Author Archives: Prof. Michael Smith

Mega Plane Crazy Group Mashup

Each of you have been assigned two portions of scenes 6-23 of Plane Crazy. For your two sections you are to create a soundtrack from found sound effects online. Make sure you a mixing literal sounds with sounds as metaphor as we discussed in class last week. Also be sure you document all of your sources with links back to the original sounds. Please list them out in an organized fashion, labeling them and pointing to exact time points if you used a portion of a longer audio file. Place these sounds in two lists: Literal & Metaphor.

We are all going to use a common soundtrack to sample from though. Use the audio from the video embedded above which is The End Of Trunchbull from the Matilda soundtrack. I think that this will work wonderfully as it has numerous arrangement and pacing changes throughout the piece. You are free to use any portion of the soundtrack for your parts of Plane Crazy. Also feel free to loop, remix the music to fit your needs, don’t feel like you must play a sample straight for the duration of your parts.

If you’re not familiar with the Youtube download process, you can use my favorite download tool Pwn Youtube (use the bookmarklet which is the easiest). And to export the audio from the video file use the open source software MPEG Streamclip.

You can then import the downloaded Plane Crazy video and End of Trunchbull video and extract the audio. Using Pro Tools you will be able to import the video file and watch your section of Plane Crazy as you work on it.

For your blog post include the two lists with links to your sound sources. Describe how/why you chose your samples. Also describe how you chose your portion of the soundtrack and from what exact time point in the piece. AND AS ALWAYS FOCUS YOUR WRITING BASED ON THE MAKINGS OF A GOOD BLOG POST.

The Matilda Approach

So it looks like Deji’s choice of sound design is going to work for Plane Crazy. I think it’s a good one as it has a combination of natural sounds, and metaphoric sounds used to create comedic emphasis. Our next step is going to be to build a musical sound track to underscore the cartoon for the various scenes in Plane Crazy. Here is a scene breakdown:

  1. 0:15-0:34 Farm animals building a plane.
  2. 0:34-0:58 Mickey looking boss like Lindberg.
  3. 0:58-1:28 The animal crowd cheers Mickey at takeoff, then the failed flight.
  4. 1:28-2:12 Mickey builds a new plane from an old car and turkey feathers.
  5. 2:12-2:28 Minnie shows up and is dragged in the plane.
  6. 2:28-2:44 Dog helps the Minnie and Mickey takeoff. Mickey quickly falls out.
  7. 2:44-2:58 Mickey chased as well as cat by Minnie in out of control plane by the well.
  8. 2:58-3:08 Mickey runs after Minnie in the out of control plane toward a cow.
  9. 3:08-3:19 Minnie’s POV as plane bears down on cow.
  10. 3:19-3:43 Cow is now holding on the tail of the plane. Mickey gives chase grabbing the cows tail and utter attempting to climb back aboard. Eventually he pulls the cow off the plane, and ends up atop the cow now galloping after the plane. Mickey finally accomplishes re-boarding by pushing the cow’s tail into an outstretched neck.
  11. 3:43-3:50 Mickey jumps back in the pilot seat and Minnie so scared tries to rip his eyeballs out.
  12. 3:50-3:59 Mickey’s POV of the plane veering toward cars and telephone poles down the country road.
  13. 3:59-4:11 The plane finally pulls upward but flails wildly in the air.
  14. 4:11-4:15 The plane winds past a building steeple, which ducks out of the plane’s way.
  15. 4:15-4:37 The plane finally rights itself and begins to cruise steadily. Mickey uses this as an opportunity to try and get intimate with Minnie. She’s is not interested, so Mickey in a fit starts to fly faster.
  16. 4:37-4:46 Mickey proceeds to push the plane through a number of acrobatic maneuvers. One of which tosses Minnie out of the plane, only to be caught back in her seat midair moments later.
  17. 4:47-4:55 Mickey having terrified Minnie tries to force himself on her. She slaps him in the face.
  18. 4:55-5:00 Minnie in a fit walks off the tail of the plane falling to the ground. Mickey follows and hovers midair looking downward.
  19. 5:00-5:09 Minnie is free falling to earth when she realizes she might pop her pantaloons into a parachute. Minnie begins to float down gently.
  20. 5:09-5:14 Meanwhile Mickey hovering in midair rediscovers gravity, and leaps to catch the tail of the plane. Suddenly the plane falls into a death spiral with Mickey flapping at the end.
  21. 5:14-5:21 The plane’s point of view of the ground while spiraling toward a large tree, ends with classic “CRASH,” “BANG,” animated text.
  22. 5:21-5:30 We track down the tree watching Mickey bang into every branch as he falls to the ground. A rain of broken plane pieces hit him and finally by the good luck horseshoe Minnie had given him.
  23. 5:30-5:50 Minnie gently floats to the ground right in front of Mickey. Her pantaloons drop to her ankles which she quickly picks up causing some embarrassment. Mickey points and laughs at her, so Minnie turns flashes her rump and walks away. Mickey upset at being rejected tosses the horseshoe which like a boomerang comes back and rings him around the neck.

With all of these scenes in mind, particularly 6-23 which I think will be good to focus on as they comprise the entirety of the flight, look for objects, mechanical kids toys, etc, and bring them to class on Tuesday.

As well pick from a comedy soundtrack, likely with action a piece or two of music that you believe might work with the flight. Bring in mp3’s of soundtrack music, as we can’t work with mixed music from movies. We will test various samples with the cartoon on Tuesday.

Plane CRAZY!!!

You will each be assigned a thirty second portion of the cartoon to breakdown for the class. Your breakdown is essential as well will be putting them all together to create our composition.

Divide your section by three second increments that reflects overall time, not 0-30 secs. For example if you are given the 1:30-2:00, you should break your piece into ten parts as follows:

1:30-1:33 Overall action, things that could make sound, atmosphere


1. cow walks in and animals are working

2. cow footsteps, pig hammering, dog sawing, another cow chewing, duck hammering, another pig turning the propeller.

3. Daytime on the farm.


1. cow still walking then to a stop and animals are still working.

2. cow footsteps to a stop then scratches head, pig hammering, dog sawing, another cow chewing, duck hammering, another pig turning the propeller.

3. Daytime on the farm.

Along with your breakdown of 30 seconds, find and embed a clip that represents a style choice for the sound design that you believe could work with “Plane Crazy.” Think about looking at early Bugs Bunny cartoons for a ‘musical approach.’ But also look for natural, and/or melodramatic sound design pieces – Action films, sci-fi, whatever. Also describe how you imagine this type of design being used with the cartoon. You could give an example from your breakdown and describe how you’d like to design it based on the clip presented.

Updates and Plans

Please publish a post that redefines and updates everyone with your final individual project plan. You should include a sample of the work as part of this progress report. I’ve consulted with most of you individually about your projects, and if you have not try to do so before next class.

Things to include in your update:

1. The length of the final project and a description of the contents to be heard (and possibly seen as well).

2. The methods for recording and/or using samples. If you are recording please describe exactly the tools you are using and in what manner. If you are using samples and/or found sounds you must maintain a complete account of the sources of the sounds with links.

3. A description of the research you have done to investigate the designing of your project’s content as well as techniques you discovered to influence your project.

4. As always this update should reflect the standards of how to write a blog post about your work.

Ridding of that Discomforting Quiet

The Machine Room from Metropolis

Moments before the huge machine explodes in a scene from Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic film Metropolis.

For the remainder of the semester we are going to be working on a single group project as well as your individual projects. The group project is going to be a collaboratively produced live mix of a soundtrack for a silent film. And the first thing we need to do is pick a film we’d like to produce for! The only rule is that the film you’d like to suggest must not have a pre-existing professionally produced soundtrack, so looking at films and cartoons from the silent era will probably be best. Look to Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Metropolis, Man with a Movie Camera as classics, but also silent era cartoons.

If you find a feature film, you’ll need to suggest a scene from the film as we will likely only produce a soundtrack for 3-5 minutes. We want to keep the length short so that we can intensively build a rich layered track which employs foley, sound effects, music, and voice.

Leave your suggestions with some sort of link in the comments below. Be sure to justify your choices by describing the types of sounds you think are possible for the track.

I’m going to throw my hat in and suggest the four minute scene from Metropolis from the above still was taken. In this scene Freder, the wealthy son of ruthless Master of Metropolis, descends into the belly of the city to discover how the other half, the working class lives. He finds himself in the machine room where a few dozen workers man the machine. I think there would be so much sounds to create to represent the mechanics of the space – levers, steam, electric buzzing of bulbs, etc. The machine also explodes killing most of the workers, including them flying through the air to their deaths. And finally the machine becomes a monster and the workers are fed to its mechanical mouth. It’s a crazy scene from the first feature length science fiction film ever made and would be a ton of fun to work on.

Who’s that singing in the bedroom?

Above is the example created of a woman listening to a distant singer. She walks down a hallway and opens the door. It uses three samples: Holmes singingSome footsteps, and Door opening.

To make the singing sound distant and heard through a wall the level was raised slowly while we heard footsteps to the doorway. But more importantly, a low pass filter was applied to remove the high frequencies which are normally lost not able to pass through dense materials such as walls and doors. As the door opening sound plays, the low pass is turned off so that it gives the impression of the listener now has an unobstructed view of the singer.

There is more work to be done I believe to make this more realistic. I think the low pass frequency cut-off could be increased as the walker gets closer to the door. Also some reverberation filters on the voice would help as well, especially finding a way to give differentiation between the hallway space and the room.

I used this great tutorial by DannyNguyenAudio as a quick refresher of how to use automation with filters in Pro Tools.

He also covers the basics of automation for levels and panning in short form. I need to look at more of his tutorials as the three I watched were all quick and straight forward.

For the assignment, use sound samples to create a one to two minute piece that showcases a change in perspective through sound design. This perspective change can happen through a variety of means – equalization, levels, and/or panning for example. Embed your piece in a post and describe your process following the suggestions of a good blog post.

Midterm Self-Evaluation

How Tenaciously are you pursuing these learning objectives!!!

Learning Objectives:

1. To improve your ability to articulate the physical properties of sound.

Ability to describe how you recorded the sound – technical choices made. Ability to describe the  physical property of a sound as it is generated. Sound pressure level as defined by frequency and amplitude and what they mean. Also, the conversion to an electronic signal, then to a digital sample.

2. To improve your understanding of sound’s impact on storytelling.

Making choices for realism. Choices in sound effect generation. Emotion, enhance, assumption, assists.

3. To improve your ability to make a quality audio recording.

How do you use a low cut filter. Mike to subject distance. Level control, mono stereo, mic choice based, polar patterns,

4. To improve your ability to make a quality audio mix.

How do you blend tracks? Lining up tracks and content so that it makes sense, based on timing.


Building an Atmosphere with Perspective in your Sound Mix

I want you to use a favorite recording created in the past few weeks. If you do not like any recording, create a new one! You will use this recording as a foundation for a 30 sec to 60 sec piece of sound design.

The piece of sound design should showcase a change in perspective based on a story idea. For example, if I had a dry recording of piano to use. I could try and create the change in hearing that piece of music as if it were being played from my sister’s room. And the change in perspective is me walking down the hallway and entering her room.

If you wish to mix in other sounds, I encourage you to use sites like

The tool you will need to use for mixing is Audacity, which is free open-source software that works on Mac and PC. There are innumerable tutorials on how to use Audacity. There is also the ability to add filters to Audacity.

You must create your file, upload to soundcloud, and embed in a properly written blog post.