This post explains how to navigate and interpret this blog, and provides some useful links.

The video of Descent is available below via Youtube.

A stereo .wav of the audio track can be downloaded here –

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mjuk0ill37mgev0/V4%20-%20DESCENT_ST_FULL_050516.wav

 

Markers please note -

It is easiest to navigate this blog via the pages tabs.

Each post ends with a summary of the relevant learning outcomes it attempts to address with reference to marking criteria document.

Learning outcomes are numbered as per the original synopsis and overview of the project post, and the sections or paragraphs of any given post which address a specific learning outcome are annotated throughout.

All posts which address a specific outcome can be accessed using the wordpress tag for that learning outcome. All these tags are available at the bottom of this and the original synopsis and overview post.

 

 

 

(Clickable learning outcomes throughout this post will transfer to a reference list at the bottom)

This post reflects on the successes and failures of the project in detail using my original learning outcomes as signposts.

Our group aim was to manage the process of creating five film soundtracks collectively, and deliver these soundtracks to a good standard and to the client’s specifications. We succeeded in this without any doubt – All of our clients were happy with the work we presented (feedback is available from all of them to this effect), the soundtracks are diverse and of good quality, work synergistically with the pictures, are produced to recognisable technical standards and follow client directions and specifications discerned throughout the project. This evidence also speaks to the achievement of learning outcomes GR3, GR4 and GR5 – all of our clients praised our professionalism on set in their feedback and several noted the quality of music or specific aspects of their film’s audio, and I believe our work in all the distinct audio areas of the films we’ve made is more or less up to scratch.

Only one film slightly lets down the artifact we have delivered in terms of audio quality, and this can largely be put down to the inexperience of the directorial team in choosing horrendously noisy locations and in ignoring our advice about these during recces etc. Beyond this, the raw location audio (which most of us had a hand in at one time or another on set) was also technically flawed in some areas, leading to some issues with dialogue takes in post which couldn’t be rectified to our satisfaction. The film was a dog from the word go, but we did everything in our power to rectify it’s audio problems and if any mistake was made this resides in taking the job in the first place, since there were misgivings from several sides about the script and team.

Addressing group outcomes GR1 and GR2 which are concerned with the internal processes and acting as a company might – I believe we have successfully collaborated as realistically as possible in the sense of a company or partnership in this academic context. Weekly production meetings, a centralised google calendar which was kept up to date with room bookings and workflow plans throughout, supervisors for each film reporting weekly and then daily on their responsibilities and requesting more resources as and when they require them are all testament to this fact.

As a part of the above, I believe I have also fulfilled my more specific research learning outcomes PER1 and PER2, which required me to develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes, regulations and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects and the wording and content of contracts, rates and rate cards offered in the film audio field. We’ve also variously researched and applied many of the fundamental aspects of running a business, with my own focus being on furthering my understanding of the complexities of agreements, contracts and IP in a complicated partnership situation, as well as the more practical aspects of collecting consistent and useful client feedback and structuring data in a way accessible for others who may have to use it – in this last there is much to be learnt from the organisation techniques used in game audio.

The collective process was not without it’s drawbacks however. The administrative burden of managing multiple productions is much greater, and any issue can become a deluge of reorganisation very quickly indeed. The decision to appoint a supervisor for each film also had unexpected ramifications in two ways – the first was the tendency for supervisors to end up isolated with the preproduction ideas and planning processes, which we dealt with through an extra round of regular meetings to read through scripts and collectively input ideas, as well as involving as many of the group as possible in meetings with production teams. The second was the personal investment in what came to be seen as *their* film on the part of some supervisors, which meant that the supervisors tended to want to do the ‘credited’ jobs (such as the dub mix) themselves. Reflecting here, it would have perhaps been more realistic to appoint specialisms on the basis of our research roles within industry, and require that those specialisms fulfill a certain percentage of the work on x number of films within that specialism – for example, I only mixed Descent and some of Remember, to truly represent a dub mixer specialism in my work here I feel I should really have completed at least two full mixes.

Nonetheless, I can certainly say I have fulfilled learning outcome PER4 which required me to contribute extensively to multiple film productions. My contribution – encompassing preproduction input into all of the films, location work on three of them, and significant post production work on Descent, Immort and Remember as well as the ever present administration, ancillary support and meetings – should be evidence enough of this. This blog also provides ample evidence of the management process for Descent, which was arguably the smoothest of all the films until the later post-production phase which required some relatively minor remixing, allowing me to claim learning outcome IN1 as fulfilled. Improvements I would make here were mainly technical – mono mix on location – and, as usual, I would have liked to have had a hand in co-composing the music for the film, but there simply wasn’t time.

The final three learning outcomes IN2, IN3 and PER3 deal with my wish to expand my understanding of techniques deployed in similar works and I have succeeded to my satisfaction in two of these. In learning about and practising mixing to R128 standard I have expanded my knowledge of dub mixing in the post industry, and I have already referred to my contribution to the artifact in that role. My work on the sound design of Immort (street scene and some of the specialist spot FX) and the research which underpin these are evidence of me bettering my understanding of sci-fi sound design.

It is only in PER3 that I would have liked to have done more work. Whilst the study of the film Hannibal is relevant and represents a partial fulfillment of the criteria here, I have had the film Shutter Island sitting next to my DVD player for three months, unwatched. I had intended to draw influence for Descent from this film and present a similar comparative study to that of Hannibal but was unable to find an opportunity to sit down and watch the film.

In final analysis, the intention of the Omni-Gaffer project was to enable us to complete more work more effectively this term and we were fully aware that this would present it’s own unique set of challenges and requirements which I believe we have overcome and fulfilled. I think it’s fair to say the project was successful and justified, since it would not have been possible for this group of students to complete these films – the best part of one hour’s worth of diverse and complex picture – to the standard we have presented whilst working seperately or in smaller groups in my view, but that the extra group size was slightly more useful in the early pre-production and production stages for ideas and spreading the labour intensive production process more evenly, and towards the end as feedback and critical listening became important to drive better quality.

So, for Omni-Gaffer productions it just remains to say thanks for a great degree course and goodnight.

Final Pic

———– 1000 words

 ——– Learning outcomes, for reference ,


Group Aim

To manage the process of creating the above soundtracks collectively, and to deliver these soundtracks to a good standard and to the client’s specifications.

Group Objectives

  • [GR1] To professionally operate as a small to medium size company (or other recognisable business entity) in the audio production / post-production field might.
  • [GR2] To organise and fulfil an operating strategy and schedule which deals with multiple productions simultaneously, and which maximises efficiency and minimises issues or risks to delivery.
  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.
  • [GR4] To conceive, compose, source and / or produce music to client specifications that synergistically supports the other components of their films.
  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.

Outcomes and Learning in the context of Moving Picture Industry roles

  • [IN1] To successfully manage the provision of service by the business for the film Descent with regard the assignment of resources, specialisms and working time, liason with the director, editor and producer on a practical and creative level, and communication of information on their needs and requirements for the piece, in order to appraise the efficacy of the collaborative approach to working on the piece – (Supervisor and Company Officer)
  • [IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)
  • [IN3] To better my understanding of sound design with at least some reference to the science fiction genre – (Sound Effects Editor)

Personal Learning Outcomes

  • [PER1]  To develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes, regulations and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects.
  • [PER2] To develop a better understanding of the wording and content of contracts, agreements and rate cards offered in the film audio field.
  •  [PER3] To expand my knowledge of the theory of and audio techniques deployed in films similar to or influential upon those we will deliver.
  • [PER4] To contribute extensively to multiple film productions.

 

 

Below is a breakdown of the contributions I’ve made to the various aspects of the project and the artifact. [PER4]

Descent Production
Supervision of audio production on behalf of Omni-Gaffer – 100%
Location Audio Mixer – Full shoot 3 days (100%)
Foley artist and editing – 80%
Production audio edit – 100%
Dialogue edit – 10%
Dialogue premix – 100%
Atmos and SFX – 100%
Dub Mix – 95%

Other productions –
Immort – Atmos / SFX – 30%
Immort – Foley Artist – 20%
Immort – Location Audio Mixer – 1 day (10%)
Feel Good – Foley Artist – 10%
Feel Good – Atmos / SFX – 20%
Remember – Atmos / SFX – 30%
Remember – Location Audio Mixer / Boom op – 1 day (10%)
Remember – Dub Mix – 10%

Tasks related to the company / group (Hourly, as not possible to quantify a percentage) –
Admin (consisting of booking and managing facilities / emailing / production meetings / collaborative quality control etc, as detailed elsewhere) – 32 hours
Meetings – 35 hours

Other related work –
Transportation of equipment to various locations for various productions.

Breakdown of hours worked –

Total Admin / Meets – 67
Total Creative – 123
Total Location – 52
Total Other – 2
Total Hours Worked – 244

—————————————————–
Breakdown of contribution to the project and hours worked – Contribution.

  • [GR2] To organise and fulfil an operating strategy and schedule which deals with multiple productions simultaneously, and which maximises efficiency and minimises issues or risks to delivery.
  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.
  • [GR4] To conceive, compose, source and / or produce music to client specifications that synergistically supports the other components of their films.
  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.

(Outcomes – IN2 + GR3)

Part of a dub mixer’s job is to deliver mixes of programs to particular technical specifications. In the case of programs for broadcast, the current European standard is EBU R128, a set of rules regarding loudness normalisation and permitted strength of audio signals. As part of another module this semester we interviewed staff at Soho Square Studios, one of whom explained to us that knowledge of working to this standard is very much sought after in the post-production industry.

The dub mix I carried out for our project last term conformed to the BBC’s guidelines for production. This term, I’ve suggested to our directors that all our output should conform to the newer R128 broadcast standards – they have no particular requirements, so this is as good a choice as any.

The essential difference with R128 mixing is that it requires reference to the overall loudness of the piece over it’s entire length as an average, where BBC guidelines I have employed previously simply control the audio peak levels within the program regardless of it’s average loudness. The changes were wrought mainly to deal with advertisers using the perception of loudness (through compression, and rather than the mathematical loudness inherent in the audio) to create irritating volume changes relative to a given program. Practically, it enables higher highs and lower lows across the course of the program, but controls the volume across the course of the bulk of the output.

EBU R128 changes the unit of measurement of mixing from decibel or PPM to loudness unit, and requires that the mixer bring the average loudness of the piece in between 22 and 24LU by it’s completion. It also measures peaks within the audio waveform much as with the BBC method, and requires that none of these surpass 1.0 on the true peak scale. There is also a loudness range requirement which must not exceed 95%. [IN2]

I purchased a metering plugin which is R128 compliant, and ran the mix I created last term through it for reference –

GEORGE R128

As we can see, this piece would not comply with R128 as it too quiet on average by 4.4LU even though peaks etc are within range.

Having completed the mix of Descent to the previous BBC guidelines, results were –

DESCENT BBC MIX

This was both too quiet on average (27.1), and contained a couple of sharp peaks (0.3) which are too aggressive for broadcast. I remixed the latter and ran another mix –

DESCENT COMPLIANT

 

As you can see, this mix is *only just* within the compliance threshold for average loudness, though the peaks are now well within the line. I deemed this sufficient as I was extremely pressed for time by this point.

Working to R128 is industry standard for broadcast in the UK and as such is an extremely useful to have learned – it was referred to during an interview with a professional audio engineer for another module as one of the most important things to know about – and it’s interesting from the perspective of the mix process, since it enables a less slavish monitoring of PPM metering and a freedom to push big sounds more aggressively for impact. Descent was not really the film on which to demonstrate this last technique since it is one which uses realism and more subtle light and shade, but I think the process will inform future sci-fi work I undertake, if nothing else. [GR3]

—————————————— 500 words

Key Points –

Research and the practice of dub mixing to R128 - ResearchApplication of skills and conduct in production.

  • [IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)

Reflection on usefulness of research and practise – Individual reflection

  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.

(Outcomes – GR 1,2,3,4,5 + IN1 + PER4)

Having completed the final mix of Descent, this post will comprise an appraisal of issues with the artifact as it stands.

The main issue was with dialogue during editing and premix, with the close shot scenes around the kitchen table particularly problematic as the room they took place in has the most horrendous honky reverb which acted like the classic tiled bathroom reverb on all the dialogue, worsening as the actor’s projected more. This reverb was largely removed with Izotope RX, and some EQ’s applied to the dialogue at the same time. However, the dialogue takes were presumably not tested together prior to the mix phase (dialogue edit and mix were carried out by two different people), where it was discovered that any dialogue which is both boomed and collected from a radio mic on the same actor is close to 180 degrees out of phase, obviously closer to this amount relative to the shot, as the boom was able to be placed closer to the actor.

IMG_0398

You can clearly see the reversed phase in the photograph above. I can surmise that the outputs on the university radio mics and the MKH boom microphones are wired to opposite polarities, and this wouldn’t have been noticed on set because the master mix I use when monitoring the incoming audio was always split into stereo, with one side comprising radio mics and the other comprising the boom and other mics. When these were mixed together in the scenes however, noticable phase cancellation occurs. The combination of this and the processing in RX left the dialogue lacking body, and dangerously thin in places, whilst attempts to correct this using channel EQ consumed a large amount of time in mix. This finally necessitated the recutting of the main dialogue-heavy kitchen scenes after the first pass mix had been completed as we collectively felt it simply wasn’t up to standard, and the dialogue is still not perfect in the finished version. [GR3,5,IN1]

The mixture of production audio and foley is also a fine art and Descent uses a lot of audio from the set for the busier scenes. It was not always possible to perfectly match the perspectives of the actual set with the sounds we created in foley, and the artificial reverbs and different room tones are occasionally noticeable.

Moving on to the effects of our collaboration on the production of Descent, this particular film was very much a group effort. The script and planning phase benefited from a great deal of input from other team members, I had the choice of two composers for the project and was able to go with the one whose approach best suited the director. In post, both foley and dialogue editing tasks were split to other group members, and the final mix was heavily collectively appraised, overruling my preference and leading to an 11th hour dialogue remix which improved the issues described above. This film would definitely have been worse without the group approach, and my own time would have been less efficiently spent for certain. [GR1, PER4]

In terms of feedback on the production, I sent the following to the director and producer:

“The core team for Descent were exceptional, transcending the standard of many of the student productions with which I’ve become acquainted this year. All communication was prompt, consistent and professionally managed, production plans and details were communicated with plenty of time, and included opportunities for audio recces of the set and a sensible regime of pre-production meetings and test shoots. The production team engaged early with the process of designing the audio dimension of the film and were creative and professional in the way ideas and plans were formed, communicated and allowed to evolve.

On set, the extended production team worked cohesively and largely to a strict schedule with little apparent stress or evidence of issues. Location audio work was a pleasure to manage from my perspective. I strongly recommend any member of the team for roles in future productions and would be pleased to find myself working alongside any of them again in the future.”

In turn, we received glowing feedback from them for the service, which can be viewed in it’s entirety here. [GR1,3,4,5 + IN1 + PER4]

At 17 and a half minutes, the piece is reasonably long for a short student film created in a single term, and I’m proud of managing to sustain the work of carrying this film’s audio through from inception to completion. Whilst it still has a couple of rough edges, I believe it stands up as the first piece of film audio work worthy of portfolio use. One major piece of practical information I have learned from my work here is always monitor and mix your location in mono. The film editors who receive the raw audio before sending back the compiled lists do not benefit from stereo, and monoing at either point would have allowed me to pick up the phase issues on-set and saved time in post. [GR3]

——— 740 Words

KEY POINTS – 

Discussion of some issues in the final mix of Descent – Individual Reflection

  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.
  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.
  • [PER4] To contribute extensively to multiple film productions.

Group involvement in the production of Descent – Process Management

  • [GR1] To professionally operate as a small to medium size company (or other recognisable business entity) in the audio production / post-production field might.
  • [PER4] To contribute extensively to multiple film productions.

Feedback between groups – Professional Practice

  • [GR1] To professionally operate as a small to medium size company (or other recognisable business entity) in the audio production / post-production field might.
  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.
  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.
  • [GR4] To conceive, compose, source and / or produce music to client specifications that synergistically supports the other components of their films.
  • [IN1] To successfully manage the provision of service by the business for the film Descent with regard the assignment of resources, specialisms and working time, liason with the director, editor and producer on a practical and creative level, and communication of information on their needs and requirements for the piece, in order to appraise the efficacy of the collaborative approach to working on the piece – (Supervisor and Company Officer)

Reflection on process and learning – Individual Reflection

  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.