Is this over my skill level?


Hi everyone,

It’s me again with yet another thread on sound. Recently, a representative of my film school came to ask me if I’d be willing to take on the sound post-production of a VFX heavy project made by some VFX students who couldn’t find a sound guy. I asked if he could show me what exactly he needed and when I saw it I was amazed.

The piece is a 3 minute sci-fi short film with very solid VFX and it had a robot in it!!! I just couldn’t resist myself I thought I’d be a fun challenge to tackle. There was only one problem, when they shot, they didn’t record any production sound so I’d have to do everything from scratch. I thought “there’s no dialog, you can manage” and, since they said that I could work at my own pace, I quickly accepted the project.

I anticipated that designing all the elements required by the project would be a challenge (and so it has proven to be). I think that “creatively”, the ideas I’ve put forward work but the execution keeps letting me down.

So that you can see what I mean here’s a link to the project, I recommend that you take a brief look at it before you continue reading (if you’ve made it this far I love you, by the way).

Link: [You’ll see that it’s in a very early stage]

There’re things I like, the hot metal “clanking” (is that a word) when the boy arrives at the crash site, etc. I think it still needs finessing but I know that with a better recording and a bit more time I can get that sounding the way I want it to, however…

The “tractor beam” (or that’s what I’ve called it) that activates to reassemble the pieces again… I like the idea, the sound I’ve used is the sound created by to little magnets that I’ve thrown in the air. As they bounce of one another they create this “wizzing” sound effect that I think makes sense for something like this the idea is that “little magnets” within the robots pieces are activating to reassemble the robot. I need some kind of “electrical motor spinning up” or something for the “robot core” because, since IT is the the place where all the pieces have to go I think it should have a special sound that I can later use to transition into a some sort of “idle” for the robot (if you think the short needs something else or you have any other suggestions, please let me know).

On paper it sounds great but in my Pro Tools session… not so much. I guess I need time to explore a little more and figure out what works and what doesn’t but I’ve been stuck here for weeks and I was wondering what you would do in my position.

I love the challenge and the opportunity to tackle something remotely “Hollywood-like” in Spain chances to tackle projects like this are very rare and plus, this is what I got into film for, to bring robots and spaceships to live! I live and breath sci-fi and this is my chance to “make sci-fi”! But so far I’ve achieved very little and I was fear that, in my eagerness to “make sci-fi” I may have gotten into a project I don’t yet have the skills to complete. I don’t have a deadline, they told me I can take as long as I want but I wonder if I’d be more educational to work under the direction of a more experienced “sound person”.

What are your thoughts?

I’ve done some “futuristic projects” before but nothing on this scale. So that you can get an idea of what I’ve done with “similar projects” in the past, here’s an example of my work which some of you might have seen already.


(I only have this “older version” available since my hard drive broke on my last weekend [I am sorry that you won’t be able to see most of the suggestions you guys made when I first posted this video on the forums incorporated]. BTW do you guys know if you can recover the data from a broken hard drive? (broken meaning it won’t even spin up when I connect it to my computer it’s as power was unable to reach it, not a light, nothing).

PS: BTW, I am overthinking the sounds? Meaning am I doing pointless work by trying to justify the origin of every sound? I think it makes sense to work like this but do you guys think I am taking it a bit too far? (I personally don’t but knowing your opinions would be very interesting),


I think it’s mainly the impact of some sounds (and lack thereof) that isn’t working too well for me. Though I’m not saying you’re doing badly, I think the project and what you’re doing for it are really cool.
What I’m noticing as in going through it is that the mix isn’t all that balanced. Foreground elements like the nerf gun sound distant and weak, and background stuff like the explosion/crash in the distance sounds too close. What we hear doesn’t make sense with what we see. It also feels like there isn’t enough build up/off for the crash landing itself. I think if you beefed up the rumbling by of the crashing object and started it a little sooner you could give it more presence and then let it diminish into the background where you won’t have to make the explosion sound so close because it’ll be loud in relation to the diminished rumbling that preceded it (if that makes sense).

I’d also like some faint wooshes and beeps of the other objects/drones/robots flying by to cement their presence into this world.

I think you need some Foley of the bicycling for the shots starting at 0:34 (and probably just a little into the previous shot to make a sound bridge for the audience). And maybe just Foley in general, it doesn’t feel right seeing the boy walking on ground and not hearing any footsteps.

I actually like the robot sounds when he gets sight of the boy, they are more unique and less like I’ve heard in other videos but very recognizable.
There are some details that could use a little love, like the tiny sparks happening on the main robot body at 0:53. Those look like they should make a sound, even if it’s tiny, but somebody went through the trouble of putting them there and I think they deserve a little attention.

Yeah definitely more Foley of metal bits rolling and sliding along the ground for the robot’s bits. Right now sound and visual don’t have enough in common yet for me. But the clinking is really good and I think it was clever to use the magnets for that.

Just a tiny comical hit would be good for the nerf dart on the boys head. And maybe a bit of beefing up for the rotating of the minigun, really make its threat felt you know?

The robot jumping and not making any sound, well you already get where I’m getting at.

And in the end again the whooshing and beeping of other flying things.

It’s a lot I know, but it all feels a bit empty right now and I think you need to think of all the little sounds we as an audience wouldn’t even think of, but we are missing them. I definitely don’t think you’re thinking too big. Keep up the good work!

I hope any of this is helpful, coming from the non-sound person that I am.


Shit @Jasper_Cloud, I uploaded a version with some rough audio that we made I’m an afternoon with the editor so that if they wanted to use the project for their VFX reels they had something with sound on it! I uploaded the wrong thing!

Give a minute to upload the proper video!

BTW, love your feedback, it’s very detailed, as always, if any of the guys contact me and ask me to improve a certain “part” of the project for their reel I’ll be sure to do all the changes you mentioned as I agree with pretty much all of them.

This is the proper video:

PS: It doesn’t matter that you “are a non-sound person” we all know what works and what doesn’t and what we like and what we don’t and that’s pretty much all we need in order to voice a valid opinion or give feedback. Thank you very much again for your kind help, I apreciate it.


Lol well that somehow still makes me feel as big a fool as you must’ve felt for sending the wrong video. It should have trucked with me that you would do something more complete.
Still glad my comments might have been helpful. I’ll listen to the real one in a bit.


It’s actually less complete, I wanted to tackle the big “sound design challenges” before going into the bits of the project that will give me more work but are less creatively challenging.

Since I am struggling with the aforementioned “big sound design challenges” there really isn’t much to look at.


I think you’re doing fine; these things can take a lot of time to do, especially if it’s your first project like this - you do get faster as you learn more tricks and build up your library :stuck_out_tongue:

In a project like this I tend to try to address two things at once with big sound design moments: one is the more “creative” part - where you have opportunities to create abstract or unique sounds, but second, I also try to address the important but “obvious” stuff early as well. For example, when the metal pieces are coming together, having stuff like gravel/rock movement and metal rattling is going to be really important, so I’d also try to add those things in that you know you’ll want now, rather than focusing exclusively on the more “unusual” sound design. The success or failure of your design choices depend on the overall sound as a whole, so it’ll actually help you design more effectively if you get some of the “basics” added in, too.


Got it.

I’ll give that a go and once I have something worth showing I’ll post on this thread again. Thanks @Kevin_Senzaki, I apreciate the help.