Created: December 6th, 2014


Curatorial Statement

I plan to take the original trailer to Ridley Scott's 1979 classic - Alien, and try to give my own spin to its Sound Design. I was particularly intrigued by the first 51 seconds of the trailer - from the beginning up until the start of the main exposition, signalled by the cracking of the egg. I intend to use the same for my work. My goal is to create something very eery, very discordant, very foreboding, and yet rather minimalistic and simple - in much the same spirit as the visuals themselves.


Original Trailer

The original trailer, upon which I shall be basing my work, is below:


Ideas & Thoughts

In order to achieve the eery but minimalist sound I am going for, I have a few ideas:

1) A Wind Loop: A really dry, really harsh wind sample will pervade the length of my piece, to give it a spooky feeling. Maybe thunder claps at random intervals.

2) Discordant, Echo-ey Piano Keys: I was thinking of playing out-of-key Piano Keys with a large amount of echo, every time a new part of a letter is revealed in the title of the film in the trailer.

3) A Wind-chime Loop: Another background sound. Would go beautifully with the Wind, as if the wind-chimes are being disturbed by the wind. They’d create a false sense of cheerfulness that would stand in contrast to the bleak imagery on screen.

4) A Cracking Sound Sample: This will show up very subtly at the beginning, maybe just a light, 'in the background' kind of sound emanating from either the left or right. Eventually, it will come to dominate the trailer before building to a grand crescendo when the egg finally cracks.

5) Various Atmospheric Sounds: One of the main ideas I had for this was finding a sample of someone screaming, and processing it to such an extent that it is just barely recognisable as a scream. This, among with a variety of other, atmospheric, reverb heavy sounds, will be the hardest part to get right, and will be what adds much more depth, and a genuinely spooky feeling to my sound design.


Final Trailer

The Final Trailer, with the first 51 seconds of the original, plus my own Sound Design, is given below:



For the most part, what I ended up producing was reasonably close to what I was planning for. A few things surprised me though:

1) No one wind loop I could find adequately captured the sound I was attempting to create. Some were to 'thin', some were too bass heavy, some were too noisy, and some started and ended too abruptly. What I finally ended up doing was combining nearly 7-8 different samples I found into a loop of my own. Onto this, I applied very heavy Reverb to create the impression that the wind was all pervasive and all around the listener.

2) The Wind-Chime and Wind combination worked well beyond my wildest dreams. I was genuinely surprised by how well they complimented each other. The Wind-Chimes end up adding this very unique dimension to my sound. For one, contrary to my prediction, they end up adding to a sense of foreboding instead of contrasting against it. Secondly, on a note I hadn't considered at all, they end up making the listener very consciously aware of the fact that the movie is set in space, since Wind-Chimes would be such a foreign object in space.

3) Getting the scream right was very enjoyable. A human scream, no matter how I spun it, simply couldn't sound 'just barely recognisably like a scream', while still sounding eery and foreboding. Finally, I ended up going with a Hawk Scream, and adding it nearly raw, with very little processing.

I believe I met my objectives well. The discordant Piano Keys work well to surprise the listener, and keep him / her constantly engaged. My piece also manages to build towards a crescendo very gradually at first, and very rapidly later on. Initially, only the wind and chimes can be heard. Then the Piano Keys come in with the letters. After a while, the Piano Keys get more elaborate. Then a Cracking Sound comes in. This cracking sound continues getting stronger and stronger (as if an egg is cracking), until the egg finally breaks with exaggerated explosion sound, that serves to signify the importance of the egg cracking.


Feedback & Iteration

My original idea for this assignment was something completely different. I was planning to take a spoken word poem, and add some music to it. In essence, I would have been adding to the sound as opposed to replacing it. The feedback I got was that this idea wasn't exactly aligned with the spirit of the assignment. As such, feedback helped me understand the spirit and purpose of the assignment far better. Following the same, I was able to go back to the drawing board and come up with the idea that is on display right now.


Reflection & Critique

If I look at my work objectively, I can find some rough edges. That said, I don't know how I'd improve on them even now. For one, my ending is a bit abrupt.  I cut my video too soon after the egg cracking to really create the vibe I was going for. That said, I don't think I had a choice, since the next clip starts in the original video almost instantly after the egg cracking. Also, maybe this is a result of repeat listenings, but the piano keys seem to have lost their creepy discordant feeling, and seem almost comical to me now. Once again, I can't think of what other element I could use that wouldn't suffer from the same problem.

If someone had shown me this work before this class, my reactions would have been similar on several levels but different on several others. On an emotional level, my reaction would have been similar. I would have absorbed mostly the same vibe as I do now. I would gauge the overall quality of the work very closely to how I would now. I'd probably find similar flaws as well. The biggest difference is I'd probably be far more in awe of the artist. This class has taught me that if I have the right ideas, the tools required to design sound, narratives, or experiences, are extremely powerful and reasonably accessible. As such, this class has taken works such as the above from the realm of 'something other people make but I can only enjoy and critique', to 'something I can actively participate in the making of myself'.