4 Audio & Sound Design Trends for 2017

1. Sound Editing for 360 VR & VR Video

The biggest news for the media industry right now has been the breakthrough of virtual reality and 360 degree video into the mainstream. Although tech enthusiasts and media experts have been touting the arrival of immersive, 360 degree media for several years, we’ve recently seen a number of significant milestones. YouTube and Facebook began hosting 360 videos, Adobe Premiere now supports VR editing and video stock sites have started stocking 360 media.

Of course, while there’s been a lot of emphasis on what VR means for visual storytelling, these new technologies have also meant a significant change in the way filmmakers, editors, and producers think about sound design in their projects.

An interview with animator Peter Spence about how VR and 360 degree technologies are changing the world of sound editing, he says:

“Creating 360 videos is more like a theater experience than traditional film. To steer the audience, subtle visual trikes have to be used instead of jump cups. The audio has to match that.”

Spence’s biggest takeaway for filmmakers and sound editors is that VR requires a new approach to the storytelling space:

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2. Music for YouTube and Mobile

YouTube has revolutionized the way we produce and distribute video, empowering millions of self-made filmmakers and series creators to connect with global audiences, including a brand new generation of video bloggers and YouTube influencers. Although YouTube has been a dominant player in the media industry for years, 2016 saw a number of YouTube celebrities crossing over from the small screen to the big time, with even more breakthroughs expected in 2017.

The stakes and potential opportunities of YouTube success have never been more clear. Popular YouTubers Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig recently starred in the comedy Dirty 30 while Issa Rae, creator of the popular YouTube show Awkward Black Girl, launched her new show Insecure on HBO—which has already gotten a full renewal order for 2017.

3. Rebirth of Radio

From Serial and Radiolab to How Did this Get Made? and Startup, podcasts are here to stay and only gaining in popularity. Harking back to the Golden Age of Radio, this recent re-emergence in audio-only media has highlighted the important role that sound editing plays in effective storytelling.

A podcast’s theme music is essential for branding and setting the scene, and a fitting intro provides either the emotional grip or levity that podcasters rely on when developing an initial rapport with listeners. Podcasts also employ subtler uses of sound, including foley effects and looping tracks that provide listeners with emotional cues. A rhythmic beat can build tension as the plot thickens, or a gentle musical ambience creates a clean segue between segments in a program.

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4. Blockbuster Spectacle at Indie Scale

The year’s biggest blockbusters pulled no punches, literally or figuratively, when it came to producing loud, bombastic, and dazzling spectacles. Meanwhile, the majority of the films named as likely contenders for the 2017 Academy Awards—Arrival, La La Land, or Hacksaw Ridge, to name just a few—forefront both the psychologically surreal and the spectacular.

Yet not all of these films had large production budgets. Deadpool’s budget was infamously cut by $7M at the last minute, while this year’s favourite for the comedy/musical genre, La La Land, was made for only $30M, a relatively small price tag for a major box office headliner. When producers and sound designers have to tighten their belts, stock audio sound effects and music are often one of the first places they turn.

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Artiphon Instrument 1 Review

Finally after much delay and anticipation my Antiphon Instrument 1 arrived last week!

‘The Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 is a single device that can be played as a guitar, piano, drum pad, synthesizer, and many other instruments. By connecting the INSTRUMENT 1 to smartphones, tablets, and computers, people of all skill levels can choose from an always-expanding palette of sounds.’ That was the blurb on the kickstarter page that caused me to back it waaaaay back in 2014.  As someone who loves music but isn’t really that good at making it, this really felt like my jam. It’s like a keytar for the 21st century, and I have had the thing a few days now so I felt it was time to share with you all my feelings on my new musical companion.

They raised over $1.3 million from 3,391 backers from over 70 countries which is impressive and is still the most funded musical instrument on Kickstarter to date.

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Diagram of the Instrument 1

In the Box:

I ordered the gig edition so it came with a handy carry case and strap (which is a must). The box was sleek and professional and everything you would want to get in the post. There is a lack of instructions which could be annoying for some but a quick visit to the website sorts that out.

It felt and looked like the Artiphon was something special, the build quality was good and it doesn’t feel fragile or like anything is going to break in a hurry.

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My unboxing of the Instrument 1

The App:

Its important to note I have only tried the app on the iPhone 6s but it works well (even if it is a bit of a battery hog).  It’s clear and easy to use, and so far hasn’t had any issues with crashing. It would be nice to have an easier way of sharing and viewing other players custom set ups though – but these are things that can come with time I am sure.

In my hands:

It feels nice, solid and like a music instrument, it’s not too heavy but it does have some weight to it.  So far I have had the most luck playing it holding it like a guitar and using the iBow setting; I really want to master the violin style of playing but more practice is needed for that I think!

The speakers do distort if you put them to maximum and play some of the deeper sounds, it’s a little irritating but something that’s easy to work around. I have noticed on one occasion one of the strings/frets sticks, but its not something I have managed to replicate so I am hoping it was a glitch and nothing more sinister in the build. I personally preferred doing all the settings in the app rather than on the built-in dial, but both worked well.

The tone and pitch of the instrument 1 is something really beautiful, something you can’t fault it on is its sound replication.  It is never going to replace a guitar in recording sessions nor would you pick it over a real drum kit and sample pad, but what it does allow for is more realism than a standard midi device or a keyboard.

Where the Instrument 1 stands out compared to other MIDI instruments is you can just sit and play; I could happily lose an afternoon or weekend to just making silly music on it.

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My Instrument 1 gig edition in white

Recording:

So far the Artiphon has made its way into two projects that I am working on: a remix and an audio post production for video. I recorded differently for both. In the remix I plugged it in to the desk via the headphone jack to XLR. It sounded good, there were no faults – it was quick and easy; I also tried it with a DI box and that worked really well too. No complaints there.

When I tried using a external mic to pick up the sound it was a little trickier given the location of the speakers, I had to stand very still and very close to the microphone which after a few minutes was a little uncomfortable. But all in all this process was OK and I would do it again if no other option was available.

Final thoughts:

The Instrument 1 is fun and functional, it takes some getting used to and more playing will have to be done to find the real limits, but I look forward to that journey. My only real niggle is that the carry case doesn’t fit the charger plug in very well which is something that could be solved with a little extra room in the case, but that is by no means a deal breaker for me. I look forward to learning this new instrument (and make no mistake it is a new instrument) a lot more in the future.

Below is the first prototype from 2013, and below that the kickstarter video that got me to part with my cash.

 

Artefact 1 – video

That’s my artefact (above) – look at how boring it is. It’s OK to agree, I made it boring.

Here is someone else’s (above) from a few months ago.  It has less than 100 views which is kind of surprising considering the style they have used.  I also found this video, which is a few years older and made by other students, which has over 300 views – it is my goal to beat the view count on this video. I set out to do this by:

  • Sharing media on several platforms to get engagement
  • Sharing at times that encourage engagement
  • Targeting online accounts to get the video to spread further
  • Using tagging on YouTube to find an audience

Bonus video – filmed using the GoPro egg timer, it was going to be the main artefact but I didn’t like the light bleed and lack of clarity.

Why did I make this artefact?

Because I tried something else and it didn’t work and everyone loves a good timelapse. I had an animation made and had planned to project it on to something all Halloween-related however the projector was not bright enough and my phone didn’t pick up the action.

So as this didn’t go so well and with only 4 days until the deadline I had to find something else that was engaging and relevant. I fell on the idea of a timelapse because a) I had the kit to do so and b) they are an ‘easy sell’ for engagement as you can tag locations and businesses as well as local news groups.

How did I make this artefact?

I used a few different mobile apps to create this video, however I didn’t film it with a mobile phone for a few reasons, mainly that the contrast settings on the iPhone6s I have wasn’t good enough to pick up any differences in the clouds – thus making it a really crap timelapse. I did however edit with LapseIt and worked out the best time of day and direction with the app Magic Hour, both of these apps I talked about in this previous blog post.  Magic Hour is particularly useful as it helps you work out how long you are going to be taking images for, which means you can easily see how long you want to leave between images. I opted for a photo every 20 seconds.

Here is an image of me taking an image during the timelapse, as well as an image of the GoPro setup, Below is an image of the 4 other people/groups of people who where also taking images or videos of the media city at sunset on a Tuesday night in October. I also found an Ian (but more about that in his blog post).

How am I going to get engagement for this video?

I have set up a schedule of sharing the video on Twitter (the average tweet has a life of 40 minutes and a half life of a few hours), I have posted once on my own Facebook profile (something I really hate doing) and have encouraged others to share the content further. I even shared it on LinkedIn.

With twitter I have used simple hashtags including #mscret and #mediacityuk which means it will hopefully get picked up by local businesses and other class members. I have in other tweets tagged the university with their handle and a few local to Salford news/views accounts. The combination of these two things has lead to 5 retweets from businesses that I didn’t follow or have any other interaction with before today (Wednesday).

 

Smart Phone Image Capture

Smartphones are… well… smart – even smarter than the first spaceships that took men to the moon in the early space race. A single Apple iPhone 5 has 2.7 times the processing power of the 1985 Cray-2 supercomputer. That’s crazy powerful in such a short space of time, and I currently have two PS4s in the house which when combined realistically class as a supercomputer-level of processing power. But I am getting sidetracked.

I use my phone for image capture a lot, either with the built-in camera or via other cameras with app and WiFi/Bluetooth controls.  Below are some screen captures from my phone with a few of the apps that I use.

Two of the apps are built in to the phone, both the image viewer ‘Photos’ and FaceTime.  I also have Instagram, which is a pretty standard app to have, and Panorama which is a old app that takes 360 photos (something you can now do natively in the Apple camera app). I still have the panoramic app for a few reasons: one is that I paid for it many years ago and I want my money’s worth, and it doesn’t take up much space on the phone itself. But most importantly it stores all of your images online to view later, as well as images from other users.  It also is one of the first apps that used the movement and gyroscope in the phone to move around the image – something that is now becoming more and more common in photos online and is even native in Facebook applications.

Flickr is pretty self explanatory.  I have a pro membership and have a lot of images on there (about 3 thousand). Capture and the Panasonic Image App are both camera control apps, for the GoPro and a Panasonic Blue camera respectively; for me these cameras have very different uses: while the GoPro is more known, it does have its limitations including its shockingly poor battery life, whereas the Panasonic can be used whilst connected to a power source which in the past enabled me to film/take regular images for up to 8hours at a time.

Lapse It is a fantastic time lapse app that uses the phone camera to take images and I paid about £2.99 for it a few years ago and it’s been really useful. It had the ability to change exposure, ISO and contrast before starting to film as well as taking 12 images a second (12fps is used in animation traditionally) which can then be exported directly to YouTube or via an MP4 file which you can then send wherever you want.

Finally and probably the most interesting of the apps are 20Twenty and Magic Hour. Twenty20 is a new stock photography service that launched to the public after months of beta testing, which I was part of. It claims to have the world’s largest crowdsourced commercial image catalog — one that contains 45 million photos from 250,000 photographers based in 154 countries.  It runs competitions and other incentives for you to get involved with – and most importantly it earns me money. Magic Hour is a great little app that’s full of information to help you get the winning shot depending on location and weather, it has information on sunrise and sunset and how long it’s going to last as well as a host of other nifty little nuggets that increase the chances of getting that money-making shot.

POV Music Video

A band that I worked with wanted a music video to embody a 90’s feel, as well as show how a good time in a pub is not without its unfortunate after effects (the “Monday Comedown”).

I came up with the concept below, which used a GoPro on a head mount.  As the model had WiFi control and viewing it meant that I could direct and watch the action from out of shot at all times.

The video was influenced by the Prodigy video for Smack My Bitch up, although the one I made is admittedly a little bit more PG13!

Online Presence

All things considered, my name is relatively unique.  Unfortunately, there are *some* people in the world with the same name and two of them have jobs that give them a need for rather prolific online presences: one is a professional violinist and the other is a sex and well-being therapist from Texas.

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As you can see I only feature in two images on a name search, but it is worth noting that my LinkedIn profile image does come up quite high.

This is something I discovered a few years ago and addressed in order to stand out more as a professional entity in online media. I use the handle Rachelle Moose or Rachelle ‘Moose’ Hunt which gives me a considerably more unique identity and makes me much easier to find – as demonstrated in the below images which come up when you use the new search term.

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