After submitting my work Dean emailed me a couple of days later and thanked me. He said he was totally snowed under with finishing the JFK mix and juggling two new projects that came in. As such he asked if we could suspend our meetings for a week and then catch up the following week, whereas I could ask any questions that I wished.
He said that he was not only happy with my work, but he thought that I had what it took to make it in whatever capacity I wished within the industry. He also floated the opportunity of more work in the future if I was interested.
When we caught up the following week I had spent a much needed week resting and thinking about questions to ask for Dean.
My first question was in regard to wherever or not there were any particular strategies that he has found helpful in learning his craft?
Dean then rewound back in time to when he started his internship in 2002. Noting that when he started he had never used Pro Tools and he somewhat winged it and threw himself in the deep end, just as I had. He said the next thing for me to learn as a sound editor would be editing dialogue.
As he is teaching a university class this semester, he said he would send me the video's he was planning to record instructing his students how to edit dialogue. Essentially he said the best way to learn was on another project.
When I asked him if he was part of any associations, he said he was a member of the Motion Picture Association, which was in a sense an elitist gateway that costs $3'200 USD to join, with additional quarterly payments of $600. The one benefit of the association he said is that you can work on union jobs, however in Dean's opinion membership is largely unnescary and hasn't been of much help to him.
He said most of his work comes from friends and friends of friends, and from people who liked his work from Twin Peaks.
We spoke about strategies of getting work and Dean said forming personal relationships with people and associates is the best type of networking. Also moving to where the work is, which in the U.S is L.A or New York helped him immensely when he started out.
Dean also mentioned that he really enjoyed working in two different timezones as you essentially have the project been worked on 24hrs a day, and he mentioned that it could be a good service to offer Americans, and that with 2 or 3 people like him I could essentially make a living.
Dean mentioned how he is freelance and how it is stressful financially as opposed to working in a full time position. He also said the best thing about it, is that you don't get stuck on the same project forever.. He asked me about my career aspirations and he told me strategies that had worked for him, such as planning a diverse career which is a combination of music, film, teaching and video work. He said initially you really need to get the work on your CV and get your name known in order to generate interest from others. He mentioned the most important thing is too keep moving and keep creating.
Dean mentioned another project that I could possibly work on in a couple of months and he also said I am welcome to contact him at any time if I need help with anything or would like to have a chat.
I then asked if there was any feedback in regards to my work from the production crew. He said the overall the produced and video editor were really happy with the work Dean and I had added to the picture. Oliver Stone was mostly concerned with the pacing issues of the documentary, which Dean thinks seem to stem from certain video editing and music decisions made from higher up. He mentioned that in the dub stage that had turned down the overall mix of the SFX a little too much for his liking, and he mentioned that he was planning to increase the volume.
He also said he would make sure I get a credit for my work on JFK. I asked Dean if I could ask him for a reference and he was more than happy to be. I didn't ask him for a written reference as he was tired and stressed out and I thought it would be better to ask at another point in time.
Below is a screenshot of the entire 4 hr session zoomed out. Every yellow line is a marker for a sound. Thousands of sound edited, mixed and EQ over a 4 week period. I would be lying if I didn't say I was quite happy with myself , not only just getting across the finishing line, but additional getting a big confidence boost from the whole expereince, and forming a new connection with one of my major inspirations and influences.
July 7th of August - Tues - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 8th of August - Wed - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 9th of August - Thurs - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 10th of August - Fri - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 12th of August - Sun - 10.00 - 3.00 - 30min break - 4.5 hrs
Total = 49.5 hrs
July 13th of August - Mon - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 14th of August - Tues - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 15th of August - Wed - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 16th of August - Thurs - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 17th of August - Fri - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 19th of August - Sun - 10.00 - 3.00 - 30min break - 4.5 hrs
Total = 49.5 hrs
July 20th of August - Mon - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 21st of August - Tues - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 23th of August - Wed - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 24h of August - Thurs - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 24th of August - Fri - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 26th of August - Sun - 10.00 - 3.00 - 30min break - 4.5 hrs
Total = 49.5 hrs
July 27th of August - Mon - 8.00 - 11.00 - 3 hrs
July 28st of August - Tues - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 29th of August - Wed - 8.00 - 5.30 - 30min break - 9 hrs
July 30h of August - Thurs - 8.00 - 6.00 - 30min break - 9.5 hrs
July 31th of August - Fri - 8.00 - 6.30 - 30min break - 10 hrs
July 1st of August - Sat - 8.00 - 6.00 - 30min break - 10 hrs
Total = 51.5 hrs
Total Hours = 200
My meeting with Dean in the second half of this week was short and sweet. Due to my 'lost' day I was totally under the pump, swamped in and in a slight panic to finish the project on time. Dean needed the audio by August the 1st (Saturday night) at the latest. As he would then have to spend his weekend mixing it and automating all the EQ for the music and dialogue. He would then have to bundle it all up and send it on a hard drive to L.A. As the plan was to have another sound guy mixing it for him with the producer. The audio would then be sent back to him and he would talk with the producer and sound mix distantly to go over any issues that may come up. Dean would then do the final mix and send it all back to the producer again.
Dean said too do the best job that I could and if I ran out of time to leave the markers in and just to leave him notes of what additional sounds who would need to add.
I managed to get the work to Dean on Saturday night, after rewatching it a few times I realised I would just need to hand it in as I was getting way to close to the work and overly fussy. I removed all the markers as Dean instructed and only left the ones with the sounds that I hadn't added. Which were mostly interview audio for archival footage that I could not track down. I also spent a great amount of time going over my work and making sure that all the files were the correct lengths and file formats.
I sent Dean and email with a detailed description of what I had done, which he thanked me for, as it enabled him to know what work he needed to do before opening the session.
Chapter 4 Work Examples
For chapter 4 I requested some sounds from Dean's collection as I had trouble finding appropriate recordings. More specifically I requested hospital sounds, New Orleans street sounds, and media pack sounds. I asked for this suite of sounds as chapter 4 was littered with scenes requiring such audio. I worked from Dean's philopshy of using restriction as a cretaive device. As such I used the same sounds in multiple scenes, the challenge been to then remix and edit it to suit the vision and space. Mostly using reverb and eq. Below is scene of Oswald in New Orleans, notice the visual editor has cut the cars on the cut. This is done to give the image a sense of visual and auditory movement.
Here is another example of a car montage with the music isolated. With all the additive FX I used EQ and pitch shift sounds to match the fundamental note of the music. I largely did this via feel. As opposed to previous chapters I also experimented a lot more with longer crossfades across scenes.
Below is one of my favourite scenes. Largely due to the autonomy of sound I used. I managed to use RX 7 in the way Dean showed me, to create false ambiences sampling previously used sounds. Thus evidence in the sounds of the troops storming the beach. To articulate a bigger sounding bomb I also layered a 2nd layer with ducked all the frequencies other than a boosted 40hz to create a greater bass presence.
After my meeting with Dean today I feel somewhat humbled. I had worked really hard on Chapter 3 and had tried my best to articulate every action I could. I did this as the pacing for Chapter 3 was so much slower than chapter 1 and 2, . As such I tried to prop up the visionwith audio as much as possible. In doing so I went too far into micro details and felt like I lost the pulse on the original recipe of additive FX for JFK as discussed with Dean.
With all the extra detail I added the whole thing started to feel more modern than it should and it also felt slightly out of step with chapter 1 and 2. Dean said not to worry too much as it is easy to loose perspective sometimes and he also noted that picture editor's style had also changed dramatically.
This particular situation really reminded me of when I started to play drums in bands and started to overplay everything when I realised I was could do so. With my boosted confidence I had now done the same thing with sound design, which was quite humbling as in some ways I thought I had done a better job than ch 1 and 2. However like my music playing, I was actually happy that Dean wanted things simpler as that is what my instincts desired me to do, I just got slightly carried away with defining details.
Dean also pointed out some other technical issues such as not bouncing down clips too short, and sometimes importing clips into Stereo instead of Mono. He also pointed out that I layered too many clips that were sounding too much the same. Preferring the need for economy over indulgence, as with a small team more clips simply creates more work and more mixing for Dean.
As such moving into the final week of Additive sound and the final chapter, I endeavoured to create the most streamline, authentic and economical audio that I could.
The start of this week was hampered by internet problems and a power outage that put me back a day. I managed to get some work done, but essentially my schedule got somewhat sidelined by a day which was somewhat annoying, but totally out of my control.
Chapter 4 Work Examples
1. This is a little montage I made consisting of cars, the dicta belt recording and crowd murmurs. I was quite happy with how cleanly it turned out, and how I only managed to use single audio clips per event.
Chapter 3 and 4 had multiple shots of Warren Dullis in board rooms with sitting men. Not much action to articulate so I mostly used murmurs, room tones and the camera click to create a sense of movement.
This an action sequence with music and SFX, I was quite happy with how my sound fitted in with the music. Finding the jumping jack sound was quite a challenge but it was quite satisfying when I finally got it parried up with the vision.
In the 2nd part of week 3, Dean went over some different plugins in Pro tools that he uses on a regular basis such as reverbs, EQ's, delay, and harmonic saturations. He also showed me the fundamentals of Izotope RX7 - a program used for audio repair. Just hearing Dean discuss the plugins and software and how and why he used them, was incredibly helpful. Dean also talked about ways he mixes and edits audio by using reference tracks as a basis of analysis. Essentially looking at the frequencies and loudness levels used in other songs, films and television audio mixes.
Most of our discussions so far have been fairly open, with Dean happy to answer any questions I have.
Dean also spoke about workflows, and not having to keep re putting in every sound if I had done in every instance. As Dean would then take the sounds I have made and re-use them in similar spots if necessary. Nevertheless as a rule of thumb I tried to provide more options for chapter 3 as I did for the first few chapters. Partially as I had a little more time, and also as for chapters 1 and 2 I had submitted 2 submissions for each chapter and I wanted to get better at articulating everything within one submission for chapter 3 and 4.
In our conversations we also spoke a lot about maintaining distance and giving things space. An example of this would be leaving a mix to the next day so the ear is fresh and one can maintain a little bit more objectivity about the audio/visual relationship.
Chapter 3 - Work Examples
Below is a few example of some swooshes and gun shots I made from low end bass frequencies and the re articulation of Oswald's Carcano shot and cocking mechanism. I used these sounds and similar ones in multiple sections across chapter 3.
The deadline for chapter 3 was less stringent than ch 1 and ch 2. For Chapter one the first draft was due in 3 days, chapter two was 3 days, and chapter 3 was six days. Part of the reason for the extended deadline for chapter 3 was partially due to a delayed edit from the picture editor (The picture arriving on Thursday instead of the usually Tuesday night). On top of this now Dean seems to have developed more of a sense of confidence in my work, enabling me a bit more time to work on the audio. As he confessed from the onset I was given a more stringent deadline for the first couple of chapters, due to the fact that he needed to be confident of my level of skill with the task at hand. Just in case he needed to schedule time out of his own schedule to redo my work if it wasn't up to scratch.
Dean also set me the additional homework task of the weekend between 2 and 3 of watching an audio commentary of the director and sound editor discussing the audio for the film Seven. As Dean said it was highly influential of his perception of sound to visual concepts when he was a student. Concepts such as extending screen space, creating audio narratives for scenes and characters offscreen, using unorthodox methods to create accurate room sounds and utilising and highlighting sounds in a minimalist way were discussed.
We had a meeting on my Monday morning/Dean's Sunday night and spoke a lot about Seven and the biggest take aways from watching the film. This lead to a discussion of sound economy, and finding key moments in the picture to invest time into whilst using more pedestrian sounds for smaller details. In other words highlighting key visual/narrative and audio moments, whilst filling the gaps with a more structural approach. After I divulged into a more conceptual angle of arousal levels and valance, Dean said to me that sometimes it doesn't have to be so complicated.
He also told me a story from his internship were he was told that "sometimes a film just needs to sound like a film". This statement hit as somewhat of a revealtion to me, snapping me out of a more conceptual approach to a far more intuitive approach.
Dean set me an additional task of creating swooshes, and stylistic stingers. I made these stingers from gun shots, sonic bass bombs and gun clicks. I delved into researching what guns Oswalt and Ruby used. Setting about constructing sequences and cutting tracks up to make new sounds. I found a sound of the same Carcano rifle that Oswalt used on Youtube and I then bought a rifle click from Soundogs.com and used that sound to recreate the sound from youtube. Using the purchased sound to recreate the same timing and rhythm as Oswalds gun cocking, which was quite distinctive compared to other such rifles.
I then set about marking more micro detail of transitions, swooshes, graphics and critical moments, such as revelations of narrative facts and moments of drama.
From the first round of stingers I sent to Dean, he said no to 4 of them and yes to 2 of them. The problem been that a lot of what I did was to lo fi, based on the fact that up until this point I had been trying to get everything to sound old. Yet in the situation of the stingers it needed to be more polished and hi definition, to enhance the visual drama.
Chapter 3 Work Examples
1. Below is an example of isolated SFX audio detailing the more detailed approach I took with chapter 3. I tried to blur in a little more realism but still make it sound older. I also started experimenting with longer fades and more layering, that went beyond the screen space. Such as using the motor sound in the last shot, birds, and traffic in distant background.
2. in this footage I used the dictabelt recording which was the only know audio recording from the JFK shooting. Taken from a policeman's radio which was accidentally left on, the recording captured the whole shooting albeit in a quite distorted fashion. I edited and re mixed this audio in various ways and used it in differing JFK footage shots. My hope is create a feeling or realism and pace over the arch of the 4 episodes.
3. This is one of my favourite sequences, due to the pacing of it visually, which gave me a great opportunity to place in and edit audio. I mixed down the EQ to match Whoopie's dialogue and then placed multiple layers fading into one another. Using a mixture of abstract and more realistic sounds, using the explosions as key points of engagement and energy in the sequence.
Chapter 2 was required by Dean within 2 days. For an hour of audio I had never worked to such a deadline before. However I threw myself at it and worked the longest hours I had ever undertaken on my DAW. After nervously undertaking chapter 1, my confidence was boosted from knowing Dean was happy with my work. As such, even though I worked long hours I was happy to do so, trying to do the best job I possibly could.
After submitting Chapter 2. draft one, I went back and watched it again. After which I decided to create more audio to send to Dean. Dean was quite happy that I had gone back and watched it again, however I sent him the files containing also including the original audio files, which was confusing and time confusing for Dean to fix. It was however a great learning opportunity about standard work flows and the nature of sharing files to a sound supervisor. A new experience to me as I had mostly worked with visual people, rather than providing audio in this way.
This a little sequence of isolated additive fx, containg footage of Castro, the Red square, and numerous rockets.
I used a combination of electromagnetic sounds, crowds, dialogue and found tank and rocket sounds.
I was particularly proud of this montage, given how hard it was to find and match up the dialogue of Castro, and the satisfaction of parring it up. Also in addition I made the tank rolling sounds from the sound of a trolley, which was a fun activity to undertake.
Following my first submission for Dean off chapter 2, some of the key feedback I received was in regard to adding more detail, such as cars, speeches and actions been articulated such as shovelling and footsteps.
I initially went with a more abstract impressionistic strategy, however, within this I had made it more stripped back than the vision required. Electing for subtle mood enhancement through sound sound design, however the vision required more binding to the audio to create more viewer engagement. Much of this is largely due to pacing or structural issues.
The documentary has pacing largely determined by the picture editor and like a lot of film and television works the sound becomes a last consideration (also often on a tight guideline). The vision had a particular rhythmn to it, however, some spots were very slow and dialogue heavy, whilst other sections were full of dynamic burst of action shots, requiring more sound. I asked Dean about this and he said that every project is different and that in this particular case all the video was largely pre-determined and as such their was not a lot of conversation between the sound and video department as there might be on other projects.
Chapter 2 as opposed to chapter 1, had a lot more dialogue, and men in suits sitting in boardrooms. This required a more minimal approach, which still utilised detail. As such it was actually more challenging to score the slow scenes as opposed to some of the busier sequences. In our meetings Dean and I spoke a lot about energy and creating little pockets of energy to add pepper to the picture and foster a feeling of engagement over the arc of the picture.
After spending much of Week 1 arguing with Pro Tools about working out timecode issues, by Week 2 I started to pick up the pace on chapter 2, by watching tutorials videos, googling issues and asking Dean about specific questions and procedures.
Chapter 2 Examples
This a shot of Ruby killing Harvey Oswalt. I found some of the original audio from the event, I then used a recording of 45. Colt, the same gun as Ruby used, and bolstered the audio in Pro Tools using EQ and harmonic saturation, to create more impact and feeling.
This a sequence of my isolated additive SFX audio in a recreated montage of JFK been shot by Oswalt.
I used a recording of Lincoln engine, which was the same model as the car which Kennedy used. I then cut up different parts of the recording, utilising reverb, harmonic saturation, and a vinyl effect, to give the feeling of space and wear. Other considerations were using synchronisation to splice together audio and vision on cuts, and pacing to use audio to create a feeling of dynamics, contrast and energy.
My internship with Dean requires me to record, find, and collate sound design and archival sound recordings for a four part documentary series on JFK. To do this job I am required to use Pro Tools to edit and mix sound to video. It requires me to load up the video editors aaf files and insert, mix and edit audio to send back to Dean, whom then inserts audio into the timeline which is then due to go to a dub stage on August 8th.
The first week and especially the first couple of days was an incredibly big learning curve, as I had never used Pro Tools for long film projects. Also given the quickness of turnaround I had never been given such a short time span to get work submited.
It felt like it exposed all my weakness and insecurities which was a really good thing as it forced me to learn very quickly. I spent half the week googling pro tools issues and working out timecode issues. Converting the mp4 to high res proxy file also took 9hrs, which chewed into my editing time somewhat.
I sent Dean a draft of Chapter 1, whereas he gave me feedback, which was that my work required more detail to match visual movement on screen, such as passing cars, planes and people talking.
Based on this feedback, I went back and did another pass at chapter 1, which Dean was happier with.
We had four 1 - 2 hour zoom meetings on the first week. Whereas Dean showed me a lot of functionalities and software suites in Pro Tools. We discussed strategies for designing sound for the documentary. Essentially coming up with a recipe for me to execute.
Essentially we decided on impressionistic recipe of sound that was old and fitting to the footage. Using an economical stratgety of sound placement. Dean sent me a folder of sounds he made for the introduction sequence as reference. He also sent me a few pro tools tutorials video links, of the best ways of bouncing down files to share.
I download a program called Cyberduck to download video aaf and guide tracks from the JFK server that the video editor uploaded too, and I also created a google drive folder to send the files back to Dean.
Another big part of the job has been undertaking extensiveresearch in order to match sounds accurately to sources. Such as particular cars, guns and locations.
It was quite surprising that overall Dean said he was pleasantly surprised and is happy with my work. With most of the feedback been in regard to technical issues such as file formats and bounces.
Chapter 1 Examples
Using an impressionistic lens to create the sound of cars crowds and vehicles mostly out of electromagnetic recordings of household appliances blurred with cars and crowd sounds. This is one of my favourite sounds I made and it became a reoccurring motif in other instances of JFK's motorcade.
Below is another sequence that goes from tanks, to a navy vessel, to planes. In most instances involving vehicles or machinery I would first do research into what type of vehicle it was and what it sounded like. I would then source the original sound, through sound libraries, or I would create sounds make similar to the reference material.
The additive sound I created in the below sequence uses the combines street ambiences from England in the 1930's and Cuba in the 1960's. I then used a series of spinning grainy static sounds to create an old sound and feeling.