take to craft the best audio experience for your film project?

There are a few misconceptions when it comes to what sound design for film is, so let’s get that out of the way first…

  • Sound design is not about assembling neat effects, loud gunshots or using a car crash SFX for every bang or crash in your film.
  • It is not about having the loudest film.

Sound design is a process of experimentation to create an audio environment that supports the on-screen action and engages the audience. The true sound designer is constantly listening, learning and experimenting.

Getting a good mix starts with clean and healthy signals from your sound recorder and boom operator. The dialogue to your film is an essential part of what’s going to translate the pictures to your audience in an emotional direction.

So let’s dive in and explore the principals and techniques of obtaining a good mix for a film:

  • Gain staging and Volume
  • Compression
  • EQ
  • Reverb

Gain Staging And Volume

Proper gain staging is important to the fidelity and cohesiveness of your mix. As previously stated, obtaining clean and healthy signals for each track is perhaps the most important part of structuring a mix; as every decision you make from here on out is directly affected by your choices in gain staging.

As a quick aside, it’s important to capture wild tracks on-set when possible (audio intended to be synchronized later on). This will save you from a great deal of ADR in postproduction (a few extra minutes on set could save you countless hours later). 

As you structure your mix, it’s imperative to create sonic depth for the picture. This is done by adjusting and fine-tuning each track’s dB control; creating a sonically rich and diverse atmosphere. You can further create depth and separation in your mix with the addition of reverb sends, but we’ll get to that later. This is where your mix should start to shine; before any compression, EQ or reverb effects have been used.

You generally want your master channel to be peaking around -15dB to -12dB in it’s loudest moments, as it’s important to leave plenty of headroom for mastering. Generally speaking, it’s better to reduce the volume of all the other tracks, rather than boost any one volume. Don’t be afraid to drastically reduce the volume of a track only to gradually bring it up again to find that “pocket” where it belongs. Personally, I find this method much easier than reducing the track’s dB starting at a high volume.


Applying compression to your dialogue tracks, as well as the rest of your mix, tends to be a subjective matter. So let’s explore that for a moment…

Most every engineer uses compression; with a few carving themselves into this niche. Compression, gating and expansion all represent the dynamics family of processors by altering the dynamic range of your signal. When squashing your signal into a narrowed dynamic range, the audio is better controlled: it will fit into your mix easier and appear to sound more full.

Source = http://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/sound-design-101-making-your-film-sound-great/

The Sound Designer

            If you’ve ever been to the movies, you’ve probably seen the name of a sound designer in the. You’re also likely to find a sound designer as part of the production team for every computer and video game you come across, not to mention theatrical productions, Web sites, and even radio dramas. But exactly what is a sound designer.     A sound designer is a theater or media professional who specializes in creating a final soundtrack to accompany a performance or film. Depending on the size and type of production, a sound designer may have many different jobs on a day-to-day basis, including communicating with the creative team, recording or finding sound effects, creating a soundtrack, or looking for new projects. In film, sound designers tend to work during post-production, whereas live theater designers may work throughout the pre-production period and during the production schedule.

            One of the most important jobs of a sound designer is to communicate with directors or producers about the soundtrack. In theater, this process may begin with the designer watching rehearsals and reading the script, and deciding which sounds should be created with effects. In film, TV, or commercial production, the designer may come on after shooting is completed in order to determine where and when sound effects are needed, based on the on-set recordings and the director’s vision. Working with the creative team allows the designer to create a finished product that fits the atmosphere of the production and helps the film or performance communicate intentions through sound. After an initial period of meetings, the designer may begin to hunt for the right effects for each sound cue. This may involve looking through sound libraries for appropriate cues, or even recording effects to match a particular sound. Depending on the size of the project, the sound designer may have sole responsibility for this task, or may have assistants and technicians that can manage some of the work. Once cues are created and organized, the sound designer may be responsible for creating the final sound mix for the finished product. For film, video games, or TV productions, this may mean using advanced computer software to create a blended soundtrack that incorporates dialogue, effects, and music. In this capacity, the designer serves almost as an orchestra conductor, ensuring that the mix of sound is balanced and nuanced correctly. On large productions, the process of creating the final mix may actually be the work of several sound professionals, including mixers, editors, and supervisors, rather than a sole sound designer. In live performance, the final mix is typically a sequence of cues that can be manually played in the correct order, since performance timing may shift from night to night.

            Most sound designers are freelance professionals, which means that a large part of their day-to-day work may involve searching for new projects. Freelance designers need to have basic advertising skills, as well as strong social abilities, in order to attract new clients and find new jobs. Many designers also spend some time learning to manage their work as a small business, since they may need to be licensed and taxed accordingly. Though designers are creative people at heart, a good sense of business can help ensure regular work.

What is audio post production and how does it work? (part 2)

So, continuing with the audio post production process, I’ll talk a little about “Foley” (funny name but a very important part of film). The name comes from a man named Jack Foley, who was a developer of many sound effect techniques used in film making. Now, the art of Foley is the process of adding sounds that are created by the recording of human movement in sync with the picture. Foley effects are different from the environmental backgrounds and hard effects. Foley effects are sounds like footsteps, prop movement, cloth rustling, etc. The people involved in this process are the Foley Mixer, who records the sounds, and the Foley Walkers who create those sounds. After the Foley Effects are recorded, the Foley Editor will make any slight timing adjustments necessary to ensure that they are exactly in sync with the final picture.

Now, on to the music, film/TV music falls into three general categories: Score, Source, and Songs. The Composer is the person hired with the responsibility to prepare the dramatic underscore, which is the music that plays softly under the characters dialog. Source music is that music we hear coming from an on screen or off screen device of some kind such as: radio source music, phonograph records, TV show themes, when seen on a TV set in the shot, and many other things. Source music may be original, or licensed from a number of libraries that specialize in the creation of “generic” music. Songs may occupy either function, but it all is dependent on the dramatic intent of the director. Using “Pulp Fiction” as an example, Director Quentin Tarantino hired a Music Supervisor (Karyn Rachtman) to “score” the picture using period music of the 1970’s almost exclusively. Most contemporary films use a combination of score and source music.

The Music Editor assists the Composer in the preparation of the dramatic underscore (FYI this is usually a stressful job). The music editor frequently works with the Music Supervisor and the music editor will take timings for the Composer, (usually during a spotting session) in order to notate the specific locations in the film where underscore or source music will punctuate the narrative. Once the underscore is recorded, and the source music gathered, the Music Editor would usually be the person who edits or supervises the final synchronization of all music elements prior to the mix.

After much work the last step is mixing. The Mixers have the responsibility of balancing the all of the audio in the media. This means that they “deal” with the Dialogue and ADR, Music, Sound Effects, and Foley Effects, in the final mix. The Dialogue Mixer commands the mixing stage. His partners in the mix are the Effects Mixer and the Music Mixer. On large features, it is not uncommon to have an additional mixer handling just the Foley effects. On huge pictures with tight deadlines, it is possible that several teams of mixers are working simultaneously on numerous stages in order to complete the mix by the release date.


Source = http://filmsound.org/AudiopostFAQ/audiopostfaq.htm



What is audio post production and how does it work? part 1

Audio post-production is the process of creating the soundtrack for a visual program of some kind. Now this has been relevant ever since silent movies began to talk, and filmmakers have been looking to control and improve the sound of their creation to better engulf their viewers. As soon as film-makers realized there was a way to control and enhance the sound of their pictures, audio post was born, and has been a vital part ever since. In Television, audio was originally “live”, but as TV evolved, and the art form grew to include “videotaped” and “filmed” programming, the need for audio post increased. Nowadays, it would be difficult to find any feature film or television show that hasn’t been through audio post.

     According to filmsound.com audio post usually consists of several processes: Production Dialogue Editing, ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), Sound Effects, Foley Recording, Music Composition and music editing, and Mixing. In order for the production audio recorded on the set or on location to be mixed the proper way, a Dialogue Editor needs to prepare it. This means that he has to locate the proper take from the recorded production audio, check the sync on screen (so it actually works with the picture properly and when the actor speaks the words are matched to his lips), and eliminate excess noise so the Mixer has clear and clean dialogue to use during the Mix.

     In cases where the production audio is too noisy, or otherwise unusable (bad line reading, or some uncontrollable noise interferes with on site recording,etc.) the Dialogue Editor will “cue” the line for ADR. This means replacing that line or lines of dialogue using the Automated process of Dialogue Replacement. This process takes place using a recording studio where the actor can record lines in sync with the picture. Once a replacement line of dialogue has been recorded, the editor will check the sync carefully, editing the take if need be, to precisely match it to the picture, and prepare it for the mixing stage. This process is also known as “looping”. So now that dialogue editing and ADR are out of the way, ever wonder how they made the sound of Darth Vader’s helmet breath, or the Empire’s Tie Fighters, or that famous light saber sound? Sound Effects Editors and Sound Designers are how. The process of adding sound effects (backgrounds like: air,lighting, rivers, birds, dog, cats, traffic, and hard effects like: gunshots, door slams, body falls, grunts, explosions, etc.) has been the go to of sound effects editors for years. Although originally edited using 35mm magnetic film, recent years have seen the development of many different Digital Sound Editing systems. More and more projects are using digital technology ( Pro-tools, Logic, abelton) because of the efficiency and quality it can bring to sound effects. Sound Designers use digital and analogue technology to create sound effects that have never been heard before, or to artistically create specific “mood” sounds to complement the director’s vision of the visuals.



The Role of Audio in Media.

Do we actually need it? I never really thought about it until I decided to commit to being a part of the entertainment industry, but it has been a very crucial part of my life. I remember watching “Tom and Jerry” as a kid and enjoying the classical music they would run and fight to; and now when I watch the show I listen even deeper and appreciate the skill of the musicians. So, what is classified as media? Things like television shows,video games, websites, blogs, movies, and radio especially, are all forms of media. They are also forms of entertainment and advertisement, but what would those shows and ads be without music to accompany them and help convey their view to the listener.

Could you imagine every movie ever created without sound  Would the meow mix commercial be as popular without their signature jingle? Would films like the Italian job (original) or Star Wars have been as successful without their accompanying scores and sound effects. I think the sound is just as important as video in regards to a movie unless it’s a silent movie, (but who watches those anyway). Almost 90 percent of what you hear during a movie is done during post production in a studio. Things like explosions, talking, gunshots, an alien shooting an exploding gun, all help to make the viewer feel like a part of the film; and all that is done by a person in a studio mixing, mastering, and tweaking the audio. Audio in movies also help to tell the story or make you feel a certain emotion while your watching. If a film maker wanted to convey fear the audio person might mix in a low and eerie sound to aid the on-screen action.

Audio is also extremely important in today’s video games. This may have not been true back when it was just 8 bit music (old Mario games) but people still enjoyed hearing something. However, In today’s video games, audio is much more complex and sophisticated.Could you imagine a video game with beautiful graphics and no sound; no gunshots that send chills through you every time the trigger is pulled, or explosions that seem so real you can almost feel the shrapnel. It takes a person somewhere with a microphone and a recorder, and a person at a computer mixing, manipulating, and synthesizing this audio, so that whenever its played you feel immersed in the action


In all forms of media sounds can always enhance the emotional aspect because of some reason. In the radio industry audio is the most important aspect, how else could you experience radio? How else could they make money. I don’t think broadcasting fuzz would be very lucrative. In radio audio allows the listener to listen to relaxing music, a thought provoking conversation about Justin Beiber, or hear about some new life changing product that they’ll never need. Either way, without audio this would be impossible. Audio is one of the most important aspects of media, whether its a movie, video game or radio.