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The Brief:

For the first part of this two week unit, we dive the genre of audio. Working with sound seems daunting, so we ease you into it by focusing first on listening and appreciating audio in both radio style drama and the world of sound around us that we often do not notice. We start with some basic recording, audio creation, an audio searching activities (which in part 2 you will learning how to edit).

The goal is to produce audio segments you can use in your portfolio or your online publishing that help to explain your work and the environment where it happens. Techniques you learn in manipulating audio will help tremendously when you start working with video in our last unit.

The Roughcut

In this week’s video, Brian and Alan share the ways audio is often right under our noses ears, and establishes a sense of place. This includes ambient sounds, sound effects, and background music. There is a lot of… sound in this episode.

Event List

For those on scene at TRU, you are welcome to come to these events; and you will get more out of the experience by joining in and meeting/learning from others (who may be equally or more confused as you). Do not expect lectures from the Film Academy, many are working/practice open studio sessions.

Open the list...
  • Mini Soundcamp Tuesday February 3, 12:00pm – 2:00pm PT (check for your local time) at Graduate Student Research Commons located in the Main Library. Audio guru Jon Fulton will introduce us to the methods and audio recording and give you some hands on experience in recording audio.
  • You Show Open Office Hours via Google Hangout. Wednesday February 4, 9:30-10:30AM PT. Drop in ask questions!
  • Open Studio Hours. Thursday February 5 1-3pm PT and Friday February 6 10:00am-noon. Open Learning Innovation Lab (3rd floor)

The Breakdown Sheet

Open the sheet for suggested activities to work on for this first part of Unit 4. We will not start using or dealing with audio editing software until next week, but you might want to keep track of the Audio Tool Guide in the Prop Room. This does include a collection of mobile apps for recording audio, which you may need this week.

We also recommend that you create a free account on SoundCloud which provides storage for up to two hours of uploaded audio. It’s a bit like a YouTube for sound, and offers a very easy way to embed your audio in your blog.

Open this sheet for information about use and techniques of audio

Learning About the Importance of Audio

For some background listening to learn more about audio, and we we agree that it is important to our modes of communication, we offer the following:

What’s so interesting about Audio Drama?

Introduction to Audio Techniques

Some things to notice when listening to audio are the pacing (think of how they are equivalent of paragraphs in sound), the use of background music, the varying of volume, sound effects, ambient/environmental sounds, the introduction of radio “bumpers” to remind us of the show, introduction and exits. Try to tune into the layering of sounds, how audio can create a sense of place by being more than just a recording, but a deliberate stacking of audio layers.

Listen to an episode of Howsound, the radio show that takes you behind the scenes to understand how these radio shows are produced Dissecting Joanne Rosser, Papermaker.

We took out key elements of an hour long episode of a RadioLab episode- “Detective Stories” and uploaded a shorter version to Soundcloud. The comments in the SoundCloud file indicate the kinds of techniques used in the show. See if you can pick these out in this example and then in other audio you listen to this unit.

Another counterintuitive technique happens when sound is left out. Listen to this annotated clip, an intro to an episode of the TED Radio Hour, for what happens near the 3 minute mark when the background music suddenly stops

Did you feel a difference in the shape of this story when the sounds stopped?

For more references on audio techniques we recommend:

Listening to Audio

Radio may may seem like old technology, but there is not much more powerful creativity done in a single media. Audio is effective when sounds generate stories in the minds of listeners– the media is not the whole story, it is in what the audio can evoke in the listener.

One of the best ways to understand how audio can be used to create stories is to listen to some great examples of radio style drama or podcasts. We’ve assembled a list of a few stories for you to listen and reflect on how audio is effective when it generates experiences in the minds of you as listener.

Overall, how effective do you think audio was for telling the story(ies)? What types of audio techniques did the producers use — sound effects, layering of sounds, music, etc. — to convey their story? Try and step back from the story itself, and reflect upon the techniques that the producers used. What choices did they make that impacted your understanding of and feelings about the story?

Take the time to focus on listening, not just in the background of being on your computer. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, tell the family to leave you alone. Just listen.

Don’t stop! Below in a second sheet are the activities we offer for you to try this week. They are ones that you will use next week when we start editing sound.

Open this sheet for audio assignments...

The Sounds Where You Work

Take a quiet moment in the place you typically work or study. Pay close attention and take notes on everything that makes a sound, that helps establish a sense of place. Then think of one sound that you consider is prominent or characterizes the type work you do (e.g. computer keyboard, laboratory equipment or machinery, etc).

For example, Jon Fulton recorded the sound of an inhaler. This what you should aim for this week. Where we will go with this next week is to use that single sound in out editing software to compose something with it. Listen to what Jon created from that one sound:

As an experiment, I recorded an explanation of this activity in audio, and at the same time used a speech to text recognition add-on for Google Docs:

DownloadGoogle Docs transcript

Activity: Sounds of Your Work
Use a recording device (mobile phone, one of the audio recorders you can sign out from Media Services, the microphone on your computer) to capture at least one minute of ambient sound. Make a second recording of the sound that is most characteristic of the work you do.

To use them on your blog, we suggest uploading to Soundcloud. Why? In a wordpress blog, you can embed these audio files as easily as you can embed YouTube videos, you just paste the URL for the SoundCloud page on a blank line (other blog platforms, look for the embed code you can copy from SounCcloud and paste into your blog). For example, I have a recording of rain falling at my home in Arizona. To embed in wordpress I just put it’s web address on a line by itself:

and this produces a lovely embedded player

Collecting Sounds for a Sound Effect Story

In next week’s assignment you will try to create a short story out of just sound effects (no dialogue), the DS106 Sound Effect Story assignment. To prepare for this, you can start trying to find or record five or more sounds you can piece together for a story. What can you tell in five sounds?

Listen to this student example

Activity: Find or record sounds you can edit together to create a story

The story can be about a project you are working on, or an accomplishment, or something related to a research project you may be engaged in (or just use sounds related to one of your string interests).

You can either record sounds or find ones that are licensed for reuse. Some places to find sounds include:

Make sure that you keep track of the sources where you found these files so you can provide attribution later. Hey, we build a place for you to keep track of them; check out the Sound Pool.

Find Your Background Musical Track

Activity: Find your Sound Track
In future projects you may be needing some background audio. Try to find a musical sounds track (no lyrics) that perhaps describe you or the work that you do. Look for music that is licensed for reuse, not pop hits.

Some suggestions where to find this kind of music:

Paired Inspiration Interview

Activity: What Inspired You
Be sure to record and frame a question that will get the other person to describe the story, reason, or inspiration that led them to be in the current field the work/study in. Listen closely and ask one followup question.

Now reverse, and share each other’s audio. Next week you will get to combine it with other sounds you create/find this week.

Foley a Silent Movie

Foley is a technique used in both radio and film to create impactful audio effects. Learn more about what a Foley Artist is and review some of these video clips that show how it is done:

Activity: Add Foley to a Charlie Chaplin Film
Your task is to generate foley sounds using objects you assemble or ones you can create with your own body. You should try to make sounds that could be added to a 30 second segment from a scene in the 1928 silent Charlie Chaplin film The Circus (the scene where The Tramp gets trapped in the lion cage). These are to be sounds you generate live, not ones from sound clips found elsewhere!

Find the segment to work on:

  • If you were born in January or July, you are responsible for all sounds from 00:00 to 00:30 (tag chaplin-lion-01)
  • If you were born in February or August, you are responsible for all sounds from 00:31 to 01:00 (tag chaplin-lion-02)
  • If you were born in March or October, you are responsible for all sounds from 01:01 to 01:30 (tag chaplin-lion-03)
  • If you were born in April or September, you are responsible for all sounds from 01:31 to 02:00 (tag chaplin-lion-04)
  • If you were born in May or November, you are responsible for all sounds from 02:01 to 02:30 (tag chaplin-lion-05)
  • If you were born in June or December, you are responsible for all sounds from 02:31 to 02:55 (tag chaplin-lion-06)

The first thing you should do is watch your clip and make a list of every action in that 30 seconds that could require a sound (in a few places there could be dialogue, make up a line for what the actors might say). Think of the subtle parts, like the sound of the wood latch falling, the rustling of the lion’s tale. Or be inventive as to what sounds would be effective (or funny).

Next, find objects or things you can use to generate the sounds. You should not use downloaded or recorded sound clips- all sounds are to be ones you create physically. Practice a few times generating the sounds in sync with the video.

When you are ready, record your segment. It should be done in a single take. Make sure it is exactly 30 seconds long! Upload it to Soundcloud, and include the tags “chaplin-foley” and the tag listed for your segment. There is a reason for all of this tagging, you will see!

Parting Shots

Enjoy this TED Talk where Evelyn Glennie gives a powerful lesson in how to listem

You Show Units