As I've mentioned in a few previous blogs, I've gotten a lot of opportunities to work on a variety of projects this trimester. From film-set recording to mastering, in recent months I've really tested my abilities as an engineer in adapting to different kinds of work.
In early August I did a day of on-set recording for student film Tell the Trees. Despite it being a bone chillingly freezing morning in the Dandenong ranges, the experience was great and the crew were very encouraging and appreciative. Unfortunately it was very windy and we had no windshield so the audio was difficult to capture cleanly in some parts but overall I think I managed to do the best with what we had. We also had an issue with the Zoom F8 recorder where it was burning through batteries which we later discovered was because a previous user had enabled phantom power on every channel. Lesson learned.
In March of this year myself and a few colleagues hosted a live music event at SAE Institute Melbourne. The lineup was two DJs and headliner AZTX, whom I've worked a lot with before. The gig was filmed and recorded so I spent some time in July working with a filmmaker to create a professional video of the night. I mixed the gig from the stems recorded on the night and added some effects and processing to make it sound slightly 'larger-than-life'. I was pleased with the result and AZTX submitted a clip of one of the songs as promotional material for their forthcoming appearance at Brewers Fest 2018.
As spoken about in the previous blog, I was given the opportunity to master two tracks for two brand new local Melbourne acts Faxman and another currently unnamed group. Both tracks were similar in style with the engineer Jarrah Saunders taking inspiration from Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Growlers, Allah-Lahs and Leon Bridges. I tried to maintain the 60s/70s psych rock vibe but with a modern twist à la King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard or Tame Impala. Both the tracks can be viewed on my portfolio if you'd like to check them out!
The biggest project I tackled in recent months was the film The Lovers. I signed on to be head of audio for the film, meaning I was in charge of organising on set recording, mixing and soundtrack. Due to conflicting schedules I was unable to do the on set recording but instead recruited Stephan Long and in return I did the recording for his film Tell the Trees. I was thrilled to hear the audio captured on set as it was very professional and there were very few issues with extraneous noise. The film did a really great job in capturing the eerie vibe it was trying to achieve and I felt there was little I had to do to reinforce that. A key plot point is that the two characters live in isolation, so the biggest change I made was using noise reduction software to strip out any signs of life in the background noise. I replaced this with sounds of cold wind and creaking trees to create a backdrop soundscape of a cold lifeless woods.
This film for me was a culmination of skills I've learned in post production. I found I was able to apply everything I've learned in a project for the first time and deliver a product I am very proud of. The previous films I've worked on were certainly learning experiences, and this film I feel I was able to use experiences from previous projects and create a really professional film soundscape.
I have enjoyed the amount of creativity I've been able to put into everything I've worked on in recent months. I've been able to express my ideas through music and sound design on various projects and deliver to a professional level of quality. I have developed so much this year I look back on work I did earlier and cringe, but that is natural. I think I'm more creative than I give myself credit for. I don't write music, I don't play in a band but I feel the impact I have on other peoples work is how I express myself creatively. The decision to make a track sound a certain way or add a certain interesting sound in a film are reflections of my character and creativity. While I'm not creating the material, I'm definitely still leaving a mark.
I wish I was more musically literate, I wish I could make amazing films, but I feel my role as a creative individual has evolved to be guiding others through their creative process and lending ideas and pieces of my creativity along the way. I've been really excited about getting into sound design and post production as I'm really able to offer my technical skills and creativity in mixing and creating atmospheres.
I think there comes a certain change in a audio engineers career when you stop thinking about the technical aesthetics of your work and start just being creative and taking risks. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet. I think I'd like to be at a point where I'm very comfortable with my technical skills to allow my creativity to flourish.
From what I've seen from more experienced engineers eventually it becomes more about creating interesting flavours and colours with sound and less about EQing 400 hertz out of everything because it sounds muddy and that's what you're supposed to do. There are no hard and fast rules and it becomes a playground open to endless possibilities of experimentation. This level of understanding and freedom is what I strive to achieve, and is my ultimate goal as an audio professional.