Out on the water, you’re surrounded by the sounds of water, wind and of course the humming engines of the ferry itself.
Mike Sakarias and Lucy Peckham of Both Ears Live Sound, an audio engineering business in Anchorage, recorded and perfected the sound of the Alaska Marine Highway.
Toward the middle of December I chatted with Kelli Burkinshaw, and she was interested in fleshing out some of the footage they had which had no sound to it and cleaning up some of the other things so it sounded like it looked because sometimes audio recorded on site doesn’t come out so well.
And so that sort of snowballed into me and the partner that I work with and her business, Both Ears Live Sound, becoming deeply involved and basically doing sound design for the whole thing.
We were involved pretty intensively all through January until it got to the point where things were locked. Then I worked with Kelli directly helping her come up with the final audio mix, adding suggestions and helping provide her some things we didn’t have yet.
Sound of the Ferries
One scene that I was devoted to right from the beginning there was a scene where the ferries are going through some pretty stormy seas. And the sound effects that were recorded with the camera are water splattering on the windshield and sort of wind noise, but there’s none of the low bassy sounds of the waves hitting the bow of the ship. In that particular case, the noise of the wave hitting the bow of the ship was from another sound that I had that I modified slightly so that it sounded – Boom—hitting the bow of the ship.
The Importance of Sound
When it’s being recorded, audio is put in the background. Because videographers think of video and audio people think about audio. It lends realism to the scene so that what you see sounds like what you’d expect if you were actually there. This is not overdone and over the top like movies where they’re trying to make it sound way more exciting. This is all designed to put the realism back into it. So if you were there, this is what you would expect to hear. It gives a sense of place and that’s probably the primary thing we were going for.
If you’re in Bellingham, you want it to sound like you’re in a harbor in Bellingham. If you’re inside the observation deck on a ferry during a storm then you want it to sound like that’s where you are. We were looking very closely at the footage. Sometimes, we weren’t even listening to the sounds that were recorded and then we’d sort of balance ‘this sound that was recorded is good, we need to keep that but we need to add to it because other sounds that were there just never got recorded.
So it’s just basically sort of restoring realism. I joke sometimes since I do a lot of audio work with TV that video is really boring without the sound.
Thinking about Sound
Just as an experiment, wherever you happen to be close your eyes and listen to where you are and try to imagine what’s going on. Sounds are all around us and sometimes since we’re very visually dominant people, we tend to ignore them even though our brain is processing all of them. And if you’re not looking at what’s around you, you can hear it very well. You’re actually picking up a lot more than you realize through your ears, it’s not just your eyes.