Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I frequently joke about this being a picture of the From Inside crew:

From left to right, including (and staying on) my thumb: production designer, art director, storyboard artist, technical director, simulation coordinator, lead layout artist, texture painter, lighting artist, render wrangler, supervising animator, character designer, editor... you get the idea.

That's a slight exaggeration.

From the start, I wanted to focus on the visuals as much as possible, so I brought my good friend Dustin Blegstad on-board as sound designer and production assistant.

I've worked with Dusty on a variety of projects over the years and have always admired his direct, no-nonsense approach. Blunt in a good way. From Inside has that same sense of directness, so I knew he'd do great work. I am always amazed by how much Dusty's sounds bring the shots to life -- even the simplest addition of a single sound adds so much life to the work.

Here is your guest blogger, Dustin Blegstad:


"So what does that sound like anyway?"

My basic approach to sound design for From Inside was to keep it as simple and as realistic as possible. I don't use a lot of effects. Just basic EQ, a few verbs, some pitch-shifting and simple layering of sounds. I'm not big on typical Hollywood sound design; guns don't sound like huge multi-layered explosions and tires don't burn rubber on dirt. When standing outside a menacing building, it doesn't produce an evil moan. Sharks don't growl and a punch doesn't sound like a 2x4 on a side of beef. Most modern movies exaggerate every little sound and are obnoxiously loud for seemingly no good reason. Louder isn't always better. Dynamics make it breathe. And as far as I'm concerned, thunder comes after lightning, just like in the real world.

Exaggerated sounds have their place, but not in this film. Natural sounds worked best.

I also tried to avoid purchasing sounds whenever possible, though for a few things it was necessary. I can't make a decent explosion without being arrested. And there aren't a lot of running steam engines available to take for a spin on a Saturday afternoon.

Since this is an animated film, when John gives me scenes they are completely silent. No dialog, nothing. It's really cool to start with a blank slate and begin filling it from scratch. It's wide open with possibilities.

I watch each scene a few times and make a list of all the elements I think I'm going to need. Then I add to the list what I think will make those sounds. The list reads like an insane person's to-do list.

Insane grocery list or haiku?

Another one:

After recording the sounds I dump them into Pro Tools and sync-to-scene, making adjustments for panning, effects and fades.

Finally, I deliver the audio files to John and he drops them into the master edit and we go back and forth making adjustments until it's finished. On to the next scene.

Sounds easy enough huh? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Let's just say that I have a swear jar and I started throwing credit cards in after a while. I switched to credit cards after John had me re-do and re-do and re-do the sound of a cigarette smoker exhaling... only to decide later that the scene worked best with Just Music. (!@#%ing Decider!)

This shot has no sound effects and that is a goddamn motherfucking crime:

The best part of the process, for me, is recording the raw sounds. Going to a location or working in the studio to record something specific - it's all fun. And I get to break stuff . A lot.

During one field recording session, I found myself hanging from an overpass thirty feet above the ground with a microphone in my hand while a train sped by overhead. I had a sudden moment where I thought; “What the fuck am I doing? Oh yeah, I'm making a movie.” Maybe John will give me credit for stunt man as well. I wish I had brought a camera that night.

This is a good place to get yourself killed. To be exact; 39° 0'55.46"N, 94°30'56.99"W:

The bridge above was a great source for sound effects. Besides recording trains crossing it, hitting it with a sledgehammer sounded awesome. The bridge also appears in the film.

Here is a shot of the 3D model John built of the bridge:

Also, just for reference, if you hang out in a rail yard at midnight and sneak around with a hand-held electronic device, someone will undoubtedly question your presence. This may or may not result in arrest. It depends on what type of shoes you're wearing. I suggest some type of high quality running shoe.

In another instance, we needed to make the sound of train wheels moving on tracks submerged under water. We decided that the best thing to do would be to flood a garage and drag the blade of a dolly through the water, scraping the concrete floor. Worked great, but I'm not sure how much it helped property value.

Sounds like Hell:

Need sound for a baby being delivered? Get a big chunk of scrap meat from a butcher (I prefer beef tenderloin, pork is better for zombies) and put it in a sink. Place a microphone in front of it and move it around a bit. Gross? Yes, but it sounds cool.


The sound of From Inside is almost finished. I still have to add sound to a couple of pick up shots, but nothing major. I'm going to make another pass on the whole film just to make sure there aren't any glaringly obvious mistakes. If there are, it's John's fault.

Working with John is always a great experience and I'm hoping when this is done we can work together on another film soon.

Here are a couple of screen grabs.

Leviathan. Probably the most fun to do:

Buffalo slaughter, second favorite.