DF3420 Sound Design

Syllabus and Meeting Times

DF3420 Sound Design

This course explores the various methods and techniques for digital sound composition and design. Students will focus on using digital sound systems and manipulating sound elements for intended effects in media content.

Instructor: John Keston

Meeting Times and Location Section (M/W):
Session 1 / Session 2
Room 009 11:00am – 12:00pm
Room 229 12:00pm – 2:00pm

DF3420 Sound Design Syllabus

Glossary of Terms: ca2431glossary.doc

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6
Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11

Week 1

Session 1: After covering the syllabus and an overview of the class curriculum, the week will be a mixture of review, for those of you who have had Audio Production in the past, and a few new concepts for everyone. We’ll start with discussing what sound is and how we react to it in our environment. Next we’ll look at the the concepts of recording sound and compare analogue and digital methods.

Chapter 1 “Creating the Sound Design Step-by-Step” – Sound Design by Davis Sonnenschein

Recording Technology History
Digital Audio Basics
Pro Tools 7 Quick Keys for Macintosh

Session 2: When creating sound design work for moving images forethought and planning go a long way. Start by reading the script and then begin to analyze the text for clues to what sort of explicit sounds are necessary for the piece. Some specific sound elements are obvious and often typed in all caps, but a far greater amount of sound is merely implied and left up to the interpretations of the sound designer. In class today we’ll take a look at the first few scenes from the script for the movie Blade Runner. While reading we will identify possible sounds made by objects, actions, the environment, emotions, and transitions.

Week 2

Session 1: Today we will discuss to requirements for our first project, “Environments and Processing”. The goal of the “Environments and Processing” project is to re-create from a written script the sound design for a movie scene that contains no dialogue using pre-recorded sound effects. The lack of dialogue allows us to focus on imagining all of the sounds that illustrate the characteristics of the scenario.

Mix a minimum of five layers (tracks) of sound that support the objects, actions, environments, emotions, and transitions for the scene provided. Use volume automation, panning, reverb, and other signal processing to “place” the sounds giving them a sense of space. Use your imagination to organize the sounds on the timeline as if they were synchronized to picture.

We will present our projects in class on session 2 of week 3. Five percent of your grade is awarded for participating in the presentations. Here’s a link to the word document that contains the project requirements:

Assignment 1: Sound Design – Environments and Processing

Later in the lab I will continue with some more Pro Tools demonstrations that relate to the current project.

Sound Design by David Sonnenschein – Chapter 2, Expanding Creativity

Session 2: Before continue with more Pro Tools demonstrations related to the “Environments and Processing” project, let’s take a look at the sound design special features from the movie WALL-E. These special features include interview with lead sound designer, Ben Burtt, as well as the director, Andrew Stanton, and several other people who contributed to the film.

WALL-E Special Features Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up (Part 1)
WALL-E Special Features Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up (Part 2)

Week 3

Session 1: So far we have explored gathering sounds from libraries and using them to create sonic environments. For the duration of this class we will examine and utilize a variety of sources and techniques for producing sound design and effects. Let’s discuss all the possible sound sources available typically used in moving imagery.

  • Production tracks – Sound recorded on set during shooting can be useful, but is sometimes problematic.
  • Sound libraries – They lack character and originality, but layering and processing can create new textures.
  • Wild track recordings – Getting out in the field and making your own recordings is great but can be expensive.
  • Foley – Use foley techniques to bring characters to life on screen.
  • Sampling – Digitized audio can be manipulated in many ways (frequency, envelopes, and granular techniques).
  • Synthesis – Electronically producing sound from nothing but electronics and mathematics can be very satisfying.

Also, during lab time today I will be looking at your work so far on the “Environments and Processing” assignment.

“Environments and Processing” Required Project Milestone / Feedback
1. Individually show your work in progress for the “Environments and Processing” project.
2. Be prepared to illustrate the use of non-destructive processing and automation.
3. Have at least four layers created out of the five layers required.

Session 2: Our next project involves more creative challenges because we will not be using pre-recorded sound effects from existing libraries. Instead we’ll be making our own sounds through field recordings and foley techniques.

Assignment 2: Sound Design – Wild Track Recording and Foley

Today we will be presenting the “Environments and Processing” projects. As we listen try to picture the scene that is supported through the sounds. Think of comments, questions, and feedback for you classmates.

Week 4

Session 1: What are some good techniques for creating sounds effects through recording techniques? How, for example, would you make the sound of a human heartbeat? What about bones breaking, explosions, or fire? Obviously it can be difficult to record the real thing for many examples of sounds that we need to produce. Today we will experiment with recording sounds in the studio and processing them to produce specific kinds of effects that might otherwise be expensive or dangerous to record. Although it seems mundane, we’ll also record multiple examples of footsteps and experiment with placing them in specific environments.

There are many resources that offer suggestions for producing specific types sounds. Here’s a link to a discussion on how to produce a long list of sounds that may otherwise be difficult or expensive to record naturally.

Epic Sound: Guide to Sound Effects

Session 2: Today I will demonstrate how to produce the effect of a human heartbeat. We will also review working with axillary sends in Pro Tools. Finally I am assigning a short, two page research paper on experimental sound design techniques. This paper is optional if you attend HHHM6.

Research Paper Requirements (Due on session 1, Week 7):

1. Write a two page research paper on an experimental sound design technique of your choice. Suggested resources include, AudioCookbook.org, Create Digital Music, { sound + design }, and Designing Sound.

2. You can focus on a technique that uses software or a software plugin to create an effect, or a technique that unitizes physical equipment to produce, capture or process sounds. Examine the historical context of the technique. Who uses it and how? What is advantageous about it versus other mothods?

Week 5

Session 1: Sampling and synthesis are two areas within sound design that I find particularly fascinating. Using any of a broad variety of synthesis techniques, sounds can be invoked from nothing but mathematics and electronics, essentially bringing abstract, aural ideas into reality.

Pioneering examples of synthesis in music include, Tomita (The Planets), Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bach), Jean Michel Jarre (Oxygene), and Kraftwerk (Autobahn).

The first of these techniques that we will explore is called subtractive synthesis. This method involves the removal of harmonics from basic waveforms through the use of a filter, similar to an equalizer.

The typical signal path of a basic analog synthesizer:

I will explain this diagram during our discussion.

“Wild Tracks and Foley” Project Milestone and Feedback
Please be prepared to show that you have completed the following steps before the end of lab today:
1. Show that you have a minimum of three audio tracks and a master fader layered so far
2. Illustrate the use of inserts on at least one of the audio tracks
3. Demonstrate how you have applied automation to one or more tracks
4. Ask questions. This is your final chance to get feedback on your project

Session 2: At the beginning of class today we will be presenting the “Wild Tracks and Foley” project. After the presentations let’s discuss the requirements for the next two part assignment, synthesis and sampling.

Week 6

Session 1: Today I’ll be demonstrating the techniques necessary for completing part one of the “Inventing New Sounds: Synthesis and Sampling” project. In order to create synthesized sounds we will use Propellerheads Reason. This software offers several devices for producing analog modeled, synthesized sound. One of the easiest, yet great sounding, instruments to learn about synthesis is Subtractor.

Assignment 3: Inventing New Sounds – Synthesis and Sampling

Session 2: Today we’ll be reviewing more capabilities in Reason and having a discussion on the concept of sampling. After the discussion I’ll be demonstrating how to use the NN-XT sampler in Reason. We will look at loading samples and applying envelopes and other parameters to the sampled sounds.

Week 7

Session 1: Today we will look at the requirements for the “ADR, and Foley for Moving Images Project”.

The final project for the Sound Design class involves the combination and synchronization of sound and visual media. The goal of the project is to involve all the competencies listed class the class, including two new competencies. First, “Synchronize audio and video tracks to ensure proper playback and continuity” and second, “Incorporate the techniques of Foley/ADR in production”. Therefore, visual media that requires voice acting is necessary. Secondly, studio time to replace “on set” dialogue using ADR techniques is required.

In order to efficiently meet these requirements, it makes sense to form groups with a minimum of three student members. Three roles are necessary for each group – a producer, a sound designer, and one or more voice actors. All members of each group will share the engineering responsibilities. The producer will be responsible for writing the story and presenting a script to the group, the sound designer will be responsible for recording Foley and collecting sound effects and ambience for the piece, and the voice actor(s) will provide their talents on set and in the studio during ADR.

Sound Design Project 4 – ADR and Foley for Moving Images

Session 2: Today we will be presenting the Synthesis and Sampling projects. Afterward let’s continue working on solidifying the groups for the final project.

Week 8

Session 1: Today’s topic for discussion is ADR, or Automated Dialogue Replacement. ADR is commonly used in movies to replace the on set dialogue. Often the on set dialogue is unusable due to background noise, poor recording levels, or a myriad of other issues that arise while shooting the scene. Re-recording the audio in the studio ensures that the the recording is clean and dry with no background noise.

In class exercise: Copy the ADR_Exercise.zip from the WDIM drive. Decompress the .zip file and open the Pro Tools session. Experiment with reducing the noise levels using the “Expander/Gate Dyn 3” insert. Next re-align the dialogue in the scene. There will be five places where you will need to split the region in order to properly synchronize the dialogue.

ADR: “Automated” or “Automatic” Dialogue Replacement

Session 2: During week 9 and 10 we will be scheduling ADR sessions for each of the groups during lab time in room 009. The goal of these session will be to help prepare content for your final project and learn how to use the Pro Tools HD system for dialogue replacement.

Also, starting next week we will begin milestone reviews of your final projects so far. On session 1 of week 9 I would like to see a rough draft of your script and sound design notes from each group. Here are the requirements for the first milestone:

Sound Design Final Project Milestone #1
1. Present a rough draft of your script so far
2. Also present sound design notes
3. Finally present a schedule the of shooting and sound design
3. Due during lab of session 1, week 9

Review pages 32 – 25 in “Sound Design” by David Sonnenschein

Week 9

Session 1: No class due to holiday.

Session 2: Today is the first of our in class ADR sessions. One or two of our group will be re-recording their voice actors to picture using Pro Tools HD in the recording studio. We will start by importing the video for the shots into Pro Tools, then projecting that video through the window and into the recording stage. The voice actor can watch the video as they re-record their dialog.

Week 10

Session 1: Our schedule for today includes the second in class ADR session. One or two of our group will be re-recording their voice actors to picture using Pro Tools HD in the recording studio. We will start by importing the video for the shots into Pro Tools, then projecting that video through the window and into the recording stage. The voice actor can watch the video as they re-record their dialog.

Session 2: Today is the final in class ADR session before presentation next week.