Posts Tagged ‘ Sound Design ’

The Wiitles Max/MSP Vocal Effects Processor

In one of my bands, The Wiitles, we use Max/MSP as a vocal effects processor.  The Nintendo Wii-mote acts as a controller for the effects such as delay, pitch shift, amplitude modulation, and a vocoder.

This video also has significance for me since it brought me to buy a little program called ScreenFlow which is pretty much amazing.  ScreenFlow is the program that allowed me to capture the real time actions of my computer on video.  Very cool.  I have yet to scratch the surface on this bad boy, but, especially once I start teaching sound classes, this promises to be a revelation.


Will Oldham on Movie Music


I love this friggin’ guy…. and wholeheartedly agree with these views on movie music:

“AVC: You mentioned talking to Richard Linklater and Caveh Zahedi about your ideas on movie music. Can you summarize those ideas?

WO: Well, for a while, it seemed like you were always seeing movies where all the music was determined by the music supervisors and their special relationships with certain record labels. And I just felt like, “Wow, I’ll bet they spent months or years writing this screenplay, and I’ll bet they spent months shooting this, and I’ll bet they spent months editing this, and now they’re spending no time at all picking these completely inappropriate songs with lyrics to put under a scene that has dialogue.” How does that even work? How can you have a song with someone singing lyrics under spoken dialogue and consider that mood-music, or supportive of the storyline? As somebody who likes music, when that happens, I tend to listen to the lyrics, which have nothing to do with the movie. And then I’m lost in the storyline. Not only is that a crime, but it’s a crime not to give people who are good at making music for movies the work. It’s like saying, “We don’t need you, even though you’re so much better at it than I am as a music supervisor.” Like the cancer that is that Darjeeling guy… what’s his name?

AVC: Wes Anderson?

WO: Yeah. His completely cancerous approach to using music is basically, “Here’s my iPod on shuffle, and here’s my movie.” The two are just thrown together. People are constantly contacting me saying, “I’ve been editing my movie, and I’ve been using your song in the editing process. What would it take to license the song?” And for me it’s like, “Regardless of what you’ve been doing, my song doesn’t belong in your movie.” That’s where the conversation should end. Music should be made for movies, you know?

AVC: So there aren’t many contexts in which you can imagine licensing one of your songs to a movie?

WO: No. I mean, I could see—

AVC: Over the closing credits, maybe?

WO: Right, the closing credits. But again, someone wrote me recently and said, “We wanna use your songs in our movie, and we’ve already got this artist, this artist, this artist, this artist.” And I was thinking, “Well that makes for like, no integrity to your movie. All these different voices combined with the actors’, writer’s, director’s and DP’s voices. That sounds like the worst place to be. That sounds like a music festival.” [Laughs.] I liked it when those crazy, dirty, Rhode Island brothers made movies like There’s Something About Mary.

AVC: The Farrellys?

WO: The Farrelly brothers. Was it Something About Mary that had nothing but Jonathan Richman songs in it? I like Jonathan Richman a lot, and while those weren’t my favorite Jonathan Richman songs, I liked that whole idea of lacing one voice throughout the whole movie and having it be a conscious decision made somewhere during the writing and pre-production, and not during post-production. “This is the voice that we wanna have, and these are how we want songs to work with this movie.” That’s all I ask for, that a little bit of time and respect is given to the musical part of filmmaking.

AVC: So do you think of your songs as inviolable? If you want to understand what the song is about, then you have to consult the song?

WO: Yes, essentially. Like sometimes we’ve made film clips or video clips to go with the song, but honestly, the only reason to do that is to get the music to other places where people could hear it. And I’ve never done a video where I feel like the images have anything to do with the song, except in the most vague way possible, because I feel like the song is its own complete thing. People who put songs in movies like to think of a song as a sphere that you can cut a huge chunk out of. “Well the movie’s gonna take up most of that sphere, or half of that sphere, or a fraction of that sphere.” When you’re writing a song for a movie, you only have to fill in a part of the sphere, knowing that it’s gonna go with the other content that’s already there. But ideally, a song is a complete sphere like the Earth, where if you were an alien with a huge, huge finger, you could stick your finger into the middle of the ocean and make an impression on it. It’s not an impregnable sphere, but it is a sphere.”

Read whole interview at The Onion AV club:,26498/

Pro Tools 201

This past weekend I completed the 201 part of my Pro Tools certification course,bringing me 3/4 of the way to being Operator certified, bringing me untold amounts of riches, women, and creative output.  But while this all sounds exciting, I think I can calm down long enough to reflect on 201 and share these reflections with you all.  Again I am struck by the depth that Pro Tools inhabits.  The editing features, of which I have always been impressed with, I now see as more powerful than ever.  Pro Tools is definitely the best editing software that lives in the highly competitive audio software market (audio editor that is… Pro Tools continues to be way behind the curve when it comes to MIDI editing… although I have heard intersting things about Pro Tools 8).  The selection modification tools and the region editing in particular were useful knowledge to add, and I have quickly adopted them into to normal workflow while using Pro Tools.


However, I do have some gripes about Pro Tools 201.  Firstly, now that I have completed 201, which was a nicely organized and thought out course, I can, in retrospect, criticize the 110 course even further.  The 110 Pro Tools certification course was a big pile of gobbedelygook.  It was as if the editor had dropped the 110 manuscript as he was on his way to devliver it, quickly picked up the dropped pages, and then turned it in to the publishers (publishing responsibilities fall squarely on Digidesin, who have decided to publish this entire course on their own).  201 was nicely set up in comparison, and transitioned nicely from section to section.  Where 201 did have some shortcomings, though, was in it’s content.  One would expect that the Pro Tools courses would get progressively more difficult and gain more depth, but the 201 course barely was not nearly as challenging as the first two.  This may have been because 201 focuses primarily on HD level systems which I have had quite a bit of experience with, but at times, 201 felt more like an argument for buying HD systems over LE and M-Powered systems (Although the same blatant advertising can be found on all three of the courses I have taken so far).

Still, all in all, I feel like my investment in the Pro Tools courses have been worth it.  My workflow has gotten considerably faster already, and the more work I do, more of the concepts that I’m learning about become all the more relevant.  My biggest concern is that, with the ridiculous quantities of information covered in such a short period of time in these courses, I hope the most imortant information comes back to me when I’m under the gun.

Coke Commercial

I am delighted to say that the commercial that I have been working on (see “Adventures on the Wacky Worm”, “How to Build a Transformer”, and “The Wrecking Crew of Sound Design”) has been posted online.  The commercial is for Coke and it is part of a nationwide competition.  Ten finalists were selected from an un-Godly amount of submissions based on plot idea and animatic.  The finalists then had a short amount of time to build a fifty second commercial for Coke.  The best of these 10 finalists (as decided by a panel of judges) is to be selected on February 21 and will then play at every movie theatre in the universe for a while before every movie (because the real reason we spend our hard-earned-dough on the movies is obviously to watch commercials).

Check out the commercial by clicking on the picture below, click on the “2009 Finalists” tab and then click on “Here We Go!”


The storytellers tried to put a bit too much story into fifty seconds and the visual effects guys may have dropped the ball, but, if I do say so myself, my team of three did a damn good job on the sound design.  Especially cool is the  fact that the vast majority of the sound design, including transforming roller coasters, a studio wall crash, and a roller coaster lift off was done with a lot of original sound effects- stuff we recorded.  We also recorded the band Blue of Noon who did a great job with the sound track.  Go on and check it out.

Pro Tools 110

Wow!  I took and passed the Pro Tools 110 certification exam today.  I had procrastinated and perspired for a solid five days trying to cram the ridiculous amount of info rammed into 110 into my wee brain.  This course is almost like all of the afterthoughts of 101 rammed indiscriminately into 400 or so pages, without any rhyme or reason.  But somehow I managed to pass with a 46 out of 50 (45 and above is passing).


Once again I was struck and surprised by the gi-normous amount of things that Pro Tools can do.  Presumably desinged to confront the onslaught of innovation coming from competitors such as Logic Pro and Ableton Live, the Elastic Audio and MIDI sections of 110 were enough to make my head spin.  Now it’s off to 201, where I’m told that 110 begins to seem like child’s play.  As long as it’s a little better organized, however, I look forward to moving on to 201.

Adventures on the Wacky Worm

Day three of the sound library adventure led us, appropriately enough, to Adventure Landing in Jacksonville, Florida.  We needed a roller coaster sound, and what better way to get a roller coaster sound than by recording a roller coaster?  The folks at Adventure Landing were amazingly cool about the whole recording process.  We got there early enough so that no other patrons were wanting to ride their coaster, and they let us take advantage of the whole place…. on the house!

The in-house coaster at Adventure Landing is the Wacky Worm.  Although it may not look like much, and indeed we are going for a massive, scream-inducing coaster, the sounds we got from this ride sound very big and thrill-inducing.  The size of this small operation may have been to our advantage even, due to the close proximity we were allowed.

dsc_0057There was literally no place on the tracks that we were not able to record with the help of a short boom pole and a Neumann shotgun mic.

dsc_0014Some of the best sounds came from the PZM stereo mic:

dsc_0031This next one created some particularly interesting sounds, although the vibrating metal got suprisingly violent to Brandon’s ears.

dsc_00383Here is our tour guide and super cool Wacky Worm conductor.  We were given free reign to explore the entire Adventure Landing operation.

dsc_0024Amazing what you can do with a couple of mics, a Sound Device field recorder and a Wacky Worm.

How to Build a Transformer

On the second day of the commercial sound design, the task was to build the sound of a row of chairs transforming into a roller coaster (as I said in the previous post, this commercial is a tad outrageous).  Now, I was a fan of the Transformers cartoons as much as any other kid currently between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five years old.  But I didn’t want our transformer to borrow from the synth cheese that was so relished in the eighties.  So we set out to record a bunch of different moving parts, as many as we could think of, so that when put together, our transforming row of chairs/roller coaster would seem “realistic”.

dsc_0773The different velocities of all the machines we recorded had some interesting effects.  Same goes for moving the machines back and forth across the mic.

dsc_0778Below was the highlight of the day.  I have no idea the make or year of this beauty, but a vintage projector gave us a plethora of interesting transforming sounds.

dsc_0767And here is Brandon and his pal the Icon taking all of it in:

dsc_07821Some intense editing needs to happen first, but a transforming row of chairs/roller coaster will soon emerge.