It all Comes Crashing Down

The Sounds Speak for Themselves

The final assignment this week was more or less the equivalent to the audio version of a design assignment: use audio editing skills to create a ninety-second­-or-less audio story without verbal communication.

Again, dealing with steam powered Detroit, I chose to continue where I left off with Hollis and Meg’s fight from my last post.

Tensions Flare at Home

Time to Go

Hollis finally reconsidered staying in Detroit. After a close run-in with protesters outside the plant, he realized that Detroit could no longer be their home. The demonstrators had begun to follow the radical practices of the new domestic terror organization ANTISA, or Anti Steam Activists. All around the country, the group had been targeting power-plant and automotive workers in addition to the companies. Talk had also been spread of “big plans” for the coal-fired plants, ANTISA’s primary target for destruction.

It was Hollis’s last day on the job; Meg’s family would be showing up to help pack-up the house for the move to King George, Virginia. Meg had found a small mobile-home for sale on Zillow that was within easy driving distance of a public university. She planned to find a job teaching middle school to support them while Hollis went back to school to get a degree. He did not want to go to work for the plant in that area; it too was one of the last coal-fired hold-outs, and he was not going to start working to just get laid-off when that plant inevitably closed like the others did.

Meg had tried to convince Hollis to stay home that day, but he had wanted to go in to say farewell to his coworkers before the move. She was uneasy that morning after a bad dream had shaken her awake. Hollis assured her everything would be okay and that if any protesters came after him, he would give them a good knockout for her.

Lunch time had arrived, and Hollis had just sat down to eat the sandwich Meg had packed for him that last day. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two men dressed in black shimmy out of the lunch hall. What were they doing there?

ANTISA Strikes

How it all Came to Be

To make this audio story, I started with a blank Audacity project. The most important part was finding the sounds: lunch-time chatter, steam, rumbles, crumbling, explosions, gunfire, screams, and more screams. Once I had all the sounds (obtained from Freesound), I imported them into the project.

I used the Envelope Tool to fade down the audio for the lunch-room chatter.

Next, I began placing bomb noises throughout the piece. I used the Selection Tool to copy and paste the explosions and the Time Shift Tool to put them in place.

Since I was working with a steam power-plant, I added in the clip of steam twice, once for left audio and once for right. To split the audio into right and left from stereo, I used Split Stereo Track from the drop down menu on the steam track.

Then, I copied the steady portion of the steam noise to its own track. To do this, I duplicated the steam track and then trimmed the sound outside of the part I wanted. There I copied it again and kept pasting it onto its end until the new track was long enough to run the entire ninety seconds of the story.

To boost the track’s volume, I used Effect->Amplify with the default settings.

Beyond that, I just did many shifts on the different clips and more work with the Envelope Tool to bring everything together. To finish, I saved the whole composition as an mp3, using File->Export->Export as Mp3.


Tensions Flare at Home

Story Time!

Telling a story using audio could not possibly be hard, right? Well, while literally telling a story into a mic has inherent simplicities, making an audio story for the story-time assignment had challenges. Mixing the audio of the different tracks required much listening and re-listening to get the volumes and fades just right.

I chose to model the style of story after the Moon Graffiti audio story I listened to earlier in the week. Dialogue was going to be my focus, so I enlisted my wife, Meg, to be my partner. Since my story had to deal with the alternate history I chose last week, I decided to continue examining my steam powered Detroit through a fight between husband and wife about moving away from the area to escape the fog. This work follows that of my previous post.

Playing Something on the Piano is not Always Better

Times are Getting Rough

Almost a year has passed since the emberatic-brumulous fog study was published, and on top of its dwindling population, Detroit is facing new complications from the thick haze enfolding the city. While the auto companies are strongly denying the possibility of health risks from the fog, children throughout the city and the surrounding areas are falling ill with a pneumonia-like cough. This new development has the public up in arms demanding for Ford and the other manufacturers to pay for treatment for the many young patients now flooding Detroit’s hospitals. The auto companies refuse to finance medical treatments for the children, citing a study, paid for by the National Auto Lobby, that stated the cough did not originate from breathing the fog laden air.

Hollis has worked for a local coal fired power-plant for the last five years and does not want to leave the city. Detroit has always been his home: he met his wife Meg there, bought a house there, built his life there. Job prospects for him were slim to none anywhere else; most other states had replaced their coal fired power-plants with newer nuclear ones after a WikiLeak about unenforced regulations for coal-powered plants. Working at the plant was getting rocky. After the children started getting sick, demonstrators had begun staging “Klose the Killer” protests at the plant, keeping employees from accessing the building, sometimes by force. Per the city, police were not to be called to the protests in order to keep from attracting national attention.

Home for Dinner

How it all Came to Be

Of course, the first part of creating this audio story was recording Meg and myself. Using Audacity and a high quality usb microphone, we sat down and improvised our dialogue. Beforehand, I told her that I wanted to hit the high-points of sick children, fog, and married couple.

Next, I listened to the recording and cut out unnecessarily large gaps in the conversation. To do this, I simply highlighted areas of inactivity with the selection tool and pressed the delete key.

After that, I needed to add in some sound effects.  I needed a door closing, kitchen noises, some musical segue, and a timer, all of which I sourced from Freesound. To add them to the Audacity project, I used File->Import->Audio.

Once I had all the files in the project, I set to work moving them to the necessary positions; this is done using the Time Shift Tool.

Also, I wanted to split the kitchen noise up to give the effect of Meg going in and out of the kitchen. To do this I highlighted the parts I wanted to move, cut them, and pasted them in their new locations.

Finally, it was time to adjust the levels in the project.  Using the Envelope Tool, I clicked inside the various tracks to create pivot points for the sound levels, then dragged up and down to create the fades and change the overall levels. I also used the gain to adjust the overall level of the kitchen noises.

To wrap up, I then went to File->Export->Export as Mp3.



Playing Something on the Piano is not Always Better

What? No Words?

The first assignment I tackled this week was a meaty five-star dealing with converting audio files. I had to create an auditory illusion; this is where a song with heavy vocals is taken and converted into a MIDI file, then played as a piano track on a computer. To be frank, the most difficult part of this assignment was finding a decent free song to use. I spent at least three hours perusing Free Music Archive for a song that was both vocal heavy and not new-age indie. Perhaps I was being too picky or was not looking in the right places, but I found the process of song hunting tedious and frustrating.

In the end I settled for a nice British folk tune, Sober Taxi, by Greg Atkinson. The story for this assignment continues following failing Detroit from my question of the week topic.

Keep Our World Wet

The Ride Home

One thing was for sure, Joe was going to make a killing tonight. The foggier Detroit became, the more folks stopped driving; and the more they did not drive, the more they needed rides home from the tap-houses.

The air of Detroit was being poisoned by the brumulo-whatever fog, so people smoked more cigarettes. The water was disappearing into the air, so people just drank more liquor. People had an interesting way of dealing with the growing problems in Detroit; fight poison with poison.

Many of the other cab drivers had left, citing the drop in Detroit’s population as their reason for moving. The taxi services had downsized when half of Detroit vacated after hearing about the environmental study on the fog and the lake. But, as Joe had figured, when three quarters of the cab drivers left town, and only one half of Detroit’s general population had left, he was making a pretty penny on the remaining business.

Sure, watching the city’s spirit break was disheartening, but he didn’t mind the fog or the extra cash. He was just helping the poor working people get back and forth, right? He was making their lives better, right? Granted, the places they were going were not serving their health any better than the fog. But hey, booze made the people happy, and that meant something.

Sing it Greg

How it all Came to Be

I prepared a video tutorial on YouTube on how to create this sound/video.  The video can also be watched on my tutorial post embedded below.

Playing Something on the Piano is not Always Better (Tutorial)

Playing Something on the Piano is not Always Better (Tutorial)

How it all Came to Be

Here I walk you through the Auditory Illusions assignment.  We will be using the song Sober Taxi from Free Music Archive, MIDITrail for Mac, and Bear File Converter. Of course, you will need to take a screen recording of your finished illusion once you have the MIDI track playing.  You can use Quicktime or any other screen recording app that you would like. If you are doing this on Mac, you may need to install the SoundFlower audio driver to capture the audio of your screen recording.