Sound Replacement Project Reflection: Recording Session One…

Shay Jagger Mitchell, Patrick Duck and myself formed a team to complete a sound replacement project and after a suggestion from Shay’s wife, determined that the opening scene from Back to the Future (1985), would be the perfect clip for us to engage with. This video clip was relevant to all of us having grown up with the ‘Back to the Future’ series and also as the opening scene had specific audio elements including the gaining up of audio outboard gear to the max, the strumming of a guitar chord and the resulting destruction of the amplifier!

We commenced our journey by booking Audient 8024  (well in advance), all day for 3 consecutive Saturdays to complete our project. Once gaining access to the C24 Foley studio after our first week in 8024 however, we promptly changed our bookings to take advantage of this new asset specifically designed for our purpose. Our first session consisted of determining exactly what sounds would be required to reproduce the audio in the original clip, when these sounds occurred within the clip and then brainstorming how we would actually replicate these sounds (see asset list here). After a few hours of figuring out these details and determining our individual roles, we were ready to begin recording some sounds with what we had around us in the studio.

Rode NT2-A

We used a Rode NT2-A and commenced by recording various click sounds into Pro Tools from the available outboard gear buttons and dials in the studio, creating a substantial bank of clicking sounds we could use in our project. Scanning our audio asset list, we figured we could also use a small Fender amp which had been left in the control room to generate some feedback sounds, a hum that could be used to support the gaining up of all the equipment in the clip in addition to the sound as lead actor Michael J Fox plugs the guitar lead into the guitar and amp. We had some real fun with this by plugging the guitar lead into the input and ‘half plugging’ the opposing end into the headphone input creating a feedback loop of sorts! With every knob jacked up to full, we just got a messy distorted fuzz however once the main volume was reduced to just below 50%, we generated a clean sine wave tone. Strangely enough as we reduced the volume down from this point, the pitch increased steadily? Using the clip as a guide I was then able (on the second take), to imitate the increase in power as the actor turned the primary driver and then overdrive knobs to full; this really worked well for us.

Shay and I then decided we had enough assets to attempt to slot some of the click sounds we had recorded into the clip and gained some valuable experience in how this is achieved in Pro Tools. When we had finished, we were suitably impressed with our achievements and felt that we had really made some solid inroads into the project, facilitating a clearer vision of how we would progress with the rest of our sound replacement. We also believed we had formulated a reasonable workflow i.e. naming conventions, grouping etc which would be the foundation of the recordings and placement of sounds to follow. This would prove to be a misplaced confidence and you can read all about that in the second recording session reflection here!BTTF TBC



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