AUD210 Week 12: Final Report
This, sadly, is my final blog post for Trimester 3 and my first year at SAE. I will be reflecting on my final project, the creation of sound-design for two adverts and one movie trailer, and the processes I employed to create them. As mentioned in my previous blog about the planning of my jingles assessment, I chose to recreate the audio for the latest John Lewis Christmas advert, Moz The Monster, and the trailer to the 1998 film by Darren Aronofsky, Pi, with my group, Anthony Petrou and Pharisee Son. I had originally planned to also recreate the sound for a PG Tips advert, but due to some timing restrictions, and also an intention to explore EMP further, I decided instead to work with the advert for the latest iPhone from Apple. Anthony, Pharisee and myself using our initials, created a company called APT Media. Below is a link to our company website where you can find both my solo projects and the trailer we created together. That’s where we will start.
The process for creating this trailer was simple, effective, fast and thoroughly enjoyable. I went into this project fully aware that my enthusiasm for group work needed attention, so I was very intentionally prepared to be positive, collaborative and to try to relax and have some fun, and fun I had. My teammates and I set a date quite early on for us to meet at Anthony’s house in Niddrie. We were all intending to make an electronic score for this project, and Anthony’s array of analogue synthesisers, samplers and other analogue equipment was a natural choice. It was a great day. The three of us stood side by side for hours, discussing and then creating the perfect sound for our purpose. We took inspiration from the original audio for sure, but we also explored and played freely to find our own feel. I thoroughly enjoyed working with boys, as their knowledge and love of EDM was very educational, and they didn’t mind taking the time to make sure I understood each step. I learnt a lot that day, and am really proud of the track we created. Once the score was done, the finishing touch was for me, with my experience of acting and voice-over work, to recreate the spoken words that are borrowed from the film and placed on top of the music in the original. I recorded the voiceover, in my questionable American accent, in my flat and then processed it to match the timbre and quality of the original. This was a fun process, and my critical listening skills really showed up to help me out with this. Due to the original film being quite low quality, the audio was certainly not the clean, polished sound you might expect to hear. So, through heavy compression and precise EQ, I was able to match my voice to the voices in the original fairly accurately, and I think I did pretty well. Once all that was done, I matched the video and audio in Pro Tools, mixed and (semi) mastered the final stems, and we were done. I am very proud of this, mostly because we had a clear vision right from the beginning, and I feel as though we have produced exactly what we aimed for.
The sound design for my first advert was probably the biggest job I’ve done to date. I spent a lot of time on this and am incredibly proud of the finished product. I began the process for this one with Foley and sound effects, leaving the music until last. I first made a list of all the sounds I wanted to include, and then set about finding the closest samples I could online. I sourced all of the sound effects from freesound.org and included a huge array of them. Some I had to process to get them right for my purpose, others were ready to go. Fortunately, most of the samples I used were covered by a Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning I could use them freely, without restrictions other than appropriately crediting the author. There is a handful that are under an Attribution Non-commercial License, meaning I can’t profit from or sell the work, and two that were Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike, meaning I would need to make my work available under the same conditions as the work I have exploited. Putting all of these sounds in the correct place, finding alternatives to sounds I couldn’t find (a good example of this would be using the sound of chairs and pots dragging on the floor to create the sound of toys dragging on the floor) was extremely tedious and time consuming, but I enjoyed it so much. I, like with the EMP work, have found a new aspect of audio that I am completely in love with. I found it a meditative experience. Once I had the Foley and effects in place and cleaned up, I started thinking about the score. I wanted to use a known song, because these types of cinematic, large-production adverts usually use a reimagined hit song, as a way of capturing their audience’s attention. I used Forever Now by Cold Chisel, and created an orchestral cover, with a music box playing the vocal melody line. I used this sound because I wanted something childlike and sweet to complement the storyline. I chose Forever Now because I wanted something that had a minor chord progression leading into a major one, to suit the emotional arch of the advert’s protagonist. I was able to find a BPM that allowed this to fit perfectly with the visuals, so all chord changes and melody lines worked in conjunction with the shots. Some of this was luck, but it was certainly the feel I had set out to achieve. A problem I did face with this came at the time of mixing. I had trouble knowing where my levels should have been, between the music and Foley, but also the Foley in itself. It was hard to gauge how loud a door closing should be compared to a light switch etc. Also, the high-frequency content in my music was sometimes hard to navigate in terms of levels, and it showed me an area that I would like to improve on in the future. However, after hours and hours of work, I am pleased with the outcome and feel I have something I can be proud of.
Finally, I recreated the audio for the new Apple iPhone X. This was fun! I was able to further explore some electronic music composition, and feel like I created something that really works well with visuals. Again, I gathered all of the Foley and sound effects from freesound.org, this time only using content covered by the Attribution License mentioned earlier. Although there was less to this advert, it was still intricate and time-consuming to get right. The vocals in this were once again recorded by me, and then processed to achieve a similar result to the original, which was the vocal line to a song called Best Friend Ft. NERVO by Sofi Tukker. I was really happy with what I was able to do, using pitch shifting, EQ and compression, and feel the end result is pretty close. Again, I was unhappy with the length of time I spent mixing, and found it quite difficult to be happy with the levels, but I got there in the end. This is another piece of work I incredibly proud of, especially when I consider how deliberate and considered all of my decisions were.
In terms of freelance work, I technically have done a lot of it this throughout the trimester. Sadly, I don’t have anything I can physically supply as work, but it has happened all the same. I have done countless hours of live sound engineering, both at my own gigs on a weekly basis, and for other artists at their shows. My knowledge of acoustics and EQ has come into play, and my skills in this area are really getting quite sharp. I have also been working in the studio with the artists Brentwood, who my group and I recorded in Trimester 2. We have been recording guitars and rewriting some of their songs at my home studio, and we will be laying down vocals and further production over the break. I was hoping to have this to submit for my freelance option, but unfortunately, the artists’ busy schedule has not made this possible. I have also just started managing a young singer/songwriter, and have been spending countless hours producing, and directing her in the lead up to her recording her first EP, something I will be heavily involved with. Once again, I’m saddened I have not been able to submit a physical project for consideration, as I have most definitely been doing freelance work outside of my studies, but I do not. There is one thing I could potentially include. I was hired to play a wedding a few weeks ago, and the bride asked me to learn, rework and record a favourite song of hers. I did this, and have included a small sample of this below. Most of the correspondence surrounding this was done via telephone, and as such, I cannot include anything physically showing our interactions.
All in all, this trimester has been intense, busy, and really great. I have fallen in love with new parts of my craft, areas I have never even considered visiting in the past, and feel that my skills and ability are getting stronger and stronger by the day. Although I have a long way to go, I’m starting to be able to clearly see the areas I need to work on most and am therefore able to spend the necessary time to work on them. I look forward to next year and more studio work. This has been my favourite trimester by far, and I appreciate so much the guidance, lessons, and mentorship I have received from Nick Wilson and Michael Clarke throughout. I can’t wait to sink my teeth back in next year.
Until then, it’s back to practice.