Final Project Reflection - Second Chances Film Soundtrack and Foley
For my final project in AUD210 here in Trimester 3 at SAE I worked in a group, recording and editing the audio for the film Second Chances. This 13-minute production was produced by Tri 3 Film students, then passed on to us to record foley, the soundtrack and overdubs, whilst editing and syncing it appropriately. This was an interesting exercise and as is proving to become a common theme here, whilst frustrating at times has been ultimately rewarding. Part of my initial frustrations was simply the time management and having to be reliant on others. After working with some very productive teams earlier in the year and even being in control of my own time during the remix and in the box productions in earlier modules, aiming to improve my personal time management was a priority of mine going in to this last month.
Whilst we tried to prepare as much as possible, I was conscious of the limited time we had remaining in the trimester and strictness of deadlines. Having to rely on the film team to get us the relevant footage, and even some clear direction delayed our workload early in the process. Once we had the footage however I felt that along with fellow team members Jo, Angus, we became a very focused group and have surpassed earlier expectations of the film team.
This was a great learning experience in preparing us for the real world, as people do not often respect one another’s time and clients will often delay getting back to you, then expect things to be done immediately. Further to this, Angus did excellent working on scoring the soundtrack, although it seemed too often would receive ineffective feedback towards what was being produced. It felt too often we were being told not what-to-do or what they liked, but simply what they didn’t like and had to try and fill in the gaps the other way.
This is where we can improve our question asking and therefore listening skills during the diagnostic with the client (in this case film team). We must find ways to be more direct with the client/director in a way to uncover what their vision really is, as this in turn will make our jobs easier and will decrease the amount of much back and forth late in the process. A benefit of this is that our creativity was also further challenged and it forced us to get out of our comfort zones and try some different production styles.
Now for some more technical aspects of the process. One of our focuses was recording the foley ourselves which occured in a 4-hour session in the foley studio once we had the final edit of the film this past Monday. Having the final edit helped us establish a clear timeline for the placement of the sound effects, which I made easier by setting up accurate markers in my ProTools session.
Recording the foley was fun as we made over 20 of our own samples. We used a cardioid RE20 as our close mic, usually 5-20cms away from the sound source depending on the desired effect. We used an AKGC414 set on omni as our room mic, as felt this may have helped give more depth to the sound when syncing to the film, or even just to pick up various subtleties of the room. I mostly used the effects recorded on the close mic during my foley edit, however there were a couple of occasions where the room mic was more effective, often on camera shots from further away, for example with footsteps entering and exiting a scene.
We got creative in some of our recordings which included stabbing an onion with a knife to simulate Jesus’ hand being stabbed, waving sheets of metal to give an over-exaggerated knife cutting-through-the-air effect, and throwing pebbles into a bowl to simulate that of mixing breakfast cereal. We all shared roles in this session, rotating between manning the Pro Tools desk, holding and adjusting the microphones and being the one moving the objects to create the effect.
I enjoyed syncing this audio in, and one thing I would do more productively next time is have the physical video already imported in to our Pro Tools session. We had a timeline for which shots were to go where, but we were skimming through a downloaded version of the film to ensure things like footsteps, mouth chews etc were in time with the vision. By having the video already imported would’ve meant as we recorded it would already be at the appropriate time point on the Pro Tools timeline which would've save a lot of dragging and editing later in the syncing process.
I think what I have learned overall during this Trimester is that coming here is more than just about the skills we learn in Pro Tools, Ableton or on the sound desk. Time and People management are crucial, as is having a clear plan and schedule. Relying on others can be a trying process-be it film directors not having edits ready, vocalists/rappers not appearing for their studio session and just not replying to calls after making commitments, or even preparing for illness and having back-up plans in place.
I’m proud of the work I have accomplished not only in this unit but throughout the year, despite the frustrations. I have learned some great skills both in and out of the studio- technically, with people and for life.
My experience with SAE has also helped give me credibility with notable names in the industry. This helped me contribute some freelance work with those in roles I aspire to achieve.
I worked with Moontanned Entertainment’s Jozef Conor in preparing his intro for his set at Strawberry Fields. We worked on building a unique intro to fit the vibe of the festival, by getting the intro from The Beatles Cirque d’ Soleil and implementing that into a techno track that he could then smoothly mix in the second song of his set, which was to be determined on the night.
I also worked with Chameleon Records’ head honcho and DJ extraordinaire Steve Ward in preparing his Strawberry Fields set and also monitoring the stage whilst he was playing. As it was a heavily wooded, naturally bushy area, I was assessing levels and balancing as the stage was an interesting set up acoustically, so we were conscious mostly on appropriate bass levels in such a tight environment. I also helped Steve with his recent re-design of his studio in Mornington, particularly with the placement of diffusers as he was having issues with annoying levels of slapback and reverb that wasn’t natural for the room.
I have also been lucky enough to be included in meetings with the owners of some of Melbourne’s marquee nightclubs and event promoters in discussions in bringing international headline Techno artists from Germany. I’ve also been privy to what it takes in building a successful weekly club night from the ground up, with substance and not just a fly-by-night or flash-in-the-pan approach. These are invaluable experiences that my SAE associations has helped give me the credibilty to be included in.
Whilst not traditional in-the-box or studio style freelance work, these are all contributing to the Trent Bice brand and are preparing me in many ways for life after SAE. Without trying, I’m naturally creating a network by just being me, and it is these experiences that will open doors for me once I have compiled all the relevant skills from my Bachelor.
Perhaps my most credible and rewarding Freelance work however was manning the Live Sound Desk at Peter Sheahan’s Country Music Walk-Up event in Bendigo on November 26th. This is the second time I have helped at this monthly charity event, and has been a great learning experience in trying to identify problem frequencies and balancing of bands of up to 6+ artists in front of crowds up to 150 people.
This latest event was a unique experience as my Grandfather- Peter Sheahan, who hosts the event each month, had the tables turned on him and told this was a walk-up event with no walk-up artists. To his confusion and ultimately his surprise, we had actually arranged for artists from all over the Country to come and perform to him songs that he had written or performed with them throughout his life.
Due to his deteriorating health, this was a Tribute show of sorts and was special in all kinds of perfect ways. I was even lucky enought to get to interview him for ten minutes in front of the crowd, about his inspirations and greater thoughts on life.
This was a day filled with moments we all shall cherish forever.
The event went for four hours and covered a range of genres, including poets, childrens songs, 70s rock and Country and Western. The range of genres and having 20+ artists of ages from 8 to 80 perform meant I could not get complacent with any settings and had to always be on my toes. I felt I helped contribute to the day running as smoothly as possible. It’s events like this that I must do more of as a means of improving my live sound mixing, and also critical listening skills.
This year has been wonderful and intriguing. I enjoy not being the smartest person in the room, as I really believe in becoming a product of your environment. This is why I aim to surround myself with those that I can absorb the knowledge from, as they continue to motivate and inspire me to get better. I love my brain being a little sponge of knowledge, and as long as I can maintain the enthusiasm I've shown through this first twelve months at SAE I know I can only get better. Now is the time I must continue to work hard to make these improvements. Watch more tutorials, revise notes, work on drum beats and and apply the things I am learning in to Trial and Error situations. It is how I will learn and continue to improve, and whilst easily said, it is now up to me to make the difference. Thanks to all the great tutors I've had this year: Gareth, Trinski, Clarkey, Darren, Nick, Leon, Goran, Tom, Adam and Zhia, as you are the giants of whose shoulders which I stand on to build my path to success.