Sound Design

Sound Design Scrapbook #9

SOUND DESIGN / MUSIC

If you don’t follow the work of Diego Stocco already, check out this video he’s put together showing off the new instruments he’s built. He tends to pull sounds out of all sorts of found, built and natural objects and record them in experimental ways too. There are also some beautiful photographs to go with it…

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THEATRE GEAR

Yamaha announced an update to the Rivage PM Digital Mixing system last week, adding ‘Theatre mode’ - check out the full announcement here

“The Theatre Mode facilitates scene and costume changes with four banks that can be used to store different EQ and dynamics settings for individual performers. In Theatre Mode, rather than storing EQ and dynamics settings in the console’s “scenes,” only the bank number is stored so that any adjustments made will apply to all scenes that use the same bank.“

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MUSIC

I don’t know how I’ve missed these for so long, but thankfully found the NPR Tiny desk series of concerts recently and they are awesome… https://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/?t=1539811025167

Sound Design Scrapbook #8

PODCAST

Another Twenty Thousound Hertz Podcast, this time it’s a peak into the world of writing, recording, designing and producing their podcast. Being an audio based podcast, they go the extra mile to make it as slick as possible!


MIXING MASTERCLASS

If you’re interested in Mixing Orchestral music, the marvelous Jake Jackson is here on stage at the 4th Annual Mixcon event in New York. I’ve seen Jake do a number of these run downs on his mix process for Orchestral work, and they’re always super useful and insightful. Excited to continue learning about it as I spend some concentrated time mixing a bunch of my own tracks over the next couple months.


SILENCE / EXHIBITION

Last year I stepped in for 59 productions to record 2 minutes of silence in a primary school assembly, this amongst a whole array of different recordings has culminated in this beautiful exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, Sound Designed by Gareth Fry.

http://59productions.co.uk/project/moments-of-silence/

 https://www.instagram.com/p/BocAMPcFsfx/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=u62jsdh1aa06

‘Moments of Silencee’, IWM London. Created by 59 Productions © Photo: Will Weisner

‘Moments of Silencee’, IWM London. Created by 59 Productions © Photo: Will Weisner

 

Scrapbook #7

YOUTUBE

Paul Thomson of Spitfire Audio has started his own Youtube Channel with an offering of some super detailed videos already! Here’s a intricate look at Reverbs…


MUSIC

Olafur Arnalds released his latest album re:member last month and it’s went stright onto my monthly playlist. It’s another beauitful album. He’s also been working with a generative mechanism where his piano plays itself based on the notes he plays initially, looks like it’s triggered from some Ableton fun, you can here it in action on the album and see it in the video below too. Excited to see him and his team live later this year again!


PODCAST

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Tonebenderspodcast.com did a brilliant interview with the award winning sound team behind Arrival, one of my favourite cinematic experiences last year. Check out how Sylvain Bellemare & Bernard Gariépy Strobl work…

2017 Round up

2017, Its about time for a round up of last year. This will be the longest post i’ll be doing for a while but I’m hoping to post much more frequently!


I started the year in New York after workshopping The Kid Stays in the Picture with Ben Grant as associate, and Simon Mcburney Directing. We worked with 7 US Actors for a few weeks and it was incredibly fun. At the same time I was stepping in to operate The Encounter on Broadway over New Year, again a lot of hard work but having been part of the show for years previously and now getting a chance to go back in and learn the op again it was very rewarding.


In early January I led my first design transferring to St Ann's Warehouse over the bridge from Manhattan in DUMBO, Brooklyn. An incredble space to work in, with it's own challenges, though the view from the back door has to be a highlight.

The show was Phyllida Lloyd's The Tempest. The third all female Shakespeare piece set in a women's prison. I led a great team at St Ann's and we updated a fair amount of the system compared to the original version in Kings Cross. I also switched from an SD9 to the in-house Yamaha CL3 which took some re-programming but was a fairly smooth transition. After some recommendations I also decided to use Valhalla room through Mainstage as an effects processor and it was great, especially as the cost implications are so minimal. We also went with a pretty much full Meyer speaker system which suited the shows content, the Sound Design isn’t particularly subtle so these provided a good impact for the upfront content to the audience.


In February I came back to the UK and began the rehearsal period for The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court, the same show we were workshopping at the end of 2016. I loved working at the Royal Court and once again was met by an astonishing team. Ben Grant as Associate. We had a brilliant set of operators Yamina Mezeli and Neil Dewar, alongside David, Maddy and Alice as part of the Theatre team. The show was technically complex for all departments and I had to come up with some interesting ways to react to the show's ever evolving set of needs. It’s a very engaging process to create with Simon and we were constantly reacting and refining throughout.


At the same time Ben and I re-mounted Beware of Pity at the Barbican Theatre, which we had made with Simon the previous year at the Schabuhne theatre in Berlin. It was my first design to be live streamed on youtube outside of The Encounter. They did an excellent job of capturing the audio for the show and I took 3 days of listening and tweaking the final product, heres a link to the Q&A of the Director, Simon Mcburney and Artistic Director of the Schaubuhne Theatre, Thomas Ostermeier.
http://www.complicite.org/live-stream.php


The Kid Stays in the Picture was a highlight of the year and I hope we can go back to the show over the next few years and continue the work we started.


Next up was Twelfth Night at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Directed by Jo Davies, I was yet again surrounded by a lovely team and welcomed into what is a weird, yet interesting theatre to work in and a beautiful building. I had the pleasure of working alongside Alex Baranowski who Composed on this one and it was a delight to work with him as a collaborator but also with his fantastic music. We worked closely with 4 musicians he and Jo bought onto the show to create the sonic world of the show.

A few years ago I started taking piano lessons as a way to develop my skills and having worked with Alex, it pushed me to continue to spend some time on developing those skills outside of the the Sound Design world and it's been refreshing to do so.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had it's first cast change in London spring 2017 and leading that change from an audio perspective was an interesting task of maintanance and preservation, whilst keeping in a position where the actors are changing and adding their own take on the piece, reacting to those updates.

Into June and Frogman, following a lot of research and experimenting with 3D video and audio,  I took a 3 week trip with Jack (Artistic Director) and Milla (Designer) from Curious Directive, to Brisbane, Australia. We worked with 4 young actors in a set made especially for our 3d film content. I took on the whole process of audio production on this project which meant planning, recording, processing all of the audio content from the on set filming. Then the theatre part of the project which was about finding the very best way to give an audience the 360 audio experience in a theatre context.

 

Milla was interviewd for a great piece talking about the Design elements of Frogman here

During those three weeks the Tony Awards Ceremony in New York took place, where Gareth Fry and I were awarded a Special Tony Award for our Sound Design work on Complicité's The Encounter. Not only this, but alongside our award The Tony's also announced that Sound Design categories will resume as a regular yearly fixture after they were axed in 2014. A huge moment in the year and a big step in the right direction for the recognition of Sound Design on Broadway!

Back over to Brisbane to finish off the filming and finally back to London to edit the recordings. I plan to do a set of short walkthroughs of the process so I can get a bit more detailed in that, but for now those interested should check out Facebook 360 spatial workstation. We then created the live theatre side of the show, I should explain that the concept of the show is part VR and part live theatre. Frogman will be back in the UK at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2018 and you can find out more here: https://shoreditchtownhall.com/whats-on/frogman

After a break in august I started working on two more Sound Design projects. The first was Simon Stephens’ adaptation of The Seagull, directed by Sean Holmes at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. The second called White Bike, newly written by Tamara Von Werthern, directed by Lily Mcleish at The Space in Canary Wharf. They were very different projects and both exciting to be leading the Sound Design of.


The Seagull gave me an opportunity to play with naturalistic content against a less naturalistic set and lighting design, working closely with the rest of the creative team, and lovely sound team at the Lyric in a fairly large/mid scale venue. The White Bike was in a much smaller venue and so smaller system also, but it’s content and the integration of the Sound Design had a more abstract sensibility. Again a wonderful creative team and we were pulling together a beautiful piece of work in a short time. We workshopped some ideas in 2016 and we found it useful to start a collaborative playlist on Spotify where Lily and I could form ideas for an auditory world, which grew over the year and played in rehearsals whilst devising, a large amount of which ended up in the show in one way or another.

Once finishing both of these I moved to Hull for a 4 weeks to work on The Last Testament of Lillian Billoca. Written by Maxine Peake and directed by Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight. We had been in conversations and meetings about the project since early 2017, it was a large scale site specific project in Hull’s Guildhall, a still fully functioning building in the centre of Hull. We used 4 main rooms and a handful of small auxiliary rooms around the building to tell the story of Lillian Billoca, a controversial, strong campaigner for the working rights of trawler men in the late 1960s.


I had to put together a strong team for what was a difficult venue to implament a design into, production engineer Guy Colletta, who worked with Gareth Fry and I on The Encounter, took on the production engineer role and getting our system into this none theatre building was a bit of a challenge but Guy is the master at this. We worked with live Music from The Unthanks in two of the rooms, one room was an audio/movment led sequence with a headphones and each room was very different in style and size. Part of the challenge was to decide how best to link or unlink the rooms and corrioors, depending on the audience experience and route around the building. It was a great situation to work our way around and we came away with something to be very proud of.

In December I decided to focus on music and composition. I went to the Tune Up event on the Southbank, which was an inspiring day, I took time learning more about the many sample libraries I’ve not delved into before and went much further into MIDI in Logic X. I've now begun writing music aimed towards media for a brilliant European publisher. This time away from Sound Design has been helpful to focus on my own projects outside of theatre, and I’m looking forward to bringing focus back into theatre again this year.

There are a lot of exciting Sound Design projects on the horizon, in and out of theatre, the UK and abroad. I plan to post more often, to put my thoughts down about projects I’m working on, software and hardware I pick up along the way, walkthroughs for things like 360 audio capture, sync, and getting that to a live theatre audience, composition, sound design content creation,  etc… Though, one of the hard things about posting about the show you’re working on in theatre is the secrecy behind it, especially before press have been in and reviewed the show, you want to keep the excitment. So I’m aiming to work around that and show the parts of my own process that I can. Some people pull this off in a very slick way so hopefully I can find some ways.
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London Marathon 2016 Recording

Last weekend was the London Marathon 2016. My girlfriend's brother ran and managed a time of 3:25:13. Awesome achievement. 

In the moments when we weren't wandering around London trying to catch him, I managed to get a few short recordings.

I took the oppurtunity to take out my little portable stealth kit to see how well it performed. It consists of a Sound Devices 702 in a camera bag with two DPA4061's with mini rycote windshields strapped to either side of the bag. 

Drums fuel of the atmosphere around Canary Wharf, I spent some time underneath a bridge where 2 taiko players were living.

After clambering up a railing I got a recording from slightly above the action, people with plastic hand clappers,  horns in the distance, and the ever present drummers.

I think the setup performerd pretty well all told, there are some big pros and cons of it for sure.

Pro: It doesn't attract attention. Which leads to a more natural performance and causes less interruptions from interested passers by. 

Con: positioning, It's difficult to be consistent with the mic positions, as there is a bag in the 30cm gap between the two mics, it's also not very natural sounding stereo image. 

Next time around I might test out a different method of strapping the mics to the bag with a bit more precision and maybe some sort of stereo spacing bar involved in the bag to help.

 

 

2014 Jan - July

So I realised its already July and most of the year has gone by without any updates here. So will be posting a bit more frequently now. To start off just a quick backlog of the year so far, starting in January! I began by Shadowing the lovely Carolyn Downing during a few of her tech processes, which was a great insight into her working process and general views on Sound Design, a lot to learn from an intelligent designer doing some very interesting Sound work.

I then went on to design a, slightly alternative, theatre piece located inside St Leonards Church in Shoreditch called SUN produced by National Art Service, It was a really friendly company to be part of. Talking technically one of the most enjoyable experiences was being able to locate sounds around this huge expanse of space whilst also (if needed) dislocating the sounds from specific places and abstracting the sounds of the exterior central London evening. Shoreditch is a very active part of the City and it doesn't let up for anything, Its not something I'll go into lightly again but it opened up a different world of using the spacial relationship with an audience.

SUN 2014

Then worked as Associate on the Almeida verison of 1984 for the very talented Mr Tom Gibbons after having worked with him on Lionboy last year. This then went onto transfer into the Playhouse in London.

 

Following this designed and operated a double bill of new work funded by Aldeburgh Music, Royal Opera House and Opera North called The Commision/Café Kafka, through which I worked with Elspeth Brooks to integrate an element of Sound Design and live sound into her composition.

 

The Commission 2014

Then went on to Sound Design a project called War Correspondents Directed by Helen Chadwick and Stephen Hoggett which then went on to tour the UK. It will be back for some London dates in October followed by some more touring and I'll talk more about in a separate post.

Brothers Stag doo...

Brothers Wedding!

I then worked with Mr Gareth Fry once more on a design for 59 Production's projection map of the Sydney Opera House.

For June I've been in Aix en Provence with The Magic Flute once again as Gareth Fry's Associate, helping to fit the design into their fairly unique venue and transferring all the changes we had made back into a German version of the show after re-making it in English at the Colloseum for the ENO last year.

The Magic Flute Aix en Provence 2014

July so far, I've been in Salzburg (Hallein to be exact) Sound Engineering and Operating a new production for the Salzburg Festival. A Katie Mitchell/ Leo Warner piece Sound designed by Gareth Fry and Melanie Wilson called The Forbidden Zone.

 

 

The Noise - Digital Playscript Phase 1

The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), a show I co-sound designed last year has been turned into a digital playscript. We took a few days to go through the Sound Design for the show and added cues into the text - which hopefully represent what would have been heard in the theatre to a certain degree - alongside a whole array of awesome features that make the script a much better representation of the show than a paper version. Making a more engaging and easy to follow script to take away from the show! Pop some headphones in and check it out here! http://uneditions.com/

The Noise Digital Playscript

Foley booth - ENO Magic Flute

The Magic Flute is now rehearsing ready for the autumn showing at the English National Opera's Colliseum in London. This (Mcburney's) version of the opera first played in Amsterdam last year and is currently transferring to the uk whilst also being translated into English.

This time around we have a slightly smaller foley booth with the extremely talented Ruth Sullivan as our lead Foley Artist, who is also stepping into her acting shoes too. 

This is our new foley booth (below) which is still being finnesed, eventually to be equipped with 4 shelves, a small table and various hooks for all sorts of foley items, along with its own light. A mic for the table and a second for footsteps. It's exciting to hear the foley begining to be put into place again, and it will be great to get into the collesium and get the sound design sitting inside the piece.

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The Noise @ Northern Stage

noise_blockThis week I've been teching Unlimited Theatre's The Noise in Newcastle's Northern Stage (Stage 2). The story is a "sci-conspiracy thriller", and on the island of Whitley the most notable feature is the constant 'Noise' being emitted by the island. Working as Co-Sound Designer with Gareth Fry, we've been playing with different types of Noise and how much of it we can push the scenes by using different styles of 'Noise'. There is real anger in the characters of Whitley caused by these relentless and ever changing  sounds they can't get away from and it's been really interesting in finding how to achieve this whilst still allowing the clarity of the story to come from the actors. There is also composition by David Edwards (AKA Minotaur Shock) which has been a pleasure to work into the show and if you get a chance check him out! IMG_3942

The Noise opened here in Newcastle on Friday 4th Oct and runs until 12th October. It then tours to Warwick Arts Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in November.

I thought I'd share a few interesting bits of research I came across, whilst looking into science related sound inventions, firstly the ishin-den-shin  http://www.ivanpoupyrev.com/projects/ishindenshin.php

Secondly the Hypersonic sound speaker invented by Woody Norris . hard to show the workings of online,  but pretty cool nonetheless! http://www.ted.com/talks/woody_norris_invents_amazing_things.html

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF9G9M0cR0E&w=560&h=315]

Field recording

A few weeks ago i took a trip home to start sourcing exterior countryside ambience. Armed with a very simple set up I used the MKH 416 with pistol blimp, going into a Zoom H4n. If i had the resources i would have loved to take a stereo or even quadraphonic recording setup but I using what i had i jumped into the countryside getting as much as possible. I planned for a sunny day but oddly enough it decided to snow during the night before and was very bright during the rest of the day. So i took advantage of that whilst i could!

Whilst it was great to be out in the countryside getting these sounds,  it was really still very difficult to get away from the background traffic sound in the distance. Luckily there were some small valley's that acted as a barrier against it. I'd really like to try using a less sensitive mic in the same situation to see the difference, though the directivity of the 416 helped immensely in getting specifics and away from external noise that i simply did not want.

To editing the recordings I used Logic, with it's Equal power crossfade it was really very simple to be able to cut out unwanted sounds (many of which were aeroplanes!) and very quick to create a loop-able ambience track out of each take. Though it certainly didn't feel as dynamic as i was hoping it would. But again, having a stereo version would have made quite a difference.

It was really useful to actually get out there and try some location ambient recording and i realised how much i actually enjoy trying to get the best recordings I can, also happening upon places/people/animals etc that i hadn't planned too was half the fun of it!

Also, though it obviously wasn't on a similar scale, going through the list of Field recording tips posted by multiple readers and Tim Prebble on his blog was very useful to look over and think about, so thanks to Tim for starting it off!

Foley Session 1 -TRP

So, I'm currently working on the Post-sound for a film put together by the BYFA for the Co-operative group. The Rochdale Pioneersis about a Co-operative movement that took place in 1844 by the people of Rochdale. Though it wasn't the first Co-operative to take place, their rules and guidelines are that which the modern day Co-operative follow. Working from a very rough cut of certain scenes, i've started to get a sense of some of the sound worlds that need to be built. Giving 'everything' a sound is what i need to get to grips with and in such I began my Foley research.

After reading a lot of i use pro tools in this way... Logic in this way... I decided to take some advice but also take a full day in the studio trying some techniques out.

For this first session i used Logic pro, tested out my M-audio profire 610, Figure 53's 'streamers'. Set up with a Sennhieser MKH416 and a Rode NT2.

Logic foley
Logic foley

Doing the session on my own, I can really see the huuuge benefit of having an engineer separate to the artist! If that were a viable option that is! anyway, the first thing i wasted a lot of time doing was, having to press stop, go back to previous location and record again, So grabbing an external keyboard helped hugely with this, but it still wasn't great. Generally, I want to move onto creating shortcuts using Quickeys (very similar to automator, but much more user friendly and quicker, also integrates applescript) using this session to experiment, it showed me the sort of workflow i'm aiming for, especially when recording+performing. I'd really like to experiment with using midi commands from the performing position to locate, record, loop etc, simply on my phone or a little Nano kontrol

I really like the multi take features in Logic, it would be fantastic for comp-ing parts of takes that are in-line with the video, however having never performed as a foley artist before, i was quite off with some takes, and naively in the moment expected to be able to comp takes when i edit it. It may be fine for some certain comps, but it cant fix a whole footstep trrack out of time! I see how important it is to get rhythms and sync in the performance more than expecting to clean it up in the edit.

Maudio profire in focus
Maudio profire in focus

I bought the m-audio more for small theatre shows, having the 8 unbalanced outs will be very handy but thought i'd test the studio use of it having just upgraded from an Alesis firewire , which has hardly and real controllable multi channel output capabilities.

The obvious issue with recording in the same room as the equipment is noise from the my mac. In quite a hot room, external monitor controlling streamers and the profire kicking out phantom power to both of the mics. This meant fan speed increases that were very very audible. Adding the power supply to the profire doesn't help, and isn't recommended by Maudio either, and figure 53 recommend using a second computer to contain streamers. In the end i just took out the NT2 which helped.

The recordings themselves i was happy with but this fan noise is unbearable, using the alesis is probably the better option in these situations, so will test that next time and try to grab a second mac to control streamers.

I was using a demo version of Streamers that i prepared prior to the session. It is a great cueing program that receives MIDI Time Code from Logic to help cue ADR and Foley performers. It's quickly becoming part of my cueing tools.

Streamers 2
Streamers 2

Basically you create a cue, give it a SMPTE time and it will create a 'streamer' overlay on a preview video. I found this incredibly useful whilst performing, and also very easy to keep control of too a larger external monitor is a must, the one i used was awful and i had trouble seeing what i needed to. Streamers also allows you to use a text file to create the cues instantly, which was extremely useful . Definitely be using a licensed version in the next session.

As for performing the different parts of Foley, Footsteps proved to be the most difficult by far! But I believe that practice certainly does make perfect so i'm willing to keep at it! Having read through the Philip Rodrigues' website on Foley, he suggests to get into the character that you're providing foley for. In my case one character has a really laid back feel and is a bit cheeky, really distinct strides. Taking Rodrigues' advice helped massively. Understanding the character helped me get the right rhythm and sync to the footsteps.

I have started to love the MKH416 after taking it out for a quick spin on location in Hebden Bridge, a beautiful place, but also chilly, and wet! a great place to try it out.

Hebden bridge 1
Hebden bridge 1
Hedben bridge 2
Hedben bridge 2

However sad it sounds, the wind i captured here was great, sitting in a little alcove of a church, wind rushing by. A little off the topic of Foley but still, I really like the mic and it worked well in the studio, but the experiment was less about the quality and more about the workflow, so i'll be going over it again.

The session was really useful and will really let me increase the efficiency of upcoming recordings. Now, onto working out an efficient editing workflow!