Trimester Reflection

Over the course of this trimester I worked on a whole range of projects; Some that I had no experience with and some that I got to learn more and go deeper into fields I had worked on before. This trimester was heavy on group work which I always welcome and embrace, especially as a student I find learning with other people and from other people a great way to accelerate learning.

The layout of the trimester was to learn three different subjects: live sound, post production and advanced studio production, in four week intensives where we worked in small groups with a specialist lecturer to learn the subject and deliver a professional quality production, this was a different way of learning to past trimesters where we were taught a range of concepts and general audio related subjects as a whole class. I prefer the intensive method of learning, after going through both I found that having a small group opened the lectures up for more in depth discussions and questions on the specific subjects which I feel helped to learn them on a deeper, more professional level. In this blog I want to go briefly go through each project and detail what I learnt from each one.

Post production : Sound replacement project

This was the first intensive of the trimester where the project was to choose a short clip, under five minutes, strip the sound and perform all the music, foley, sound fx and dialogue as a group to deliver a clip with full sound that passes as one complete piece.

We chose our clip from the movie Scott Pilgrim vs the world because it had enough elements and dialogue to be challenging but wasn’t too much to handle. Here’s the original clip:

We got to perform foley, create electronic sounds, find samples from online libraries, compose the background music, perform the dialogue as well as mix and edit all the sounds to work together, all of these skills were fairly new to me so it was very engaging to learn and apply them. Some of the transferrable skills exercised were team work and communication, we allocated roles and assignments to contribute and worked well as a team to get everything done on time. This project also showed that working one step at a time is good for organising a project, knowing where it’s up to which helped us deliver a quality product. Here is the project :

And these are some blogs I wrote during the four week intensive on post production focused on what interested me and what I was learning at the time:

Live sound : Organise and engineer a two act gig

This was a subject I knew nothing about coming into it so again was a very engaging subject, we learnt about how P.A systems work, foldback speakers and tuning a room to eliminate problem frequencies and feedback sounds as well as learning to speed mix because in a real live sound situation the mixing has to be done on the spot, under pressure and of course done well. It’s definitely a career in which you need to be physically fit for all the heavy lifting and going from back of house to front of house, have good communication skills for organising between crew members and the performers, have a well developed critical ear for determining problem areas and good problem solving skills to make the room and mix sound as good as possible.

Putting on the gig was a great new experience. It showed me how important the planning and preparing side of a project is, for a gig 80% of the work is done before the actual show and even before the talent shows up a lot of the time. This is a clip from the gig we put on, the band is a Melbourne local, all female garage rock band ‘Bitch Diesel’:

And this is a post I did on live sound and the life of a touring audio engineer:

Advanced studio production : Produce a professional song

For the subject we were given the choice of two songs complete with lyrics and chord progressions and then given the task of re imagining the track to a reference genre and production style. My group chose to make a song in a power ballad style with Adele’s Hello and John Legends All Of Me as our reference tracks. Again working with a small production group taught us to use team work and communication skills by identifying each others strengths and learning from each other to produce the best results. Throughout the four weeks we leant a lot of advanced techniques for the whole production process. About recording we learnt what the new available mics are best used for and new placement techniques such as isolating a hi hat mic with a hanging notebook and a new three mic overhead technique great for recording minimal drum kits, as well as this we were taught how to record a live piano and how to get different sounds timbres from one by modifying the hammers. And in the mixing process we learnt a lot about workflow, how to use a Neve console and which instruments sound best through which outboard compressors and some quick EQing techniques. I enjoyed working with a professional group of musicians and seeing how things should flow when everything is going to plan and how to work around things when they don’t.

Freelance Game Project

I also undertook the freelance project of lead audio producer for an independant game which lasted ten weeks. That project required five background music tracks and a whole range of sounds; I’ve done two blog posts on this project so you can find more info on the ins and outs of the process here:

Being independent on a project taught me that I can deliver a project in an unfamiliar genre to a quality standard but that it takes research and feedback. I also learnt that I enjoy the challenge of doing sound for games, it’s a field, like sound design in post production that tests your creativity and adaptability. Because of this I’ll be dedicating much more of my time to researching video game composition, learning middleware such as FMOD and practicing sound design and video game style composition (instrumental and emotional). I’ve also decided to collaborate with a fellow student with like interests in game music to work towards a specialist production studio because again I feel learning from others is a way to accelerate results and a company adds a level of professionalism over an independant freelancer.

Rounding out

This trimester has cemented my desire to work in the audio industry. It’s also shown me the importance of the transferrable skills such as time management and communication. I enjoyed working with smaller groups and working on professional grade projects which meant delivering quality products which turns out to have a very rewarding feeling attached to it. Personally I feel like I worked in a team and contributed my opinions well and was always ready to do the work needed to get the job done.

Finally this trimester has taught me how much there is to learn in the field and how much more I can improve to get to where I want to be, it seems to be a never ending journey and I’m excited to embrace it but I want to get to a level of competency as soon as possible because creating when you know how to is a lot more enjoyable than struggling and failing. So over the break and onwards I’ll be focused on becoming proficient at music theory and music writing, DAW workflow and organisation and a whole lot of practice in everything music composition and sound design related. And to show all this off I’ll be developing my online persona and portfolio which is becoming easier the more confident I become. Watch this space.

J.Duggan

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