Imagine this ….. a story steeped in Japanese culture transposed to an aspect of the West Indian experience via stop-motion animation and all connected by food ….. from sushi to doubles. Somewhere in between I came in.
So…. um …. what is a Doubles?
What is a doubles you ask? For the uninitiated this is one of the best street foods invented in Trinidad and Tobago and is of East Indian origin. You can see it in the couple of videos below.
Disclaimer: There are many videos online that portray what doubles is (there are a few variants that build on the basic components of doubles) so the videos that are shown are not the only ways to do it.
Here is the second one as well. You can watch the first 5 minutes of it to get a good idea.
Now that you have a good idea what a doubles is let us now see how I ended up creating the Sound Design (and music for) the stop motion animation called ‘Isle Of Doubles’.
The stop motion animation film ‘Isle Of Dogs’ is a story about a dystopian Japan in the future where the human population comes under threat from an influenza type virus that is spread amongst dogs. The dogs are exiled to an island (called Trash Island). A boy steals a plane to go to that island to search for his dog and for the rest the story you would have to go and see the film ….. it is REALLY good by the way.
There was a scene in the movie that was to become the basis of the ‘Isle Of Doubles’. It was the sushi scene. In the animation the sushi was prepared and packed (along with a wasabi poison) to be delivered to its target. As you watch this take notice of the sounds / music and how it corresponds to the action on screen.
Meet The Cast And (ever expanding) Crew
The creation of ‘Isle Of Doubles’ took place during the Animae Caribe and New Media Festival 2018 in Trinidad & Tobago and was lead by two of its guest lecturers, Brad Schiff and Paul Harrod.
Brad Schiff is an animation supervisor at Laika who has received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 89th Academy Awards for his work on Kubo and the Two Strings. He was the Animation Supervisor for the Sushi scene in Isle Of Dogs.
Paul Harrod is an Animation Director, Production Designer and Art Director. He was the co-production designer on Isle Of Dogs.
There were many other people involved in the creation of Isle Of Doubles. As for me I was asked to provide the sound for the final 20 second stop-motion animation.
Putting It All Together (Part 1)
As mentioned before the project was taking place during Animae Caribe and we, quite literally, had two days to pull it off. One of the aspects of the original Sushi scene was the realism of how the objects within it moved so to create accurate movement a real doubles vendor was hired and for an hour he made free, yes FREE, doubles for participants. While he was doing that he was being filmed to study his movements to that it can be animated later.
During the stop motion animation class Brad Schiff and Paul Harrod demonstrated the finer points of what to look for when doing stop-motion animation so that the movements replicate how humans move in real life.
Next came the actual animation. The puppet used as the Doubles Vendor was provided by talented Singer/Songwriter/Animator/Director Roland Yearwood, also known as RemBunction. The puppet’s name is Sookhoo.
During the animation process the participants of the stop-motion animation session (and members of the general public) took turns making the movement of the doubles vendor puppet come to life. It is a really interesting process and you should really watch both videos below. You have to be very careful and pre-plan all the movements. It is also a long process and appreciation must be given to all the people involved in the production chain to create the animation products we enjoy.
Putting It All Together (Part 2)
Sound Design is a post-production activity that is done after recording has taken place. I was given the animation and it was my job to bring it to life by creating sounds and music to enhance the visuals.
The first hurdle, given the incredibly short time I had to do this (I had to attend seminars at Animae Caribe so I could only do this when I reached home) was to find a way to bring a level of realism through sound. I did the most logical thing ….. I went by a doubles vendor in Port of Spain one night and recorded audio of myself (and other people) buying and eating doubles!! That saved me a LOT of grief during post-production. I actually had realistic sounds that I can edit from.
By the way, for the 20 second animation it took me 3 hours to complete. This is THE KIND OF WORK that goes into Sound Design. This was a simple animation but the process to have everything sound right and for the sounds to fall at the correct time with the visuals can make a difference between a great animation and a disaster. I have managed to speed up the 3 hour video to a 44 minute video that you can see below.
If you want to see the full 3 hour video (with sound) you can see it here.
1. Preparing The Scene — I am a HUGE fan of Presonus Studio One and it is my favorite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). I am fortunate to be using the latest version (Professional Edition) on this project. I imported the video into the DAW and followed the instructions of Brad Schiff who wanted the animation to start 6 seconds after the intro. As you can see from the previous video it does not have an intro (or an outro). So I added a delay on the video so after six seconds passes the animation starts.
2. Sound Of Doubles — This took some time. I had to edit the sound of the doubles seller that I had recorded earlier. Luckily I was able to extract the sound of a patron ordering doubles (he did not want any pepper) and also the thank you exchanges from the patron and doubles vendor. To make the sound of the doubles hitting the paper I had to do a lot of searching for substitute sounds (doubles hitting paper is not part of a sound sample pack LOL). I substituted a ‘splat’ sample for the doubles hitting the paper and a ‘shuffling paper’ sample for when the puppet’s hand was adjusting the doubles in it. The most important aspect for me is making sure that the sounds occurred at the correct time. That entailed a lot of rewinding the footage in my DAW and fine-tuning WHEN the sounds occur. The sound of the beach was also a sample I had as well.
3. Music Of Doubles — In terms of audio plugins if there was a company that was able to capture the sounds and culture of my country (Trinidad & Tobago) I would wholeheartedly support it. Luckily there is. The company is called Indigisounds and they made the sounds from the cultural instruments played in Trinidad and Tobago available via Native Instruments — Kontakt. I used the harmonium and played a few chords and used a couple of tabla samples to underscore it.
After 3 hours of adjusting all the sounds and mixing them together so that they sound great the audio was emailed to the people who would place is under the final video edit (intro & outro added) for the final render. The 20 second stop-motion animation made its debut on the closing night of Animae Caribe. Here is the final animation.
Well folks that’s it. I know this blog post is long but I wanted you to see the process behind the final work. Tune in to my next blog where I show you what went into one of the episodes of The Blackouts podcast which is part of the world of The Knight Trilogy created by Anthony Phills.
In the meantime what do you want me to talk about regarding Sound Design or Film Composing? I look forward to your comments.