List of Useful Resources on Foley and Sound Effects

A few weeks ago, I made a blog post about my experiences in creating sound effects and foley for film, and mentioned that I might make a list of resources that I have found useful whilst doing it, so here it is.

Books

There are two absolutely fantastic books on sound for films, which I may have mentioned before

The first is Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema by David Sonnenschein (There is a link to a preview here.) It’s not a long book, or a particularly wordy one, but it manages to cover all the basics and then some of film sound. Everything is arranged by ‘Jargon/Technical Term’- Explanation, so it makes a great encyclopaedia of sound definitions too.

The second is The Sound Effects Bible by Ric Viers. (You can find out about the book here, and it seems to be mysteriously free as a .pdf all over the web.) This book is far more specific to Foley Artists. It covers all aspects of sound recording for films, from field recording to building a foley stage. Both books are full of examples from films that anyone would recognise – but mostly Star Wars, because Ben Burtt, obviously.

Both books start out quite basic, covering microphones, acoustics etc, so I feel that someone very new to sound would still be able to read them. I’m supposed to be more expert in these matters, but I often reread the beginning chapters anyway because I more get into sound, the more terrified I am that someone will call me out on not knowing something basic.

I should also probably mention Dialogue Editing For Motion Pictures by John Purcell, because it has a lot of information on dialogue editing and ADR, which the other books don’t cover in detail

Websites

Filmsound.org
– I love this site, I really do. It’s huge, with lots of interviews with film designers and articles on specific films, and it also has a huge glossary of terms that I use more often than I should in this stage of my career.

Rode University on YouTube – (Please note, I’m really not being paid by Ric Viers to advertise his work or anything. He just crops up a lot in this stuff.) Rode University’s YouTube channel has loads of videos covering both music and sound effect recording.

Freesounds.org – Is the greatest site ever for free sound effects and sounds used to make them. It’s a database of creative commons sound files that anyone can upload to, and like many such sites that most people would look down on (urghh, free and user content?!), it is actually fantastic. Many of the sounds here are really high quality and I’ve used plenty of them, as well as uploading a few of my own.

And to finish, here is a selection of sounds effects I created a while ago, which I’ve just uploaded to freesounds.org. You can find them here, where they are available for download under creative commons attribution.

https://soundcloud.com/clare-wells/washing-up-sound-samples

Continuing Spreadable Media…

The video I created for the ReTechSocial Spreadable Media Project has now been online for over two weeks, and over that time I’ve been checking the Google Analytics on YouTube. They present a fairly interesting picture of where the video is spreading and who is watching it.

Of course, when compared to other videos produced for Retechsocial, it might not be doing so well, but I can see in the analytics, especially the hits from within YouTube itself, that it is slowly gaining momentum. This graph shows the views per day since the video was released.

This graph shows three major peaks, each one correlating to when I posted the video on a major social networking site.

It’s nice to see that the highest proportion of those views came from Reddit, a site which is far more anonymous than the other two. On Twitter, I am in some way acquainted with many of my followers and of course on Facebook I know all of the people who would have seen the video. I expected that Facebook would be my highest audience, after all many of the people I know on Facebook are musicians, and friends. However Reddit is a far larger audience, and people presumably came to the subreddit r/ICoveredASong with the intention of listening to other people’s music, rather than just idly browsing.

However, the video has not dropped to nothing in the days since, instead gaining one or two views per day, slowly increasing it’s view count and relevance on the YouTube rankings. I’ve also been watching the traffic sources and working out how people are finding the video.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also posted my video to the website Vimeo. I will admit now, I didn’t know much about Vimeo, so I didn’t pay much attention to the site at first. A few days later, I realised that my video still had no views, despite being posted to some relevant groups. Of course, Vimeo has much less traffic than YouTube, but comparisons between the two sites have often been fairly balanced. However a quick scan of the videos on Vimeo show that many of them are professional standard – these are show reels and showcases for people and companies. It is entirely possible that my video, made in my living room with an iPhone, isn’t high quality enough to interest the community on Vimeo. YouTube is a more appropriate place for it.

YouTube – The Current Legal Minefield and How it Affects the Community

A day or so ago I received a copyright claim on a YouTube Video on my personal channel (MusyVideos) for the music playing in the background of the film. This merely involved acknowledging the claim, which allowed YouTube to add an iTunes link for the song. However it did get me thinking about the many legal difficulties which have affected YouTube and it’s community recently, even leaving aside major attempts to change how web content copyright laws such as SOPA, PIPA and ACTA.

Copyrighted material on YouTube falls under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which means that YouTube is not liable for the material uploaded to the site. However individual users can be liable, though the lists of cases brought against users shows that copyright claims can be an extremely murky area. My research into what constitutes ‘fair use’ on YouTube suggests a great deal of confusion over the term.

YouTube legalities become even more complicated when the YouTube networks, which I previously blogged about here, get involved. They have certain rights over the channels of their users, and there have been a number of cases over the past year where these networks are considered to have abused their authority over their client channels.

In March, a YouTube user known as MeganSpeaks (also MeganLeeHeart), lost her contract with YouTube Network Machinima for her gaming channel, which came after she filed false copyright claims against another YouTube channels for posting a video criticising her. Pictures of the copyright claim correspondence for one can be found here – sadly the original video remains down and some posts made about it were removed from the site. Machinima also apparently filed a DMCA claim on her behalf on another negative video response since it used the same thumbnail image. However as the thumbnail image was copyrighted to MeganSpeaks and not to Machinima, they were forced to drop the claim. Of course, information about these claims spread quickly across various social media sites, and Machinima possibly terminated her contract to prevent more bad publicity.

Machinima received more negative publicity in July over this video.

It prompted much discussion over whether giving control, even partial control, of your account to a network is really beneficial, and since Google has approximately $35 million invested in Machinima they could lose revenue if Machinima began to lose credibility and members. Being a member of the gaming community, BrainDeadly received a great deal of community support and coverage on news sites. Machinima as a network is gaming based, so any community backlash has a large impact. Of course, with so many channels under their company umbrella the impact was not lasting, although it did results in one of their flagship channels, AtheneWins, breaking contract with them.

One recent and indeed ongoing scandal shows how much one channel, with enough fans, has the potential to seriously damage a commercial organisation, in this case YouTube Network Maker Studios. Maker studios had achieved a good reputation among the YouTube community, with many forum discussions between users aiming to become professionals suggesting that they are a fair company (for example here and here.) They also attracted some of the largest channels on Youtube, including comedian Ray William Johnson who recently split from the network, citing unfair contracts, and apparently managing to draw Maker Studios founder Danny Zappin into a public feud. Johnson has an average of 3 million views on most of his videos, which likely means that he has a lot of dedicated fans willing to trust his word above Zappin’s.

The worst part of these events is that they can be very dividing to the tenuous communities built up in online spaces, especially around YouTube channels. At it’s heart, YouTube depends on these communities to survive and make revenue, as dedicated fan bases are what drive the larger and more productive channels (this is a great article on ‘Microcelebrity’ and how YouTubers rely on close fans to support them.) Therefore YouTube does need to make legal issues as clear as possible, given the restraints of laws such as the DMCA, which were made before YouTube existed, as certainly before it began to generate large amounts of money and create a whole new (currently slightly unregulated) industry of content producers, agents and networks. The above cases all show that there is confusion over the legal aspects of online video, and issues in each case were further clouded by online users who passed on the news with their own views, sometimes without a full grasp of the situation – understandably, since as I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t completely understand it myself!

Video for ‘Wherever You Will Go’ Cover

As a followup to this post, and the recording I made, I decided to try my hand at creating a video for my recording of ‘Wherever You Will Go – Cello Cover.’

Trying to film myself playing in time to an iPad playing the tune was pretty hard, and in retrospect there are a few awkward jump cuts in the video editing process, but overall it was an enjoyable process.

Edit:

I should have mentioned that I have also uploaded the video to Vimeo. As the song is now on three platforms it will be interesting to compare them.

Something a Bit Different: BBC Academy Fusion Summit

A few days ago I was lucky enough to go to part of the Fusion Games Summit at MediaCityUK, Salford, and watch some of the panels, including one entitled, ‘Where is the Money?’ On funding opportunities for games in the BBC and elsewhere in broadcast media.

I came into the discussion part of the way through, but I decided to made some notes of the discussion at the time, and it occurred to me that they would potentially make a good, if slightly unusual, blog post.

Chair: Jo Twist (UKIE)
Panelists:
Tom Reding (BBC Worldwide)
Patrick Healey (BBC Children’s)
Chris Sizemore (BBC Knowledge and Learning)
Colin McDonald (Games Commissioning, C4)

At the point where I started watching, the panel were discussing how most games produced by broadcast media were, naturally, linked to an intellectual property (e.g. The Snowman and the Snow Dog, a game for Channel 4’s new Christmas film) and whether that was likely to change. Chris Sizemore made the point that it is much harder to market games without IP. For every six to eight games they produce, one is a new IP, but it’s more difficult to advertise (presumably while staying without the BBC guidelines), and so a bigger advertising budget is needed.

Regarding how the Games are pitched and how Developers and chosen

(Mostly answered by Tom Reding from BBC Worldwide)

The BBC has an Open platform for pitching games, as well as Connected Studio, a workshop/platform where they work up from 3 minute pitches to half hour builds. Both the BBC and Channel 4 are interested in speculative pitches: if someone has a good enough idea they can take it to them.

When a show is produced by a TV company independent of the channel, their digital arm (should they have one) usually has first refusal on making a tie-in game. Both Chris Sizemore and Colin McDonald agreed that this is not always best practice, and it is their job to ensure that the best developers are chosen for the job since often companies will pitch ideas without an idea of the set skills needed, especially now games need to be released across mobile platforms as well.

Often partnerships are developing between developers and TV companies, which is a good thing, although it may lead to newer and smaller developers being unable to get in on the act, as it were, which leads back to the problems of trying to find the best dev for a specific job.

All of the panel believed that it was important to start trying to get the developers and companies working together at the inception of the idea. The companies can then go to the BBC and say, “Here is the show, here is the game that will sit alongside it.”

Colin McDonald explained that they had a policy of occasionally opening up to pitches from new companies by letting them know what shows would be coming up and allowing the to put together a pitch for them. The problem with this is that they often have up to forty companies vying for one pitch, and a lot of them put a lot of money into the work that they show, the implication, I think, being that they see new and start-up companies staking too much money on pitches they probably will not get.

The discussion then turned towards budgeting. It was suggesting by Jo Swift that many TV companies don’t have a good enough idea of the budget involved in making games, especially games made by larger companies, and suggested that this might be an opening for smaller ‘more agile’ indie companies.

Patrick Healey claimed that budgets were not the first thing he usually focused on, compared to a good pitch, although he agreed with the comment that smaller companies may be better, especially now they are focusing on the mobile domain. A smaller game can be made for less than £100,000 and may start at £30k, although nowadays the cost doesn’t stop after the game is released.

Jo Swift commented that there had been some previous criticism of the BBC for going abroad to find game companies to work with rather than trying to use British talent. responded by listing some of the UK companies that they had worked with such as SuperSonic, but explained that the end product was the most important thing to them, and they were more concerned with finding the right people, wherever they were based.

(Please note: these notes were made as part of a practice attempt at live blogging. Unfortunately I made the novice error of not carefully noting down the names of the panelists at the beginning, so I apologise for any quotes or comments attributed to the wrong person.)