Sunday, February 17, 2013

Project Genesis, a sound design story

by Matteo Milani

What if the history books have it wrong? What if the tool is the master of its maker? Did Mac create Man?  Project Genesis, a short film by Alessio Fava about a world populated only by old Apple computers, has arrived! Cult of Mac presented the International Premiere of the short film.

Project Genesis // shortfilm sub ita from project genesis on Vimeo.

To create a world populated by computer, it was essential to define the role of sound during the process of writing the script, to support the story. To make the actors credible and alive - like the old Apple Macintosh Classic and Lisa - each one with its own details, it was a thrilling creative work. During the first meetings with director Alessio Fava we looked for the "voice" of each character - of course with a west-coast American accent. For example - thanks to my friend Ann Kroeber @ - we chose actor Michael Navarra for the role of the CEO "ACME I", not just for his timbre, but especially for his outstanding acting skills. Since all computers are equipped only with an eye on their front screen - animated by the team of artists who supervised the visual effects - we needed incisive voices, with a lot of inflections, but somehow also enigmatic. A graphic equalizer which moves in synchronization with the voice increases the intensity of the expressions of the characters: in this case the production method was identical to that of an animated film, where the dialog is recorded before the “lip-sync” animation process.

By contrast, I have treated the original dialog without digital tools, instead using the technique of "worldizing" broadcasting FM sentences of each actor to old radio receivers, simulating the sound as if it came from the chassis of the computer, more precisely from the speaker located inside the Mac. 

The goal has always been - according to Alessio - to get results in a vintage and analog "flavor", anything but futuristic. To invent the sound of the propulsion system that allows these intelligent machines to move on the location of the short film, I used an electric razor as a main source, which with its continuous vibration resonates in the cavity of a metal lid, picked up by a contact microphone to have a more defined and organic timbre without interference from the surrounding environment (it’s an homage to Ben Burtt, who did it previously for “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace” to create the sound of the hovering battle tanks). The result is a "concert" of different signals, which modulate at different pitches, placed in different spatial positions. Kyma also was used to generate ambiences and backgrounds throughout the film. To make the presence of each character more vibrant - each one animated with the “stop motion” technique - and further emphasize every action on the screen, I added not only individual mechanical noises to emulate the chronological age of each computer, but also noises picked up the activity of a failing hard drive. Working alongside composers Giovanni Dettori and Lorenzo Dal Ri, we have achieved an excellent balance between dialogue, sound effects and musical contributions to an immersive sound continuum, in both 5.1 surround and stereo format. 

Project Genesis // Creating voices from project genesis on Vimeo.