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David Javelosa

Copyright © 2003 - 2014 David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.

week 09 - designing sound to picture and script

designing sound to picture and script

The Art of Listening To What You Are Looking At

We have listened to a number of different tracks, paying close attention to all details of sound. We have been able to identify the difference between foregroung, middleground and background layers of sound. We have also identified the three major components to sound design for moving pictures, in order of priority: dialogue, sound effects, music. In order for the complete experience to be able to convey the story or idea of a scene, these elements must work together in supporting the information that each element delivers.

The Art of Looking At What You Are Listening To

Now that we have had some experience running sample video footage in Pro Tools, we see how easy it is to drop in the three main elements. Music tracks, often in stereo pairs, can fade in and out with a scene. However they can also have certain musical logic as to the action. A growing musical passage, either in activity or volume, can climax to coincide with a particular visual event. Pro Tools makes it easier to see the wave shape of the climax and to be able to slip the music track to match the action of the movie.

We have also learned to use the spot feature in Pro Tools that enables us to drop sound effects that have been previously "spotted" for us by a director or editor. Given a script or a cue sheet, it makes it very easy to prepare a number of effects to assemble into the overall track. By spotting the sound effect "cues", we are able to insert the sounds to exactly the time code that a cue sheet or script would instruct. By going back into slip mode, we are able to fine tune the timing of the effects according to the picture.

Besides many of these subjective and asthetic judgement calls, there is yet another level of creativity in layering these components to picture. That is the difference between "literal" sound design and "figurative" sound design. The former deals with the literal, or at least related, sound effect to go with a screen action. The sound of a gun shot is the most typical example. We see a gun fire on the screen and we immediately recognize (or vizualize) the sound that is used. Culturally, however, we are used to a particular sound for gun shots, and these are not always accurate for what we see on the screen. Footsteps, door knocks and other similar every day sounds can easily be duplicated using a sound library or a foley artist in a sound studio.

But sometimes action is not always associated with a "literal" sound effect. Sometimes we have sounds that have nothing to do with the action we are seeing but somehow they "fit". A great example of a "figurative" or abstract sound design is the classic recording of angry bees that was mixed into scenes of the Exorcist, used to great a subconcious feeling of stress and uneasiness. Many times, musical passages are used to convey great emotional moments, or to convey emotional reaction to a visual that cannot be litarally heard. A great example of this is any scene with a majestic mountain view, or sense of immense discovery. The sound designer becomes an abstract artist in creating sounds that "fit" with a scene if only on a visceral or sensual level, such as the sounds of grinding metal as a dark passage is being explored, or the sounds of rushing wind during a cliff-hanging scene, even though the wind sound is gone when the danger is over. The abstract use of silence, in this case becomes the most powerfull thing a sound designer can apply.

Listening and Watching Film Examples

- Carl Stalling Project (CD), music as SFX
- Sponge Bob, animation SFX
- Romeo & Juliet, opening scene effects
- Lord of the Rings, V.O. with orchestra & effects
- Armegeddon - shuttle crash landings composite
- Final Fantasy - cd intro & city opening composite

Notes by Walter Murch

Pro Tools Exercises

Creating the MIX of the priority of elements
- Audio Signal Flow
- Understanding Inputs, Outputs and Inserts
- Using Plug-ins to enhance or blend different track elements
- Grouping related elements into submixes

Using the different DSP plugin Effects
- Equalization (EQ)
- Dynamics, compression, expansion, normalization
- Delay, echo, and reverb
- Routing out to external effect processing
- Pre-processing sound files in the AudioSuite editor

Automating the MIX
- Realtime recording of a parameter
- Drawing parameters such as volume, pan, effect levels
- Editing and thinning automation

Bouncing down to a usable track
- Stereo, mono, bounced down submixes

week 9 assignment, FINAL pro tools project, Due Week 16

Develop a sound design for the provided video clip that should contain the following elements :

  • sound effects
  • music, looping phrase or bed track
  • voice over
  • transitions
  • fades
  • 2 or more elements spotted to picture

Grades at the "A" level will require more than these minimums. The more original the design, the better the grade.

Additional possibilities include:

  • musical arrangement with track looping
  • voice over cut to the measure
  • voice over or dialogue matched to character events (dubbed)


Reading Assignment

Review: Pro Tools 8 for Macintosh & Windows OR Complete Pro Tools Handbook

  • Recording MIDI
  • Editing MIDI

Review: Recording Basics

Copyright © 2003-2014 David Javelosa