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:


“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.

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)


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.


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!



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.











Don’t Have Nightmares 2015 (Revised)

Don’t Have Nightmares was an unfinished project back in March, 2015. An installation was to be incorporated but due to complications, I abandon the idea. Also, the audio was never added as the animation remained unfinished. It was a pity, as Jonny (sound engineer) had worked hard on the audio. So, rather than just abandon the project, I found myself being more proactive over the festive period. I continued working on the animation. First, adding motion tweens, then a few stills, then cyan tones and finally the icing on the cake-the audio. Done!

My inspiration came from the books I’m currently reading and the public information film project I’m currently working on. The idea of using the animation (Don’t Have Nightmares) for a public information project was considered back in June/July last year. The books, The Internet is not the Answer by Andrew Keen and The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, inspired me to use the animation to interpret the argument that privacy is becoming obsolete. The voyeuristic iconic shower sequence in Psycho where the viewer is allowed to secretly peer in at the subject is akin to the way social media platforms are set up. Facebook being the obvious example. That’s not to say we only use social media for a spying purpose, but there is the temptation to do so. Interestingly, Andrew Keen references another Hitchcock film, Rear Window. In his book, he states that Hitchcock’s narrative parallels Google’s dominance in the digital age. I considered a new working title ‘Are Friends Celebrities?’ However, I ditched the idea to avoid any referencing confusion on my blog. Overall, I’m pleased with the end result and thankfully so is the sound engineer.

Audio information from an earlier post (March 2015):

The original audio was severely revamped. Stock sound fx downloaded and manipulated in pitch or speed. Analogue synthesizer used for simple “heartbeat” pulse. Reverb plug ins used to simulate tiled bathroom ambience. Delay with lfo sweep used to emulate water going down a plughole, swirling psycho effect.  Overall, I was very pleased with Jonny’s work. However, the screams were still too prominent for me so I decided to make amendments in Audacity. I reduced the scream amplification and added much more ‘delay’ effects on screams



‘Cicadas, Crackling and Popping Wet Wood and Lost Laughter in the Breeze’

As well as being glued to the cricket, yesterday afternoon was spent designing the audio in Audacity for the rotoscope animation in my last project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground.  The audio is made up from an eclectic mix of ambient sounds. The train carriage audio is applied primarily as the base sound. Ambient sounds such as cicadas, crackling and popping wet wood and lost laughter in the breeze have been arranged fading in/out at various points. In the past, I’ve found that when experimenting in Audacity, it’s very easy to over-tweak, cut too much, over-amplify, suffocate the sound with heavy effects and end up with a cacophony as a result. While editing yesterday, simplicity  is key with subtle adjustments. I’m pleased with the overall arrangement and finding my way round Audacity with more ease is encouraging.

Alienation & Conformity (2015)


ALIENATION & CONFORMITY (2015) Rotoscope animation, 29 seconds, 337 drawings

The Tokyo Underground was a site-specific project was made between February-July 2015 as part of a series (Don’t Have Nightmares) which explores aspects of fear in art. The resulting rotoscope animation, Alienation & Conformity is a personal interpretation of how fear pervades daily urban life while living and working in alien environments. The animated passenger pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured over a period of time. The journey begins with a feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed and under scrutiny and over time the tension begins to diminish though the fear is still underlying. Though the work is largely a personal experience, it also a comment on how an economic and political system can be ruthlessly exposed and pushed into the psyche of the inhabitants. The many who are caught up within these brutal capitalistic parameters, all carrying the same flag in pursuit of profit, wealth and the material gain.


The Tokyo Underground: Project Presentation (June 2015)

My last project (Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground) was to be shown earlier this month to my peers. However, and unfortunately, due to time limitations, the project didn’t get a critique (gutted!).

Final Reflections: To be honest, I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the project, the main aim was to capture the fear in confined spaces on the Underground but filming was so problematic at times, I ditched a lot of footage. In hindsight, I should have documented more of the downs as opposed to ups on my blog. However, I’m pleased with the animation. I had little idea as to the end result. That’s the beauty of working with the medium.  Tales of the Unexpected!

Sound: I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with the audio, using train ambient, crackling fire wood and buzzing insects in Audacity. Not great results due to my technical ability but I’ve assembled the audio to how I would like it.

PART ONE  Duration: 3.00 (with voice-over) 

The Tokyo Undeground: Don't Have Nightmares 0.2 (Part One)


PART TWO Duration: 2.07 (with voice-over)

The Tokyo Underground: Don't Have Nightmares 0.2 (Part Two)




Alienation & Conformity Collage (2015)

Alienation & Conformity 1-25.jpgAlienation & Conformity 26-50.jpg



UWE: Sound Projects (1995)

Since the sound workshops earlier this year, I’ve been experimenting a lot with sound as I feel the medium will feature prominently in my project. Yesterday, I edited the sound play, Torment was made in the Media Centre at The University of the West of England, (Bower Ashton, Bristol ) in 1995. The sound play has links to my current project, both are psychological pieces of work. Also, they both use original copyrighted material which has been mashedup or remixed from it’s original state.

Sound Play: Torment, 1995 (Remixed 2015)

Using a Morantz recorder, the narrative is made up of varied ambient sound from the Bristol area, iconic film sound bites and homemade sound effects recorded in a studio. The aim was to convey mental torment as someone is preparing to take their own life.  The recording has a linear quality keeping the listener informed without ambiguity. However, as the background ding becomes louder, the narrative loses its representational quality and takes on its own journey. This is an area of my project that is constantly on my mind and how. A psychological piece of work involves playing on the mind of the viewer. However, my considerations are how much and what should I leave open to interpretation?



Social Documentary Sound Project: Bingo!, 1995 (Remixed, 2015)









Sound Design: Confrontation 2

Continuing with ambient sound experimentation, last week  I recorded a policeman interrogating a women outside the local library. Due to very blustery weather conditions that day, the original recording wasn’t clear which made it difficult to decipher most of the dialogue. Using the Audacity software, I enlarged the waveforms as to clearly identify areas to reduce the background noise (low levels) on the whole recording. However, when low levels and high levels clashed, this caused distortion which made the recording very unbalanced. Finally, I decided on selecting one area of dialogue, amplifying, echoing and altering the tempo. As a result, I’ve created something penetrative with a menacing repetitious edge to it.



Sound Design: Confrontation 1

Last Saturday morning, just by sheer chance, I was able to record a  confrontational conversation between a bookshop assistant and a customer in London.  While I was browsing through a few books in the TV/Film area, I noticed a man (20s) sitting in the reading area talking to himself. He didn’t seem to be disturbing anyone nor did he come across as a violent person yet his language was becoming rather too loud and colourful which prompted an assistant to have a quiet word with him. Before the confrontation occurred, I turned on my Olympus Digital Voice Tracer, placed it discreetly under my shirt cuff and proceeded to walk towards the seating area just hoping to record a few mutterings . However, a shop assistant came down stairs into the basement area exactly at the same time, obviously tipped off by another customer. The exchange between the shop assistant and the customer can be heard from the original Mp3 recording below with written dialogue:

Bookshop Confrontation (2015)   Mp3

A= Assistant/ C= Customer

A “Dju know what I’m gonna say to you?”

C  “What?” (rising intonation, startled/surprised)

A “Dju know what I’m gonna say to you?”

C “What?” 

A “About yer language”

C “Yea”

A “What my gonna say about yer language?” ( attempting to elicit information)

C  “D’know”

A “You understand that I can’t let you be here if you’re gonna be using foul language, ok?”

C “Ok”

A “So if I have any more reports of that then, I’ll ask you to leave, ok?”

C “Yea”

A “Alright”


This morning I was experimenting with the recording in Audacity. Below are the steps taken when editing the recording, sound specifications and the edited version of the recording:

Step 1: Trim start (6secs)/end (5secs)

Step 2: Fade in start(3 secs) /Fade out end (8 secs)

Step 3: EFFECTS: Amplify (4.1)+Wahwah  “Dju know what I’m gonna say to you?” “What?”

Step 4: Cut “Dju know what I’m gonna sat you you?” -“What?”

Step 5: EFFECTS: Amplify (17.1)+ Reverb “About yer language?”  

Reverb Data: room size 75%, pre-delay 89, reverberance 84, damping 85%, tone low 86%, tone high 84%, wet gain 5, dry gain 6, stereo width 100%

Step 6: EFFECTS: Amplify (17.4) + Echo  “What my gonna say about yer language?”-“D’know”

Echo Data: delay time 1 second, delay factor 0.5

Step 7: EFFECTS: Amplify(15.3) + Phaser + Wahwah “You understand that I can’t let you be here if you’re gonna be using foul language, ok?”- “Ok”

Phaser Data: stages 2, wet/dry 210,LFO frequency 0.1,LFO start phase (deg) 0, depth 255, feedback 90%

Wahwah Data: LFO frequency 1.5,LFO start phase 0, depth 70%, resonance 5.0, wah frequency 30%

Step 8: EFFECTS: Amplify(14.8) + Delay “So if I get any more reports of that then, I’ll ask you to leave, ok?”-“Yea”-“Alright”

Delay Data: type: bouncing ball, delay level per echo -6, delay time -3, pitch change effect LQ pitch shift, pitch change per echo 0.00, number of echoes 5, allow duration to change: yes

Step 9: EFFECTS: Amplify (6.5) + Equalization (select curve: telephone) 3 seconds duration (start 18.1 secs-end)