There is no doubt in my mind that most people, including myself, take our ability to hear for granted. It’s almost impossible not to because of the nature of our very own existence, yes we have the ability to comprehend and analyze particular sounds but rarely is critical listening ever an essential part of our everyday lives.
Creating soundscapes is something I wish I did more of to be honest, I think that it requires a reasonable amount of pre production work, planning and referencing to be able to grasp together the bare backbone of the production. There are a few challenges in successfully creating a soundscape;
The objective for this project was to infuse themes of horror into a basic soundscape format. Ideally, I aimed to convey feelings of fear, excitement and suspense through the use of simple but practical audio manipulation.
Realistic v Unrealistic
The beauty of creating soundscapes is that there are no rules, in fact, an excellent soundscape could inspire viewers through an audibly realistic setting or guide them along a journey into an unseen/only-imaginable concept.
For the purpose of this project I made a point to reference (watch) horror movies almost every night and in doing so I discovered that I connected the most with movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hostel and The Strangers; that were set in an environment so realistic that it made me believe that this could happen to anyone. The fact that it may have been based off true events made that movie that much more saucier. So I decided that I would stick to a realistic setting real enough that the viewer would clearly understand the sounds of the environment and actions occurring within them, which ultimately helped convey those feelings of fear, excitement and suspense because the sounds; being easily recognizable, we’re easily digested.
Creating the story was a challenge in it self and after seeing everyone else’s efforts in the Theatre I would assume I was not the only one. I found that it was always easier to pile on more details into the soundscape plot only to find that it was then too far out of scope and a short story has transformed into nearly a whole episode. I found that ripping audio from my reference material and listening to the sound without the DISTRACTION of the visuals made things much clearer, the phrasing and structure of particular scenes exposed a “realistic” amount of detail in regards to the story. In the end I found myself scaling back the level of detail in my story to a bare minimum, which logically makes sense, if something doesn’t play a role in the story then it doesn’t need to be in there at all.
For future reference, I would recommend taking a minimalistic approach to creating soundscapes, the most important reason being, it’s the little details that make a great soundscape and without room to let them flourish you’ve kind of got too much shit happening.
Diegetic v Non-Diegetic
Alright! So the next step was to figure out exactly what’s taking place in the scene and what is happening outside of the “movie” per se. I started off by creating a script, with the very few vocals required I also included details like how many characters, where they are, what they’re doing, how are they doing it etc.
So once I nailed the diegetic aspects I began creatively designing a non-diegetic world that would cradle and support my story. The first introduced to in the soundscape would be an old crackly vinyl playing Loving You by Minnie Riperton, inspired by events in The Strangers I knew immediately that I could put my record player to good use and sampled some great authentic scratch and hiss sounds. I’m still not entirely sure why I picked Minnie Riperton to introduce the scene but I know that there was potential for an “eerie” sound if I played around with it. Plus the theme of love could potentially be an ambiguous giveaway to some elusive backstory, either way that song is great and worked a treat.
Originally I knew that I wanted a small climax in the beginning to set the mood so I decided to use two layers of Minnie Riperton to do so; one layer was EQ’d, Compressed and Saturated to produce a realistic vinyl sound and the other remained clean and unedited. Beginning with only the sound of the vinyl version nearing the first point of climax, I slowly automated the volume of the clean version up until it overpowered the vinyl mix and all of a sudden the scene came to life and BANG! ..a knock on the door. In this scenario I’ve managed to introduce a playful combination of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds which 1. set the scene and 2. transitioned the scene.