Foley for the Carribean - Reflection


 

This project was one of the most insightful things I could have done relating to Post Production and Foley. I had done only minor work with foley elements before and never have I had to produce something to this scale.

All these things considered, I am very happy with the end result.

However, as with any project, there are things that I can be proud of and things that I can admit, could have been done better whether with a different approach, different execution or better planning. In this blog I will share some of the successes and downfalls I experienced during this project. You can read about my actual process for these things in my previous blogs, but for now I will just be focusing on what worked and what didn't work.


 

ADR

The first bit of ADR we did for this project was all the crowd noises, getting a bunch of people into the one room to yell and carry on wasn't just fun and hilarious, after we had a couple of takes a couple of different layers it worked perfectly for the sound we needed. The fact that the crowd was just simply a bunch of people yelling and fighting made it fairly easy to reproduce, all we had to do was make sure we had enough layers of audio to make the crowd seem like it was the right size. The plan for the session was fairly simple and so the performance we received from our actors was quite free form; the only real direction we gave was different levels of volume and intensity between takes. I think this worked well in sections where we needed that kind of energy you get from spontaneity, but for some of the different layers it might have been a bit easier if we had some proper direction for our actors. Maybe in way of an actual script or some kind of written format for the way the session is meant to go. A script really wouldn't be too hard because there isn't much intelligibility left in the crowd once everybody's voice is layered in, so we wouldn't have to write anything necessarily important, we would only need to write things that would guide them in the direction of desired intensity for the take. All this being said the sessions went really well and the end result was what we wanted, so anything that could be improved upon would be a minor adjustment.


When it came time to do ADR for foreground dialogue, I stepped up to the plate with my acting hat on. Ryan and I watched through the scene together and made sure we knew where very bit of important dialogue was, then I stepped into the booth and began delivering lines to a looped clip of whatever part we were working on. To be honest, this was probably the easiest thing we did for this project, as about 80% of it was done in one take. I found the looping the video made it easy to get the timing right, and also refine the performance. Being in a relaxed environment with Ryan and I being able to laugh about what we were doing made it easy to get a good level of volume and properly deliver lines. We probably could have gotten actors in, but the amount of dialogue was so minor it didn't really require an actor. Had there been large chunks of dialogue in which there was varying emotion and style of delivery, we may have needed an actor, but we were very happy with the result of my debut acting gig.

 

Foley

It's hard to be overly critical of the foley section of this project because I had so much fun doing it. The bottles smashing, clothes and leaves ruffling, swords clanging together, most of the foley was both interesting to research, and fun to put into action. If anything, the most disappointing thing about the foley were the sounds that we weren't able to get into the clip. The chandelier being swung on definitely needed more layers; if we spent more time using the same metal chain but manipulating it in different ways for multiple takes, we could ahve produced a much fuller and more convincing sound. Maybe even some pitch shifting could have been done to put the sound in a lower register, making it sound heavier. The gun shot at the very beginning was fantastic; I thought we did a great job with a technique and goal that we hadn't attempted before, however some more sounds could have been used to embellish the gunshot. In a previous blog I mentioned that a musket shot had multiple layers of sound, which I researched ways of reproducing, but when it came time to put this sound together we got a little caught up in what we had already done and didn't take it just that next step further. I think the fact that the original clip has a fairly simple "bang" sound was definitely something that stopped us from going further, but that little twist of a few more sounds could have given it the flavour it needed.


I was quite impressed with myself when I discovered that the sound of the rustling leaves also made a fairly decent "splashing water" sound when pitched up slightly and cut down to an appropriate size. However this idea was born out of laziness, as we just hadn't gotten around to recording the actual sound of water splashing for the scenes where drinks are spilled and water flows out of smashed bottles. We definitely could have gotten a more convincing, or at least more realistic sound by recording some actual water being spilled, but at least now I have a new trick up my sleeve.


I think the punches and other impact sounds could have been embellished a bit more, they all have quite a nice presence to them but they almost sound a little too "real". When you hear a punch in most films and TV shows it has that meaty crunch or "smack" kind of sound, rather than just the thud of the impact like ours. Again I think this is a case of being happy with the fact that we've achieved something like this in the first place and not taking it to that next level. There is particular part at about 0:20 where a man punches someone he's standing over on a table where I think the punch sound is too present in the low end and too pulled forward for where it actually occurs in the scene; if we were to possibly take out some of the low end and pull it back just a bit in the mix then it would have sounded a bit more in place in the clip.


To summarise, the foley was really fun to record and reached our expectations, but had our expectations been a bit higher maybe we would have put more effort into just adding a bit more depth to the sounds.

 

Mixing/Levelling

As I mentioned previous in regards to that particular punch sound, there are a couple of extra things we could have done in the mixing process with the sounds we had. The mixing certainly isn't bad; we made an effort to make sure that sounds were dynamic in volume (especially when it came to the atmospheric crowd sounds), and sat in the stereo field according to where they were on screen (such as the part at 0:28 where the sound of the man falling off the balcony moves from left to right), but there are certainly a couple of sections where I think a bit more creative processing could've helped. all of the sword sounds both in the foreground and background are mostly made up of the one recorded sound. We simply took the best sounding sword hit and adjusted the level and pitch to make them sound different, whereas we could have definitely used multiple sounds from a similar source to make them sound less "copied and pasted". It's something that I definitely notice when I re-watch the clip, so I would definitely put more effort into any further projects where I might need a similar sound in multiple places.


Something I could definitely chalk up as a success is again, the crowd sounds. I found that we were able to move and manipulate the tracks of yelling and fighting appropriately for our clip, especially in parts where the crowd moves further away from the main focal point, such as the scene where Captain Jack moves up the staircase; in this scene we brought down the level of the crowd slightly and took a small amount of high end out the track so that it seemed to be further away than when they are walking around amongst it. The levelling for most of the foreground ADR was handled pretty well, and to be honest was mostly done in the booth. For example, for the scene where Gibbs yells "Aye!" to Captain Jack, I moved away from the mic and got closer to the ground as he is positioned in the clip; this gave us the effect of someone yelling from further away in a more convincing manner.


There are a lot of things we could have done to make the mix a bit more appropriate for what was happening on screen, but what we have done achieves the desired effect. Nothing, other than what I have mentioned, is jarring enough to stand out as a "mistake".

 

This was my first attempt at working on sound replacement and I can't honestly say that I am unhappy with the result. Every time I show it off to one of my friends however, I do notice more and more that I could have done differently. The project itself was a fairly ambitious one, and so what we have achieved is still something for me to be proud of, but there are still things that can be improved (as always) and at least I can take away some of these oversights or mistakes and turn them into lessons for myself. I hope that the next time I attempt something like this, or any kind of foley or ADR work, I will have learned from this project in regards to what not to do, what to do more of, and what works.