Sound design is something I had been leaving off as it’s something I have no idea about. I know that this is a crucial part for animation, and can make or break an animation, dividing it between a great animation and an average video.
One of the major things to consider in sound design is how much audio is needed to reinforce the animation visuals- how much is too much and how much is too little. Researching online, there seems to be no general rule for sound design for animation, however the general sound design depends on the style of it (Squeezed Media Animation Studio, 2019).
I found a great article on step by step process for sound design by Jeff Shiffman from Boom Box Post, who has worked on various animated projects from Ben 10 to The Looney Tunes Show.
When talking on choosing where to add sound design, it is generally used to sweeten the dialogue. This is king, and the last thing needed is for it to go out of context or amiss or become “unintelligible.” Sweetening certain movements of the character with SFX can add character to them, giving extra personality. I thought this would be great when applying to Renny. Although he doesn’t speak, SFX like pops when he removes his arm, and his walk cycle itself would add a lot of personality. This is what Shiffman did in Ben 10: Omniverse, he “sweetened almost all of Ben’s ‘Aliens.'”
Another area Shiffman commented on was the use of comedic timing when approaching sound design. He describes how he’s “seen first-hand how moving a sound effect only a few frames can change a moment from flat to outright hilarious.” He also advises watching comedic material when approaching SFX, find what makes you life and analyse it and replicate in your own work. However, he warns of pitfalls of first time designer, who try to make jokes when there are none.
“Animation grows from pure imagination. Build on that…. And if all else fails, put a fart sound in there.”
Based on the advice above, I began to look into sound design on different animations and movies. I found this feature on the design for Wall.E. I thought this video was very insightful, especially when approaching a feature with a largely silent cast and protagonist. Ben Burtt emphasised that this meant there was an emphasis on every squeak, beep and squawk. Emphasis was additionally put on using the right sound effect at the right time in animation. One of the quotes that struck me most in this feature was the below;
“If I find sound isn’t working in a scene, I’ll abandon the science and go with what works emotionally.”
This emphasised what Shiffman had previously said, working on sound design that felt right as opposed to what was expected and real. Again this short emphasised the use of sound to create character. With the character of M-0, for example, he is extremely nervous and loves cleaning, so his motor is constantly ticking in a high shrill noise, constant revving making it sound like he is eager to work. These constant snippets of sound make him frenetic (YouTube, 2019).
I then decided to do some analysis of clips in Aardman shorts to get a grasp for there sound design, as my current short is heavily inspired by them.
This clip shows the opening for Were Rabbit without the background music. It doesn’t imply complicated sound design- the sounds are as expected. I then went on to watch this clip, with them music added. The sound effects are audible above the music, but just about, ensuring they don’t jar.
I started going through my comp and noting the various SFX that I think would add character to Renny. I think in the shots when he removes his arm- squeak and pops would help add to the element of him being a stop motion character. I also find this kind of noises would help in his walk cycle- could his walk have a slap like look to it or as if the clay is still damp on his feet and smacking the ground.
The rest of the general foley, I am thinking of having a general bank from online and then recording ones I can’t find myself. This would allow me to break up the SFX, and not use repeated effects that often, preventing it from sounding gimmicky.
The next step for me to approach how I will be making the dominant sound in my short- the background television sound that takes over the entire short. I will need to make a list of the different ‘adverts’ that need made and how they will need treated to sound like the TV is playing in a rooms. I will approach this in the next post.
Squeezed Media Animation Studio. (2019). Sound Design in Animation – Squeezed Media Animation Studio. [online] Available at: https://squeezedmedia.com/sound-design-animation/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2019].
YouTube. (2019). Wall-E Animation Foley and Sound Design. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IPxIvbc_cs [Accessed 17 Apr. 2019].