On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act which will ultimately require NHTSA to issue a safety standard that could require vehicle manufacturers to equip electric and hybrid cars with a sounder device alerting pedestrians – specifically the visually-impaired. Although the details are being determined, this sound will generally need to meet criteria for being recognizable and detectable by pedestrians.
Ford is researching different sounds for recognizability, detectability, and overall likeability in the context of an Electric Vehicle. While this sound will heard by those outside the vehicle, Ford doesn’t intend for the occupants inside to hear these sounds; the interior driving environment should remain free from these artificial sounds.
As Ford is focused on all aspects of how its vehicles interact with the driver and with the external environment – think of it as “Ford DNA” – we want to explore a broad design space for these sounds. Ford is collaborating with Oracle Post-Production/Unity Studio to leverage its sound mixing expertise and the state-of-the-art sound production capabilities to create, mix, and optimize different audio elements for the EV sound.
These sounds are being carefully evaluated in different environments for their intended (pedestrian alert) as well as unintended (noise pollution) effects. We appreciate your feedback, and stay tuned to this page for more info.
To develop a selection of sounds for the upcoming 2012 Focus Electric, Ford tapped the expertise of Detroit- and California-based Oracle Post-Production/Unity Studio.These photos show part of the sound gathering and mixing process, which resulted in more than 15 sounds Ford is considering for its first all-electric vehicle.
Oracle Post specializes in audio post production for animation feature films, TV, promos and commercials. Animation customers have increased in the last few years and include El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, SpongeBob Squarepants and The Penguins of Madagascar. All on Nickelodeon.
Oracle’s Burbank studio Recorded the California based voice talent – Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Nicolette Sheridan and the trio of kids – for the recent feature Fly me to the moon, the first animated film conceived for the 3D stereoscopic viewing. “ The film was animated with the Pixar software so the lip sync was much more detailed than in some animated features; we had to pay a lot of attention to how the voice actors especially the children, enunciated and punctuated each word “ explains CEO Paulette Lifton who’s partnered with husband Jimmy Lifton in the company.
Recordist Bill Devine, Rob McIntyre and Brian Magrum recorded the talent to Pro Tools using U87 mics. The voice actors had storyboards and a few animatics as reference.
“Since all the animation was going to be done in Europe we recorded to a PAL Pro Tools session and had a lipstick camera on stage to capturing their performance”, Lifton reports. “We deliver the recordings on hard drives and FTP’d some files.”
Recording sessions spanned about a year. “ Over such a long period of time it’s important to keep the sound consistent,” she says, “You can’t always have the same recordist but everyone has to work at the same quality level and understand the workflow. Producers really appreciate that.”
“That is the beauty of working in animation,” says Jimmy Lifton, president of Oracle Post (www.oraclepost.com). “We can do things in SpongeBob that are absolutely not of this world. I often can’t believe some of the sounds we created were done here in Foley. Animation gives us the ability to play with aspects of sound modulation that you don’t get to do in live action.”
For SpongeBob SquarePants, the process starts with the voice recording at Nickelodeon. The final dialogue is delivered to Oracle Post in sync with final picture. Once in Pro Tools HD the sound design team, headed by Jeff Hutchins, completes the background and effects. Foley mixer Aran Tanchum and lead Foley artist Vincent Giusetti create the Foley, which is equally as integral to the show as the sound design. Also important to the process is producer Paul Tibbit, Nickelodeon’s Jason Stiff and Kimberlee Vanek, as well as supervising sound editor Paulette Lifton.
Most animated shows record the character’s voices prior to the final animation. As result, the dialogue tracks alone are reminiscent of a radio show during the golden age of that medium. Jimmy Lifton explains, “We just recorded the voices for an animation show call ‘Back at the Barnyard’. It was just like a radio performance where we set up for eight different actors all in the same room, all on their own mics. We set them up just like the old-style radio show with gobos in between each person. They were working off of a script with the director, and the creative juices of these actors were really flowing. Ultimately, this recording will be driving the picture.”
“Most everything works solely from the audio stand point, where the visuals are not relied on at this stage,” he continues. “It’s really a combination of the writing and the acting. It starts with the writing, and then it is certainly the talent of these actors who give life to the writing. In animation, you are not able to see the actor’s facial mannerisms. It really is what you are hearing to get the character’s emotion. I am sure the way a line is delivered must have some sort of bearing on the way the animation is drawn.”
SpongeBob SquarePants uses signature sounds to help define the show’s look and feel. “The sound is used to build an entire landscape, an entire environment, and an entire feel for the show,” explains Lifton. “It’s to the point where every single character has their own specific sounds. For example, they all have their own squeaks and identifiable sounds of waling. Also, using this fun Hawaiian banjo and ukulele type of music has absolutely been a trademark of the show. It’s a combination of the visual and the sound together that bring the characters to life.”
Lifton says that water has a continual presence in SpongeBob. “It’s down to the subconscious level, because otherwise it would be distracting if it were always there. Even though SpongeBob lives under the sea, you can’t have voices all gurgley – that wouldn’t work at all. So, we are taking a lot of different sound design elements and treating them with different plug-ins. A lot of it goes back to the Foley side of it. We have a fairly large pool on our Foley stage, and we are doing all kinds of water with that.”
At the heart of their audio production is Pro Tools HD, along with the database management software Soundminer. “We are real-world recording many things using Audio-Technica mics for sounds and Neumann U-87’s for voices. We take that into our Pro Tools sessions and use things such as the Komplete plug-in from Native instrument for sampling and to modify or bend things. We also have the M-Audio Micro Track just for the ease of recording.” They call on Dynaudio for monitoring and they mix on THX certified JBL systems. All the stages are 5.1 THX-designed rooms featuring Digidesign’s Pro-Control and Control 24.