Within this week we are mainly focussing on audio skills. In particular, we’re going to learn a bit more to do with audio following onwards by trying to re-create a section towards the end of “The Three Billy Goat Gruffs” using audio only and no visuals.
Whilst recording audio, there are various different problems that could occur, whether it’s prior, during or after recording. Some of the problems include:
- Levels are too low – If the levels are too low, you would have to try and turn the audio up, and usually if it’s too low it will come out with more of a grainy sound to it.
- Levels are too high – if the levels are too high, in simple terms you’re cutting part of the audio off and losing part of the audio, turning it down will mean that the peak that has appeared will still have audio missing.
- The Position of the microphone – If the microphone is positioned in the wrong place, you might pick up only a certain part of audio, most likely the part that you wouldn’t need. This would also affect the levels of the recording for the microphone and whether it would only come out of the left or right dependant on the position.
- The wrong pick up pattern – Sometimes something as simple as the wrong pick up pattern being used could affect the recording, if you were simply after one person speaking, putting the setting on Omnidirectional wouldn’t be a great idea as then you would be picking up everything around you – you’d need a Shotgun microphone used. It’s like if a singer had an omnidirectional microphone, then you would always hear the audience, whereas a Cardioid microphone would block out most of the other side of the microphone picking up mainly the singer.
- Location where the audio was recorded – The location for where the specific audio was recorded could be in the wrong place, maybe there’s an echo in the room you recorded when you just simply wanted straight out audio.
- Background noise – There could be a lot of background noise that isn’t wanted within the specific recording location, this could simply be someone touching the microphone or even people in the background or something unwanted in the background.
- Not recording – Could it be that you’re not actually recording? Simple but can easily happen!
These are only some of the problems that I thought of, there are obviously a lot more that could simply occur!
After we discussed about some of the problems to do with audio recording, we watched a YouTube clip called “Liftoff” which was largely off-screen sound. This allowed us to try and understand Off-Screen sound more, and show how important it is towards a task we would later be doing for this week.
LIFTOFF - #4: Off-Screen Sounds - NYU Sight & Sound: Filmmaking (Harvey Kingsley-Elton, 2016)
From watching this short video that Harvey Kingsley-Elton has created, we were able to establish various different aspects at Off-Screen sound. Firstly, we watched the video with both the audio and visuals, and firstly were asked “What could we hear?”. There were various different things that we could find:
- Foley typing // Sound effects
- Headphones music
- Muffled sound from people talking/arguing in the background
- Transitional sound from when the people change
- Ambient Sound
Originally, as there were visuals there as well, I began to focus on only some sounds. We then watched it again without any visuals at all, and we could instantly pick up so many different sounds that we couldn’t originally hear, and my listen expanded to this instead:
- Foley typing // Sound Effects from the typing, as it’s not actually shown on the screen itself, but we can gather that he is typing from the sound.
- Muffled sound from people talking/arguing in the background, as if it was from another room as it sounded like it was being slightly blocked off by a wall for example.
- Headphone music – it’s not actually there, but we can still hear it as if we were hearing what he could hear at the time.
- The sound effect from when the headphone music cuts off and we now suddenly hear other people around him
- The “Swoosh” sound effect from when it changes person
- The music starting again
- The computer closing
- Footsteps of people walking
- Knocking on doors
- Any ambient sound
Our task was to re-create the final part of the Billy Goat Gruffs where the “Big Billy Goat Gruff” faces the Troll, and the biggest rule we were given is that we can ONLY use audio. No visuals (except for a title or an image within the video). We had the choice of using either Avid or Audacity for this project as it was only audio based, and Avid wasn’t 100% necessary to be used, however, I used Avid as it meant that I could project my skills within Avid to a lot better than they were, and can get more comfortable using audio in Avid.
How can you get the sound you need?
The sounds that we would need within this task will mainly be recorded by ourselves, unless we simply run out of time and have to get something from a sound library, or even if we can’t create a specific sound, we would be able to find them online and use them.
Firstly before anything, on Monday we took some of the equipment out of the room for about half an hour to try and capture a couple of different sounds that we might be able to use within the project itself, and have a go using some of the equipment that was there, however this is some of the footage that we got from it:
The clip above is one of our first audio tests where we thought “what if we had the goat crashing into the troll when they charge” and we tried to create a sound that might be effective, however looking at it now I don’t even think we had the microphone plugged in to start with, and the noise didn’t really sound like much, it just sounded like we were hitting something and then it echoed (which is basically what it is).
This is the other clip that we created, which was a test of a goat running – we have no idea what a goat running sounds like, so as we tried to improvise, we decided maybe running up a few stairs but making sure the feet stop on each of the stairs would be effective. In the video itself, you can see what I mean by this, however, the main problem from this clip in particular is the constant sound of the chain that I have jingling up each of the steps.
By this point we had run out of battery life on our recorder and it was almost time to go back, so we thought for a few minutes about what we could change and what we could do to make this so much better than what we already had (a good one would’ve been make sure the microphone was fully plugged in and on).
For myself, there were only a few sounds that we couldn’t acquire whilst we were recording so we had to try and find some on sound libraries. I think in the end out of the whole audio on mine I took 3 different sounds from sound libraries:
- The ambient sound – Originally we tried to record the ambient sound, however there was a horrible humming in the background that we couldn’t originally hear, so we had to try and find a new one online somewhere, and for my edit of the Billy Goat Gruffs, I used one from freesound.org
- The running water – The running water within the clip was one that we tried to get here but simply couldn’t because of the background noise within the locations we tried. We tried a water fountain and the taps in the toilets, but there was always an annoyance to the sound that we couldn’t try and block out, even with noise reduction on various different programs such as Audacity to try and block it out, as it would still somewhat be there.
- The “splash” – The splash within the water was one that we simply couldn’t get as we couldn’t get anything to go into a large amount of water, and there’s simply not much water here.
The other sounds were entirely created by ourselves.
Firstly, the narration was by myself, the Big Billy Goat Gruff was voiced by Kyle, some of the goat sounds were from Lydia & Sara and the Troll was also myself (which could have obviously been better, but I tried to mess with some effects within Audacity and then transfer it over to Avid to try and make it sound a bit different by reducing the pitch and adding a small echo to make it sound a bit more rogue). For anything to do with audio, we recorded the audio with a RØDE VideoMic which usually attaches to cameras, and you see many people that do some form of videos using this microphone as it picks up directly what is in front of it rather than what’s to the sides of behind, as it’s a shotgun microphone. We decided to use this microphone rather than the inbuilt one to the audio recorder simply because we could get that exact sound as there was some background noise, and the background noise was easier to cancel out whilst we used this microphone.
The sound effects themselves were probably quite hard to do and make fit – we had no idea what a goat walking sounded like from memory, and it’s not like we could simply find a video of a goat walking or even a goat walking so we had to improvise and we used someone’s feet just clipping across the staircase to try and make it sound a bit more effective.
We also had some help from one of the other groups with the Troll’s “Roar” (we had Reece help us out on this one) as he could get the roar out really easily and we were struggling to get one within ours, but we asked and they agreed to help us out quickly.
When the goat is about to move his neck down to run towards the troll, we decided to try and create the idea of the neck cracking (at first I suggested we try it like we’re cracking our knuckles) to make the goat seem a lot stronger, however none of us crack our knuckles, so I suggested we tried to snap a pencil instead which I had on me as maybe it would sound quite similar, which it kind of did, but could have sounded a lot better.
The goat and the troll running at each other was created by two people from two different sides of the room running towards each other. This was sort of effective, the only reason I say “sort of effective” was because it didn’t sound too much like a goat and a troll running at each other in my head, however it can still paint the picture alongside the narration part.
The Final Outcome
I feel that this came out rather well considering the time that we had to create this, in the future of course there would be a few things that I would change which you can see towards the end of this post and in my Reflection post.
The Timeline for my audio editing was as shown below, I took advantage of the use of keyframing and using multiple different tracks for this to make some sounds louder, as well as using the gain on some of them to make some clips that were too quiet that little bit louder.
The first track that you can see within the screenshot above is the video track which just simply says what the video is, and underneath that track is the first audio track – this one was dedicated to the background ambience of nature. Starting with a fade in, hearing it loud to start with and then reducing it to a lower decibel to be able to hear the voices (which starts on A2). I put narration on A2 and the Billy Goat Gruff on A2 as well so that it would be easier to see and edit if need-be. Underneath this track is a variety of sound effects mainly, for example the “trip trap” of the goat, the trolls roar, the pencil snap and the goat toward the end. I also had on A4 the water stream sound fade in to make it seem like the goat was walking towards the bridge to start with and then the stream came into effect and started to disappear once the troll had been thrown into the stream to make it seem like the goat had continued onto the path. Underneath this track is the trolls lines as well as the odd sound effect (e.g the loud splash towards the end from the troll hitting the water). Most of the audio levels were at about -13 decibels, maybe a tiny bit lower, so I rose the majority of them up to -1/0 by increasing the gain and then listening to them myself to make sure they were clear.
After this, as shown below is my final outcome of the Billy Goat Gruffs scene.
As shown above is my final outcome for the last part of the story, created in a unique way to myself.
I think in the future if I were to do this part of the project again, I would probably try and change the ambient background sound, as it seemed quite weak, however I couldn’t find many that were good apart from on YouTube – I wanted to try and stay away from YouTube for this part of the project as there are so many different sources out there that could be used. Maybe even have some different sounds in there as well, and make the troll sound more like a troll like it would in the roar, as there’s a big difference between the roar and the troll’s voice.