Someone Else’s Shoes

Dave Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Engineering, Music/Audio, Personal, Ramblings Leave a Comment

Today, I took on what I thought would be a slam dunk, easy-as-pie project for a friend of mine:

Sound Design

They needed the soundtrack to be built from scratch for a short 20 minute clip of a hockey game.  They filmed it and found that the mics they thought were capturing the ambience and sounds of the game … weren’t.

My naive thinking process was something along the lines of:

Really, seriously, how hard can this be?

It’s footage of a typical game with face-offs, goals scored, ebbs and flows.  I’ve got quite a library of sound effects to draw on:  both raw audio clips and samples I can “perform” from instances of Kontakt.

Long Story Short

I started into the whole project with both feet and vigor!  I (supposedly) knew exactly what I was doing.

There were a few elements that I KNEW needed to be in the soundscape of a hockey game – after all, I coach kids hockey, I watch hockey occasionally and well, I am Canadian

  1. You need a crowd … with ambiance, cheers, gasps, oohs and ahhs.
  2. You need whistle blows, goal horns, scoreboard buzzers
  3. You need music soundtrack – needle drops of classic rock tunes and the omnipresent hockey rink organ!

I picked out some long-run stadium crowd ambience files, strung them together via some clever cross-fades and then did a couple of copy ‘n paste jobs to cover the whole length of the program.  I then duplicated the track, re-arranged some of the files and panned one 50% left and the other 50% right – the thinking here was that even though they’re essentially loops, they’re long and having offsetting the left and right with different arrangements of files will kind of randomize things.

Once the general ambiance was there, I needed to fill in all the other stuff.

That’s when the fun began, starting at the beginning, I started to piece together what the sounds of the game were like.

I started building up the first minute or so – music, buzzers, whistles, crowd cheers, gasps when the visitors took a shot on net, excitement building in the crowd with a home team breakaway…

I gotta say, I was having fun!


When I played my creation back, it sounded … okay.

Something was missing.

Geez! I realized that I hadn’t covered any sound of the action on the ice – the skating, the puck hits, the players yelling, the coaches yelling!

That’s when I looked at the time and saw that I’d already spent two hours building the sound of one minute of video and it wasn’t even finished yet!

That’s when I decided … I needed to step back and admit that, okay, although I can probably do this, it’s not as easy as I thought.  Through “trial by fire”, I have a new-found respect for my cohorts on the “other side” of the post-production fence.  Sound Design is not a simple cake-walk at all! – there are a lot of nitty-gritty details go into the sound of a picture that, until today, I’d taken for granted and, frankly never even paid attention to.

Since this afternoon, I’ve taken a look at a few resources to bone up on the profession of sound design.  There’s a process to the whole thing.  It’s got a lot of similarities to composing music which is quite comforting.

I’m going to be trying another go at it tomorrow … this time with a game plan, some humility and respect.

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