Meeting Randy Thom

Wow. So yesterday I was planning on writing a post about watermelons, then I got a call from Alex to see if I would be free for lunch in the restaurant of The Hospital Club where Creativity Media’s grading suite is based (not in the restaurant itself, obviously).

Turns out lunch would happen to involve meeting Randy Thom and his wife whilst they are over in the UK on a European visit.

🙂

I managed to pick myself up off the floor and spent two wonderful hours alongside my colleagues in their company. Such a humbling experience and entirely inspiring.

There’s not many sound editors and aspiring sound professionals that haven’t seen a behind-the-scenes video of Randy discussing his approach to sound design. The first time I came across his name was at university, pouring through the pages of Filmsound.org looking for a masterclass and when I was feeling a bit down on my luck, desperate to find a way into the joyous world of Foley, his advice to an aspiring music editor and Foley artist on the site was a reference point which I followed to the absolute t.

1) Move to LA. There are more jobs there which will “lead somewhere.” So even though there are also more people looking for jobs there, it’s still the place to be. 

2) Read everything you can find about film sound in books, magazines, and on the Internet. 

3) Find people who are doing the kind of work you want to do, and figure a way to make contact with them. You’ll have to be resourceful. It’s great training for the resourcefulness you’ll need AFTER you “break in.” Be persistent, but not SO persistent that you appear to be unstable, weird, or psychopathic. 

Edited excerpts from the message thread “soundtracks and foley”  at CAS webboard Nov 1999  

Well, I didn’t move to LA. It’s a bit far from London and they’d ask me to go home after three months. Nonetheless, it’s spot-on advice and just what I needed to hear at the time. The advice was taken and I managed to land myself at Alex’s door.

There’s something very heartening when you finally meet someone who you admire professionally, to discover that they’re just as admirable and personable when you meet them in real life, chatting about Chinese food and the delights of southern France.

Whenever Randy mentioned Skywalker, my heart would skip a beat, however the real joy was hearing about how enthused Randy and his colleagues are in developing young talent at the ranch. So much of his outlook and approach felt familiar in what I have experienced in being mentored by Alex, who himself received mentoring by Randy.

I didn’t get the chance to hear Randy’s recent talk at the BFI, however his discussion on the importance of sound post production in film and the necessity for sound supervisors/designers’ early involvement on a project is something that needs to echo around the industry as a whole.

So yes, watermelons are imminent. Today, I’m just basking in a rare opportunity and will be so for the forthcoming week, at least. There is a cool interview with him the other week when he was talking in Nottingham. It’s well worth a read.

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Fast Girls, Slow Feet

Oh hello.

Over six weeks ago I had the joy of joining the good folk at Universal Sound for a day of shooting Foley for the forthcoming feature film Fast Girls. The film revolves around Shania, a track athlete who finds herself in an intense rivalry with a fellow British runner Lisa. It stars many actors of cult TV and film including Noel Clarke, Lenora Crichlow, Bradley James, Rupert Graves and Lily James.

Universal Sound originally based their Foley studios at Perivale, within London’s borough of Ealing. Had I known this back in my university days (which is based in Ealing itself), I’d have been bothering them years ago. The facility is currently located in the pretty village of Amersham, Buckinghamshire and houses three studios and a swimming pool. The river of chocolate in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was aurally created in said swimming pool. I found no traces of nutrient agar when I was there.

My day with Paul and Simon involved helping out with the feet and effects in reel one. The first footsteps sequence to come my way involved a character hoisting up onto his feet, jogging, then sauntering over to another character… down a few steps. Um.. I may have taken eight attempts to get both the sync and performance correct on this before Paul had to take over.

Naturally all confidence had evaporated at this point and I was scanning the room for a black hole to disappear in and that would have been the end of that. Thankfully the chaps didn’t lose faith completely and my second attempt involved walking some straight background feet and as the day wore on, my feet loosened up and I got on with more faith in myself and revelled in each chance I was given.

Once the feet were recorded we moved onto the effects. We covered a variety of different props from car tyres slowly grinding against gravel to bunting flapping against a background fence. One pass that I’d never encountered before involved performing the patter patter of a small dog’s footsteps, then taking on it’s metal chain lead. This was rather fun and Paul shared his techniques with me on many of these props. Another highlight was performing both spot and background effects in a canteen scene. We covered baking trays, utensils and fingernails imitating chicken pieces hitting plates together in the same take. I’ve seen this teamwork before when sitting in various other sessions but to be part of that was really something.

The photo is totally staged, the stupid grin I'm wearing isn't.

It’s great not only working with the artist themselves, but also seeing how essential the relationship between the artist and the mixer is. I noticed the number of times that Simon and Paul were in tune with one another. They barely have to finish a sentence as the other knows what they’re going to say, in fact I’m sure they have their own made-up language formed over time. It’s something I need to get used to having recorded my own Foley performances, I guess it takes time.

You’d have thought I’d have been on here bleating on about my day in the pits sooner, however there has been a few hours put into the Foley editing and myself and colleagues have only just emerged from the other side. I’m going to be spending a day there again next week with the film we’re currently working on, Get Lucky. If I remember anything interesting, I’ll post it here. I won’t subject Paul to another photo, maybe I can convince Simon to pose instead.

Fast Girls hits the cinemas on June 15th. The trailer is available to view here.

ADR Quickie Required in LA

This has definitely not been copied and pasted from an ad I just posted on Gearslutz… no sir.

I’m looking for someone in Los Angeles that’s available on the 23rd and 24th of March to shimmy on down to a hotel and record three lines of ADR.

These recordings are wildtrack lines, not to sync. Any type of recording medium is fine, however a boom mic is required to pick up the lines. These lines will be recorded from the perspective of the actor talking through the hotel room door.

This is a paid gig of $100.00
Confirmation of the date (it will be either the 23rd or the 24th) nearer the time.

Send me an email (please don’t phone as I’m elbow deep in footsteps regions at the moment, oh Lord how elbow deep I am) if you’re available.

Seeing as this isn’t really about anything other than needing to get a few lines of ADR recorded, here’s a photo which precedes the next post which I’ll write as soon as the film is complete.

Squeeeeeeeeee!

Tappity Tap, Don’t Talk Back

Late as ever to the party, but surely it’s never too late to wish one another a wonderful new year full of experiences and adventures; be they work related or in those fleeting hours we call our spare time.

This forthcoming year is filling me with trembly anticipation towards a plethora of new projects to be undertaken both in the (sound) edit and the pits. The thought of treading floorboards makes me so happy I could vomit, however this nausea may also be as a result of some trepidation in developing flat feet and the dreaded rumble tum/bum.

So I’ve decided to wind back the clock to childhood days and take up tap dancing classes.

On the left. I hated that dress.

It makes sense to devote time and energy to footsteps, the more difficult aspect of Foley to master. I remember drilling this into my head when reading Vanessa Theme Ament’s The Foley Grail back in my Radium days, she mentioned how many Foley artists entered the industry with a background in dancing and stage performing, however it was an aversion to hairspray-filled dressing rooms littered with ribbons and eye shadow that kept me away from the dance studio.

I’ve read almost every book by writer and martial arts expert Geoff Thompson. Near the end of last year I re-read an article entitled Armstrong’s Hills where he described pushing himself away from his comfort zone into writing screenplays for film and the stage. His observations into Tour De France champion Lance Armstrong’s training approach gave me an essential kick up the arse. To quote:

I got the idea after reading about Lance Armstrong, the serial Tour de France winner. What inspired me about this great man was not just that he managed to fight cancer against horrendous odds, but also that he went on to win The Tour De France an unprecedented six times. He won it so many times that the organisers of the race actually changed the route (I believe four times) to give the other riders a better chance of winning. What intrigued me was not so much that Lance Armstrong won the race so many times, rather it was the way in which he went about it. He looked at the Tour route and realised that the hardest part of the course, the part that every rider struggled with, was the hills. He realised that if he could master the hills, he could dominate the whole course. So that is what he did. Whilst the other riders concentrated on their flat riding Armstrong was on the hills, up and down again and again and again until he mastered them, until he was comfortable with them, in fact until he loved the hills.

I don’t particularly expect to win the Tour DeFrance, or become a master at footstepping, but the idea of concentrating efforts on the most difficult areas of one’s field, in this case Foley, by getting more acquianted with rhythm and utilising all areas of the feet whilst avoiding the temptation to perfect less challenging and, dare I say, more ‘exciting’ aspects of the art, may offer some relief to the butterflies forming in my stomach region at present.

Aside from finding an excuse to don a tutu and avoid jogging in the evening rain, it will feel good to try and tip my hat towards the legacy of Foley artists who began their careers as professional dancers. Near the close of last year, Alex linked to me a wonderful article by Lionel Selwyn about the UK’s Foley heritage. The photo of the late Beryl ‘The Boot’ Mortimer hard at work in the pits is mesmerising and it’s most humbling to read about how many artists worldwide came into the Foley theatres from… theatres.

And now onto something completely different.

It seems uncouth to maintain all attention on the forthcoming months without taking the time to appreciate the twelve just passed and those that have made 2011 so incredible.

May I offer my sincere gratitude and love towards Alex Joseph, Richard Kondal and Patrick Fischer at Creativity Media. Many thanks also to Beth Lovell, Charlotte Radford, Rachel Chapman, Syriah Bailey, Renee Vaughan Sutherland, Sophie Mallett, Carlos Wisteria, Patch Morrison, Anne Marie Kennedy, Spencer Lowe, Mark Watts, Emily Kidson, James Walters, Christopher Jones, Dean Covill, Nigel Heath, Ayush Ahuja, Matt and Aleah at Zelig, Kate and David at Hub TV, Nic, Tom and Shaun at Beautiful, Neil and Louisa at Silent Deer, Alex Amelines and the delightful Olivia Comberti. You’re amazing.

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.

Heroes of Ruin Teaser Trailer

Hello dear subscribers, have been a bit busy of late and will have exciting news to brag about in the near future. In the meantime I’ve got some recent work to show and tell.

Creative agency Beautiful asked me to create the sound and music of a teaser trailer that they designed and animated for its unveiling at June’s E3 game expo in Los Angeles. The trailer is for Heroes of Ruin, a new game developed by n-Space and produced by London-based Square Enix for the Nintendo 3DS and is a four-player drop in/out role playing game.

 

I largely raided my sound library for this piece. Wind is apparent, it’s hard no to notice that, I went for mountainous winds to give it a chilly start and finish. The melding together of the game’s titles involved an array of rocks falling down cliffs and being reversed, they were joined by various combat sounds and a few air and metal hits reversed for good measure. Cinematic low frequency hits were slathered with reverb for the culmination of that meld. Library recordings of fire, cellophane crinkles and a recent recording of an open air fire for Outside Bet were included for the ruining of the word… ‘ruin’. I got involved with Logic for some atmospheric pads quietly introduced at the beginning and well, that was it.

It was fun to work with as quite a few things were happening on screen and all of them were large, the mix involved finding out which elements needed to retain their mid-low end and those that needed to breathe above the rumble and impact.

The lovely agency Beautiful are using both Twitter and Facebook, Square Enix have Facebook and Twitter. n-Space are also social with their Twitter and Facebook here and there. Marvellous.

8-Bit Arcade ADR

Last week I took the two hour train ride back and forth to Twickenham Film Studios whilst the sound is currently being mixed for Outside Bet. I’ve generally spent these few days watching the process and making myself useful with occasional tasks here and there, one of which ended being rather fun.

The film is set in mid-1980s London and follows a group of friends caught up in the Thatcherite-era of privatisation and rising unemployment, who invest their savings in a racehorse with a few fingers and toes crossed on its sucess. One scene in the film involves a character playing an old fruit machine, similar to that seen below, his success with the machine mirroring his success in life. It’s not exactly a major plot piece in the film, however the fact he’s losing money in the game helps to further the idea of the friends being down on their luck.

1970s Fruit Machine

Alex had already fitted some arcade sounds to demonstrate the loss, however he asked me to record some vocal lines which really drove the point home and mocked the character at the same time. We recorded myself, Richard and Alex voicing ‘you lose, ‘loser’ etc., for further processing to place it in the machine, however many of the third party and native effects within Pro Tools weren’t treating the vocal snippets appropriately. We needed the lines to be audible, however they also needed to be degraded and stripped of life and humanisation.

Back in the days of university and employment just after graduating, I would use Logic Pro as my DAW and remembered the effective way its host plug-ins would dramatically alter sound. A pleasant pay off for being utterly irritating to use as an an audio editor. I brought it in the next day and opened up Bitcrusher, EVOC Filterbank, Ringshifter and the Fuzz-Wah plug-ins and had a bit of a play.

My own vocals were thrown into Vocal Transformer for pitching down to a deeper, male presence. It then fell pray to a little bitcrushing and filtering. Here’s a little before and after.

Richard bellowed “you fail” in my general direction, I bitcrushed it and filtered the remains, here are the dry and wet versions.

Alex gave me a mighty fine “loser” to deal with, this was bitcrushed, filtered and treated with the ringshifter. Here’s the before and after.

Here’s some exceptionally interesting screen grabs. The Fuzz-Wah I kept the preset, think I had a fiddle around with the EVOC Filterbank and Ringshifter. Definitely had a fiddle with the bitcrusher, kept the distortion low but downsampled the heck out of the sound. A little different to the Foley editing for sure.

I ended up submitting 21 versions, as we had all vocalised different ways of pronouncing and delivering the lines, however the effect upon Richard’s line above appeared most effective in maintaining some clarity whilst aggressively attacking the sound. It was a small part to play in the final mix stage but was a pleasure to work on.

Outside Bet is due for release within the UK at the later part of the year, director Sacha Bennett is a joy to be around, you can find him on Twitter here. The film has a Facebook page here.

Screwed Sound Post; An Awkward ADR Recording

Last month the Creativity Media team were sat in Goldcrest’s Dean Street Theatre for the mix of Reg Traviss’ Screwed staring James D’Arcy and Noel Clarke. This was my first experience in seeing everyone’s contributions melded into a final product ready for picture, the process was fascinating to watch and offered an insight into the decisions that are made at the final stage and how to pre-empt them in the editing process.

The mix involved Richard and Alex jumping in and making occasional alterations to the soundtrack, either replacing or enhancing the sound with new elements recorded from scratch or alternative material in the session.

One scene that required this intervention was a sex scene between the lead character Sam and his on-screen wife Danielle, played by Kate Magowan. The scene needed a little more skin slapping presence and was missing a vocal acknowledgement at the start of proceedings by Danielle.

Being the only woman in the studio that evening, the task of performing a little physicality and moaning fell to yours truly. I’d never encountered a sex scene before unless you count an awkward make out session with my good friend Patch Morrison in an ill-thought out student film I made whilst at university (I will never link to that mess, ever).

Picking up the skin Foley was an easy enough task. Upon returning home I promptly dropped my trousers, splashed my thighs with water for a sweaty, slippy surface and slapped the skin with as much romance as one can do with their socks and shoes still on.

The area where I came a little unstuck was vocalising that first moan. I had a few attempts with the best of efforts despite my flatmates’ audible giggles in the room next door, the only problem is that despite being born in the age of punk and disco, I still have a voice like a teenage boy. This was not suitable for the scene at all. One of the giggling flatmates would have to be brought in front of the mic.

This is where I must thank my lovely friend Emily Kidson for coming up with the goods where I had failed. Normally when I bring a friend in for recording they forget how to perform basic body tasks such as laughing, walking or standing remotely close to the microphone. Thankfully Emily was immune from red light syndrome and took to the task with much gusto and enjoyment, and as always, the first take was the winner.

Here’s the trailer for the film, it’s out in UK cinemas on Friday June 3rd. Other than cultivating awkwardness with my flatmates and wet slapping my inner thighs, I was given the role of assistant Foley editor on the film. It was a real joy to work on; cutting feet in prison cells, the satisfying jingle of keys and a fight scene crafted by Alex and the Foley team at Universal Sound who made me never want to go near a razor blade ever again.

Screwed has a Facebook page, as do Creativity Media here.

Anuvahood – Foley and Fruittellas

This Friday sees the UK theatrical of Anuvahood, written and directed by Adam Deacon. The film is the spoof of UK street movies such as Kidulthood and Adulthood, it tells the story of Kay, a young MC failing at music, women and life, set in the council estates of Notting Hill. It’s also bloody funny.

I’m going to be drinking an inordinate amount of whisky this weekend in celebration of the film, it’s the first cinematic release that I’ve worked on as an assistant Foley editor and I loved every single cut, nudge and volume adjustment throughout each reel. Working under the instruction and guidance of Supervising Sound Editor, Re-recording Mixer and Associate Producer Alex Joseph, I noticed an unfolding improvement in my sync, noise reduction and levels awareness as the timecode ticked away.

Working on this project offered a rare opportunity to discover more effective means of fitting character movements, feet and props, blending naturally into the production sound and still cutting through when sitting amongst the soundtrack’s punchy hard effects, sound design elements and busy music tracks.

I soon found an affection towards experimenting with fades. Yes, this paragraph is indeed talking about the thrilling subject of fades… sorry about that. Previous to this project, I’d only used the standard slow fade in/out in order to prevent pop and clicks after leaving sizeable handles of room tone to prevent audible swells of noise floor. Having gained an insight into the relationship of cutting Foley amongst the dialogue and it’s own moves tracks, I began to use fades in a more aggressive and corrective manner; using the variety of different shapes to cut into regions or leaving long fade outs between footsteps, reducing noise without chopping in and out of the feet in a sudden and noticeable manner.

This is probably most obvious to other soundies, however it gave me real confidence in tacking the recordings without hesitance or meekness and consequently has affected my approach to sound editing in general, be it a feet track or a jet ski pass by in a corporate film. I normally have no reservations in tacking a physical object with gusto and intrigue, hitting it about, setting fire to it, biting it in half… so it’s thoroughly relaxing to now have a more daring approach to the sound once it’s lying ready and waiting to be fitted amongst its counterparts.

Is this interesting? Possibly not. I wanted to share.

So sod it, the film is out this weekend, I’ll be up in Scotland on a trip away from the city, enjoying fine whisky at an awesome club night dressed as a cowboy and come Saturday night will be at the cinema with a hangover, eager ears and a large bag of gratitude to Alex and a hell of a lot of people who have advised and encouraged me up until this point. If you happen to see it (UK only at this point), let me know your thoughts on the film and the sound.