In this Inside Sound Design I wanted to use our interns to explore an early part of the sound editing process: Field Recording. It’s always a blast to capture sounds in the wild, and we try to do so at every opportunity. I sent Ian Howard out with instructions to research and capture two unique and interesting ambiences.
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This month we're kicking off a two part Boom Box collaborative blog post challenge! I've tasked our editors with creating a unique non-human/non-english voice from their own mouth that is evocative and has potential for sound design. Next month I will assign each editor someone else's voice, which they will twist and tweak to help achieve the original intent, using whatever tools they choose.
To kick off a new class of interns (and score some cool new sound elements for our library), I asked Boom Box Post intern James Singleton to create a selection of lightsaber/laser sword sound effects. The original Star Wars trilogy is chalk full of classic sound effects that continue to inspire our field today, and recreating old favorites is a great way to flex sound design muscles and explore unconventional techniques. I requested James work primarily from recordings and sounds created specifically for this project, and take inspiration from Ben Burtt's original methods. To wrap up the project I asked him to tell me a little about his process for creating the final sound effects.
When the team from Nickelodeon's Albert walked through our doors, they presented us with a great sound design challenge - bring a rich world of talking, walking plants to life with sound. Nickelodeon’s first original animated TV movie tells the story of a tiny fir tree named Albert and his plant friends overcoming all kinds of obstacles (like a Christmas hating cactus) as they journey to the big city. The rich animation of these plants - bouncing around in their pots, foliage and needles flying, trunks bending - is extremely detailed and impressive. Now it was our job to provide the proper sonic support. With the use of digital foley, we had just the tool for the job.
To celebrate Halloween in gruesome style we came up with a unique challenge for our editors: Death by Sound Effect! To kick off the creativity, we asked the team to come up with bone-chilling, funny bone-tickling and gut-wrenching ways to die, and threw all of their ideas into a hat. Each participating editor was randomly assigned a form of savage expiration, and encouraged to be creative in their approach to a sound effect representative of that event.
The great thing about recording and designing sound effects is that source material is near infinite. Fortunately and unfortunately, having such an incredible variety of sound sources makes each new recording session a technical and creative challenge, requiring forethought and experience. One of the decisions we must make is the format in which we will capture the sound; mono, stereo, quad-surround, 5.1 surround and ambisonic are all valid options depending on the source at hand. Sound effects are most commonly captured in mono or stereo, and today we will compare several common stereo microphone techniques for field recording.
It's no surprise that parodies/homages of the games of my youth (those popular throughout the 80's) are starting to pop up in the shows I work on. In fact, they've been cropping into modern cartoons for pretty much my entire career. There are a few reasons for this. First (and most obvious) everything that is old is new again. Retro is always going to be hip, and we have been in a love affair with 'The Decade of Excess' for quite a while now. It's also true that a lot of the talent at the Executive Producer, Director and Head Writer level these days (those producing the content) land right square in that age group where these are the things they love from their youth as well. Lastly, however, you need to consider the style that comes with writing a video game sequence into your animated program. Most modern games both look and sound entirely realistic. So if, for example, you wanted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to take a break and geek out over a video game together, what fun would it be to have them play something that looks and sounds like a feature film? The fun comes with the retro, both visually and sonically.
As sound editors and designers, it’s always fun to talk about the techniques and tools we use to create out-of-this-world effects. At Boom Box, we’re often teaching each other new plug-ins to broaden our “sonic toolbox” and take our work to new heights. All of these tools and tricks-of-the-trade are necessary for us to do our job, but it’s important to remember that our job is that of a storyteller. Everything we create (however we choose to create it) must support, and perhaps elevate the storyline. In my personal experience, I have found that the quality of my work shines when I allow the story to guide my decisions specifically when editing “toony” effects, backgrounds, and design.