Soundtrack 3 – The Rain

This piece features a character walking around in the pouring rain, to show the effectiveness of using weather sounds to show the emotions of the characters in the piece.  Later in the animation, I have tried to create a soundscape of a military funeral, and this will be used to create a soundtrack to highlight the emotion of sadness.  The rain sound was recorded in my flat last year during a day where it was heavily raining out of my bedroom window.  It only lasts a short amount of time so I created two audio tracks and fade them all in and out, then put the fades to overlap.  This has worked quite well to create a seamless loop of the rain, and can easily be extended to any length needed.  I did footsteps to add in, they are heavy footsteps from Doctor Martens boots on a wooden floor.  I duplicated them as well, moving the timing of the boots by fractions of a second, to sound like an army of people marching.  The aim is to evoke the image of marching men in boots, in a military setting.  8 bars in there is a triangle comes into the scene and bounces down the street with the character, to show this there is a swell to introduce the triangle and when it leaves.  There is also a group of three more triangles who appear and bounce along, which fade in and out as well.  The way that these triangles fade in and out sound like a group of ghosts fading in and out of the characters mind, to call back to the idea that this is a military funeral, as if the ghosts are his fallen comrades.  I created a military snare drum sequence to play along the piece, which I distorted by chopping up, reversing and adding audio effects to the drum lines, and specific drums.  This creates a tension in the piece which runs throughout, because the drums add an association with war which in turn makes us think about death and sadness.  This along with the rainy background makes this piece feel sadness.  The goal here of evoking the scene of a military funeral, with the marching boots, and the ghostly figures.  To keep within this theme I decided that the sound of bagpipes would be good to add into this piece.  I found a royalty free bagpipe piece and added it into the animation.  I reversed the musical track and shifted its pitch down.  This still sounded ultimately like bagpipes but a more synthetic version of them.  It is still enough like them to know that they are bagpipes but different enough to know that something isn’t quite right with them.  The use of bagpipes ties back to the idea of an American military funeral.  I have also sampled a basic wave form taken from Ableton’s sample library and created a bassline with it.  I did this by duplicating the audio and pitch shifting each one to the notes I wanted, it is not a very happy sounding musical sequence and it helps adding towards the feeling of sadness in the track.  As the holes bypass the character walking through the woods, there had to be something which defined them.  So there is the sound of a deep cathedral bell.  The bell is loud, long and reverberant.  It helps to create the feeling of being at a funeral in that regard, as the bell tolls at the church.  There is a point where three holes that go past with horns coming out of them.  Which have used the bell again, but in reverse, much like the bagpipes, you are aware of what it is but it is different enough to question yourself.  The entire piece fades out, rather than stopping suddenly, which keeps the feeling of sadness high because nothing gets resolved.

Soundtrack 2 – The News

This second sound piece features our character walking whilst reminiscing on a time that the president called him to tell him that his son will be used in the army.  The emotion being tried to evoke here is anger.  The focus in the beginning here is that there is a telephone conversation between two men, who we can assume is the bouncing triangle that appears and the character walking on screen in the animation.  The phone call tells the character that his son has been chosen to be shipped out on military duty with the army.  The second time we hear the phone conversation there is 3 triangles rather than just one, so I have duplicated the telephone call and pitch shifted it down, this creates an ominous demon sounding voice, which is almost an aural metaphor to the context of the conversation on the phone.  One of the voices is normal, the second has been pitch shifted up and the third automates downwards in pitch from the same tone as the high one to a pitch much lower than the original.  The pieces conclusion is that there is a slow build up to a very harsh and dissonant ending, filled with disharmonic tension and layers of distorted sound, the distorted sound is there to represent just an overflowing of anger that the character will be feeling after discovering his sons fate.  The many overwhelming layers represent the overwhelming feeling you would be in if you were in this situation.  Up to this point the loud wall of sound near the end there is a glitchy drum loop under the piece which I created.  Which starts at no volume and automates up louder until this wall of sound is introduced.  As you get further into the piece these drums sound very scratchy as they have had a very narrow band pass filter added to them as well as a ping pong delay.  This acts in the same way that the cockroach sounds did in The Babadook scene, as that scratchy sound is reminiscent of insects crawling around, making the viewer feel nervous and grossed out.  There is two ambient tracks running throughout the piece.  I did these using virtual instruments in Ableton Live which sound very sci-fi-esque.  I have done this to fill the silent spaces in the background until the deathly sounds come in at the end, to keep your ears interested without thinking that nothing is filling in the gaps, theres always something to fill the gap.  I chose to do this because through my case studies it appears that the use of silence is only effective in creating fear rather than anger.  The absolute silence is very unnatural and makes viewers feel on edge, which is not as effective in this soundtrack as it could be in another.  Between the first and second phone conversation there is a jarring glitchy sound to show how the topic of conversation is affecting the character, much like the subway scene in Pi when Max is experiencing problems with migraines. Once we get to the end of the piece at bar 38 everything kicks off.  We hear the uncomfortable loud squeal of a dial up internet modem, this is to begin the thought that there is just a loud wall of sound building in layers in the characters head.  It is also an aural metaphor back to the phone conversation earlier in the piece, as the dial up internet would make the phone unusable.  This noise is uncomfortable to hear so I mixed it down a little so it wasn’t so loud, but still loud enough to make you uncomfortable as it rings in the front of your head, making you annoyed at it. When this is introduced there is a hand clap and hi hat rhythm introduced as well.  This makes it seem as if the animation is actually moving faster than it really is, due to its tribal rhythm.  It also brings a sense of urgency to the piece alongside the dial up sound, making the wall of sound seem more frenzied inside your head.  There is also the introduce a sub bass at this point, this is a midi transcript of one of the VSTs audio trail transposed down 2 octaves, which has been done using an algorithm that this version of Ableton creates.  The bass was added in just to flesh out the lower frequencies on the piece, to excite your ears a bit more than it would be without it.  Without it all the sounds we hear are in the upper register and we experience audio fatigue, and this brings more audio excitement to the lower register.  When some of the holes whizz by our wee man, I have created a bassline which wobbles, it automates in volume as it gets closer to the camera, until it is past the screen when it subsides.  The wobbling bassline is a fad which has mostly died out but its effectiveness here makes us feel like something in the hole is angry.  To match this I have also got a disturbing recording of people screaming, this automates at a much quieter volume towards the camera as well.  This makes it appear that there are people down these holes that are shouting at the character.  Alternatively, there are other holes which have a loud static noise which automate louder as they pass the character, making it appear as if there is danger in that hole which would cause you harm through electrocution.  This makes it seem as if the character is actually having a really bad day and can’t get away from all these horrible noises in and outside his head after hearing the terrible news.  Near the end of the piece as well as day turns to night, a ride cymbal is introduced.  This was done to give the nighttime a theme which is these long drawn out and washy cymbal hits.  Highlighting that the character has been walking all day until night, unable to get away from his thoughts.  The cymbal has had an echo added to it which makes it seem spacey, keeping in a theme more with the other VSTs in the piece.

Soundtrack 1 – The Follower

In the first soundscape I made for the animation, it follows a character walking around a dangerous area.  He then begins being followed by a monster.  The main thing I was trying to highlight in this soundtrack is the footsteps and breathing of the character and also the monster.  This piece is used to represent the emotion of fear through a soundtrack.  There was initially a geiger counter, which worked in the test before the animation was finished, but after importing it to the animation it did not seem to translate well, so it was removed from the final piece.  The issue with the geiger counter is that, unless you know the sound off the top of your head, this just sounds like random clicking throughout the piece.

There is an audio track to represent the characters footsteps.  I have also used a deeper, louder footstep for the monster.  There is also an auxiliary reverb that these sounds were sent to, making them sound as if they were outdoors.  Both footsteps are on gravel, and sound pretty rough which make the environment seem more ominous.  It’s effective in this way as you associate a gravelly area more with industrial sites or deserted areas.  For example, an abandoned building site.  There was no animation to attach the sounds of the monster too, so this must be done by the listeners imagination, the monsters footsteps are heavier and slower than the main characters, this is to show the stature of the monster compared to the character, the footsteps are concrete sounds and must be treated in reference as if the entity making the sounds would be.  At the end I have also added in the breathing sounds of both the character and monster, this is done in reference to the scene from The Blair Witch Project when the film crew are in the tent.  The breathing makes us feel more tense when we hear it.  The reason it is only added in at the end is to show that the monster is getting closer and closer, therefore the breathing would be getting louder as it approaches.  The characters breathing is only heard at the end as he is calm until the realisation of being followed, making him more and more nervous therefore breathing faster.  The monster has a deeper in pitch breathing than the character to show that it is a larger entity.  The monster breathes a lot more slowly than the character, and the character’s breathe is sharp and pronounced.  This is to show that as the character is being followed they are becoming more and more scared which will increase his heart rate, therefore increasing his rate of breathing, whereas the monster remains calm.  They have both been panned accordingly so that you hear the character in one ear and the monster in the other.  The footsteps are also panned accordingly.  The whole piece actually increases in tempo towards the end to highlight the fear of being followed, the tempo increases by 25BPM over roughly 10 bars to build the tension.  It suggests that the character’s vital systems are all increasing as they most likely would when being followed by something unknown, just like they would in the real world.  Throughout the piece I have also used a sample of crows found on Ableton, added with a lot of reverb gives us an ominous outdoors atmosphere, harking back to Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.  The crow caw is defined and loud, and fades out slowly.  There is a musical sequence introduced 27 bars in which is high pitched and jarring, the instrument plays a sequence of 4 notes, two times, which will last until the end of the animation.  The musical sequence was made using a virtual instrument I created within Ableton Live, called the dream pad.  It was first made in third year for a different project but felt its application was effective here with only a few tweaks.  This music is created to insight fear, though it is closer to sound design than music due to its long drawn out screeching notes.  When the holes pass the character on the ground, I have recorded some evil whispers to make the listener uneasy.  The whispers hark back to many horror movies where the characters in the movie hear voices in their head, mostly of ghosts and evil spirits, this is why it makes us feel uneasy.  It is because we associate these whispers with ghosts.  This animation and soundtrack was made to make the viewer feel scared, and I feel I have done that effectively.

Practice

I began to create soundscapes based on my animation premise.  I do not have the animation yet so I am doing it from concept, so obviously I will need to sync up the soundtracks when the animation is completeI have been imagining the scenarios in my head that I would like to create soundtracks for.  And using ableton live I create a soundscape to match what I want to create.  The animation still features the same premise of a character walking through a tunnel of trees passing objects on the ground until they reach a dead end where the animation ends.  The first soundscape I made you can hear footsteps walking, and a synth I created right from the start.  The synth due to its resonator plugin sounds really eerie as the sound scratches and pauses, at the pause the note of a string resonates out.  The synth is panned fully to the left, which creates a harmonic tension in your mind as it doesn’t sound like it should be just in one ear with its scratching synth noise.  The envelope filter brings the volume up slowly on the attack and lingers on the sustain to keep the pressure ringing in your ears before the next note.  G, A#, D#, C is the sequence being played so it is in A#.  This continues for 43 bars, with the sounds of a bird coming into intermittently which has been heavily EQd to lose a lot of the low end.  At the 43rd bar, another set of heavier more low end footsteps come in, to represent being followed by a monster.  The second set of footsteps are panned slightly to the right.  At the same time, a wobbling bass is introduced panned fully to the right.  This is to represent a sense of fear that has just been introduced.  At bar 57 another bass is introduced to represent the characters heartbeat, it is heavily muted.  At bar 66 I decided to increase the tempo slowly, from 120bpm to 177bpm at bar 82, which is the end.  The tempo increase is to represent the character walking faster through the forest, as it increases the speed of all the sounds in the piece.  At bar 69 I introduced the sounds of the monster breathing to show that it has gotten a lot closer, it fades in, the breathes are slow and long, and have been EQd to add more low end, to keep the primal and animalistic feel to it.  After 6 bars of this I introduce the characters heavy breathing as well, to show the fear they are feeling, the breathing of the character is a lot quicker and shaky.  The characters breath has been EQd to lose some of the low end, I also boosted the top end to make it sound more breathy, this was done to contrast the monster.  Everything stops at bar 85, except the characters breathing which takes one more breathe.  I feel the soundscape here creates the tension which I was looking to show.  The visual story I had in my head is represented in an abstract way here.

Questionnaire

I created a questionnaire to be handed out and filled in by the experiment participants after each soundtrack is complete.  This will be filled out between each soundtrack, rather than at the end of the whole process so it is fresh in their minds.  I will paste it below for reference.

If you wish to remain anonymous please tick this box and move to section B. [BOX]

Participant [ADD NUMBER]

 

Section A: Your details.

 

Name: ___________________________________________ Age: __________________

 

Occupation: ______________________________________ Gender: _______________

 

[INSERT SCENE TITLE HERE] e.g. own soundtrack 1

 

Section B:

Describe how this movie scene made you feel in 3 words:

 

 

 

Section C:

On a Scale of 1 to 10 choose how [SAD/UNCOMFORTABLE/SCARED] this scene made you feel?

1 – – – 2 – – – 3 – – – 4 – – – 5 – – – 6 – – – 7 – – – 8 – – – 9 – – – 10

 

 

Section D:

What in particular about this scene stood out to you most?

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Consent Form

I have written up a consent form for all participants taking part in the experiment.  This will be confirmation from them that they know all procedure and protocol during the experiment.  It will also confirm that they are fully aware of the experiment and what is happening.  I will paste it below:

Danny Smith is a student of Creative Sound Production at The University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland.  Danny’s honours project aims to show a link between soundtrack elements and the audiences emotions.  This experiment will involve you watching a series of film clips, and answering a questionnaire after each one, on how it affected you.  Each film clip will be between 2 and 5 minutes long.  You have the option to not take part at any point during the screenings, with the options to leave before and during the experiment.  You will also have the option for your questionnaires answers to not be used in the experiment after it is finished.  There will be a few personal questions asked at the beginning; name, age, gender and occupation.  You will have the option of not answering these questions and keeping all of your answers anonymous.  This experiment will be used to inform Danny’s own project of creating soundtracks to highlight particular emotions for his own media.  This experiment is intended to benefit the researcher, Danny Smith, and may not benefit you in any way.  All non-essential information will be kept confidential unless the researcher, Danny Smith, asks you personally later for a specific purpose.  Any health and safety risks that could occur during the experiment will be made explicitly clear by the researcher, Danny Smith, before beginning.  The contact details of the researcher, Danny Smith, will be given to you for any enquiries and/or concerns you may have about the experiment or questionnaires.  The final presentation will be available for all participants to see at the end of year show, also all the research will be available for anyone who took part to view once the project is complete.

 

Please print name below:

 

 

Please sign below to confirm that you have read and understand everything outlined above:

 

Researcher’s signature: