I.D. the sound #001 – solution

Ok, maybe it was too hard… promise the next one will be easier!
people were close when they said sticky tape but it was in fact:

packing tape!
Not sticky packing tape, but the textured plastic kind people use to bind cardboard boxes closed. The characteristic sound was created by putting a contact mic on the tape as I split it, lengthwise..

one more listen:

(the fact I used a contact mic rather than a ‘normal’ mic probably didnt help, but hey! more than a few of the msot interesting sounds in my library were captured via it)

capturing the wind (part 2)

On the top of Brooklyn Hill, here in Wellington, there is a huge wind turbine which apparently generates enough power to supply 300 homes (especially during a Southerly!) While there is much debate about the visual aesthetics of wind farms I have to confess I quite like the look of them, in fact IMHO they are more pleasant to the eye than many of the architectural abberations (aka suburban homes) in the immediate vicinity….. But even more so I love the sound of them! Where else can you go to hear the sound of air being sliced by a huge propellor? Its not like you can gaffer tape yourself to the front of an aeroplane….

To give you some idea of scale thats my record kit you can just see sitting on the ground at the base – have a listen, here is a recording from last Sunday, plus one from an earlier visit:

Matt had the genius idea of recording the interior ambience as an element for one of the locations in our current project & so a number of phone calls later we gained access to it….

And wow, what a great drone!

Not that either of us were keen, but we were told in no uncertain terms not to venture up the internal ladder – just this view gave me vertigo…

Beside the turbine there is also a tower with various aerials & wind measurement devices… the wind was fair whipping around it…

Of course I had my contact mic with me & after speculating as to what sound could be heard from attaching it to one of the guy wires, we just had to find out:

And this is the sound from tapping the guy wires:

Next I attached it to the actual base of the entire tower & wow!!!!!!!
sub bass rumbles galore!!!!

here is the same sound pitched up an octave, so you can appreciate what the rumble consists of:

I think this is the best criteria for a successful recording mission:
to record what you set out to, but to also find sounds that you didnt even know existed…


In this digital world you are only as good as your data & the difference between backup & archive slowly becomes crucial…. but if only we got paid by the file! I went to do a backup using Folder Syncronizer X on a third clone drive today (it hadnt been updated in two weeks) and after some number crunching & a few comparisons it concluded I had 51,087 files to backup! Ayekarumba – they can’t all be ProTools fade files!

sound, as art

‘Sound Art’ is literally sound as art, in its purest form… cinema with your eyes closed, sonic expressions of a creative mind, none of these descriptions go even half way to expressing the perceptual impact of walking into a gallery & encountering an artform which employs sound as its primary means of expression. The first time I visited London back in 2000, aside from seeing every relevant gig I could, I noticed an exhibition in the gig guide of sound art by someone called Carsten Nicolai… So after visiting the Tate Modern I wandered along to this gallery & witnessed something quite profound, incredibly beautiful & oddly resonant to some of what I had been working on in film sound, the LFE channel of 5.1…

These photos do not do justice to the experience & it is a fundamental issue with Sound Art; how to document it? Its even more ephemeral than Video Art and as experiential as it is experimental…
Sonically this installation involved a number of subwoofers emitting modulated subsonic sine waves, which were exciting the room tones of the gallery both visually & acoustically. Sitting on top of the subwoofers were trays of water which were physically vibrating to the soundwaves, and with spotlights angled to bounce light off the surface of the water the projections of the interference patterns played beautiful synchronised projections on to the walls of the gallery…
40 minutes went by in three slow deep breaths and two blinks….

& today via vvork i saw this (& wished i was where it is, or vice versa)

Sustainable a dynamic robotic sound installation; mp4 video

Metaphoric sound

“The metaphoric use of sound is one of the most fruitful, flexible and inexpensive means: by choosing carefully what to eliminate, and then adding back sounds that seem at first hearing to be somewhat at odds with the accompanying image, the filmmaker can open up a perceptual vacuum into which the mind of the audience must inevitably rush.
Every successful reassociation is a kind of metaphor, and every metaphor is seen momentarily as a mistake, but then suddenly as a deeper truth about the thing named and our relationship to it. The greater the stretch between the “thing” and the “name,” the deeper the potential truth.”

I’m quoting Walter Murch from a very interesting article called Stretching Sound to Help the Mind See – but exactly what is a metaphor & how are they created? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them…”

This article Pay attention to the world by Susan Sontag helps explain metaphors in reference to their most common application, in the fields of poetry & literature;
“The dimension of time is essential for prose fiction, but not, if I may invoke the old idea of the two-party system in literature, for poetry (that is, lyric poetry). Poetry is situated in the present. Poems, even when they tell stories, are not like stories. One difference lies in the role of metaphor, which, I would argue, is necessary in poetry. Indeed, in my view, it is the task – one of the tasks – of the poet to invent metaphors. One of the fundamental resources of human understanding is what could be called the “pictural” sense, which is secured by comparing one thing with another. Here are some venerable examples, familiar (and plausible) to everyone:
time as river flowing, life as dream, death as sleep, love as illness, life as play/stage, wisdom as light, eyes as stars, book as world, human being as tree, music as food etc, etc
A great poet is one who refines and elaborates the great historical store of metaphors and adds to our stock of metaphors. Metaphors offer a profound form of understanding…”

As applied to the use of sound in film, the concept is really about the psychology of an audience, as illustrated in this writing/storytelling guide: “a metaphor provides…a cue to what kind of thinking should be done…Metaphors act as shepherds to lead the audience onto the correct path of thought and mindset.”

food for thought…

I.D. the sound #001

ok, your mission should you choose to accept it is to identify the sound!

I am prepared to answer yes/no questions but I will try & avoid providing any clues… So the question is specifically how was the sound created? It was recorded in real time & hasnt been processed or manipulated at all:


I remember when i was a kid they used to have something like this on the radio. (And yes there is a prize, although i haven’t decided what it is yet)

Picture Editing

In film sound editorial one of the most important people we deal with, aside from the director & producer, is the picture editor and their assistant/s… they are our conduit into the project & I have been lucky to work with some very talented picture editors over the years. With the ever changing workflow involved with recording sound on Hard Disk recorders, metadata & the various ages of the NLE workstations it is also very challenging territory for assistant editors. The skills they must possess are a critical mix of technical & creative – this video goes a little way to illustrate the fundamentals, heh heh

ADR (with Orson Welles)

Recording ADR can be tiring at the best of times, but this recording of Orson Welles voicing a commercial is hilarious. Never have I heard such succinct putdowns as he struggles to read a script obviously written to be read & not spoken aloud….

‘crispy crumb coating!?’

a word to the wise

“My feeling is that if somebody has got the imagination, they’ll figure a way to do something no matter what the limitations are. As I was saying before, when David (Lynch) and I worked on The Grandmother, we had nothing like we have now, and we still got what we needed, sometimes just out of junk lying around. For Eraserhead, we floated a big five gallon bottle in a bathtub with a microphone inside. We recorded the innards of an old Bell & Howell movie camera as it chugged away. David blew into an old metal heater and put a microphone in the bottom of it and got some kind of weird sounds, and then we altered them and slowed them down. You can do all this, and you don’t need a big budget or thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Sometimes that stuff just gets in the way. You just need to use your imagination.”

This quote is taken from an interview with Alan Splet, an eternally inspiring sound designer, published in a Americ@n Cinematograph3r magazine, December 1984. Sadly he skipped off this mortal coil back in 1995 but his creative spirit & unique sound library continue, thanks to his partner & sound recordist Anne Kroeber, who runs Sound Mountain. When I was working on the film The World’s Fastest Indian we needed to recreate the sounds of classic land speed racer cars & Anne provided us with some fantastic sounds that were both unique & perfectly suited.
The rest of the article about Alan Splet & his work on Dune is available here (apologies for the scan quality) and below is a list of films worthy of careful listening, thanks to imdb

Alan Splet Filmography

Rising Sun (1993) (music editor) (sound designer)
Wind (1992) (supervising sound editor)
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991) (sound editor)
By the Sword (1991) (sound designer)
Henry & June (1990) (sound designer)
Mountains of the Moon (1990) (supervising sound editor)
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) (supervising sound editor)
Dead Poets Society (1989) (supervising sound editor)
Winter People (1989) (sound editor)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) (supervising sound editor)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) (sound designer)
The Mosquito Coast (1986) (supervising sound editor)
Blue Velvet (1986) (sound designer)
Warning Sign (1985) (supervising sound effects editor)
Dune (1984) (sound designer)
Never Cry Wolf (1983) (sound)
The Elephant Man (1980) (sound designer) (special sound effects)
The Black Stallion (1979) (supervising sound editor)
J-Men Forever (1979) (sound effects)
Days of Heaven (1978) (special audio assistant)
Eraserhead (1977) (location sound and re-recording, sound editor, sound effects)
The Grandmother (1970) (sound editor) (sound effects) (sound mixer)

sync test

why is this video out of sync?
the 2 pip feels 10 or 15 frames late!?!
W T F ?

its a standard 24fps SMPTE leader with a 1 frame beep on the 2 flash
or it was before i uploaded it….

‘hello, youtube?’

2021 Update: back when I posted this in 2007, sync was off by approx 10-15 frames, variable every time..
Thanks evolution for sorting that out!

piano + electronics

I have been a big fan of the ongoing collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto (Carsten Niccolai) since their first album, Vrioon was released a year or two ago on the raster noton label. Heres a short excerpt from a track ‘Trioon I’ off the album;

And a piece of the track ‘Berlin’ off their second album – Insen

The third release was an EP called revep, which features a beautiful version of a piece of the score to the film Merry Christmas Mr Lawerence

Over the last few years the pair have also completed three major tours, performing Insen live with piano, electronics and some exquiste synaesthesic visuals created by Karl Kliem – I SO want to go see/hear this concert but in the meantime I ordered and just received a DVD of the live concert released by raster noton & available here

The DVD has a 5.1 soundtrack and multiple viwing angles as well as short making of documentary, although one has to wonder why Karl Kliem was not interviewed – his visual interpretations are most definitely the third member of this live trio, check this bit of audience wobbly cam to see what I mean:

crashing cars for a living

What to do with an old car that still goes, but the idea of it actually passing a warrant of fitness is less likely than discovering a perpetual motion engine in a junk store in Westport? I believe one of the best options is to donate it to a bunch of maniacal sound editors & let it become one with its particles as we smash the living daylights out of it. I’ve learnt from this article source that except the licence, documents like insurances and pollution check should be maintained by the new owner of the car. So, I briefed myself on stuff like this before showing it to anyone.

here is the ‘before’ photo, a donated Ford Telstar parked outside my old studio in Jessie Street – the front windscreen was already smashed but other than that it actually was quite driveable… Late the previous evening, when the city was quiet, i put a couple of mics inside the car & stomped around on the roof & got some great sounds until one of the neighbours woke up & asked me what the hell I was doing?!?

The first time we did this we had six sound recordists and a serious array of crow bars, hammers & axes. This time there were just four of us – we got access to the local landfill/rubbish dump after hours & spent the next three hours wreaking every kind of sonic havoc that we could muster. First up was reversing it into other car bodies & a huge pile of fridges and we got some massive metal impacts! Then we drove slowly into the other car bodys & recorded some fantastic metal scrapes – the kind that when heard in real life you just know the next phone call is to your insurance agent. Here is a video clip of reversing into fridges (hint, if you ever do this – reversing is better for recording car crash impacts for a start as it doesnt damage the engine)

And a few ‘car meets mountain of fridges’ sounds:

After we had tired of driving moves we decided to try & blow the motor up. A brick was found & placed on the accelerator & we stood back as the motor screamed its lungs out. After about ten minutes the entire exhaust & muffler were glowing red hot & the motor began to self oscillate in revs until it finally seized.

By this point the motor was VERY hot & we recorded some fantastic hot metal ‘tinks’ as it cooled

Next up we recorded puncturing the tyres with a sharp knife:

Followed by an array of axe & hammer impacts on the doors, bonnet & roof

Everyone went home physically exhausted.. and the following day we compiled all the various perspective recordings into a fantastic library that has been used in more than a few films since. Highly reccomended for the sound effects library (& for any residual violence/stress relief) and SO MUCH BETTER than the generic sound FX that you can buy in commercial librarys. They are also easier to find/remember when hunting through the many thousands of sound files in my library, simply because I was there and recorded it myself – every sound effect from that session is permanently imprinted in my brain, unlike generic library sound effect….

And here are a few of the ‘after’ photos”


sashimi as a metaphor

I am seriously hanging out to see David Lynch’s new film Inland Empire and for now have to make do with some youtube teasers

The official trailer:

The italian trailer:

The second official trailer:

And a short clip about Angelo Badalamenti – I never realised he acted in Mulholland Drive! I’m a big fan of his film scores & this clip is worth watching just to see him play a bit of the score to Mulholland Drive on the piano…

FWIW I also recently bought a book Mr Lynch has just released, which I can highly reccomend if you are interested in the creative process – his and your own. Its called ‘Catching The Big Fish – Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity’ and it is one of those books that you could easily skim read in a few hours, but the impact of a single paragraph may well take weeks to process.


I’m mad busy prepping for a temp mix at the moment & there is one part of the technical process that is only made possible by the genius of Justin at maggot software

What you are looking at are the changes in a reel of a film, in this case going from picture cut version 2 to cut 3. By importing cutlists generated by the AVID picture editor, Conformalizer works out what has changed & then automates the process of moving & recutting your ProTools tracks so you are back in sync with the new cut. We used to have to do this manually & it is both painful & very time consuming, especially if you are dealing with large trackcounts in multiple sessions & when coming down to a fine cut there may be many many single frame changes in the picture cut…

Conformalizer also has this great visual display which illustrates how the picture cut has changed. As you select a line in the changelist above (as highighted) the display below reflects the section of the old cut (the upper blocks) and where it is in the new cut (the lower blocks). This is true genius & makes a complex task intuitive..

You can also use it to conform text databases eg ADR lists or FX cueing databases and it has some built in smarts so you can track updated VFX shots, which considering how much of many big budget films incorporate VFX in some way, is critical. One last feature worthy of a rant before I get back to work is the interface Conformalizer has which lets you import both the old and new Quicktime at the same time & then step through the change list above with both videos in sync – again an inspired feature to quickly verify what has changed in a shot…
If you work on projects where ‘locked picture’ is but a distant dream off then check out Conformalizer

the cinematic orchestra

the new album by The Cinematic Orchestra is not far off release & if you visit their subsite on ninjatune you can download a preview song….
Words cannot describe how achingly beautiful that song is!
But dont take my word for it – go here

air show – but not heard?!?!!

Don’t get me wrong – i LOVE the sound of air moving, and the more extreme examples are sometimes (but not always) the most interesting to appreciate. So why is it that if you go to an air show, you can be sure to have your ears assaulted by banalities more appropriate to daytime television?? Take this example, a friend photographed last weekend at Whenuapai – as awe inspiring as it is to look at, what do you think it sounded like?

We shall never know

If you are reading this after google searching ‘air show, sounds, amazing’ then your next stop is to complain to whoever you are about to buy a ticket from, to otherwise see (& not hear) some amazing aircraft…. A year or two ago I went to Warbirds Over Wanaka which is in all effect the geographically most awesome air show possible.. and here was me, DAT recorder (hey, it was the 90s) & mics ready to go, but after spending a day there I am not sure I even got to cleanly record half a dozen passbys…. if they didnt have music pumping through the lo fi PA system, they had some commentator commentating…
Please note I am not complaining about the enthusiasts, for it is they who fund such fantastic event.. .but they are smart – broadcast the commentary over some FM band & let the rest of us, with ears open to pure experience, have a PURE EXPERIENCE…. please?

diy music box

i’ve always loved the sound of music boxes & have recorded them attached to different objects – acoustic guitars, pianos, drums… but today in the mail I just got the coolest of all music boxes: a diy music box!

I think it is the same as the one I have seen that fantastic Icelandic band Amiina play. It comes with 3 paper rolls & a hand punch for creating your own music, although one of the rolls is already punched to play Happy Birthday, so buy one for the musician in your life at the Grand Illusion website