Disruptive Sounds Experiments

As I’ve almost finished working on the visuals, I’m now experimenting with the audio. A challenging and daunting task ahead of me. After editing and assembling a few selected animated sequences, I tried to imagine the audio first while analyzing the moving image. I made a few notes.

What should start first was the first consideration. I intend the audio to begin before the visuals, though not just a few seconds in this instance. The audio will draw the curtains before the visuals. As the viewer engages, the cognitive process begins.I intend to montage a diversity of sounds. A mash-up of some kind. I considered annoying, penetrative and monotonous sounds, something like pc/phone notification or water dripping from a tap.

There is a wealth of sounds on freesound.org, I’m spoilt for choice, so spoilt it took me ages to choose one. I selected a few and began tweaking the soundbites in Audacity; stretching, amplifying, fading in and out etc. I didn’t want to distort too much from the original audio especially when using the effects. It’s easy to get carried away so made sure to consider any alterations with more thought.      .

The dripping water and notification sounds work well together. I thought about disruption and tuning an old radio came to mind. Don’t know why. Anyway, I found an interesting sound piece called ‘Mental illness’ , which, when clashing with the other sounds, really shapes the audio dramatically forming a brief crescendo which was one of those lucky accidents. I think the next step here is to keep structuring and layering the audio now I’ve got a platform. Sound details from authors:

Notifications

“Jolly sounding alert for incoming mail or message. Ideal for a notification on modern phones, devices on PC or Mac, Made on Alesis Q49 via Ignite software”

Dripping Water

“Sound of a dripping tap as recorded about 15 cm below the surface of the water directly under the impact point. Hydrophones were resting in the bottom of a metal sink”

Experimental Illness

One of those classic, radio-movie clips. Distorted. Taken from a VERY long recording of some weird channel I found while surfing the AM channels of my radio (they are best to make interference noise).

To listen effectively, crank up the sound.

Pop Shapes & Exploding Electric (2016)

Here, I’ve been experimenting with Adobe After Effects using a follow-friendly tutorial on animated pop circles and simulating electricity. After following the tutorials to the tee, below are the end results:

Pop Circles (tutorial)

Electric Effect (tutorial)

 

The animated pop circles reminded me of similarities in Norman McLaren ‘s work such as Dots (1940)   and Synchromy (1971).  Using the tutorials as a template, I began modifying the animations. Theatrically merging alternative shapes, opting for pop-art colors, fading in and out. Adjusting key frame times for smoother or rapid movements. It’s interesting how the amount of negative space makes such an impact visually in both animations.  For sound (Pop shapes),  I experimented with water drips. From freesound.org, I found the following:

Inside an abandoned lead mine: A stereo field-recording of water dripping on to standing water in a partially flooded mine.Sony PCM-M10. In Audacity, I amplified then used delayed and phaser effects. Overall, this sound makes a big impact to the visuals, darkening the mood.

 Pop Shapes

Sound

Electricity Shock Sound Effect – electric spark from a Youtube sound effects video

 

Oskar Fischinger-Rhythm is a Dancer

“Well, it’s a bit flat in areas and it could do with more movement if you’re looking to get more energy from the drawings” 

Not exactly word for word but enough to make considerations. The comment was from a friend who is also a film maker when giving his two-pence worth on my project. I took his comment(s) on board. This prompted me to  have a look at experimental animation, other animators that draw directly on film and a few title sequencers.

I’ve noted some inspiring stuff from  Len Lye , Norman McLaren,   Dylan Kendle,  Saul Bass  and Maurice Binder . However, it’s  Oskar Fischinger ’s sensory animation, Optical Poem (1938) that has given me the most inspiration. I’ve paid a lot of attention to his ‘dancing’ shapes in total sync with Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. Also, what is more remarkable is that the animated imagery is done with paper and fishing line then each frame was photographed individually. That must have been mind-numbing!

 

EXPERIMENTATION PROCESS

Selected frames have been cropped, adding circular and square forms provide more frenetic movement, highlighting abstract forms. Overall, the visuals are a more engaging spectacle but will it be too much on the eye when animated? At this stage I prefer the isolated sequential frames

SEQUENCE 1 FRAME 1

S1 Frame 1

 

 

SEQUENCE 5 FRAME 129

S5 Frame 129

 

SEQUENCE 11 FRAME 357 

S 11 Frame 357

 

 

Public Information Film Project: Persuasive Narratives (part 2)

Continuing with a bit of research then some experiments. As my practice which involves persuasive narratives in technology, here I’m documenting, though very briefly, issues related to violent narratives in video games.

Many of the public information films I watched on the telly in the 1970s and 80s were generally aimed at children, raising awareness to ‘outdoor’ dangers such as playing near ditches, building sites, railway lines and talking to strangers etc. However, in the past 20 years, due to the social platforms we use, the dangers are now  ‘indoor’ activities- playing video games or ‘gaming’ as it’s commonly referred, being one example. As this issue is extremely broad, I’ve picked out an argument for and one against. Steven Johnson’s book, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, is on my to read list.

Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter- Steven Johnson.

Published in 2005, it is based upon Johnson’s theory that popular culture – in particular television programs and video games – has grown more complex and demanding over time and is making society as a whole more intelligent. The book’s claims, especially related to the proposed benefits of television, drew media attention.[1] It received mixed critical reviews.

Johnson states that he aims to persuade readers of “two things:

  1. ‘By almost all the standards we use to measure reading’s cognitive benefits — attention, memory, following threads, and so on — the non-literary popular culture has been steadily growing more challenging over the past thirty years’
  2. ‘Increasingly, the non-literary popular culture is honing differentmental skills that are just as important as the ones exercised by reading books’

 

From Wikipedia- Video game-related health problems  

‘Console game-related health problems can induce repetitive strain injuries, skin disorders or other health issues. Other problems include video game-provoked seizures in patients with epilepsy’

Research has found that kids who spend too much time playing video games may have more trouble paying attention in school. Researchers found that children who had more than two hours of game time per day were twice as likely to have trouble paying attention.

Video games have also been linked in some studies to aggressive behavior and violence or fearful behavior by its players in the short term although other studies have not supported this link.

Physical signs linked to excessive video game playing include black rings in the skin under the eyes and muscular stiffness in the shoulders, possibly caused by a tense posture or sleep deprivation.

Existing literature on gaming is inconsistent, and studies occasionally produce contradictory results. Some studies show strong correlations between gaming and psychological issues like increased aggression in males, and increased depression in females. Whilst another study claims that girls who gamed were less likely to experience depression but were more likely to get into fights.

EXPERIMENTATION

Watching my son and daughter playing on their Xbox with their virtual friends sparked my attention. At around 6:00 p.m. , the lounge becomes an amusement arcade. In this instance, it is a constant noise of gunfire, you know, the sounds you hear when a BBC war journalist is reporting news from Baghdad. As they’re engaged in battle, I’m allowed to shoot some of the coverage.

EDIT 1

Sound: The original sound is stripped and replaced with some ordinary battle sound bites from freesound. org

Footage: Not done a great deal, just slowed down footage after a killing incident. The graphics display, wording such as WASTED, pulverised you or shotgunned you.

 

 

EDIT 2

Ended the sequence with the credit Killing for Fun? Not really any impact visually.

 

 

EDIT 3

Switched to widescreen and lightened the footage exposing more graphical elements. Added more titling with overlays  in heavy block impact font.

 

EDIT 4

Blank screen with audio merging to visuals. Visuals cut to 15 seconds

 

 

EDIT 5

More emphasis on sound and negative space as opposed to visuals and blending sound/visuals. The cuts being sharper with the intention that the persuasive message is now more succinct.

 

 

 

 

Sound Experiments and Collaborations(Part 2)

A recent trip to France made me consider how I will audience my project. While rummaging around an old book shop in Dieppe, I came across books I’d read in childhood and occasionally still read now. These books, mainly in the form of graphic novels such as Tintin and Asterix. Considering these French versions from the ones in English. Whilst the font remains the same, the characteristics change quite dramatically. The familiar (visuals) combined with unfamiliar (text) added with nostalgia is an engaging mix. Anyway, for 5 Euros I brought old, first edition of Les Bijoux De Castafiore (The Castafiore Emerald) and attempted to read the book on the four-hour ferry journey back to New Haven. No chance! I ended up taking notes as I got thinking how my work would look should the narration in my project be translated.

Les Bijoux De Castafiore.jpg .jpg
The Castafiore Emerald (English title) Herge (1962)

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Putting ideas in practice. I have been working on a Pop-Art inspired rotoscope I Must Be Dreaming (2013). I made a few amendments. For a more vintage comic strip quality, I went from colour to a grainy black and white and included subtitles in French. Jonny (sound engineer), also working on the rotoscope, posted me some sampled audio. He quotes, “A dreamy clip of “Eros” by Piero Piccioni was edited and added, to underscore the fantasy and surrealism of the scene”  On first impressions, I thought the recording didn’t differential much from the original so I tweaked it further, adding echo, tremerlo and truncated silences. I even spiced it up with a rattle snake sound bite! Sound bite notes from uploader on Freesounds.org

Rattle snake hissing or shaking its tail at variable pitches. Recorded with the Tascam DR-40 built-in microphones, processed in Pro Tools 10, bounced to a 48kHz 24bit WAV file.

 

 

Another rotoscope, the jazzy, Make-up also got a face lift. Here Jonny adds two edits from Sun Ra’s When Sun Comes Out, to make a soundtrack. The first edit features percussion and upright bass and the second a piano chord. Other than amplification, I’ve not made any amendments.

Make-up (2013)

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Experiments and Collaborations(Part 1)

February and  March last year involved a lot of  sound  experimentation mainly using audacity software. Now I use audacity practically all the time now largely due to the simplicity of the interface and the ease of accomplishing something with speed, efficiency and minimal frustration. Despite taking a year out, which really hasn’t seemed like taking a year out, I’ve continued with the same working pattern these past few months. I’ve been experimenting with sound(s) on rotoscope animations  where I had previously  used copyrighted sound material.

BBC i-PLAYER RADIO

While researching techniques used by notable sound designers, I found that the documentaries on the BBC i-player radio have a range of interesting, informative and insightful radio documentaries. Last week I came across this great radio documentary, BBC Radio 4 Bleep Bleep Bloop: Music and Video Games  from 2011 (I think). Paul Bennun (video game sound designer) explores the rise of popularity in video game music/sounds. Bennun interviews  Ivor Novello award winner, Joris de Man the composer of the Kill Zone series. I was inspired by the interview!

 

COLLABORATIONS

Demons of the Mind (2014). A collaboration with Simon Smith (fine artist/musician) who incidentally modelled for the animation. After numerous ambient sounds tried and tested, Simon loops audio resembling a police siren which we thought suited the visuals,  I sampled his original sound in audacity with soundbites such as crushed glass and metallic factory sounds.

 

Heat, Light & Shadow (2014). A collaboration with Jonathan Chinchen (sound designer) who previously worked on the Psycho project Don’t Have Nightmares 0.1 2015 (Revised) last year which was finalised earlier this year. For Heat, Light & Shadow I re-worked the audio adding cicada and wind sounds.  Jonny uses samples from two films, he comments: “Sampled from Analogies: Study in the Movement of Time (1977) .  As the rhythm of the sample combined well with the visuals to augment the floating movements of the subject. The audio switches to a sample from the movie “Last House on Dead End Street” to emphasise the heat and intensity of the subject’s stare!”  A dramatic comment! 

 

Colour versions of the above rotoscopes can be seen here

 

Night Dreamer (2013). A collaboration with Jazz pianist, Jeremy Kuhles. It’s a live recording of Jeremy covering Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer. Amplification and noise removal were the only tweaks so not specially a sound collaboration. The original colour animation is used for promotional purposes in gif form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotoscoping: Linear Alterations, Before & After

Here, I’ve been experimenting with the effects in Windows Movie Maker Live. The objective is to radically alter linear movement and brush strokes. Usually, after the drawing process when rotoscoping, I import the files into a photo editor and texture each frame. This can be quite time-consuming especially when you’ve got between 200-300 drawings to manipulate!

For this methodology, the first animation (before) has the following effects: posterized,  threshold and a black & white with red filter. The outcome at this stage of the process doesn’t appear very spectacular and the film  pretty much remains similar to its original version. The same film is then imported again into WMM. Again, using threshold then tweaking the brightness. The outcome alters quite dramatically, I’m able to contrive a scratchier, sketchier linear movement.

BEFORE 

 

AFTER   

 

 

Motion Tween Abstractions (2015)

Inspired by experiments earlier this year from course peers – Yvonne Opalinski’s fragmented animation and Emily Skinner’s Vector Art, I thought it was time I too started experimenting more with the various functions and tools in the software. I’ve been using the Abobe Creative Cloud software for my rotoscope animations. A few months before I started the course, I briefly experimented with motion tweens.  I was fascinated by the smooth floating line trajectories. In Abstraction One, I can see similarities in shape, colour and line to Joan Miro’s work, especially Landscape (The Hare) 1928. landscape-the-hare[2]

A vast landscape engulfed in orange and red though my terrain is a sea of rapid, intertwined, linear movements. Abstract Two represents fragmented portraiture. Here, I’ve traced very minimally over a black & white photograph. Areas are then colour-filled, skin (white), hair (black), glasses (grey) and lips (red), using an icy blue stage background. I was curious to see how these would appear visually if both abstracts were merged. On first impression I thought all looked very musical (a Kandinsky abstract?). Still on a musical theme, I’ve punked it up a bit using a ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ pink as the stage background colour. I’m pleased with having such a productive afternoon (just for once!) and I hope from these experiments I will become a little more audacious in my practice for future projects.

 

Abstract One 

 

 

 

Abstract Two

 

 

 

Abstracts Merged

 

 

 

Translucency (2015)

Inspired by bottled ornamental translucent fish being sold in a department store in Tokyo last summer, I began working on a side-project titled, Translucency. Rob, a work colleague, who also happens to be a visual artist (well known in Tokyo) and DJ, modelled for me one afternoon in a university classroom. The concept was to represent the human image as a transparent image allowing the classroom environment to become visible. The viewer senses moving backgrounds/ translucent foregrounds. I opted for a hallucinogenicesque classroom. My rationale was based on literature, sartorialism and music. As follows: I think I had read an article about Timothy Leary around the same time and with Rob’s appearance and him being heavily into late 60s prog rock, it all seemed to tie in. However, over the past 11 months I have been way too busy on my course so had to shelve the 39 second (475 drawings) animation. Last month while waiting in Dubai airport for 9 hours I started tinkering with the animation again. So far 6.5 seconds (79 drawings).

Translucency Test 1 (6.5 seconds)

Frame 81

Translucency (frame 81)

 

Superimposing & Performativity (2015)

After being inspired by Jeff Scher’s experimental animations, I thought it best to start working before the desire ends up an after-thought.  I chose five animations to experiment with, four with human actions (playing the piano, putting on make-up, sitting down/ standing up and an exaggerated walk). All the footage I shot myself over the past few years. My work colleagues come in handy. The non-action animation involves passengers on a train in Tokyo. Incidentally, my original project proposal, only five months ago, was to make a film about the Tokyo Underground. My, how things have changed! After selecting the animations, I began layering and experimented with the visuals. It was a very stimulating process. I aimed to keep a continuous rhythm, movement coming into shot then morphing or fading out. Some of the animations were filmed on a small screen size which meant I could consider juxtaposition in more clarity. Paying homage to Jeff Scher’s White Out (2007), the viewer is exposed to vast spaces of white screen, heightening the graphic representation and making the composition more identifiable, that is what I was aiming for here.  The experimental film is finally finished off with classic 80s synth-pop. Early electronica music- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark- Electricity.