The art of music and sound Effects

First off I just want to say that I am by no means an expert in Sound Effects.  This is simply a quick blog on my experience and thus tips and tricks that I’ve learned work  to enhance a film.

One of my biggest discoveries over the past few years is how much visual impact sound brings to your film, yes that’s right I did say Visual.   It’s almost like sound is a nitro boost for your visuals. If done right it can take an average scene or dare I say even a boring scene and add so much feeling and depth to it.

I once heard someone say that sound is the soul to a film. It’s the emotions of the characters that the audience can’t see. I thought this was such a great way of summing up music and SFX. He’d hit the nail on the head. In a novel a writer can tell you what the character is thinking and feeling. In film we can’t do this.  Yes a good actor should be able to convey something through their gestures and camera angles can also convey a certain mood or empower a character but it’s music and sound that feeds us those vital clues.

I think a great example of how we as humans perceive things is the Kuleshov experiment.

If you haven’t heard of this then watch the movie below and think about the man’s reaction and what he may be thinking

You may be surprised to know that each reaction shot of the man was exactly the same shot.  What Kuleshov had discovered was that by showing the audience an image, for example that of the soup or the dead child, we as humans automatically perceive what we feel the character should be feeling.

That is the power of editing but of course we’re talking about sound here.  The reason why I’ve given this as an example is because it goes to show how easy we as an audience can be manipulated but how we can also misinterpret a scene.  Obviously most of the time you’d want the music or SFX to enhance the emotions the audience members believe the character is feeling. So in the example of the man looking at the coffin, some somber music would be quite fitting.  However music can also be used to create a juxtaposition.

For example if we took the imagery of him looking at the woman. Without sound we automatically feel like he’s lusting over the woman.  But what if we were to play some sinister music over the top?  How creepy would that be?  This is where music is really useful in bringing out the subtext of your script, the words not spoken.

They say that sound is 70% what you see on screen and I believe that.  How many times have you happened to catch a scary movie on TV but the sound was on mute. Did you find it scary?  But I bet if you turned the sound up and closed your eyes you’d actually feel a little fear when the creepy tense music started.

This doesn’t mean you should be adding music to everything. There is a time and a place.  This is one of the problems we have when creating out 22 days later films.  With only 22 days to make the films from script to screen it means we have no time to find a composer.  So we’ve been having to use free music and SFX for everything. We’re also not very good at composing so it’s quite hard to be able to blend the music in and out. It was better to let the music continue to play in till a good point to fade it out rather then just abruptly fading it out.

If you do need to end some music abruptly it’s worth hiding it under a sound effect. An example in our film was when the four characters enter the hall at the beginning.


The music playing is fine up in till there’s a bang and they all turn to see what it is. By fading the music quickly under the bang sound effect it works quite well.

If you’re lucky you can also find tracks that blend together quite well and so go from one to the other.  But there will be many times when you just find that the music needs to fade out and it just doesn’t sit well.

This is why if you are going to make a film and you want it to be of the highest quality then hire a proper composer and sound mixer.  They’ll add so much to the production of your film. They’ll be able to take scenes that you thought were good to new levels. Bring out subtle acting cues and tense moments that just didn’t exist before.

A good example of this was the scene in the Great Spielron where Katie brings out the hat.


I wanted this to be very tense with a sense of foreboding.  We managed to source a subtle low bass drum type sound.  Just adding this to the scene created a real sense of fear.

Or another example would be when the boy goes to take of Ludwick’s hat.


This scene was a nightmare to film.  Nothing was going right on set and the shots I ended up with were poor and not at all what I’d imagined when I’d first written the scene.  But by adding the SFX and music, it brought it together.

Laying down music and sfx early can also really help you get a feel for your scene.  As long as you know the mood you’re aiming for it’s a good idea to find a piece of music that fits this well and just lay it down so you can pace your edit on it.

There was one particular part in The Great Spielron, part of the same scene as mentioned above where  the boy is entering the stage, Ludwik is laying down cards on the table.


We spent ages trying to edit this piece together. I wanted to show Ludwik’s temperament  through the close up of his hands.  I wanted to cut between the cards being dealt and the boy getting closer,  adding an air of tension to the piece. But no matter what we tried we couldn’t seem to get this across. It was only when we placed down a foley sound of the cards being placed on the table that we realised it was this sound that added to the tension. Like a ticking clock…or bomb.

It gave us the road map we needed to structure the edit.  Things always work well in threes and we knew that having three cards slowly being placed with the flicking sound, cutting between hands and then boy, would really add to the tension.  Unfortunately we didn’t have enough coverage in the footage to get this across as well as I’d of liked. We still added the sound of the cards being placed,  you didn’t physically see them but it still added to the tension…just not as much as I’d of liked.

Sound and music can not only add emotion to your film but can also emphasis objects.  The perfect example of this and one that is probably way over used but still works, is the sound of a sword being drawn.  How many times in a movie do you hear the “Shink” sounds when a sword is pulled from its sheath? There’s no way a sword would make that sound in real life and yet we believe it on film. It adds to the danger, it’s like the filmmaker is saying “this sword is really, really sharp”.

And so we decided to do it in our film too. I must admit I was skeptical about this.  It’s the shot where Mike picks up his knife from the table to tell his story.


He doesn’t even pull it from a sheath, he just picks it up.  We laid down the sound and it did sound comical.  But once we’d played around with the volume, added a bit of reverb and tweaked the high pass it actually worked.  Adding these subtle audio clues are a great way of emphasising items and clothing in your film.

One final tip is to not rely on all the sounds on set.  A lot of the time in films 90% what you hear is laid down afterwards.  Dialogue is probably the only sound that is used from the actual takes and even that sometimes has to be replaced afterwards. There are some scenes in The Great Spielron where we didn’t record any sound at all. All the scenes of Ludwick performing on stage were completely silent as I knew that it was going to consist of mainly Music and audience members laughing.


So to sum up.  If you want your film to have that professional feel, then make sure your sound is top notch.  You can get away with boring camera moves and lighting to a certain extent but if your sound is bad, it’s really going to show…which is ironic really.

Till next time.







Mutant rabbit


I thought I’d show you an insight into the process of building one of the characters from the film, which in some ways is the star of the film, the mutant rabbit.

This post does contain small spoiler so if you haven’t seen the film yet then what are you waiting for? 🙂

You don’t actually get to see much of the rabbit in the film. There were two reason for this. One was simply following one of the golden rules of horror which is, never reveal the monster till the end. A classic example of this is Jaws, it’s more scary because you don’t see the monster till near the end.

And just like Jaws this rule was applied for another simple reason. The rabbit, as in the case with Spielbergs classic, looked like crap and so I had to to think of as many ways not to show it as possible or at least keep it in the dark.

To be fair the model wasn’t terrible although I didn’t have time to study any ref let alone the anatomy of the rabbit so I quickly sculpted a model using a piece of 3D software called Zbrush.

This wasn’t the main issue, the biggest problem was the rig for the rabbit was awful. A rig is the controls that allow you to move the model around, very much like a stringed puppet. I’m not very good at this process, especially when I’ve only got an evening to do it. So the model had a lot of issues when trying to animated in that some of the limbs didn’t move very well and would distort strangely. So I was very limited in what I could do with it. Which is one of the reasons why when you see the silhouetted version of the rabbit jumping out of Ludwik’s head it looks a little strange.

The only other animation you see of the rabbit is when it hops out from under the sofa. Which again I made sure was very subtle and hidden in shadow.

So because of this I thought it worth sharing this video of the rabbit in all it’s ugly glory. I hope you enjoy the time lapse videos. I think in total it took about 4 – 5 hours to create the model.

Let me know if you enjoy these sort of behind the scene vids and I’ll post more.

Till next time,


Episode 3 winners announced


Here we go again!

We’ve just pulled out the suggestions for Episode 3 and what a mixed bag they are.

PHRASE suggested by Eggnogonthebog “Excuse me waiter, there is a human toe in my soup!”

PROP suggested by Dave K A Commodore 64 computer

COSTUME suggested by Christine1948 An old fashioned strong man costume.

All our winners get a bubblegummonster T-shirt so well done all!

We now have a week to write a script based on these ideas.

I can tell you one thing, we won’t be basing it in two eras.

Till next time.

Behind the scenes of Episode 2 part 2

Carrying on from yesterdays post.

So the problem we now have is that the part that we’ve painted over only fits on one frame.  Once you move to another frame it gets left behind.

This is where a technique comes in called tracking. Here’s an image of what tracking in a software package called After Effects looks like. In each of the squares are smaller squares. Within these squares are points.  Basically what you have to do is find a part of the image that has good contrast to it’s surrounding. So for example a hook on a white door would be a good item to track.  You then place these tracking boxes over the high contrast item or spot. The boxes around the inner point tell the software how far to look for the particular contrasty object as it moves in each frame.

tracking points

tracking points

In the example above I’ve added four tracking points. Each of these points knows where the other tracking points are in relation to itself. This means that After effects can work out not only where about an object is in 2D space but can also tell if it’s coming closer or further away and at what angle, although this shouldn’t be confused with 3D trackers, see below.

There are many types of tracking software. Some track in 2D space, like the above example.  These can use a pixel to track or some packages use whole planes to track, so for example the side of a car or some furniture.

Others can track in 3D space. This means they use special algorithms that solve where the camera would of been in space. This allows us to create a virtual camera that mimics exactly what the real camera would have done on set, which then gives us the ability to add 3D objects to our scene, for example a giant robot or dinosaur.

However for this task we’re dealing with 2D objects (things with no depth or no perceived depth) so we don’t need to use a 3D tracker.

By feeding the tracking information we have to the part of the image we painted over the top we can have it move exactly the same way as the background footage as seen below.


Also note the slight join where I’ve placed the red arrow.  This is because although the tracking was good the perspective had changed slightly and so the original image that I’d used in the wider part of the shot now didn’t quite match despite being scaled and rotated correctly according to the track points.

This is where I should of used tracking that takes perspective into account.  However I decided that it was so subtle that hopefully no one would notice…apart from people that have read this.

The next issue was to deal with the electrical plug sockets and various other modern looking items on the left hand wall.

Although the core techniques for this were pretty much the same, it did introduce a whole other collection of problems.  One of which is the fact that the boy runs across where we need to paint out our objects.  We also have a rather annoying problem that his shadow also passes this area.

So tomorrow I’ll complete this mini making of  with techniques I had to employ to solve this.

See you then.

Behind the scenes of Episode 2

Ok so I filmed a whole Vblog on this and while putting it together,  it suddenly occurred to me how boring it was.  So I’ve decided instead to do keep it as simple as possible and just cover the key points of what I was trying to talk about.

So in this blog I’m going to explain how I completed a shot where  a number of background items needed to be removed.

I’m also going to break it into parts to make it more digestible.

It’s worth pointing out that this particular shot is meant to be set in the 1920’s and so things like the fire exit sign and the various light switches pipes and electric cable to the left would have to be removed. Here is the shot before hand.


Looking at this shot I need to decide how to tackle the tasks at hand.  Now there a number of different tasks here, each one requiring a slightly different approach.

I’ve decided to go for the easiest task first, which is removing the fire exit sign above the door.

The wall behind the fire exit sign is a nice plain purple colour which makes my job a lot easier. The quickest way is to use what’s called the stamp tool in Photoshop.

In case you don’t know what the stamp tool is, it’s a tool that you get in most paint packages that allows you to clone one area of the picture and stamp it or brush it over another area.  Great for making things like duplicate eyes on a face, or more subtle things like covering up a blemish on the skin of a model, or in my case hiding items on a wall.

TA DAH!  That was easy


Great, lets see what it looks like in the moving picture.


Crap! Ok we need to do something extra to make this work. 

Find out in part 2 coming to a blog near you…actually just this one, TOMORROW!

Oh and also get your ideas in for episode 3. We need a Prop,Costume and Phrase please!




The sound of Music

Mixing desk_small


I wanted to give a shout out to a brilliant royalty free music website I found the other day while searching for music to use in my short animation.

There is a lot of royalty free music on the web and some of it is very good but a lot of it is also very bad. Unfortunately most of the good stuff costs money and from my experience I’ve usually found the really good stuff is very expensive anything from $25 to $150 for one track!!

Since doing 22days later I have found a few sites that do have some great free to use soundtracks. I’ll put links to them at the bottom of this post.

For me the one that I’ve found is outstanding is  They have about 30 cinematic scores on their site at the moment and I honestly think every single one feels like it could of come straight out of a Hollywood Blockbuster.  They really are that good.

They’re also working on a selection of tracks that you can bolt together allowing you to do some basic composing yourself. Although at this time of writing these haven’t been released.

There’s also around another 30 soundtracks that they’re giving away for free which to my untrained ears sound just as good as the paid stuff. So in total that’s around 60 soundtracks!

Even the paid tracks are only $1 each, so for less than $30 you can have the whole collection.  The catch being that their $1 cost covers you for personal use only. Meaning you can’t use it for commercial use, basically anything that means you’d be making money from the videos.  So make sure if you’re going to put your videos on Youtube you don’t Monetize them as this would be classed as commercial.

You can still use the music for commercial use but it’s $10 per track which in my opinion is an absolute bargain considering what you get.

Here are the links to the other sites I’ve been using.  Jewel beat’s selection isn’t free anymore but still very cheap, although I will say the quality is very hit and miss.   (Good for horror)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Hello everyone.

I hope you’re all set for the big day…or maybe you’re already celebrating?

I thought I’d do a quick blog update to say I’ve now finished the short animation I was working on,

The plan was to send it out as a video Christmas card but I started it too late and so it all got a bit rushed.

It’s a little bit flawed as I didn’t get time to animate all the shots I wanted.

I also really struggled to get music to match the scenes. One of the reasons why if you’re creating a film it’s really really a good idea to get a professional composer.

However I have to say that in looking for cinematic music I did find this amazing royalty free music site called

I honestly can’t believe how good the standard of this music is, every track could easily of been taken straight out of a Blockbuster and for personal use they’re only charging $1 per song.

Anyway that’s enough of me chatting on. If you’d like to see the finished animation you can view it here.

Penultimate shoot

Today we’re shooting the second to last part of episode 2.

There’s a lot to cover today so we’re going to have to work fast.  To save time I’m going to have to refrain from any fancy camera work as this always takes up time. So we’re going for mainly locked off shots and wide coverage.

I’ll post up some more photos in the next few days.

In the mean time make sure to get your suggestions in before midnight tonight for episode 3.