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May 2012

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Americans, he recorded a series of Foley and footsteps and made patches for different characters on different surfaces. As the show goes along, he adds to the library of reoccurring sounds, like a charac- ter's cell phone ring. That's always going to be the same. He then uses Kontakt to trigger the effects. "By creating this library of reoccurring sounds overtime, we don't have to Great City Productions' Ian Stynes: making TV's Ugly Americans sound less like animation and more like a live production. UGLY AMERICANS Ian Stynes, chief audio engineer at Great City Productions ( in New York, spends a lot time making Comedy Central's TV series Ugly Americans sound less like animation and more like a live production. That is, until the zombie invasion happens. According to Stynes, the executive pro- ducers wanted to create the feel of a live production for much of the show. So he takes a lot of care in making the show sound like it was recorded on a set or on location, by adding in layers of ambience, footsteps, hand movements and clothing movements. Stynes also records wallas for a few episodes at a time. "We really work on sourcing the dialogue, sound effects and reverb. But the thing that is really fun about this show is that there is a highly stylized supernatural or sci-fi component. We have to switch between this extreme realism and then go into big-action sound effects." Each episode has a theme. For instance, one show may be a play off The Blob and the next episode might involve zombies, vampires or werewolves. Creating sound effects for these supernatural/sci-fi parts of the episode is something that Stynes enjoys. "The show runners really get specific with the sound effects. For instance, we just did a Batman spoof, and during our spotting session, in the opening scene, they would reference Batman Forever, but another scene they would refer- ence Batman Begins, and for the end car chase scene they wanted to evoke Tim Bur- ton's 1989 film Batman, and then another scene or montage they'll want something like the TV show from the '60s with Adam West. That is kind of fun. We get to look this stuff up and recreate certain sounds." For each show Stynes works on, he cre- ates a unique library of sounds. For Ugly 38 Post • May 2012 worry about that creative space in our brain and we can really think about how we're going to, for example, tweak out an opening scene to sound like The Blob." While a lot of TV animation is very stripped down and focused on the dialogue and music, Stynes tries to do the opposite for Ugly Americans. He strives to bring cin- ematic sensibilities to the show with a high level of detail. "There is no reason why it can't be full of detail. Often in TV animation, the sound design takes a back seat. We want to create a sense of realism as well as bring drama to those high-action moments in the sound." For each episode, the session will contain around 200 tracks. In each session, Stynes likes to break out the separate elements of dialogue, music, effects and the supernatural/ sci-fi effects, so he can work with them quicker in the mix. Once a rough mix is com- plete, he and fellow sound designer Matt Schoenfeld present the episode to the pro- ducers. "If we have anything we need to tweak, Matt will work on that and we'll bring it back into the session, finish the mix and send it out to the networks from there." When it comes to working on either live production or animation, Stynes prefers ani- mation. He feels with live production, there is so much work involved in getting a mix to flow and to sound natural. With animation, there is a tremendous amount of flexibility and more room for creativity. "In animation, going into the experience, right away the viewer is ready for something different. So the sounds don't have to be subtle or even realistic. In many cases, in animation, you're out of the ordinary and in an alternate world from the start. Animation is fun because you're brought into a different world; people don't expect a realistic sound, so you can get away with changing the sound." THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS Aardman Studios, known for the stop- motion clay animation style of its popular Wallace & Gromit films, has released a new film to theaters titled, The Pirates! Band of Misfits (or as the British called it, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists). Aardman's Nick Park turned to Goldcrest Post London for the sound design and final mix. Adrian Rhodes, supervising sound design- er at Goldcrest Post London (, has a long- standing relationship with Aardman Studios, going all the way back to Wallace & Gromit — A Grand Day Out. He and Mark Paterson, re-recording mixer at Goldcrest Post Lon- don, worked on The Pirates! from the first temp mix to the final 5.1 release. Rhodes's past experience with Aardman animations has taught him the devil is in the details, especially in the detail of the charac- ter's feet. "Every sort of heel and toe and twitch has to be so specific for the characters otherwise it really doesn't work," he explains. "I usually find that you can't do Foley with your feet for Aardman films. It's too real. You usually find yourself with your hands in your shoes and you're recording it that way. It's designed to be an interesting sound rather than just the result of walking." Building the world around the characters can also be a tricky audio task in animations because there isn't a lot of movement in the surrounding landscape. For The Pirates!, it was a little easier since some parts of the film take place on a ship. "You have to be quite careful about what you put in for back- ground sounds because if you put wind in you don't quite believe it. Nothing is moving. In The Pirates! there was a lot of CG water shots and they were on boats. You had lots of scope for building creaky atmospheres and sea noises." The Pirates! has several locations that include an unusual element for Aardman films: crowds. The tavern, the "Pirate of the Year" show and a royal English society lecture hall all include background crowds. Rhodes and Paterson had to create unique ambiences every time these scenes came up because the animators animated lip movements for the background characters. "You need to hear just the smallest amount of the detail for what they're saying and there is no one blanket mix, no one sync track, that provides that detail that you want to reinforce it," describes Paterson. "It was a lot of shaping for the 'Pirate of the Year' show. We needed the crowd to react to the dia- logue of the principal characters. There was a lot of 'oh yes he is' and 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs.' You need lots of elements to get it to sound right

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