Foley Work

Over the past few weeks, my group for Audio Post Production has been busy finishing up the sound for the short Animated film we’ve been working with. We’ll be starting to mix it in 5.1 tomorrow morning.

One of the most fun things for me has been creating the Foley sounds. Foley (named after famous Hollywood sound recordist Jack Foley) is adding in sound effect to fit the screen, such as footsteps, and is used throughout the film industry, not just in animations. Often the sounds produced on set are unusable due to outside interference, and contrary to popular belief cannot be ‘fixed in post!

Although the sounds can be edited into place, it is easier if they are as closely in sync with the picture as possible, so it needs a lot of takes to get right. When factoring in takes where the microphone needed adjusting and there were discussions over the exact sound and how to get it, even a minute of footstep sounds can take an hour.

Rob and Kerry recording the sound of footsteps on a metal sheet

Like all sound effect work, Foley involves a fair amount of experimentation. I spent quite a while rolling a nut down a metal pipe angled towards a camera (borrowed from a DIY-minded neighbour’s shed) to create the sound of a robot rolling out of the end of a drain pipe. The hardest part of this (which I wish I’d videoed) was probably getting the sound of the nut rolling towards the microphone without it popping out of the end of the tube and bouncing off the equipment

For anyone interested in trying this kind of thing, ‘The Sound of Effects Bible‘ by Ric Viers, and ‘Sound Design‘ by David Sonnenschein are fantastic reads, and of course there are plenty of great sites and YouTube videos- I might make a post listing them when I have time.

Trolls, Sexism and Girls on YouTube

(This blog post is extremely overdue, but unfortunately I managed to forget the golden rule of writing anything on a computer ever, which is ‘Save your work frequently!’ Thankfully I was able to remember most of what I’d originally written.)

This idea came about during an in-class discussion of what is and isn’t appropriate to put on YouTube, based on how it will spread and who sees it. I mentioned that I was hesitant to create a video for the cello piece I had created for our course Spreadable Media Project because I was scared about the sexist comments it might receive. This led me to think, why am I so convinced that a video of a girl playing the cello will attract inappropriate comments?

There has been much written about the inherent sexism of the Internet. In recent months much has been written about the case of Anita Sarkeeisian, a feminist and pop culture blogger. In 2011 Sarkeeisian decided to make a short documentary exploring negative stereotypes of woman in video games. while this project received immense support, it also attracted some ugly criticism, culminating in death threats.

Elsewhere, academic papers have been written on the subject, such as Danielle Keats Citron’s work ‘Law’s Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment‘, in which she explores whether harassment of bullying of women online is trivialised as

‘…harmless teasing that women should expect, and tolerate, given the internet’s Wild West norms of behaviour’*

Is this just a vocal minority of Internet users, driven by the Internet’s free speech policies to try and be more shocking, or is there an institution of online misogyny?

Studies into online culture done in the late 90s and early 00s indicates that this was so, it often ascribed it to the online male majority- computers were still very much seen as a masculine persist, especially online gaming, driven by aggressive marketing towards teen males. Most of these studies, such as those described in Communities in Cyberspace**, assumed that this attitude would decrease over time as more women moved onto the Internet.

In his book Andrew Calcutt introduced the concept of the ‘Cyberjock’, a culture of young men who in some way feel threatened by sexual equality elsewhere in the world, and try to make up for it by being overly masculine online, where there are no restraints to such behaviour. In his words:

‘Cyberjocks are clinging to an exaggerated idea of how ‘real men’ used to be’***

Calcutt was writing in the late nineties, but again this is a culture that seems to have persisted in places such as Reddit and 4Chan, since under the aforementioned ‘Wild West Culture’ they contain popular sections devoted to commentary that would be inappropriate elsewhere.

However, looking at the videos of famous female YouTube musicians such as Lindsey Stirling, I was surprised to discover that most of the comments related to her playing rather than appearance. Even looking at similar videos by unknown musicians, the comments was related to their music, and on the whole were kind and positive too.

So perhaps stereotype of the leering Internet troll not as present, at least on YouTube as the media might have us believe? YouTube has a fairly open policy on the comments people can make. It may well be that I am looking at the wrong videos, or at least, the kind of videos that they aren’t interested in ‘trolling’. Popular female video blogger channels such as Jenna Marbles receive noticeably more ‘trolling’ comments, although she is always staunchly defended by other users. It would also be interesting to see whether general behaviour in YouTube comments has improved since Google started asking new users in sign up with their real names.

A video by Vlogger Jenna Marbles. Searching through it’s comments section I found a number of comments suggesting that her appearance was the thing that made her popular, rather than her actual video content.

*P. 1, Citron Keats, D., Law’s Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment (Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, p. 373 – 2009; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-11) (Accessed 26th November 2012)

** Kollock, P., & Smith, M.A., (Ed.) Communities in Cyberspace (Routledge, London, 1999)

***P. 17, Calcutt, A., White Noise: An A-Z of the Contradictions in Cyberspace(Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 1998)

Stats, and the Places where Media Spreads

Yes, stats. While it’s probably not good for me, I do love it when I know other people are looking at and/or liking my work.

Stats for my cover of ‘Wherever You Will Go’ on SoundCloud

But on a more serious note, these are how we will be tracking the spread of media for our Social Technologies project. As I stated in my last post, I’ve already created a media object – this recording, which is currently sitting on SoundCloud. And while it’s not doing nothing there, having garnered 15 views and one favourite in the past five days, and doubtless a few views on the other places I have posted it, such as Twitter, Facebook and even this blog, that isn’t really ‘spreading’. I’m the only one doing the spreading but as of yet it hasn’t gone beyond me. So I need to look at where else it can go and what else it can do.

Obviously the next step is into a different format. One of the problems with SoundCloud, especially when embedded on different sites, doesn’t work on all browsers, which makes things harder. According to this article by Henry Jenkins:

To some degree, it seemed the strength of a viral message depends on “how easy is it to pass”*

Since so many people now listen to music on YouTube, clearly that is the place to go. But simply as a piece of music? Perhaps with pictures? Or with a video? The more I add to it, the more it will change the original piece of media.

However, YouTube isn’t the only place to go. I’m also looking into Vimeo, which has a smaller audience but tries to create more of a community, so there might be more comments etc. on a video placed there, and the slowly-being revamped MySpace, which promises better facilities for music.

*Jenkins, H., “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead (Part One): Media Viruses and Memes” on Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (Accessed 20th November 2012)

The Recording Project -Done!

Earlier this week I mentioned in a post about a mysterious recording project that I was editing, and now I’m happy to say that it is now finished, edited and up on Soundcloud ready to be shared.

I’ve created an instrumental cover of the song ‘Wherever You Will Go‘ by The Calling, performed on acoustic guitar and cello (both played by me.) It’s a song I’ve loved for a very long time and I think it works well as an instrumental, although I’ve rearranged it slightly. Of course, this was recorded at home with fairly basic equipment, but I think an instrumental like the cello is better for not having a glossy studio finish. Then again it’s hard for me to say. When I listen to this I find myself criticising my performance – it’s very hard to be objective.

I was inspired to do this partly by all the discussions our group have had on remix culture, but also by the great cello covers done by artists I admire such as Apocalyptica and Steven Sharp Nelson. Although I’ve always been a classical musician I love what they do and how the music they on the cello tends to transcend pop, rock or classical to just be great music.

This project, as well as being a lot of fun for me, is going to be used in our Social Technologies Module as a spreadable media object, which is quite easy on Soundcloud since it has a stats function much like WordPress. However, I’d like it to go further, so I’m planning to either make a video or, if anyone else in the #mscret group is interested, let them make a video for our ReTechSocial YouTube Channel.

I also posted a partially edited track as a work-in-progress, where you can hear all the wonders of my popping microphone, audio clipped off in it’s prime, and some stunning wrong notes which I was thankfully able to replace. I’m also going to monitor the stats on this, as it also seems to be accumulating views.

The Creator Culture – The Positives and Negatives of Everyone making Content

In previous posts, I have discussed how Remix Culture and sites such as YouTube, together with today’s easy access to technology (such as video on phones) have allowed us to become a culture of creators, rather than consumers. Instead just being fed music, film etc. by larger companies, we are able to create and share our own, whatever our talents. While people may have always exercised those talents, there wasn’t to way to easily share them with the world. Nabeel Malik sums it up well in his blog.

“…in public you only come across an extremely small audience and we don’t exactly want to go over and start to tell them about your mood or even the video you have created or recorded”

Many people have used YouTube as a springboard to international success – perhaps the most well-known example would be pop star Justin Beiber, who’s videos of various cover tunes were popular enough to secure him a record contract and an international music career. Although with celebrities there usually conflicting accounts of their beginnings, this article suggests that he did not intend or expect those videos to reach a larger audience. This is an insteresting point, given that some articles I have recently read, such as ‘The Thin Line Between Beauty and Sadness’, have suggested that YouTube for many is a glorified popularity contest, a sort of online cult of celebrity chasing.

The first ever Justin Beiber video – not high quality, ‘professional standard’ content, currently stands at over 5.7 million views.

An article on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website contains testimonials from several successful creators who have remained on YouTube, rather than move onto more conventional media as Beiber did. People from Barnett Zitron, the creator of the political commentary channel Why Tuesdayto Dane Boedigheimer, who makes the short comedy series The Annoying Orange were featured as video makers who have found their niche online. To quote the article.

These creators praise YouTube for removing the gatekeeper between them and their audiences. “We can now be our own television and cable stations and our own record labels and record stores.”*

Clearly, this shows the vast potential of YouTube, but these are a tiny percentage of the people who use YouTube. And while their content may have worth, there is a lot more video content on YouTube alone which will never be successful. Should this ‘everyone can create’ trend be encouraged or not?

However, some do believe that there is a downside to this. Writers Andrew Keen comments in his work ‘The Cult of the Amateur‘ that this tidal wave of videos is like Aldous Huxley’s metaphor about infinite monkeys, except:

“These millions and millions of exuberant monkeys, many with no more talent in the creative arts than our primate cousins, are creating an online forest of digital mediocrity”**

So what is the worth of all the video content online? Is it a great melting pot of ideas, in which the best float to the top and become part of popular culture? Or is it a swamp in which true creativity and professionalism are stifled by those who ‘think’ they have talent?

Personally, I lean towards the former. Creative people will always go on to success, but through platforms such as YouTube they can do it on their own terms rather than those of corporate interests.

*McSherry, C., ” “YouTube Is UsTube”: Creators Step in to Defend YouTube” on Electronic Frontier Foundation (Accessed 15th November 2012)

**Keen, A., The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture (Doubleday Books, New York, 2007)

Some Quick Thoughts and Upcoming Projects

Following on from this

I have another picture to share with you. No more details, but it may be to do with the upcoming spreadable media project I mentioned in my previous post.

Mysterious Audio being edited in Cubase

Why am I posting/tweeting about this? Really, it’s to force myself to actually get on and do a personal recording project once I’ve started it. If I tell people I’m doing it, I have to get on and finish whether or not the end result is any good, rather than sit on material as I’ve done previously. I’ll do updates on this, though with any luck it shouldn’t take too long to complete.

Other Short Thoughts – Animation Research Project

Our Uncanny Valley Online Survey is going live very soon! The link will be edited in shortly.

UPDATE: Our survey can be found at

Are twitter hashtags taking over the rest of the world? They were created on twitter as a search function, but seem to have recently become a means of expressing shortform thoughts and emotions in other places too. Here is a screenshot from the chat of an online computer game.

Another screenshot, from an iMessage conversation I had two days ago.

ReTechSocial so far… a reflective post for this semester

As readers of my blog may or may not be aware, this site was created as part of the module ‘Research in Emerging Technologies‘, specifically the part of the module covering Social Technologies and Social Media. I came to the first lecture not really knowing what to expect.

The first thing we were encouraged to do was to improve our Digital Identity, using sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and others. I certainly feel like my use of Twitter improved my online presence dramatically as I learned to use it. I looked at the twitter followers I was collecting, particularly at those whose interests mirror some of my own, and I have consciously tried to make tweets that will be interesting for these different users, talking about this module with the mscret hashtag, but also tweeting about audio, (#UoSAudio) and experiences with theatre (often under #technique after the Technique workshops at Contact, Manchester which I am currently attending.)

Of course, my blog has been about more than just Social Technologies, but most of my other posts, whether they are on Audio recording, postproduction or animation, have still been very much linked to my work at University. This has given my blog a nice recurring theme which I’ve reflected in the site’s recent new look and title ‘Internet Culture and Audio Attempts’ However I intend to expand my blog slightly to cover some other related aspects, such as my music, or sound in theatre.

The part of this module I have enjoyed talking about most has been a combination of Remix Culture and YouTube Culture, two elements which I believe are quite intimately linked. Over the past few years, I have seen how YouTube and other video sites have grown to host high quality content, supporting independent creators and film makers of every type, and how even low-quality, shorter videos can find a vast audience that appreciates them. According to YouTube’s press page, “72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” We have become a culture of creators, with both positive and negative aspects arising from that.

While I have enjoyed the whole series of lectures and writing set blog posts, I found it a little less interesting talking about Digital Identity from the point of view of trying to increase and/or protect your online presence. When I first heard ‘Digital Identity’ as an idea, I considered the idea from a different perspective – the issues that can arise from a digital persona, where you don’t use your real name, or you act differently when online than you would elsewhere. This article by Carla Bennett covered some of these aspects and I intend to do some more research on this for a future post.

Much what we have done so far has been closely under our Lecturer’s instructions, of weekend, I set up a group on Diigo for our group. Diigo is a website which can be used to create a list of bookmarked pages, but it can be made a more interactive site through the groups function allowing pooling of group members links, but also discussions and comments on those links. I hope that, between everyone involved in Social Tech, this will become a great resource for the module, and another place to discuss research and issues.

Next week, we will be starting to move on from social media to look at Spreadable media (here is a good explanation of Spreadable media) in more detail from this week onwards, and concentrating on our group YouTube channel, ReTechSocial. Several of us have already uploaded short videos introducing ourselves, and since videos won’t spread by themselves, here is my first proper appearance on YouTube.


As I’m planning to look further at YouTube and Remixing, I’m looking forward to the videos that are going to be uploaded to this channel.