News Archive
Archived news from MWS Media
23
October
2017

Corn Exchange - Crossing Lines

So we do lots of filming for the Corn Exchange, in Newbury. They are always putting on cool events that showcase the real breadth and diversity of the arts in their live outdoor events. We recently got to film this intoxicating piece, performed by a mixture of local artists and the team from Pan.Optikum, along with Newbury’s own Corn Exchange and 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, who bring multi-cultural and multi-lingual aspects to the performance, forcing the audience to focus on the narrative as it meandered through to its conclusion via the mediums of dance, movement, graffiti, and even a massive rain machine! How cool is that?! Well, it was cool until the front row of audience members realised what was happening and got completely soaked! :-)
The stage was huge, as the video showcases, and was also double-sided to allow the narrative of the performance piece to split up and take you on a different journey, depending on what side you were watching.

Check it out…

Phil

11
September
2014

Ears Are Idiots

This may be a little bit of a technical blog but fingers crossed it will highlight some things you already knew, but didn’t know you knew about how things work in the audio industry.

Sound is a wonderful thing and our ears allow us to hear such aural delights as birdsong, a child's laughter, Iggy Azaleas new single or the noises our MD Ben makes in the 2 days preceding a half hour gym session (maybe not the last two).

But what you might not be so aware of is that in relative contrast to your eyes your ears can be deceived relatively easily. Currently here at MWS we are mixing and designing the sound for our upcoming feature film collaboration with Primley Road Productions 'The Catch' (Plug, plug). Now although 'The Catch' is a relatively straight forwards film in terms of sound design (we have no huge car chases to foley or new alien dialects to create), it comes with it’s fair share of challenges. But let me first draw your attention to some more obvious examples that you can relate to.

Star Wars

What would an actual star war sound like? Would they sound anything like master sound designer Ben Burts epic soundscapes of explosions, laser cannons and screaming ion engines? No they wouldn’t because space is a vacuum and no sound travels in a vacuum. Therefore what we would hear would in fact be silence, Burt and co cheated our ears into thinking that there was (awesome) sounds when in fact there would be none.

Ok maybe that's a bit harsh on our ears as few of us have first hand experience of space audio. How about…

Car Tyres

Ever scene a car pull away in a movie and heard the tyres screeching on tarmac? Loads I bet. Ever heard the same thing in real life. Perhaps, but lets face it when a young buck pulls away from traffic lights on the A4 having whipped the clutch out like their movie heroes, the wheels make a stuttering gripping noise as they struggle to find tarmac. Rarely the uniform constant rotation on a smooth surface which would cause such a screech. Do we care? No because it sounds great and adds gravitas and power to the moment. Let’s stick with vehicles...

Gear Changes

During the famous canal chase scene in James Cameron's masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnold’s bike changes up a gear 14 times (sources vary). Fast and Furious movies see our drivers shift through around 200 gears with a simple stick shifter. It certainly helps to build tension though.

Fighting

Ever punched/been punched/seen someone being punched? (Don’t answer out loud) I myself being a rugby player have no idea what one of those is but I have it on good authority that is sounds absolutely nothing like it does in the action films. If it did such films would be very short as one of those impacts would be paramount to a blow with a sledge hammer.

Nightclubs

Again, no idea what these are except from seeing them in films, but have you ever wondered how people can talk to each other at such a graceful level whereas inside the real thing you’ll be lucky not to blow your voice out ordering a drink (orange juice)?

I could go on and I’m sure you have plenty of examples yourself and will annoy your family next time you sit down to watch TV (mine don’t let me anymore). So why do we so readily deceive our poor ears? Two main reasons. For dramatic effect and to help the narrative. We touched on examples of dramatic effect above with screeching tyres, epic battles and crunching blows. Try to imagine those horrible scenes in horror movies. Bone crunches, flesh ripping, blood and guts, all of those distressing noises are amplified in volume considerably higher than is realistic in order to pull you in to the happenings and further immerse you into the terror.

As for the narrative part take the 'Nightclub'. If we can’t hear what our characters are saying to each other then we are going to struggle to follow the story. Think of all the times you’ve watched a scene with someone far from the camera with perhaps a busy road in between them and you. Hows the dialogue? Clear as a bell? Of course it is as audio designers and engineers we sometimes have to compromise realism for clarity and story telling and thankfully most of the time our ears let us do that.

So maybe it's harsh to say that our ears are idiots. In fact the ease at which they can be deceived leads to a much wider breadth of creativity and greater margin of error for some technical aspects. Most of your summer blockbusters will be overdubbed using ADR a technique whereby the original dialogue is replaced with studio recorded sound and synced to the footage. Look closely and you can sometimes pick out minor mis syncs on even the grandest of productions (again, I recommend doing this on your own away from friends and family). But it leads to lovely clear crisp dialogue and often the ability for a director to recapture elements of a performance after the shoot.

Ears, you may be a little stupid. But we love you.

Nick

Categories: Film, Audio

04
December
2015

FollowOn - FSP & TVP

We worked on two fantastic noteworthy projects in November, Team144's Foundation SP video, and Thames Valley Police's Drink Drive campaign video for this Christmas.

Phil

Categories: Film

18
June
2014

Corporate Video Music Creation



So I personally, as a songwriter and composer, don’t really believe that there’s too much difference at all between writing a piece of music for yourself, with heartfelt lyrics that mean something to you and a melody and chord changes to die for, and a piece of corporate music that lies underneath a corporate video, often about something the writer of that music (or music as the case may be) cares very little about.
A slightly odd claim I suppose. Most other songwriters and composers that I know would probably say that there is a marked difference between music they’re writing out of love and passion for their craft, and a piece of music that will mostly be ignored as it sits under a voice over track talking about something not related to the music at all.  I thoroughly disagree, which brings me on to my first point about corporate video music creation.

Love it
I believe you have to love it, or at the very least try to love it as you’re writing it. Just like someone who’s being interviewed and they clearly aren’t comfortable being on camera, which really shines through on the screen sometimes, I think music is similar in that you can almost hear the laziness in the writing of someone who has created a track that they don’t think is important enough to put more effort in to it.
The trick I always use is to ask myself “would I be happy playing this track to anyone, without having to explain that it’s a piece of backing track music for a video?” And the reason I do that is because I consider my standards to be fairly high, and I’m sure my friends and family who I play my own tracks to would be able to spot if I’d written something and put very little effort in to it! Also I think more importantly so would the client you’re writing it for!

Skill
Over the past seven years of working in video and creating tracks for all sorts of different types of videos (corporate and public sector mainly) I’ve noticed that there’s actually quite a skill in creating something that works for the video; something that isn’t too catchy, but is nice enough to listen to and remember, from the viewers point of view, and of course suits the video itself. Most of the tracks I write for myself I try and make the melodies as strong as possible, and spent years striving to achieve this. Yet with corporate video music you almost need to do the opposite. I certainly wouldn’t know how to advise doing this unfortunately, but I do know that I wasn’t very good at it early on because the tracks I was creating were basically too memorable and therefore became annoying on repeated watches of the videos. They were too repetitive and eventually I learned that balance between the different parts of music, to avoid them becoming irritating to listen to, is really important and very much part of the skill and craft of songwriting itself, just as much for corporate as it is for personal music.

Listen
The one biggest thing I would advise if you’re setting out to create a corporate video music track is to listen. Listen to the client first and foremost. Ask them to describe exactly what they’re after. The number of times a client has said to us “Just something upbeat will do fine” is crazy. We’ve then selected a track, one that’s been described back to us as “upbeat” time and time again by previous clients, but our current client will for some unknown reason then not feel that the track is right. I say unknown reason, that’s not quite true. The reason is obvious; music is subjective. One persons “upbeat” is another persons “meh…”. This is why asking clients to describe what they want in as much detail as possible is very important if you are creating a brand new track for them. I usually ask them to describe the kind of track they’d like in no less than five words, and give at least two examples of other tracks to listen to that are similar.
Get them to give you examples so that you can see exactly what they’re after. Then go and listen to those example tracks, even if they’re songs you already know (refreshing your ears with a recent listen sometimes reveals things you haven’t heard in the mix of a track before). Sometimes it may even help to ask about specific instrumentation, especially if the client you’re liaising with is a musical person as well. If the client has requested something with an electro-pop feel to it, and as a songwriter you really don’t feel that the video will work, then as a video creator you should be trying to do two things; explain to the client politely why it may be better to use a different style of music for the video, but also to try and incorporate an electro-pop feel in to what you’re writing anyway. After all, it’s the clients video not yours. Personally I’ve also always enjoyed the challenge of writing in a style I’m not used to, pushing myself a little bit each time to broaden my skill set and develop the craft of songwriting further. I realize that sounds a bit cheesy to say it like that, but with my business hat on I actually think that’s the best attitude to have. My own tracks are statistically less likely to bring me any revenue in comparison to my corporate music tracks, via the company, so it’s probably a good idea to be able to turn my hand to anything rather than be a one-trick-pony style composer!

Chicken and Egg
There’s an odd thing about writing a corporate video track. The music is often dictated by the cut of the visuals. That often gives the video its pace, and therefore it’s musical tempo. Let’s say the video also contains clips for example of children in Africa; as a songwriter you may want to try and incorporate some traditional African instruments so the video and music has a more homogenous feel to it, unconsciously or consciously. But, and it’s a big but, the problem comes in that a good visual edit is often guided by the music track itself. So, which do you do first, the visual cut or the music?
The approach we usually take is to discuss the music with the client to the point where we know what we need to create, then use a similar piece of music (in terms of tempo and feel) for the editor to cut the visuals together to. Then simply replace the music with the new track once it’s finished, and slightly adjust some of the cuts where necessary. If you’re going to use a similar approach, don’t forget to let the client know the track you’re using to show them the initial drafts of the video is just a guide for the editor and not the final piece of music! People become strangely attached to tracks once they’ve heard them a few times over…

That’s just an overview to our approach; mine specifically, to creating original music for videos. In the next blog I’ll go in to more detail about using Pro-Tools to create tracks, instrumentation, tempo and the general feel of the music. I’ll also describe exactly how I go about recording and mixing tracks.

 

Phil

Categories: Audio

26
June
2014

Equipment Review - Rode's Invisilav

 



Well, for anyone who read my other blogs about recording live sound across 8 different mics for our improvised feature length film, you’ll remember that we used lapel mics on our two actors to capture their unrehearsed dialogue for the duration of the filming.
In order to hide the mics we decided to purchase and try out Rode’s Invisilav mic concealing gadget. Here’s my review of the product and our experience using it on our film.

Out the box
So straight out the tiny box the gear arrived in, it looks like a smart and tidy product. There are instructions, but essentially the product is two things; a silicone mic holder and some double sided sticky tape. Sounds basic doesn’t it? And it is to be fair. Although that’s not meant to sound harsh, it’s been well designed and thought out. There’s even a second lapel mic holder in the silicone for backup lapel mics, which is a neat idea. It came with several of the double sided sticky tape bits for repeated use, and you’ll need these…

Setup
Naturally being a guy I decided instruction were for wallys and cracked on with using the kit without looking once at the instructions. After all, it’s some tape and a piece of silicone, how complex could this really be? Well, actually, it was annoyingly fiddly and complex. I’ll admit it, I could not peel the backing off one side of the tape, and it frustrated the hell out of me! But after a look at the instructions I noticed it does clearly say which side to peel off first. I’d not done that. “Ah ha!” I thought. “That’s where I’m going wrong!” So I discarded the now mangled sticky tape and tried on another, this time attempting to peel off the correct side first. Useless, utterly useless. I’m not sure why, but these bits of sticky tape with backing on both sides have for some reason been designed for aliens with special powers as far as I can see. It took forever to peel the first bit of backing off successfully. When you’ve finally done it, the trick is to then attach to the back of the silicone and then peel off the other side and attach to either the inside of clothing or the chest of the person you’re miking up. And to be fair once you’re there that’s all the hassle over and done with. The lapel mic fits snuggly into the silicone, assuming you’re using one that fits. It’s quite small so do make sure you’re using either Rode’s lapel mics or one small enough to fit in. We used the Sennheiser G3 and it squished the silicone out a little but still worked perfectly ok in the field.

Useage
So it simply has one job, record the sound of the actor it’s stuck to. And as you’d expect, with good placement it does that perfectly well. Naturally being placed under the clothes it hides the lapel mic perfectly, although we did noice that on very flimsy clothing, the weight of the silicone and mic pulls a little on the clothing which does show up, but it depends just how hidden you need it to be really as to whether this would affect your filming or not.
Where it really comes in handy is not only to hide the mic, but to eliminate the rustle you get from placing lapel mics on or under clothing. I have to say I’m really very impressed with this aspect of the product. When it was first suggested I read a review online written by a friend of ours, Tim Fok (coincidentally he ended up being one of the five camera operators we used on the shoot!) and I have to say I was very wary that something we eliminate the rustle of clothing enough to actually be a useful recording. Well, I was very wrong. Yes, there were moments where the actors moved theirs arms around and sure the Invisilav was not able to stop the sound of clothing movement going in to the mic. But for the main it did an excellent job when the actors weren’t moving around much, and were largely sat still just chatting to each other beside a tree. I have to admit I was impressed, and from this point of view I would certainly recommend the product.
If it could be improved in any way I’d obviously suggest the sticky tape issue was addressed so that it take moments to setup, rather than minutes, which eventually feels like an age given you’re simply trying to peel some tape off something. It does make you look rather incompetent in front of everyone watching. Although when everyone else tried they also all found it difficult, so it really is a flaw in the product. But, a minor one at that.

Overall
All in all, a great experience with the Rode Invisilav, we’ve ended up using practically the entire recordings made from each mic using the silicone product (we had one on each actor). And largely the entire film audio is those two mics, so not bad really for a feature length film, especially considering we really didn’t pay much for the product itself. It saved us having to boom the whole thing, which would’ve basically been impossible anyway! So thanks Rode and well done!

 

Phil

Categories: Audio

18
March
2014

Houston we have lift off

Houston, we have lift off!

Filled with newy-newness, fresh out the box, and raring to go; our new website is here for your personal enjoyment. You can thank us later.

Not only is it pretty to look at (just like us) it’s also filled with VIDEO, you know that thing proven to be the most effective and most popular method of communication!

Another awesome thing about our new site is the Members Area! If you sign up then you get exclusive access to all sorts of Tips Videos, Guides and Templates to help you make sexy looking video for your business!

We’ve also got a new blog to fill you in with all things MWS, give you some inspirational ideas for your next video and to point out any industry updates you might need to know.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Play. And then tell us what you think!

Hayley

Categories: General

31
July
2014

Down the Marketing Rabbit Hole

Due to creative interests, I’m afraid I carry that habit of trying to find meaning in everything, anything, which has a danger of irritating those other personalities who prefer a more pragmatic life.

At MWS Media we could potentially suffer from this condition, given our creative outlets, were it not for setting clear goals and structures in our marketing plans, and equally with client projects, collaborating with their ideas to produce effectively targeted video.

But if I were to go back to my habit, I’ve wanted to see if I can find business relevance in a story I’ve grown up with, and if there is advice and ideas there. I recently re-read Alice in Wonderland, and if I looked at it from a marketing and business perspective, which still seems odd to do, there were some unexpected parallels. (Admittedly, I was looking for them.) 

If there’s one thing Alice in Wonderland could possibly teach us if we ever tried to translate it into the world of business, it’s about perception, presumptions and dealing with different people.

Despite how outrageous and surreal these characters are in this story, there are aspects in all of them that could be seen to reflect certain types of marketers and the marketing strategy behind them.

What I’d like to think about for this post is how some of the quotes in the story can act as advice, and how some characters are identifiable to your work in marketing and developing business. I will explain each anecdote under the title Personality, or Perspective, just to make it clearer (or perhaps more pretentious.)

So imagine for a moment that Alice is both yourself and potential customer, and Wonderland embodies not just your business and brand, but the world around you too.

Personality: The Cheshire Cat

This is a certain type of marketing manager that provides both good and bad qualities. The good thing about being a Cheshire Cat marketer is you might offer industry knowledge and customer sympathy, giving your business that large smile that everyone else will now remember. However despite your efforts to reassure your audience (‘Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here’) there is no real reason to believe or be guided by you because you stay completely out of the action. Be careful to lead by example, rather than staying up in your tree suggesting routes, leaving Alice more confused.

Personality: The Queen of Hearts

This kind of marketer or sales person has a good amount of success to prove their worth, they dominate others and shout the loudest so they can’t possibly be ignored. Whilst these qualities may guarantee your voice is heard, the major flaw in this character as a marketer is that you may lack foresight, cutting ‘heads’ off before you appreciate the potential benefits of that particular marketing ‘playing card’. You may only be able to grab short chunks of attention before your audience starts to drift, with no real plan of how to make the audience’s experience of your business durational. Always think ahead of how a customer or potential customer could engage with you over time.

Perspective: “Speak English!' said the Eaglet. “I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and I don't believe you do either!”

It’s very much that awkward moment of being called out in front of everyone, and on social media nowadays it is harder to cover up. If you’re not going to make enough effort to engage with your customers on a familiar level, and instead use technical terminology, then you stand the danger of baffling them into frustration, they won’t respond well and they will challenge your knowledge too.

Perspective: “I wish I hadn't cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears!”

This could serve as a warning to those marketing managers out there who believe that their current plan is the only effective one for their business. This is especially dangerous if this marketing plan is more than 3 years old. The world is changing and people are experimenting with new and exciting ways to connect with people. Your old strategy, like Alice, is shrinking into a less effective way compared with new ones out there, and if all you can do is cry about it then you may have lost the followers you had and it’s too late to get them back.

Perspective: “If it had grown up, it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.”

I believe this is a good example of playing to your strengths. Marketing is all about bringing out the best qualities of your business and enjoying them. There’s no use pretending to be like any other business, otherwise you will just be as an ‘ugly child’, with no positive qualities that stand out. Yes, you might be a ‘pig’, but you’re the handsome kind of pig, and Alice preferred to see him that way, just as your customers want to see the best version of you.

Personality: The Mad Hatter

Perhaps the best marketer in the book, if a little risky, although he ruined it at the end. Throughout the tea-party, he engages Alice with questions, challenging her presumptions and also including her in the internal matters of the table. The first technique all three of them use is to stress the exclusivity of their party, and whilst most marketer’s aim is to invite, it’s essential to make any new follower or customer feel that they have joined something either exclusive or special, perhaps with access to other benefits. However, Alice leaves on account of the Hatter’s remark, “I don’t think – ““Then you shouldn’t talk.” which is important to avoid with any existing follower or customer. For one, don’t interrupt them if they are confused, and also don’t brush off their concern carelessly.

And finally...

Perspective: “…which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

If, as a marketer or sales person, you want to monitor your success, this is the question you need to ask yourself frequently. You should have a clear idea of what you want to stand out in your business, how you want to connect with your customers or followers, and how you want to be seen on the outside, and the route you take should inform this success.

Alice only wanted to get somewhere, whereas if she’d had a good idea, she may have found a clearer path.

 

Gemma

Categories: General

08
May
2014

Evoking Emotions

A lot of businesses want to use video production in their marketing strategy because they’ve realised the power and popularity of video and start to envision viral view numbers. The reality can be quite different. When we are asked to come up with some creative ideas for a video we first ask the all important question… What is the video for?

Business is done by people and people are more likely to do business with people they like. There’s a reason people pay a lot of money for top brand perfumes for example, rather than cheaper high street versions; it’s because brands are built on how people feel about them. How is your video going to make people feel? Is this video to show off a certain product? Is it to grow brand awareness? Is it giving advice or tips? Is it going to go on your website or on your social channels?

These things really do matter. Video that works creates an emotional response so if you want your video to be viewed (and shared) by the people that you want to reach you need to create an emotional connection. The purpose of the video should dictate how you want to make them feel.

Is your video funny or entertaining, leaving the viewer feeling amused and more likely to remember you in a fond way? Are they engaged and grateful that you shared that information?

Here is one of my favourite examples of a brand video creating an emotional response from their target audience:

And here is my favourite example of a humourous video making a business more memorable:

It’s a shame when we see videos where businesses have set out to create something to help their business grow and end up with a heavily branded video that’s sits exactly in line with strict brand guidelines and doesn't generate any views or success for them. All because it doesn’t evoke any emotion (other than maybe boredom…).

We hope this has been helpful, even if it just means you’ll always remember who to go to for taxidermy! As always, feel free to leave us feedback or to tell us the subjects you want covered!

Thanks,

Hayley

Categories: Tips

13
June
2014

Improvised Film; Sound Mixing

 

In my blog post last week I talked about recording the audio for our latest feature film, which is a completely improvised film with no script, just characters who meet at a tree in a field and essentially have a completely unscripted conversation. Even we didn’t know what they were going to say and our job was to record it, which as you can imagine was a bit of a mission!

We placed multiple mics around the location itself and the two actors also wore lapel mics that were discreetly hidden under the tops they were wearing. The lapel mics were initially considered more of a backup solution, just in case the other mics didn’t pick up clearly enough the dialogue. However when importing and syncing the eight different mic sources it became clear that while the six mics placed around the location had captured the dialogue cleanly, none of them had captured the level of detail the lapel mics were giving us.

Before importing and syncing the audio sources I’d imagined we’d be using a blend of mic sources to create the final mix itself, but there were phasing issues, and the sources themselves sounded too different from each other to easily swap back and forth between different mics. It would’ve been a bit of a nightmare trying to select the best source for each line, then also have to try and EQ each mic so that they all sounded cohesive and natural to listen to.

The other option was to simply pick the best source, which was clearly the lapel mics, and to work harder on getting those to sound as good as they can. For the most part this method makes it a lot easier to achieve more, faster. I applied simple compression, EQ and basic gates to each lapel mic source and then proceeded to listen though to the tracks individually, adjusting the setting for the inserts as and when each required it. After approximately fifteen to twenty minutes I’d heard as much as I was going to in terms of range of dynamics and volume, so I was confident the setting of the compressors, EQ’s and gates would be good enough to do the job of keeping the sound mix of the film under control.

The next step was to painstakingly go through the two tracks individually again, picking out all of the pops, clicks, interference and general rustle and noise on each lapel mic track. For some reason one mic was particularly prone to interference noise, while the other was more prone to clicks and pops? Either way, I used good old-fashioned cut and paste techniques to cover up any noises I didn’t want to hear. There were lots of moments of silence between the actor’s dialogue where I was able to steal snippets of “silence” to paste over random clicks and pops.

The actors were also sat close enough to be able to dip the volume of one mic and bring up the other mic momentarily, where I needed to cover a click or pop that occurred when an actor was speaking.

Probably the biggest challenge is wind and plane noise. It’s random, can sometimes completely cover a line of dialogue if its loud enough, and worst of all happens just when you don’t want it to! I used EQ as best as possible to reduce the level of wind and plane noise during dialogue, but ultimately in the end we decided that the rustic, gorilla feel that we took to the film meant that leaving some wind and plane noise in actually brought quite a nice texture to the sound mix, especially considering there is nothing else to listen to in the whole feature other than two actors speaking. The film is actually sometimes more about the silence between the lines than the lines themselves as well. Because the actors were improvising every line, there are a lot of beautiful silent sections where you can see the characters thinking about how to respond to what’s just been said. And so all those little things that make up the audio soundscape of the field they were in at the time, the birds, the trees, planes flying overheard, wind, rustle of clothing during movement, these are all the things that make it actually quite an interesting listen as a sound track, rather than simply tidying the whole thing up, whacking some music and audio sfx here and there and just giving audiences exactly what they expected to hear.

We hope it’s a nice refreshing change if and when you ever view the film, to know that every moment you see, and in particular hear, was a natural, organic moment created by the two actors as their characters, and everything you hear is exactly how it happened on the day of filming itself as well.

 

Phil

Categories: Film, Audio

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