Post Magazine

May 2012

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Page 38 of 51

A nimation often sets the audience up to expect something differ- ent, something unrealistic. The suspension of disbelief that anima- tion creates gives sound engineers an opportunity to go beyond the confines of reality. Even when striving for realism, often the sound needs to be hyper-realistic, the level of detail exaggerated to high- light a particular action or story point. There's more opportunity for creativity, and that always makes the job seem, well, less like a job. GOOD BOOKS: METAMORPHOSIS When Hunter S. Thompson has a wobbly desk, only a copy of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, in paperback, will do to prop it up. This is the idea behind the swirling, morphing, twitchy animation created at Buck TV to promote the New Zealand-based online bookseller, Good Books. Over a span of eight months, Antfood executive producer/partner Sean McGovern and creative director/partner Wilson Brown worked to cre- ate a homogenous blend of music and sound design that is as smooth as the animation. Antfood (, a creative audio studio located in Brooklyn, creates music and sound design for clients like Google, Nike, Verizon and Coca-Cola. Good Books: Metamorphosis is a 2:42 online ad featuring hand-drawn animation that is constantly morphing between different scenes playing out in Hunter S. Thompson's brain. Brown and McGovern had two specific goals for the sound: make it smooth so the audio transitions help the video transitions, and match the aesthetic of the picture. "It's dark and saturated and a little dirty, so we tried to extend that to all the audio, all the instruments we recorded and all the sound design," explains Brown. Good Books: Metamorphosis features the likeness of Hunter S. Thompson, animated by Buck TV, with sound design and music by Antfood. Abstract and surreal sounds are the workhorse of Metamorphosis's soundscape. From a slide-guitar wail representing a shrieking goat, to bubbling tea water por- trayed by floor tom drums, getting the palette of sounds just right was the most difficult part. According to Brown, "The challenge was taking every little visual ele- ment and thinking,'Well if there is no suggestion and no rules, and theoretically we Antfood spent eight months working on the project, starting with a video outline of still frames that changed every three or four seconds. As the animation filled in and images changed, the soundtrack was modified accordingly. Starting out, Brown wrote a full piece of music with guitars, drums, bass and tape delays. Instead of using the full piece of music from the start of the spot through the end, Brown and McGovern decided to only use bits and parts of the music to help the animation. "We backed away from the music and wanted to take more of a sound design approach," says McGovern. "Over time it morphed into this cohesive musical sound design piece. " To accomplish their musical sound design approach, Brown and McGovern decided to take all the elements that would traditionally be called "sound design," such as sound effects of squeaks, squeals and rustling, and use them as small musical components of a larger composition. Adds Brown, "We wanted it to feel like a graceful composition rather than just a music track with sound design slapped on it. We wanted to make this a sound experience that was wed to every single frame and gesture of the visuals." Antfood used Logic to record both the music and Foley. They also used a Revox A-77 reel-to-reel, as well as two vintage tape delays: the Roland RE-301 Space Echo and an Echoplex EP-3. "We recorded onto tape just for the feel and the aesthetic, to get this kind of vintage, warm 60's vibe," describes Brown. Brown took everything from tape into Logic so he could more easily work with the recorded material. He used SoundToys plug-ins such as the EchoBoy, Decapita- tor and Devil Loc to give a unique life to the sound design elements. "The plug-ins created a much deeper sound than the source material we recorded. SoundToys plug-ins are great for more of the abstract and surreal sounds." could have the little fish or the bats or the swords be any sound in the universe. How do we choose the perfect one?' We ended up trying a lot of things. Once we had a family of sounds that worked together and that were all going to help tell this story, we knew, 'well when the tea bubbles, that's got to be a floor tom, and when the goat screams, it's got to be a guitar, because we already had this outline created for the sonic world.' But getting to that point, getting the aesthetic correct, took a little time and experimentation." There were moments in the animation that required more literal sounds to help the story along. Since the animation is so fluid, important story points had the potential of being lost on the audience. Brown and McGovern used sound to highlight those crucial points. "There is this scene where Hunter S. Thompson's desk is shaking, because it's wobbly — it's on an even floor — and the animation is extremely minimal," Brown explains. "If you don't recognize that's the whole purpose of him ordering Kafka's Metamorphosis from Good Books, then the story doesn't make sense. We had to bring this surreal animation back into the real world by emphasizing these crucial points of the story using sound design." After spending eight months working on Metamorphosis in piecemeal, being able to finally mix the spot allowed Brown to appreciate the project as a whole. "When you focus so intensely on 30 frames for a day, or you work on a :10 segment for such a long time, you start to lose sight of the bigger picture. When we got to finally step back and appreciate the piece as a whole, that was the best. For the final mix, the directors came over to watch and we were all ecstatic." "We got everything right," agrees McGovern. "It's definitely a testament to the fun we had on this job that we still pull the session open in the studio and get such a kick out of watching the final product." Post • May 2012 37

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