Collaborations with Animation

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Blog post by level 2 AP student Nathan Lewis.

Earlier this year, an opportunity arose for Audio Production students to collaborate with the final year Animation students, who needed an original soundtrack design for their films. With the chance to enhance my learning experience and add to the repertoire of short films for my portfolio, I gladly attended the meeting to pitch my musical stylings to the groups in a rather professional manner (I hope). I was aware that each filmmaker required a specific style of artist for their film and was therefore delighted that my music captured the interests of two of the groups, which turned out to be amongst my favourite of the films.

With a rather jolly disposition, I took out my laptop and asked as many questions as I could about what they required from me. Both films required music and sound effects intertwined under a three dimensional, naturalistic, yet dreamy umbrella of auditory experience. I immediately got to work!

After uploading the animatics, I began composing the music. My method is to let the story play a few times till the required vibe is discovered for which I then perform the indicated melodies on a MIDI keyboard to depict the mood on screen. Because the animatics mainly consist of pencil outlines; imagination and foresight is very much required, hence it being a good idea to ask any key questions integral to understanding the plot, early as possible.

In total, I must have had about four pieces of music rejected, which taught me not only to keep my cool, but also a lot about catering for someone else’s design and vision, as usually the boot is on the other foot. Through many edits and adjustments, I eventually earned the trust of my teams and they allowed me to work more autonomously towards the final stages.

Highlights included the enlisting of my father as “incoherent quip” actor to perform some grunts, screams, oohs and aahs in one of the more acrobatic films. I originally attempted this myself only to rapidly discover my voice being not of the masculine persuasion required of the character.

Upon mutual satisfaction, the animatics were finally replaced with the fully animated versions where the stenciled in biros were replaced with beautiful colourings and HD frameworks. With these versions being less sporadic and more, well, animated, I was able to perform and record the foley which consisted mainly of footsteps and clothing rustles to bring the picture to life. The final versions were met with enthusiasm and sincere collaboration prospects for the future.

I recommend and advise any Audio Production student to get involved as it’s not only experience towards the field you are in, but also of the animation process itself; hence providing you with a wealth of invaluable industry experience upon graduation.

The two films complete with my composition and sound design can be seen here: River Man and here: Snowblind

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