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My latest short film is now available on YouTube. I did all the music (and won Best Score! :D) and sound design -- 95% original recordings; there are 3 whooshes that aren't mine -- and the final mix. I was also the boom op. Everything you hear up to the moment he walks out of the shower is almost fully designed, with only a few sweeteners from the camera audio.

Take into consideration that all the post production audio was done over a weekend, with only 3 hours of sleep taken from the moment I started to the last possible minute before I had to get the mix back to the editor for rendering and uploading (it was part of a timed film challenge), so I wasn't able to get your feedback before committing. Now the director wants to do a longer cut for non-challenge festivals, so I have time to go back and fix things.

I would absolutely love some tips from people who actually know what I did, instead of "you probably did too much Foley, especially in scenes like the kitchen (where it's almost entirely camera audio)." Gotta love directors. :)

Thanks. :)

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Hey Dave,

95% original recordings is amazing, really good initiative there.. and I can totally appreciate your situation. A friend and I just cut/mixed a student piece from a final picture that came in 3 days before the stems were due, and even though we knew we'd be able to go back in after the first screening to clean it up for festival submissions etc., it's extremely stressful to have to pick and choose your moments to cover.

So take my amateur notes with a grain of salt and understand that I respect how rushed you were:

The big one: there are many spots that just seem conspicuously not covered with sound - not eerie silence, just "there's no sound there" silence. In your situation, I would've probably relied more heavily on the camera audio to help that. A good dial edit would add a layer of reality to this piece that you wouldn't have time to artistically recreate. However shitty it was, I would make more of an effort to play up the camera PFX, Foley, etc. More roomy movement from the actor, some shuffling around, some actual shower in the bathroom, etc. At least until shit starts getting wacko.. at that point on I think what you did with the droning music works well.

Main priority of the piece should've been the sound design, and that you did all stuff from scratch shows it. I dig the title whoosh but would maybe pitch it or do a variation for the logo out. The 'rrrree!'s are nice, but again, some variation would be good.. the main culprit here is the silent dream sequence! It strikes me as the moment the story goes crazy and it's dead quiet. Even some verbed out breaths, weird drones, whispers, IR'd winds, something to tell us that we're in otherworldly flashback land would be better than nothing. That stuck out for me.

Another thing you could do, since we don't hear enough of this guy's voice to really worry about matching, is go into your bathroom or whatever and just done some quick breath revoicing, so we are more with him in those routine moments before things go nuts. Doing it in there would save you the time of needing to match/mix it too heavily and your Zoom would probably come pretty close to the camera audio tone with enough distance.

The Foley is good, especially the stuff in the closet. Some footsteps got covered, like the carpet ones, but then coverage for them falls off later!

Final note is that I would watch the room tone/reverb tail cutoffs that happen here and there.. 2:16, 3:39, 6:00. Gotta smooth those guys. If I can hear them on my crappy $20 ATH headphones, they will definitely jump out on a festival playback system.

I will say that the TV futz and room perspective - especially as he comes back in around 4:32 - is badass. Really great job on that, better than I could do.

So yeah man. Sorry if that was a lot of notes, just trying to be thorough..

Quick fixes I would shoot for are just more verb (it's a horror film, no shame in drowning it a bit), more sound design coverage, more camera audio if you don't have time to cut and mix BGs/Foley for the piece.

Hope that helps a bit!

  • That helps a lot, thank you. I'll have to compare your notes to a playback of the video, later, but I think you hit a lot of solid points that I was already aware of. The director insisted the flashback scene was dead silent, not even drones or atmos -- she wanted it to sound out of place (I hated it). The parts where there are obviously no sound, otherwise (like where the guy beats on the door frame) I cut out the camera sound because it was so bad it was unusable -- the actor did the typical "whisper to indicate I'm screaming" thing, and it just came off silly. Again, thank you. :D – Dave Matney Oct 21 '11 at 3:49
  • Oh, and the TV futzing was ADR -> a custom TV IR I made -> a little bit of Fokke van Saane's "Domestic/Upstairs 1 floor" IR -> a low pass filter and panned. Obviously, there was some automation, but it was incredibly simple for how good it turned out. – Dave Matney Oct 21 '11 at 3:54
  • No sweat Dave. That sucks about the dream sequence, but it's what you have to do, right? Though honestly, really bad/strange call to go totally without sound. Yeah, the TV showed a noticeable amount of care. Great job. Makes me want to 'futz' around with some more IRs on my next project, I'm a mostly algorithmic guy.. let us know how it goes! – lucafusi Oct 21 '11 at 4:33
  • I came here to most of what Luca just said :o heh. Ambiences jump between takes, get them smoothed out, hope you got some room tone. I don't feel the TV is in the room, also idea to change perspective when he's outside? Maybe try worldizing the tv? some of the foley sounds quite muffled/wooly in the opening? a lot of spot foley is missing, hair rubbing? getting into bed etc. I really like the music though, great job on that :) And the first time you see the girl is great! – edmatthews82 Oct 22 '11 at 13:28
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Nice! The title out fx was the first thing that I noticed that could be improved. Perhaps some windy spooky elements under the music at the beginning. The camera audio was noticable and could do with some replacing. Creepy violins sent chills down my spine. Those moments were well done too. When he wakes up, the low droning strings I think can be pitched down 5 or 6 (or other number) of semitones to give the film more of a frequency and dynamic contrast throughout.

  • Would you believe the creepy violins are actually my acoustic guitar? I was sitting in the very back of the theater during the premiere, and our film was the only film to make people jump. :) For the pitching down, are you suggesting just lowering the drone completely, or pitching it down initially and having it bend back up, or pitching it down over time? – Dave Matney Oct 21 '11 at 14:10
  • Well I guess they didn't actually sound like violins now that you say that. The pitching down you could try either way. Or you could pitch it down and pitch bend it down some more over time. Maybe add some kind of LFO/time stuttering adjustment on a few layers – ChrisSound Oct 22 '11 at 3:22
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I agree with @Luca the TV is excellent work, sounds absolutely natural. There is one thing that is missing, in my humble opinion, from the design. I know it is a matter of aesthetic choice but I’d introduce the girl’s screams the moment she is being taken. I’d introduce them muffled, barely audible, as in a dream, but increasing in power and culminating the second the main character wakes up with a nice sting. The sound would then linger and continue in the real world as the character realizes he is no longer asleep. I believe it’d provide a nice passage from the dream world to the real one.

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Nice one! Apart from what's already been said I think adding a few more dynamic BG's might have helped a bit. Especially with the bit where he's out on the terrace bit with the city scape in the background. Perhaps adding a few distant police sirens or a bit of 'ominous' wind could have underplayed how the city was in fear of his actions. Sometimes can get a bit cliche but done well its really powerful. BG's are great for emotive bits! ;)

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