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Soundtrack Mixing

I spent eight hours sitting in the MAC labs mixing the soundtrack together for the animation. I used Garage Band to compose the musical sound, primarily focusing on guitars and pianos. I added a clave to emphasise upcoming events. The track is more modern than I planned.

Initially I used a vinatge news reel opening, scratchy old record sounds and acoustic pianos graduating up and down and it just didn’t match the visuals properly. The visuals are very colourful and busy so the music has to be quite strong to match. I used steel picking and some modern guitars, including a few seconds of electric guitar for the climax. To keep the vintage thread, I use an old piano underneath. I’d always wanted to use something vintage but the modern sound does its job to compliment rather than compete with the visuals. It took me about two hours to get the feel for the program before I actually started to like the loops. I am not musical in the slightest but its amazing what you can achieve with a few layers. I know that repetition is important, so I always come back to the same piano and guitar strumming, using three or so layers above that for each scene. For instance, I used asian instruments over the china scene but they die out to something else for the following sequence.

It was very difficult to mix because of the fact that the animation starts in media res, so you have to start strong and then bring it back to quiet and build across the final two minutes. There are also a number of moods across the piece and different colour schemes for each country, so I really had to think about what feeling I was trying to evoke for each set of images and reflect that in the soundtrack. I adjusted in and out levels on every loop to make the track smoother. I’d consider it a semi-synchronious soundtrack as I’ve really hit the mark with the important changes but left all the little ones for dead – there is only so much you can do as a lot of the little changes occur between beats and Apple loops can’t be manipulated too much.

After I had completed the main sound base, I went into Soundtrack Pro and collected sound effects and foley such as the busy station, the church bells and fire explosions. These have been overlayed over the soundtrack. For example, the fog horn of the ferry works as an excellent bridge. There was one found I just could not find and that was the clacking of the railway tracks whilst inside the carriage. It is a fairly distinctive sound which makes it difficult to fake with something else. My dad is a bit of a train nut and has records of sound effects which have been converted to CD. Unfortunately the format doesn’t play back on the computer at the normal rate. If I am really desperate I can re-record the recording by playing it back near the microphone. Audience testing has suggested this sound is necessary so I am on the hunt for it. Audience tests also pointed out at least one spot where furthur sound emphasis is necessary so I will have to take the soundtrack back for at least one revision.

Whilst playing the visuals in small-format in Gararge Band I also noted a couple of animation faults. The ferry lifts on the Y axis off the sea across a few frames and there is a keyframe in the China zoom which moves far too quickly. These are little things which are easily fixed. I’ll consider these minor visual and audio adjustments as Phase Three, which will probably take me a day or two next week. None of the changes will affect the duration of the animation which means the audio timing is safe. I will take the pre-final soundtrack to Mark Power on Monday for a second opinion. It’s much better to listen to it with the visuals as it is not meant to stand solo…





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