Category Archives: New Toys

An Adventure in Animation Foley

I recently returned to the choppy waters of freelancing; this has proved to be both exciting and stressful. On the plus side, I’m writing this from a pretty bar in Yorkshire bang in the middle of the afternoon – the downside is that I’ve developed an unhealthy attraction and yet a simultaneous aversion to emails.

Another joyous positive for the life of a freelancer is the freedom to take on work away from the norm. I was recently invited to join Dave Darch and his team working with young people with the BFI and THAMES film music project for a Foley workshop, complimenting their 10-week music for film course. I turned up armed with a back-breaking array of props, shoes, cloths and vegetables with the full intention of wiggling them all in front of the students.

A high percentage of these items were indeed wiggled. The young people also got a chance to wiggle them to their own films that they’re working on. I think they enjoyed their day; it’s not often folks get a chance to step into someone else’s shoes or transform a hand drill into a pistol. At the request of Dave, I brought with me some examples of my Foley to picture, including a section of Moshi Monsters: The Movie. It hadn’t occurred to me that not many folk get to watch moves without the finished mix; they all seemed to be transfixed.

I didn’t write up anything about Moshi when we were busy working on it. This is due to the fact I was bloody knackered at the time.

Moshi Monsters

The film was the first by Shoreditch’s award winning digital company Mind Candy and was released straight after their win at the Children’s BAFTAs. Mind Candy’s Lead Audio Designer, Daan Hendricks, got in touch with us when I was at Creativity Media and we joined his team on the sound design, Foley and effects mixing. This would be my first theatrical animated film and I was bricking it.

I wasn’t overly familiar with Moshi Monsters and the idea of creating their movements for the first time in a film was a little daunting. Thankfully, I had Alex giving me a whole bunch of advice and we were soon strolling around Soho poking heads into various shops and market stalls looking for interesting food stuffs, toys and materials that would bring these characters to life.

The workflow of the film in terms of the Foley was a little different to that which I’m used to. Spider Eye, the animation studio, would send us sections of the film once they were fully rendered and green-lit. Therefore, we worked in a very non-linear fashion, recording and fitting Foley in a very stop-start manner until we received picture lock. We took a couple of days recording with Gwilym Perry (now of Doppler and Dubbs) in Twickenham’s theatre 3 then finished the rest of the film with Simon Trundle at Universal Sound. These two studios have their own unique characteristics and the two mixers their own separate approaches, both of whom contributed such wonderful creative ideas and experience, I really valued working with them both.

The five Moshi Monsters who lead us through the film are the same monsters that children ‘adopt’ in the online game. Katsuma (a cat with an inflated sense of self), Poppet (the level headed character), Zommer (think of Scooby Doo’s Shaggy but more of a zombie), Furri (lovable hairy oaf), Diavlo (fiery) and Luvli (sultry). They are also joined by Poppet’s favourite Moshling, Mr Snoodle (a little horse which looks like an elephant puppy).

These are characters that kids will know and love so it was pretty essential to make their movements reach expectations. In terms of cloth tracks, I pretty much followed their animal type or resorted to simple cotton cloth. The supporting characters, however, offered more creative opportunities. Shelby, a turtle character, needed an interesting material for his moves. Alex suggested using PVC which was duly adopted and had a nice sound to it. Buster Bumblechops (a Jurassic Park Richard Attenborough type in an adventurous mood) was performed with canvas and rougher cloth. The character Furry was… furry. I performed his moves with fur. Imagination was required elsewhere.

Footsteps provided the other major preparation challenge. I couldn’t decide whether to follow what was on screen or to go with the nature of the characters instead (soft, wet, rocky, bristly etc). We experimented with different materials but- for the most part- went with less abstract choices… if you can call udon noodles less abstract for a footstep. In fairness, the leads were walked lightly with fairly standard shoes. One character was barefoot but heavy set; I walked him with my hands but made them very ‘slappy’. Daan wanted a kinda plastic/rubberish footstep for Mr Snoodle. After much rummaging around, Universal’s Paul Hanks came up with using finger tips upon a wellington boot. This project induced a very collaborative environment and the Foley benefitted from this.

A section of the film that we spent quite a bit of time on was set on a snowy mountain; the footsteps involved the usual cornstarch and rock salt. The scene involved an avalanche that was a bit of fun to create. This is one of those moments where the Foley stage is used by the sound designers and fx editors to obtain something for themselves. Both Alex and Daan were keen to collate a bank of recordings that they could later affect for their own design and fx tracklays. Acquiring the help of another soundie, Ryan Lee Twyman, we flumped and bellowed pillowcases full of flour onto the floor all in full view of the Neumann and contact mic. The recordings accumulated but a distinct sound of falling snow was missing. As I brushed the ground ready for another load to drop, Alex was still monitoring the mics. Turns out a little hand brush on the concrete with cornstarch to scatter makes quite a lovely avalanche sound when you’ve got a contact mic there doing its thing.

As enjoyable as our more experimental recording sessions were, I maintain that some of the best work comes from having no time to think. The 5 days I had at Universal Sound with their handsome mixer Simon was hard work. Good grief, we had so much to get through whilst my dreamy old colleague Stelios and intern Daniel were editing the fruits of our work. As I wasn’t as familiar with the props at Universal, Simon came up trumps in suggesting props to use. We flew through scene by scene and in all honesty I can’t remember a lot of the things I used because we worked so quickly everything relied upon instinct rather than considered thought.

Something particularly enjoyable about working on this film was the expeditions to source prop material. I spent an absolute age looking in different toy shops across London; trying to find items that would pop, whistle, squish, squeak, rattle and hum. These toys proved very useful for both Foley and the sound design. Mr Snoodle’s flappy ears were made with a whoopie cushion, flies were made with buzz magnets and tuning forks, large drinking straw-like pipes were made with a whirly tube slid inside a washing machine tube and the Moshi’s arch enemy’s army of glumps were complimented in the Foley stage with a rubbery toy cheese filled with slime. It was beautifully disgusting and fun.

Here’s some pics of the recordings.

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Here’s the trailer for the film.

The Right Type

I’ve been after a bloody typewriter for ages. Not exactly sure why, I’ve never needed to use one. They seem to be staple accessories in Foley stages and I figured it’s best to have one than get caught short. They are also rather delightful.

Here is the latest acquisition.

It’s a bit broken, that’s okay

It’s pretty, not as much as the attractive metal-framed beasts found hipster’s living rooms but at £5 and housed in a sweet leather case, it’s a steal and a welcome addition to the family. I also managed to find two pairs of mens shoes that fitted a treat and ticked two essential boxes.

The first pair have a slight heel (and at a size six, the ability to slightly crush my size seven feet) which offer a minor clop reminiscent of a subtle ladies heel or a prominent man’s shoe. The second pair are much flatter but with smooth leather soles offer a distinguished and commanding footstep, similar to the brown brogues featured at the top of this blog, without the distracting and unusable weight that those same beautiful shoes find themselves hampered with.

I’m sharing this boring update because it’s something that I’ve had to come to terms with in regards to my shoe collection. Many of the various shoes that I’ve collected are absolutely ideal when walked in a guerrilla fashion (the alleyway behind the block of flats, the stairwell in an office building), however in the controlled environment of a Foley stage, they sound ridiculously over the top. When we were recording Fast Girls, the majority of my shoes remained in my holdall, two pairs of subtle flats were called upon above all others.

This is a bit of a nuisance as I’m having to purchase shoes that I already assumed to be covered, replacing exaggerated ladies heels for shoes that have a heel without the capacity to distract and take prominence over everything else in the mix. Thankfully I found some amazing thrift stores in the midland’s Leamington Spa, this is always the case with more affluent places, the shoes tend to be of a higher quality and therefore offer a more appropriate sound. I’m hoping my guerrilla shoes and these new acquisitions will complete the collection and offer more options when in the pits. In the meantime, I’ve got to find somewhere to put the unnecessary, yet treasured typewriter.

Sound and Music Kit For Sale

A few of my colleagues are selling off some of their kit and after battling the great war of OSX’s Safari vs eBay, I decided to post them here in case anyone needs a HD core card or a drum kit. There is one more package to come (Digidesign HD Core card, 2x Process cards and 2x iLoks with software licences) I’m just waiting on the details.

Plea be aware that these are all to be shipped in the UK only or pick up from London, apologies to those overseas. Any enquiries, ping me an email – lou.brown[at]me.com

There is a new super-exciting-thrilling-creative post to come, I’ve been a bit busy moving house, working on Tower Block and suffering from The Sniffles. Hope you are all well.

Here’s a slide show of all the items up on sale. Descriptions and prices below.

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Blue Sky SAT 6.5 Active Studio Monitors

There are 5 monitors are available and priced at £375.00 each or £1,600 for the set. They are the satellite speakers for the 5.1 system one package, have been recently re-serviced and are fully working.

These monitors can be picked up in central London or shipped at extra cost.

Acoustic Energy Pro Sub

Priced at £475.00 and matches the AE22 satellite monitors with a 20 Watt RMS amplifier to 2x twin 250mm aluminium cone bass drivers and is capable of extension down to 25Hz. The unit is in good condition.

This subwoofer can be picked up in central London or shipped at extra cost.

Digidesign Sync I/O

Priced at £350.00 and in good condition, there’s a small amount of white sticker residue on the far right of the front panel. It features a near-sample accurate lock to timecode or bi-phase/tach signals and a 192 kHz-capable, high-fidelity, low-jitter word clock.

The sync I/O can be picked up in Buckinghamshire or shipped at extra cost.

Digidesign HD Core Card, 2x HD Accel Cards and iLok

Priced at £1.400 and includes 1x Digidesign Avid HD Core PCI-X Card, 2x Digidesign Avid HD Process PCi-X Cards and 1x iLok with 24 software licences including Pro Tools HD 7.2 and DigiTranslator. A list of all the licences can be found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/63951111@N03/6309557164/

The cards are in mint condition, the iLok is fully functional with remnants of a white sticker on its exterior. 
The Process cards come complete with TDM FlexCables.
This package can be picked up in Buckinghamshire or shipped at extra cost.
Red Pearl Export Series Drum Kit
Priced at £300.00 It’s an excellent condition five piece drum kit with Stagg EX 14″ hi-hats, 20″ ride and 16″ crash cymbal.
This drum kit is available as only pick up in Buckinghamshire.

Wasting Business Cards

Last year I was creating some sound effects for Tootles, an kids cartoon by my good friend Alex Amelines. As a sweet gesture, Alex created a lovely business card design so I could refrain from thrusting my iPhone in the direction of people I’d meet, bleating excuses of a terrible default Vistaprint purchase and pleading for their Twitter username instead.

I finally took 15 minutes out of an admin day to get the designs printed with Moo and joined the professional pool of freelance creatives who can manage the simplest tasks of passing on contact details and understanding the concept of branding.

The week that they arrived fresh, crisp and stacked ready for distribution, I was offered a full time job by Creativity Media. I now have 150 fresh, crisp and wonderfully designed business cards that I’m probably never going to use.

It was in my favourite colour and everything!

So the silver lining I guess is that I will now be working full time for Creativity Media as a Foley editor, receiving training in effects editing, dialogue editing and all sorts of sound post activities. This is no means a sign off from the Foley Diaries though, if I don’t pour my babbles about props n’ cloths on here, I’ll inflict it upon friends and family which will result in eye rolls and social shuns.

So on that note, look at some sexy new props acquired in China. The bells, they are delightful.

The scary tweezer looking thing is an old, weird razor, or so the vendor claimed

Ropes, ratchets and more ropes? That’ll be nautical Foley then.

Everything has been used except the dog ball/rope toy

In all seriousness, I’m absolutely delighted to be doing this full time and getting to push myself both in terms of improving my Foley editing and in learning new sound post skills, becoming more useful to the company and generally discovering how it feels to REALLY appreciate the weekends. Wish me luck, yo.

Creativity Media are on both Twitter and Facebook. I’ll be updating the accounts here and there so do say hello.

Preparations

Have been running around like a mad woman, getting organised for the Foley performance and editing I’m undertaking for Tash Force. Preparations include beefing up Pro Tools, the Mac and investing in some new shoes, mens shoes.

So far I have stumbled upon these

I also came across these, not quite in the category of mens shoes but damn they have a lovely clop to them.

Looking forward to this project, it’ll be my first with supervising sound editor Dean Covill. We share a real passion for the film so it’ll be an enjoyable few weeks up ahead. Might not be feeling that way at 3am editing cloth tracks but in the meantime, yes… good feelings. Especially when I get to walk in this man’s shoes throughout the next month.

Time to clean my boots, there will be updates.

This is a Post About a Wooden Case

This week has been one of many purchases. Initiated last Sunday by a chance encounter with a bric a brac store which I swear I’ve never seen before. Pretty sure it won’t be there again when I go back tomorrow, a bit like the fairground machine granting adulthood wishes in Big.

Zoltar Big

What caught my eye from across the street was the ensemble of suitcases, furniture and crockery housed inside. The inevitable parting of money came down to this little wooden case. Absolutely smashing. The latches hold different resistance to one another, leaving one to fly open with minimal force whereas the other isn’t so forthcoming. The handle also has a deliciously ropey, leathery squeak with metal-on-wood rattle.

Wooden Case

Regardless of how lovely and old it sounds, she’s also a pretty thing with heritage. There is still an address label belonging to its original owner, a  Mr W. Buchanan from Shepperton, England. That kind of sealed the deal. Looking forward to using this as soon as I can.

Here’s the place where I stumbled upon my find…

Past Caring

It’s located on Essex Road, Angel Islington if you’re curious. Hands off the beautiful, cream rotary dial telephone please, that one will be mine.