Experience NUA – just in audio!

Last week we met with Richard Lightman to look at sound recording and he set us a little project, to record the sounds of NUA and produce a short – under a minute – sound bite of life at NUA. Alice, Andy, Iain, Josh and I started with a list of things we’d like to audio sample to put into the piece, it seemed to feature a lot of doors! I particularly wanted to record the sound the door in the Library made. Josh did a walk up the stairs and along the top floor of the Media Lab to get what I felt could be an underlying base track, one which would cover the total time of the project, and then from there we could build up layers of sound…

Then we started listening to the sound the doors of the media lab made, the whoosh of air and change in sound quality was what Andy and I wanted to capture, but it proved more difficult than we thought, wind noise when it closed and it not making the sound we were after, or not recording when it did make the right sound. All of us found ourselves pressing record to stop again, and that only produced a marker on the Zoom H4 that Richard had given us to use.

We then saw that time was short and we had probably (definitely) spent too much time opening and closing the electronic Media Lab doors, so we moved on, recording footsteps through the gravel and then under the arch… As we went through the arch I really liked the echo, but none of us was wearing hard bottom shoes to record lovely ‘clippy cloppy’ echoey footsteps, and although we waited a little while, no-one passed through either.

We then moved into the street and Alice caught a lovely bit of chatter from a large group going past, as the area between the two Art College buildings has a nice resonance when people walk past in groups, was one of the things we had written on our ‘would like to aurally record’ list.

We moved into the the opposite building and recorded the giant metal door, with Iain making it sound very much like the noise it would make when rolled down. Looking into the 3D studios we heard some sawing wood so captured a small amount of that before we left, and again more great squeaky doors which soaked up our precious time.

We had the NUA bar on our list to get a coffee being made but for some reasons – I can’t remember why now – we went instead to the cafe down the road and sampled Iain ordering a coffee (and a kitkat). Back to college and the hallways and textiles room was next on the list, with time running out rapidly we got the power washer, some running footsteps and walking noises, then had to return, as we were late.

I knew that I wanted some extra sounds (and that library door), so went in the next day to capture a few vital sounds, that I felt were integral to my experience of NUA, things we hadn’t thought about on the previous day, on my little Zoom H1. Then spent today in the sound studio (at City College) putting them together.

I found some of the most useful sounds to be in outtakes, which I’m glad I listened to and didn’t just leave muted, and unexpectedly in the sounds I did want it wasn’t always the bit I thought it would be that would be the best… you can never tell…

I know Richard won’t thank me for sampling an outtake of his voice, but as he said himself… it needs an introduction.


Happy sound, happy picture?

So alongside the happy sound experiment I am trying to get a stock of ambiguous footage, that could be used in the final project as a backdrop to the two different soundscapes, so after having a go at the ‘happy’ sound design I have quickly edited this close up footage of my daughter with the first test, just to see what does and doesn’t work well, with a view on the future finished piece..

There are definitely successful elements and marriages between video and audio, I like how the visual goes out of focus and back in again, something I could use to tie in the sound with, for happy, you could make the sound dreamy as it goes out of focus, for the more tense piece you could add gritty hard noise onto it, tying them into their different mood sets…

A successful days work in the sound studio… it is quite fascinating…

My ears are constantly on the quest for is that a happy sound, what makes it so… and quickly writing down what it is.

I’m never going to listen to anything the same again.

Happy sounds?

So after a morning looking through the sound fx library and playing around with space designer and the keyboard synthesiser I have created this 3 minute sound design that I think is light, quite fun, but I did have to put a small amount of chirpy melody in it to carry it along… what do you think, is it a happy sound?

Is it full of too many cliche ‘happy sounds’ is listening to a little girl laugh really going to make everyone smile…

It starts by sounding very holiday, hot sunshine, cicadas in the background, birds, bells, laughter, it’s all to do with memories, feelings, moods, so everyone is going to be different, or have a different opinion, but on average I should be able to put people in the right frame of mind…

Finding documentation on what makes up a happy soundtrack seems to rely quite heavily either on a song/melody or the visuals and actual real sound, i.e., a childs spontaneous giggling whilst being obviously tickled seems to go a long way to creating a happy atmosphere…

And i could use the words uplifting, or light, thoughtful, relaxing but these have different sound meanings to me, and are not ‘happy’…

This is turning into  very tricky sound experiment..

Sound room – the happy place?


So seeing as it’s such a beautiful day, I decided to go into sound room 1 and experiment with happy sounds… This is turning out to be the hardest bit about my sound project, it’s quite easy to do tense, brooding, melancholy or dreamy, but happy…. It’s so tricky, so I’m having a look through the extra sound fx library for more base sounds with which to take through the synthesiser keyboard, we shall see.

Julian Treasure – TED talks

This is a lovely little talk by Julian Treasure on a very basic level about how sound affects us..

Playing sound effects both pleasant and awful, Julian Treasure shows how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.

  • “[Ocean surf] has the frequency of roughly 12 cycles per minute. And … 12 cycles per minute is [also] roughly the frequency of the breathing of a sleeping human. There is a deep resonance with being at rest.”
  • “Birdsong is a sound which most people find reassuring. There is a reason for that. Over hundreds of thousands of years we’ve learned that when the birds are singing, things are safe. It’s when they stop you need to be worried.”
  • “You are one-third as productive in open-plan offices as in quiet rooms.”
  • “Sound is complex. There are many countervailing influences. It can be a bit like a bowl of spaghetti: sometimes you just have to eat it and see what happens.”
  • “The world is now so noisy with this cacophony going on visually and auditorily, it’s just hard to listen; it’s tiring to listen.”
  • “We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening, but we’re not very good at it. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear.”

Better Listening- Julian Treasure

In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, “We are losing our listening.” In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening — to other people and the world around you.

Sound Health…

our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health — even costing lives. He lays out an 8-step plan to soften this sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) and restore our relationship with sound.

Video, Sound, Effects

I really like the way the video turned out, but being an inquisitive soul, I wondered, could I push it further with a little tweaking to the video with some special effects in Premiere…?

Yes… I think I can…

What I wanted was a vignette (oval) effect on a couple of the shots, but premiere only provides a circle, I may have been able to create one in photoshop and bring it in, but I thought I would see what Premiere had to offer straight out of the box. It works fairly well and I like you can use it as a alpha mask, perfect… All of the controls such as feather edge, alpha mask, center points and percentages are so familiar to me it was a breeze to alter it how I wanted it too look, pretty much the same as in Photoshop or Illustrator, (which I have been using for over 20 years) so that definitely gives me an advantage.

I also tinted a couple of the shots, to make them slightly darker and have more of a ‘cold’ feel to them. Like this…

I wonder what you can do in Final cut pro…..

Collaborative video + sound

On booking a day in the sound suite I finally got to look at the car video project that I started. I wanted to remove all natural sounds and replace them with a digitally created audio track.

I started looking through the sound fx libraries in Logic Pro and found none that I wanted to use, they were too real, or too odd. So I looked at the environmental sound outputs through the keyboard sampler and found what I was looking for. Finding the keys and playing in time gave me a few challenges and I soon realised I would need to save each track separately to have full control over in and out points, to match with cuts on screen.

I wanted to turn ambient noises into tension and atmosphere, through timing both in audio and visual.

By layering up the base mood with one deep resonant tone, and then adding in higher mid range tones of the same sample at ‘changeover’ points in the scene, it ties the video together more and gives a complete feel to the soundtrack. Pinpointing key events with other non-real sound gives real mood to the end result.

I am really pleased with the way it looks and sounds. I like the way I’ve cut the original individual pieces of video to try and create a story and the sound creation and edit made it a fascinating experience.

I see the audiotrack on this as the underlying track which would direct the viewers mood in feeling tense, questioning, suspicious, if this were a real film it would be the first pass in the audio suite, matching the audio to the mood, then you would add the script/spoken/narration and any music over the top knowing that the baseline takes it the right way.

Original recording of prudence

This is the original straight recording of the track ‘patience and prudence’, it’s not even edited so you can hear me opening the sound studio door!

I thought it would be useful to be able to compare the before and after and therefore look at the effect some simple effects applied to an original recording could alter/enhance the way you interpret the piece in it’s entirety.

Handmade – Digitally altered…

Short ukulele piece recorded in the studio.

Taken into logic pro and reverb, pan and fades added to give a dreamlike feel to the piece.

It works really well… very pleased with this first test to record and alter handmade sound.

It’s good to get to grips with Logic through this small test.

Bubbling Blue

Close up of my dyeing pot, bubbling away with the washer going full blast in the background, would like to play with the sound a bit more to tie into the visuals, plus I want to slow the video down in post and distort it slightly – something to play with…