Rochdale Pioneers – Film 4 –

The Rochdale Pioneers had its UK Television Premiere on 11th November 2012 on Film 4 as part of the British Connections season. Feel privileged to have had the chance to work on the project and glad it’s getting a great reception from these broadcasts too!

The final showing of the film is on – 26th November, 01.10, FilmFour – recently selected as Film 4’s Editors pick.

The Rochdale Pioneers, ADR Part 1

I’ve not been blogging for a while, but am look forward to adding a little more info about the process of the Sound Design for the Pioneers. I thought I would talk a little about the ADR (Automatic Dialogue Recording) process. Due to 20th Century life having a presence on the original audio takes the decision was made to ‘ADR’ the film almost in its entirety.

Almost every line of the film was re-recorded and added to the soundtrack, this was a fairly long process, took a while to edit, but helped take to soundtrack to the next level and allowed another chance for the characters to be bought to life through some great vocal performances.

It was a great experience working closely with the actors. We learnt that each actor had his/her method of synchronisation. In each session there would be a playback of the film and the original audio on headphones to listen back to. Some loved the audio playback, some the visual cues and often both, but once we figured out the method that was most comfortable, we pushed through the sessions with ease.

Overall there were about 10/11 days worth of sessions over the course of the post production phase. Thanks to those that took the time to be there and put in some brilliant vocal performances, it certainly helped us all learn more about the technique our end so I hope it did the same for you.

I’ll leave the technical details of the set up and techniques for another post in the near future. For now, I know many people will be very much knowledgeable on the subject of dialogue editing and ADR, however for those who aren’t and would like to learn more here are a just a couple of links that may be of interest.

– King Kong ADR Session

John Purcell series on Dialogue Editing (Author of Dialogue editing for Motion Pictures)

Field recording

A few weeks ago i took a trip home to start sourcing exterior countryside ambience. Armed with a very simple set up I used the MKH 416 with pistol blimp, going into a Zoom H4n. If i had the resources i would have loved to take a stereo or even quadraphonic recording setup but I using what i had i jumped into the countryside getting as much as possible.

I planned for a sunny day but oddly enough it decided to snow during the night before and was very bright during the rest of the day. So i took advantage of that whilst i could!

Whilst it was great to be out in the countryside getting these sounds,  it was really still very difficult to get away from the background traffic sound in the distance. Luckily there were some small valley’s that acted as a barrier against it. I’d really like to try using a less sensitive mic in the same situation to see the difference, though the directivity of the 416 helped immensely in getting specifics and away from external noise that i simply did not want.

To editing the recordings I used Logic, with it’s Equal power crossfade it was really very simple to be able to cut out unwanted sounds (many of which were aeroplanes!) and very quick to create a loop-able ambience track out of each take. Though it certainly didn’t feel as dynamic as i was hoping it would. But again, having a stereo version would have made quite a difference.

It was really useful to actually get out there and try some location ambient recording and i realised how much i actually enjoy trying to get the best recordings I can, also happening upon places/people/animals etc that i hadn’t planned too was half the fun of it!

Also, though it obviously wasn’t on a similar scale, going through the list of Field recording tips posted by multiple readers and Tim Prebble on his blog was very useful to look over and think about, so thanks to Tim for starting it off!

Foley Session 2/SFX recording

In the next two sessions i had in the studio i decided to source as much of the props and items that i needed to record. I realised having a lot more to choose from would help me in creating some more interesting sounds for each foley action. I played again with streamers and logic, and how i could get the best sound quality in the studio.

Foley items

I started off by grabbing items from an all purpose store near the studio, my favourite item being some long cocktail sticks. I read about cellophane and bubble wrap working nicely for fire but decided to try a trick i saw on the ‘soundworks collection’ about foley at disney – strapping together a whole bunch of bamboo strips together and rubbing them – but with these cocktail sticks. That plus the cellophane worked really well.

Though its fantastic to have a studio to use, it is still not completely sound proof having issues with my macbook overheating (Due to outputting streamers to a second display) and causing fan noise, created a smaller booth which was protected from it. It really helped and meant in editing i had to do a lot less noise reduction 😀 it allowed a lot more fluid creativity and play that i lacked last time around. I could try out different combinations quickly and experiment as much as needed.


I started gathering some foley layers for later use. Using a large wooden stick to beat on top of a wooden wine rack, with the cocktail sticks left on top to move helped create of a strong rhythm but allowed the cocktail sticks move slightly. Without giving away any of the film, i wanted to gather some small rhythmic layers that could be added to specific shots. On it’s own it’s quite weedy, but it’s a start.

Foley - Wine rack cocktail sticks

Been as i’m not working with the final cut of the film, these sessions are more SFX recordings that anything. But its been really useful to gather some prop sounds ready to place and edit.

Foley Session 1 -TRP

So, I’m currently working on the Post-sound for a film put together by the BYFA for the Co-operative group. The Rochdale Pioneersis about a Co-operative movement that took place in 1844 by the people of Rochdale. Though it wasn’t the first Co-operative to take place, their rules and guidelines are that which the modern day Co-operative follow.

Working from a very rough cut of certain scenes, i’ve started to get a sense of some of the sound worlds that need to be built. Giving ‘everything’ a sound is what i need to get to grips with and in such I began my Foley research.

After reading a lot of i use pro tools in this way… Logic in this way… I decided to take some advice but also take a full day in the studio trying some techniques out.

For this first session i used Logic pro, tested out my M-audio profire 610, Figure 53’s ‘streamers’. Set up with a Sennhieser MKH416 and a Rode NT2.


Doing the session on my own, I can really see the huuuge benefit of having an engineer separate to the artist! If that were a viable option that is! anyway, the first thing i wasted a lot of time doing was, having to press stop, go back to previous location and record again, So grabbing an external keyboard helped hugely with this, but it still wasn’t great. Generally, I want to move onto creating shortcuts using Quickeys (very similar to automator, but much more user friendly and quicker, also integrates applescript) using this session to experiment, it showed me the sort of workflow i’m aiming for, especially when recording+performing. I’d really like to experiment with using midi commands from the performing position to locate, record, loop etc, simply on my phone or a little Nano kontrol

I really like the multi take features in Logic, it would be fantastic for comp-ing parts of takes that are in-line with the video, however having never performed as a foley artist before, i was quite off with some takes, and naively in the moment expected to be able to comp takes when i edit it. It may be fine for some certain comps, but it cant fix a whole footstep trrack out of time! I see how important it is to get rhythms and sync in the performance more than expecting to clean it up in the edit.

M-audio profire 610

I bought the m-audio more for small theatre shows, having the 8 unbalanced outs will be very handy but thought i’d test the studio use of it having just upgraded from an Alesis firewire , which has hardly and real controllable multi channel output capabilities.

The obvious issue with recording in the same room as the equipment is noise from the my mac. In quite a hot room, external monitor controlling streamers and the profire kicking out phantom power to both of the mics. This meant fan speed increases that were very very audible. Adding the power supply to the profire doesn’t help, and isn’t recommended by Maudio either, and figure 53 recommend using a second computer to contain streamers. In the end i just took out the NT2 which helped.

The recordings themselves i was happy with but this fan noise is unbearable, using the alesis is probably the better option in these situations, so will test that next time and try to grab a second mac to control streamers.

I was using a demo version of Streamers that i prepared prior to the session. It is a great cueing program that receives MIDI Time Code from Logic to help cue ADR and Foley performers. It’s quickly becoming part of my cueing tools.

streamers ui

Basically you create a cue, give it a SMPTE time and it will create a ‘streamer’ overlay on a preview video. I found this incredibly useful whilst performing, and also very easy to keep control of too a larger external monitor is a must, the one i used was awful and i had trouble seeing what i needed to. Streamers also allows you to use a text file to create the cues instantly, which was extremely useful . Definitely be using a licensed version in the next session.

As for performing the different parts of Foley, Footsteps proved to be the most difficult by far! But I believe that practice certainly does make perfect so i’m willing to keep at it! Having read through the Philip Rodrigues’ website on Foley, he suggests to get into the character that you’re providing foley for. In my case one character has a really laid back feel and is a bit cheeky, really distinct strides. Taking Rodrigues’ advice helped massively. Understanding the character helped me get the right rhythm and sync to the footsteps.

I have started to love the MKH416 after taking it out for a quick spin on location in Hebden Bridge, a beautiful place, but also chilly, and wet! a great place to try it out.

Hebden bridge landscape

However sad it sounds, the wind i captured here was great, sitting in a little alcove of a church, wind rushing by. A little off the topic of Foley but still, I really like the mic and it worked well in the studio, but the experiment was less about the quality and more about the workflow, so i’ll be going over it again.

The session was really useful and will really let me increase the efficiency of upcoming recordings. Now, onto working out an efficient editing workflow!