FMP: Creating a Soundtrack

One problem with this project has been that I was unsure until the very last week whether there would be a suitable space for the work. As a result I decided not to edit the film with sound, I did it all silently. During this process the silence seemed like a good idea, it meant the images said more.

Anyway, it turned out that the allotted space for my work is quite suitable for installation, a very small darkened room isolated from other work in a larger room outside. I decided as a result that it would be interesting to at least see what effect a soundtrack would have.

I made a very rough soundtrack using audio from the footage I took in a music program called Ableton Live, which allows for the layering of different audio, sort of the sound equivalent of the video editing software. It was pretty difficult at first because I was working in a different computer program, so I had to check the times in the film where different things happen, and then go to the music program and put sounds at that point. It really would have been much easier to do visuals and audio at the same time.

I decided straight away that a soundtrack was an improvement, and decided to start refining more and more. Initially I simply added audio taken from the footage, so essentially field recordings. Working on the soundtrack more, I added complexity, layering different field recordings on top of each other, which matches the simultaneous four clips playing in the film. Then I thought to add a musical element, which would make the film more interesting to watch and add a certain expressive element. I added into the soundtrack some elements of recordings I made last year, re-cutting and changing them in the software. The music is generally jazz to link to the underground-night-city theme and also to link to the projects influences. Finally I added some snippets of recordings of speech by Cartier Bresson and Allen Ginsberg as a kind of pop art reference.

These are buried pretty deep in the mix. I treated the whole thing quite heavily with effects to create a more immersive effect, for example I added quite a lot of reverb, an audio effect which creates the illusion of a large space, to all the audio to mimic the larger spaces of underground stations. I also employed panning heavily, which is when the audio is put into the left or right speaker/headphone, which hopefully will create some kind of surround sound effect.

It was hard work making a soundtrack on such short notice, but generally I am pleased with the result, everything syncs up and the atmosphere is more or less what I intended.

Screenshot (3)

This is where I did most of the work. Along the right are all the different bits of audio, and then in the the large middle space is where I layered them all. The horizontal lines are markers for when different things occur in the film.

Screenshot (4)

This is where I added the effects. You can see the reverb at the bottom, and also EQ which can be used to increase the amount of bass or treble in a piece of audio.

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