Friday, October 31, 2008

U.S.O. Project in Blow Up Magazine #126, November 2008

U.S.O. Project, aka Matteo Milani and Federico Placidi, interviewed by Michele Coralli in Blow Up magazine.

Blow Up is a monthly Italian magazine about “rock & other contaminations”: out rock, electronica, techno, house, experimental, industrial, improv/jazz, traditional.



The Conversation: opening sequence

Editor and Sound Mixer Walter Murch’s comments about this opening sequence [mp3]:

(click to enlarge)

A hovering perspective, hypnotic in its descent. Union Square bustles. Through the first transition programmable servo lens, engineered for this very shot, we hone in on a thousand little theaters settling on a disquieting mime. Long reaching shadows breed paranoia as the wondrous sound design is at once jazzy and dissonant, much like Harry Caul himself.

[click to watch - format: QuickTime H.264, 720×400 | Size: 37 MB]

[thanks to]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oscillators behind the glass

Between 1955 and 1983, in Milan is developing one of the most important musical experiences of the 20th century. It is called Studio di Fonologia Musicale and collect, as well as the most technologically advanced machines of the time, even the finest musicians, who converged there to produce the first real electronic music in Italy that has ever been produced.

[leggi l'articolo - read the full article]
[download the interview with Maddalena Novati - mp3]
[inside Rai Musical Phonology Studio]

[via - by Michele Coralli]

SoundDroid pt.3: inside Lucasfilm with Michael Rubin

The Podcast is targeted at media professionals in the fields of audio, video, film, design, imaging and related fields. The show is hosted by Franklin McMahon, who is joined this week by Michael Rubin, the author of the book "Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution".
He talks about the early days of working for George Lucas, developing the first editing tools, namely the EditDroid and the SoundDroid, which were the beginnings of the desktop tools digital revolution. He also goes over the creative process of George Lucas, how this start inspires him even today, as well as the beginnings of early editing systems and audio processing that developed into the tools we use today.


[read SoundDroid pt.1]
[read SoundDroid pt.2]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dustin Cawood (Skywalker Sound)

In the movie WALL·E, the story of an adorable forgotten robot who finds a new mission, Dustin Cawood was asked to be sound-effects editor by multiple Academy Award–winner Ben Burtt. Considered a pioneer in the business, Burtt is the first person to be credited with the term “sound designer” as a result of his groundbreaking work in the original Star Wars movie. Burtt was the sound designer on WALL·E, and as sound editor, Cawood took direction from Burtt.

He is candid about what it takes to break into the business of making movies, stressing the importance of learning the technical side and studying the art of motion pictures.

“Learn all of the aspects of how to tell a story through visuals and sound. Find a way to cultivate an overactive imagination. Listen even when you think there is nothing to hear. Be willing both to sacrifice and to be persistent. Learn how to network and try to find a good mentor. [...]”

[read the full article via]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rob Nokes - Sound Seminar Q & A - Part 1&2

Rob Nokes, Owner of, Sound Effect Field Recordist, Supervising Sound Editor answers:

What is the job of a sound editor?
In your job what audio is expected of you to deliver?
What happens if you steal sounds?
How do you prove copyright?
In your job what audio is expected of you to deliver?
What bit depth do you record at?
Detail the sound equipment you actually use.
How did you make monster sounds sound real?
What makes a good sound?
Why is it best to record clean?
Is it better to have actors do adr?
Is there another way to avoid adr?
What is 'smoothing' or EQ?
Do you process while you record?

Is it better to have actors do adr?
Is there another way to avoid adr?
What is 'smoothing' or EQ?
Do you process while you record?
What is a series?
How best to record gunshots?
How do you make a sound bigger?
How close to the sound or actor do you record?
Do you change your levels while recording?
How best do you cut background sounds in?
What mic technique would you use to record a room?
How can you control loud sounds?
What is your underwater technique?
How did you create your favourite sound?
Do you record everything?

[via sounddogs]

Monday, October 20, 2008

World Soundtrack Awards 2008

And the winners are ..

presented in respect of the body of work in the year 2008





Music by Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel, lyrics by Peter Gabriel, performed by Peter Gabriel










Sound Design, new forms of creative communications.

Master Multimedia Workshop: Sound Design, nuove forme di comunicazione creativa.
26 ottobre 2008, ore 14.00-16.00, Festival della Creatività, Fortezza da Basso, Firenze

Master Multimedia Workshop: Sound Design, new forms of creative communications.
26th October 2008, 2-4 pm, Festival of Creativity, Fortezza da Basso, Florence 


Enrico Ascoli, Torino, []

Valerio Murat, Roma, []

Matteo Milani - Federico Placidi, U.S.O. Project, Milano, []

Davide Rocchesso, Università IUAV, Venezia, []

Nicola Torpei, Media Integration and Communication Centre, Firenze, []

Moderato da/Moderated by: Sara Lenzi e Gianpaolo D'Amico, sounDesign.

Organizzato da/Organized by: Master in Multimedia Content Design, Università degli Studi di Firenze [] - sounDesign [].

Saturday, October 18, 2008

SoundDroid pt.2: THX "The Chord"

MarcoCo. & Kyma: Keepers of the Chord

The sounds for the original logo (that familiar swarm-coalescing-into-powerful-glissando-ending-in-a-somewhat-sharp-D-major-chord that precedes the film in every THX-certified theatre) were generated back in 1985 on the ASP Audio Signal Processor hardware. The ASP and original THX "Broadway" soundtrack were created by Andy Moorer, then head of a massive Lucasfilm-sponsored audio research project that later evolved into the DroidWorks company.

The genesis of the sounds had a particular significance for Symbolic Sound president, Carla Scaletti, who had been an admirer of Andy Moorer's work for several years. "[...] When I found out that Marco wanted to use his Kyma system on the new version, it was like making a connection with that history and with someone whose work had inspired us back when we were students."

D'Ambrosio [...] started out by consulting with Andy Moorer on the origins of "The Chord". It turned out its original source was a bowed cello note on an open A string. All that Moorer had left of the original was an old Sun streaming tape cartridge with the patch programming for the Lucasfilm ASP, so d'Ambrosio had to go with resampling his own copies of original mag elements of the audio in 24-bits and at 96 kHz. He also got Scaletti from Symbolic Sound to listen to the original chord and the two of them did some brainstorming on approaches to getting similar-yet-new effects out of Kyma. All three of them agreed that the ending chord is sort of a D but also quite a bit sharp--which may contribute some of the feeling of energy in that final resolution.

[more details via musicthing]

Thx Amazing Life

Amazing Life explores the lives of photo-realistic organisms growing from a metallic surface. As the story unfolds, the organisms grow to cover the surface of the metal, with each one communicating through their own unique sound. These sounds build upon each other, becoming more harmonious, and eventually culminate into the THX Deep Note crescendo. A final panning shot reveals the metallic surface to be the THX logo covered by these vibrant, living, musical creatures.

To create the trailer, THX turned to veteran composer, Marco d'Ambrosio to design the more than 160 sound tracks featuring voices of “Speaker Flowers,” “Helicopter Plants” and other unique organisms. The final mix was completed at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound under the direction of d’Ambrosio and award-winning re-recording mixer, Gary Rizzo.

[view THX Trailers]

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Marco d'Ambrosio [via]
So where did Deep Note come from?

Marco d'Ambrosio: The sound came from a machine called the Lucasfilm ASP, which I believe stood for the "Audio Signal Processor." It was a large machine that was the precursor to the digital workstation. It was way ahead of its time. I think pieces of it may still be at the basement of the tech building at SkyWalker Ranch. It was developed by a man called Andy Moorer, a chief scientist and technologist. He used it to take the sound of a cello and processed it. The concept was to have a sound, which originates as a random sounds in space, then converge it down to create an actual pitch. Then the whole thing was multiplied over and over again and recorded to a four-track magnetic tape master.

How has it changed?
d'Ambrosio: I came in when digital film playback technology was starting to emerge. It was making the trailer sound dated. I basically redigitized "Broadway" and turned it into a digital file. The problem with that is that it still had its '80s obscure-ness to it. So I took the original four track and digitized it. After a lot of research I found a box called Capybara with a software called Kyma. I got in contact with the developer of that system, who actually knew Andy Moorer, and he helped me come up with an algorithm that could re-create the process of resolving random sounds into a chord. I got cello samples and a lot of other sounds, and slowly added the spices until it sounded right. There are very low lows, discreet elements for each of the surrounding speakers. People call me the keeper of the chord. It's constantly changing to fit the trailers.


[read SoundDroid pt.1]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wall•E and the Rhythmic Synth

Wall•E and the Rhythmic Synth from Gian Pablo Villamil on Vimeo.

Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock

The new Universal Legacy DVD edition of Rear Window includes an interesting new documentary, Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock, in which sound designers and critics comment on AH’s use of music and audio in his films. Several soundtracks are analyzed, but wodniwraer founds Gary Rydstrom’s comments on RW particularly revealing.

"If you have the soundtrack telling you one part of the story, and the visuals telling you another, there’s this richness that comes out of it, as well as a tension because the mood of the music is not the mood of what we’re seeing".

[more here]

VIEW Conference 2008

VIEW Conference [11-14 Nov] is the premiere international event in Italy on Computer Graphics, Interactive Techniques, Digital Cinema, 3D Animation, Gaming and VFX (Turin, Italy).

This year, Michael Rubin connects the dots from independent cinema to the Lucasfilm Computer Division, and the creation of not only Pixar, but modern editing, sound, animation, effects and games.
Rubin is the author of Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution (2006).


Animation, computer graphics and videogame creation all had common history from the rise of independent cinema in the ‘70s, in particular, with the dreams and passions of filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Coppola. What was it about these men and their earliest work that led to the universe of entertainment technology we see everyday? The events at Lucasfilm, an exceptionally private company, are not widely understood, but their implications are widespread. The Lucasfilm Computer Division laid the foundation for—and led directly to--the birth of Pixar. How? And why? Rubin will connect the dots from diverse fields of entertainment—editing, sound, animation, effects, games—and show what might be called the “singularity” of these at the Lucasfilm Computer Division in the early 1980s and the most important legacy of Lucas today.

Paul Topolos: a year in the life of WALL-E.

It was a busy year to get everything done on WALL•E. There were concept designs, matte paintings, color scripts, and animation fixes to be finished under a very tight deadline. Through images, interviews, and stories the creative journey of one artist's year on WALL• will be shared.

Paul Topolos joined Pixar Animation Studios in 2002 as a matte painter on The Incredibles. He then worked on Cars before his work on the upcoming Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille. Paul is responsible for creating many of the Paris cityscapes and backgrounds that appears in the film. Prior to Pixar, Paul worked at the Lucas companies in both the game and film divisions. For LucasArts, he drew storyboards, concept designs and built, painted, art directed and lit 3D sets for video games. At Lucasfilm, Paul was a storyboard artist on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and the matte painter in the pre-visualization department on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. His last work is the Pixar film Wall-E.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SoundDroid pt.1: the Timeline

Here's the organized output of my researches about the early days of the digital audio workstations. You can track the sources at the end of each excerpts.

Before Skywalker Sound there was Lucasfilm's Sprocket Systems, which opened in 1979 at 321 San Anselmo Avenue in San Anselmo. Film editors worked upstairs on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Empire Strikes Back" while sound editors downstairs worked on "Alien" and "E.T." Kentfield resident Pat Walsh, discovered while shopping at Seawood Photo, provided the voice for the loveable alien, with the help of actress Debra Winger. Sprocket's parking lot was also notable: It's where Harrison Ford practiced snapping a bullwhip for his role in "Raiders." Sprocket's work on "The Return of the Jedi" came to a halt when the Flood of 1982 ruined equipment. The division moved to Lucafilm's Kerner complex in March of that year.

At the peak of San Anselmo's post-production era, another space was rented on Tunstead Avenue to house Lucasfilm's new Computer Division, located initially on Bank Street. The division would move to the Industrial Light and Magic complex in San Rafael before it was spun off in 1986, relocated to Point Richmond, and became what it is today, the Oscar-winning Pixar Animation Studios.


In 1984, Lucasfilm and Convergence Corp. formed The Droid Works, and under the leadership of James A. Moorer, showed its SoundDroid workstation at NAB in 1985. The product was years ahead of its time and too expensive for the typical studio.


The ASP hardware–based audio processor, designed by Andy Moorer after his work on the legendary Hydra at Stanford's CCRMA, was a proof of concept for what is now considered a digital audio workstation. The ASP's design started life in 1980 and was designed for real–time, multichannel EQ and mixing. SoundDroid, an in–house project of Lucasfilm's Ltd.'s Sprocket Systems that was later spun off as part of The Droid Works, was a hard disk–based, non–linear, 2nd generation digital audio workstation that leveraged the research done on the ASP. Though the SoundDroid project was never commercialized and The Droid Works was later sold to Avid, the audio development team went on to first create the NoNOISE restoration system in 1987, hosted on a Motorola–powered SUN 1, the first true computer "workstation," which had been developed in cooperation with Lucasfilm.


The landmark invention of the horizontal timeline for the EditDroid and visible sound waveforms in the SoundDroid, "soft" mixing functions, a "spotting" system for searching sound effects libraries and digital signal processing and noise reduction for the SoundDroid were even bigger milestones.


The big guys like Lucas had the Sound Droid, which not only edited audio to picture, but performed noise reduction for noisey film sound tracks. I approached Andy Moorer about licensing the noise reduction software to clean up old masters for record companies. CDs were still new, and the record companies did not yet realize the value of their old catalogs (and I am finding out that they still don't). Andy Moorer and Bob Doris went on to form Sonic Solutions and offer No-Noise software that runs on a Mac based DSP card. The rest is history.



George Lucas in his own words:

In the days when punch-in recording and high-speed rewind were on the leading edge, you went from being a user to becoming involved in the development of high technology, such as the EditDroid and SoundDroid systems in the early '80s. Could you talk about that transition?
I started putting together a computer division right after Star Wars and as one of the centerpieces of that division, I wanted to build a new [picture] editing system that was nonlinear and disk-based. It was not done like the CMX and other systems that were out at that time, which were simply designed around the offline/online [tape-based] television post process. I wanted to build something that actually included and focused on the art of editing as I learned it in school. When we did the SoundDroid, one of the things we included was the ability to see the striations [waveforms] of everything just like an optical track so that we could use some of the advantages that optical cutting had. You can see where the words are and see where the sounds are and cut accordingly, which a lot of the older editors really thought was great.

How about the transition to actually manufacturing EditDroid and SoundDroid?

When we were about to go to the next level, I realized I didn't want to be in the hardware business and run a company that built machines and things. We decided to sell EditDroid to Avid and have its ideas incorporated into the Media Composer [picture editing system]. I was very focused on wanting to have an integrated sound system so that the sound editing and the picture editing could be integrated. Unfortunately, I'm still fighting that fight.
[Larry Blake via]
more soon! MM
P.S. Sam shows you his love for Skywalker Sound @, it's an unofficial blog and it's not formally related to Skywalker Sound (or LucasFilm) in any way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Francisco Lopez at Ear to the Earth 2008

October 10, 2008


Arts Electric is a program of Electronic Music Foundation

Francisco López

Buildings [New York]

This evening, October 10, 8pm
Judson Church
55 Washington Square South

$15 general admission / $10 students, seniors, and EMF Subscribers

Purchase a festival pass
$55 festival pass / $45
students, seniors, and EMF Subscribers

Francisco López writes: "All cities have soundmarks, prototypical sounds that sort of identify the city (although mostly only for its inhabitants). These, however, are scant and somewhat occult and exceptional manifestations amidst an ocean of road traffic and street sounds that are considerably homogeneous between different cities in the world. To me, the most interesting sounds and sound environments in cities are found indoors, not outdoors. That's why 'Buildings [New York]' is based exclusively on indoor recordings of buildings in the city."

More about the composition (and a sample):

More about the concert:

Details about Ear to the Earth 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

5th October 1948, 60 years ago...

graphicalSound: Shapes

graphicalSound - "Shapes" is out now on Synesthesia Recordings 

Shaping the not visible. 
Performed by Matteo Milani. 
Produced by Matteo Milani and Federico Placidi. 
Artwork by Kirjava [].
SYN-003 © 2008 Synesthesia Recordings. All rights reserved. 

  1. State of Perfection (13.08) 
  2. First contact (08.05) 
  3. Water Emotions (07.33) 
  4. Restless (06.47) 

Artist: graphicalSound 
Title: Shapes Cat.No: SYN-003 
File under: Experimental/Electronic 
Format: Limited Edition CD-R/digital 
Release date: 10.2008 

Pro Tools 8: New User Interface and Brief Overview

Pro Tools 8.x: New User Interface and Brief Overview from Scott Church on Vimeo.

Friday, October 03, 2008

U.S.O. Project on Rare Frequency

Rare Frequency is a radio show and a podcast hosted by Susanna Bolle and devoted to experimental, electronic, improv, noise, avant-pop, and other out-there music. The radio program is broadcast (and streamed over the web) every Thursday from 7-10pm EST on WZBC Newton 90.3 FM, a broadcast service of Boston College, as part of its No Commercial Potential (a.k.a. NCP) block of programming.

Update: [read the complete playlist here]

Listen Online

Thursday, October 02, 2008

HDFilmtools: interview with Matthew Wood

Lawrence Jordan presents Part I of a three-part interview with Matthew Wood, supervising sound editor at George Lucas’, Skywalker Sound.

In this first segment: What exactly does a sound supervisor do?