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post production sound

How Warner Brothers ended up establishing the sound for the film industry

How Warner Brothers ended up establishing the sound for the film industry

The sound industry was established after no less than a curious chain of events. Back in 1919 three German inventors, Josef Engl, Joseph Massole, and Hans Vogt, patented the tri-ergon process. A process capable of transforming audio waves into electricity. It was initially used to imprint those waves into films strips that, when played back, a light would shine through the audio strip, converting the light back into electricity and then into sound.

The real issue in all this, however, was the amplification of the sound. which would be tackled by an American inventor who played a pivotal role in the development of radio broadcast, Dr. Lee de Forest. In 1906, de Forest invented and subsequently patented a device called the audion tube, —an electronic device capable of taking a small signal and amplifying it. The audion tube was a key piece of technology for radio broadcast and long-distance telephones.

In 1919, de Forest’s started to pay special attention to motion pictures. He realized his audion tube could help films attain a much better degree of amplification. Three years later, specifically in 1922, de Forest took a gamble and designed his own system. He then opened up the ‘De Forest Phonofilm Company’ to produce a series of short sound films in New York City. The impact of his technology was well received, and by the middle of 1924, 34 theaters in the American East Coast had been wired for his sound system.

The fact that a considerable amount of theatres in the East Coast had acquired De Forest system didn’t pick the interest of Hollywood. He had indeed offered the technology to industry leaders like Carl Laemmle of Universal Pictures and Adolf Zukor of Paramount PIctures; however, they initially saw no reason to complicate the solid and profitable film business by adding other features as frivolous as sound. But one studio took a gamble: Warner Brothers.

Vitaphone

Vitaphone was a sound-on-disk technology created and patented by Western Electric and Bell Telephone Labs they used a series of 33 and ⅓ rpm disks. When company officials attempted to get Hollywood’s attention in 1925, they faced the same attitude of disinterest that de Forest had, except for one slightly minor studio: Warner Brothers Pictures.

Courtesy of  Richie Diesterheft  at Flickr.com

Courtesy of Richie Diesterheft at Flickr.com

In April of 1926 Warner Brothers. decided to establish the Vitaphone Corporation with the financial aid of Goldman Sachs, leasing the disk technology from Western Electric for the sum of US $800,000. In the beginning, they wanted to sub-lease it to other studios in hopes of expanding the business.

The studio, Warner Brothers. never imagined this technology as a tool to produce and create talking pictures. Instead, they saw it as a tool synchronize musical scores for their own films. In order to showcase their new acquisition and the feature they had managed to add to their films, Warner Brothers launched a massive US $3,000,000 premiere in the Warner’s Theatre in New York City on August 6, 1926.

The feature film of this premiere was ‘Don Juan’. An amazing musical score performed by the New York Philharmonic accompanied the film, and the whole project was an outstanding success; some critics even went on to praise it as the eighth wonder of the world, which ultimately led the studio to project the film in several American major cities.

However, and despite the tremendous success, industry moguls weren’t too sure about spending money on developing the sound for the film industry. The entire economic structure of the film industry would necessarily have to be altered in order for it to adopt sound —new sound studios would have to be built, new expensive recording equipment would have to be installed, theatres would have to be wired for sound, and a standard sound system process would have to be defined.

Additionally, foreign sales would suffer a drastic drop. At that time, silent films were easily sold overseas. Dialogues, however, was a different story. Dubbing a foreign language was still conceived as a project that would take place in the near future. If studios were to adopt sound, it would also affect musicians who found employment in the movie theatres, as they would have to be laid off. For all these reasons Hollywood basically hoped that sound would be a simple passing novelty, but five major studios decided to take action.

MGM, Paramount, Universal, and Producers Distributing Corporation signed an agreement called The Big Five Agreement. They all agreed to adopt and develop a single sound system if one of the several attempts that were taking place alongside the Vitaphone should come to fruition. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers didn’t halt on their Vitaphone investments.

Courtesy of  Kathy Kimpel  at Flickr.com

Courtesy of Kathy Kimpel at Flickr.com

They announced that all of their 1927 pictures would be recorded and produced with a synchronized musical score. Finally, in April 1927, they built the first sound studio in the world. In May, production would begin on a film that would cement sound’s place in cinema: The Jazz Singer.

Originally ‘The Jazz Singer’ was supposed to be a silent film with a synchronized Vitaphone musical score, but the protagonist, Al Jolson, improvised some lines halfway into the movie. Lines that were recorded and could be heard by the audience. Warner Brothers. liked it and let them in. The impact of having spoken lines, however, was enormous —it marked the birth of what we know today as the sound for the film industry.

4 Services That Allow Audio Post-Production Collaboration Seamless

4 Services That Allow Audio Post-Production Collaboration Seamless

Collaboration is not foreign when it comes to audio post-production. In fact, it is what gives studios constructive feedback, ideas, solutions and different perspectives to work on altogether, helping all parties involved produce better pieces of work.

Audio, sound, and video collaboration happens all the time. When it comes to audio and sound, for instance, it has never been so plausible to write a song with another individual on the other side of the world or to hire a full orchestra or session musicians to record music for the score and original soundtrack purposes.

In this post, we address some services and other software that make the whole collaboration workflow much easier, but more importantly, productive.

The Audio Hunt

The Audio Hunt is best known for being an online collaboration platform where hundreds of studio owners and audio professionals make their gear available for other colleagues to run their tracks through. How does it work? Imagine you want to run your mix through a specific piece of equipment/software. You will then be required to, first, open a account, find the piece of hardware you want to use, start a chat with the vendor, book the job depending on the fare (fares and fees vary depending on what type of hardware/software you want to use), and, finally, wait for the service to be completed so you can download the files.

Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration

Not long ago, Avid introduced Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools in the Pro Tool 12.5 version. This allows Pro Tools users to share parts of projects, or the whole project if necessary, with other Pro Tools users around the globe without even having to close the application. It’s a rather fancy system that seamlessly integrates between different Pro Tools versions.

audio post production.jpeg

Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration gets rid of the traditional audio post-production collaboration process that involved exporting files out of the application followed by sharing them on different cloud services for other collaborators and editors to receive. Now, the 12.5 and above allows editors to collaborate with other Pro Tools users in a much quicker and simpler way.

Source Elements Source-Connect

In case you’re wondering what is Source-Connect, Source-Connect is what replaced the ISDN. Conceived as an industry-standard replacement, Source-Connect comes with a solid set of features for remote audio and sound recording and monitoring, allowing audio and sound professionals to undertake several aspects common in the audio post-production industry such as overdub, ADR and voice-over, regardless of whether the origin of these files took place anywhere in the world, over a decent internet connection integrated to their digital audio workstations.

Source-Connect works as an application, and it does not require complex digital audio workstations setups. It allows audio and sound professionals to work directly in the DAW of their preference, which ultimately allows them to harness the full set of features the application comes with.

Besides, Source-Connect comes with a built-in Pro Tools support, which is also compatible digital audio workstations that almost exclusively support VST plug-ins, including, but not limited to, Cubase, Nuendo, Pyramix, etc.

Audiomovers LISTENTO

Listento allows users to move low latency audio files from Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) to browse through the use of plug-ins. Imagine having a client who cannot physically visit your studio to listen and give you their insights on the final mix you’ve developed. By using Listento to play the mix directly from your workstation master track to the client’s browser, you eliminate such complication.

Listento seems to be still under development. One of the things the software is working on is the future implementation of a built-in chat to communicate with your client, allowing you to move away from third-party app messengers such as Skype or Google Hangouts to discuss the intricacies of your mix with the other individual.

Listento includes several transmission formats, such as:

  • PCM 16Bit

  • PCM 32Bit

  • AAC 128Kb

  • AAC 192Kb,

  • AAC 256Kb (MacOS only)

  • AAC 320Kb (MacOS only)

Additionally, Listento is a free plug-in; however, in order for sound professionals and audio editors to use it, they will be required to subscribe to Audiomovers in order for them to stream audio files directly from their digital audio workstations. Lucky enough, Audiomovers subscription tiers are quite affordable:

  • Weekly: $3.99

  • Monthly: $9.99

  • Yearly: $99.99

When sharing your files, sign up to your Audiomovers account to both send and receive the live stream. Send your client a link like if you were sharing with them a Google Sheets download link. And in case you’re still wondering whether you should pay one Audiomovers tier of service, the software comes with a one-week free trial.

A final word on collaboration: the fourth industrial revolution has come indeed with many pieces of software and hardware that has made possible to collaborate between professionals and studios. It is nonetheless as important to always nurture the collaborative spirit by being willing to work alongside other professionals in a specific workflow. This, of course, demands a more proactive and receptive attitude towards collaboration, otherwise, by not consider other perspectives, the chances of developing and learning something new are lower.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

Mixing Audio For Beginners - Part 2

Mixing Audio For Beginners - Part 2

According to the previous article, we mentioned the importance of establishing an intelligent workflow in your audio production process. As per defined by the dictionary, the word workflow means “the sequence of processes through which a piece of work passes from its initial phase to total completion.” Such definition, of course, can be integrated with the audio post-production workflow phases in order to see how they work in different types of productions.

Pre-Production

A pre-production reunion is the meeting that gets you together with the production officials, whether it is the production company, director, or the advertising agency before the production starts. If you happen to be invited to this meeting, you can, of course, express your opinions to the production team, which might even save them hours and effort. If they seem to be open to receiving additional creative input, you could help develop the soundtrack at the concept phase. It means that your insights on the project can also have a certain impact on selecting the audio budget, which is always a positive thing. Remember: an hour of proper pre-production will spare you 10 hours of possible setbacks.

Production

Makeup artists make their magic, services are consumed, lights are turned on, actors deliver their best performance, video is shot, audio is recorded, computers are then used to animate existing action sequences, etc., and the pretty much the whole budget is spent during this phase.

Video Editing

Once the visuals have been recorded and created, the director works with the video editor in charge to pick the best footage and assemble the moving images in a way that tells a compelling story. Once the editing has been done, the audio editor or sound engineer will receive a finished version of the audiovisual project that, in theory, will not suffer further changes —that’s known as “picture lock.” This final version of the recorded footage can only be achieved once the deadlines have been met and the budget for those processes spent.

Creating The Audio Session - Importing Data

The video editor is responsible for passing onto audio professionals an AAF or an OMF export compiling all the audio edits and additional media so they can re-create, or create from scratch, their own audio edits. Once sound editors and audio professionals import the files, they will have a much clearer idea of what they’ve got to do.

At this point, audio editors also import the moving images and the edited video, making sure they are in sync with the audio from the aforementioned exports (AAF and OMF).

Spotting

During this phase, both the director or the producer sit down with audio professionals to tell them exactly what they want and, more importantly, where they want it. The entire film or video project is played, so audio professionals can take notes regarding the dialogues, the sound effects, the score, and the music, etc.

Dialogue

Dialogue is perhaps the most important part of the entire soundtrack. Experienced audio editors will always separate dialogue edits into different tracks, one per each actor. Sometimes, when audio is recorded on location, the audio person responsible for recording those tracks often records two different tracks for each actor —a clip-on mic and the boom mic. Once in the studio, the audio professional assesses both tracks and chooses the one that sounds best and is more consistent throughout the entire length of the moving images.

In case of coming across noise on the dialogue tracks, a common technique that sound editors employ is using noise reduction tools or similar software to repair that audio without compromising the final mix.

ADR

We’ve covered ADR before in previous posts, just in case you don’t know what ADR means.

Shooting film and ADR.jpeg

If, after having used the techniques mentioned in the last paragraph, the audio cannot be repaired through the use of noise reduction software, audio professionals always resort to performing ADR.

ADR means having the actors and the talent go to the studio to carry out several tasks, such as:

  • Replace missing audio lines

  • Replace dialogue that couldn’t be saved

  • Provide additional dialogue in case of further plot edits.

Actors have projected their scenes so they can recreate their lines. Normally, a cue is used to make sure they record in sync with what’s going on in the film. They also do four or five takes in a row, since the scenes are projected in a loop over and over (hence the word looping). The sound editor or audio professional then picks the best line and the best performance and replaces the original noisy/damaged take with the newer version. In order to match the intended ambiance, sound editors may use the same mich as the original take, but they will likely have to use further equalization, compression, and reverb to make the new performance be in synch with the timbre.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

6 Tricks For Foley Sound Effects

Foley artists are pivotal for any audiovisual project once it has been shot and edited, as they’re responsible for taking care of any possible missing sound, and, as described in a previous article, a crucial step in the audio post-production process is also what foley artists can do: perform and create sound effects to match the moving images being projected on the screen.

Common sound effects we always hear in movies for example footsteps, chewing, drinking, clothing movement, doors being opened, keys jingling, etc., are created through a set of different recording techniques and materials. Foley is more than simply manually editing sounds. In fact, it not only is more than that, but also more time efficient, and provides audiovisual projects with a much richer character and realism to other sounds in the film. Whenever a foley artist can’t create a sound in the studio, sound designers and sound editors will be always up for the task.

That being said, have you ever wondered what’s the best way to mimic or recreate the sound of a fight? The sound of fists going back and forth and hitting another body? Or how can you recreate the sound of footsteps in a snowy road in a recording studio? What’s the best way to mimic a sword fight? Here are some tips for coming with foley sound effects:

HOUSEHOLD SOUNDS

Wooden Creaks And Floors

People stepping on creaking wood and squeaking floors appear in practically every film you’ve seen. Footsteps on old floors or people walking over an old house porch are perhaps one of the most used scenes in films. Foley artists have at their disposal a sheer array of floors and objects to recreate these sounds. The advantage of using these accessories is that the sound, in this case, the creak or the squeak, can be to some extent controlled. Once Foley artists have developed a proper technique, coming up with these sounds and performing these creaks saves the picture a lot of time, as sound editors won’t need to edit all sounds on Pro Tools.

Fire

Fire is one of those sounds that also always appears in the vast majority of films. Foley artists often resort to accessories such as cellophane, potato chip bags, and even steel wool. The most common technique for recreating fire sounds is to scrunch up the accessory and then release it; the effect will be, of course, rather subtle, but when recorded with the mic closely a somewhat low-level fire sound will be achieved.

Cash

cash sound.jpeg

Money and stacks of cash have their own sounds as well. Traditionally, whenever a foley artist has to develop the sound of cash, they often resort to an old deck of poker cards or book pages. In order for foley artists to successfully achieve this sound is to use accessories, in this case, paper sources, with flexible and softer textures. In fact, the vast majority of the time, foley artists add actual bills in the middle of the paper roll, or on the top, or on the bottom, so they fingers actually brush its surface, creating the sound of cash.

ANIMALS

Horses

Galloping horses is one of those sounds whose technique to achieve it has practically remained untouched. Foley artist normally uses coconuts to recreate horse hooves, and it’s probably the most well-known foley accessory thanks to Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Several foley artists suggest stuffing the half coconut with some materials such as fabric in order to get a more realistic sound. Then, hit a compact dirt or whatever surface the horse is running on with the stuffed coconuts.

Bird Wings

Just like with horses, in order to achieve the sound of birds flapping their wings or taking off, foley artists normally resort to traditional and really orthodox accessories such as a vintage feather duster or gloves. It’s also important to experiment with different materials and perhaps heavier textiles to create a much thicker sound for larger species. An old feather duster can create a terrific effect if the foley artist can find a nice sounding one and hit it against all kinds of surfaces and objects to create different sounds.

HUMANS

Inhaling A Cigarette

smoking sound effect.jpeg

Ever wondered hoy films record the sound associated with a cigarette inhale? Foley artists often use saran wrap and other light materials to get this sound. By using saran wrap, you can get a similar sound to the fire sound mentioned above; however, it’s more subtle. Nonetheless, it is produced the same way as you would produce the fire sound: compress and then release, but make sure to do it controlled so you don’t overdo it. Make sure to have the mic close enough so you can capture the desired level of subtleness; otherwise, you may obtain a totally different sound.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

Bernie The Dolphin

Bernie The Dolphin

Bernie The Dolphin is in theaters this Friday! It was a pleasure to work on this film. Everyone we worked with were the most kind and genuine people. Filmmakers who care about making fun, quality content in an innovative way. Enhanced Media is honored to have been a part and we’re excited for the film’s release in theaters this Friday, December 7th! Check out the trailer below…