Recent Work

I recently spent 10 days editing dialogue on a feature film. I’ve worked on a couple of features in the past but this was a bit different. I spent some time with Savalas doing some training and assisted on Red Road. I’ve mixed a feature length documentary (The Art of Time) but not for theatrical release, the same applies to the additional mixing work I did on Girlfriend 19. These forays into the world of film were fun but were fairly standard sort of work for me. Mandorla was very different. Firstly I was a Dialogue Editor, something I have done for TV and short films numerous times. However, the main difference was that before I have nearly always just worked on my own and was responsible for all the sound. To that end I found the process fairly simple as I was able to edit and clean the production sound knowing what other sounds would be in there. I was also able to work around noise issues by adding in sounds to cover issues like wind.

Mandorla was a whole different process and workflow. To start with I was working alongside Shaun Farley. I have known Shaun for many years now and have collaborated on a few online endeavours, mainly articles and online panel discussions with Designing Sound. I jumped at the chance to do some proper work with him, partly as he’s a friend and partly as I respect him as a peer. He’s a talented chap. I will confess now that I felt slightly like a fraud as this was highly focused work, the likes of which I have touched on but never actually done in full. That’s one thing I wish I could do more of, working with others as part of a team and to focus on one part of post-production sound.

After a chat with Shaun, I started my work piecing together a coherent dialogue track. It took a while to get into a good flow, mainly as this was a totally new way of working. Instead of removing as much noise as possible and covering the production sound with atmos tracks, I have to make the noise work. That meant more fades than I’ve ever created before. A trick I learned a long time ago is to take random small snippets of the production track with just the location’s atmosphere on and use that to cover gaps and noises in the dialogue. Again, this took that technique to whole new level that I’ve never done before. Using alt takes is another example of how I have only merely touched on dialogue editing in the past. All of this made me slightly like a fraud and was worried that my work wouldn’t be up to the job. Thankfully Shaun is a good teacher and gave me some great feedback, I’ve learned so much in the last week, it’s really stretched my sound editing skills.

The film starts the mix today (Tuesday the 22nd June) and I’m really looking forward to watching the film. Mainly to hear the results of my work and Zach Martin has transformed our work into a cohesive whole. I’ve never heard of Zach before but he must be damn good, mainly as he’s working as a mixer in Skywalker Sound! I will confess that I am bloody terrified of how my first attempt at proper dialogue editing will go down there. Hopefully it’ll be okay.

It’s actually been a busy time for me recently, a nice change after about 6 months of almost no work. A couple of recent projects have been my first collaboration with Dreambase Studios in Wootton Bassett. Again, I’ve known Alex Hudd for many years now but never had the opportunity to work with him. I was his Dubbing Editor on a cookery series that I’ve worked on before. Series 3 took Tales From The Bush Larder out of Kenya and into other parts of Africa. I’ve loved working on this show (Series 1 and 2 were done by Red Six Mix and Andrew Wilson is someone else I’m extremely fortunate to have worked with) as it’s full of really interesting things. Unlike other cookery shows, it shows food production and the culture in Africa, two things I love learning about. It’s almost more about anthropology than actually cookery.

Between these two projects I managed to squeeze in the post sound for an online sitcom called Staff Room. Thanks to a quick reply from me on twitter I did the post sound on the trailer and pilot last autumn and thought the show could do well as it was really good. Good writing, nicely shot and full of almost surreal moments of humour, not far removed from the likes of Spaced at times. The series got it’s commission from Wildseed Studios in Bristol. The series has lost the surreal nature and opted for a straight sitcom style. I love weird and unusual but the show is definitely stronger and will be far more (and deservedly) successful because of the change. The characters remain the same which is great as they are all well written and well acted. Ry McDermott (writer, lead actor and director) is someone who will definitely do well in the world of tv/film. I really appreciate that I got to work on the commissioned series as it’s 5 excellent episodes of good comedy. It says something when you have to stop work for a break as you’re laughing too much to continue.

I think that’s enough waffle for now.

Grouping tracks for display only

This post isn’t about the groups function in ProTools, but rather a workaround from someone new to ProTools, coming from Pyramix. My friend wanted to use his Pyramix control surface with ProTools via HUI, all was fine until it came to selecting tracks not displayed on his 24 faders. Cue, crashes and hanging.
His work around is rather simple and has shown me a new feature in ProTools that I think is rather useful. Firstly, you select the tracks you want in your display group so they are the only ones displayed on the Edit screen. Then you add a marker. The clever bit is removing all time properties, then it wont be shown on your timeline. Do this by selecting “none” from the Time Properties section.


Under the General Properties section, make sure that “Track Show/Hide” is selected and click OK. Now on your memory locations window you can select tracks to display on your Edit, Mix screens and also on your control surface. This is rather handy for large track counts where you might want to quickly access your Foley, ADR or Atmos tracks for example.


The Clandestine

I thought I’d write a post about my experience on an online series called The Clandestine. It’s the first online only project I have worked on and I have to say I had a huge amount of fun doing the sound on the project. I had a simple remit, to make the sound exaggerated and over the top. This is clear cue to have some fun.

However, the first job to do is to create a nice clean dialogue track to work with. Out came iZotope’s RX2 to remove or at least reduce the background noise and atmospheres. I will admit that editing and cleaning up dialogue is one of the most satisfying things in post-production sound. While there’s some parts that I was unable to clean to my own satisfaction I am quite proud of what I done. I appreciate that a “bad workman blames his tools” but however amazing RX is, it cannot do all the work. I would love to buy Waves’ WNS or even Cedar’s DNSOne but like any freelancer I need to be careful about spending my money. The dialogue was nicely recorded and the clean up was fairly easy so please don’t infer anything negative from my thoughts.

So, with a nice clean dialogue track, the first thing I like to do is to put in all the atmospheres. The story takes place in Belfast, although it’s not referenced in the dialogue, but the accents of the characters. I used some generic city atmospheres and nothing specific to Belfast. I spent four years living there and it sounds like any other city. Please correct me but I can’t think of anything to separate Belfast from any other city in the UK. The atmospheres were picked for two reasons; 1) to create the background noises from the locations seen and 2) to help cover up some of the dialogue cleanup. The trickiest part was in Episode 2 where the two central characters have a conversation in the harbour in Carrickfergus. Not only was there the traffic and the waves but it was quite a windy day. Ironically I removed most of those noises but then put them back in with the atmospheres. That said, it really worked as the dialogue balanced much better than the original recordings.

The next phase was to add in all the spot sound effects. Most of these are often mundane but thanks to the nicely recorded location sound I didn’t have to add in too much in the way of Foley. The main job here was to liven up the soundtrack with some phone and motorbike effects. What I love about post sound is the ability to do new things. I’ve (sadly) never had the opportunity to do animated titles before so this was a real treat.

The final phase is obviously the mix. I mixed this project like it was being done for TV. The only change to that was I allowed peaks to hit -6 on the meters. I think it would be a great idea to have some form of standards for online mixing. Perhaps ones that mean any mixes done for online playback will easily translate to either cinema or Television. I do wonder if this unification of media will become a reality? Especially considering the already emergence of online television playback with the likes of LoveFilm and BBC’s iPlayer.

Joseph has created a Kickstarter page as he is hoping to be able to make further episodes. Please visit it, check out the clip of the series and (hopefully) contribute. Click HERE.

iPod/iPhone Apps

Way back in 2008 I bought an iPod Touch. To me it was an amazing device that did everything what I wanted from a handheld computer. I had owned an HP PDA a few years before that and while it was good, I never used it much as the technology wasn’t around to do what I wanted. I wanted a handheld device that I could type on, connect to the net, do email and most of all handle audio. The 2nd Generation iPod Touch almost did all that. Back in September 2010 I was in Gatwick Airport and picked up a duty free 4th Generation model. Wow, what a difference. Having the on board mic and cameras really transformed the device. Finally I could start using it for audio.

Before you start to think ill of people using such devices in a professional environment I urge you to stop and really think about it. I wouldn’t use it to do any editing or mixing work obviously but it does have some peripheral uses. Here is a list of Apps and how I use them. Some are actually really useful and some are more fun geeky things.

Cleartune – Being a failed composer I find it easer for me to isolate frequencies musically. If I have a drone/noise issue I whistle the frequency into my ipod and it tells me the MIDI note and frequency, I can then remove it with EQ and quickly work out the harmonics involved in my head. It’s pretty accurate too as you can easily test by playing some 1KHz tone into it.

SPL Meter – An handy and configurable SPL meter using the built in mic. Fascinating to use.

Mini Piano – I use this to help identify frequencies (mainly before getting Cleartune)

Frequency Generator – I’ve not found a use for it personally but if I was doing OB or live I dare say it’d be handy to plug in to send tone down a line for checking signal flowss.

RTA Lite – Made by the same company as SPL Meter but gives you more information about SPLs across the frequency spectrum.

AC-7C Core Mini – A control App for PT. Handy having a second controller for things missing on my MCMix like a shuttle control.

Retro Recorder – This is my weapon of choice if I am out and about and not got my H1 on me. I’ve never used any of its recordings but there better than one would imagine.

I do have some other fun stuff like the Moog Filatron but I’ve yet to really have a play with them and find a use.

I’ll probably update this list periodically too if/when I find something new.


Sound Effect Libraries

I fell head over heels for this idea when Tim Prebble released Vegetable Violence on the world over a year ago. Since then I’ve discovered dozens of people making and releasing these libraries. The best list I have found is on Designing Sound who list them as Independant SFX Libraries.

Here’s a few more missing from that list.

Wraughk FX

Samuel Justice

Martin Pinsonnault

Airborne Sound


Pole Position

Unidentified Sound Object

Daniel Gooding

Coll Anderson

I recorded the sounds for a library way back in November and thanks to illness and then moving countries I’ve still yet to edit it for release. It’s no secret that it will be called The Bells upon release. My father has collected bells forged in the village of Aldbourne, where our family comes from, by various people from 1694 – 1826. There were literally hundreds of bells but  narrowed it down a bit for the sake repetition. I’ll do a full blog post on the library when I release it.

In the meantime I have created a very small library as a way of seeing what is involved in creating and selling such a thing. Last weekend my wife heard some odd metal noises which turned out to be a JCB scraping the road as it picked up sand from an Urban Beach as part of the Blackwood Festival. I wandered down with my H1 and the driver kindly allowed me to record him scraping the road. I cleaned up the recordings with iZotope’s RX2 and then added in all the metadata using Iced Audio’s AudioFinder. It’s the first time I’ve edited sound not in ProTools. It took some getting used to but was fine and allowed me to keep the audio at 96KHz as PT9 will only run at 48KHz through my MBox2. Now, I have routed all the sound on my iMac to the MBox2 so how AudioFinder and RX2 were able to cope and ProTools is a question I doubt Avid would be willing to answer. Finally I added some pages here to my blog and used E-Junkie to store and sell my library and PayPal for the money side of things. Quite simple in all once you’ve worked out all the details involved.

I know no-one has bought the library yet but to be honest I was more interested in working out the system more than anything else. Please do make any comments and suggestions about the library as this is my way of learning my mistakes this time around before I work on The Bells.


Preset Sharing

Hello all.

It’s been a while since I thought of this but now my job is winding down I’ve a little free time to start setting this up.

We all use presets right? I certainly have hundreds filed away for the plugins I regularly use. This is especially true when one needs the save effect for each occurrence of something (dialogue on a TV or a reverb assigned to a reoccurring location) needed frequently.

So I want to setup a website that will enable us to upload and share our plugin presets with each other.

I use ProTools so at first this will RTAS only with a view to expanding to TDM and maybe other DAWs in the future.

Please send me your thoughts on this as if it’s setup by the community then we can iron out any issues from the off.