Sound Design for our ENO project

This week we had a meeting with a sound designer to help create atmosphere in our film. Initially we found it difficult to decide if we wanted any sounds at all, as the film already felt very complete with the music from the opera. We were afraid that any ambient sounds may not fit with the music and may even potentially distract from the music.

In order for the timing of our animation to synchronise with the peaks and troughs of the music we delayed the start of the music for a second or two after our animation had begun. The only issue with this is that it gave the initial impression to the audience that the audio was not working. To rectify this we decided to insert some ambient sounds of wind at the very beginning to give a sense of the winter environment, before the music starts.

The sound designer added this for us and then faded the sound so that it could just be heard under the music from the opera. This really worked and encouraged us to be slightly more adventurous and try a few more sounds to put softly under the music. There is a scene where the main character, a kingfisher, dives under the water and retrieves a pearl. For this scene we added a few ambient sounds of water splashing and I was amazed by how much this enhanced the scene.

The sounds that we inserted made the characters feel like they were in a real environment, suddenly the film had a lot more weight and texture to it. We only added a few sounds that we felt were most crucial, for example the wind at the beginning to set the scene, a heavier gust of wind when Marcello is battling against the elements, water sounds when he retrieves the pearl and wings flapping when Musetta deserts him at the very end.

It is interesting to note that we only inserted four ambient sounds all at the most crucial moments in our film; the beginning, the obstacle in his journey (difficult weather), the moment he finds the perfect gift, and the final verdict ( Musetta rejecting him once again). This was not a deliberate choice to only pick these moments to add sound, these decisions were made purely on where we felt ambient sound would work most appropriately.

I was really surprised by how a few sounds placed at the appropriate time really elevated the whole feeling of the piece. The characters feel much more grounded in a world and the whole film feels more real, and therefore we as an audience feel more engaged and invested in the story.

The sound designer used Adobe Audition software to put this together as he said it was a much more intuitive programme, and one that would be easy for us to use to change the timings if we needed. He also mentioned that this software worked very well with Premiere.

This was the first time I have worked with a sound designer and I found it to be really beneficial. The session we had really opened my eyes to how important ambient sounds are for an animation, and demonstrated just how much sound can elevate a story.

Dress Rehearsal for the Opera La Bohème

On Saturday I went to see the dress rehearsal of La Bohème. The story begins with two men in a cold apartment in Paris. The two men are struggling artists, Marcello is a painter and Rodolfo is a poet. They can barely keep themselves warm in their freezing apartment and in a desperate attempt to warm themselves they throw Rodolfos’s poems on the fire.  A friend then walks into the flat, he is a musician and has just been hired. He brings wine and food with him and is celebrating getting paid, he tells his friends that they should go out and celebrate in the evening. Later Rodolfo is alone in the apartment, finishing some work and is about to join his friends for drinks when, suddenly there is a knock at the door. It is a young woman named Mimi and she is looking for a candle so she can light her way home.

Rodolfo and Mimi speak for a long time and tell each other about themselves, they instantly fall in love. Mimi accompanies Rodolfo to the bar to meet his friends. At the bar a singer named Musetta charges in with an older gentleman carrying multiple gifts (we assume for her). Musetta is the centre of attention, she is loud and is clearly pining for the attention of her ex lover Marcello. Wise to her charm and tricks to allure men, Marcello tries to ignore her flirtatiously parading around the restaurant. After many attempts Musetta finally succeeds in seducing Marcello and the two begin dating again.

Mimi is terribly ill, she has a fierce cough and Rodolfo is aware that she hasn’t got much longer to live. Afraid that he cannot provide the best care for her on his meagre living, and fearful of her being taken from him, he decides to try and break off the relationship. The two have a dispute and decide that they cannot be apart from one another during the winter and, decide to split up when spring arrives.

The men having separated from Mimi and Musetta are carrying on with their lives, it is clear that both still miss their former lovers but are trying their best to carry on as normal. Suddenly Musetta bursts in with urgent news that Mimi is very sick. The men help carry Mimi into their apartment and Mimi and Rodolfo have a moment together singing about their love for one another. The opera ends with Mimi sighing her last breath and Rodolfo clutching her in his arms.

The orchestra were fantastic, the atmosphere they were able to create was sensational. Whilst this opera is about love, death and the struggles of an artist there was still a lot of humour which certainly lightened the tone and showed the comradely the artists had with each other. The set design was really beautiful and portrayed Paris in the 1930’s very convincingly. The transitions of the scenes were also very dynamic, cast members who played people in the crowd would turn the set to reveal a new scene. I found it very beneficial to go and see the opera we are animating because it allowed me to deepen my understanding of the characters. The most helpful aspect for me was to see the scene that we are animating, to see how the characters move and interact was very informative.

The Climb

I recently watched the short film, ‘The Climb’ it’s a comedy of two friends out cycling together. The story is refreshingly simple and the setting is beautiful. This live action short premiered in the narrative competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. It was directed by Michael Covino and produced by Kyle Marvin, both star as themselves in the film.

The film is 8 minutes long and shows two friends cycling to the top of a hill somewhere in America. The purpose of this bike ride is to help Kyle get out and exercising after becoming slightly depressed about his girlfriend leaving him. The story takes an interesting turn when Kyle’s best friend, Mike, gets something off his chest. The bike ride was supposed to be a therapeutic and healing activity for Kyle, but turns out to be anything but.

The story is about friendship and the difficulties that can occur in a friendship. This particular friendship has just hit a bump in the road, and it is comical to see the two try to resolve their differences.

They shot the film in one take, which is effective because they are cycling up a very steep hill, so the exhaustion from the riders adds to the humour and tension of the piece. The comedy value comes from Kyle’s pain in his love life, his struggle to climb the hill and his frustration with his friend Mike.

Kyle’s emotions fluctuate dramatically throughout this piece, he begins quite depressed speaking about his ex-girlfriend, and how much he appreciates his best friend for taking him out on a cycle ride to help him. Mike seems quite cool about helping his friend and mainly focuses the conversation on cycling. Mike then reveals some news to Kyle which is both shocking to the audience and to Kyle. Deeply angered by the news we see Kyle go from being a little hopeless and defeatist to alert and enraged. This is where the comedy really starts setting in, the audience can empathise with Kyle and his frustration, but it is hard to take his anger seriously when he is clearly struggling to cycle up the hill. As Kyle shouts angrily to his friend (who is far more athletic and much farther ahead on the hill) his friend simply replies with advice to help him tackle the hill.

Most of the camera shots in the film are wide, which is effective as it really shows the vastness of nature and the beauty surrounding them. These wide shots also help the audience to appreciate the steepness and difficulty of the hill. As tensions arise the camera cuts in closer to each actor, helping the audience to really see the emotion of each character.

I enjoyed how much story the actors were able to convey in such a simple setting, the script is well written and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the two characters; one quite dynamic and competitive the other laid-back and funny. It is clear that the two care about each other greatly, so even when they are arguing it is evident that they both want to reach a happy solution. This adds to the comedy, because even though the film has a lot of tension, the nature of their relationship causes it to become more lighthearted.

Would thoroughly recommend people to watch the film, a great way to spend 8 minutes of your time.

Graduation Film – Initial Idea

With a growing interest in medical animations and explainer animations for patients,  I have decided to create a graduation film that is effective in communicating difficult concepts and incorporates a medical theme. It can be very scary for people suffering with any illness, most people do not have a medical background and can feel in the dark about their condition.

Cancer is a disease that affects many people worldwide. Due to the nature of the disease it is something that affects adults more than children. For adults it can be very overwhelming and scary to deal with, but for children it can also be confusing. For some children (mainly under the age of 10) they worry that perhaps they have said, thought or done something wrong that has caused the disease, which of course is incorrect and can be incredibly upsetting for the child.

I was fortunate to know a brilliant person who sadly faced cancer at the very young age of twelve. I was the same age and for me then (and now) it was difficult to understand that someone so young could have developed this disease. There were many questions and frustrations that I felt about the situation and I was lucky that I had people to talk to. Naturally, I think, it was hard for adults too, to talk to a child about cancer. For me creating something that could act as an aid for educators or parents is very important.

My objective with this film is to inform, educate and reassure children about cancer. It can be difficult for children returning to school after being diagnosed, or after having treatment, as they may be asked difficult questions by peers and may struggle to keep up with the workload and sports activities. I would like to try to address these issues so that children suffering understand what is happening and feel equipped to answer peoples questions.

My main concern with this film is that it is addressing a difficult and upsetting topic; childhood cancer. I want to ensure that the film I create will be an aid to these children and their parents. Another concern is making sure that the content is correct and that I’m not spreading any misinformation. In order to make sure the facts are correct and that the language and images are suitable for the audience, I want to get in touch with medical professionals and cancer charities.

I was particularly inspired by the BBC series ‘When I worry about things’ in particular, ‘Annabel’s story’. The short documentary is about a child suffering with severe OCD and depression. The narrative was very clear and the images were very suitable for the content. The child speaks about when she was at her lowest point, and how she recovered and got help. The images illustrated the issue well, without being too upsetting for viewers.

MoodBoard

Stills from the short films: ‘Annabel’s Story’, ‘Cancer: Knowing, Preventing and Beating it’ and the film ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

A breakdown of the initial story idea.

Start midway through a high school basketball game. The captain, Georgia (11 years old) is clearly exceptional at sport. We can see that she is battling with cancer, and at certain times throughout the match we can see that she is struggling to keep up with the other girls, and gets quite frustrated.

Her team loses the game. There is some conflict with a team member. One girl asks if Georgia is still capable of playing and also acts immaturely because she wrongly thinks cancer is contagious (during my research I learned that this is quite a common misconception amongst young children).

The coach sees this and decides to intervene, she wheels out a TV and puts on a video.

The video starts with a presenter introducing himself and the video, it then goes into a medical animation explaining cancer. The camera zooms into the TV to show the video properly.

The presenter reappears at the end and addresses  some common concerns children face when going through cancer, things like cancer is not contagious and reassuring children that nothing they did, said or thought caused the cancer.

At the end the girls are much more aware about cancer and we can see this by the fact that they now no longer treat Georgia differently.

The main character in the film will be a particularly sporty girl, she is exceptionally skilled and enthusiastic about basketball and is the team captain. From a few short videos I have seen of children and teens speaking about cancer, one worry that comes across is that they don’t want their cancer to define them. I want to make sure that the main thing that comes through is the child’s character, that she is kind, bright and sporty. The cancer doesn’t define her as a person, but is something she is battling with.

References

Websites:

https://www.teenagecancertrust.org/about-us/what-we-do/education-awareness/be-generation-thats-not-afraid-talk-about-cancer

https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/talking-about-cancer/talking-to-children

https://www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk/