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25 Jan 2024

Prey for Audio Designers

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At the start of 2024 we had some OTG (Off-The-Grid) time to help us get back into the swing of things following the festive break. My sound redesign challenge from last year went down really well and I had so much fun creating it that I decided to do it again!

Here's the story.

Last time out I re-designed the sound for a scene from Alien. It was important to follow a similar set of constraints from the previous challenge;

To create a short sound redesign to a film clip, using exclusively self-recorded sounds and capture the process to share with others..

As excited as I was to start, I really struggled to find a film clip to work on. I didn’t quite realise how much of a win it was to find the egg hatching scene so quickly last time! The issue was the clip had to meet a lot of requirements. It needed to be short (ideally no more than 15 seconds) and tell a story without the use of dialogue.

I wanted to do another horror clip as I love the genre and think the use of sound is so impactful. Unfortunately, all the film clips I could think of using had characters talking or, more often than not, someone screaming! As great as human screams are, this wasn’t a voice acting challenge and I didn’t have access to anyone willing to ruin their voice other than myself!

As I felt I had read every ‘Top 10 Best Horror Movie Moments’ article Google had to offer, I had to put a shout out to the team at Fuse to suggest some ideas. Luckily, someone suggested the clip I ended up using from 2022’s Prey.

The sequence suggested was perfect. It had no dialogue, a self-contained narrative and had three clear sections to design: sci-fi electricity, close-up foley and creature/monster vocals.

Prey_Audio_Shot_3.jpg

My only hesitation was that the Predator has quite an iconic vocal sound and when something is universally recognisable like that it can be jarring to not hear what you expect. But it was getting to the point where it was work with this or run out of time.

So, I put my concerns to the side and gave it a go.

While the variety the three distinct sections provided was great and a fun challenge, it quickly became clear that I needed a much broader range of content. I also didn’t always nail my recordings first try, so had to play them back, work with them, discard and start again in some places. There was a lot of trial and error.

There was also some content I needed to record with the knowledge that I was going to have to apply A LOT of effects processing to make it sound different from the original, for example, the electrical elements. Fortunately, I had built some effects chains in the past specifically for this purpose and had been wanting to trial them to see how versatile they were, so this saved me valuable time.

The equipment used was similar to the previous challenge. I had my Zoom H6 recorder and a new edition on some LOM basicUcho mics that we’d recently purchased and wanted to try. I was especially curious about their ultrasonic 60kHz recording capabilities which is great for playing the content recorded back at slower/faster speeds whilst still maintaining quality. The microphones are very sensitive however, and screaming into them went about as well as one would expect screaming into a super sensitive microphone would go!

Prey_Audio_Shot_2.jpg The only difference was the amount of time I spent. The Alien redesign was completed in an afternoon. The Prey redesign took me around 3 working days due to the complexity of the clip and content needed for it.

This was a fun, if frustrating at times, challenge that I learnt a lot from doing. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out – here's the finished sequence, I hope you all enjoy it!

Sian's Prey Audio Redesign