Mar 26, 2019
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Front Page, Industry News

The Sound of Exploration: the challenge of documentary sound

By TO411 staff writer Daisy Maclean

Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route, Canada’s Northwest Passage has remained inaccessible until 2009, when the impact of climate change reduced the Arctic pack ice and made the waterways more navigable. Recently, one of the first scientific expeditions to explore the Passage took place on the aptly named icebreaker, the Amundsen (the first man to navigate the passage over a century ago), in October, 2010. 

Accompanied by renowned documentary filmmaker Mark Terry, the historic journey included 10 of the world’s foremost polar scientists as they studied the effects of climate change in the arctic region, discovered new life, and compared their findings with studies being conducted at the other end of the earth, Antarctica.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with the polar explorer himself, while the film was in post production in one of the best rooms, sonically speaking, in the country at Post City Sound, to ask him and the team (Pino Halili, owner and manager of Post City Sound and Allen Ormerod, co-owner and main re-recording engineer) a few questions about weather balloons, documentary sound, and glacial collapse.

What are the challenges of Documentary Sound?

Allen: With documentaries, there’s a certain rawness. You don’t have time to do rehearsals, you don’t have the perfect opportunities for sound. The production sound can be challenging.

In this particular film, there were exterior shots outside of a ship that’s going through the northwest passage. There were interviews or talking heads in the bowels of the ship while people were fishing for little gooey sea creatures and having a great time, and at the same time, Mark is telling his story and everybody is screaming in the back. Well, if this was a film, we’d bring everybody back because overlapping dialogue is happening and we’d get somebody to separately scream in the studio and we’d have Mark redo his stuff and we’d add all the different effects. So with documentary, it’s definitely more challenging. In this particular film, the production sound was actually very good considering what they were up against working in Antarctic winds.

Mark: And the ship itself makes noises, it’s an icebreaker.

Is that what happened with the Weather Balloon?

Mark: That was a very interesting day on the ship because they were going to launch this weather balloon and previously we didn’t know about these launches but we always wanted to include it in the film. So today was the day that they felt, “let’s bring the film crew up for this.”

On the deck of the ship is where we did it. Now, this particular part of the ship, which is the stern of the ship, is where the helicopter launches from, so it’s a helipad as well. So we’re up there, but the wind was insane! It was very loud, it wasn’t just a strong wind, but a noisy wind, and that causes a lot a problems with the sound. So we’re trying to talk over the wind and the weather balloon, once inflated it was bouncing around like crazy! Hitting me in the head and hitting the microphone and it was causing an awful lot of problems and I was dying to let go of the thing. But oh no, we have to set the little device and we’re not quite ready yet, and just hang on to it. The wind was so strong that my arm was getting wrenched out of its socket trying to hold onto this thing because I didn’t want to let go and mess up the experiment. So every time it moved, it made a noise too, and then we’re also on the ship near the engines. It was an audio nightmare. But these guys did an amazing job. You might get a sneak preview later, but you have no idea what we went through because they cleaned it up so nicely that it became one of the strongest scenes in the film.

Pino: Well, you were dealing with situations where the winds were 60 miles an hour, easily.

Mark: Oh yeah, we were on the tail end of a hurricane. We were chasing the hurricane, not intentionally, but… you know.

Alan: Along with what the editors supplied us, my job basically is to take all the production sound and the voice over and clean that up as much as I can. That creates a base for your dialogue stem and then music is added. We had an FX editor provide us with FX to accentuate certain graphics that are put in the film. When the titles come up we have different sonic representations; in this case, when the graphics come up it’s kind of an ice effect. All those little things are added and you try to keep a continuity of style and effect for the entire picture.

Continued in PART 2 tomorrow…

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Front Page, Industry News

The Sound of Exploration: the challenge of documentary sound

By TO411 staff writer Daisy Maclean

Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route, Canada’s Northwest Passage has remained inaccessible until 2009, when the impact of climate change reduced the Arctic pack ice and made the waterways more navigable. Recently, one of the first scientific expeditions to explore the Passage took place on the aptly named icebreaker, the Amundsen (the first man to navigate the passage over a century ago), in October, 2010. 

Accompanied by renowned documentary filmmaker Mark Terry, the historic journey included 10 of the world’s foremost polar scientists as they studied the effects of climate change in the arctic region, discovered new life, and compared their findings with studies being conducted at the other end of the earth, Antarctica.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with the polar explorer himself, while the film was in post production in one of the best rooms, sonically speaking, in the country at Post City Sound, to ask him and the team (Pino Halili, owner and manager of Post City Sound and Allen Ormerod, co-owner and main re-recording engineer) a few questions about weather balloons, documentary sound, and glacial collapse.

What are the challenges of Documentary Sound?

Allen: With documentaries, there’s a certain rawness. You don’t have time to do rehearsals, you don’t have the perfect opportunities for sound. The production sound can be challenging.

In this particular film, there were exterior shots outside of a ship that’s going through the northwest passage. There were interviews or talking heads in the bowels of the ship while people were fishing for little gooey sea creatures and having a great time, and at the same time, Mark is telling his story and everybody is screaming in the back. Well, if this was a film, we’d bring everybody back because overlapping dialogue is happening and we’d get somebody to separately scream in the studio and we’d have Mark redo his stuff and we’d add all the different effects. So with documentary, it’s definitely more challenging. In this particular film, the production sound was actually very good considering what they were up against working in Antarctic winds.

Mark: And the ship itself makes noises, it’s an icebreaker.

Is that what happened with the Weather Balloon?

Mark: That was a very interesting day on the ship because they were going to launch this weather balloon and previously we didn’t know about these launches but we always wanted to include it in the film. So today was the day that they felt, “let’s bring the film crew up for this.”

On the deck of the ship is where we did it. Now, this particular part of the ship, which is the stern of the ship, is where the helicopter launches from, so it’s a helipad as well. So we’re up there, but the wind was insane! It was very loud, it wasn’t just a strong wind, but a noisy wind, and that causes a lot a problems with the sound. So we’re trying to talk over the wind and the weather balloon, once inflated it was bouncing around like crazy! Hitting me in the head and hitting the microphone and it was causing an awful lot of problems and I was dying to let go of the thing. But oh no, we have to set the little device and we’re not quite ready yet, and just hang on to it. The wind was so strong that my arm was getting wrenched out of its socket trying to hold onto this thing because I didn’t want to let go and mess up the experiment. So every time it moved, it made a noise too, and then we’re also on the ship near the engines. It was an audio nightmare. But these guys did an amazing job. You might get a sneak preview later, but you have no idea what we went through because they cleaned it up so nicely that it became one of the strongest scenes in the film.

Pino: Well, you were dealing with situations where the winds were 60 miles an hour, easily.

Mark: Oh yeah, we were on the tail end of a hurricane. We were chasing the hurricane, not intentionally, but… you know.

Alan: Along with what the editors supplied us, my job basically is to take all the production sound and the voice over and clean that up as much as I can. That creates a base for your dialogue stem and then music is added. We had an FX editor provide us with FX to accentuate certain graphics that are put in the film. When the titles come up we have different sonic representations; in this case, when the graphics come up it’s kind of an ice effect. All those little things are added and you try to keep a continuity of style and effect for the entire picture.

Continued in PART 2 tomorrow…

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You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Front Page, Industry News

The Sound of Exploration: the challenge of documentary sound

By TO411 staff writer Daisy Maclean

Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route, Canada’s Northwest Passage has remained inaccessible until 2009, when the impact of climate change reduced the Arctic pack ice and made the waterways more navigable. Recently, one of the first scientific expeditions to explore the Passage took place on the aptly named icebreaker, the Amundsen (the first man to navigate the passage over a century ago), in October, 2010. 

Accompanied by renowned documentary filmmaker Mark Terry, the historic journey included 10 of the world’s foremost polar scientists as they studied the effects of climate change in the arctic region, discovered new life, and compared their findings with studies being conducted at the other end of the earth, Antarctica.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with the polar explorer himself, while the film was in post production in one of the best rooms, sonically speaking, in the country at Post City Sound, to ask him and the team (Pino Halili, owner and manager of Post City Sound and Allen Ormerod, co-owner and main re-recording engineer) a few questions about weather balloons, documentary sound, and glacial collapse.

What are the challenges of Documentary Sound?

Allen: With documentaries, there’s a certain rawness. You don’t have time to do rehearsals, you don’t have the perfect opportunities for sound. The production sound can be challenging.

In this particular film, there were exterior shots outside of a ship that’s going through the northwest passage. There were interviews or talking heads in the bowels of the ship while people were fishing for little gooey sea creatures and having a great time, and at the same time, Mark is telling his story and everybody is screaming in the back. Well, if this was a film, we’d bring everybody back because overlapping dialogue is happening and we’d get somebody to separately scream in the studio and we’d have Mark redo his stuff and we’d add all the different effects. So with documentary, it’s definitely more challenging. In this particular film, the production sound was actually very good considering what they were up against working in Antarctic winds.

Mark: And the ship itself makes noises, it’s an icebreaker.

Is that what happened with the Weather Balloon?

Mark: That was a very interesting day on the ship because they were going to launch this weather balloon and previously we didn’t know about these launches but we always wanted to include it in the film. So today was the day that they felt, “let’s bring the film crew up for this.”

On the deck of the ship is where we did it. Now, this particular part of the ship, which is the stern of the ship, is where the helicopter launches from, so it’s a helipad as well. So we’re up there, but the wind was insane! It was very loud, it wasn’t just a strong wind, but a noisy wind, and that causes a lot a problems with the sound. So we’re trying to talk over the wind and the weather balloon, once inflated it was bouncing around like crazy! Hitting me in the head and hitting the microphone and it was causing an awful lot of problems and I was dying to let go of the thing. But oh no, we have to set the little device and we’re not quite ready yet, and just hang on to it. The wind was so strong that my arm was getting wrenched out of its socket trying to hold onto this thing because I didn’t want to let go and mess up the experiment. So every time it moved, it made a noise too, and then we’re also on the ship near the engines. It was an audio nightmare. But these guys did an amazing job. You might get a sneak preview later, but you have no idea what we went through because they cleaned it up so nicely that it became one of the strongest scenes in the film.

Pino: Well, you were dealing with situations where the winds were 60 miles an hour, easily.

Mark: Oh yeah, we were on the tail end of a hurricane. We were chasing the hurricane, not intentionally, but… you know.

Alan: Along with what the editors supplied us, my job basically is to take all the production sound and the voice over and clean that up as much as I can. That creates a base for your dialogue stem and then music is added. We had an FX editor provide us with FX to accentuate certain graphics that are put in the film. When the titles come up we have different sonic representations; in this case, when the graphics come up it’s kind of an ice effect. All those little things are added and you try to keep a continuity of style and effect for the entire picture.

Continued in PART 2 tomorrow…

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You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

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