Lock On – The Steps of Blaxx (part 2 of 3)

‘Lock On’ has various Sound Design elements that one may not notice but if absent, or if done incorrectly, will take the viewer out of the experience the Director wants the audience to feel. Some of these elements were described in my previous blog . The process of walking is something we all observe in nature and will instinctively know when the sound and visuals do not match. This blog is dedicated to this process.

Look at the intro of the music video again and you would see no less than three walking elements where Sound Design was used. 1. The walking of the undercover female Police Officer. 2. Blaxx walking to and from the printer. 3. The close-up shot of the female Police Officer walking to the monitor.

Now let’s listen to the Sound Design stem of the video.

Visuals Dictating Sound Design

The one visual element that was common in all of the walking parts was that I was not able to see the feet of the actors. This was a situation I also had in the Abdiel/Destra Garcia music video. I had to take into account the following factors to correctly assess what footwear they may have on.
1. The style of clothes the actors is wearing which may indicate the style of footwear. 2. The size of the actors. 3. The environment the actors are in which may indicate the floor surface. 4. The size of the environment which dictates the sound of the footwear in the space.

The Art Of Walking

Take a look at the following video

Walking (usually) involves the process of falling forward, stopping the fall with the heel, transferring the weight to the rest of the foot up to the toes and simultaneously moving the other leg to repeat the process with the other foot. The step the heel and toe makes is important as EACH step creates a slightly different sound. Go back to the Sound Design Stem and listen.

WHEN to place each of these sounds is also very important – done incorrectly the walking will look very unnatural. Since I could not see the feet I observed other bodily factors – the fall of the clothes when walking and the shifting of weight from one leg to the next by observing the shoulders.

I know these explanations are long but they are important to understand why the finished Sound Design fits so well with the video. So without further ado, let’s begin ….

The Undercover Policewoman

Look at the music video again. What is she wearing? It makes logical sense that, to compliment the outfit, she would be wearing a stylish, thin, high-heeled shoe which would make short distinct walking noises. Notice that each step consists of two parts (refer back to the ‘Art Of Walking’ section). The surface of the floor is wooden to suit the environment they are in (an upstairs loft). This surface will be significant in the Sound Design for Blaxx as you will read later on. As she is walking she is moving from left to right. The walking sound is slowly panned to that direction (remember the ‘diegetic’ term in my previous blog?) and as she walks away from the camera the volume reduces. This reduction also makes way for the walking Sound Design of Blaxx.

The Policewoman

The close-up shot of the Policewoman coming to the camera only has two steps – as she approached the monitor and stopping. If you didn’t hear it in the video, watch it again, it’s there.

She, is wearing a flat, sturdy, sensible pair of shoes. Good for standing for long hours and suited for her line of work. From the video it could be gauged that she is walking on either a tiled or concrete surface. You may notice that you see her turning around and starting to walk towards the monitor but you do not hear her until she is close. The reason is that I wanted to make sure that the dialogue and the radio communication took first preference to establish the police stakeout scene. Then, as the camera shot gets closer you hear the footsteps. She is the person that the other Police Officers are reporting to so, as an authority, the sound establishes her presence.

….. and now we get to the main event …..

The Steps of Blaxx

Getting the steps and the feel of Blaxx correctly was the longest part of the Sound Design process for this music video because he was so close to the camera and he had the longest on-screen time in the intro. Blaxx is a big man and the heaviest of all the characters in the intro. From his uniform it can be assumed that he is wearing a pair of boots. We have already assumed that the floor is a wooden surface (see The Undercover Policewoman section) so the sounds have to reflect all these elements plus be timed properly with his gait.

There are two parts to his walk:
Part A – Walking to the printer.
Part B – Walking away from the printer.

Part A

When the camera begins to focus on Blaxx he starts to turn around and walk in a slow and methodical manner. Since he is semi-close to the camera his steps begin to rise in volume as he starts to move closer. Notice how each step is in two parts as previously explained and if you look carefully at his shoulders, each part of that step is timed to his movements.

Part B

My favourite part (as well as Director’s) is Blaxx walking away from the printer. Look at the video again and you would notice a few things especially on the third step. You see how he missteps, almost like a limp, and the rhythm is slightly off? It took me a while to get the correct line up of the sound with how his clothes and body were moving.

Remember what I said about the floor being a wooden surface? The Director wanted to emphasize the presence of Blaxx on it so as he is walking you are hearing the creaking of the floorboards. In Sound Design it is VERY common to substitute sounds from other sources to heighten what is seen on screen. For example: The breaking of celery stalks to imitate the breaking of bones. I did not have any creaking floorboards so I substituted the sounds of the twisting of wicker baskets. It worked very well and the Director was very happy. That sound was placed in the mid-stride of Blaxx to emphasize his bearing on the surface. Notice also that the steps and the floorboard sound are louder in volume as Blaxx is the main focus and he is closest to the camera.

You can see a time-lapse version of the whole Sound Design Process here.

I hope you enjoyed the second instalment of this 3-part blog. Our final blog in this series will be on the composition of the intro music titled ‘The Intro Soundtrack’. Feel free to post your questions and/or comments below.

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