P + P Other – World Building – Street Scene

(Outcomes in this blog – <IN3> – <PER 1 + 3> – <GR 1, 2 + 5>)

I very much wanted to tackle the sound design for the futuristic, post-nanotech city scene from Immort as part of my work on this project, and was able to make a start on this as the film was being shot thanks to early provision of an animatic of the film. Below is the evolution of the scene from my initial mockup to the picture lock version handed over to the supervisor who also mixed the film.

Immort’s supervisor had initially produced a detailed sound design plan for the film, which formed the basis of my initial approach to the scene’s construction.

I looked immediately to Blade Runner – which includes the great street scene of sci-fi film with an insanely complex audio mix carried out by Graham V Hartstone – but the feel for Immort is intended to be different in terms of the behaviour of the characters. Lot’s of the specific things seen on screen in Blade Runner have their own tiny, almost momentary sound narrative set against the extreme bustling of the city defined by sirens, wails and pulsing humanity. By contrast, people in Immort’s world are quiet and contented, even if they are constantly beset by their connectedness thanks to their constant HUD’s. My initial mockup backdrop tried to hit similar notes to Blade Runner in the sound of humanity being strongly signified, though it’s very difficult without the specificity of actual picture available to work from. The mockup below is constructed almost entirely of heavily manipulated samples, with a couple of simple keyboard drones from Protools soft synths. It’s ugly, but gives an idea of where I was going. <IN3>

I had to change approach after discussing with Immort’s supervisor during the session in which I constructed it. He’d just come off set for the film with a better interpretation of the directors requirements and the outcome of the actual shoot for the scene. His location experience with the film told him that the extras would be considerably sparser than first implied, so lots of humanity in the audio pallette would likely not work. We arrived at an idea of generally quieting the people with bursts of the sound of their personal soundtrack as they pass-by, and the base layers defined by the unearthly hum of a nano-technological city. <GR5 + PER1>

My first attempt at following this direction up was done to a rough, no vis-fx rough cut of the film, and can be seen below –

Seeing this actual picture, the visuals turn out to be much more down to earth. Both budget constraints and a lack of extras mean the scene has ended up much sparser and near-future than the one I initially envisioned even if we discount the lack of VFX in this cut for the moment. As such I retooled the atmos more in the direction of Invasion of The Body Snatchers (the 1978 version), muting the drone of the people and trying to bring out a sense of disconnectedness (largely using manipulated foley FX and further samples, in line with the protaganists desire to be unplugged from the matrix and the suggestion of enslavement to their technology causing them to take greater care as they move around the real world. <GR5>

Instead of solid footsteps the extras feet are muted and shuffling, for which I referred to multiple scenes from Bodysnatchers like the scene linked below which dispenses almost entirely with ‘human’ foley even in crowded scenes to emphasise the distinction between the protaganists and the masses. This feel was fortuitously enabled by the incredibly well regimented ‘crowd’ at the end of the scene. There is a nod to the Blade Runner approach however, in that the HUD’s of some of the extras are momentarily given life in the audio realm as the protaganist passes them. <IN3>

Finally, this work was passed over to Immort’s audio supervisor in stem form and was incorporated into his final mix of the scene, which is backed by a music track to heighten the sense of chase and sounds which relate to the new visual FX absent from earlier cuts. <GR1 + GR2>

Reflecting on this work, I think the whole process here demonstrates once again the power of picture over the audio dimension and the importance of finding synergistic balance between them. As such I think I may have wasted a little time attempting to construct anything useful for this scene from the animatic and should have foreseen that the production would not achieve the levels of production they desired, though the early work was still very useful as an opportunity to dissect the scene’s from Blade Runner and Bodysnatcher’s critically and take lessons from them, and it certainly informed the final piece in an overall positive way in the end. <PER3>

Furthermore, the process is an example of the way the group of audio producers collaborated on aspects of the films. If I had been limited to working on the film I supervised, which was shot entirely in one location, I would have been unable to build, experiment with and compare and contrast the atmosphere work in various films as I did here, a process with which I was able to usefully fill time prior to the arrival of work on my own film, which in turn benefited the group outcome. <GR1 + GR2 + PER1>

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Key Points
Examination of Blade Runner and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers as reference for work – Evaluate similar works

  • [IN3] To better my understanding of sound design with at least some reference to the science fiction genre – (Sound Effects Editor)

Construction and evolution of the audio for the scene – Application of skills and conduct in production

  •  [PER3] To expand my knowledge of the theory of and audio techniques deployed in films similar to or influential upon those we will deliver.
    [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.

Reflection on the work – Individual reflection on learning and team role + Process Management.

  • [PER1]  To develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects.
    [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.


RESEARCH – Sessions: Structuring Saves

[GR1 + PER1]

A solidly dull topic for a research blog this but pretty useful to the general cause of managing five post on five films.

We should receive picture lock for our final three films by the end of this week, and we’ve been working post on the two we already have rough cuts for a couple of weeks prior to this. With multiple people now working simultaneously in different environments, we’re just getting to the point where things can potentially get complicated in terms of versioning and data management, which I thought was worthy of a look over to see if our process can be made fitter.

At present, the only nod towards sensible data management we operate (I say we, really I operate it and people tend to follow my lead in the matter because I tend to get in first and set the basic sessions up) is a basic versioning of session files and semi-regular backups of our work in two places. This isn’t very effective, and our semester A project’s main folder ended up looking like this –

Shot of George File FolderShot of George File Folder

It’s pretty straightforward though, V15 is four versions later than v11, and I add extra detail where appropriate like ‘SC3 Foley Work’ for example. This is just about workable when we’re a small group working largely on one system with the only external work being that of importing occasional files like comped music tracks into the pre-existing session, but is going to need improving as we’re now working on multiple assets for the same film simultaneously in different places.

A quick google search brings up some advice on simple changes that can be made, which is actually aimed at software app makers but is applicable here –

WEB - FIlenaming

My current system definitely means files suffers from being indistinguishable from one another, especially since I tend to put the V number at the end of the filename, where it’s always helpfully cut off by the Mac finder dialogue in load screens which leaves me reliant on the system’s date ordering and the presumption the top file is latest in the list.

“…Strong naming conventions are essential in order to maintain an efficient pipeline,” (Production Pipeline Fundamentals for Film and Games, 193)

Digging a little deeper into more specific literature for audio project management (actually referring to the even more data-complex games industry) I found the following key concepts to help me hit some of the aims above, demonstrated on George version 1.1 below.

  • Seperation of name elements – So, georgev11foleyfinal becomes george_v11_foley_final
  • Consistent use of capitals – george_v11_foley_final becomes George_V11_Foley_FINAL
  • Better structuring of sections for listing purposes – George_V11_Foley_FINAL becomes V11_George_Foley_FINAL
  • Better use of the numerics (add 0’s) – V11_George_Foley_FINAL becomes 01-1_George_Foley_FINAL
  • More consistent and specific descriptives – 01-1_George_Foley_FINAL becomes 01-1_George_Foley_COMPLETE

I will be adopting this regimen for Descent as it’s post-production begins, and all our groups’ films should have a designated central machine upon which all the audio and session data is regularly consolidated which would sensibly be the machine upon which the film is going to be mixed. it will then be up to the mixer and supervisor to manage any incoming data from anybody working on the film elsewhere such as music files and sessions or editing sessions, and I would suggest the regimen here is augmented with something like an x01-1_George_Dialogue_EDIT_GB filename to differentiate work that is taking place elsewhere from the ‘master’ files.

This thinking about process will also naturally lead on to discussion of our system of backups, and I think it’s prudent and will be suggesting that supervisors for each film get into the habit of backing up the main version of their work at least every couple of days when post-work is in regular progress. [GR1 + PER1]

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Research into more sensible file-naming regimen and better data management – Research.


  • [GR1] To professionally operate as a small to medium size  company (or other recognisable business entity) in the audio production / post-production field might.
  • [PER1]  To develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects

RESEARCH – ‘Helper Track’ and complex delivery requirements.

‘…then there’s all these weird things you deliver as well, there’s a thing called a helper track…if you ever encounter in your professional careers because it took me ages to find this out, is, it’s the sound that you might or might not replace in a foreign version, so if there is a radio playing in the background and it’s got a English song on it, it’s the vocal split from that and if there’s a TV on in the background, it’s the voice track from that…‘ – Studio Manager at a top UK audio production house.

An important part of the dub mixer’s role is to manage the various deliverable’s of a film’s mix and, in the spirit of the advice above which I received from an interview conducted for another module, I’ve carried out some research into some of the more unusual requirements that may catch a newly fledged dub mixer out.

These will not only include various seperated mixes of sound effects, music, dialogue and rendered FX tracks, but also more specific versions which may be required for foreign language cuts of the film. Conversion to another language is often considered to be relevant only to the dialogue mix, but can often have ramifications for other aspects of the picture’s sound palette as illustrated above. It is also worth stepping away from the feature-film sector for a moment when considering these factors, as things like laugh tracks in studio-based TV work may well be captured to some extent with the dialogue recording and will need to be replaced or augmented if the original dialogue is removed.

An example of a related requirement of delivery for the dub mixer in the context of TV would be the bleeping or replacement of words deemed offensive from the original dialogue. Requirements here are absolutely client specific and will vary considerably based on intended audience, and the best way to minimise issue here is for:

…the discussions and understanding of the audio elements (to) be started early to be sure to fulfill the requirements prior to delivery. It is always best to get things right from the start.(provideocoalition.com) [IN2]

Audio delivery requirements in general haven’t been particularly relevant to working on student films throughout this year, and in the case of the film I’m supervising for this project there’s no requirement for a ‘helper’ track as the film was kept relatively simplistic and naturalistic (though the disembodied voice over from one scene would need to be provided in another language if a foreign language version were ever motted), and I’ve had to prompt the director to specify any file delivery requirements at all. However, extrapolating our two sci-fi leaning projects this term outside of academia I could foresee the need to provide helper tracks with these mixes, since both films contain sequences featuring dialogue-heavy TV shows, disembodied advertisements and TV montage sequences. [PER1]

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Key points

More detailed information on potential delivery requirements for the dub-mixer’s work – Research
[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)

How does this apply to the films we’re making – Reflection
[PER1]  To develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects

P + P – Progress Report – February

(Outcomes GR1,2 + IN1 + PER1)

All the films we’re working on have now begun shooting except Descent which has not confirmed a shooting schedule but does have it’s location confirmed and actors onboard – The audio team have carried out the requisite location recces and have received preliminary dates for which we’re awaiting a confirmation. Issues stem from matching actor availability with the possible shooting dates, but communication is good with the production managers of the film, contingencies have been discussed and are in place should it begin to fall behind schedule.

All the supervisors along with various team members and composers have organised and met with their respective directors and teams multiple times to feedback on the direction for sound design, based initially on director notes or conversations. All the pieces of work now have a more or less solid creative direction underpinning them on which the team has collaborated through a series of creative meetings and script read-throughs, largely at my insistence, in an effort to head off the production process for each film becoming the isolated province of it’s supervisor. Supervisors retain the final say but ideas for films are sourced collectively, and our composers are assigned and largely briefed regarding each film’s musical requirements by the supervisor who then decides whether to allow the composer to deal direct with the director on their film. I will also be pushing for feedback on composition to be a similarly collective process where desirable as the projects continue. [GR1, GR2]

In pushing for this more collaborative approach across the group, I am attempting to set the agenda for something akin to an Omni-Gaffer communication management strategy. This is a concept I picked up during a brief research foray into the literature of the Prince2 project management system, a recognised qualification for managers in the UK. A major project with a larger team would likely have a written and structured system of making sure information is properly shared, and collaborative outcomes and the structure’s to facilitate these collaborations would likely be properly stratified and reported upon, which ‘…facilitates engagement with stakeholders through the establishment of a controlled and bi-directonal flow of information.’ (Managing Successful Projects with Prince2, 2009, 239) [PER1]

As Descent is filming later, I’ve tended to fall into the role of firefighter for the other supervisors who’s films are in motion and have been called upon several times to cover location shoots, move equipment and perform administrative tasks (like booking equipment when other people are on set). Creatively, I’ve managed to get a headstart on some of the atmosphere’s for Immort which will be used to explain our audio direction during a spotting session with the director this week and as a base for future work, and am collaborating as a writer performer on one of the compositions for that film. The following week (which is likely the one before which shooting will commence for Descent) will also be spent building audio devices which might be suitable for use in Descent. [IN1]

Planning research into the foundations of the ‘company’ style structure has been my focus but I’ve fallen behind in carrying this out – thrashing out a ‘formal’ agreement (in the context of academia at least) between the members of the organisation who are carrying out these services is the next priority here. We’re all tracking our hours of work on any given project and intend to ascribe some kind of goodwill value to each component and phase of the project throughout it’s life, which we intend to be the ‘currency’ in which we’re trading. I must be wary of how easy to get caught up in administration and practicalities, and end up taking my eye off the ball of the academic side of the project.

My hours spent on the project for February have broken down roughly as follows, not including academic aspects such as blogs or research –

Total hours = 42.5
Admin – 14
Meets – 11
Creative Work – 8.5
Other – 8

There have been issues, but they’ve generally been minor and have been overcome with a combination of good judgement, forward-planning and luck. If we have to have one, our main issue so far has been facilities and equipment. Pressure on these is massive, and failure on set of key pieces of equipment relied upon for location audio work has caused several production problems and extra administrative work. The next hurdle on the horizon in this sense will involve the post work facilities bookings, which are already becoming a bone of contention because of the perception that we are using facilities at our institution inefficiently.

Reflecting, it is noticable that these issues lead practically to a carousel of phone calls, time sensitive emails, time spent replanning the projects and interruption when working creatively, which collectively mean I find myself spending more time problem-solving than doing the creative pre-production work for the films I have involvement in.

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Overview of situation generally for the project and specifically for the film Descent –Professional practice, 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.
  • [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.
  • [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)

Collaborative creative process – Process Management

  • [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.

Researching wider project management literature and concepts – Research

  • [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.

Reflection on outcomes / efficiency – Individual reflection on learning and team role.

RESEARCH – Client Feedback Survey

(Outcomes – GR1, PER1]

“Customer feedback is so important because it provides marketers and business owners with insight that they can use to improve their business, products and/or overall customer experience.” – (clientheartbeat.com)

An audio production company like the one we’re simulating for the purpose of this project is a business, and customer feedback is similarly useful in this field as it is in many others.

Firstly, soliciting the perception of your client about the service you provide is a great way of gaining insight into how satisfied they are, how you can improve your service and how best to approach the client for repeat business. This is a critical feedback loop for strengthening relationships with existing clients and for garnering return business.

Secondly, they can be used to generate social proof, which is `…a powerful psychological phenomenon where people will behave similarly to the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation…In today’s crowded world, where companies are vying for consumer attention, social proof plays an important part in the ability to reach new customers.’ (unbounce.com). In layman’s terms, this means that potential customers are more likely to choose you if they see other people are happy with your work and these are usually called testimonials.

As such, I thought it would be interesting to research the best method of soliciting this kind of feedback to some extent. [GR1]

I would envision this feedback process to be of most use when dealing with clients in corporate sectors such as advertising rather than with independent film-makers, for example. For the purpose of this project feedback is very useful however so I’ve developed a standard feedback document for OG Productions to be sent to all of our directors as we complete our projects, from which we can hopefully draw testimonials and derive client feedback for use in the academic marking process which can be found here –


I researched a number of customer feedback documents on websites such as Questionpro.com to garner some insight into the kind of questions we might ask, and altered a standard Client Evaluation of Project template at SurveySmart.co.uk to better reflect our needs. The questions are a mix of multiple choice statements for qualitative feedback and open-ended text-box questions designed to garner feedback which will hopefully be useful as testimonials. It is a reasonably short survey because a complex document with a large number of questions will almost certainly get put to one side in the busy world of media industries, so simplicity and accessibility are key.  This was also the reason I opted for the online option so the survey can simply be emailed to the production team at the appropriate time. [PER1]

In reality, I would likely split the feedback up into a survey concentrating more on the artistic side of the projects outcomes which would be best filled in by the director, and another concentrating more on the nuts and bolts of the production and services for the producers attention, but for the purpose of this project dealing with a number of small productions I feel it’s adequate enough to deal with both of these aspects in one document. The survey I’m presenting is also very corporate in tone which can sometimes be a disadvantage, and would likely not be deployed as a matter of course but more likely on a case by case basis taking into account the size of the production, any pre-existing relationship with the client and the way that relationship is conducted, and whether the client are themselves putting on a similarly corporate front.

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Research into client feedback, methods and the logic thereof – Research

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

Construction of standard OG Audio client survey – 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.
  • [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.

Reflection on potential real world uses – Individual reflection on learning and team role.