Film Soundtrack Project Wrap-Up

Going in to the film soundtrack project, I intended to predominantly work on the mixing side of things as I didn't entirely feel comfortable composing music. I ended up composing about 90% of the music for the film which was a great learning experience and step outside of my comfort zone for me.

Working with students from other disciplines was refreshing and working together to deliver this final product was incredibly rewarding. Having a fresh set of eyes to bounce ideas off was good. Sometimes you become so absorbed in your project that you don’t see the flaws, or you look for the flaws in the wrong places. It was good to receive feedback from them and work with them to capture the sound they wanted for the film.

I have a strong passion for films, so during the early rough screenings I was able to get involved in some of the discussion and put some of my thoughts and ideas forward. I think the film students and lecturers also appreciated an 'outsider' perspective. I think already having a great knowledge of films and how they work enabled me to quickly gain an understanding of the director’s vision and come up with appropriate music to help deliver that. I had knowledge of the films examples used in the directors treatments so right from the start I knew how I was going to achieve what the director was after. I realised that I could definitely utilise my skills in composing the music and began to take on more of that composing role.

I felt that IMPACT was a choice for me to work on as the director and I had similar ideas and tastes in how the film was going to eventually come together. This was affirmed when we put together a short demo for what was going to be one of the main themes for the film and the director was very pleased with it. My intentions for the film were very clear, as the directors treatment and the early screenings provided a overview of what was needed and a fantastic blank canvas respectively. As mentioned before in a previous blog, the music referenced in the director’s treatment I am very familiar with so therefore was another reason why I felt IMPACT was a great film for me to work on.

One thing we did not expect was how much foley work we had to do. I thought that most of the main sound effects would have been recorded on set, however aside from the dialog, a lot of the sounds in the film was recorded or sourced by us. Some of the audio was layered with on set recording and foley recordings and some shots were even completely foley.

The most difficult part of the project was not being able to take equipment off campus. We quickly realised that there were scenes that had either blown out background audio or no audio at all. This meant that even with the ADR, the original on set recordings still had to be used for atmosphere. If we had been able to borrow equipment we could have gone and recorded our own atmosphere audio and even more of the foley sound effects ourselves. The short pauses between dialog were often the only atmosphere recordings we had to use. This meant adding atmosphere to sometimes up to 10 second shots was difficult and involved take many slices of audio and trying to blend them together to sound natural. We also relied on which was mainly helpful to get the shorter sounds like punching bag hits and glass smashing but finding decent atmos recordings that fit the scene was a challenge.

I found it very interesting and fun to work on the foley sound. It really makes you think about what elements make up a sound and how you can replicate them. For instance, the glass being knocked over and smashing on the bar was created with the sound of glass shattering on tiled floor, hitting a metal bin with a stick (to simulate the glass landing on the bar) and someone placing a teacup on a saucer. Then we had to add reverb and filter out some of the frequencies to make it sound inside the scene. Another example was the punch and the head cracking on the pavement. This was even more difficult because neither of us really knew what it would sound like. The punch was achieved through making various thudding noises on skin, the floor, sandbags etc. and a short whooshing noise to simulate the arm swinging. The head cracking on the pavement was a combination of someone cracking their knuckles, twisting a plastic cup, and again thudding noises but staggering them as if certain parts of the body hit the ground at different times. Overall it was fun to think creatively about how to achieve these sounds.

The most difficult part of the foley work was taking the sound and making it fit into the scene in a way where it doesn't just on top of everything and is actually inside the scene for lack of a better way to describe it. We did this by adding reverb for atmosphere. In most of the scenes, I actually listened to the audio from the set and tried to understand the characteristics of the reverb in that space. For instance the reverb for the inside of pub was much duller and had less delay than the outdoors one which was much more of a slapback due to the open space and hard surfaces.

Composing was difficult because in a way it was limiting. I started out with a lot of ideas for possible themes but quickly found that the film is only eight and a half minutes long, and there are only very small windows for music. Because of this I felt the music really needed to hit those emotional notes quickly and effectively so I stripped back and simplified a lot of my ideas as there wasn’t enough time for the music to grow into some of the compositions I had in mind anyway.

I learned that working on a multimedia project where audio isn’t the only focus, sometimes it has to take a back-seat. When I sent my mix to the director, there were some parts where he didn’t like the composition or he felt the music didn’t quite fit with the scene which cut down my already reduced soundtrack ideas. But I realised that it is the director's vision and I was there only to help him convey that, and not take the spotlight.

I was happy with how all the music fit the tone of the film and overall how it turned out. The director, producer and editor were also very happy with the finished product so I was thrilled to be able to help them achieve their vision. I loved being able to work on a film and would definitely pursue more of this type of work in the future. Two of my favourite things are films and music so combining those into a job would be ideal and lots of fun. In the future I would love to do more foley and post production editing as well as produce music where possible.

I was definitely pleased with how all my projects eventuated this trimester and can say that I’m proud of all the work I did. I am most proud of the film soundtrack because of how much fun it was to make and how it pushed me to think differently and step outside my comfort zone.

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