The Arctic Sound Replacement - Production Process So Far
The whole Foley recording process took a couple of sessions to complete with my team consisting of, Ash, Alice and Carissa. I was really happy with how everything ran, I was driving the Pro Tools session and listening to what was being recorded in the Foley booth, whist Ash, Alice and Carissa where producing the sounds. For the majority of the recording we used a Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun microphone as it has an exceptional sound quality and is very sensitive which is good for picking up every little nuance when recording more delicate Foley sounds.
The idea I had for our first session was to go through and record some of the more simpler sounds and not get to bogged down in trying to work out how to produce things like wind effects or helicopter sounds. My workflow was relatively simple, start from the beginning, follow the spot list inside of Pro Tools, and work out how to produce the best possible sounds, just keep moving through the list whilst problem solving along the way. We would normally do a couple of test runs/hits for the sound we were producing whilst both me and the person in the Foley booth listening to make sure the sound was being translated well through the microphone. This proved well as we could make adjustments to how we were producing the sound to better fit what was being played on screen, for example something as simple as picking up a metal object we had to make sure that the materials we were using produced the same tone as what we would perceive the object in the trailer would. This results in a little bit of trial and error experimenting with different combinations of objects and the ways of handling them to produce the best possible result. I would record a few different takes of the Foley sound and put them into playlists so everyone in the session could choose what sounds they wanted in their sound replacement.
I believe we managed to get half way through the trailer in the first session and we got a decent amount of Foley assets recorded to review and evaluate before the next session. Luckily what we had produced was pretty good and we didn't have to go over and redo any of the sounds. The second session ran as smoothly as the first which was good, I attribute the smooth sailing of these sessions down to the fact that we all worked well as a team and had great ideas to overcome some of the more challenging sounds. One of these was the sound of a sled being pulling along the snow/ice, the speed of the drag had to be consistent and needed to have a feeling of weight to it whilst having that crunchy snow sound. To produce this we got one of the floor tiles from the Foley booth, grabbed it with a suction cup, and placed some film tape under it, see image below.
The basic idea would be for Alice to pull this contraption in time with the video whilst Ash holds and moves the microphone along whilst she drags it. The sound we got was quite convincing, I think the roughness of the carpet we did this on helped to add some more texture to the snow sound. After we got all of the specific Foley sounds for the objects in the trailer we then did full passes through the trailer for the footsteps and character clothe movement.
After all of the Foley sounds were recorded I began choosing and editing the exact ones I wanted for my project. The process I used was to listen to each individual playlist and pick out the ones that I deemed the most useful, in some cases I used a blend of multiple sounds from different takes to produce the overall tone and texture I was after. Due to the fact that I recorded each specific sound on their own individual tracks I was left with a Pro tools session which contain a large amount of unused space, see image below.
Having to constantly zoom in and out and scroll up and down would become tedious in the mixing process so what I decided to do was condense all of these clips into fewer tracks, see image below.
This makes the session a lot more manageable and allows me to use processing like EQ over multiple sounds saving on computer power, it also looks better.
One of the main SFX in the trailer would be the howling wind sound, in the Foley phase we recorded the back of a computer fan which produced a low frequency rumble that was to act as the base for some wind sound design. I started with some EQ and did some low and high pass filtering, I felt that the low end rumble was a little too much and there was some nasty electronic fan wine in the highs. I then made a decent boost around 1k to make the wind sound more in your face. The only trouble with this sound as it is was that there wasn't any movement, I really wanted to be able to make the wind sound like it was howling and have the ability to increase or decrease the intensity. To achieve this I started thinking about what plugins I have available that would allow me to modulate the frequency of the sound whilst also adding extra processing on top. I decided on the AIR Fuzz-Wah plugin which really helped me to shape the overall tone and add some extra Fuzz distortion to really make the wind sound nasty, see image below.
To modulate the sound all I had to do was move the FREQ control and I could sweep and filter certain frequencies to produce different wind effect. I decided to bus the output of this track into another free audio track so I could record and manipulate the FREQ control according to what was happening on screen. I could have used track automation but recording and moving the controls by hand means I could produce a more organic sound that could better follow along video.
After I did this I still didn't feel like it was enough and I wanted more intensity and movement in certain parts, so all I did was follow the exact same procedure but I swapped out the recorded audio for pink noise. The blend of these 2 wind effects works well in producing a more compelling sound overall to make the really windy scenes a lot more realistic.
Lucky for me I didn't have to record the dialogue lines and there isn't even that many either but unfortunately some lines are not in sync with the lip movements on screen so some editing will be required. I followed a simple process of working out where the out of sync syllables are, making cuts in the audio, then moving them frame by frame until I felt they were about in the right place, see image below.
To make sure I wasn't messing up the original take I had it duplicated onto another track so I could constantly refer back to see if what I was doing was actually making the sync better. Another small challenge I faced before I came to do any editing was actually working out where the ADR clips needed to go within the trailer as none of them had any form of time code or reference point. This resulted in me spending a bunch of time listening to each ADR clip and looking at the lip movements in the clip to work out which ones fitted in where, see image below.
After some trial and error and multiple tweaks here and there I managed to get something that I believe represents to flow and sync of the video. If I had time codes and original ADR tracks the whole editing process would have been easier but there wasn't much to deal with so it didn't prove to be too much of a hassle. After the ADR editing was completed I imported its session data into the edited Foley session previously mentioned to begin the mixing process.
Now that most of the sounds have been produced and edited all that is left now is to work out what music I want and start mixing everything together. The music is really whats going to tie all of the different sounds together so my choice of what songs I pick and how I process them will be crucial in the projects success. I believe the Foley sounds my team produced are great and the ADR sync is usable, everything is now riding on the interaction between these elements and the music tracks, so lets hope I can pull everything together in the end.
Lopez, M. (2019). Sennheiser MKH 416-P48U3 Shotgun Mic Review. Retrieved from https://www.proaudioland.com/news/sennheiser-mkh-416-p48u3-shotgun-mic-review/