It is interesting to discover that every sound in the Abdiel/Destra music video (except the monologue in the beginning and the music) was all constructed. There was silence at the beginning and end of the music video and that the audio world was constructed from scratch to further the story of what was seen on the screen. That is the power of Sound Design. To see how this was done this blog will have two major sections:
1. The Frontend. 2. The Backend
Let’s start the blog by watching this music video.
Prelude — How it all began
I was asked by my friend, Film Director and Special Effects Makeup Artist, Steven Talyor to be part of this project. I have been collaborating with him since 2012 when I composed the soundtrack for his award-winning film ‘Buck — The Man Spirit’ and have been composing soundtracks or constructing his Sound Design for most of his projects.
For the music video we discussed the basic ideas of what he wanted (more of that later) and he assembled his crew to do the filming, editing, colour correction and visual effects. After these processes were completed I was given the final cut (edit) of the video so that I can construct the Sound Design for the music video. In other words, I was given a video that had no, I repeat, no sound before and after the music.
The song ‘My Love’ was produced by Mical Teja Williams.
1 . The Frontend
Take a look at this time-lapse video below.
The Director wanted the feeling of a large enclosed space throughout the beginning of the video and all the sounds of Abdiel (the lead male singer) to reflect his position within that space. I also wanted every element to sound as realistic as possible in terms of volume and where the sound comes from as dictated by the video. This is called Diegetic Sound. According to Filmsound.org — Diegetic Sound is any sound presented as originated from the source visible on the screen. This sound can also happen on or off screen.
The room atmosphere was built by layering a few tracks of tones to make a feeling of a low-level tension. I named each track ‘Atmos’ and started working on the entrance of Abdiel. What is important to note is each sound is matched to the video and I had to loop sections of the video to nudge each sound to fit the action accordingly. The Director wanted the male lead to enter the room with a sound of suction. This sound was built using multiple samples onto a track called ‘Enter’. These two tracks, ‘Atmos’ and ‘Enter’, were also used for the exit at the backend of the video when the music is finished.
Piano Light Bars
I created two tracks, ‘Light (left)’ and ‘Light (right)’ and timed each note as each arm blocked each shaft of light. Each shaft of light was assigned a note with the top notes being the highest. Then each track was panned left and right so that when someone is watching that scene of the video the sounds would appear individually on either side of their ears. This is an idea that came from the famous composer Jean-Michel Jarre when he performs with his laser harp.
Footsteps and Video Game Sound
I took the consideration of what the male lead was wearing. From his clothes I can tell he was wearing sneakers and the floor was determined to be a tilled surface. The footsteps reflected the interaction between these two materials and the volume was adjusted so that the footsteps fell in time with the movement of the walking body. Reverb was added to the footsteps to reflect the emptiness of the space.
The video game sounds were very interesting. In its first appearance the video game was spinning from left to right. The sound consisted of a bass drop and its octave on two separate tracks and follows the panning of the video.
The voice of the female lead singer, Destra, appears on the video screen inside the game. As the video game turns right, so does her voice. This adds to the realism of the diegetic sound. The screen also fizzles in and out so I created the sound of static for each screen instance.
As the song starts and the lights flash the Director wanted a sound to indicate that Abdiel was sucked into the game.
2. The Backend
The song ends with a flash of light and the sound that was used to indicate Abdiel being sucked in the game was reused to end the song. This was immediately followed by the atmosphere that was described in the frontend of the video but at a lower volume to facilitate the other sound design elements. You would notice in the video that at the music’s end the video shows the background only. You do hear at least one footstep before seeing Abdiel. This was to give the impression of movement of Abdel into the screen. This is another example of how diegetic sound can be used. The breathing of Abdiel was constructed and timed to his inhale/exhale body movements. This is important as it also adds a sense of realism and tension.
Static sounds were added for each instance of video game screen interruption. When Abdiel disintegrates I created two tracks that gave the impression that the disintegrating particles were hitting the back of the video game screen. There was some discussion with the Director as to how these particles were supposed to sound. What one has to remember is that these sounds were coming from BEHIND a thick glass surface and that would sound differently than sounds hitting a thick glass surface from IN FRONT. Muffled sounds are what this will sound like in nature and this is what was portrayed in the final sound design.
As the camera slowly zooms out all the sounds (except the atmosphere sound that was kept for the credit roll) were lowered in tandem to what is happening in the video to reflect diegetic realism.
You can see the whole sequence below, in real time, with all the audio elements timed to the frontend and backend of the music video. Enjoy!!
Well that is all for now. I will be putting out some more behind the scenes blogs soon so be on the lookout. Make sure you read my previous blog as well. In the meantime leave a comment below about what else do you want me to blog about related to music production or sound design.
Take care and we’ll talk soon.