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watch The Listening Room - Apple Sauce

How do we get more audio people involved in IT? Maybe we should just start talking audio? Maybe there should be a Screening Room section devoted to audio. We can post stuff we've done with the specific intent of it being constructively critiqued for its sound design. I'll start.

https://vimeo.com/43007012

I don't have access to a lot of equipment. All of the audio in this short was captured in-camera, with the T2i. All of the dialog is wilds, except I think for the line "do you want another?" There was a little bit of foley, but not much. The TV-sounds were worldized.

How could I have made the audio better? And keep in mind that it was a zero-budget affair.

I invite anyone to post constructive critiques of this short, and post your own work, under the heading "The Listening Room", followed by the title of your film.
 
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Can you hear it? Why nobody wanna talk audio?
 
Why nobody wanna talk audio?

Because it's not clear that you want to! Your recent posts regarding audio (and other subjects) have demonstrated a desire purely to defend/promote your approach and opinions against criticism. Invariably, that leads to an argument about your personal opinions/approach and the validity of any contrary opinion, rather than actually exploring the details of the criticism, details which might provide an opportunity to learn something useful and therefore be interesting to others (beyond just the entertainment value of watching a flame war unfold). The odd very heated argument is not necessarily a bad thing but it's not something I want to participate in (or even witness) constantly.

It's a shame, because there are potentially some interesting sound design (and therefore filmmaking) points your clip raises and which could have proved useful to discuss.

G
 
Because it's not clear that you want to! Your recent posts regarding audio (and other subjects) have demonstrated a desire purely to defend/promote your approach and opinions against criticism. Invariably, that leads to an argument about your personal opinions/approach and the validity of any contrary opinion, rather than actually exploring the details of the criticism, details which might provide an opportunity to learn something useful and therefore be interesting to others (beyond just the entertainment value of watching a flame war unfold). The odd very heated argument is not necessarily a bad thing but it's not something I want to participate in (or even witness) constantly.

It's a shame, because there are potentially some interesting sound design (and therefore filmmaking) points your clip raises and which could have proved useful to discuss.

G

Dude, I hate the flame war. I'm trying actively to put the flames out. Maybe I'm bad at doing that, cuz there are times when I post something that I hope will kill the flames but I only end up stoking them. I want discussion, not fire.

Honestly, please critique the audio in this short. Not for my benefit, but for any newb who might read it. Tear it to shreds, I've got thick skin. And I want to learn more. On a tiny budget, how could I have made this audio better?
 
On that basis, let's see if we can't get somewhere! First off, I have to deal with some facts, facts which you won't like! If we're to get anywhere potentially useful, we can't argue about whether or not these facts exist. For now, just accept them, even if you're only able to do so hypothetically, because then we can get into details which could prove useful. Secondly, unless I'm going to be cryptic, there are no simple one liners, no single or simple trick and so my answers are necessarily at least partly philosophical/psychological in nature. Many/most are looking for concrete, simple/easy rules to apply and my answers may therefore appear unsatisfying. This appearance is deceiving though!

The first fact we need to deal with is that there's ultimately no solution to the issue of budget. While it's possible to get near pro level image quality with a tiny budget, given; relatively cheap modern technology (cameras, NLE/grading software, lighting) and enough practise/skill, the same isn't as true with sound. Even more unfortunately, of all the different types of audio/visual content, dramatic material is the most demanding of both audio quality and of sound design and of all the different environments/platforms, the cinema is the most challenging. This combination of factors is near impossible to solve for the no/nano budget filmmaker, even for the micro budget filmmaker there's only a partial solution which still involves a financial cost, a relatively high risk and quality and workflow compromises.

Some filmmakers aren't even aware of the previous paragraph, others are but use this fact as an excuse, essentially; I can't afford pro quality sound or sound design or even anywhere near pro quality, I might as well forget it and spend what little budget I've got on that new camera/whatever I've had my eye on. What's left, is a small minority of filmmakers who appreciate the importance of sound, want to try and do something about it but don't really know what and simply apply the same sort of approach as they do to most other areas of no/nano budget filmmaking. Typically, this leads to fairly poor results, though commonly a bit better than those who just ignore the whole issue and very occasionally fairly presentable results. What I'm suggesting is a little different, it's a professional approach to sound design! Before anyone shouts that they don't have the money for that, a professional approach to sound design does not require any money (!), the execution to professional standards certainly does but not the approach itself. It does however require considerable time, study, effort and practise! The next obvious objection is why bother with a professional approach if you can't afford to execute it equally professionally? There are a number of compelling answers to this question, not least of which is that someone influential might recognise a "professional approach + insufficient budget" as opposed to other filmmakers who just have no idea but for now I'll stick to the most simple answer, that it will still make your film better!

Let's look at some detail and use the example of Foley. Many newbs don't know what Foley is and therefore don't add any. More serious amateurs know what Foley is and will add some where there's some appropriate visual movement. How does this differ from what I mean by a professional approach? A professional approach is where the use of Foley is basically a given but what's important is what it's use means; what audience manipulation tools does Foley present and how can we use them to most effectively involve our audience in our storytelling? Firstly, having visual movement and no accompanying sound is likely to appear unrealistic, this will pull the audience out of the scene if the appearance of realism is necessary to the scene. Secondly, the brain is largely a pattern matching machine, if it hears a movement type sound, it will try to match that sound with the visual movement causing it and thirdly, the brain is extremely sensitive to subtle variations in sound quality and what those variations imply, for example, the difference between a door being closed loudly and one being slammed aggressively. So, how do these three fundamental basics of pro Foley use apply to your example clip and how could we use them to improve it? The use of Foley is part of the bigger picture of sound design and as sound design is the art of involving the audience in our storytelling, before we can answer the latter part of this question we have to know what the story is and how we want to tell it! So, what is the story? Or, to put it more critically, I'm not sure what the story is supposed to be because the sound design is quite poor and doesn't help to tell the story! I'm guessing the story is that our character does not want to make a big deal out of his diagnosis and that his friend is sensitive to that and responds in a deliberately banal way or maybe it's not really about sensitivity, his friend just responds in a typically superficial young male way and is trying to avoid a deep, consequential or uncomfortable conversation? There's a lot of potential permutations of what the actual story is and therefore there are an equal number of possible permutations of what the sound design could/should be, to tell it effectively! For example, did you really want the audience to be looking at his friend when he say's "it's metastasised" or did you want the audience to be looking at him and then switch to see his friend's reaction? Did you really want this proclamation to be completely undramatic or even slightly comical or did you want it to be a dramatic piece of news which he's deliberately trying to make appear undramatic? Dramas, human interactions, are all about these subtle but vital differences in meaning, in the underlying story. It's what makes dramas interesting, without them it's just someone making a film for their own sense of achievement rather than a film to be watched by an un-invested audience. Using the second of the fundamentals of Foley I listed, in audio post you could have had the Foley of the nearer actor louder/more present just before his proclamation, so we're looking at him. While that would work, it would be even more effective (and professional appearing) if you'd have pre-produced and filmed it with that Foley in mind. Note that in this example, although it would have taken more effort, planning and maybe rehearsal, it wouldn't necessarily have cost any more actual cash!

G
 
Do you mean as opposed to comedy?

Possibly, it depends on what sort of comedy you're talking about. If you're talking about a film like "40 Year Old Virgin", then no, I'm including that in the category of "drama" (albeit a comedic drama). If you're talking about a comedy sketch show or say a film of a stand-up comedian's performance, then yes, that's different and less demanding of sound design than a drama. I was using the term "drama" in it's broad sense, to differentiate between other forms of audio/visual content, such as documentaries for example.

G
 
The first fact we need to deal with is that there's ultimately no solution to the issue of budget. While it's possible to get near pro level image quality with a tiny budget, given; relatively cheap modern technology (cameras, NLE/grading software, lighting) and enough practise/skill, the same isn't as true with sound. Even more unfortunately, of all the different types of audio/visual content, dramatic material is the most demanding of both audio quality and of sound design and of all the different environments/platforms, the cinema is the most challenging. This combination of factors is near impossible to solve for the no/nano budget filmmaker, even for the micro budget filmmaker there's only a partial solution which still involves a financial cost, a relatively high risk and quality and workflow compromises.

I agree with all of that. I think the APE/C-Funk conflict is officially a thing of the past! I'm here to learn from you, and you just gave me some really good advice. Since we've crossed hairs before, let me be explicit - I'm being sincere here.

I know that there's no way for the production qualities of my next tiny-budget feature to even slightly compete with that of Hollywood. But just because I can't replicate what they can do, that doesn't mean I can't find value in doing my best, on my extremely limited means. It won't be as good as what they do, I know that, in fact it will be far short. So I'm trying my best to find ways to make up for my short-comings, and I'm super-glad that you're offering advice in this respect.

Let's look at some detail and use the example of Foley. Many newbs don't know what Foley is and therefore don't add any. More serious amateurs know what Foley is and will add some where there's some appropriate visual movement. How does this differ from what I mean by a professional approach? A professional approach is where the use of Foley is basically a given but what's important is what it's use means; what audience manipulation tools does Foley present and how can we use them to most effectively involve our audience in our storytelling? Firstly, having visual movement and no accompanying sound is likely to appear unrealistic, this will pull the audience out of the scene if the appearance of realism is necessary to the scene. Secondly, the brain is largely a pattern matching machine, if it hears a movement type sound, it will try to match that sound with the visual movement causing it and thirdly, the brain is extremely sensitive to subtle variations in sound quality and what those variations imply, for example, the difference between a door being closed loudly and one being slammed aggressively. So, how do these three fundamental basics of pro Foley use apply to your example clip and how could we use them to improve it? The use of Foley is part of the bigger picture of sound design and as sound design is the art of involving the audience in our storytelling, before we can answer the latter part of this question we have to know what the story is and how we want to tell it! So, what is the story? Or, to put it more critically, I'm not sure what the story is supposed to be because the sound design is quite poor and doesn't help to tell the story! I'm guessing the story is that our character does not want to make a big deal out of his diagnosis and that his friend is sensitive to that and responds in a deliberately banal way or maybe it's not really about sensitivity, his friend just responds in a typically superficial young male way and is trying to avoid a deep, consequential or uncomfortable conversation? There's a lot of potential permutations of what the actual story is and therefore there are an equal number of possible permutations of what the sound design could/should be, to tell it effectively! For example, did you really want the audience to be looking at his friend when he say's "it's metastasised" or did you want the audience to be looking at him and then switch to see his friend's reaction? Did you really want this proclamation to be completely undramatic or even slightly comical or did you want it to be a dramatic piece of news which he's deliberately trying to make appear undramatic? Dramas, human interactions, are all about these subtle but vital differences in meaning, in the underlying story. It's what makes dramas interesting, without them it's just someone making a film for their own sense of achievement rather than a film to be watched by an un-invested audience. Using the second of the fundamentals of Foley I listed, in audio post you could have had the Foley of the nearer actor louder/more present just before his proclamation, so we're looking at him. While that would work, it would be even more effective (and professional appearing) if you'd have pre-produced and filmed it with that Foley in mind. Note that in this example, although it would have taken more effort, planning and maybe rehearsal, it wouldn't necessarily have cost any more actual cash!

That's some great advice you just offered. Thanks! It gets me thinking that I need to consider what type of foley we might record, during production. For me, in the past, foley has always been something strictly done in post. Your comments make me realize that foley needs to be considered in advance, and how it will impact the audience's experience.

To answer your questions, this short is a comedy, a very dark one, haha, and it's not a clip, that's the whole movie. And no, I didn't want the audience looking at the other person, when the line "it's metastasized" is delivered. Now that you mention it, I can see(hear) how the way we shot it drove the audience's attention to the wrong person.

Thanks for the input!
 
It gets me thinking that I need to consider what type of foley we might record, during production. For me, in the past, foley has always been something strictly done in post. Your comments make me realize that foley needs to be considered in advance, and how it will impact the audience's experience.

Now you're getting it! Although I will say that generally Foley should be recorded in post rather than during production, although obviously the visual side of the Foley equation needs to be considered during pre-production and actually filmed.

And no, I didn't want the audience looking at the other person, when the line "it's metastasized" is delivered. Now that you mention it, I can see(hear) how the way we shot it drove the audience's attention to the wrong person.

Exactly. From the Foley perspective, one way you could have shot this part of you short would be to: Have the actor delivering the "it's metastasised" line do something more definite with his spoon and pot just before the line and the other actor do something less definite with his. The Foley will then draw the audience's eye to the actor you want, when you want. Almost immediately after he's delivered the line, his friend could say drop his spoon into his pot, in surprise, which provides a Foley opportunity to move the audience's visual attention to his friend's reaction.

Going back to the third fundamental of Foley use (tonal subtleties), when the friend subdues his shocked response, the Foley (spoon and pot) sounds aggressive rather than intense, which I don't believe was your intent. Agreed that this is a subtle detail but you're well beyond the newb stage and what separates the particularly good filmmakers from the rest is almost entirely in these types of subtle detail. Are you really doing all you can to communicate as precisely/effectively as you can, or are you just going through the basic motions and inadvertently implying something other than your intent? Are you actively aiding your storytelling or are you fighting/contradicting it? These small, subtle contradictions of intent are a hallmark of nano budget films and even quite common in low budget indies. The cumulative effect is to pull the audience out of the scenes or at least require them to work harder to feel involved in your story, which is pretty much the opposite response a gifted storyteller is after and certainly one of the main reasons why a high percentage of audiences avoid low budget indies!

Although I've used Foley as an example, we could make similar observations about the other sound FX. Having the cartoon playing in the background was an inspired idea, most newbs wouldn't have thought of that and wouldn't have had anything in the background (aurally). Furthermore, you've gone a whole step further, you've thought about it in pre (or at least in production) rather than just in post and supported the idea visually, with a cut to the cartoon on the TV. This "sells" the idea far more slickly, effectively and professionally than just whacking some cartoon sound on in post with no visual support. OK, so we're well past the newb stage here but there's another step beyond the one you've taken and it's a big step, because it can help take your filmmaking to another level again; having gone to the trouble of creating a great sound design opportunity, have you really taken full advantage of it? It's a great sound design opportunity because after the brief glimpse of the cartoon, there's no more visual reference to the cartoon and therefore nothing our background cartoon sound has to comply with. In other words, after the visual reference we're free to use whatever cartoon sound we want! We could, for example, have the closing cartoon credit music/ident immediately after the visual reference, ending before the "it's metastasised" line, leaving that line to be delivered in relative silence and maybe having opening cartoon credit music start when the friend subdues his shocked response. The contrast of cartoon sound throughout the scene and no cartoon sound on the line and immediate response would create a very powerful effect. It would concentrate the audience's attention, create shape and very significantly enhance the dramatic impact of what is the dramatic highlight/whole point of the short. I'm just using cartoon music/ident as an example of course, you could just as easily create the same or similar effect by continuing the cartoon sound and creating a contrast just changing the pace of it, say having chase or action cartoon sound most of the time and quiet subdued cartoon sound over our line/immediate response. This same principle could be used with all sorts of background sound, say traffic or a nearby construction site we've briefly visually established say through the window at some stage. All background sound has ebbs and flows and after the visual reference we can use and place those ebbs and flows whenever we want, to aid the dramatic highlights in our scene or it's tension, suspense and resolution.

Many newbs will film a scene with little or no movement, in a closed room with double glazing, in a quiet/near silent suburb and simply eliminate any opportunity to employ one of the most powerful filmmaking/storytelling tools which exists!! Nano budget filmmakers love to quote films like 12 Angry Men but just being able to quote it is completely meaningless, knowing how and why it works as well as it does and being able to apply those principles to one's own filmmaking is what it's all about, otherwise you're just going to make an un-watchable film about a bunch of ordinary people in a ordinary room! Try watching it again, study the Foley and how it manipulates where and at whom your attention is drawn, listen to it's timbre, note the use of the fan and listen carefully to the rain, when it starts, it's ebbs and flows and tonal variations and how it aids the pace and tension. It's not just the luck of the rain sound effect they happened to record/find, it was specifically designed that way!

G
 
Hey, thanks a bunch for all of that! I didn't mean to say that I should record foley in production, just that I should think about it (and in pre, and pre-pre). Before now, I've never even thought about foley until after the film was shot.

And yes, silence when he delivers the big line might've been a really good idea. And to answer your question, I'll confess that I kinda just went through the motions with the foley recorded here. I wasn't thinking about how it can better deliver the intent of the film, but was just recording stuff that I thought needed to be recorded.

Thanks again! You've given me much to think about. This is an old one, but in the coming months there will be new shorts that will need honest critiques.

Cheers! :)
 
And yes, silence when he delivers the big line might've been a really good idea.

Equally, it might not be a good idea at all. It all depends on what is in the mind of the director and commonly, at the amateur level, the director has no mind! By this I mean that the director needs to have a comprehensive "vision" and obviously needs to be able to communicate that vision with those attempting to execute it. This vision must include the shape of each scene as well as the shape created by the combinations of scenes. By shape, I mean the underlying story, therefore the points of dramatic impact, suspense, tension, resolution and respite, the pacing of these states and the transitions between them. Most amateur directors create an incomplete vision, a vision which considers these factors only superficially or not at all, instead, concentrating their pre-production and production efforts on the basic logistics/practicalities of translating the lines in the script into footage. The result is typically a film/short which can only be enjoyed by those who appreciate the difficulties/process of amateur filmmaking and on the rare occasions that the film/short is somehow enjoyable by a wider audience, that's commonly as much (or more) due to luck than by design. The difference with a professional approach is that they try to minimise the luck and maximise the design. In other words, the shape is the fundamental priority, to which everything else is subservient. With this in mind, the question of sound design's relative importance and the consideration of it in development/pre-production is nonsensical because sound design is one of the most powerful filmmaking tools for manipulating shape!

Whether my suggestion was good or not therefore depends on the shape you had in mind, where and what's important in the story, how we dramatise that importance and therefore, as everything is relative, how we dramatise what's not so important. We could play the scene completely the other way around from the sound design perspective; have subdued cartoon sounds until the important line/response and then contrast with action/dramatic cartoon sounds or maybe there's some other shape you had in mind entirely, where the line/response in question is not the dramatic climax and there's something I've missed in the story?

Before now, I've never even thought about foley until after the film was shot.

Then before now, you've been relying on luck rather than design!

BTW, if Alcove is reading this, he'll jump on you for not capitalising Foley! Most will misunderstand why, thinking that Alcove is just being some sort of grammar police. In fact, there's a fundamentally vital reason for Alcove's correction! In reality, most amateur filmmakers use little or no Foley, instead, they just source or record technically appropriate sound FX, which we could effectively call "foley". So, what's the difference between foley and Foley and why is it important? Foley is named after Jack Foley. Jack Foley did NOT invent the recording of sound FX, in fact, I don't know what term was used before Foley, probably no specific term at all, they were just sound FX. So, if he didn't invent it, what on earth did he do to get branch of filmmaking named after him? He did it differently to everyone else! Everyone else looked at the footage and sourced or recorded appropriate sound FX but if you employed Jack Foley, the first thing he wanted was the script. Jack wanted to get inside the characters' heads, understand their personalities/motivations and record sound FX which aided those characterisations. He wouldn't just record the right type of shoes on the right type of surface, he would give the footsteps of each character their own timbre/flavour, an individual character of their own which represented the personality of the character causing them. This aided the overall story telling so successfully that in the 1930's it became common for Hollywood producers and directors to comment that the film really needed Foley, meaning literally Jack Foley's artistry. In fact, I was told that one of Kubrick's conditions for taking over the directing of Spartacus was that Jack Foley was coaxed out of retirement.

G
 
@Cracker I have been on sets where the sound is taken seriously and here are a few tips:

When doing scenes to get dialogue, put felt drawer-stoppers that stick to the bottom of the actors shoes if they make loud clacking sounds so you can get clean dialogue.

Then, they run through the scene with a NO-DIALOGUE pass - doing the same actions they did before but only for those sounds for later use in post.

Then, while everyone is at lunch, a smart production sound guy will further open doors, close drawers, sit on the sofa so he gets all those sounds in a quiet environment when everyone is at lunch and eats real quick before they roll again.

You're also aware that in any given bar or club scene NO-ONE but the main characters are talking, right? hehe

That's a bit of an extreme example, but it helps in later sound editing :)

Oh yea - and LABEL the takes correctly :P
 
When doing scenes to get dialogue, put felt drawer-stoppers that stick to the bottom of the actors shoes if they make loud clacking sounds so you can get clean dialogue.

Good advice and there are a raft of similar measures to help get clean dialogue. Sound blankets near walls, rubber matting under table cloths, fake ice-cubes, etc. And as discussed previously, the smart director would have planned movement (and it's associated Foley) during pre-prod, which could eliminate or at least minimise many extraneous sounds from occurring right on the dialogue.

Then, they run through the scene with a NO-DIALOGUE pass - doing the same actions they did before but only for those sounds for later use in post.

Personally, I've never seen this done. With a professional workflow it wouldn't generally be a cost effective technique. However, I can imagine scenarios with particularly small budget films where it could be, especially if this was combined with say a movement rehearsal.

Then, while everyone is at lunch, a smart production sound guy will further open doors, close drawers, sit on the sofa so he gets all those sounds in a quiet environment when everyone is at lunch and eats real quick before they roll again.

In my experience this isn't usually done for common things like doors, drawers and sitting on sofas. PFX (Production Sound FX) are sometimes recorded for more unusual, specific or difficult to source sound FX. Again though, depending on the production and audio-post resources at the filmmaker's disposal, your suggestion could potentially be a very useful time/cost saver.

Oh yea - and LABEL the takes correctly :P

This would seem obvious but it's amazing how few do it properly and amazing what the consequences of not doing it properly can be, especially on a long form project. This advice could really be listed, along with various other items, under the title of "how to acquire and effectively employ pro audio-post personnel with a limited budget". A title worthy of it's own thread and one I tried to start here a few years ago but which never really took off.

G
 
Then before now, you've been relying on luck rather than design!

Yep. At least as far as audio is concerned. In the past, I thought I was heeding the advice of folks like Alcove who have been preaching for so long that sound is 50% of the film. I made sure to spend just as much money on audio equipment as I did on visual equipment. The only crew member I hired for my first feature was for audio.

The problem was that I only thought about it on a technical level. Until recently, I've never given a great deal of thought into exactly how I can use audio to further the story, other than through music. I've been well-aware of how other filmmakers have used audio to tell story, but I've never employed it in my own.

Music has always been an important part of my films, and I usually have some kind of idea of what music I'll be using for a scene, even while writing the screenplay. I've never considered Foley or soundscape, or anything like that until post.

This thread is rad. Utopia and APE, you both just offered some really great advice, and seeing the discourse between the two of you was really great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
 
Music has always been an important part of my films, and I usually have some kind of idea of what music I'll be using for a scene, even while writing the screenplay. I've never considered Foley or soundscape, or anything like that until post.

Music can be a very powerful filmmaking tool and like most other filmmaking tools it has both it's strengths and it's weaknesses. How well it works in the final film therefore depends on maximising it's strengths and minimising it's weaknesses, something which amateur filmmakers often fail to achieve, due to not being fully aware of those strengths/weaknesses. Music can be a very powerful tool to focus, emphasise or generate specific emotions or "feels", it's also a very useful tool to add or reduce pace, suggest the passage of time, aid transitions and/or continuity and to help develop/evolve a storyline or character. A potential weakness of (incidental) music is that it reduces the feel of reality, it tends to make a scene feel more surreal, pull the audience out of their immediate involvement and reduce them to a distant spectator. For this reason, it's relatively unusual for professional narrative filmmakers to only use music during a music cue. Far more commonly they would use a music cue plus some Foley and/or other sound effects, to not completely disassociate the audience from their involvement. However, this is generally a partial solution rather than a complete solution.

Another often overlooked factor is the timing of the music cues; how often music cues are used, how long they last and how long the gaps between them. Long music cues and/or relatively short gaps between cues lessens the dramatic impact of the music, as audiences become accustomed to them and tune them down/out. Likewise, a long gap between music cues will tend to amplify the dramatic impact when a new cue does start, which is great if that's the designed/intended shape of the film and supported by the other film crafts but quite disastrous if something more subtle was intended!

Working this music use out in development and pre-prod can be a great help with designing shape and very useful for identifying and targeting resources. Becoming wedded to specific tracks can cause all sorts of problems though, legal problems with licensing and drastically restricting the composer's creative abilities being probably the main two.

G
 
Far more commonly they would use a music cue plus some Foley and/or other sound effects, to not completely disassociate the audience from their involvement.

Interesting. I'm going to start looking out for that combination. I'm curious to find out if I've ever unknowingly done it in any of my past projects. I'll definitely be listening for it in any new Hollywood movies I see.

Another often overlooked factor is the timing of the music cues; how often music cues are used, how long they last and how long the gaps between them. Long music cues and/or relatively short gaps between cues lessens the dramatic impact of the music, as audiences become accustomed to them and tune them down/out. Likewise, a long gap between music cues will tend to amplify the dramatic impact when a new cue does start, which is great if that's the designed/intended shape of the film and supported by the other film crafts but quite disastrous if something more subtle was intended!

Yeah, I like that. Makes perfect sense to me. It's kinda like a curse word - meaningless if you do it all the damn time. That being said, I personally enjoy scores that go big and bold, and that's what I plan to use. I don't mean to say that I don't appreciate subtlety, I do. But I enjoy daring even more.

Thanks for your thoughts, they're very helpful!
 
That being said, I personally enjoy scores that go big and bold, and that's what I plan to use. I don't mean to say that I don't appreciate subtlety, I do. But I enjoy daring even more.

In film, there are many differences between sound and music; the workflows are entirely different, some/much of the equipment and tools, techniques, important factors, etc. However, there are also some fundamental principles in common: One of these is the principle of comparison, of relativity and contrast. For example, "Loud" is not an absolute value, in reality it's a perception, a comparative perception, the apparent loudness of a sound is defined not so much by it's absolute level but by what it's compared with, IE. What preceded it and the relative difference. It seems obvious that a sound played back at 100dB is louder than the same sound played back at say 94dB. In practical usage though, this is not necessarily the case. If there is a lot of noise going on, say at the 90dB level and then we introduce our sound at 100dB, we have a relative difference of 10dB. If there's very little sound going on, say at the 50dB level and we introduce our sound at 94dB, we have a relative difference of 44dB. In this scenario, our sound at 94dB will be perceived as louder than our sound at 100dB in the other scenario because the relative difference is far greater. In other words, "loud" is only loud relative to quiet.

Our hearing only has a fairly narrow range of different volumes, however it's not a fixed range, it's a "window" which is movable (autonomously). Same with our sight, we only have a relatively small range of brightness but it's a movable "window". Switch on a 100w light bulb in a brightly sunlit room and it's barely noticeable. Switch on that same 100w light bulb in a blacked-out room to which we've become accustomed (and therefore our "window" adjusted) and it's so bright it's almost painful. So, depending entirely on context, that 100w light bulb is barely noticeable, painfully bright or anywhere in between. Same with sound and music and, it doesn't just apply to loudness, it applies to almost anything. Dramatic music + dramatic music = not much relative difference, which means our second piece of dramatic music is not going to be perceived as very dramatic. To make our second piece sound dramatic we've got two basic choices: A gap between the pieces of substantial enough duration that brain's perception has reset itself, add an additional piece/section of music just before the second piece which is particularly undramatic or, both, a substantial gap and a contrasting additional piece/section. However, the first choice doesn't usually stand up well to being repeated, unless it's combined with the second choice or mitigated some other way.

Sound works to the same principle and in the final mix also affects the perception of the music (and vice versa). If the sound is very dramatic and then we introduce a dramatic piece of music, we're going to lose/under appreciate some of the drama of the music. This principle also applies to your concept of "bold". Your "bold" will not sound very bold unless you contrast it and, the amount of "daring" it represents will be defined by the amount of contrast and the speed/suddenness of the switch. It's difficult to see (though not entirely impossible, depending on context) how you can achieve particularly bold and daring without also including a significant amount of subtle.

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Sound works to the same principle and in the final mix also affects the perception of the music (and vice versa). If the sound is very dramatic and then we introduce a dramatic piece of music, we're going to lose/under appreciate some of the drama of the music. This principle also applies to your concept of "bold". Your "bold" will not sound very bold unless you contrast it and, the amount of "daring" it represents will be defined by the amount of contrast and the speed/suddenness of the switch. It's difficult to see (though not entirely impossible, depending on context) how you can achieve particularly bold and daring without also including a significant amount of subtle.

Right. Yes, that all makes sense to me. I've definitely given thought to the rhythms and timings of music, the ebb and flow of dramatic vs subtle. I've never considered that I also should include non-music sound in this ebb and flow. I like that. Thanks!

As far as what I meant by "bold" and "daring" I just mean to say that I like scores that get noticed. There's the common logic in sound design that you've done your job best when it's not noticed. I get that, and I appreciate that. My own personal deviation from that logic applies only to the score. I want people to notice the score. I want them to be floored by it. :)
 
As far as what I meant by "bold" and "daring" I just mean to say that I like scores that get noticed. There's the common logic in sound design that you've done your job best when it's not noticed. I get that, and I appreciate that. My own personal deviation from that logic applies only to the score. I want people to notice the score. I want them to be floored by it. :)

To be honest that's not really the common logic in sound design, it's merely advertising, what we tell filmmakers who don't really understand what sound design is! Sure, there are levels of subtlety which are designed not to be consciously noticed and are therefore powerful filmmaking tools because they are subliminal/visceral. I spend an unrepresentative amount of time mentioning them simply because most newbs don't know they even exist and even fairly experienced amateur filmmakers have a very limited understanding of what enhanced filmmaking/storytelling opportunities they represent. The reality is though, as we're talking now about more advanced filmmaking, that this subliminal aspect of sound design is just one aspect, there are other aspects which are not subliminal at all and absolutely should be noticed, shockingly so quite often. The logic for me, is not how good the really obvious sound design should be or how good and unnoticeable the subliminal sound design should be but how both of these (and other) sound design tools are used to make the film as good as it can be.

Same is true of music. Sure, I too want the audience to be floored by the score but that's not the only thing I want. Music can be a very powerful and useful tool when used much more subtly, far too useful a tool IMHO to just be dismissed on principle. Especially as it's not a case of "either/or" because not only can you can have both (subtle and flooring) but done well they can compliment each other and floor the audience even more! It's your film of course, your choice of how to employ music cues and I don't know enough details of your film to be absolutely certain that not employing music subtly (as well as strikingly) will definitely weaken it. I'm just going on the balance of probabilities and the fact that most filmmakers, even moderately experienced ones, don't fully appreciate all the filmmaking/storytelling tools music cues can represent.

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