The Infinite Monkey Cage - The Science of Sound

Radio 4's programme The Infinite Monkey Cage recently covered the science of sound. It's not a particularly in-depth discussion but still pretty interesting.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian and former acoustics student Tom Wrigglesworth, Professor of Acoustics Trevor Cox and Professor Chris Plack to discuss the science of sound. Recorded at the home of the BBC Philharmonic in Salford.

Tim Prebble Black Sheep Interview

I recently came across a slightly obscure interview with sound designer and supervising sound editor Tim Prebble on my hard drive. The interview has some great discussions on sound fx recording, sound design and his work on Black Sheep. Great Listening.

Radio NZ Tim Prebble Interview (Direct Link)

For those not familiar with Tim's work here is his IMDB. He also runs the independent sound fx company Hiss & Roar and audio blog The Music Of Sound.

Interview By Radio NZ;

GAT Worldizing

Worldizing is not a new concept. The term was first coined by Walter Murch as the process of taking recorded and edited sound or music into the field, playing it back then recording the result. The process was developed because of the limitations of the technology back in the day. Nowadays we have high quality convolution reverbs and processors such as Altiverb, TL Space, Waves IR, Space Designer, Speakerphone etc etc which can do a pretty damn good job of replicating a space or piece of equipment. However this stuff isn't perfect and more importantly (in my case) isn't cheap. So for me wordizing is still a technique I turn to when I want a particular sound or effect that I can't quite get with my meagre digital means.

Worldizing Links;

Nice example from Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring;

So where does this all fit into The Game Audio Tutorial? Well for one of the exercises in the book we needed some dialogue to guide the player around the map, this bit of dialogue was going to be delivered by a small radio. Now at this point I could have started adding eq and distortion to the dialogue lines trying to approximate the sound of a small speaker but I already had something a little different in mind.

A couple of years ago I bought one of these (see pic) its a Smokey Amp by Zinky Electronics it has a really thin raspy distorted tone which would be great for a walkie-talkie esque sound.

So finally processing steps;

  1. Original dialogue recorded @ 96k 24bit into Digidesign 003 using a SE Electronics 2200a
  2. For obvious reasons the Smokie Amp doesn't really like line level signals and seemed to produce the best results when run with audio from my iPhone
  3. Worldized dialogue recorded back into Digidesign 003 @ 96k 24bit using a Rode NTG-3

Pigs are Awesome

Pigs are awesome. Not only do they provide three of the best foods (bacon, sausages and chops. Sorry veggies) and fit neatly into teacups they are also the basis for some of the best sound effects and creature sounds.

Pigs have been used in tons of films and games for creatures and sweeteners to other sound effects. There have been hundreds of uses of squeals, grunts and roars but in this post I'm only going to example two, Aliens and Backdraft. In Aliens (1986) pig squeals are used as a   large component of the Aliens vocals.

Check out their use in Aliens;

In Backdraft Gary Rydstrom used pigs and other animal vocals including snakes and lions to give the fire a character and to make it sound more aggressive. This wasn't the first (or the last) use of animals in effects like this but the film is a pretty good showcase of the technique.

Use In Backdraft 4:12 (I know its not a pig but Its the only decent example I could find on YouTube)

With this sort of use in mind and a spot on my Game Audio Tutorial To-Do List with "Creature Effects" listed I organized to go and record some pigs. After talking with the owner I found out that they are most vocal just before they are fed and hate being picked up. So we left them un fed for an hour later than usual and waded in with the recorder. I quickly found out that to get a decent recording of the piglets squealing I needed to get away from the sows when picking the piglets up, as they objected to this quite loudly, as any good mother would. This wasn't quite as easy as you'd think as the sows weigh about 600 pounds and will only move where they want to and the piglets (more small pig than piglet at this stage) weren't exactly light. Overall I managed to get some good recordings out of the trip some examples are bellow;

Recorded at 192k with a Rode NTG-3 and a Fostex FR-2

Thanks to Sheilah and Ruben Lord for helping out and letting me come record .