sound designers

Ben Burtt Wall-E interview.

 

 

Ben Burtt Interview, Wall-E

interview by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline sat down with Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt at the Los Angeles press day for his new film, “WALL-E.”

“WALL-E’s” expressive range of robotic voices was created by Burtt, whose memorable work includes creating the “voices” of other legendary robots, such as R2-D2 from the “Star Wars” films. Drawing on 30 years of experience as one of the industry’s top sound experts, Burtt was involved from the film’s earliest stages in creating an entire world of sound for all of the robotic characters and the spacecraft, as well as all environments.

Burtt is an accomplished filmmaker who has served as film editor on a vast array of projects. He began his work with director George Lucas in 1977 as sound designer of the original “Star Wars,” earning his first Academy Award.

Ben Burtt is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his latest movie:

Q: Clearly one of the challenges in voicing a character like Wall-E is not to do R2-D2, but there was a little R2-D2 in there, wasn’t there?

BEN BURTT: Well, the challenge of doing robot voices – Andrew (Stanton), if he’d wanted to, I suppose could have hired actors and had them stand in front of a mike and recorded their voices and dubbed that in over character action, but that would have of course not taken the whole idea of the illusion very far. What he wanted was the illusion that these robot characters, the speech and sounds they made were really coming from their functions as machines, that there was either a chip on board that synthesized the voice or the squeak of their motor would sound cute, and that would give an indication how they feel. The problem does go back, for me, to the sort of primal R2-D2 idea, which is how do you have a character not speak words or, in the case of Wall-E, just a very few words, but you understand what is going on in their head and they also seem to have a depth of character.

The trick has always been to somehow balance the human input to the electronic input so you have the human side of it. In this case, for Wall-E, it ended up being my voice because I was always experimenting on myself sort of like the mad scientist in his lab, you inject yourself with the serum. After weeks and months of experimenting it was easier to try it on myself as we worked it out. You start with the human voice input and record words or sounds and then it is taken into a computer and I worked out a unique program which allowed me to deconstruct the sound into its component parts. We all know how pictures are pixels now and you can rearrange pixels to change the picture. You kind of do the same thing with sound.

I could reassemble the Wall-E vocals and perform it with a light pen on a tablet. You could change pitch by moving the pen or the pressure of the pen would sustain or stretch syllables or consonants and you could get an additional level of performance that way, kind of like playing a musical instrument. But that process had artifacts in it, things that made it unlike human speech, glitches you might say, things you might throw away if you were trying to convince someone it was a human voice. That’s what we liked, that electronic alias thing that went along with it, because that helped make the illusion that the sound was coming from a voice box or some kind of circuit depending on the character.

So it is a matter of that relationship, how much electronic, how much human, and you sway back and forth to create the different sounds. A great deal of the sounds, for him as well as the other characters, are also sound effects which are chosen to go with the robot’s character. Wall-E has lots of little motors and squeaks and little clicks of his hands and those are all mechanical sounds that come from many, many different sources. The idea is to orchestrate all those little bits of sound to also be a part of his character so he can cock his head and look at something and you can hear a little funny squeak and in a way it’s an expressive sound effect. So that is important too. It was really that array of sounds that were used to define each character.

 

 

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Making your film sound great. part 2

EQ

Before you begin equalizing your dialogue, soundtrack, or the entire mix, there are a few things to keep in mind about frequency ranges. To avoid a muddy mix, it’s important that each track’s sonic range of frequency is balanced to allow all audio components enough frequency space to breathe. See the image below for a more visual explanation (click for larger view)

frequencyspectrum

The human voice generally sits smack in the middle of the frequency range. Therefore: you can cut the top and bottom of all the dialogue. A low-pass and high-pass filter is generally what you want to use. This eliminates all of the low and high frequencies that are not necessary for the human voice’s frequency spectrum: the low rumble of a your generator that perhaps was too close to the set, a big truck driving by, or even the movement of your boom operator’s fingers on his pole. To eliminate these cut below 100 Hz and above 10 KHz.

Always EQ the dialogue with the entire mix playing so that you’re not soloing the tracks and working in the dark. Otherwise this can create problems with dialogue clarity in the entire mix. Below are a few tips and tweaks when addressing your dialogue (reverse for opposite effect):

  • Male fullness= Boost 120 Hz
  • Female fullness= Boost 240 Hz
  • General Dialogue= Boost 2.5KHz
  • Nasally dialogue= Cut between 2 KHz – 4KHz
  • Male sibilance=  Cut between 4KHz – 6 KHz
  • Female sibilance= Cut between 6KHz – 8KHz
  • Increase vocal presence= Boost 5KHz

Reverb

Early reflections to the human voice can contribute a great deal of presence and realism that EQ simply cannot recreate. Placing the dialogue in the correct acoustical space is a crucial element to obtaining good sound design and a solid mix. This is especially true for ADR work.

Because of the different types of reverbs and effects, the decisions you make creating your acoustical space will vary drastically from each scene, person, and the placement of your actor in relation to the camera angle. For example, your actor may be speaking directly at the camera, then completely turn his/her back to the camera speaking into the distance. Remember, the camera is the audience’s point of view.

So, how would you best demonstrate this in your mix? Usually by automating the volume, reverb, and low-pass filter to the desired effect. EQ is your friend here too. But again, there are no rules. Generally, you want a far-sounding verb and a near-sounding verb on your reverb busses to obtain the correct atmospheric mix.

Summary

We take in a huge variety of noises and sounds in our everyday lives. The sound designer is always taking advantage of these opportunities, consistently thinking outside the box. They are continually scheming and searching for the best way to create engaging soundscapes through experimentation.

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.