Youtube Saturday: Looking at sound in Film

Yep, it's THAT time of the week again!

It’s been a while since my last post, but it’s finally back. This week’s youtube saturday is focused squarely on sound in films. This isn’t just limited to film scores, but dialogue, sound effects, atmospheric noise, and tips on how to get these best. But anyway, on with the show!

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A quick update

The Question continues to try and track down those missing blog posts...

I haven’t been updating as much recently – usually due to not being near a computer that is available, but I have managed to extend Habitual Film’s filming equipment. Hopefully I’ll be ready to showcase things in the near future.

But anyway, keep reading to see what I bought and why.

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GEEK! The Musical – Part 2

An awesome film, with sadistic dentist, an unlikely couple and a villain that would happily eat vegitarians!

Leading on from the blog post earlier today, is GEEK! The Musical part 2. Musicals aren’t often associated with geekdom, in fact many of them are targeted solely and specifically at women. Others are very much accessible to other groups, such as Little Shop of Horrors. Some are not even available on DVD (Yes, I’m referring to the sublimely awesome Avenue Q). Some are just random and genius like Rocky Horror Picture show. There’s a fair variety out there and I think it’s a little unfair how some have seemingly high-jacked the musical genre.

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GEEK! The Musical – Part 1

Dr Horrible - written in the Writer's Strike of 2008, it's an amazing film!

Musicals aren’t usually my thing. The whole singing and dancing, etc.. It’s both unrealistic and often cringe-worthy. Although that’s the traditional Hollywood musicals that do that, there are ones that I do find very entertaining. These are specialised in the Geek way though.

I’ve always been a fan of Buffy since the first season and it’s something I find has influenced a lot of other things as well. The first time I saw the musical episode of Buffy, Once More With Feeling I’ve known that Joss Whedon could literally do anything and it would still be amazing. Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Proved this several years later, sporting Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day and Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory).

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Details in storyboards

the storyboard for Idle Hands - the attention to detail is actually very good

Storyboards can be very useful. They’re not always needed, but when they are, it’s useful. But I hear you ask “What are they for?”. They’re basically for mapping out what will be filmed. It’s easier to do this if you have a location already down and drawn out.

Overall, there’s a clear difference between a floor plan and a storyboard. The floor plan lays out the technical details – where actors should stand, where the lighting rigs must be set up, where the camera needs to be/to go, etc… It goes hand in hand with the storyboard – showing what’s possible, what you need to do to get the creative elements of your shots, etc…

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The massive video editing extravaganza! – 50 tips! Part 10

And the last of the tips, 46-50!

46. Match cuts. Match cuts are great. They’re a visual similarity between the next shot and the previous one. It can be used to create a visual metaphor, to link a theme between shots and are generally an underused resource.

A match cut from 2001: A Space Odysey

47. Parallel editing. This is when a scene is intermixed with another. This gives the idea that two events are happening at the same time in different places. I’ve never done this one personally, but it’s something I’m sure I’ll be attempting in the future. I’d imagine the way to do this is to set down one sequence of events, then marking down where each of the cutaway shots will be. It’s important to get it right, since you’re mostly likely playing around with different speeds of action and pacing. Don’t be afraid to try putting them in different places though – sometimes experimentation provides better results.

48. Balancing audio. Getting the right balance between dialogue, sound effects and music can be difficult. Adjusting sound levels is one this, but actually producing a working soundtrack is another. You should really rank what needs to be heard in each bit, and make sure the top 1 or 2 can be heard above all else. The music can be tricky, depending on whether it’s diegetic (part of the scene/world) or non-diegetic (outside of the world). Non-diegetic usually doesn’t have too much dialogue, but when it does, the dialogue comes first. So non-diegetic sounds need to full on (not necessarily in terms of volume, but in also in terms of panning. The diegetic music however, that will need panning (sound out of mostly one side of the speakers). This gives the idea of a sound source. Other effects may mean limiting some of the frequencies, wet/dryness of the sound and even filters to simulate the type of room the action is in.

49. Reverse footage. Most of the time, you can tell when footage is reversed. If you want to add reversed footage to forward flowing sequences, make sure that the action is natural (unnatural action gives the audience an odd sense) and make sure you only use small snippets. Longer snippets, you generally can’t get away with. Reversing footage can help in a lot of ways though – through accidental means (a persons inflections may have a more accurate intent than the forward motion version), through safety (say for example, when a weapon is meant to stop dead on a point) and even through style (possibly when coupled with the forward motion of footage, to create a “rewind” effect).

50. Exporting. So, you’ve done all the work, and it’s great! Now, before you go any further, note down (or simply know) your project settings. Things like FPS (frames per second), aspect ratio (usually 4:3 for standard definition, 16:9 for high definition), whether it’s for TV or not (TV’s, or at least old ones can’t display the whole image, and instead cut an outside portion of the edge off) and make sure you’re not outputting at too low (or too high if file size is an issue) a data rate. You’ve done all that work, the way to justify it is to make sure it’s presented in as good a quality as you made it.

A handy little button on Sony Vegas - to match the project settings with the export ones. Some of the other video editing programs may have a similar feature - though data rate is not always included in this setting


The massive video editing extravaganza! – 50 tips! Part 9

Almost there, with tips 41-45!

41. Correction versus grading. Bear in mind that these are two separate concepts that utilise the same tools. Colour correction is about normalising colours, correcting colours and luminance values (light and dark) and matching them up with shots in the same sequence. Colour grading is about providing a mood – an atmosphere to the world. Two different concepts – one tool!

42. Transitions. Most of the time, I find transitions cheesy and annoying. If done well and stylised though, they can be really good. What do I mean by that? Well, if the transition fits in with what’s happening in the story or shot, it can work – having time and energy at the heart of a scene, it’s nice to see fast swipes of the camera of to one side. Also transitioning with camera movements also look effective, when a camera moves sideways to the right, having that wipe transition looks good. The main exception is fades, since those are usually okay for slower scenes. Just don’t overdo it.

Even Windows Movie Maker has an in-built transition palette

43. Take a break! Editing is a very lengthy and engaging process and time is gone before you know it. Don’t forget to take a break once in a while. Getting away from the computer monitor can enable you to think outside of the box in order to get over certain problems.

44. Cut it! If something isn’t working, cut it if possible. If it’s not essential to the story, if it slows down action, if its too fast for this scene it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s the only way to make something work right. I’ve had this a few times before, trying to put in a snazzy visual effect or even showing off camera angles and such. I had to cut it because it wasn’t fit for purpose – the time constraints with the camera angles, and the lack of repetition of a nifty effect to create style.

A scene from Terminator 2 that was cut because the director felt it didn't work - or to be more precise, that it was overly expositional

45. Sound bridges. Do you know what a sound bridge is? I’m pretty sure you do. But do you know how awesome they are? They’re very. use them whenever possible. Trust me, it’ll make the action flow and link scenes together to create an actual story rather than simply separate scenes. You simply can’t live without them!