Hypercinema 9/8/22

Focus Time

All the reminders to document your process are already leading to situations where a note reminds me of a good idea from only a few days ago. Otherwise, I would’ve forgotten that my group with Vera and Miaoye discussed the idea of designing sounds for a commuter subway/rail system modeled after the inescapable automated TikTok voice.

Instead we went with Option A, a “sound vacation.” Pretty quickly in our first discussion on 9/6 we settled on the idea of a cafe scene: sounds of life, a “focus” period, and something extra to suggest the passage of a good chunk of time.

We started by each going to cafes on our own time and trying to record or at least observe the particular ambiance of each one. For mine, I visited my local Milk and Pull location. I was immediately a bit dismayed by the fact that the music was up pretty loud when I entered, but the test recording I did actually turned out OK. You can actually hear a little bit of that recording in our final clip, though I trimmed it so as to give focus to the cafe noises and not the songs or any inadvertently captured chatter.

After comparing our in-the-field experiences, we went about capturing some foley for our respective sections of the piece (Mat: intro cafe, Vera: focus, Miaoye: outro cafe). That means I did a lot of work with things like mugs, plates, and stools. Fun to capture, but probably more annoying to anyone around me than Vera’s excellent typing sounds.

Left: Some items I used for foley. Right: A list of what I downloaded from freesound.org.

We all went to freesound.org to look for complementary recordings as well. My favorite: this receipt printer captured by user Filipe Chagas.

For me, assembly in Audition was an interesting challenge. I’m very familiar with the program after using it to edit podcasts for a few years, but even with some of the more adventurous stuff I did with that work it never forced me to think that much about sound in stereo, let alone trying to create the illusion of a 3D space. I definitely feel like I’ve pushed my own understanding of reverb (and hopefully, how not to overdo it) in working on this project.

A screenshot of the editing timeline in Audition for our 1 minute 58 second final piece, spanning twenty tracks.
The timeline for the full piece in Audition.

All in all I think we were pretty sparing in our use of effects and sound design decisions like time stretches and pans save for the piece’s central moment, which definitely helps that stand out–and even that’s just a few keyboard tracks with one panned hard to the left and another hard to the right. I’m also glad we didn’t go with any sort of narration. I found the lone sigh that Miaoye put in toward the end to be really effective all on its own.

Additional thoughts:

After working on this piece, I definitely want to do more with field recordings and foley work in the future. I also think I want to edit down some of the foley I recorded and upload it to freesound as a way of giving back to that community. When I do, I’ll note it in a blog and include a link.–9/14/22