Back To The Future - Sound Replacement - Reflection 2


  • Key on concrete

  • Key insert and turn

  • Key jangle

  • Mat dropping,

  • Door squeaking,

  • Door closing sound

  • A more dynamic click

  • Clicking noises for the gain and overdrive dials

  • Footsteps

  • Skateboard sounds

  • Guitar chord strum and feedback sounds

  • Generating a plectrum schwing sound

  • Clocks ticking

We entered the second session for this project with a much clearer understanding of what we needed to do. We all had plenty of time to go over the asset list and to come up with ways to generate the sounds, I went to my mums house and borrowed a few clocks, a doormat and some padlocks, I loaded my guitar, amp, and skateboard into the car and while my son was walking around with a push toy I thought “Man that would be a great sound for a dial turning so in the car it went.

I arrived early enough to get the VIP parking right out the front and hit the ground running. We hired out the Slate VMS mic because it is sensitive and has a flat response, we figured this would be a good all-purpose microphone, allowing us to capture the quiet detailed sounds well. This was our first session by ourselves in the C24 so we drooled over the Avid C24 console for a while and had a quick overview of how it worked. Then we got the mic all set up and got ready to start tracking. Adam Higginson volunteered to create some sounds and I started operating the DAW. Doctor Duck thought since this was essentially a 2 man job he would take advantage of the session by getting on top of our documentation. So he set up his laptop and started going over our notes and planning documents just to tidy it all up while he still actively engaged in what we were doing.

The first thing we did was record the clocks which seemed easy enough (more on that later). We then recorded the key drop sound on concrete in the Foley pit, the key insert and turn with the padlock and jangled a different set of keys for the jangle sound. Dropping the mat took a bit of work to get the right sound we had to be mindful that it is a subtle sound and not drop it to hard. To record the door squeaks our plan was to use a computer chair, unfortunately, the chair in the C24 didn’t squeak so we went round all the rooms looking for a chair that squeaked, we found a few and brought them into the studio to get just the right sound. We recorded a nice big click sound with a switch The Doctor brought in and some dial sounds with the kids push toy in time to the video.

Then when it came time to do the footsteps the question was who should we get to do it, Doctor Duck said “well what sort of shoes are we all wearing and strangely enough I was wearing Nike Air Force Ones same as Marty McFly in the movie. So I stepped into the foley studio and since he was walking on cement we used an empty foley pit with a cement base. We did this in time with the film and I tried to get all the footsteps just in time but also get all the little scraps and drags he does with his feet. The skateboard did not really have the right sound and there wasn’t a good long cement surface to roll it on so we decided we’d borrow a skateboard off a friend and record it with a zoom recorder next week.

After a break, it was time to make some noise so we set up the guitar, positioned the mic where the camera would be in the shot and proceeded to get a good tone out of the amp. After dialing in a tone I liked Adam said: “well he has everything on 10 in the video so let’s try that.” We had earmuffs so I cranked that bad boy up to 10. It sounded pretty good so in the spirit of the film, we decided to record a nice big guitar strum. E5 seemed to be the chord so after tuning the guitar (well sort of) we recorded a few takes of a big strum. With that done we experimented with the amp and guitar a bit to get some cool sounds (just in case). Digging through the box of goodies in the foley room Adam found two pieces of metal and dragged one across the other to create a swing sound which we would use as the guitar pick glimmers.

After all, this was done we set about trying to move some of our newly acquired sounds into place and realised we had actually lost some sounds. We did manage to find them all again in the audio files so our work was not all lost and we figured out how we lost them, basically we taped over them, but how we lost them is not important, what is important is that our workflow was broken so we decided to all agree on a new workflow that made sense. By using a new track for each sound, naming it straight away, positioning our tracks top to bottom in order of appearance and introducing a colouring system based on our documentation.

Our System

Red = Recorded sound, Put in place but still needs work Orange = In place, perfectly lined up, with effects, EQ (basically a finished sound) Green = Panned, levelled and balanced into the final mix Blue = Recorded sounds but unsorted (Kept at the bottom of the session)

We started moving sounds into place and tinkering with them but once we got to the clock sounds we realised how much floor noise there was on that recording so we decided to do them again. Initially, we recorded them in the foley both but there is a faint hum in there from a vent and with the input level gained up quite high to get a signal there was way too much noise. So this time we set up in the control room finding a quiet spot and got the mic really close to the back of the clocks, we didn’t need to gain the input stage up so high. This was heaps better and with the day almost at its end, we did a quick mix of what we had and a quick bounce to take home and reflect on.

In reflection, we had a very productive session and while our initial workflow had some issues we worked things out and are now working faster and more efficiently with less confusion. The way we were operating at the start of the day, only the person on the daw knew where anything was and since we were tag teaming it we taped over some sounds that we needed. With our new system, I believe anyone would be able to walk in and take over our session and understand where we are up to and what we are doing. This was a massive learning experience as organising a session for music production and film sound are two totally different styles of workflow and even within those everyone has their own. I think when working in a team it is incredibly important to all be on the same page before you hit record. We did, however, achieve our goals for the day, we are right on track to get this project done in time and we are working really well together as a team.

If you want to read more about this project, Check out some of my previous blogs:

Project Plan

Reflection 1

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