12 weeks ago… was when we first presented our project to the class as duo consisting of myself and Tayla. Our goal over the next 12 weeks was to replace all audio assets within four snippets of film, these audio assets included total foley, ADR and score replacement! these clips are famously known over the world which made it quite daunting to tackle although I’m glad we did as they turned out very well!
Tayla and I got together and selected four well known films, went through scene by scene and selected sections that we thought were the most detailed and interesting. Prior to this selection we’d be chatting with a lecturer from uni that had caught wind of our idea and informed us that one of the gaming lectures had a talent for re-enacting the voice of the infamous creature from Lord of the Rings, Smeagol. Gaute, our potential voice actor conveniently passed us in the hallway the same day and so kindly offered us his services. It was a great start to project and gave us such hope that this was going to be such a great project, we’d also chosen a short scene from Zombieland, Titanic and a longer scene from The Lion King.
After we pitched our concept to Akshay and Guy they along with majority of the cohort doubted the work load that we had just committed ourselves to, however I wasn’t phased… at the time of course… As a few weeks progressed unfortunately my partner Tayla gave in to an illness which had me very concerned as she has had troubles with her health over previous trimesters. It’d been quite some time since I had heard from her, relying on myself to get the project started I began to start attaining all the movies and editing the video to the appropriate scenes.
I was concerned about the workload that I had while Tayla was away sick, it made me realise that I had a lot of work cut out for me. I so kindly asked Jackson if he could join our group and help deliver the project and he cautiously said yes… I consulted with Tayla about getting Jackson to joint he team and she was all for it, both Jackson and I sat down with Akshay and discussed the changed and my concerns about being able to finish the project and he supported/suggested a new member as well.
I updated Jackson about project concept in further detail and he was super keen to get on board as he has had a burning desire to produce sound design for film and games for quite some time, and this was his opportunity to create something grand!
I tried to edit the videos on my Protools system at home and was unable to make any cuts or edits to the film, concerned that I couldn’t get the video ready in time I asked Guy for advice as I thought I was doing something wrong. We later found that you are only able to edit video on a ProTools HD System.
NOTE: You can only edit video on a ProTools HD system!
While I was at uni editing the video to prepare for our ADR session with Gaute, I was accompanied by Jackson in the studio. Later that night Akshay joined us to see how we were getting along, he showed us that you could split the 5.1 version of the audio that we had into mono channels, this made analysing each foley, music and ADR component so much easier.
NOTE: If ever you find yourself doing audio replacement as a project or would just like to research which components go where in a surround mix, you can isolate each speaker by splitting your 5.1 signal in mono channels. Then by selecting solo on each track you can clearly identify each sound.
Earlier in the year my friend Rose showed us how to create a count in to cue lines of dialogue, it may have slipped my mind so I did some research… I found a YouTube video that really helped us prepare for our ADR session, I used the Audio Suite’s signal generator within Protools, changed my bars and beats to frames per second then highlighted a seconds worth of a section. Then by rendering the highlighted area it generated a second long beep, I then copied that two more times to create a three second count in and on the fourth beat the dialogue would begin. I believe this preparation was beneficial for the group as well as the voice actors involved as it made it a lot easier for them to prepare for their lines.
Here’s a link to the video I used this method from. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2J9U60vX8I
Location, location! It was time to do a little bit of traveling, Jackson and I hired out a car load of location recording gear to head out the Koala Sanctuary at Daisy Hill, I have no idea why we went to a Koala Sanctuary but we did… Jackson came to my house for pre-production of the days session to ensure we had all appropriate sounds listed and all equipment that was needed. We arrived at Daisy Hill around 11am, spent around three hours recording ambience which we ended up using for 3 of the 4 scenes, birds calls, footsteps and wildebeest footsteps which are now all in our buckets.
NOTE: Whenever you’re recording foley or you obtain foley sounds put them onto a hard drive, now your bucket as you never know when they’ll come in handy!
Which is what we did when we came home, transferring and backing up all files to begin editing later that week. After this I finalised and made sure that the ADR session was prepared and ready to go for our recording session with Gaute the next day.
That morning we had finished the ADR prep so we thought we’d have a go at composing some music for the Lord of the Rings scene, I used a MIDI controller to develop the eerie then ascending melody that’s accompanying Smeagol and Gollum in the ruins. Jackson operated the DAW for me which was a massive help as we were only just all getting our heads wrapped around the signal flow that Kontakt uses… I completed the score in this session however there were still some minor adjustments that needed to be made.
All three of us went into the C24 Studio to begin our ADR session, I was luckily able to obtain the U87 mics to record our dialogue which sounded beautiful! I added a pop filter and after Jackson researched some ADR techniques he mentioned that have the voice actor stand on a 45 degree angle to the mic decreased chances of plosives and sibilance… I operated protools for the session to ensure organised file management as I’d prepared the session as well, Jackson was in charge of the console and monitoring the signal as we could only listen to it through headphones being that the talent was in the control room with us… Tayla was documenting any good takes and notes throughout the session… This was a great session and we completed all takes in about three hours or so, which was much quicker than what I thought. This did also come down to the fact Gaute was very talented as this character so it made the whole process a lot easier.
After all this Jackson and I were having issues with session data saving correctly, for some reason a video file couldn’t be found after closing and re-opening the session… this was a major concern! When the session did open with the video it had somehow found the original full length film
NOTE: If you’re video editing within Protools, you will need to bounce you edited video as a QuickTime (without the audio) deleted the original video from the appropriate folder then replace it with your newly edited video.
In late October we had our first session at Tall Poppy studios working on our class project “The Cave” this session ran all day, however we went back to campus to finalise the score to LOTR.
This scene was coming together quite nicely!
The following week, we didn’t waste any time getting into the next scene which was The Lion King. Being the longest scene as well we knew that this one was going to be the most time consuming. Another Tuesday afternoon session saw us setting up for Gaute yet again to record the voice of Mufasa, as Gaute had worked with us before he was a bit more comfortable and familiar with the way we ran the sessions. I began to direct the session on Protools ensuring a well maintained session, I took a short break half way through and Jackson took over doing a fantastic job as Tayla scribed the sessions events.
After out ADR session for TLK we gathered around 10-15 students, staff and ourselves to record the zombie sounds in our fourth scene Zombieland, here there are about 50-80 zombies! Which was a fun and interested recording session 🙂
In the following days we had another ADR session to complete the other dialogue parts in TLK, we raced down to the C24 studio after class to set up for Perry and Akshay or as we now know them, Scar and Zazu! Jackson and Tay set up our old friend the U87 as I made sure the session I’d prepared earlier was all running smoothly. Perry, Scar… Arrived first, he was a little disappointed that he didn’t have more lines however he absolutely nailed the performance! I’ll posting a before and after video and I think that Perry conveyed the emotion of Scar much better than the original! but hey, no ones judging you Irons… 🙂
Next Akshay arrived to record his lines for Zazu, he was a little nervous to begin with as he didn’t feel very comfortable recording his voice for this kind of production. After a few takes he loosened right up and I’ve never heard him talk so loudly before! We got the lines over and done with quickly and efficiently, however having Akshay behind you and having to operate the session was a little intimidating… He suggested to us as well for future recordings if we were to set an SM7B mic next the Neumann is would accompany the 87 in picking up the lower frequency range, this was great feedback and we are sure to take it on board in our next session.
Post ADR recording we head up the post-production studio to begin some score composition, we started on Zombieland however we just weren’t feeling the vibe that afternoon. We moved onto The Lion King and found a nice little selection of instruments, we composed a little jingle for the chameleon in the beginning that gives him and simba a cheeky nature.
The following afternoon I got home from work and got straight into editing the ADR recordings that we had acquired during the week. They fit absolutely perfectly! We couldn’t have asked for a better team of producers and actors. I selected the takes I thought were best as I was unable to communicate effectively with my team members however I will be in touch with them the next day to discuss the opinions.
After this I spent approximately two and half hours blogging about our journey through the week and about half an hour updating my time sheet.
Later that week we addressed all of the Foley components, and Tayla and Jackson finalised all foley editing. We recorded multiple sounds that we didn’t get a chance to record on our location trip such as: simba’s footsteps, zazu’s wing flaps… We addressed all of the Foley sounds that we had previously recorded which was about 95% of the scene which made our session run smoothly today. Although it wasn’t that easy, unfortunately I wasn’t as available for the sound designing session as I would have liked however as I did become more available the work that was made was exceptional! Jackson did a fantastic job, layering sound upon sounds! This tedious task was a hair puller however it paid off in the end, as you don’t notice the sound design aspect of films until it’s missing, then your mind thinks that something’s not quite right… There are still sections that need our attention however considering our deadlines I think our work is at a High Distinction level, if I do say so myself…
Today I began to compose the Titanic score, I decided to keep it plain and simple as compared to our other scenes that have a lot of instruments going on. This scene is very intimate so I decided I’d keep the music accompaniment intimate as well. I chose a harp and a flute to carry the emotions of romance and arousal that builds the beginning of their tragic love story. I started with the harp as it carries the main melody for the scene… beginning with a pianissimo dynamic playing an arpeggio style rhythm accompanied by a sustained flute carrying a second melody.
Later in the mixing stage it was quite difficult to mix these two instruments together in the register they were in, I ended up dropping the treble section of the harp by an octave to create separation between the two instruments. Personally coming from a musical background I didn’t see an issue with combining these two instruments, however Guy brought to my attention that these aren’t real instruments and that I needed to consider that they are digital… He suggested to look at the frequency range that supports the air being blown into the flute and to get rid of any unnecessary frequencies, by rolling off up to 800hZ and boosting around 11kHz the two instruments suddenly opened up and gave each other room within the mix!
NOTE: If you’re using virtual instruments for you compositions, remember to compensate for things that aren’t present like they are in a real instrument. This will bring you score to life and make frequency balancing so much easier!
Jackson and I finalised the score for The Lion King in the Post-production Suite, we found that in some sections towards the end was still a bit thin. However we needed to press on and set up for our recording of the cello for when Mufasa dies that was composed and performed by yours truly. When I composed this section of the score I was inspired by a cello cover of ‘The Last of Us’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0SOvWFtsec, I used the same key as this track as a lot of my favourite game scores are played in it as well.
This was our groups first time recording a single classical instrument such as a cello, we received some advice about which mic techniques would be better suited. We used a mid-side mic set up using a U87 as the side and a MK184 as the mid, as well as a pair of AKG414’s setup in another MS set up for the room. Another U87 was placed over my shoulder to capture the sound of the bow on the strings… Originally our MS setup on the body was fairly close, however after a first recording we realised that they needed to be moved much further away as the scene in set in a canyon and the cello sound we had captured sounded as though I was sitting on your lap and playing, not ideal.
Jackson did a fantastic job mixing the cello, selecting the appropriate mics which in the end we didn’t even end up using them all. He used the U87 and MK184 that was in a mid-side set up on the cello’s body placed about a meter or so away. He then mixed a delay going into a reverb setting them to pre-fader which made the cello seem as though it was in the same setting as the characters.
I made some edits to The Lion King score before our mixing class with Guy. The day before we had about 90% of the score complete as the last part appeared a bit thin. So we came in and added some percussive instruments and choirs to thicken it up.
Parallel Universe of Phase
Using our mid-side mastering technique we can apply a parallel version to the sides making the sides so much more alive however leave the mid information in the centre still quite prominent. On the audio track your main output should be to your main AUX output and use your buses to send to the sides and the mid to your AUX you’ve created to do your mid-side and this gives you control over how much mid and side you can add to the track. By applying this parallel technique to the track it gives it SO much more presence! It essentially gives it a 3D feel which would be what you want when you’re making a record.
This universe of phase was an eye opening that created so much depth it was unbelievable! Unfortunately I had run out of time and creativity by the time we got the fourth scene, Zombieland… I regrettably admit that we did in fact use sample library music for this scene, I applied this parallel phase technique to the already made soundtrack which opened it up so much more and gave it a real 3D effect, this made the listener (us) feel as though we were so much more immersed in what was going on in the scene.
Then came the mixing stage which by the time all of the components were in felt as though we were done, just like how I feel towards the end of this blog. But, the job must be finished! We started a LOTR as a stereo mix then up-mixed into 5.1 same as TLK we then found that it was much easier to mix into 5.1 then down mix into a two-track. Everything that we learnt was through experience and I wouldn’t have changed a thing! This whole project was such a great learning outcome as I’ve never taken on such a massive and intricate project before! I know that I’ve definitely been taken post-production work for granted, on future projects I hope to produce an OST of my compositions, it would also be such an amazing experience if I could get a full length score composed and notated to have as my own! One day I endeavour to be fortunate enough to have my music performed by an orchestra, as much as I’d want to be sitting first desk, first chair on cello… I suppose I should probably be conducting my work!
As we got about half way through the trimester we had realised that any kind of budget that we might have had, would have been well and truly exceeded. Being our first time producing this kind of work, it was a massive learning curve for us not only to understand how long it would to do tasks but as well how to actually do them professionally as well! We put together a quote based on third party companies, hiring costs of equipment, studio spaces for recording and engineers as well. Now I can understand why it costs so much money to make films!
Over the trimester there were ups and most certainly downs, this one definitely the most stressful and dedicated I’ve ever been to a project. Even though I was working flat out and was still trying to produce a game for my major project as well, over all I think I’ve handled my time management quite well. It most certainly could have been a lot better, unfortunately this was the hand that I was dealt and I’m ecstatic to say that I did this! With the help of Jackson and Tayla we sure did prove everyone wrong, there are multiple events that occurred on the way that have given me great knowledge and caution when it comes to post-production.
I can say that I’m proud to have this project displayed on my portfolio, HOWEVER! I plan on creating an OST at some point and printing sheet music to hopefully one day approach an orchestra to play and I will then record, mix and master!
Here is a link to our website which will be progressively updated over the upcoming year!