One of the most challenging sequences a sound editor can face is a car chase. Vehicles are tough. Even the most experienced designer can hit a wall when trying to make them work. This is by no means a complete guide, however, this primer should prove helpful for those looking to dip their toes into the wild world of vehicle sound editorial.
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We have sound editors coming in to test for us on a regular basis. The single most common difference between an editor who has worked largely alone versus one that has worked within a sound team is the lack of knowledge when it comes to the basics. There are three concepts I consider essential that I ask edit testers about right off the bat: Perspective Cutting, Stair Stepping, Color Coding. I can learn a lot about their familiarity with these concepts based on their response. Even a slight hesitance to answer is a dead giveaway; you’ve only worked alone and without much direction.
All great editors start out as good editors. The hope is that you evolve as time passes, into an exceptional talent. I have seen it time and again here at Boom Box, often in very short order. An editor with lots of skill and professionalism decides to push for more. These great editors form our core team; the kind of editors you want to keep around. So what’s the secret? Well I’m happy to tell you that going from good sound editor to great sound editor is not that complicated.
Earlier this year, the team from The Loud House approached us with a brand new short designed as a 360° video for YouTube. Never having worked in this format, I did some searching and was surprised at how little information had been published on sound for spatialized video. After working it out for myself, I thought I’d share the details with our readers as a jumping off point should a project like this come across your desk.
You may recall that I’ve written about creating signature sounds in the past. So, why write another post on the same topic? First of all, creating signature sounds is a skill that is absolutely essential to to setting yourself up as a high-quality professional sound designer. Second, that post covered a practical approach to designing signature sounds such as working on one sound at a time and designing in context. Here, I’d like to walk you through my actual creative process on a particular project.
This is not the sexiest blog post you will read this month. In fact, it’s probably the least sexy topic we’ll write about all year here at Boom Box Post. That said, it’s such an important one for anyone considering themselves a professional sound editor. A cluttered file structure is the equivalent of a messy home. Sure you can make do sorting through a mess, finding what you need after some intense searching. but why put yourself through it? Go to the container store, buy a pack of labels and some bins and get your stuff off the floor (I’m still on the messy house metaphor). So with that in mind, let me be your personal Peter Walsh (he is a professional organizer - I had to google it) as I help you to get your digital life in order.
We open on wide shot of a forest. A river runs in the distance. Not far from the river, emerging from the trees is a bloodied man in a torn business suit, limping and desperate for water. Cut to an over the shoulder shot of him staring at the river. Cut again and the camera is right on the water as he leans in for a drink. The focus (for our purposes) isn’t the man or his torn and blood soaked suit (I just added that for some flair). From a sound editorial standpoint, the complicated element here is the river. It’s far off in the distance, now it’s close to us, now it’s full frame in an extreme close up. As a viewer, the camera is our proxy here. Wherever the camera sits, so do we. And so, as the perspective of the camera changes so does our perception.
The entertainment industry can be tough. There are many cliche's, such as "It's all about who you know" or "It's all about right place right time." Neither of which are entirely untrue. However, I am a firm believer that anyone with some raw talent and a whole lot of drive can build themselves a career in post production sound - or any entertainment job for that matter.
If I'm making it sound easy, my apologies. It's absolutely a ton of work. Let me repeat that: getting a job in a highly specialized, creative industry where you are in competition with literally thousands of applicants will always be a ton of work. So why do it?
After buying our first home last year, my husband and I have been working hard at building our own home studio. In the past, every time we moved to a new apartment, we would always customize a home studio with our own DIY sound panels (see my blog post about that here). But since we plan to stay here forever, we have gone all out to make this studio space our own. And part of this customization has been soldering our own cables.
For my Lunch & Learn lesson I wanted to talk about something simple that everyone has most likely experienced in his or her daily life and during sound editing/designing. We’ve all heard it anytime we’ve walked down the street and heard an ambulance or police car passing by or maybe even an airplane. The point in time when you first hear the siren and the time when it has sped off into the distance sound different in pitch. I personnally get woken up everyday by hearing the Doppler effect of an airplane landing or taking off since I live 10 minutes away from an airport.
Here at Boom Box Post, we conduct monthly Lunch and Learn meetings where a rotating member of the team teaches a lesson to the rest of the studio. Whenever it is my turn to teach a Lunch and Learn lesson, I always try to rack my brain for a topic that I either don’t use on an everyday basis, or would personally like to learn more about. This month I chose Impulse Responses and Convolution Reverb.
I find this particular topic very interesting for a few reasons. First, it requires getting up out of that office chair! I’m always down for active and interactive audio experiences. Second, I love customizable audio options. It isn’t often that you find EXACTLY what you’re looking for, so the ability to create custom reverbs is always very useful. And lastly, it is a topic that I always knew about but have never personally done, so I figured diving right in was the best way to get a proper hands-on Convolution Reverb and Impulse Response experience.
At Boom Box Post, we specialize in sound for animation. Although sonic sensibilities are moving toward a more realistic take, we still do a fair amount of work that harkens back to the classic cartoon sonic styles of shows like Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes. Frequently, this style is one of the most difficult skills to teach new editors. It requires a good working knowledge of keywords to search in the library--since almost all cartoon sound effects are named with onomatopoeic names rather than real words like “boing”, “bork”, and “bewip”--an impeccable sense of timing, and a slight taste for the absurd.
I used to think that you were either funny or not. Either you inherently understood how to cut a sonic joke, or you just couldn’t do it. Period. But, recently, I began deconstructing my own process of sonic joke-telling, and teaching my formula to a few of our editors. I was absolutely floored by the results. It turns out, you can learn to be funny! It’s just a matter of understanding how to properly construct a joke.