"Sound Makes It Better" Isn't So Good for Sound

I thought it might be fun to light this little firecracker and throw it out into the sound-conscious ether... what do you think about it?

In our ongoing effort to get directors, writers, editors, and producers to recognize how important sound is we often tell them that creative use of sound is a way to make their movies better. This notion has always made me uncomfortable, mainly because it assigns sound the role of "repair man," or "window dresser." The implication is that there is this entity, the movie, which exists before any
serious consideration of sound, and that "good sound" can be pasted onto the surface of this otherwise finished thing to make it better.

Another argument we frequently launch in favor of sound is something like this: "Sound is important because the movie wouldn't function at all without sound." Well.... duhhhhh! The movie also wouldn't function without the existence of light waves, but that's hardly a significant part of the argument in favor of creative cinematography.

I think these kinds of attempts to bolster the importance of sound actually hurt it by reinforcing its subordinate status. A truer and more useful argument in favor of creative sound is that it is a crucial component of film making from start to finish, and there is plenty of evidence of that in almost anybody's top 100 film list. The overwhelming majority of films that tell stories well do it in part by
using sound well, and that almost never consists of recruiting "good sound" at the end of the process to rescue the movie.

Wow...I might be opening up a can of worms here, but here 'goes anyway...

Believe me, I hate (as much as the next sound supervisor) the dreaded "temp love" that picture editors tend to have with regards to the sound effects that have been cut in the Avid. However, I have tried to stave that off a bit by making sure that the cutting room is provided with good effects / mixes / treatments from day one (or as close to that as possible). Like the rest of us, I'm not always hired on jobs during the picture edit, but as soon as I do get on board, I start my crew feeding material to the cutting room so that the editor and director can start to get used to our units.

That's really at the centre of this: Not so much loving what is cut in the Avid, but simply being used to it. The cutting room is a very warm, safe, cozy place where the film gestates over many many many weeks (months). The last thing you want is for your director (AND your picture editor) to arrive at the dub stage, knowing that a) the end is near (i.e. the movie or show is about to be released), b) the pressure is on, c) the score still isn't right, d) new ADR still has to be shot, e) the visual effects still have a long way to go, etc. etc. etc. only to hear a bunch of sound effects that they've never heard before.

With so much else going on, and the clock ticking the way it tends to be doing at the dub, of course they (the editor and director) are going to broom anything that sounds unusual (read: unfamiliar).

Fortunately, these days, technology is such that we should always be able to get material into the Avid to audition well in advance of the dub. Sometimes this doesn't require any more time than simply browsing our own library (which has better stuff in it than the cutting room's Sound Ideas 1000 discs) and sending some selections in their direction. In the very least, this starts an open collaboration where my experience has shown the editor being very open to my ideas.

(Yes, other times, more work is involved, but it pays off in the end.)

Now, all of that said, I'll make one last point in the defense of picture editors at the dub because I wouldn't want to be at a dub for a feature film *without* the picture editor present. By the time the dub rolls around, the editor has been living with the film (and, thus, the director) for months, if not years. There is no one (outside of the director, and sometimes more than the director) who
knows more about the film than the editor does...from a performance /
story level all the way to the finest technical level. I constantly rely on the editor to translate into "our" language what it means when the director says "I really want this scene to sound more purple" or to point out a finer story point that I, as a dumb ol' sound guy, missed on the first time through.

These days, directors tend to be pulled in so many directions (ha) by the time of the final dub that, if not for the presence of the editor, we would all be sailing a ship without a captain. I consider myself working for the editor as much as I do for the director, in many cases.

This is just my opinion, and perhaps it will start a shouting match, but I just can't imagine ever thinking that the editor being on the stage is "the worst thing a director can do".

I must say that over the years (14years now) on this bussines (audio-music, soundtracks and cinema) I end developing a kind of ZEN approach for this topic.

For me the question is: there are the ten`s and there are the one`s. There are directors that develop as much closer relationship with they sound crew as they develop with they photographer and there are some others that don`t develope anything at all, sometimes even with they actors...

Sometime I joke saying that the re-recording mixer engineer ( What I`am) must expose more they psychologist side, trying to help the directors to find they "interior sound" :), then they very talent art/ techinician skills.

Most of the time, it`savier to me keep it in mind, that all those movies aren`t my movies, so I don`t really care about- and please it don`t mean do a bad work. Most of the time I do follow in love with the films and they possibilities, but if the directors doesn`t want, well it is they rigth.

In that case I just try to do the best of the technical side, to get free of major problems ahead, because the artistic side of those things are un-stopable...

what`s I learn from the most experience people, is to approach the sound design allways from the story telling side... dramaturgicaly with the sound coming from it. And in most cases the directors like that approach. So what I try to do is to develop the best and enjoyable relatioship with directors, producers and our fellows sound editors to create the great experience during the mix. Most of the time it works out. I also try to be avaiable as most as I can to screening projections, try to get ahead of the mix room.

Not all directors, not all sound editors invite me to, but I allways
try to show me available, trying also to not monetize all the relationship...

Well it is only my experience, not directives and some of those facts are almost obvious... but not allways that obvious :)

Sorry for my bad english. All the best

I quote the end of the first mail from Randy on this topic, that I couldn't answer before.

"The overwhelming majority of films that tell stories well do it in part by using sound well, and that almost never consists of recruiting "good sound" at the end of the process to rescue the movie."
(blonds are mine).

Now... why does it happen? Because I insist on this from the very beginning: there is no such a room, and never it was, for a "sound designer" man. We also know that in the forty's and fifty's, for example, the main credit before the director was "Music". If not, remember Rear Window. Or Tiomkin in Hawk's productions. And many others.

That's why directores come to sound equipment to say "please, rescue my movie with some sound. That's what I think at least. I may be wrong, but I don't think I'm too far from reality.

I dis have the opportunity of working briefly with director Peter Greenaway before I moved to LA on an interlocking session for his movie "Nightwatching". It was an excellent expereience, as Peter was very tuned in to exactly what he wanted in his SFX, bg's and foley tracks.

But, I'm talking about picture editors who like to present themselves as experts on the soundstage. And certainly, there are picture editors who do a good job on the temp.

But if you're going to be an expert, then at least learn the proper terminology, and stop calling reverb, delay, and vice versa, and start editing in a room That's calibrated with proper speakers. Because if I had a dlar everytime an editor said "I never heard that before".

My last experience was "The dead girl feast", premiered in Cannes this year and the director was a realy commited to sound, with a strong concept and it`s a film that don`t have non-diagetical music.

My next feature movie. I do went to a screening before the final cut and sit down with the director and the editors (image and sound) to talk about the story and the overall concepts of the sound.

I`m editing a short now where I get the screenplay months before shoting

I also can say that the directors around here are careing a little bit more about sound, since our 60`s and 70`s are a shame in terms of the overall sound qualities.
In some terms it `s the "industrie" next step...

Hi, Ricardo!
Your reports about getting involved so early with sound design are wonderful to hear. I'm seeing similar things happening here too. Let's hope it's a trend!

Hi Randy. Yeah. I`m glad your are happy.

Your post make me thing that my conditions of work aren`t bad as I usually imagine it to be, :)

I can`t tell it happens all the time, but if was getting more frequentelly. I can say we are a small comunities of editors and re-recording engineers, maybe it make those things easier...

Hi Ricardo
I'm very glad that you can share with directors and editors the overall design of sound. What I said is that there is no person that actually is designed as "sound designer" in the sense that Director of Photograpy is.

I'd like to se "the dead girl feast", but nevertheless, If I don't understand you badly, what you are saying is that the sound design was in the mind of the director of the film.

I think it's just a question of what each one thinks that a sound designer is or could be.

The real problem is that Randy mentioned yesterday: That in many occasions movies are still named "pictures". But movies today are not only pictures in movement; they are sounds and pictures in movement in time and space. We cannot create a film (or audiovisual product, or movie, or another word that we have to impose for the new cinematic experience) without taking to consideration that sound and image, -at this era, the sound era of cinema- are merging to create the audiovisual (or cinematic) experience.

Until the beginning of 80's, grosso modo, it was very often the image (and the dialogue of course) which was bearing responsibility of the narration. It was the image which was mainly in charge of continuity in space and time. The sound was there to clarify and mainly give the third dimension on image elements. The sound itself was an element of the image, not of the whole film. So for that, in many many films the sound was just and remains the illustrator of image reality.

In our days ( we hope that) the sound and image create together the cinematic experience. More frequently, we can experience the illusion of "seeing" many things that we finally only hear. Regarding the style of editing the last 20 years, the continuity in space and time is more and more often the responsibility of the sound elements too.

If we take into consideration that in Europe, where the term sound design doesn't really exist in film production and the sound editors are like assistants to "film editor" and they start to work just after the image is locked, the ambition to create a sophisticate sound design with a storytelling approach has slim chances.

The work of sound editor cannot start after the work of "film or image" editor, as many countries in Europe (starting with France) have literally translated the term "picture editor" in "monteur image et monteur son". It has to be additional, complement, parallel. And the editor has to be present in final mix and be aware of the sound work otherwise the film is separated in two components, image and sound.

I am informed by many readings that in US many editors collaborate wonderfully with the sound team, many weeks before the final cut (Thelma Schoonmaker, to mention only one) that is the ideal for everyone. Otherwise the sound seems to be complement of image and not a structural component in the narrative. If the editor is not aware of the use of sound, we will not have the space (and the frames) to do anything more than clearing the existing sounds, make them sound real.

The sound process actually does begin quite awhile before it gets to me, it's just that it begins with a "picture" editor, and he/she is always the worst sound editor imaginable (or do you agree that the out of sync Sound Ideas mp3 they sent over in the OMF works better?).

Unfortunately though, that is often the first exposure the director has to the creative use of sound, and because of that close relationship that is formed during the cutting of the picture, those ideas (however bad) often make it all the way to the mix. I doubt many directors will bring on a sound designer as early as the script stage, but it sure would be nice to at least bring them on board as soon as they start cutting the picture.

Usually by the time the film gets to the actual sound team the director is so busy dealing with all the crap that's been pushed to the very end (visuals, color-timing, distribution, etc..), that they simply don't have time to form an equally close relationship with the sound team, so we get them at the mix asking "There's this sound we cut in the Avid.."

Clear a fader boys, we got some sweet hiss sent over from the picture department..

Sorry for the rant.

That truly does drives me nuts though.
- Kris

I realize that the temp track that picture editors create is basically the equivalent of making notes with sound (effects or music), rather than writing them down. I certainly would rather refer to the audio guide the picture editor creates rather than read a bunch of sheets of paper with time code numbers.

When I listen to the temp I try to get an implication of what they're going for and then recreate that with something that is similar to the original intent, but also original in it's construction. The audio notes I get from the picture are of poor quality yes, but that's not what bothers me.

It's that I get this impression that they see the process that they went through to put that sound in their temp track (take stock library, load sound into Avid, sync), as evidence of how easy it is to cut
sound. That same sound event in my world is quite often a much more elaborate affair. Recording elements, layering, EQ'ing, treating, etc.. It takes a lot of time and care to create something unique, but we take this time because we love our job. I just don't often get the sense that the reason a picture editor's temp sound is used instead is because the sound team failed nail it.

If that were the case, there would hopefully be a discussion about what quality is missing, and we would go back and take another crack at it. What I do often feel is that as you said, they personally cut it, so in their minds it is now their sound, and it will be used in their mix, and their director agrees with them. Would that director, if he was as personally involved in the sound track as he was with the picture cut, make those same decisions? Maybe the reason they always ask for temp track sounds, and louder music, is because they are actually physically present during the creation of those elements.

You think that's bad, you should try being the composer! Editors are always on about the rhythm and so they usually put in guide music while they're cutting. The Editor and Director probably listen to that piece of music 50 times or more.

Then it's time for the composer to do his thing. Unless you're paraphrasing the guide music (yuk!), anything else is going to be a real shock as they are so used to the guide music. The Director then asks for re-writes and by the time they are happy you've ended up paraphrasing the original guide track anyway. Grrrrr!
One rant each! :)

All the more reason why the audio post supervisor and the composer should be brought in during preproduction, or at the very least the micro-second shooting is completed.

Sound will always be the underdog to picture until the standard process of starting them at different times, changes. The current system promotes too much of the fix-it and make it work role that is too often associated with the post sound stage, and not enough of the story-telling support/enhancement that truly makes sound shine.

I feel your pain on the guide music Greg. It advocates too much mimicry and often stifles original ideas. I understand why they do it, I just don't always agree that it produces the best results.

Sergio Leone would actually have Morricone score music before they even started shooting so that he could play the pieces on set (they also didn't shoot production dialogue, so this was easier). The music was often completed by the time they started cutting the picture.

Certainly not a method that would work for every film, but at least they did experiment with rethinking the process. Like many great works of art, breaking convention often expands the art form.

Of course it would make
life easier and result in a better product if the composer were employed earlier. I've usually been employed half way through production or actually when the post-pro phase starts. There are two reasons why we often don't get employed earlier. Firstly, despite
it's importance to the finished product, many directors don't even think about music till quite late on in the film making process.

This is particularly true in the world of TV commercials, where in this country you often have no longer than 24 hours to create the music. The second reason is financial: If I'm being employed from say the beginning of the production phase it might mean 6 months to a year before I'm finished (at the beginning of the pre-mix). I'm going to need a sizable fee for all that time.

However, if I could start at the beginning of production I could supply simple mixes to the editor to use as guide music when cutting and avoid the whole problem. This would allow me to be far more creative with compositions rather than following the rather cliché post-romantic model of Zimmer, et al.

The above is of course a generalization, some directors and editors have a very good understanding of the use of music (and sound) but in my experience the majority know just enough to be dangerous!

Educating directors as to what sound can offer their film, and pushing for it's involvement earlier in the process might be a better idea, and eventually (hopefully)produce change. Simply shunning working with anyone who doesn't agree with your wants is just going to alienate you from 99% of the business and keep you severely unemployed.

Gary Rydstrom said it best..
"People in sound have to keep thinking of themselves as a key part of the movie. Sometimes we have to fight against the feeling that we're not. If we do our jobs well and throw in a little evangelizing, we can make sound as important a part of filmmaking as it should be."

Sounds good in theory Charlie but in practice it doesn't quite work that way. Bare in mind I'm not a student just starting out, I've been in the business for well over a decade. There is relatively little mid to high budget film in this country (UK) and very few British composers manage
to break into the rather clique hollywood film score scene. Also, I'm not experienced, knowledgeable or particularly interested in being a producer and certainly wouldn't be able to just waltz in and hope for a sizable budget.

Being a composer for TV/film is highly competitive, it's not like I'm sitting here with dozens of high quality productions happening all around and directors fighting for my services. It's more like the other way round, not that many decent budget productions and the directors are swamped with hundreds of composers (and composer's agents) to choose from.

So I have to maximise my employability by being easy to work with and creating products which fulfill requirements and makes the dubbing engineer's job easier. This means that much of the time we are in effect slaves to the client. It's quite unusual to replace a Sound Designer on a project but replacing the composer is not at all uncommon. I could of course change my name to John Williams and solve nearly all the problems!

Don't get me wrong, I've been involved in some wonderful productions, been given free reign on occasion and one of my more experimental scores was once a BAFTA finalist. However, this sort of freedom is the exception rather than the rule and it severely cramps creativity.

Thread from Sound Article List June 2008


25 Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Own Job Search
When you’re job hunting, you can go mad if you think about the amount of factors beyond your control that affect your chances of getting hired.

The economy, your location, industry trends — even the hiring manager’s mood — can influence whether or not you get a job.

Still, as nice as it would be to blame your lack of offers on external factors, you can’t forget that common denominator in your job hunt — from the résumé to the interview — is you.

Finding myself in (yet another) job search cycle. I'd be very interested to hear what sorts of resources and techniques you all use in your searches.

Also, I'd like to toss out a few things I've picked up along the way as both an applicant and hiring manager. Many are generic to any job search, but they apply to specialized work as well:

- Do your homework. Find out about the company you are applying to, including the kinds of products they make, their target market, and most importantly, the contact info of the hiring manager (who is never, *ever* the person who posted, or is listed as the contact in, the opening).

- Tailor your cover letter to the job description and the company, and offer them something they haven't thought to ask for.

- Have someone else proof-read your resume and cover letter - misspellings, bad grammar, and clichés are all kisses of death.

- Whenever possible, show up. Conferences are a great place to network, but so are galleries and concerts and advance screenings and any other events that are likely to attract the crowd you want to join.

- User groups like this one are a great way to learn who is active in the industry, and what kinds of things they are working on and with. Scour the web for and join as many of these kinds of groups as you can find - many of them have job boards, and some have directories of companies. In Chicago, the Creative Directory, (also known as the Production Bible), is online at:

www.creative dir.com

The best job I've ever had was with a company that I found there and cold-called five minutes after they decided to create a Director of Audio position.

- Pick companies that you would like to work for and nag them to hire you. That is, contact them every three months or so and ask if they have any current or upcoming needs that you could help them fill. Even if they don't have an opening today, they might have one next week, or next July, and if they know you're available and interested, you might get a call from them before they post the job publicly.

- Follow through. If someone writes back to you that they've received your resume, (and it's not a donotreply email) write back and say thank you. If you don't hear from them within a couple of weeks or so, send them an email saying that you've applied and are following up to make sure they've received your application, and maybe ask if there is anything you can do to help them expedite the process.

If you actually get a phone call, write to the person you talked to and tell them how great it was to meet them and that you are looking forward to continuing the conversation. And always, *always* send a thank you within one day to everyone you meet with at an

If any of this sounds like shameless glad-handing, I can tell you it's possible to do all these things in a thoughtful, genuine, and professional way that will set you apart from most of the other applicants.

I guess it depends on what field of audio you work in. I've (for those of you who don't know), always worked in video games, started as a composer, then I ended up being trained in sound effect work for games (amongst other things), and eventually becoming a manager (after receiving more training), even after becoming a manager, I got further training this time is sound recording. I've worked as a composer, sound editor, recording engineer. Audio Manager, Audio Director, Audio Lead (publishing), and now as a dedicated Sound Designer.

I stopped being a manager about 3 years ago, this was because I wanted to learn first hand about making games on the new generation of consoles, and I wanted to do that hands on rather than from a management position. Some have said it was a step back, which is funny because I see it as a return to core skills, I know the new generation of gaming technology inside out now, I know what you can and cannot do, and I also understand about expectations (from consumer, to publisher, and to your peers).

The step from the PS2 era to the PS3 era has been a very interesting one for me. But I'm not saying I won't be a manager again, there is kind of an inevitability about that happening, because of the knowledge I've learned it puts me as a prime candidate to manage a production. (and considering the background and training I have)

But the point I'm going to make here is that 2 years ago I realized, I wasn't ready for next gen, I could make audio, but my understanding of what next gen actually meant was limited to prediction, and not based on fact. So I took a entry level position as a sound implementer at Rebellion on a salary that would be for a graduate, but I got promoted to Sound Designer after six month because of my expertise (and a pay rise which was unexpected, so thanks for that Reb's.), and I have really enjoyed working on my first "next gen" production. (And my god its different from working on last gen, but I'll do a long post about that some other time).

Now things are different and I have to confidence to do any audio job on a production and do it well, and the important thing is that I am able to show this to prospective employers.

You have to sell yourself, but you also have to have something to sell, it doesn't matter what I did 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, but what I did in the past 2 years is of the most interest to any employer, if you can show you are savvy, creative, and determined, and that you have currently knowledge then that will go a long way to impression a good employer.

I'm not dismissing the work I've done in the past entirely, certainly not the management work, but core current knowledge really helps in video game, probably because it changes so much.

And remember to proof read any official communication's, if you are like me and speed write things without checking what you have written and then when you re-read a post or letter and there are lots of errors in it, like the post below. but I'm sure you followed what I was saying :)

Being careful not to include any stray apostrophes, for instance ;)

You gotta know who you're writing for, too. Sometimes even the notion of a cover letter is just silly.

It's always funny when we're acting like immature kids around the office and an email comes in from someone looking for a job that reads like an application to law school. "I believe I would be a valuable asset to your organization, stuffy, stuffy stuff..."

We're wearing shorts and tee shirts, being big dorks talking about games, mythical creatures and robots, saying "dude" and "awesome" way too often... anyone we'd even consider hiring would have to mesh with that, so the emails that stick are the ones where the applicants are confident enough with themselves enough and understand us enough to know to talk "on the level" with us.

Someone who seemed intelligent and easy-going in email, sent us a video with some game footage they'd worked on that sounded bad ass and offered to grab a drink with us after work would probably have a foot in the door.

While I agree that the more you know about who you're writing to the better, I think as game companies grow up, you're better off keeping it professional. Sure, some companies may deprive themselves of your services because they sense a personality mismatch at the expense of sound design expertise. But most will respect a professional.

More important than trying to exude attitude is honesty. Just keep it simple and factual. Highlight your achievements. Let your reel speak for itself. If a company is looking for a certain type of personality, then either you are or you aren't. There's nothing you can do about that. I believe (or maybe hope) that most really don't consider personality all that much because in the end, it doesn't really matter.

There's nothing wrong with saying that you believe you can be a valueable asset to a potential employee if you really do believe it and can back the statement up. After all, the bottom line is, how are you going to help the company be profitable.What do you have to offer?

Oh yeah, and make sure you can spell and write intelligently. That actually does say something about you. Typos and poor use of language will often cause your letter to be filed at the bottom of what is probably a large stack. A good cover letter can be a great tool to initiate communication. Show that you know how to use it wisely. -dd -dd

"most will respect a professional. More important than trying to exude attitude is honesty."

Well put. Diversity and difference are valuable assets, to the individual, to the team, and to the whole company. Acting out a stereotypical false self to fit into a clique will unravel in the end, best to be yourself up front.

The kind of people you want to work with will judge you on your merits. The human element is so random it's not worth guessing at. It could be your interest in go-karting or taekwondo that is the clincher, something common and ordinary.

In fact you're more likely to be rejected by in-group prejudices for minor differences if you play up to a role.

"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity."

I agree, guys.

My comments certainly came from the far opposite of the spectrum whereas moderation is always best. I guess I get a little excited about letting people know that they can be themselves when trying to find a job because I used to forget that during my job hunting days.

So yeah, that's my point: be yourself.

Agreeing with a lot of what's been said. My policy has always been to be myself, but show the best of myself. So when I choose clothes for an interview, I dress as I would for a date with a girl I like (in my case, my better half). When I'm asked questions, I answer honestly and, should my answer include some negatives, I try not to dwell on them. You can cast things in a positive light and still be yourself.

You have to be able to get on with the people you work with. It's critical, especially in the games world. I'm currently in the middle of one of those periods where I'm crunching like mad and barely sleeping. I'm stressed out, my patience is thin, I'm on my 12th day of work without a single day off. If I didn't get along so well with the other members of my audio team, I'd be losing my mind by now. But we get along, so we pull together and come through.

So yeah, be yourself. You're cheating yourself (and your potential employer) if you're not, and it will make life hellish down the road.

"So yeah, that's my point: be yourself."

Still, sounds like you have a lot of fun in your work Kidko, and that's another important point imho.

Dunno if any of you guys ever heard of this Mihály (In order to pronounce it correctly, I'd have to remove your tongue) Csíkszentmihályi chap


The basic thesis is: work == play == "flow", which happens when your skills and challenges are most healthily balanced.

Or that you're most productive when you're enjoying yourself but pushing hard. Common sense really. And a nice counterpoint to this


And another good read (on the point that working with people too like you isn't really a good thing - so having workmates that challenge your world view can be a great blessing )



Nice ones, Andy! I've had Flow on my Amazon wishlist forever... probably time I buy it for myself. I like that guy's angle. Also, thanks for the link to AnxietyCulture... looks like a great website. The article on Phil Laut reads a lot like my advice to young friends, post high school or post college, who haven't found their calling.

From Thread at Sound Design List June 2008

Things you've done with you kit when bored?

I was a tad bored today and job hunting was getting me a little down. So got protools up and running, got my mic out and basicaly started recording myself doing sill voices etc, ok I'm not James Arnold Taylor I'm not but it was bloody fun. Of course it didn't end there I started messing about with in pro tools, adding music, even did my own
GTA style spoof tv trailer. I did cheer me up and did give me a chance in a way to keep my pro tools skills up.

But have you any of you lot done anything like that or something similar to kill boredom?

It's always nice to take a day out from time to time to just experiment (I wish I had more time for it, really).

I love setting up the Theremin and using it as a control signal (it can be very expressive)--running it through different plug-ins, effects boxes, etc. and seeing what comes out the other end. Same thing with other stuff from the library, ie 'what happens if I put rocks through this and then chain it to that and blah blah blah, what about crowds through the same thing.'

I figured out a great way to make spider vocals once doing that. I've also gotten some great magic sounds, good environmental beds, and loads of other stuff. Just make sure you're set up to easily hit the 'record' button.

Funny, when I've got downtime, I pull out the mop and clean the studio. Ah! No wonder it's always a friggin' mess in here!

Hi Ross yeah in spare time i do simaler stuff , recently found an amazin animated sci fi thingy ,that i did a 5.1 sound design job on.It's good to fiddle and experiment ,magic happens!

Problem with the very frequent noise of railroad traffic

The German railroad plans to build 2 additional rails in our town. Since it's cheaper for them, they will build them directly thru a residential area.

We have a citizens' group here protesting against it with all means. As you can imagine there is not only a problem with the building measures (many people
will lose their estate) but also a problem with the very frequent noise of railroad traffic caused by the freight trains (the additional 2 rails are not for
passenger trains).

I now would like to design this "sound" for the citizens group. So they can show the full impact of the noise. How would you start doing this?

Go to a location with a similar number of train tracks, and record?

Maybe record yourself trying to have a conversation as a train roars by in order to illustrate the point. That seems like the only scientific way to go about it, because if you're "designing" the sound, it's entirely up to your interpretation of what it will be like, which may or may not be accurate.

"if you're 'designing' the sound, it's entirely up to your interpretation of what it will be like, which may or may not be accurate."

I agree, you want to be careful not to take much license or it will damage the credibility of the exercise. Recording actual locations that have become what you fear your town will become is the best way to make this point and not be dismissed as intentionally exaggerating your concerns.

Take an SPL meter with you when you go to record ­ RadioShack do a digital one that¹s reasonably priced, I think. Make notes of the levels and don¹t forget to select the correct weighting. C-Weighting takes more account of low frequencies and much of the disturbance will be from L.F. Content.

Sub-audible vibration will also play a large part in determining the aggravation level, but this is probably outside your scope. When you do the playback, use a system that can reproduce the levels that you noted on the recordings and use a pink noise source and an analyser to get the system reasonably flat, if you can, so that you¹re not accused of ramping up the bottom end to emphasise the problem.
I agree with John, make sure to use a constant reference point for your measurements (e.g. 3 meters from the sound source). Maybe you could also play other real-world examples of equivalent sounds at the same measured volume to draw a comparison: commercial jet engine, freeway roar, football crowd cheer. Nothing outrageous or spectrally incomparable, just a way to help people relate to decibel values.

Speaking not as a sound designer but as a legal videographer:
- Locate a rail line with similar houses near it
- Locate a position say 1 block away.
- Take spl measurementss there. (Yes it will be very loud next to the tracks, but
your objection is how loud it will be one or more block away.)

While a train passes carry on a conversation with someone several feet away. I would place the mic beside your head pointed as the other person and set the level, without train, for a good recording. Then actually record, same set up with the train passing by.

Even better, video tape the event.

Locate a house and do the same thing inside the house the same way.Now if the house has loose window panes or items inside the house that rattle from the train, so much the better.

Thanks a lot for your feedback. Very informative. I will try to get the best results with all this information.


Thread "Train Sound" from Sound Design List May 2008

It's funny how we see/hear things differently in the world

I'm in the bedroom getting our 1 year old ready for a nap. My wife is in the kitchen getting a bottle of milk ready for him. Well, we have this big, glass jar thing that holds about 100 teabags, and my wife accidentally knocked it over, and it shattered on the floor. I quickly make my way to the kitchen..not to see if anyone is ok, but to say, "that was quite possibly one of the best sounding glass smashes I've heard in a while".

Dave Fiske

I had the same thing the other day
. I was taking out the studio recycling before a session when a glass bottle slipped out of the bucket and broke on impact with the concrete. I didn't think for a second about the clean-up I'd have to do, but how great the sound of a Mexican Coke bottle break is!

Jory Prum

We live on a pretty busy street
, and late in the night on fridays and saturdays there are lots of close calls with people driving poorly. We'll hear at least 3 or 4 fantastic skids. Luckily, I've never heard a crash. I've been meaning to get out there with a 722 and a stereo mic setup and record this stuff.

Dave Fiske

I dropped a glas of juice once, my first thought being not about the sound but: apple-z

Funny how the machines we work on tend to influence the way we think...
Christian Conrad

I had a friend of the family
come by one day and decided to oil all the hinges in the kitchen.
- I almost killed her.
Not only had she just killed a great collection of squeaks, but lying in the bed room, I could tell "which" cabinet the kids were in and know if speed was needed to protect good stuff or just to expect a few bangs from old pots.

Yeah, I knew each door by it's unique squeak.

Henry Howard

I live in a rather low class neighbourhood
in an apartment with thin walls. My old neighbour had a completely crazy girlfriend. She screamed at him constantly from the early morning to late night. There were regular fighting and yelling with many objects thrown across the room smashing at the walls. It went on for about 2 months at all hours.

In all this time I was torn between the annoyance of losing my sleep and the fascination of the sounds they could make. It was as if there was a genuine crime in progress, and some one was beeing brutally murdered. But that was never the case because after a while the fightings would start again.

(To those who would critizice me for not reporting wifebeating and abuse, I can only say it sounded like SHE was the angry one bringing on all the fighting and HE was living there. So I suppose there was a kind of common voluntary understanding here.)

In fact I decided to record them so I had some sounds of domestic disturbance. But at I had to loan a high quality recorder from my workplace. When I came around to bring one home, it was was all quite and peaceful for weeks. When I finally returned the recorder back, she moved back in and the fightings took on again. I would bring the recorder back home and again it was all peaceful etc.etc. Now I have a new more docile neighbour and I never got the old ones on tape, shame!

Peter Henningsen

I am immediately put in mind of the underground classic 'Shut Up Little Man,' unauthorized recordings made by someone in the lower Haight (as I recall) here in San Francisco of the deeply dysfunctional relationship between his substance abusing neighbors. >> Shut up, Little Man!
My copy of the original pressing of this CD has long since passed into other
hands, but hmmm I see they are still for sale...

Aaron Xim

You can buy Shut up, Little Man! at Amazon

In my apartment there is this enormously
old, huge, power consuming fridge that, once it starts running, rattles pretty heavy; and when it switches of, the whole fridge and everything inside and on top of it is shaking.

I disliked the fridge from day one when I moved in, because it is really really really loud persistent and annoying.

Eventually there came along this one post production where for one of the locations a fridge like mine was even in the picture. So I recorded my fridge extensively and spent quite some "active listening time" with editing these sounds.

After all this time with my fridge rattling in the edit suit and on the mixing stage, by now at home he became like a good old friend. When he starts, I smile and think "there you go baby, you just say what you have to say" and I'm sure to be sad when he breaks down and we get a new one..

- mind that over times, the fridge turned from "it" to "he" ;)

Johanna Herr

After many a long work day and night I have actually tried to apple z my alarm clock, (no joke) and I even apple s'd a radio station I had stumbled onto while driving.. Strange people we are..

A friend told me the story of standing in front of the fridge at her parent's place, asking her mom under which directory she saved the blue cheese...


In 1979 I did a temp job moving
a music store to a new location. The owner thought that he could use a powered hand truck all by himself to move a piano down a flight of stairs. He lost control of it. I wish that I had been able to record the sound of a $5,000 upright piano tumbling down the stairs, hitting the upright beam at the bottom of the stairs and being dashed to a thousand pieces!

Uncle Bob

I find myself looking for red squiggles under my handwritten text to ensure I didn't make any spelling mistakes. :-) Seriously.

Jory K. Prum

I had a similar situation in college.
I was in the percussion department, and we were moving a large, very expensive marimba down some stairs. The guys on the bottom end lost their grip, and it went crashing down. It sounded SO cool, but got is in SO much trouble. The good thing after that was, I never had to move a marimba again.

Dave Fiske