Sound Design Re-work

The following bit of sound design and composition was undertaken as part of the second year ‘Applied Sound Design’ module for the ‘Sound Arts & Design BA (Hons)’ course at UAL. Students were provided with a selection of short videos (without any sound) and asked to select one and then compose and create a soundtrack for it from scratch. The short film choosen here was originally made by Studio Smack and is entitled “Branded Dreams”.

Self Assessment of Branded Dreams Sound Design

This short film, entitled “Branded Dreams”, suggests a somewhat insidious notion about advertising. What if advertisers could literally ‘creep’ into our dreams and assert the power of their brands directly into own subconscious? (Studio Smack, 2015)

This film by Studio Smack is a compilation of CGI images that make obvious reference to one of the most well-known brand names in the world. The footage we are presented with contains some iconic images that Coca Cola have used throughout their advertising campaign over the years, for example the polar bear. (Ryan, 2012) Other images are more cleverly hidden within the film, manifesting as designs upon an assortment of plants, insects, animals and natural patterns.

In the opening sequence, we are presented with a quote from the author James Twitchell about what one has to do in order not to see advertisements. Over this introduction, a synthesized tone from an TTSH synethesiser, utilizing a Low Pass Filter (LPF) sweep, was created to add an atmosphere to ponder Twitchell’s musing.

Considering this film depicts a dream-sequence, it seemed pertinent to create a soundtrack that inspired a feeling of being in a dream. As such, an ambient drone like composition was created using Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere 2 plugin synthesizer. Over the course of the film, the drone changes from a feeling of warm envelopment to a discordant and sinister tone, emphasizing how the dreamer is slowly becoming aware of the subtle invasion of their subconscious. This piece was, in part, inspired by György Ligeti’s “Atmosphères”. (Asko Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw & Schönberg Ensemble, 2008)

In lieu of the frequent digitized visual effects within the film (see 00:00:29:27 to 00:00:31:06, 00:00:36:00 to 00:00:36:22 and 00:00:40:17 to 00:00:41:20) and the natural forest setting, it seemed important to create a sound design theme that reflected this blend of the virtual and natural. As such, a mixture of field recordings and synthesized components were created and utilized. For example, for the section between 00:00:12:15 and 00:00:13:05, a field recording was made of a person walking through Bedgebury Pinetum and then compressed using Logic Pro X’s “Elastic Audio” to synthesis a sound that was sped up, resembling the fast-forward moving image. Also, between 00:00:21:15 and 00:00:25:12, where the Coca Cola colours streak over the cap of a mushroom, a sound of paper tearing was used and panned appropriately to reflect the moving image. Two hydrophones were also submerged in glasses of freshly poured Coca Cola to capture the sound of the bubbles fizzing (used at 00:00:36:00, 00:00:46:00 and 00:01:31:00). To create the sound of movement of the caterpillar at 00:00:50:00, a Coke can was manipulated physically and the sound recordings were inserted at appropriate points.

For the section between 00:00:25:27 to 00:00:27:20, a field recording of a decomposing log found on Ashdown Forest was made using two Jez Riley French contact microphones. However, as this did not yield any interesting or useful sounds that might depict a tree covered in insects, a synthesized dynamic texture was created using a TTSH semi-modular synthesizer.

Special consideration was paid relating to camera perspective. Between 00:00:21:15 to 00:00:25:12 (the sound from the mushroom), 00:00:25:27 to 00:00:27:20 (the synthesized sound of the ladybirds), 00:01:29:01 to 00:01:35:00 (the field recording of the lake at our local park) and 00:01:45:00 to 00:01:49:00 (the synthesized sound of the frog) the respective sounds were increased in volume when the image zoomed in on the objects to create a lucid feeling within the dream sequence.

As depicted by the eye opening at 00:01:43:00, the dreamer probably begins to notice – and become aware of – the meaning behind the images in their dream. Considering the obvious reference to the Coca Cola brand, it felt that the dream should burst around this time and reveal how Twitchell might be mistaken. Just as a good night’s sleep refreshes the mind, in an ironic way a famous Coca Cola radio jingle, inspired by Roy Orbison’s song “Things Go Better With Coke”, was used as if it were emanating from the frog itself. When the frog finally bursts, so does the dream, and we clearly hear the catchy jingle sing out “…things go better with Coke. Life is much more fun when you’re refreshed, and Coke refreshes you best”. (Ben The Balladeer, 2014)

Bibliography

ASKO ENSEMBLE, REINBERT DE LEEUW & SCHÖNBERG ENSEMBLE (2008) ‘Articulation for Tape’, The Ligeti Project [mp3]. Warner Classics & Jazz, Warner Music UK Ltd. Available at: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-ligeti-project/id477066876. [Accessed: 17th April 2016]

BEN THE BALLADEER (2014) Coca Cola Radio Commercials. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbae2JtAbPw. [Accessed: 21st December 2017]

RYAN, T. (2012) The Enduring History of Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears. Available at: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/coke-lore-polar-bears. [Accessed: 8th January 2018]

STUDIO SMACK (2015) Branded Dreams. Available at: http://studiosmack.nl/BRANDED-DREAMS. [Accessed: 7th November 2017]