Executive Summary Pre-Production

This specific blog was made to provide an overall insight into my pre-production stage of my soundscape project, thus far. Each blog contains specific areas of the project that are needed to be addressed before any physical work i.e. location recording, can be carried out; such as the initiation of the script, research into the appropriate equipment and apparatuses needed to carry out during the soundscape phase for data collection, additional preparation material needed for user testing phase (soundscape phase) i.e. ‘Participation Information Sheet’, audio asset list and finally, case studies for specific sound designs and techniques. The case studies made are the integral posts as it contains analysed sound designs and techniques which I will be using within my soundscape to elicit the emotional arousal of fear, ultimately, to test the effectiveness of the studied sound designs and techniques.

The case studies of Cat People, The Birds and Blair Witch Project has given me adequate information needed to initiate creation of sound designs and to start compiling a list of audio asset for my project. Experiencing aforementioned films in its entirety, as opposed to small snippets, has given me greater context into its effectiveness from the sound designs and techniques employed from each movie. Written notes and key points were taken during each movie, the notes taken were than used to analyse the specific sound designs and techniques used. For the Lewton Bus effect, I had found the effectiveness of this technique was also from the long period of silence (without the use of music) to build tension. This, in effect, had set the mood while simultaneously acclimatise audiences of this silence. This lack of audio is then shattered by a loud bus engine sound, effectively bringing the technique to a close with a twist; the Lewton Bus effect is known to be the first movie to use this jump scare technique, where the supposed threat is something quite ordinary. The nonlinear sounds are indeed, consistent and ubiquitous across all three films, where sounds that have rapid frequency jumps, nonstandard harmonies and instruments or voice range that go beyond its normal range. The birds sound effect in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, had effectively used a trautonium to produce those unforgettable nonlinear bird noises.

However, further case studies are required to view techniques such as the Lewton Bus effect from Cat People and the use of nonlinear sounds in different horror movies to widen utilisation of these techniques and designs, in terms of a different approach to building tension before employing the Lewton Bus effect. As good as the nonlinear sounds from the trautonium made for the bird noises in The Birds, very little material was extracted from movie except for the bird noises itself, from a view point of a sound designer. Hence, the lack of writing produced for this case study.

To conclude, the amount of time I had wasted at the start of the academic year is also another major issue that I am slowly correcting. For whatever reason, I had failed to find the motivation needed at the start of the academic year and in truth, I should have taken a year out and as a breather. This subsequently caused the lack of time issue to complete certain tasks to the best of my ability for my pre-production portfolio. However, I plan on using my time during the Christmas holiday period to do more case studies and look for additional sound designs and techniques so that I will have a wider range in my pallet during the production stage of this project.

In hindsight, the script for my soundscape should of been top priority as it determines on the time for it to take to acquiring voice actors – in character fitting and quantity, and audio assets – to create an audio list and also to obtain sounds. Which will take a considerable amount of time to acquire these assets. However, I believe the quality of the script will ultimately affect the use of the studied sound designs and techniques so therefore, the wait will be worth it. I will continue to create and obtain the audio assets listed within my ‘Soundscape Audio Assets List’ in the main time.

Please use the menu button located on the left to navigate to the relevant blog post.

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Additional Future Task: Christmas Holiday

Binaural Mixing

My original idea was utilising a 5.1 surround sound set-up for my soundscape within the Hive facility, as I had experience recorded and mixed in 5.1 whilst doing my HND at Edinburgh college. I was unsure whether the Hive houses this kind of set-up so I asked one of my lecturer, after a brief discussion with one of my lecturer – Christos Michalakos, he had advised that using headphones in a binaural mix would make the experience much more immersive.

Subsequently later that day, I had watched a few videos of binaural mix on Youtube and were surprised how well the audio localisation was. The first video (below) I had seen was called ‘Hear New York in 3D audio’ by The Verge.

This video explains what binaural audio is and briefly explains how the binaural recordings work. This video has subsequently led me straight to this next video – ‘Virtual Barber Shop’.

As I intend on using a master binaural mix for my soundscape, research into binaural mixing are definitely required as I have no previous experience of this nature. The following links contain information in regards to surround mixing software and techniques.

The first video which shows how binaural audio is recorded, by using a pair of prosthetic ear with a microphones implanted within the ears. This effectively captures audio just like how we do in the real world. I could possibly create my own binaural head piece by assembling the parts myself and see effective it is but this is something I need to look into at a more detailed manner and research are obviously required.

Qsound Labs used for the ‘Virtual Barber Shop’: http://www.qsound.com/demos/virtualbarbershop_long.htm

Soundonsound for Pro Tools session of surround set-up and mixing: http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/setting-pro-tools-surround-sound.

Audio Asset List

The following audio asset list will updated once the script of the soundscape is completed. This list acts as a rough guideline to early gathering of audio assets.

Audio Assets to Obtain
Main Category Subcategory Source Material Description Obtained
Machinery
Elevator
Elevator Door Opening Elevator Location Recording: Foley No
Elevator Door Closing Elevator Location Recording: Foley No
Elevator Moving Normal Speed Elevator Location Recording: Foley No
Elevator Moving Fast Speed Elevator Location Recording: Foley No
Elevator Jamming/Stuck Elevator Studio Recording: Foley No
Elevator Button Pure Data Patch Creation No
Character
Footsteps
Footsteps 1 Distinctive Foot Wear 1 Studio Recording: Foley No
Footsteps 2 Distinctive Foot Wear 2 Studio Recording: Foley No
Footsteps 3 Distinctive Foot Wear 3 Studio Recording: Foley No
Footsteps 4 Distinctive Foot Wear 4 Studio Recording: Foley No
Dialogues
Character 1 Voice Actor 1 Studio Recording :Dialogue No
Character 2 Voice Actor 2 Studio Recording :Dialogue No
Character 3 Voice Actor 3 Studio Recording :Dialogue No
Character 4 Voice Actor 4 Studio Recording :Dialogue No
Death
Character Death 1 TBE TBE No
Character Death 2 TBE TBE No
Character Death 3 TBE TBE No
Character Death 4 TBE TBE No
Sound Effects
Blood Spirting Tomato Sauce Mix with Water Studio Recording: Foley No
Blood Dripping on Elevator Floor Tomato Sauce Mix with Water Studio Recording: Foley No
Body Puncture Melon: Stabbing Studio Recording: Foley No
Body Drag Above Elevator Sports Bag Studio Recording: Foley No
Body Parts Dropped Inside Elevator Ham/Chicken Joints Studio Recording: Foley No
Body Parts Dropped Outside Elevator Ham/Chicken Joints Studio Recording: Foley No
Elevator Walls Thumbing Thick Metal Sheet: Hitting Studio Recording: Foley No
Elevator Ding Pure Data Patch Creation No
Glass Smashing Glass Studio Recording: Foley No
Glass Falling on Elevator Floor Glass Studio Recording: Foley No
Infrasound Pure Data Patch Creation No
Incidental Sound Effects Home Objects Studio Recording: Foley Gathering

Soundscape: Script

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Drawing ideas and inspirations from movies such as Paranormal Activity (2007) and Blair Witch Project (1999), based on psychological element of inducing fear. The popularity of these movies were based of forcing audiences to use their imagination through the use of sound design techniques and very little but yet, powerful visual cues. So therefore, I had included these two movies within my blog posts of case studies (refer to relevant blog posts).

Initially, the story of my soundscape was to base it in a woodland setting, introducing the idea of isolation and vulnerability (two emotional states that successful horror film conveys very well to their audiences); a mother and daughter dynamic, where you are the mother and you’re lost the in woods trying your best to locate your where about geographically, whilst simultaneously, trying to calm your daughter, from a panic/crying state. An unknown presence will then be introduced sporadically until nightfall, where a full predator and prey sequence would commence.

I had learned from my 3rd year of Sound Production that writing a script for soundscape (or general writing in the matter) is not one of my best traits, by any stretch. My script was criticised for being “too on the nose” by my tutor and I had always knew the level of my literacy have always fallen a bit, short and so, I had decided to seek out someone that were more capable to tackle a script that I will need for this project. Luckily, I have a friend who studied screenwriting at Stirling University and he had agreed to co-write the script for my soundscape. A meeting will occur during the Christmas holiday as discussed to start building the script. Hopefully, the script after the holiday will enable me to gather the relevant resources I need for the project, such as voice actors and additional audio assets.

A screenshot below is of an e-mail exchange between Philip and I in relation to my soundscape script initiation. This particular e-mail illustrates a little into Philips degree and background.

It reads:

“Hi Scott

My degree was in Film & Media at Stirling University from which I graduated with a 2:1 grade. I studied modules on screenwriting, genre, Scottish TV amongst others. My dissertation was a screenwriting one for which I was required to write a screenplay, a treatment for the screenplay and an essay about an aspect of screenwriting related to the script I had written. I completed my work on biopics, for which I wrote an essay on the clash between historical accuracy and the needs of a functioning narrative in any biopic. My screenplay was based on the battle of the electrical currents in the late 19th century and focussed on the clash between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla working for the Westinghouse Electrical Company and how out of this came the creation of the electric chair in America at this time.”

Devil

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They say best ideas come at night and I certainly think this could be the case; as I was ready to be fast asleep in my bed one night, I was thinking of the script in a specific manner so that I would have more to discuss with Philip when we meet to amalgamate our ideas and thoughts together. And it was during this time that I had recalled a film called Devil I had seen some years ago by M. Night Shyamalan. The story is set within an elevator with five characters, systematically dying, one by one every time the lights from the elevator turn off. The remaining characters of the story (and the audience) are left guessing as to who the killer (or this story – the Devil) is. I found this concept of being based within an elevator to fascinating and interesting when I had first seen the film, adding the element of claustrophobia; where the characters have literally nowhere to run. This effectively gives each scene subsequently after the first death even more chilling and intense as the characters and the audience are forced to view the situation face on and backed up against the elevator’s wall. As a result, I have decided to switch the setting into a confined space so that it would add claustrophobia as an addition element to help induce fear. Further case study of this film will need to be done, not for just for audio design but also to draw some inspiration from its plot.

Conclusion

As my soundscape does not contain any visual content, the plot of the story will be considered equally important as the audio as the quality of the script can determine the users’ experience; a badly written script for my soundscape can lead to users to disengage from the experience, ultimately, this will affect the outcome and the effectiveness of my sound design techniques. In a way, my sound design almost seems as though it is there to compliment the story however, it is quite the opposite; as the script will be written around the sound design technique to induce the emotional arousal of fear. As it stands, the scenario of my soundscape will now be based within an elevator, or in some sort of confined space. This idea is drawn straight from Devil due to the inclusion of the additional element of claustrophobia.

Reference

Blair Witch Project. 1999. [Found footage psychological horror film]. Directed by Daniel Myrick. California: Artisan Entertainment.

Devil. 2010. [Supernatural horror film]. Directed by John Erick Dowdle. California: Universal Studios.

Paranormal Activity. 2007. [Independent found footage supernatural horror film]. Directed by Oren Peli. California: Paramount Pictures.

The Infrasound Ghost

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The definition of ‘infrasound’ is sound frequencies that below the normal hearing range of human. In other words, low end sounds (bass frequencies) that are inaudible to humans. However, many scientific studies have revealed that the human ear is actually capable of detecting these low end frequencies, just not on a conscious level.

The following research is primarily founded on a case study of infrasound which was carried out by Richard Wiseman, based on the experience from Vic Tandy, for the Journal of the Society of Psychical Research in 1998.

Vic Tandy’s is of engineering designer background and had been working for a company that manufactured medical equipment during this studied incident. And it was by pure chance that this particular incident had occurred, as he had investigated and discovered what it was that was haunting his workplace.

Tandy had paid no attention and been brushing off various reports from his colleagues of growing discomfort when working in a specific room within the building, of strange experiences and general consensus of the place being haunted. He had simply applied his own logic into the explanation of the reported experiences due to the equipment from within the lab. As these machines are known to emit weird and strange noises, this logic of Tandy seems reasonable as they worked in a company that was in the design of anaesthetic or intensive-care, life support machine. Another element Tandy thought that it could be a contributing factor was the substance the laboratory used, as oxygen and carbon dioxide tanks can cause “problems” when handled appropriately. In time, Tandy gradually started to experience the very same feeling of discomfort as his colleagues; “feeling of depression and occasionally a cold shiver.” He had recalled “one occasion a colleague sitting at the desk turned to say something to V.T. (Tandy) thinking he was by his side. The colleague was surprised when V.T. was found to be at the other end of the room.” In fact, Tandy recalls that he had this very experience during one night, when he was working late by himself when he suddenly had this feeling and felt as though someone or something was watching him in the corner. He continues by stating “a figure slowly emerged to his left. It was indistinct and on the periphery of his vision but moved as V.T. would expect a person to. The Apparition was grey and made no sound. The hair was standing up on V.T.’s neck and there was a distinct chill in the room”. This apparition left his peripheral vision when evenly summoned enough courage to face the supposed entity. Tandy recalls the experience as “it would not be unreasonable to suggest I was terrified.”

This particular incident that inspired Tandy to investigate this paranormal experience within his workplace occurred during one morning, when he had gone into his work to use the laboratory’s workshop to modify his blade as he had entered a fencing competition that following day. He had briefly left his blade within the engineer’s bench vice, only to returned to his blade frantically vibrating in an up and down motion. As sound is vibration, Tandy had figured something was vibrating his blade which was varying in the intensity at a rate equal to the resonant frequency. This frequency is of course the infrasound; frequency the human ear cannot physically hear. Tandy had done a calculation and had figured that the frequency at which his blade was vibrating at was 18.98 Hz or cycles per second.

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Simultaneously, Tandy had not only has discovered the frequency is that of infrasound, but actually discovered that it was pertaining to a standing wave. This was directly due to the layout of the building as the building was “about 10ft wide by 30ft in length. One end was closed off by doors normally kept closed and the other end had a window.” The way that a standing wave works is frequency that have folded back on itself from the reflecting back by the walls at each end, therefore reinforcing the peak energy in the centre of the room – where the paranormal experiences occur.

At this moment, the vibrating blade had presented itself with two questions that needed to be resolved. First question was where was the frequency source coming from and second, how does 19 Hz of infrasound actually affect human. The first riddle was solved fairly quickly as he had found out that a new fan in the extraction system for cleaning the room at the end of the lab was indeed the corporate and when the system was turned off, the standing wave disappeared.

The second question is answered below from the work of Richard Wiseman (1998):

“On page 107 the book lists symptoms caused by frequencies in the range 15-20 Hz. V.T. had no idea of the amount of energy (spl) the infrasound had because we had nothing to measure it with. These effects are quoted by Tempest at a spl range of 125137.5 dB which would be very damaging to hearing if the frequency were in the audible range. It is a considerable amount of power but is not thought of as unreasonable by those V.T. has talked to considering that the energy was originated by a one metre diameter extractor fan driven by something like a 1 kW electric motor. In any case, the symptoms listed by Temple (1976) for low frequency sound waves are; Severe middle ear pain (not experienced), persistent eye watering, and respiratory difficulties, sensations of fear including excessive perspiration and shivering.

Table IV on page 212 of this book shows frequencies causing disturbance to the eyes and vision to be within the band 12 to 27 Hz. A more recent book by Kroemer (1994) describes the effects of low frequency vibration as follows;

“Vibration of the body mostly affects the principal input ports, the eyes, and principal output means, hands and mouth.”(p. 287).

“Exposure to vibration often results in short-lived changes in various physiological parameters such as heart rate…At the onset of vibration exposure, increased muscle tension and initial hyperventilation have been observed.” (p. 280).

Tables 5-12 of Kroemer (1994) on p. 288, indicate that the resonant frequencies of body parts are; Head (2-20 Hz causing general discomfort), Eyeballs (1-100Hz mostly above 8 Hz and strongly 20-70Hz effect difficulty in seeing). However, different sources give different resonant frequencies for the eye itself. The resonant frequency is the natural frequency of an object, the one at which it needs the minimum input of energy to vibrate. As you can see from above, any frequency above 8 Hz will have an effect and some sources quote 40Hz. Most interestingly, a NASA technical report mentions a resonant frequency for the eye as 18 Hz (NASA Technical Report 19770013810). If this were the case then the eyeball would be vibrating which would cause a serious “smearing”of vision. It would not seem unreasonable to see dark

shadowy forms caused by something as innocent as the corner of V.T.’s spectacles. V.T. would not normally be aware of this but its size would be much greater if the image was spread over a larger part of his retina.

Another NASA report (NASA Technical Report 19870046176) mentions hyperventilation as a symptom of whole body vibration. Hyperventilation is characterised by quick shallow breathing and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide retained in the lungs. Note that Tempest (1976) also mentions respiratory difficulties caused by frequencies in our range. Hyperventilation can have profound physiological effects. For example, Flenley (1990) describes the symptoms of hyperventilation as “breathlessness usually at rest, often accompanied by light-headedness, muscle cramps, fear of sudden death and a feeling of difficulty in breathing in”. Fried (1987) describes a panic attack as “a synergistic interaction between hyperventilation and anxiety.” and suggests that as the carbon dioxide is expired physiological changes cause the body to respond by feeling fear. This feeling of fear activates the sympathetic nervous system which increases the respiration rate making the hyperventilation worse. The panic attack will therefore feed itself and increase in intensity. This would seem consistent with V.T.’s experience of fear and panic when the “ghost” appeared. V.T. knows from the experiment with the foil blade that the peak energy, known as an anti-node, was in line with the centre of the desk. As V.T. sat up and turned to look at the object he moved from this zone of peak energy to a zone of slightly lesser energy and the ghost disappeared!”

Conclusion

The concept of introducing this type of infrasound to the soundscape phase has definitely intrigued my curiosity but not I am unsure whether this would fall under Abertay’s ethics regulations. This is something I will need to look into at the start of our second semester. Another problem with using this kind of infrasound is that of trying to locate a suitable space within Abertay to conduct this kind of experiment, where calculations and measurements will need to be scrutinised in order for the intended effect. In addition, a subwoofer will also be needed to be obtained to carry out this experiment. In any case, the use of infrasound will be implemented within my soundscape as it will be layered with the elevator ambient track – given that I am setting the elevator as the location of my soundscape. A combination of using both types of infrasound will need further research.

Reference

NASA Technical Report 19770013810.

NASA Technical Report 19870046176.

Wiseman, R. 1998. The Ghost in the Machine. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 16(851): pp.1-7.

Incidental Sound Effects

I had came across this instrument called the ‘waterphone’ upon gathering research into making my own incidental sound effects. The sound that the waterphone produces in the video below, demonstrates the diversity of sounds produced typically used in horror movies. I had immediately done a quick Google shopping search into ‘waterphone’ and had found that it cost around £800. Needless to say, this is way out my price range so improvisation are definitely needed to recreate and produce some of the sounds that it makes.

The waterphone (also known as the aquaphone) :

 

The SoundCloud links below are experimental sound design intended to create atmosphere within my soundscape. All the sounds were recorded in my bedroom using the Rode NT2A microphone, with close miking. Random objects were hit and recorded such as a half-full glass and shoe box; these sounds were than edited and experimented with by the use heavy reverb, frequency modulations, pitch shifting, 7-band EQing and Lo and Hi pass filtering. Knife scrape and my voice were also processed in the same manner.

This sound effect is created by hitting a metal spatula off a wooden table then a shoe box, with before and after audio processing:

 

Knife scrape #1 before and after audio processing:

 

Voice modulation #1 before and after audio processing:

 

Glass (half full) hit #1 before and after audio processing:

 

Glass (half full) hit #2 before and after audio processing:

 

Note: these uploaded sounds are experimental and does not necessary mean I will be using these within my soundscape.

Case Study 3 (1999) – The Blair Witch Project: Realism

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The Blair Witch Project (1999) is a found footage psychological horror. This film relies heavily on the creative aspect i.e. visuals and audio content, due low budget. The sound is a huge factor that contributes to the psychological aspect of the movie, as audiences are left guessing half the time to fill in the voids from the lack of action on screen.

The concept of this movie is based on video footage shot with handheld cameras and remains in this style throughout the entire movie. The sound design you hear in this film also remains consistent to what you would expect to hear from a handheld camera – realism and without any musical scores or stings. Scenes that are shot with different handheld cameras are sonically unique e.g. the noise level you can hear when camera switches or each character’s voice are shaped to fit the characteristic of the cameras sonic signature.

The only music that played during the whole movie except for the end credit sequence is the song from the radio. The song gives viewers an inkling in the era the film is set in and it is called Rigors by Digginliies released within the same year – 1999. The song choice here fits in really well with the visual as the genre of the song sounds a lot like grunge, where the grunge scene was made main stream by bands like Nirvana in the early 90’s. The visual content is of low quality which is something you would expect when watching video play back on a VHC cassette. The soundtrack is full of back ground noises like close traffic with cars passing by, airplane engine above the sky and dense woodland soundscape, these noises are layered on to add additional sense of realism. Another audio aspect which was thoroughly well thought out was during intense scenes of the movie, such as the full-blown argument between Helen and Michael and scenes where they were running away from their tents while getting chased by the unknown, very noticeable knocks and bumps sounds are also added for authenticity. When these unknown sounds that terrify the character and audiences are taken out of context, the sounds are not scary at all. Sounds of rocks rumbling, leaves rustling and tree branch and twigs snapping are sounds you would typically hear within a woodlands ambience, apart from children laughing and screams and snares – presumably from the witch, are obviously something typically not heard in a woodland ambience. The reason why these identifiable physical sounds are as effective as they are and works, simply because of Daniel Myrick’s ability of story-telling and Andy Hay’s use of Foley.

Audio panning plays an integral role to introducing the element of confusion and suffocation amongst audiences. The clever use of stereo imaging gives the illusion that these sounds are all around, completely surrounding the characters. This sense of confusion is of course, reinforced by the reaction from the characters as they frantically try to locate –  and also to run away from – the sound source. Their panic state during these scenes, subsequently intensifies as these unknown noise draws closer and louder.

Conclusion

The term ‘realism’ is what made The Blair Witch Project as successful as it did. This will be an important aspect to consider when constructing the sounds and ideas for my soundscape, as each scuffle and bumps can add a sense of realism. As my soundscape is planned be in binaural, the sound for localisation will also be greatly considered to introduce the element of confusion, this will result hopefully in making typical sounds you would hear in whatever scenarios I decide the soundscape in that much more ominous and scary. The problem with trying to extract certain concept or designs from movies to induce fear from participants is that it has considerable more time, in comparison to a 5-8 minutes of soundscape. This is something I hope Philip (co-script writer of my soundscape) and I can tackle, as his experience of script writing was brought on for this project for this very reason. I do however, have high hopes after a brief discussion we shared as we talked about different techniques that may work in my soundscape.

Project Equipment & Apparatuses

The soundscape phase will be conducted within the Hive facility in Abertay university. The following list of equipment and apparatuses are needed to carry out and to also measure the effectiveness of the fear inducing soundscape.

Headphones (future purchase)

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 32 Ohm

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Planetgizmo ([no date])

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 has been recommended to me by my old college’s technician as it will be best suited for this research project. Needless to say, I needed to investigate into why this is the best suited for the job.

The frequencies response is always the main priority when one is purchasing a decent pair of headphones – let alone for a specific research project such as this. The deciding factor for these headphones will the bass frequencies response within the frequency spectrum, as I will need a pair of headphones that can respond to frequencies any below 20 Hz. This is simply because I will be implementing infrasound within my soundscape and it is well-known audio technique to induce anxiety. Infrasound is known to be at a range of anything below 20 Hz. Paranormal Activity and Irreversible are movies that have famously used infrasound to intend this very effect within the audiences.

The frequency response table of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 below, shows that it has a very good bass and treble frequency response. The lower bass frequency will mean these headphones will respond well with low pitched sounds like animal growl or infrasound whilst equally responsive response in the treble frequencies, as a result, would mean better quality of sounds in the nonlinear spectrum. The use of the aforementioned sound design techniques will be implemented in my soundscape so therefore these headphones will be ideally suited for this particular project.

DT 770 (blue) Frequency Response Chart

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Lauen (2014)

Galvanic Skin Response & Heart Rate Monitor (future purchase)

Heart Rate Monitor

Measurements of fear can be analysed on a scientific level by the means of an individual’s heart rate. This practice of measurement of this nature has been established for many years and it is something all human experience when the flight-or-fight mode is triggered; increased heart rate, shallower breathing, etc. The heart rate variability (HRV) is a physiological marker of how human experience and regulate emotions (Aldao 2014), and in this case, measurements of the emotional response of fear.

Measuring Heart Rate – Wrist or Strap?

To measure user’s heart rate as accurate as possible, a measuring apparatus like a wrist band/Fitbit or a chest strap is needed for the soundscape phase. But which of the two is more reliable in terms of accuracy? And on a student budget?

Sharon Profis (2014) from CNET.com have investigated into the very nature of this question and had put a five branded smart devices (4 wristbands/watch and a Samsung phone with an in-build monitor) on test runs – quite literally on a treadmill. Dr. Jon Zaroff, a cardiologist at Kasier Permanente medical centre in San Francisco had placed electrical sensor pads from EKG machine as the official reading. He then placed a Garmin chest strap heart rate monitor to simultaneously test alongside the branded wristbands during the tests. Dr. Zaroff explains that the Germin chest straps have EKG leads which has electrical sensing technology, the same technology an EKG machine uses so therefore, it should in theory, “work very well”, whereas the wristbands use optical sensors; this means it measures the blood flow and not the electrical activities within the human’s heart and the fact that it is not near to the source of measurement. The test results revealed that all wristbands/watches were inaccurate and “way off” whereas the in-build monitor from Samsung Galaxy S5 were the closest to the EKG machine. The Germin chest strap used remained consist throughout the test.

Conclusion

The general consensus is that the chest strap is more faithful compared to most branded wrist bands/watch in terms of measurements of the human heart rate. Other website such as Wareable.com (2016) have reinforced this claim by doing similar tests.

The Germin chest strap heart monitor seems to be the solid choice for this project, with additional recommendations from users such as RIZKNOWS (2015). The price for this products are around £30 to £40, which is affordable and therefore, is reason why this chest strap will be used to measure user’s heart rate during the soundscape phase of this project.

Garmin Soft Strap & Premium Heart Rate Monitor HRM Forerunner Edge 010-10997-07

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Vikusi (2016) – eBay

Galvanic Skin Response

Galvanic skin response (GSR) also known as skin conductance response (SCR) or electrodermal activity (EDA) is the electrical conductance of your skin, primarily affected by sweat. The sweat released through our skin is measured through the use of an apparatus sensor which essentially measures the sweatiness of the hand/fingers, as salty water serves as an excellent conductor.

The GSR is something I had cross referenced time and time again when referring to measuring the emotional arousal of fear on scientific and analytical level. Although this seem to be an established practice, there a criticism of how accurate it can detect specific emotional arousal as there are many variables when considering its effectiveness; Steven Novella (2015) states “Sweatiness, in turn, can be affected by a number of variables, one of which is your current level of psychological “arousal.” Arousal is a deliberately non-specific term, because many types of arousal can increase your autonomic activity which causes sweating. Arousal can be anger, fear, anxiety, being startled, excited, or under mental stress. You cannot tell which simply by measuring EDA”, he also added that “There is also a great deal of individual variability. Different people have very different levels of autonomic activity in response to different stimuli. These highly variable responses can then further vary based upon mood, environment, medication, and underlying conditions.”

I had reached out via e-mail to two companies – imotions and Neulog, which advertises apparatus that can give me the galvanic skin response measurements I need for the project. The e-mails that I had sent contained questions such as suitable age group, if the apparatus is indeed suited for my project and price range with a possibility of student discount. Only Neulog got back to me and had informed that their apparatus will indeed be suitable for my project, so therefore, I will be using the Find Neulog Galvanic Skin Response Sensor, 10 Ns Resolution, 100 S/sec Maximum Sample at approximately £90.

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Pospos1003 (2016)

Conclusion

The variables Novella (2015) had mentioned above that can potentially give inaccurate readings of emotional arousal of fear is duly noted. However, considering the session will be conducted in a room, with an average room temperature, would eliminate any initial excessive sweating. The detailing brief chat with participants before the sessions contains questions that relates to medical or pertaining to underlying conditions that can rise the participants’ heart rate or indeed, increase of sweat as direct result of side effect(s). Furthermore, the heart rate monitor acts as the second measuring tool, and as cross reference for spikes or peaks within the readings from the data collected from both apparatus during the soundscape session. These data are then processed and compared to the timescale of fear inducing sound design implemented within the soundscape to produce a final conclusion for my dissertation.

Night Vision Video Camera & Recording (future purchase)

To capture user’s emotional arousal of fear, for data collection and analysis, night vision camera is needed to capture user’s reaction during sessions as it will be conducted in complete darkness. A few options are available in order to carry out this task with a limited budget; night vision dash car camera (around £20), Infrared Mini 8pin 108op HD USB night vision camcorder (around £20) and finally, Wi-Fi security infrared camera (around £60). Fortunately, there are plenty of demonstration videos on YouTube on most of the low cost night vision camera recorders. Even though it will cost around £40 more, I have decided to play it safe and will go for the Wi-Fi security infrared camera as it will provide the best quality and capture the key moments of each participant’s reactions during the soundscape phase. It will also mean that I will not have to worry about not capturing user’s reaction properly as the first two options of night vision cameras were way too poor and grainy.

The Hikvision DS-2CE16D1T-IR 2MP 3.6mm Fixed Lens HDTVI 1080p 20m IR Bullet Camera seems to lowest costing whilst providing the best quality video at around £40. After a few exchange of e-mails with Hikvision, they had kindly informed me that I will need a ‘switch’ in order to recorder ‘on-the-fly’ from the laptop. The bullet camera will need to be connected to the switch then switch connected to my laptop to enable recording of any sort. This will effectively double-up as a night vision monitor as I will be present in the room during the soundscape phase; this is important as I will need to keep an eye on users for any discomfort or should the participant wish to stop at any stage. Participants will be reminded to take the headphones off before the start of the session, should they wish to disengage from any further advancements of the research process.

Hikvision DS-2CE16D1T-IR 2MP 3.6mm Fixed Lens HDTVI 1080p 20m IR Bullet Camera

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Daian. 2016

Network RJ45 switch Netgear GS 105E 5 port 1 Gbit/s

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Conrad (2016)

Laptop and Sound Card Interface (Owned)

Laptop

The choice of laptop and sound card for the project used will be the Lenovo G50-70 and the Scarlett 2i4 simply because this is the equipment I own, and the processing power are more than capable of handling any DAW (digital audio station) I will be using for this project, such as Pro Tools 12, Audacity, Reaper and Ableton Live 9 Lite.

Full specifications: https://www.cnet.com/products/lenovo-g50-70-59427099/specs/

Lenovo G50-70

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Cunsumentenbond (2016)

Sound Card (Audio Interface)

The Scarlett 2i4 is a sound card that I will be using to record and mix the soundscape. I had used the 2i2 USB audio interface during my college days thoroughly impressed with the sound quality that it had provided and so, I had decided to upgrade to its bigger brother –  the 2i4. The 2i4 is also small and convenient to carry around to do live recording, provide phantom power (48v) to condenser microphones, one of the best audio interface at the equivalent price range and also, it has two more outputs compared to its predecessor, the 2i2.

Full specifications: https://uk.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4/specifications

Scarlett 2i4

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Focusrite (2016)

References

Headphones

Lauen. 2014. I need new headphones. Available from: https://linustechtips.com/main/topic/147082-i-need-new-headphones/

Planetgizmo. [no date]. Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO Closed Back Headphones 250Ω (DT 770). [Online image]. Available from: http://www.planetgizmo.co.uk/beyerdynamic-dt770_pro-closed-back-headphones-250-8486-dt-770.html

Galvanic Skin Response & Heart Rate Monitor

Aldao, A. 2014. What Is Heart Rate Variability? And Why Does It Matter? [Online image]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sweet-emotion/201406/what-is-heart-rate-variability-and-why-does-it-matter [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Novella, S. 2015. Galvanic Skin Response Pseudoscience. [Online]. Available from: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/galvanic-skin-response-pseudoscience/ [Accessed 1 December 2016].

Pospos1003, 2016. NEULOG Galvanic Skin Response Sensor, 10 nS Resolution, 100 S/sec Maximum Sample. [Online eBay image]. Available from: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/like/222302672861?lpid=122&chn=ps&adgroupid=13585920426&rlsatarget=pla-142405556706&adtype=pla&poi=&googleloc=1007321&device=c&campaignid=207297426&crdt=0

Profis, S. 2014. Do wristband heart trackers actually work? A checkup. [Online]. Available from: https://www.cnet.com/uk/news/how-accurate-are-wristband-heart-rate-monitors/ [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Vikusi. 2016. Garmin Soft Strap & Premium Heart Rate Monitor HRM Forerunner Edge 010-10997-07. [eBay image]. Available from: http://www.ebay.com/itm/GARMIN-HRM3-Premium-Heart-Rate-Monitor-HRM-010-10997-07-Forerunner-Edge-Vivofit-/221264781991

Wareable. 2015. The real world wrist-based heart rate monitor test: are they accurate enough? [Online]. Available from: http://www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/heart-rate-monitor-accurate-comparison-wrist [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Night Vision Recording

Conrad. 2016. Network RJ45 switch Netgear GS 105E 5 port 1 Gbit/s. [Online image]. Available from: http://www.conrad.com/ce/en/product/973846/Network-RJ45-switch—-Netgear—-GS-105E—-5-ports—-1-Gbits

Daian. 2016. Hikvision DS-2CE16D1T-IR 2MP 3.6mm Fixed Lens HDTVI 1080p 20m IR Bullet Camera. [Online image]. Available from: http://daian.vn/products/ds-2ce16c0t-irp-hikvision

Laptop and Sound Card Interface

Cunsumentenbond. 2016. Lenovo Essential G50-70 (59414462). [Online image]. Available from: https://www.consumentenbond.nl/laptop/producten/lenovo/essential-g50-70-59414462

Focusrite. 2016. Specifications. [Online image]. Available from: https://uk.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4/specifications

Case Study 2 – The Birds (1963): Trautonium Pre-Production Blog

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One of the more unusual approach that Alfred Hitchcock’s had with The Birds was that it has very little musical presence throughout the entire movie – as intended by Hitchcock, himself. The silence however, does bring a greater sense of dynamic between the silence and diegetic sound effects. These diegetic sound effects become more of a focus because audiences were so used to hearing elements of music to at least some degree. The deliberate use of silence generally set the mood and theme to the movie, almost giving it this unique feel and a sense of style that I am unfamiliar with.

The nonlinear sound effects of bird noises are littered throughout the movie. The first wall of these nonlinear sounds of birds noises are heard during the opening sequence. This is the first time we hear Osker Sala’s nonlinear sound effect of bird noises.

The Birds opening sequence.

The pet shop scene at the beginning of the movie introduce another wave of these nonlinear sounds of bird noises. However, the birds sound here is more authentic but yet, the sound design within this scene of bird noises are at unusually high-pitched, distressed chirping – almost scream-like. The loudness of these bird noises are gradually increased once Melanie Daniels (portrayed by Tippi Herdred) enters the pet store – the use of sound design here is reminiscent of the pet store scene in Cat People. Furthermore, I am certain he had used actual recordings of distressed bird sounds but unfortunately, I do not have any evidence to back this up.

The ‘Love Birds Scene’ from The Birds.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/669347/Birds-The-Movie-Clip-Love-Birds.html

An electronic instrument called the trautonium was used to recreate the bird noises we hear in The Birds. And it Oskar Sala who the produced the bird like sounds and is also known to be the pioneer of this instrument. The trautonium has the ability to produce vowels, animal sounds, synthesised sounds and traditional music.

The most effective use of these synthesised bird sounds is during attic attack scene of Melanie towards the end of the movie. Here, Hitchcock explains that: “When Melanie is locked up in the attic with the murderous birds we inserted the natural sounds of wings. Of course, I took the dramatic licence of not having the birds scream at all. To describe a sound accurately, one has to imagine its equivalent in dialogue. What I wanted to get in that attack is as if the birds were telling Melanie, “Now we’ve got you where we want you. Here we come. We don’t have to scream in triumph or in anger. This is going to be a silent murder.” That’s what the birds were saying, and we got the technicians to achieve that effect through electronic sound” (musicofsound 2007).

Luckily, I have found some links to download this electronic instrument – the trutonium plugin for my DAWS for future use.

Links for trautonium DAWS plugin: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/1396096

Reference

The birds & subharmonics. 2007. [online]. Available from: http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/the-birds-subharmonics [Accessed 1 December 2016].

Case Study 1 – Cat People (1942) Sound Design Technique

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Introduction

Val Lewton’s horror classic –  Cat People (1942) is a low-budget, B-movie from RKO Radio Pictures. This is where the famous ‘Lewton Bus’ effect originates from; where audiences anticipate a monster or some sort to leap out but instead, something completely harmless like a cat, or in this case – a bus, and yet, still manages to achieve the startle effect and frighten the expected audiences. This is also commonly known as the jump scares of modern horror movies.

The genius and innovative creative aspects of drawing upon audience’s imagination from Cat People were mostly out of necessity, this is true in both the ambiguity of visual and audio content of the movie. Considering the restrictive nature of working with a limited budget, Val Lewton had used these limitations to work greatly to his advantage rather than something that confined him, creatively.

Sound Design

The presence of the nonlinear sounds in horror movies that Daniel Blumstein (Blumstein, Davitian and Kaye 2010) suggested in his 2010 research are evidently prevalent in the soundtrack of Cat People. These nonlinear sound effects of animal sound effects are abundant throughout the movie, especially the first 12 minutes of the film. These sounds are heard and are almost present in every scene leading up to the pet store. During the pet store sequence, this is where a simultaneous eruption of this nonlinear sound effects are in full cacophony, a suggestive troubled feeling we share from the animal distressed calls.

The clever and effective use of sound design at beginning of Cat People immediately taps into the human biological evolution of innate danger signal from the low-frequency sound of the panther growling, at a subconsciously level, instantly seizing the audience’s attention. In addition, a very faint, yet distinctive growl can be heard as Naval construction designer Oliver Reed (played by Kent Smith) approaches Serbian Irena Dubrovna (antagonist played by Simone Simon) for the first time, signifying to Oliver and more importantly, the audience that Irena should be approached with great caution. This faint growl can also be heard during Oliver and Irena’s interaction only when Irena is spoken to – the sound design here can be seen (or heard) as indicative or early revelation of Irena’s antagonistic nature.

Stalk Sequence: Lewton Bus

There are two fundamental sequences during Cat People that elicited the emotional arousal of fear through tension and suspense within audiences, and without them, I honestly doubt the movie would have worked nearly as well as it does.

The Famous ‘Lewton Bus’ effect originated from the scene shown below, and it is an effect horror movie of today still utilises, purely based on its effectiveness. There a several reasons why this original jump scare technique is so effective in the Cat People. First off, the stalk sequence itself demonstrates Lewton’s masterful use of sound technique of over-exaggerated reverb and the use timing to build tension, at an agonising level; the use of reverb on the more pronounced antagonist (Irena) footsteps gradually becomes heavier, as it simultaneously gets louder, giving the illusion the hunter is indeed, closing in on its prey. The lack of any musical input leading towards the ‘Lewton Bus’ technique was another major factor to why this effect is so impactful, this absence of music was intentionally left out for quite a substantial amount of time, without the audiences realising it. In fact, the last time music was present was during Irena’s interaction with Oliver at the stairway at around 32 minutes of the movie, and the music were then reintroduced again at around 42 minutes of the movie; the reintroduction of music here is of mysterious and ominous nature, setting the mood and tone for ‘Lewton Bus’ effect. The lack of any musical substance for a such a long period would mean that the audience has already acclimatised to the quietness of the movie. And finally, this is of course followed by a one of the loudest part of the film – the roaring bus pulling up, in dire need of an oil change. The reason why this was the first of its kind is because audiences back then, typically expecting the creature to pounce out and therefore, to be finally revealed. However, this was not the case, leaving audiences guessing with ever growing tension and suspense.

The Classic Stalk Sequence – Lewton Bus (MrDeliaiaframe 2011a)

The Swimming Pool Sequence

The swimming pool sequence is another stalk sequence, a rather short stalking sequence but a stalking nonetheless, where Alice Moore (played by Jane Randolph) is backed into the swimming pool room with no likely route of escape. Here, Lewton’s ingenious use of a swimming pool’s natural environment is impeccable, accentuating Alice’s desperate cries for help, cries that reverberated in a tiled insulted room. It is worth noting that Blumstein’s research suggestion of nonlinear sounds is at it’s most prominent during this swimming pool sequence, voices that are pushed beyond its normal range.

The Classic Swimming Pool Sequence (MrDeliaiaframe 2011b)

Conclusion

Although almost all movie enthusiasts or general moviegoers anticipate these jump scares within modern day horror movies, film makers favour incorporating this sound technique in their films time and time again. Making us feel acclimatised and almost numb, purely from over-exposure. Hence, the term ‘cheap jump scares’. However, as this case study has brought me back to the origin of the startle effect, it has drastically changed my view of implementing the use of this particular sound technique within my soundscape. It is difficult to point out at this stage of where to implement this technique as scripting for the soundscape has not yet began but as it stands, I will follow Lewton’s subtle dynamic approach of a period of quietness, or monotonous and gradually building a soundscape towards this semi-dramatic finale.

There are, of course advantages and disadvantages of using this sound technique within my binaural fear inducing soundscape. With the binaural aspect, direction of source will also need to be considered and investigated. The advantage of using this technique is that there is a vast ocean of horror movies with different variations of this technique to explore, by examining other films that have utilised this technique and further explore why this technique was more effective and memorable in one horror movie compared to another. The disadvantage is, of course, the aforementioned fact that it has been over-used and may prove to be ineffective, if the technique is not executed or handled properly. Further specific case studies are definitely required.

References

Blumstein, D.T., Davitian, R. and Kaye, P.D. 2010. Do film soundtracks contain nonlinear analogues to influence emotion? The Royal Society.

Cat People. 1942. [horror film]. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. New York: RKO Radio Pictures.

MrDeliriaframe. 2011a. Classic Pool Scene in “Cat People”. [Online]. YouTube. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfbGJrAVWUo [Accessed 30 November 2016].

MrDeliriaframe. 2011b. Classic Stalk Scene in “Cat People”. [Online]. YouTube. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkrsymAhI0U [Accessed 30 November 2016].

Bibliography

Larson, R.D. 2013. Cat People. [Online]. Available from: http://www.runmovies.eu/cat-people/ [Accessed 30 November 2016].