Freelancing and finishing...
This trimester has been quite full-up in terms of freelance work! Mainly with film, which has been a fairly unchartered and newly-found gratifying experience for me. It makes me think even more that I'd like to move into post-production as a career.
Firstly, I had an unbelievable opportunity to record on-set and mix audio for the Australian Embassy of Finland, on a series of films to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Finland's independence (100-Mates of Finland). My team and I created five short YouTube videos all up. Three containing clips and interviews from Melbourne, another in the rural Wattle Glen, and, most excitingly, one in Bondi, Sydney (some pictures in this page).
The variety of locations meant I had a good range of on-set audio experiences, environments ranging from the traffic-heavy, noisy CBD, inside a restaurant, a placid ‘forest’ (a.k.a a 'flacid'), a busy beach and lanes in Melbourne, interviewing passersby. All along simultaneously getting a nice range of atmos for my own personal collection from the scenes.
It was unreal to have been given this variety of work, and I realised how much I enjoy working in part of a creative team - with camera ops, directors, producers, editors etc. - each with our own specialties and responsibilities. It gave me insight into how Post-production on documentaries and film works with the range of people involved, and their roles at which stages of the film-making process.
I also, very importantly, was schooled in the highly demanding job of pleasing a client; meeting time-restrictions and briefs, and communicating seamlessly with all other contributors and stakeholders. Post-production isn’t a breezy, independently-driven style of working - there’s no going at your own pace. In a way it’s positive in terms of my work ‘process’ - it meant I wasn’t overthinking, over-brewing, the work. Plus I learnt that it is more about your ears than technicalities - that people take it as it is - and to focus on making the video seem ‘normal’, rather than being a highly creative or stand-out product (though that is often a part of it).
In the process of working on these films I have thankfully found some sort of a personal workflow with post-production, and found myself (naturally) getting much more efficient with every experience; finding ways to increase both the pace at which I worked and the quality of the products. Though there were extremely high turnovers for these projects, I think I have been able to create decent sounding videos (for my level of experience and the time allowed).
Great news is that the group of us (those who worked on the Finland films) have decided to start our own company! We have already been finding opportunities for work (with a film, and a music video to be started in the break). I will be able to share our website (and the rest of the videos) soon.
Here are the videos thus far shared by the Embassy of Finland on their Facebook and YouTube channel -
This time management issue was greatly tested with a documentary I worked - ‘Austin’, directed by Monique Bettello. The picture lock occurred later than expected, and in the end I had four days to complete the sound mix, for an 8-minute film.
It was actually very lucky for me that I had other experiences of working post-production through a tight time frame, as this made me more efficient at producing higher-quality work.
It does often mean, however, that I am not 100% happy with the products - there are always areas where, had I been granted more time, I would have edited more thoroughly - but overall I am happy with the result. I feel I was able to produce a good-quality sound mix, that hopefully did the film the justice it deserved.
It was also great using the Avid S6, as I hadn’t previously had the proper chance to use it for a project. I find it very enjoyable to navigate - it’s extremely user-friendly.
Something I used a lot in this film, and a new favourite function of mine, is the ‘Trim’ automation tool. I realised I hadn’t actually used it before! It’s great because often the automation I’ve put on is on point, but the whole area needs to be raised or attenuated, and whilst you can highlight the spots and raise or lower the automation that doesn’t always keep it intact and can be a little fiddly! I found the trim so smooth and easy to use, it’s like an extra, more broad, step of automation to smooth across larger areas. I’ve grown a fondness to it.
The Austin project also involved me recording the subject of the documentary, Austin Lutrov, playing guitar and singing, which I mixed to be used in the film (and will mix as a separate release for Austin). I enjoyed having creative reign of where to use these tracks in the film - it was a cool all-rounded mix, and was an awesome experience for me to be a part of. I’m very glad I accepted to take it on, and hope to have more work like it in the future.
Just as I was thinking four days was short to mix an 8-minute film, I was then given the hilarious task of mixing a 9-minute film in one night. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the short film 'Hardened', was going to be left unfinished the night before the due date. So I decided to jump in and try to complete a mix in one night! Bringing a friend on board (Jeremy Tang), because I knew this would be a large task, we worked the S6 together and managed in five hours to complete what would have taken a week or more ideally. Despite the stress of the time limit, I really enjoyed working in a pair with intense efficiency! It really tested our abilities and speed, and was quite satisfying when the final project was miles better than where it was when we received it, five hours before!
The more I work in Post-Production the more I love it! It's so satisfying working with images - it feels like a puzzle moving through projects, and at the end being left with a concise visual and aural product.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the opportunities I had this trimester in audio, and the amazing people I was able to work with, in a range of cool places. It's a very exciting field to work in - its ever-changing and always-interesting nature - and I look forward to more chances of being a part of it!
Session @ Soundpark...
It’s always amazing to get in to different audio settings and have learning experiences outside of school. Having the opportunity to record to tape at Soundpark studios in Northcote was a real eye-opening time for me, and provided a wealth of extra knowledge about the recording process, as well as cementing concepts and understandings I have been building throughout my degree.
Having to walk into a new and unknown studio and be able to navigate is quite a daunting thought to me, but that is the reality of the industry. I guess the hope is that, if one is knowledgeable in audio and signal flow in general, abilities can be transferred to foreign environments - once you’re adept at once desk, in working through recording methods in one studio, skills can be adopted with the use of any (because the fundamental concepts and technologies are the same).
And that is the exciting part to me! That my knowledge could potentially become in-depth and all-rounded enough that I could appropriate it to various scenarios; problem-solving and troubleshooting to make things work. I look forward to the day that I will hopefully feel confident in doing this! It isn’t rote learning for a single desk, a single piece of outboard gear, a single type of DAW - it’s knowing how they all work enough to apply the rules in an artistic, possibly unconventional way (the ol’ ‘know the rules in order to break them’, as they say).
I’ve realised that in terms of this underlying conceptual understanding I’m pleased with where I am so far - what I have learnt and are continuing to learn. There are gaps in my knowledge, which personally will come more from the practice of these skills… and practicing them over and over again.
A point that stood out in our session at Soundpark, recording the amazing band Batz, was one of time management. When booking studio spaces, working with artists, clients, engineers always have to keep mind of schedule and pace. Once our band were there we, thankfully, were quite prepared in terms of equipment and setting up, but still really had to knuckle down and have everything happening! Which is all dependent upon the pre-talent hours – how well things are organised, set-up, ready to be used.
I think my team underestimated the amount of organisation involved - we didn’t plan to every detail (such as pre-amps and outboard gear), and, leaving it until the day, when there is already a lot to think about and consider, only adds to the stress of having everything prepared for the band. This also stemmed from us not defining our roles extensively - a few aspects were thought to have been covered by different people (and then those were unaware responsibility fell on them).
There was also more running around and helping out wherever and whenever – our roles became more fluid.
Working in groups for me is an enjoyably educational experience - there’s always something to take from it, about myself, about others and our interactions.
In a learning setting though I sometimes find it difficult - only because it means that you’re not involved in all parts of the process (time-wise that of course wouldn’t really allow anyway). There are holes to my knowledge of the experience because I didn’t get to witness/experience/do it all. Again though, the more I practice the more I’ll know!
Looking back I would have liked to have more hands-on experience with the tape machine, I observed and admired more than anything. It was really cool to have had a very clean and professional band, so I didn’t feel confident, nor comfortable, stepping in to unfamiliar territory in this setting. But I did contribute, I guess, and still felt a nice part of it. There were quite a few of us in the small-ish space too, so we spread the tasks across the board.
I’m extremely impressed with the sound eventually obtained, and the quality of the tracks recorded - the tape added an interesting level of harmonics and served to tie the whole piece together - it’s like a glue that connects all the parts with common character.
The Studer a80 tape machine at Soundpark
It was amazing in general to have had the experience of recording analog, it was humbling to think that for many years in music production this WAS the method of recording! Not just a creative decision, a nostalgic novelty or learning curve. I liked the thought that so much of the music I listen to and love today was recorded in this manner. It has formed in me a real love and appreciation for this form of recording.
It was interesting to try to maintain the thought that back then, that WAS the track - there was no digitally recording to Pro Tools, being able to 'command-s' - I think we take for granted how easy it is to safeguard what we record these days, using DAWs. It’s added security using tape nowadays to be able to coincide with a digital program like Pro Tools.
This tape experience was wonderfully tied in to an awesome trip to Zenith Records, vinyl pressing facility. It was so absolutely cool to even be inside the place, let alone learn how all the technology and equipment works, and be given a tour around to all the different machinery and see it in action. As someone who listens to and enjoys records, it was entertaining and intriguing to see how the process worked from the beginning. I liked knowing that these processes were the original ways of recording and printing and sharing music - yes we’ve moved beyond these ways with technological advances, but there is, and I think there will always be, a sentimental attachment to vinyl as an art form (and understandably, because it is beautiful really). Being able to literally see the grooves, and having seen them being carved was amazing. It’s music visible, it’s tactile, it’s physical, and I think that’s something we can’t surpass no matter new technologies, with whatever innovations in quality they provide. It’s vinyl’s genuine character that cannot be replaced.
(A video our teacher Dave shared with us that I absolutely love, mainly because of vinyl but also because of Jack White and the yellow) -
YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7IgL32FGu0&t=4s
These type of opportunities within and throughout my audio education at SAE have helped me discover what real-world experiences are present in the field of audio, and see how what I am learning is significant in everyday life. It is very exciting really, and I look forward to any more chances to have similar experiences.
Post-producing an online series...
For the past four weeks, my peers and I have been completing the Post-Production on 3 episodes of an online series - 'Grimdustries'.
It was something different for me, as I had never previously worked on an online series. I liked being a part of the final stages of a long creative process for the film students - it felt like a real collaboration between our cohorts.
I worked closely with the film students throughout the project, having been the audio 'producer' for the series. I participated in much of the lead up - pre-production communication and organisation - and was at close contact with the film crew throughout. It was interesting for me working with them; seeing how much work they put into every aspect of planning, filming, technical and creative decision-making and even marketing and budgeting. It meant that I felt invested when it came to the audio students' job - I wanted it to go well and do the filmies' time and effort justice.
It was great to have been in producer role - I do like the communication side of team work; managing groups of people and keeping check of tasks. I did feel though that I was spending more time contacting people, mediating and relaying information than taking part in the technical side of things - and because I had responsibility outside of the technical tasks I tended to leave that to others. Which meant I didn't do as much as I would have liked. But there were very apt people completing that work anyway, so it was all good.
One disappointing aspect of the project was that when it came to our part, there were many people who sat out - which was a little frustrating. It would have been cool to have everyone invested and taking part (even if just for creative input, seeing as it's difficult to have more than one/two people driving the console). I understand that, being the end of trimester, people were busy and had quite a lot to do, but we all were! And unfortunately it meant that some of us had to put in more work to support the lack of dedication from others. Despite that, I think it went well, and, though more time would have been great (possibly outside of the real crunch-time of the trimester), I think we did produce great sounding episodes.
It was very cool experiencing the project start to finish, where all the parts (with the many people involved) came together to create an online series! I was very happy for the filmies that their original concept was a final product. They are planning to re-shoot and re-produce the series, so when the time comes for more post-production it'll be good to again get on board (and maybe get on the desk a little more).