• Ryan van Eerde

Finishing the World Builder Animations

Below is a compilation video of the completed world builder animations, unfortunately I only got content from 4 out of the 6 animators so I'm a couple of clips short from what I was expecting. The compilation is still longer than a minute though which was the minimum length I wanted for this project, I would have liked to have done more but you can't always rely on others to pull through.

The 4 animations a relatively simple and I didn't go overboard with producing the audio for them, I'll be going through and explaining roughly how the sound in these clips came together one by one.

The Traveller

For all of the animations that I worked on the main workflow that I used was to use multiple clips for certain sounds and send them to auxiliary tracks. This is done so that when I produce a sound or effect that I like, to mix it in with everything else all I have to do is work from the AUX track without disturbing the audio clips going into it. It also means that I can process the different clips as a whole inside of the AUX track.

First up I began populating the scene with character and environment sounds which just footsteps and trees/leaves rustle. For the footsteps I put in markers that line up with the characters movement then used a couple layers of different sand and grass footstep samples to blend together in order to produce the tone and texture I wanted. I also blended in a rustling leaves sample to help fill the space between the footsteps, this was done to make them sound a little bit more natural and not like random samples coming in and out. When I did this though the leaves sample masked the footstep sound a little too much so I set up a side chain compressor on the leaves track triggered from one of the footstep tracks, this meant that whenever the footstep sound played the leaves sample would be slightly ducked out of the way leaving more room for the main footstep sound to come through.

Footstep sound with leaves rustle pad.

As the footstep sound is short and fast I used a quick attack and release time on the compressor to make sure the leaves sample gets out of the way and comes back in quick enough.

The trees/leaves atmosphere track was just a couple more leaves rustle sample sounds that I had on 2 tracks both panned 30% left and right to provide a little bit of space in the scene. I felt that when I went wider than 30% it started to sound unnatural and was somewhat distracting, I also did some low and high pass EQ to soften the sound and give it overall less presence in the mix.

Leaves rustle samples with EQ

Next I wanted a magical sound to represent the light coming from the characters staff, for this I used a soft sounding synth pad that slightly modulates, I unfortunately removed the instrument track when I was cleaning up my session so I can't show you how I produced the sound. I played and recorded out 2 tones from this synth one tone for when the wizard is walking forwards then another one slightly higher in pitch as she slams her staff into the ground. This slight raise in pitch was used to represent the fact that her staff is now producing more magical energy and is getting ready for a potential battle. Also at the point at which she slams the staff into the ground I have used a cinematic impact sample to make it appear than she has just unleashed some magic that is reverberating around the area.

Magic sound and staff impact.

After that was the music track, I didn't want anything too intense my main goal was to build tension but also try and represent the female wizard character who we are not sure what she is actually capable off. For this I wanted to produce an almost angelic sounding track which I achieved by using a choir instrument and a very washed out and fuzzy sounding synth preset. The choir consisted of a male section playing chords acting as a foundation for a solo female voice layered over the top, this female voice is what really produces the tension. Also due to the fact that the main character is a female wizard it felt appropriate to have the main musical voice be female as well. The synth sound is only used to fill out the sonic space some more, its not extremely high in the mix but you do miss it when its not there.

Choir and synth instruments, with a midi chord progression.

Lastly was a couple of dialogue lines for the Wizard and the Goliath at the end. Both lines were recorded with a Neumann U87, the Wizard lines were done by a fellow engineer Alice Headlam and the Goliath ones were done by myself (with some processing). I used the U87 because I wanted a really accurate and clean representation of our voices that I could then later process how ever I needed, I tried out a Shure SM7B as well but I liked the U87 better (the price difference had nothing to do with my decision). I used basically the same plugin processing for all of the dialogue lines just in different amounts, which consisted of an EQ, compressor, DeEsser, and a reverb, I know that putting a reverb on an audio track is a bit of a taboo but because this is such a small session it really doesn't matter. For the Goliath voice I took my voice line duplicated it and pitch shifted one down by 6 semitones and the other one by 12 and blended them together to produce a voice that is deep and demonic sounding.

Dialogue plugins and waveforms.

Once all the the different sounds were produced I mixed and balanced them together, because there isn't many sounds this process wasn't that difficult. When I was happy with the mix I chucked on a limiter and brought the overall sound up to around -13LUFS ready for YouTube.

The basic process for producing the audio elements for the rest of the clips is mostly exactly the same as The Traveller, populate the animations with environment and character sounds, SFX, music then dialogue.

Seraphim Calling

As there isn't any movement in this clip I didn't have to sync up any audio elements to what is happening on screen and there isn't a great deal to tell story wise. I started off with producing a fire sound for the torches next to the alter, this consisted of a rustling sound produced by slowly moving some film tape (tape that I'm amusing is used for film cameras) and a popping/breaking sound made by manipulating a pinecone. I used 2 separate sounds for each and panned them slightly left and right to mimic the position of the torches in the clip and used some low pass EQ to help blend the sound into the background. I felt that the sound was a little to clean and present sounding so I used a SansAmp plugin to make the sound a bit dirtier and a bit more low pass EQ to really reduce the high frequency content.

Fire SFX tracks with SansAmp and EQ processing.

The main concept behind this animation is that an explorer has discovered some magical artefact in a lost tomb so I needed to produce another magic FX sound. I followed the same process that I used in The Traveller, recording out a synth pad that has a slight modulation to it, I just used a preset to do this as I found one that worked well. After I recorded it to an audio track I wanted it modulate a bit more than what it was so I added a Phaser plugin to get the sound to move some more, this also acted as a good filter to soften the sound as the original pad was a little too harsh sounding. I again used some low pass EQ to provide some distance and set the sound back further into the environment.

Magic sound production with Phaser, EQ and Synth.

Another semi magical sound I wanted was for the transition to the end title scene, to produce this I found a very reverby cinematic hit sample that I thought fitted the animation. The main impact sound comes in when the title flashes onto the screen to provide more intrigue and signal that something has happened. Leading up to this sound I have a reversed version of it to build into the main impact, this also has some low pass EQ to help distinguish between to 2 sounds.

Cinematic impact and reversed buildup sounds.

For the music I knew from the beginning that I wanted something tribal sounding, this instantly made me think of Taiko drums, so that's what I started with. Working out the rhythm was quite a challenge, I started by playing random rhythmic patterns on my MIDI keyboard and recorded a couple in Pro Tools. After I got a main rhythm that I was happy with I began layering more Taiko drum rhythms over the top to produce a bigger, more tribal sound, this process had a lot of trial and error to it before I got 4 different drum tracks that all fitted together well. I also played each track with different keyboard notes to give the effect of multiple different tuned drums that would be played by different people, and panned a couple of them left and right to make the patterns more interesting and feel like the drums are coming from all around you. To get these drums to sound big and distant I used a Tony Maserati drum plugin set on the Toms preset to help boost the resonance of the MIDI drum samples, from there I added reverb to make the drums sound even bigger and to provide them with some space. Then it was just the usual low and high pass filtering to make them fit into the environment better and to make them not so overpowering, I also brought down some frequencies around the 400Hz as the drums had become a little muddy sounding.

MIDI drums with processing.

After the drums I started to work on the melodic musical elements which consisted of a Tuba, Trombone and a male choir. The male choir acts as a pad for the Brass instruments which are used to produce an ominous and threatening sound as this explorer is being drawn towards the artefacts power. The composition was really simple because I didn't want the melody to detract from the Taiko drums I had produced earlier, its a very simple chord progression that is used to build tension and set this ominous mood that I wanted. Like everything else I used low and high pass filtering to make the music fit into the scene better and not become too overbearing.

MIDI music tracks and EQ.

Lastly was the dialogue which follows the exact same process I did in The Traveller, spoken by me into a Neumann U87, then processed with an EQ, Compressor, DeEsser, and Reverb. I found a point in the animation where I felt like the timing of the dialogue fitted and adjusted the reverb amount until it matched the space of the tomb. Then I mixed everything together chucked on a limiter until I got the audio to -13LUFS as well.

Atop a Crab's Back

The main thing for this animation was to portray the sound of the factory on top of the crabs back, this was the most complicated sound I've had to make so far in these animation. Its made up off 2 different mechanical piston samples that I have time stretched and lowered in pitch, a couple of creaking floorboard sounds for the cabs movement, 2 tracks of mechanical impact sounds pitch shifted differently from each other and filtered pink noise for the steam. All of the tracks have some form of low and high pass filtering in different amounts to bring forward and push back certain sounds, the the creaking floorboards samples have been heavily filtered to really push that sound back into the mix but there's still enough of it to fill out the sound. All of the sounds are being sent to a reverb Aux and then the whole SFX is set through a SansAmp plugin to distort the sound and add some low frequency harmonics. I felt that this worked to help describe the industrial and oppressive nature of the factory on the giant crab. I also used low pass filtering to portray distance of the factory from the audience.

Goblin factory samples and processing.

The music for this animation was also the most intricate as well, it consisted of Bass, Cello, Violin, Male and Female Choir, French horn and Trumpet. Most of the instruments follow a simple chord progression with instruments coming in and out playing separate melodies. This was done to give the music some movement and to not linger on any one instrument too much all in the bid to make the animation more interesting. Like the music I produced in the other animation I didn't follow a specific key signature I composed and constructed the chords and melody by ear depending on what I felt was right for the animation. I sometimes like composing in this way because I feel like I have more freedom to experiment and hone in on a sound without imposing musical restriction on myself. Again all of these instruments have some form of low and high pass filtering to make them fit the space of the animation.

MIDI music production.

Lastly like the previous 2 animation dialogue line were recorded with a Neumann U87, the same processing was used then everything was mixed together and limited to reach -13LUFS.

Absence of the Divine

This animation starts of with a drone scoping out some kind of alien fortress, for the drone sound I used an atmospheric space sample that I time stretched, a quickly pulsing hydraulic sound, and a wired mechanical movement sound that I chopped up and pasted certain clips one after another. For the end of the clip when the drone gets hit with the bolt of electrical energy I used a couple of guitar amp stutter and noise samples and an electrical glitch effect to emulate the drone malfunctioning and breaking down. Like the animation above all of these sounds have some form of low and high pass filtering in different amounts to push certain sounds back into the mix more than others.

Drone sound samples.

Next was the sound of the creatures movement and hammer smash which was produced with a heavy footstep sample and a couple of bass drop effects layered together with the hammer smash having a second louder sample mixed in as well. All of these samples got sent to a reverb to give them more weight in order to make them appear as if they are coming from the huge alien creature.

Footstep and hammer smash creation with reverb plugin.

To produce the electric hammer sound I used multiple different sounds like electrical glitches, noises and zaps, thunder claps, a synth pad and a buildup riser for the impact. Due to the fact that I wanted this sound to really cut through and be present in the I didn't do any filtering to the individual clips, if I did I would have lost all of that nice crisp electrical noise (which is what I was trying to produce in the first place). To make the sound even more electrical and distorted I mixed in some parallel distortion with the SansAmp plugin, this meant that I could have a clean sounding effect and blend in as much distortion as I wanted without messing up the overall tone I had created. I also added a bit of compression to help squash all of the sounds together I used a fast attack and slow release to achieve this, to make the sound cut through even more I boosted the frequencies around 126Hz and 1.4kHz.

Electric hammer sound samples with processing.

Lastly was the music track which came about with me finding a synth preset that sounded like a distorted electric guitar, so all I did was record out a very basic progression and synced it up to fit what was happening inside of the animation. I also created a very simple Taiko drum beat that follows the rhythm of the synth track to punctuate it a little more. This music track isn't mixed in that high because the animator felt like it was taking away from the other sounds in the scene, that's why this music track sounds a lot lower than the other animations. Again more low and high pass filtering to make the music fit the scene better.

Guitar synth and drum sample.

I did record some dialogue lines for this animation but they didn't really fit into the scene that well and I felt like they detracted more than they added so I decided not to use them. They were going to be line spoken by the drone operator but I really didn't like the scripting off them. Like the other animations after all of the elements were created I mixed them the used a limiter to bring the level of the audio up to -13LUFS. The little bit of audio in the beginning was a couple of left over sounds from the production of the electric hammer smash sound.

I hope this sheds some light onto how I produced the sounds within these 4 animations, choosing and blending together all of the different sounds and music took longer than what I make out in their descriptions. Most of the time was spent in trial and error finding and working out what works and what doesn't. I had a fun experience doing these animation and I believe the animators are happy with what I managed to produce for them, its just a shame that I couldn't work on the other 2 animations as well.

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