zs_overman (zs_overman) wrote in bloodspell,

Episode 5 Did You Know

Time for more sound-related trivia, this time from BloodSpell Episode 5.

Walking on your Hands

While Carrie has spent the entirety of the story thus far sans footwear, her approach with Bram ("The Kid") to Shona's house was the first time the footsteps needed to be audible, since in all previous scenes there had been a lot of other noise going on. Not having any appropriate samples on hand, I needed to come up with a convincing sound for bare feet on stone.

When someone is walking in shoes, the surface on which they are walking is as much a part of the sound as the shoe itself; but bare feet have a very distinct slappy sound, and you're hearing a lot more of the foot than the ground. After trying a few things (including actual bare feet), I found that the best sound came from hand on hand, in a very brisk sliding motion with brief contact. Once I found the sound, I sealed up the room, set up the mic, and recorded two tracks (one for Carrie, one for Bram) while watching the video preview. Live performance foley situations can be fun, you just need to be very familiar with the source video (practice makes perfect).

What You Don't See

We all know the importance of not being seen. But sometimes, when doing foley, it's very easy to focus solely on what is visible on the screen. However, it is also very important to have an awareness of what is not in your view, but would still be emanating sound. BloodSpell has no shortage of torchlight, not all of which is continually in shot. And most of the unseen sounds in question are ambient in nature like this.

Every once and awhile, though, the unseen sound is actually very critical to communicating a continuity of action. There's a great example of this coming up in Episode 6, but Ep 5 also had one... one I'll wager you didn't notice, but you probably would have noticed had it been absent. When the bartender urges Jered to take the drink and sit down, the next shot shows Jered, mug in hand, making his way toward a booth. But we never see the drink being poured or the mug being placed atop the bar. If you watch that scene again, you'll notice that the little mini story of the drink's appearance is told entirely with sound; there are no animations, and they wouldn't be seen anyway as the shots were very tight.

Later, when Gad calls Jered onto the carpet, listen closely and you'll hear someone drop their mug as their outrage overtakes them. We never see the poor beerless bloke; we don't need to. As you work on sound in your own machinima productions, keep the "unseen" in mind when sculpting your sound. It can make a big difference.

Tone It Down

Hugh and the team are not shy with compliments; when I get something right, they aren't shy at all about letting me know. But one of the biggest compliments Hugh has paid me in this production was, I think, completely unintentional.

The gal who is helping Jered hide at the beginning of Episode 5 punctuates her apparent bender by spewing (again, unseen) onto the floor. On the first sound draft for that scene, Hugh's comment to me was, and I quote: "The vomiting - it's great, but maybe a little too much. I was actually feeling a bit queasy myself! Can we tone it down?..." Wow! I have to say, that made me feel really good, that just a soundscape (no visual aid whatsoever) could evoke genuine nausea! So thanks, Hugh... and sorry!

However, I found myself facing the challenge of making a barf sound less barfy. Fortunately, I have a friend named Richard Grove who, in addition to being a formidable "sound guy" himself (Only The Strong Survive), also happens to have compendium-like knowledge about regurgitation. His suggestion was to pull back the high frequencies in the EQ a few decibels, to take some of the wetness away from the alcoholic chunder. By doing that, as well as shortening the duration of the spew (the first draft had her ralphing about 2X as long!), we were able to come up with a puke sequence that made Hugh chuckle instead of chuck! Thanks, Ricky!

Of course, the vomit sequence would not have been possible without tremendous voiceover work (and perhaps method acting?) by Felicity King-Evans. The importance of having your actors do their own grunts, gags, etc. cannot be overstated.

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