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March 07, 2005

The Joys of Audio and Video

The Joys of Audio production All the following audio & video mentioned can be found here.

You may be wondering why there appears to be nothing written here for a while . this is because, being the geek i am, i have been glued to my computer with jack moulded to my chair working our nuts off on our sound montage/story/backing/what ever you want to call it.
Basically using Cubase (music production programme) we have done the following : Taken the various interviews that Jack ,Sarah and Zoe did and recorded them staright onto my computer through my sound card .

We did a rough version of this today (Friday 18th) and the group seemed quite chuffed so we decided to press on (my girlfreind came up for a few days a remarked that me and jacks insistence on perfection and detial was very reminescent of long days and nights in the college studio )

Now because Jacks recordings werent designed to be used like this i.e recorded using an internal micorphone, now add that to an noisey and cavernous (in terms of acoustics) enviroment like the arts centre you get a few problems :

1) Peaking – Because jack et all were holding the MD player whilst asking the questions their voices are in extremely close proximity to the recording field meaning that their voices occasionally peak and distort.

2) Voice levels – No , im not going insane , this is something different! : because the interviewees are quite far away from the mic it was very hard to distinguish them from background noise and occasionally it sounded like they were whispering whilst jack sounded like he was screaming at them in comparison.

3) Background noise : It is the demon of the techie world! Usually its the monkey, sorry, drummer , complaining about something tedious but this time its the hustle and bustle of the arts centre – chinks of cups, footsteps , a general hum of people talking, announcements over the PA , and the usual white haired middle but wanting to appear upper class theatre critics repeating an opinion they read in the Times, Telegraph, Guardian arts suppliment as their own.

This is when things got challenging , for a start we had over 30 minutes of audio (recording it onto the hard disk was quite interesting as uncompressed audio is HUGE and me treating my comp like i did a £6000 200gb Carillon wasnt a good idea). For a start we had to cut various bit of speech up so we had the bits we wanted (in terms of poignancy and relevance). Then what you have is the big problem of unscripted question and awnsers – the UMMMMM syndrome – people use it way to much. The worst thing is is that when cutting up the audio if you dont hit the 10th of a second of pure silence between the word you want and the umm you get a terrible thud as that chunk of audio ends. As a result myself and jack are masters of looking at audio waves and being able to pick out an ummm form a proper word with the precision of a swiss watch maker.

Just to put my previous rambling into context what i did over the space of about 4 hours was to "clean" the audio. Basically applying filters and noise gates to cut out/minimise the unwanted noises and frequencies from the audio. And yes, it is a tedious and mind numbing as it sounds and probably proves i need a new hobby.

To make things a bit intersting (and jack knows when i say make interesting i mean make cheesey). I took a section where Sarah mentioned medea and cut it up just so she just said Medea , then created four or five seperate mono audio tracks , putting Medea at different time intervals , panned at opposing levels to create a ping pong effect around the L and R speaker, then added various effects (Reverb , Delay , Chorus , Metalizer , Robotizer) to spice things up, hence we have our begining.

After a lot of deliberating and mucking about the final story part of the vocal (in simple term goes like this). Medea…....Medea was the wife of Jason, found him on an island with a golden fleece, she helped him get the golden fleece , that was the start of the story…..then she turned out to be a bit of a psycho , killed his two kids….

There will be a link to the mp3's pf all of these soonish.

As this is a counter classical performance i decided a nice juxtaposition between the modern sound montage styleeee of our piece would be a nice bit of classical. Now, being a bit over enthusiastic i did set about writing a full score for our piece using Sibelius (you write music in Standard notation and its played through the MIDI of your soundcard) But due to the ammount of time it takes to make up, notate and tart up a score i decided it was best not to (plus the fact that General MIDI sounds like the music from the old Atari console!) . So whilst i was going through my music i found a piece that i thought would work tremendously well ; an orechestral instrumental track by Rob Dougan (of Matrix fame). I insertred the track in a stereo channel to make sure it didnt interfere wiotht he pan and generally was just complimented within the stereo field. It turned out ot work perfectly and added a real sense of atmosphere to the piece. So now we have is 2:20 of pure andulterated musical stress!!

Audio project number II : The misrepresentation of peoples views

To take things up a level we also decided to make a second piece which would relate the story of Medea to current / more recent perceptions of feminism, a mothers role and the universal themes inherent in the story. This task didnt invovle the problems of the previous audio – i.e it was well recorded. How did we get these contemporary refferences? Well using the joys of the t'interent we found the following sites /clips :

The Ashbrook Centre Audio File Index :

This is a site that catalogues recordings of important political speeches – being an American site we didnt really know what would be relevant before we listened to every single one. BUT then a rare thing happened – we were saved by Maggie Thatcher!! There was a speech by here that we consequently chopped up and used (in particular refferences to feminism and her role as a feminist icon)

We also found some readings of a modern feminist book called Manifesta : Young Women and the Future.
We downloaded the two excerpts and (in the style of Sun journalists) took quite a few sections out of context to create the idea of a male/female oposition 9(i.r "men cant be trusted with young children" was so amazingly out of context we had a giggle about it for about 20 minutes)

The Centre for Bio Ethical Reform
may not seem a likely place to find relevant audio clips – but it was!! A few fanatical Christain American anti abortion types (like Greg Cunnigham…...isnt that the pedo character from Donnie Darko??!!!)having a rant at womens rights fitted in perfectly! (If you follow this link be careful not to click on the anti abortion video – it really is sick)

The Beeb

(BBC for those who dont know) was also very useful with its recordings of three Radio 4 programmes about the 1970's. Some general quotes from the presenter and a bit more of Maggie (and some people who are never introduced) were used from here.

Jack also had a fantastic idea of using part of a song by The Future Heads that had the line " An alpha male is better than a female, a female is better than a male male".

With this track we felt it was going to be more interesting if we took a different approach and make the piece a bit more chaotic (like the play). What we did was to lay down our background music first (Apehx Twins Little Lord Faulteroy mix of Come to Daddy). This music is best described as low fi atmospheric weird elctronica (what a genre!!) and a gave the whole piece a really sinister vibe (espically with the subtle ramblings of children in the background). We used all our various quotes and then inserted some left over bits of Jacks original discussion. Nopw to begin with we just threw all the tracks down just for the sake of speed – this meant when i accidently hit play we heard this amazingly cool amalgimation of speeches songs and general chat. What we did was to copy and paste this so that later in the piece (i.e the end) the listener is hit with a huge mixtue of everything theyve heard previously – it sounds PHAT!!!.

Ian & Rhys' Video Project

As me and Jack had fihish all we could really do without being repetitive we broke our working relatioship …sniff…and started work on new projects.
Myself and Rhys took up the challenge of creating the final scene of the video project – we all said we wanted some kind of representation of children that we could project onto the screen then onto Medea and Jason as they "get down" under the sheet that we projected onto. This was going to show the themes of children in relation to Medea as well as the inner child of Medea and Jason being expressed (i.e theyre actions in the play are childish).

To start with me n Rhys headed off to the library to try and find some footage of some children in playgrounds (we were going to try and film ata local school but thought it would be very hassleto organise logistically and morally). Our searches came up with nothing apart from websites that showed un downloadable previews of library clips and then a link to buy the whole thing for $399. NOOOOOOOO i dont think so.

So having been defeated at our first obstacle we headed to the joys of University House where we searched the interent in earnest untill we found a jem. A website full of early 40's,50's and 60's American educational films. (Im trying to find the link!!!)
Oh which we downloaded three or four clips that were entitled "How to settle disputes" & "Children Playing" amongst others.
We took a few clips and cut them up untill we had the following sections (im not sure what the correct terminology is so lets call them shots)

1st shot – How to settle disputes – in text
2nd shot – a short section of a young boy and girl arguing over the use of a tricycle – it ends up getting a bit violent.
3rd shot – Compromise
4th shot – some more footage of the boy in girl in shot 2
5th shot – In a similliar fashion to the first shot some text appears proclaiming "Play by the Rules"
6th shot – some footage of a young family , happy and cuddley.
7th shot – Childrens Productions presnets "Playing Together"
8th Shot – a repeat of the 2nd shot
9th shot – genreal footage of children playing together.
10th shot- slow mo of the 2nd shot , then fast, then slow again.
11th shot – a short black screen before a still image of the family in the 6th shot is shown.

When Rhys had edited all the video to what we wanted i undetok the task of putting some new audio to the piece….dont worry its very simple compared to my previous ramblings!!
Basically as this was the final part of our piece i decided to bring it full circle and use the same Rob Dougan track that id used in our introduction. I also felt it would be cool to add some voice to the piece – for this i used a text to speech emulator (basically sounds like steven hawking). When there are the shots with the text the voice acts as a narrative i.e saying "compromise" etc. In the final few shots i made up and stole some material to write this:

"The playful violence of our children surely mirror our own inner child. Although we make think we are beyond the intelliegence of children our animal instincts surface in love, violenve, passion and affection, with more ferocity thatn ever before

The destruction of loved ones is a bitter circle (Up to here is all mine)

We are not enemies but friends , we must not be enemies
Although passion may have strained it most not break out bonds of affection.
The mystic chords will swell when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of out nature. (The poem from the end of American History X)

Many are the fates in which Zeus in Olympus dispenses. Many matters the gods bring to strange ends. The things we thought would happen do not happen , the unexpected god makes possible…and such is the conclusion of this story…..who began this feud? Only the gods know."

(A chorus part at the end of Medea)

What i tried to do here was to show the link between all these video clips , the story of Medea and our agreed final scene of our Jason and Medea being intimate and then being wrapped in the a big sheet. The first part of speech is meant to relate to Hughs idea of the "inner children" of Jason and Medea. The American History X quote seemed poignant in relation to Jason and Medeas feud (anyones whos seen the film will know that the poem is spoken by a Neo Nazi teen who swears off racism before being shot by a black kid in his school- the rifts bear a certain resembelance).
The final bit of text seemed to be very poignant and i thought using some of the actual text would compliment the action, the final line works really well as just as it happens a slow fade to a still of the family happens…class.

More to come soon…..........i

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