Guest Lecture – Howard Young

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Hull might seem like an unlikely place to set up a successful audio post-production company, but that’s exactly what Howard Young of Engine7 has done.

After studying an intensive sound design course at Full Sail in Orlando, and gaining some valuable industry experience at post-production houses in the States, Howard returned to his hometown of Hull and began a career in local radio. He soon used his contacts here and developed what is now a very successful company providing many different aspects of audio for various media.

Engine7’s clients are based mainly in the local area and come with a wide range of needs – from online explainer videos, to sound design for rides and attractions, to corporate work, to radio ad voice-overs. Some of this work might not seem the most glamorous but it still requires great creativity, technical skill and the ability to work closely with clients to build up a trusting relationship.

Howard emphasised this in his very interesting and enjoyable lecture, and gave the students a fantastic insight into a diverse portfolio of work and the daily activities of running a media business.

INTERSTELLAR – drowning in sound

I watched INTERSTELLAR last night. The soundtrack was (as you would expect from a Christopher Nolan film) electrifying.

Music was composed by Nolan’s composer of choice Hans Zimmer.

As I watched I realised that the predominant instruments were strings and what sounded like the biggest church organ in the world!. I wasn’t far wrong it seems.

“Over the course of the film, the core five-note melody (the soundtrack is released on November 17th, but for a taste listen to Trailer #3) is expressed in different ways. The score is an ensemble effort combining 34 strings, 24 woodwinds, four pianos, and 60 choir singers, all of which get their time to sound off. But the starring, and most meaningful voice, is the 1926 four-manual Harrison & Harrison organ, currently housed at the 12th-century Temple Church in London and played in the movie by its director of music, Roger Sayer”(i)

What also became apparent is that on many occasions the audio track was so loud that at times when actors were speaking you could not hear clearly what they were saying. As I watched, my sound editor’s head said to myself “this must be deliberate, Nolan must WANT US to be straining to hear what they’re saying, to make the scene tense, threatening or downright overwhelming. I certainly thought at times that the cinema sound system was going to blow. I was being affected physiologically, my heart-rate was increasing. At other times however, quieter times, The main dialogue was relatively low in level – almost hard to hear what people were saying. This huge dynamic range (only available in cinemas) made me wonder how it will sound on DVD/streaming etc. You cant really watch a Nolan film anywhere other than the cinema it seems to me.

Afterwards some research into the sound led me to an article on this very subject, which confirms much of what I thought and far more.

https://soundcloud.com/zimmer-fans/hans-zimmer-our-destiny-lies

Here’s more from the article:-

Hans Zimmer’s score drowns out dialogue and has already broken an Imax theater, but there’s thematic significance in all that noise

“As Zimmer recently told the Film Music Society, the organ was chosen for its significance to science: From the 17th century to the time of the telephone exchange, the pipe organ was known as the most complex man-made device ever invented. Its physical appearance reminded him of space ship afterburners. And the airiness of the sound slipping through pipes replicates the experience of suited astronauts, where every breath is precious (a usual preoccupation with sci-fi movies that is taken very literally in Zimmer’s music, which also features the exhalations of his human choir).

Zimmer’s score—which alternates between a 19th-century Romanticism and 20th-century Minimalism—of course has an element of spirituality to it. But the organ does more than just recall churches. From the movie’s earliest moments, it performs some very necessary narrative legwork for the overburdened screenplay. When it kicks in as Cooper chases down an Indian surveillance drone, a light touch on the organ keys, paired with rousing strings, creates a whirling, ethereal sound that channels Cooper’s interior life. The giddy tone it sets demonstrates that Cooper is a risk-taker and adventurer, which solves the screenplay’s early problem of establishing emotional motive for Cooper to leave his children.

As organs are wont to do, this one resonates. And there are moments when the decibels at which it does can only be described as an action-movie crutch. The organ gets a noticeably more heavy-handed touch as the plot becomes ever-more preposterous. It blasts when the elder Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine, hands over the keys to the spaceship—and his life’s work—to a farmer (Cooper) who presumably hasn’t piloted anything except a plow in a while. It booms when Ann Hathaway’s younger Dr. Brand shakes hands with “Them,” heavily foreshadowing events to come. Some of these moments necessitate the extra spiritualistic oomph, but it’s often the case that when the plot turns implausible, Nolan and Zimmer ramp up the organ.”(i)

(i)http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/why-interstellars-organ-needs-to-be-so-loud/382619/

Animation/Audio Festival Screenings in the USA and UK

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Blog post by RW.

Animation student Daniel Escobar’s Luma St. with music and sound by 2014 Audio Production Graduate Nathan Lewis has been selected for Festimation – an International Animation & New Media Arts Festival, which is on this month in Montana, USA. Festimation is an event for screening and showcasing ‘up-and-coming independent, narrative, documentary and experimental animated films.’ Luma St. is summed up as a short that “revolves around the idea of people missing the beauty in everyday life.” LSFM Senior Lecturer Sultan Efe: It’s great to see that the organisers used snapshots from Luma St. as part of their poster for the festival. Daniel has sent the film to several animation competitions and festivals and I am sure we will be hearing good news in the next 12 months.”

Luma St. will be screened at Lincoln Shorts film festival along with a hugely diverse, eclectic and entertaining mix of locally-made short films at Lincoln Drill Hall on 18th October at 7pm. Admission’s £5 and you can book tickets online.

Also, Audio Production alumna Danielle Crooks created the soundtrack for animation project, Lullaby, which was led by Lucy Clay and Amy Fairclough. Lullaby was nominated in the Student Competition at Animasyros 7.0 International Animation Festival this month.

Sultan said: We have yet to hear results of both competitions but so far it has been great to see our student films have had exposure in China, Greece, UK and US.

Watch Luma St here.

Music & Video Games

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Games Designer Paul Bennun explores the growing popularity and ambition of music composed for video games.

Video games now have the resources to match that of the big Hollywood orchestral film scores. But it’s not just commercially that video game soundtracks are taken seriously. Composers are becoming more interested in it artistically and BAFTA and the Ivor Novellos have recently recognised the form with their own award categories.

Bennun traces the development of this new genre and finds out how it is changing the way music is made and consumed. Has it now left behind bleeps and bloops and arrived at the brink of artistic respectability?

Producer: Russell Finch

Listen to The BBC Radio 4 programme here:

Free Thinking – BBC Radiophonic Workshop

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The BBC Radiophonic workshop was founded in 1958 by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram. This group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators provided music for programmes including The Body in Question, Horizon, Quatermass, Newsround, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicle and Delia Derbyshire’s iconic Doctor Who Theme before being shut down by Director General John Birt in 1998.

In an edition recorded just as the Workshop prepare to release a new album, and tour the UK, Matthew Sweet brings together Radiophonic Workshop members Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Peter Howells, and Mark Ayres to reflect on the days and nights they spent in the workshop, coaxing ageing machines into otherworldly life, and pioneering electronic music. Also in the programme, The Prodigy’s Kieron Pepper and Vile Electrodes on the influence the Radiophonic Workshop had on them.

Listen to the BBC Radio 3 programme here:

Taking part in the programme:
Dick Mills
Mark Ayres
Roger Limb
Peter Howell
Paddy Kingsland
Matthew Howden
Kieron Pepper
Vile Electrodes
Steven Price

‘Dubbing Doctors’ – with BBC’s Richard Hastings-Hall

Richard Hastings-Hall visited Audio Production level 2 students today to talk about ‘dubbing mixing’, in particular mixing for medium budget daytime drama and the technical and creative constraints that working on shows like this can have. They are often handled very differently to other dramas, documentaries and television series etc.

For example the directors of these daytime dramas are not paid to be present at the final mixing session – it’s only the Exec Producer who signs off the mix.
Richard Hastings-HallRichard brought his Pyramix set-up (made by Emerging Technologies) with him which sadly did have some technical issues – but this was a good example of how ‘anything that can go wrong – will go wrong’. A thankyou must go to Luke Johnston who showed his skill in drive re-mapping!.

Some students found it reassuring that it wasn’t ‘just them’

Richard mentioned metering and loudness, and the need for good adherence to technical standards.
To find out more about the BBC delivery requirements look here

Richard revealed that often with quick turn around drama shows like Doctors – the sync sound recordings are not always perfect. the crew often doesn’t have time to go again. So very often

The dubbing team are left to ‘fix it in post’. Alternative lines of dialogue are hunted down from the rushes, smoothing techniques are used and generally the pressures are such that all this must be done in one 12 hour session. No foley ar ADR sessions are possible.

“In Doctors we don’t have time for foley sessions, so we have to be very resourceful when it comes to our use of time. Much of what we do is fixing problems”

Louise Wilcox, another dubbing mixer was featured in an article in the Institute of Professional Sound Website which may be of interest

 

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On another occasion during a Jane Austin themed episode he went overboard on a fight scene and had to remix it due to a topical news event which happened close to transmission.

Richard also talked about Brinkburn Street for BBC, which presented some unusual sound dillemas, as it was set in both the present day and the 1930’s so sometimes there were horses and carts outside the houses and sometimes jet engines and traffic. See iPLayer

Richard has been a dubbing mixer for over 20 years and has mixed 717 episodes of Doctors. He is currently freelance, based in Nottingham.

His IMdB page is here 

pyramixFind out more about Pyramix here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound of Cinema – Sound and Fury

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How do sound designers use soundscapes and sound effects to manipulate excitement and emotion in the cinema audience?

As part of the BBC’s Sound of Cinema season, Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering, visits Pinewood studios to meet Glenn Freemantle, Danny Boyle’s sound designer. Freemantle describes the extraordinary lengths he went to in order to re-create the soundscape of a remote desert canyon in the film 127 Hours, so that the cinema audience hears exactly what the climber trapped under a rock for 127 hours hears as he tries to escape. And he shows how to build up the sound in a creepy scene to make the audience feel uneasy.

Trevor Cox also learns how the sound of a futuristic motor bike is created in the latest Judge Dredd film ? how does a sound designer create a sound that is incredibly powerful but also believable?

And there’s a revealing trip to a screening room in central London to experience the very latest technology in the world of cinematic surround sound

Guest Lecture – Susan Pennington

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This month’s Level 3 guest lecture was by Susan Pennington, Supervising Sound Editor at Spool.

As many of out students hope to work in audio post-production after they graduate this year, Susan’s lecture was both hugely enjoyable and very useful indeed. Drawing from her own wealth of experience, she shed light on working in the industry with particular focus on the most common means; that of freelance work.

She clarified the various team roles and workflows within audio post and stressed the importance of communication between them. She discussed many of the creative aspects of her job as well as some of the more technical requirements such as TV delivery specifications.

For me, it was most fascinating to hear about the relationship between her role (overseeing the full team) and the film director. As someone who has worked closely with Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine, this certainly revealed how demanding her job can be!