Summary:

The addition of sound to movies and animations takes one’s creation to a whole other level. Last week I created a simple stop-motion animation using LEGO bricks, but without sound, the movie sort of fell flat. The addition of sound to my animation would have given the movie life.

This week, I took another crack at making a movie using LEGOs, but this time, I added sound in just the right places.

Reading & Writing:

Liz Blazer, the author of “Animated Story Telling,” address the concept of adding sound to movies.

“Sound alone can paint a vivid picture of action and can propel story forward on a blank screen,” she said.

In the early days of cinema, Charlie Chaplin was the king of silent films. His comedic presence gave the story life, and some may say he, alone, could have propelled a story forward on a blank screen. But when his movies were played to audiences, they did not sit in a room with a screen and stare in silence. Instead, an organist or pianist played music in the background to help set the scene.

This week, I took a concept I came up with last week and turned it into an animation. Before getting too deep into the project, though, I was thinking about sounds to add to my short film.

“In production, sound can be an afterthought, but waiting until the middle (or after) animation to determine your soundtrack is kind of like waiting until there’s a minute left in the fourth quarter of a pick-up game to sub in LeBron James,” Blazer said. “…lead with sound, using it as the primary compass for your storytelling.”

Thinking about the sounds early, like Blazer said, acts like a compass and helps guide the creator in the right direction. But what kind of sounds can be used when creating an animation?

Blazer said there are two different types of sound – diagetic and non-diagetic.

  • Diagetic sound comes from objects in the screen. If a dog is on the screen, a diagetic sound may be a bark.
  • Non-diagetic sound comes from non-visible sources on the screen, or subjects that have not been implied to be present. If a Wookie is on the screen, you would not expect to hear a high-pitched scream – that would be non-diagetic.

There is so much flexibility when it comes to adding sound to animations; it all depends on what kind of world you want to create. I mean, you are creating your own “wonderland,” right?

When designing your own world, you get to make your own rules. But if you make your own rules, Blazer said you need to remain consistent across the entire production. If you create a world with zero gravity, do not insert a random person walking on the ground as if there is gravity unless there is an explanation to go with it.

Other things to think about when creating your own world for your animation are the consideration of time and place, physical laws like gravity, social laws, and visual laws.

Again, it is important to remain consistent.

Research to Inform

I searched the web to find a few examples of ways that people created videos using effective sound an animation.

Effective Audio:

Screaming Chewbacca. When I see a picture of Chewbacca, I automatically know what his scream sounds like. I can assure you he does not sound like a scared woman. The way the creator of this video changed out his voice to create something funny, was effective.

https://www.20k.org/episodes/hamilton

Above are two links. The first link is to a podcast I listened to called “Twenty Thousand Hertz,” and in it the hosts took a deep dive into the sounds of the Broadway play, “Hamilton.” One of the parts I like the most is when they talk about the song, “Wait for It,” and an echo of Aaron Burr’s voice during the live performance. Though not exactly a video with audio, I found it fascinating because the creators of Hamilton wanted to make sure that each show was unique. To do so, they found a way to echo Burr’s voice in the song…his live voice. The podcast goes through the technical details, but it is still fascinating and a great use of audio in a production.

Effective Text Animation:

I really like the way this person mashes text with quotes from the television show, “The Office.” Font weight, caps, and the way the text is presented is excellent.

The opening title sequence for the movie “Se7en,” is one of the more memorable I have seen. Looking back at it, the creator’s use of text is on point and the music of NIN in the background adds more to the scene. Great use of text AND audio.

Create

This week I created an animation using a linear storyline.

The story is about a couple who get off a train but do not have transportation to leave the train station. Three options come forward: the first is a dragster, the second is an airplane, and the third is a sports car.

Shooting the animation proved challenging. My setup consisted of two umbrella lights over a cardboard table with a tri-fold cardboard display laid flat on top, with the white side up. I setup a Nikon SB-700 flash behind the cardboard table and synched it with my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera, which was on a tripod at the front of the cardboard table, shooting the scene.

I also used a Panasonic GX85 camera on a tripod to get several close-up images and different angles.

I finally had an opportunity to shoot the video on Friday, but the round of 360 images came out rather jumpy. Realizing this, I went to setup my gear for another two-hour session and realized the Nikon DSLR batteries were dead and my charger was up in New York. In a panic, I ordered another charger from the nearest Best Buy – 70 miles away in Salisbury, MD – and drove to pick it up on Saturday morning. As soon as I got home, I started charging one of the batteries and used the battery that came with the charger to start shooting again.

The second-round results were much better.

The video was composed in Adobe Premiere Pro. Without sound, the video was flat.

At the beginning of the process, I made a list of sounds I would need for the video. I recorded several of the sounds using a Zoom H4N audio recorder. The sounds of the plane, train, and both cars were found on Freesound.org.

Once the sound was added, my story came together.

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