Soundscaping the Trailer for Kickstarter Project ‘Magpie, the Untold Stories of World War II’

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing, Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

The film Magpie written by Carmel Hannant tells the story of George, a British in-listed soldier, his wife Lily and the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during World War Two. The trailer I worked on is a pitch film on Kickstarter for the main feature, to create interest on social media and raise money through crowdfunding.

My home studio set-up

My involvement with this project began when I received an email in July from Director of Photography Paul Cook asking if I was able to work on the sound design for his latest film trailer. Having been born and raised in Suffolk myself I’m aware of the American Airbases locally during that time. It was a great honour to be involved in the project and to contribute to preserving the memory of those airmen and airwomen who were stationed here.

After receiving the video and audio .wav files from Paul I loaded them into Pro Tools. Because the film was shot in one take, there was no need for an OMF (Open Media Framework) with separate audio files, so that, in a way, simplified things.

I could see that Stu Burroughs (Sound Recorder) had recorded five channels of audio for the 3m40s take.  These comprised of two radio microphones, one for Matt Downton (playing George) and the other for Carmel, along with boom microphone audio. The two other channels I felt were only required for the jeep audio at the start, which they captured well.

Along with the recorded audio from the take, I was sent various foley recordings, such as soldier’s footsteps, grenade dust in trees, along with grenade explosions, and battlefield foley. These were all recorded on location by Stu and really helped me to bring the scenes to life.

Before I began working on the soundscape I had to equalize, balance the levels and clean the dialogue on each of the three channels. I could hear that Matt’s recording lacked some high end, whilst Carmel’s was quite bright. Using the standard Pro Tools EQ plug-in I was able to achieve a more cohesive sound between the two.

Next was adjusting the levels on each channel of dialogue, watching the meters and lots of listening back. The last part of the dialogue clean up was removing any unwanted artifacts, digital noise and breathing etc. A tool I use a lot for that is the fade function in Pro Tools, allowing one clip of audio to mix into another; I like how you can adjust the curve to suit the style of fade.

With the intense firing scene, the main issue I noticed was that there was gunfire over some of the dialogue recorded in the shoot. This meant it was difficult to lower the volume of the shots without lowering the dialogue audio. A way I worked around this was to add Bren and Sten gun library audio over the top of Matt’s radio microphone dialogue and remove the boom audio.  This enabled me to control the levels better.

Ross Turner had done a wonderful job on the visual effects, with muzzle flashes and flying debris, so it was easy for me to spot the rifle shots using those visual points for reference as well.

Bullet ‘wiz’ and dust foley finished off that part, panning certain sounds hard left and right to get the sense that the viewer was in the centre of the action.

When Carmel throws the grenade over her shoulder at around 1m58s, I wanted to create a huge bang and echo disappearing into the distance.

I achieved this by layering two different grenade explosions from a selection Paul had sent over, adjusting the volumes of each. Using one of Waves reverb plugins -Trueverb, I set a long 4 second reverb on the audio and then bounced that down.

I then imported that reverbed file, layered it underneath the main grenade audio.  Using automation on the volume and a low pass filter, I was able to create a replica reverb, echo tail. The addition of some squawking birds, and dust foley finished off the sound.

With some aircraft flyby foley added later on it was ready to bounce down. One of the main advantages of the latest Pro Tools to earlier versions is the offline bounce, and seconds later it was ready to send to Paul as an un-compressed, stereo 24bit 48kHz wav file.

Thanks to the trailer video on Magpie’s Kickstarter page, we raised the required £12,000 to start making the film. Here’s the final result. Enjoy!

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I am a freelance sound designer and sound recorder for film and television. So far I have worked mainly on short dramas and comedies and hope to work on feature length films in the future as a sound designer. For more information visit: www.fireflyaudio.co.uk