I've been working on some new stuff for the Untitled Bee Game (UBG) such as the music and collection sounds for the second level, some specific sounds for the different items you can place in the cells in the Hive, and some more dynamic uses for the music in each level. I also have taken on another project doing music and sound for a short film, which actually hasn't been to strenuous on my time as it's fairly simple work. I've been pretty happy to get work done in another discipline I enjoy during the last part of this trimester, and make lists of priorities has been a life saver. If I feel like I'm a bit lost with what exactly needs to be done I take a small break, make a coffee and write a list of everything that could be done with each project either the same day or the next. I try and scale this list into reasonable expectations for myself and then number the tasks depending on their priority. This gives me a bit more of a scope to work with and means I can sort of lay out exactly what I need to be working on.
The purpose of this blog is to make note of a couple of points which I ran into problems during these projects and how i overcame them.
An important part of the gameplay is the timer that runs out slowly in between collection of different pollen; if you don't collect pollen frequently enough then the time runs out and you lose. Travis and I decided this need to be reflected in the audio some how, and he suggested that it would be cool to have the music slow down because the camera slow zooms in on the bee as the timer gets down below 40%. So I jumped into Fmod and got to working out how we could achieve this. As I mentioned, Travis had this function on his end start to kick in when the scale hit 40% (100 being completely safe and 0 ending the game as a loss). I figured out I could set an automation to a function that I could set parameters to and because it only kicked in at 40%, I set my parameters to 40 - 0 with a slowly descending automation attached to the pitch. This was somewhat of a problematic approach because decreasing the pitch also slowed down the tempo of the track, so when the loop started again it was at a different part of the audio track and skipped a bit to get back into place. Because the track is really ambient and not really set to a beat, it didn't make much of a difference so I sent it off to Travis to see what he thought. Low and behold, it didn't work at all. Nothing changed in the music when the scale parameters reached 40 or below. Travis spent a bit of time trying to fix this on his end because I was out of the house and couldn't do anything. When I got home I opened the project and simply changed my scale parameters to the same as Travis's (100 - 0) and then had the automation start decreasing when it reached 40, instead of the whole scale starting there. Seems pretty straight forward and kind of silly now that I look back at it, but my parameters need to be on the same scale as Travis's for everything to match up and take effect.
Travis did make mention when I first created the tonal collection sounds for the level, that they get a bit lost in the music and don't really sound like they're coming from the flowers and get a bit lost in the music. His solution was to turn down the music, but the purpose of the collection sound being tonal was for it to play along with the music so it was kind of against the purpose to remove it from the music completely. My solution was to have a diagetic sound go along with it, something that reflected the sound of the flower being ruffled as the bee flew by. During some recording I did out in the forest near Mount Tamborine I took some time to record myself shaking and lightly hitting some of the leafy plants I found, which after some isolation of the sound in RX, worked perfectly to embellish this sound.
The other sounds I needed for the Hive were placing and picking up, pollen, honey and larvae. Sounds for feeding the larvae the pollen and honey were also needed, but I figured I could incorporate the other honey and pollen sounds into the larvae sounds after I had recorded and edited the basic sounds for these. For pollen, Travis referenced the sound wool in Minecraft made when you place it, which was fairly easy to replicate or at least use as a reference. All I did was take a couple of recordings of quickly dragging a shirt along carpet and flipping my bed sheets around. These sounds mixed together gave me a sound that matched the brief and I could make a few different variations to swap between randomly in Fmod using a multi-instrument. I created the honey sounds by making some gross sounds with my mouth and recording them with my SM57 at my computer. I've had this work before with the sound of water boiling and if I ever get stuck trying to find a sound I give it a shot using my voice or my mouth, you'd be surprised what you can make. This recording not only gave me some great sounds for the honey but also gave me a decent sound to base the larvae off of. As I mentioned into a previous blog, I wanted the larvae to have a bit of a squeak to them, like the grubs in Half-Life 2. So I tried to think of something that would make a squeaking sound, like a door hinge! I recorded the squeaky door hinge on the door to my room, and pitched it up a bit so match what I was looking for. The result is almost exactly what I wanted. So with a few different iterations of these sounds I popped them into multi-instruments of their own and got to work on the placement variant of the sounds, as the ones I had made worked well for the placement sound. To created a placement sound, I shortened the exact same sounds I used for picking up and added a kind of breathy clicking sound I had recorded by squeezing a mayo bottle.
The things we do for sound design.
For making the larvae eating sounds I took the placement sounds for the things you might be feeding the larvae and added them along side some randomly produced eating sound which I also cut from the gross mouth sounds. As can be seen in the video above, I cut the eating sound into different length tracks and then had the random selection of them choose to sometimes not always play. So the first "crunch" is always going to play, the second plays most of the time and the third plays even less. In the third eating sound I've faded out the first section so that it play in tandem with the second sound and double up. This all gives me a nice, randomly selected eating sound.
I've made pretty good progress this week on UBG, and I feel as though I really only need to tweak a few things with the different sounds before they're perfect, and I only have a couple of other sounds I need to create before my work is done. Travis is really happy with what we have so far, and I think the constant communications we have about the project make that easy to understand. We keep up communications and updates to the project enough that he can see every bit of work that I'm doing, and because we have been talking so openly about it, he knows that he can make changes and give any kind of feedback, when ever he likes.
This project kind of fell into my lap; some students got in contact with me about doing the sound after I was recommended by another student whom they first asked. I did kind of question to scope of the project in the beginning, as the person that got in contact with me told me it was due in a weeks time. I politely told him that weeks time was not enough to produce quality work for him, especially considering I had my major project to work on, and that he should find someone that can make a valuable contribution in the time they had. I had to make sure I chose my words carefully in this situation because I may want to work with them later on on other projects, and made sure to note that I didn't want his project to suffer because of my schedule and limitations due to short notice. A few days later he got back to me and let me know that while they did have to hand something in in a weeks time, the total finished project wasn't due for another 4 weeks, and asked if I wanted to work on the project with the new deadline. Of course I accepted because I appreciated the consideration and wanted to take the opportunity to work on a film project. The short film was an experimental piece about artists virtually killing themselves to create their art, only to have the consumer have little care for it. Between you and me, it's not within my taste but I respect their vision and haven't mentioned my opinion of it at all, to keep good terms with the team.
I organised a meeting with the director by suggestion of the student that initially got in touch with me. It was a little hard to understand who exactly I should have been talking to about what was needed, and the student that got in touch with me wasn't too sure of the project scope going ahead. So I went and sat with the director to do a bit of a spotting session and get an idea of his vision for the sound and music. He noted a couple of references for tension building sounds and also mentioned that he wanted any kind of music in the film to be as minimalistic as possible. I suggested to him that all the sounds/music should reflect and enhance whats happening on screen and he agreed to this suggestion.
The video file I received didn't have any of the original audio in it such as dialogue (and I was having trouble getting AAF files from the editor), so I started writing some short and sweet piano lines that encompassed a few notes that could play for different cuts in the video, and some creepy sounding piano licks for some of the more disturbing parts of the film. I exported these short clips from FL Studio and imported them into Pro Tools to play around with. I would have written them directly into Tools using Kontact but for some reason I couldn't get MIDI to work in the session. This kind of cutting and pasting work flow turned out interesting though; because of the limitations I had with the audio, I had to get experimental with the way I incorporated it. Writing to no sound (not even room sound) is difficult though, and I ended up filling up a lot of silence in the film that the director actually wanted left empty. I discovered this after a little meeting I had with the director and editor, in order to show him what I had done so far and also collect AAF files for the rest of the audio. He almost immediately noted that the music was a little too busy but he liked a few of the ideas I was working with. I agreed with him and removed some of the elements that I thought were taking up a lot of real-estate while he sat with me, to see if he liked where it was going. I also noted that when I have the rest of the audio available to me, I'll be able to work better with silence in the film as there will be room tone to work with. He agreed with me and liked the music better once I had removed some elements, and even noted that we were on the same page.
I think going in with more elements than I needed was a good strategy; before we started watching what I had done I said to the director and editor that this was "their project and they can do anything with the audio that they want." Removing or changing elements is always easier than having to create them, because I can remove or change things alongside the clients, and as the director said, "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it."
I've made some changes to the scoring now and I will probably include a WIP in my first blog, but at least now I have a good heading. I haven't really had a chance to work in this position on a project so I'm glad I have a chance to improve not only my skills in working with film sound, but also working with other disciplines.