Blog Archives

Why We Field-record

Recently I was at a trade show here in Chicago, doing field recordings of the crowds milling around. As I walked from the food court area to a spot near the registration desk, a young woman spotted me and noticed the large microphone and digital recorder I had hanging around my neck.

“That’s cool,” she said, and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was a sound designer and that I was collecting sounds for my library.

“Do you do sound for movies?” Yes, movies sometimes, and also theatre, advertising, and so on.

“Wow,” she said, “it’s awesome that you have your own sounds to use. I get so sick of hearing the same baby cry sound in every movie! It really wrecks the film for me.”

That was an important thing for me to hear. I hear sound designers talk all the time about sounds that get re-used ad nauseam, and I imagine we tend to think we’re the only ones who are bugged by it. But this woman isn’t a sound designer. She’s not a sci-fi fanatic picking out every instance of the Wilhelm Scream. I’m sure the sound effects probably aren’t first in her mind when she’s watching a movie – so if she’s noticing it, there’s a problem.

Like other sound designers, I certainly rely pretty heavily on my commercial sound effects libraries. Time and budget and a whole host of other factors dictate that I can’t make a fresh new sound for everything I work on. But I do try to build and maintain my own personal library (and she was pleased to hear that I do have my own sounds of a baby crying and rarely use the library babies), and use those sounds instead of library stuff whenever I can. And every now and then, while I’m standing there with the mic in my hand and the headphones on, I get a really great reminder of why I’m going to the trouble of doing it.

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Ghost in the Graveyard soundtrack

We love those old horror movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s; the slasher films, the monster-from-outer-space films, the zombie films. What we especially love are the soundtracks. The really low-budget, simple scores that eschewed live orchestras in favor of banks of analog synthesizers and were often composed and performed by the director himself. And we love to use those soundtracks in our games. But invariably, we’ll cue up a track from one of these films to underscore a dramatic moment and realize that the players were thinking less about the game – and more about the movie the music came from.

So we decided to create our own awesome 80s horror movie music. As fate would have it, we do have a few vintage analog synths in our studio (including an old Moog Rogue and a Roland Juno 106), so we fired them up and started playing.

The result is the “Ghost in the Graveyard” soundtrack album: nine dark, moody music pieces performed on classic analog synths in the style of those fantastic 80s horror flicks.

There’s no movie, of course, just a bunch of cool music. But we kinda didn’t let that stop us. Just for kicks, as we were mastering the album, we also rounded up a couple of local actors and shot fake trailers and opening credits for the movie that doesn’t exist.

Ghost In The Graveyard Trailer #1 from Toxic Bag on Vimeo.

And we didn’t stop with the trailers! Downloads of the soundtrack from DrivethruRPG or Toxic Bag also include a special set of souvenir lobby cards, 2 movie posters and a reproduction of a 1983 newspaper ad with showtimes for “Ghost in the Graveyard.”

Clearly, we had a lot of fun working on this project. We hope you enjoy it as well.

You can see the trailers at our YouTube and Vimeo pages, and buy the soundtrack at Toxic Bag dot com or DrivethruRPG.

Special thanks to Stephanie Lewis, Alan Vuchichevich and Ele Matelan for their great work on the trailers!

Mr. Blood’s new show: Sweetest Swing in Baseball

Yes, we’ve been releasing soundpacks for RPGs like crazy lately, but there’s also a whole lotta theatre happening in Toxic Bag Land. I’ve just wrapped up a production of After Ashley at Moraine Valley Community College, and I’m now in pre-production for Richard III at Oakton Community College, but this weekend I’m taking some time to help the other half of Toxic Bag, Steve Baldwin, record some music for his new sound design gig, Step Up ProductionsThe Sweetest Swing in Baseball. The music is being composed by our good pal Mike Przygoda. It’s a simple jazz trio, and we’ll be recording themes for the show as well as some preshow music down in our studio.

The Sweetest Swing In Baseball opens March 23, 2012.

Sweetest Swing poster

What’s a “Soul Gem?”

Two of the sounds in our new Soundpack (available for the Game Masters iPhone/iPad app or as mp3 downloads) are called “Soul Gem claims a victim.” The sound is available in male-victim and female-victim varieties, in the interest of gamer equality…but what is a “Soul Gem,” and what game system uses it?

It’s whatever you want it to be, really. We conceived of a magical stone that opened a portal to some other dimension and would capture the spirit of some unlucky character, trapping it in that dimension…but of course in your game it doesn’t need to be a stone, or open up another dimension…it could just be a spell that destroys your opponent. We made a cool sound and had to call it something, and that’s what we came up with. It’s not specifically the Soul Gem from Elder Scrolls or World of Warcraft or any number of other games/comics etc. that use the term.

This is the same concept we employ on our “Monsters” and “Strange Places” effects collections as well: we made a bunch of awesome sounds for you to use for whatever you like…and we had to call them something.

Paper Machete: Best Comedy Variety Show

The Paper Machete is a weekly show in Chicago, run by a couple of very awesome people I know–Christopher Piatt and Ali Weiss. From time to time (though not as often as I’d like), I help them out by recording the show for their podcast. This week, the Paper Machete was named “Best Comedy Variety Show” by the Chicago Reader.

Congratulations to Christopher, Ali, and all of the fantastic Chicago performers who have made the Paper Machete so amazing!

The Paper Machete happens every Saturday at 3pm at the Horseshoe at 4115 N. Lincoln Ave. It is FREE, and shows usually run around 90 minutes with one break. For more details, see the Paper Machete show news page.

Dose of Delia: birthday edition 2011

Once again we wish you all a Happy Delia Derbyshire‘s birthday!

Your Dose of Delia for today is Moogies Bloogies, Delia Derbyshire with Anthony Newley. Enjoy!

Updates, April 2011

More quick notes on what we’re up to.

• Joe has just finished tech week for Harvest at Oakton Community College. The sound design for this dystopian sci-fi play features extensive computer-glitch effects by Joe and music by Donny Who Loved Bowling. Harvest opens tonight and runs through May 1.

• Steve and Joe are currently mixing Bennie Woodell’s feature film “The Sad Café.” The film will screen at the Portage Theater in Chicago on May 22. For more info, visit the Sad Cafe Facebook page.

• Joe is doing final sound design and mixing for Getting To Know‘s newest release, Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents: Lincoln.

Degas wins ALA Award

The video “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Degas,” which I sound-designed and mixed, has won the American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Video award.

You can watch a clip of “Degas” here.

Congratulations to everyone at Getting To Know!

Lost and Found: Thailand

Our friends at Lost and Found Travel asked us to record the voiceover for their new travel show pilot. The episode chronicles their recent trip to Thailand, and you can watch it now on YouTube.

They’re headed to India now, so look for a second episode soon!

using tools the “wrong” way

Sound designer Ian Palmer has posted some fascinating samples on his blog–he took the sonic “fingerprint” of one sound and then used it as a noise-reduction key for a completely different sound. A great technique and in his case it yielded some cool results!

Needless to say, this is not exactly using the noise reduction software for its intended purpose. But that’s a great approach to creative design.

Check it out here.

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