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COURSE DESCRIPTION

A course in the ethical, aesthetic, technical, and organizational principles that govern the recording and post-production of dialogue, music, and effects.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

Through the project-based work of this course, the student will:

  • identify aural messages as they occur in media.
  • articulate the contributions of dialogue, music, foley, effects, and atmospheres to film and digital video.
  • articulate the aesthetic and ethical challenges common to processes of audio production.
  • develop a message that can be effectively communicated through digital video and audio.
  • use the elements of digital video and audio production to communicate that message.
  • identify the pre-production design activities that govern the use of audio in media.
  • engage in audio-sensitive storyboarding, production design, location scouting, scheduling, budgeting, and casting, for the purpose of making a digital video.
  • articulate the principles that govern the recording of location dialogue, voice-over, and automated dialogue replacement.
  • record discrete, redundant tracks of dialogue according to those principles.
  • articulate the principles that govern recording multi-track instrumental and vocal music in a studio setting.
  • record discrete, redundant tracks of music according to those principles.
  • articulate the principles that govern recording foley, effects, and atmospheres.
  • record discrete, redundant tracks of foley, effects, and atmospheres according to those principles.
  • articulate the principles that shape the grammar and mechanics of digital audio signal processing, editing, and mixing.
  • articulate the principles of project organization and stem mixing which facilitate collaboration in post-production.
  • edit and mix recorded audio according to those principles.
  • explain the processes of storing and distributing a finished digital video.
  • store a finished digital video and prepare it for distribution.
  • direct and respond to the direction of others.
  • learn principles and terminology of media project planning and management.

GRADING

FORMAT OF WRITTEN WORK
Unless otherwise indicated, written assignments should be typed in MLA format, then submitted as hard copies. Substantiating paperwork (storyboards, lighting plots, scripts, talent releases) tends to be rewarded with higher grades if presented professionally (i.e., typed in easily-navigable folders or binders). Written work submitted by e-mail should be formatted as .pdf (not MS-Word) files.

LATE SUBMISSION AND PENALTIES
The majority of Audio Production coursework will take the form of practical performance and projects. If you are not present in class when your name is called to undertake a task, your work will be considered late. If your work is submitted incomplete or otherwise outside the assignment’s specified format parameters, it will be returned to you for correction. Upon resubmission, it will be considered late work.

Late work can earn no more than a maximum of 64 points. Work is considered late if it is submitted (or, in the case of e-mail, time-stamped) after lecture begins on the due date. If, because of extreme and prolonged sickness, you miss a deadline and are able to substantiate a claim of incapacitation with a note from a reputable doctor or Calvin Health Services, the grades of your remaining assignments will be given greater weight to compensate. Otherwise, you will receive a zero for the assignment. Examinations must be taken when scheduled.

FEEDBACK AND REVISION
Syllabus deadlines are the date and time an assignment is due in its final version. The nature of filmmaking is such, however, that you should plan on soliciting your professor’s feedback on at least two intermediate versions of each project. While this is not a requirement, you ignore this recommendation at significant peril to your grade.

QUIZZES
Quizzes may be given without warning to encourage attendance and affirm content mastery throughout the term.

PARTICIPATION
Participation will be evaluated throughout the semester by professor and peers based on student contribution to class community. Assigning the grade, I am chiefly concerned with the following questions:

  1. To what degree and in what ways does the student demonstrate respect for his/her audience and co-laborers?
  2. To what degree and in what ways does the student model dependability and responsibility?
  3. In what ways has the student participated in work load, idea generation, and leadership — apart from the work necessary to complete his/her individual assignments?
  4. Of what value are the student’s criticism and suggestions for improvement valued by his/her peers?

GRADE SCALE
Coursework will be weighted as indicated:

Projects 60%
Participation20%
Final Exam10%
Quizzes & Assignments10%

 

Assignment grades will be based on the following scale:

96-100A78-81C
94-95A-75-77C-
91-93B+72-74D+
88-90B68-71D
85-87B-65-67D-
82-84C+0-64F

Responding to students’ desire for the most immediate feedback on their project work, grades and comments are reported via Moodle. It is therefore the responsibility of students to regularly consult Moodle for the most current report of their grades.

COURSE STRUCTURE AND PROJECT GUIDELINES

Sequenced assignments lead student groups in CAS 249 through audio design and production tasks, building upon skills and work products as they advance through the semester. Assignments in the last half of the term often employ footage shot or effects recorded in the first half. The assignments combine and culminate in the production and exhibition of a short film. Students who, therefore, commit themselves to the highest quality of work in the course’s initial projects – location dialogue recording, for example – are likely to get better grades on successive assignments which incorporate that earlier work – say, dialogue editing and mixing. Simply put: the better your raw footage in October, the better your rough cut at mid-term, the better your final project grade in December.

Because film is chiefly a collaborative art, your work is not solely your own. You share it with others. Uniform strategies of disc management and documentation are so essential to an efficient workflow that your professor has specified the file nomenclature of each assignment to help you develop the habits of saving, duplicating, backing up, and renaming files, sequences, and sessions. Work which deviates from these file nomenclature guidelines may be penalized or simply not accepted.

Even if you have employed Avid’s Media Composer software in previous production courses, I strongly recommend you review peculiarities of the Unity Server workflow. I find, in particular, that students’ projects routinely suffer from ills that can be addressed by attention to the editing software’s Media Creation project settings.

Warnings about software are necessary, but do not accurately predict the focus of the class. CAS 249 is decidedly not “The ProTools Class.” Those who expect instruction to radiate outward from this (admittedly powerful) tool will likely work harder to repair mistakes in post-production than wiser students who eliminate those same mistakes during production.

The purpose of our semester together is not so that you may fulfill graduation requirements. Instead, I want you to conclude the term with a short film that you may confidently submit to festivals, competitions, and would-be employers. Thus, many course projects require the approval of your professor before they are submitted for grading. This approval will likely come following my formative involvement in multiple drafts of the project at various stages. The more times I see and hear your work well before it is due, the better your grade for this course.

ASSIGNMENT CALENDAR

Project Management  ASSIGNMENT T Feb 15 1:30 pm

Phase One:  On behalf of your group, your producer will collect members’ preferred e-mail addresses and use them to establish common a Google calendar and a shared collection of Google docs.  The producer should include the professor as a member of the group.

Phase Two:  On behalf of your group, your editor will

  1. Open and save a new Avid editing project to the Unity Server with the following nomenclature:
    • group partition
    • project name:  working title of your film
    • avid bin name:  sequences
    • sequence name:  bdf4140215a  [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]
  2. Create and label bins for sequences, video clips, dialogue, music, effects, titles and graphics
  3. Add bars, tone, and slate to the timeline.  Complete the slate using Avid’s Title Tool
  4. For each character in your script add four audio tracks to the editing timeline.   Using your own character names, label the tracks as follows:
    • [Character A] Boom (L)
    • [Character A] Boom (R)
    • [Character A] Lav (L)
    • [Character A] Lav (R)
  5. Add two audio tracks to the editing timeline.   Label them “Temp Music (L)” and “Temp Music (R).”  Import music from the Westar Music Library to your project’s “music” bin, and from there into the tracks.

Storyboard and Sound Design PROJECT   R Feb 17 2:30 pm
Your professor will provide each group a dialogue-only script. Through storyboard and production design, your group will develop the script with appropriate literary, dramatic, and cinematic elements. Given the instructional emphasis of the class, you should pay particular attention to the sound design for your script, making special note of diagetic and non-diagetic dialogue, effects, and music.  On behalf of your group, your director will present a polished, detailed storyboard and sound design to your professor and classmates.  Take notes of class critique, revise and pitch a second time.


Location Dialogue & Ambience PROJECT T Mar 01 1:30 pm

To become familiar with the audio recording capabilities of the Sony DSR570 Camera, the Shure FP33 Field Mixer, and the Marantz PMD660 Flash Recorder, each group will submit the following:

  • 1 minute of ambiance (recorded to tape with the on-camera microphone).
  • 1 minute of stereo ambiance (recorded to tape with two microphones, each assigned to its own channel)
  • 1 minute of a two-person conversation — recorded to flash memory — in which the same signal is sent to two channels, staggering the levels for a 15dB peak difference.
  • 1 minute of a two-person conversation — recorded to flash memory — in which each actor is assigned a separate channel and microphone
  • 1 minute of a two-person conversation — recorded to flash memory — in which each actor is recorded in dual perspective:  route a body-mounted lavaliere microphone to one channel, a boom microphone to the other channel.
  • the hard copy of a footage log, noting details of your audio experimentation.  Be careful to document the microphones you select for each take, your choices heavily informed by Holman, chapter 4 and by the Microphone Specification sheet.

The footage should be well-lit and white balanced.  You might also experiment with the camera’s lenses.  Using the members of your group as actors will provide me with evidence that each of you has enjoyed a turn as sound and camera operator.  No wallflowers, please.  A common comfort and familiarity with each other and with the equipment are the assignment’s chief goals.  I recommend a high shooting ratio as well as frequent reference to chapter 3 of the Holman text.

Footage will be graded as an Avid timeline saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one Avid sequence only.  Exceptions to the following file nomenclature will not be graded:

  • Group Partition: Warner
  • Project Name: Warner Dialogue
  • Avid Bin Name: Sequences
  • Sequence Name [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]: bdf4140403d

Casting & Location Scouting  PROJECT   R Mar 03 1:30 pm
On behalf of your group, your producer will submit

  • talent releases
  • location releases
  • one minute of room tone recorded at a time of day which corresponds to your group’s shooting schedule
  • photos of your location

Music Recording  PROJECT   R Mar 10 1:30 pm
To become familiar with the audio recording capabilities of the Sony DMX-R100 mixer, ProTools, and the Steelcase Foundation Audio Suite, each student will record no less than 02:30 of music to his/her own Unity Server partition.   Students may not perform for their own recordings.  Violation of applicable copyright laws will result in a failing project grade.  As a high shooting ratio offers editors more post-production choices, audio engineers are expected to record multiple takes of this project’s component tracks.

Though any sort of music may be submitted to satisfy grading requirements, the wisest of students probably recognize this assignment as an opportunity to work ahead toward the sound design of their final film.

At a minimum, each recording should include…

  • a click track
  • a scratch track
  • two instrumental tracks
  • a vocal track
  • a master
  • Each track should be labeled
  • Each parent region should be labeled (thus automatically labeling every successive region)
  • Tracks should be discrete, without signal bleed.  Only in the scratch track should I be able to hear both the vocal and the instrumental together.
  • Tracks should not peak, either individually or in combination
  • Tracks should be set for concurrent playback.   (Please do not make me guess which tracks you want muted or active, or to guess how tracks should be assigned to output channels.)

I will open and grade one ProTools session file onlyExceptions to the following file nomenclature will not be graded.

  • Individual Partition Name: bdf4
  • File Folder Name: Music bdf4
  • Session Name [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]: bdf4140310e

Principal Photography  PROJECT R Mar 17 1:30 pm

Each group will submit hard copies of completed footage logs for its final project.


Location Effects Recording  PROJECT  T Mar 29 1:30 pm

Phase One:  To become familiar with the audio recording capabilities of the Marantz PMD660, each student will record no fewer than five original sound effects to the flash recorder, then transfer each effect to a separate track of the same ProTools session.  Save your project with the indicated file path.  Exceptions to the following nomenclature will not be graded.

  • Individual Partition Name: bdf4
  • File Folder Name: Location FX bdf4
  • Session Name [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]: bdf4140329p

Phase Two:  To become familiar with ProTools’ Audio Suite Plug-ins, each student will

  1. Duplicate the “Location Effects” folder (from Phase One).
  2. Rename the duplicate folder “AudioSuite FX [+ your partition name].”
  3. Within this new folder, duplicate and rename the session to reflect the current date and version.
  4. Within the session, process each effect region with a different AudioSuite plug-in.
    • process one track with a plug-in from the “EQ” submenu
    • process one track with a plug-in from the “Reverb” submenu
    • process one track with a plug-in from the “Dynamics” submenu
    • process one track with a plug-in from the “Modulation” submenu
    • process one track with a plug-in from the “Other” submenu
  5. On a Google doc shared with your group, describe the use, settings, and effects of the ProTools plug-ins on the field-recorded files in ways which might help other students understand plug-in processes they themselves did not choose.
  6. Save your project with the indicated file path.  Exceptions to the following nomenclature will not be graded.
    • Individual Partition Name: bdf4
    • File Folder Name: AudioSuite FX bdf4
    • Session Name [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]: bdf4140329k

Rough Cut   PROJECT R Mar 31

Each group will screen a rough cut of its film for the entire class for feedback.


Visual Lock  PROJECT R Apr 07 1:30 pm

Late work may earn partial credit toward your final semester average.  However, if your group’s visual lock is submitted after the deadline, your film may not be included in the Showcase screening.  The film’s producer must secure the instructor’s approval of your film before class begins.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   During today’s class, each group will screen a visual lock of its film (color correction included).   Footage will be graded as an Avid timeline saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one Avid sequence only.  Exceptions to the following file nomenclature will not be graded:

  • Group Partition: Warner
  • Project Name: Working Title
  • Avid Bin Name: Sequences
  • Sequence Name [editor ID + (yymmdd) + current version letter]: bdf4140407r

File Transfer  IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT   R Apr 07 1:30 pm

Moving files from Avid to ProTools and back across the Unity Server can be tricky and frustrating.  To ensure your facility with the process:

  • each group’s visual editor will export the film’s window-burned visual lock file from Avid to ProTools.
  • each group’s music editor will add a temp music track in ProTools.
  • each group’s supervising audio editor will bounce the audio back to Avid.

Dialogue Edit  PROJECT R Apr 14 2:30 pm

During today’s class, each group will screen the dialogue edit of its film.   The group’s designated dialogue editor must secure the instructor’s approval of the film before class concludes.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   The project will be graded as a ProTools session file saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one ProTools session file only.


Score  PROJECT R Apr 21

During today’s class, each group will screen the music edit of its film.   The group’s designated music editor must secure the instructor’s approval of the film before class begins.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   The project will be graded as a ProTools session file saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one ProTools session file only.


Foley & Effects  PROJECT T May 03 2:30 pm

During today’s class, each group will screen the effects edit of its film. The group’s designated effects editor must secure the instructor’s approval of the film before class begins.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   The project will be graded as a ProTools session file saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one ProTools session file only.


Final Mix  PROJECT T May 10 1:30 pm

Late work may earn partial credit toward your final semester average.  However, if your group’s final mix is submitted after the deadline, your film may not be included in the Showcase screening.  Your group’s producer must secure the instructor’s approval of your film before class begins.  You may not submit your timeline for Showcase screening without this approval.   Each group will screen a final mix of its film in the Bytwerk Theater.  Copies will be submitted to the professor as an Avid timeline saved to the group partition.  The sequence will only contain a video mixdown and a two-channel audio bounce.  The instructor will open and evaluate one Avid sequence only.

FAQs

CONTACT

Where’s Brian when we need him?  Is it really okay to call him at home in the middle of the night?

The classroom setting is such that not all needs can be met within it.  I encourage you, therefore, to visit my office often.  It is my pleasure to discuss grades, attendance, notes, lectures, or anything else which will make you a better student.   Your grades can only benefit from regular communication with your professors.  I will gladly work with you to arrange meeting times convenient to us both. Feel free to contact me:

  • by e-mail at mail@brianfuller.org [good].
  • by phone or voicemail at 616.498.4336 (49.VIDEO) [better].
  • in person [best].

ATTENDANCE & ETIQUETTE

Can I leave early to get to my next class across campus?  What happens when I miss a class?

If you write a good essay or fail a math exam, you do so as an individual.  But the success of a video production is often a collaborative endeavor that begins with attendance.  You jeopardize any group project for which you show up late (or not at all).  Reflecting the emphasis Media Production professors place on collaboration, strict attendance is required.  Students will be penalized for late arrivals and early departures.

I’ve got tickets to leave early for spring break.  Can I reschedule work to accommodate my travel plans?

Classes will not be held on holidays officially recognized by the college. All other days of the term are fair game for lectures, quizzes and assignments. Those students who plan to leave early for or return late from holiday breaks may not reschedule exams or other work.

Can I take class notes on my iPad?  What are the professor’s expectations for electronic etiquette?

You’re encouraged to use smart phones, tablets, and laptops in disciplined ways which accomplish the work of the course.  It’s considered rude, however, to engage in private communiqués (facebook, twitter, IMs, texts) during class.

Oops.  My phone started ringing in class.  Probably Mom calling…

The professor reserves the right to answer any cell phone call received by a student during class time.  From a practical standpoint, you’d hate to ruin an otherwise fabulous take on location with a Justin Bieber ringtone.

APPEALS

I’m dissatisfied with an assignment grade.  Any chance I can have it changed?

Because there are no “right” and “wrong” answers in this field of study, I am open to a certain amount of discussion with regard to the grade awarded any given assignment. Appeals should be made in a timely fashion, within two class periods of grade notification/posting.  You may be notified of a grade by the return of paperwork or, more usually, in the posting of grades and comments to Moodle.   Appeals should be made face to face (not by phone, in writing or by e-mail) and offered with rhetorical and presentational clarity (After all, this is a communication class).

HONESTY & OWNERSHIP

I downloaded a great new song on iTunes.  Can I use it in the soundtrack of my class film project?

The current edition of our college Code of Student Conduct notes that “the student-faculty relationship is based on trust and mutual respect which can be seriously undermined by the suspicion or reality of academic dishonesty.”  It elsewhere defines plagiarism as “the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment.”

Though expected to abide by the document as a whole, Media Production students may benefit from specific awareness of conduct proscribed by Article IV of the Code:

  • Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty.
  • Unauthorized possession, duplication or use of keys or other access devices to any College premises or unauthorized entry to or use of College premises.
  • Use of computing facilities and resources in violation of copyright laws.

The standards of honesty and the penalties of dishonesty apply equally to words, ideas, visual images, auditory images, and all electrochemical means of storage and communication.

I will vigorously pursue prosecution of academic dishonesty to the very limit of sanctions allowed by the college (Article V, Sections D and E), up to and including failure of the course and expulsion from the college.  I will just as vigorously work with student to prevent even unintended lapses of integrity.  If you are uncertain about how to avoid plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty, please consult a member of the English faculty, the most recent edition of The Little, Brown Handbook,or (preferably) ask me.

While student media producers retain copyright ownership of their respective work, enrollment in this course constitutes your permission to let the college, the department, the professor, their representatives, and successors, exhibit and distribute for promotional purposes those media projects submitted in fulfillment of course assignments.  Without any effect on your grade you may withhold or limit such permission by indicating your wish to do so in a note to your professor signed, witnessed, and dated, before the course’s drop date.

FACILITIES ACCESS

How can I arrange to work after-hours in DeVos?

Because college policy governs the after-hours use of the building and its basement level production facilities, your professor recommends your familiarity with the college’s established schedule of access to academic buildings. Exceptions to the policy require a note of permission from a faculty member, submitted electronically to Campus Safety at least 24 hours in advance.  To address concerns of personal safety and security, it is suggested that a minimum of two students remain in the building together.

Subject to responsible use, students of CAS 190 and 250 are permitted key card access to the Video Editing Labs (DeVos 055). Students of CAS 249, 290, and 351 are permitted key card access to the Video and Audio Editing Labs (DeVos 045). Access to other workspaces must be scheduled in advance with the Chief Engineer.

I really like using the editing software on my laptop.  Can I edit class projects in my dorm?

To maximize opportunities for collaborative learning, the college offers Media Production instruction in a pedagogically-informed, server-based post-production environment. When student teams edit video and audio projects from shared files to common workflow standards, they are learning organizational and interpersonal skills that will benefit them in the workplace and in other relational settings. While we understand and support students’ preference for many different hard- and software combinations, project work for Media Production classes will be done on facilities and equipment in the DeVos Communication Center (approved by the CAS Media Production Faculty in May 2011).

How might a disability affect my performance in this course?
The college will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Students should notify the Coordinator of Services to Students with Disabilities located in Student Academic Services, HH455.  Students should notify their instructors within the first two weeks of class (statement adopted by the College Faculty for inclusion in all syllabi).

EQUIPMENT CHECKOUT

How do I arrange to borrow equipment for this weekend’s shoot?  Can I borrow equipment to shoot my cousin’s wedding?

Media Production lab aides are available in DeVos 025A (hours posted there) to check out equipment for class projects.  It is often advantageous to alert them to your equipment needs several days in advance.

The Media Production Faculty approved the following equipment loan policy in March 2009.
Governed by the following priorities, equipment and facilities are available to those students currently enrolled in Media Production classes:

  1. Priority shall be given to equipment loans which support class project assignments and faculty scholarship initiatives.
  2. Production equipment will support in-class instruction as well as out-of-class project work. Return deadlines will be carefully monitored.
  3. Certain equipment is designated for use by each class. Thus, cameras, lighting, and grip equipment set aside for advanced instruction may not be available to students in introductory-level courses (and vice versa). Not even Production Lab Aides should assume free access to all equipment.
  4. Understanding that Media Production majors may not be enrolled in production classes each semester, those declared majors are nevertheless encouraged to engage in project work for their continued improvement (video festivals, competitions, a senior capstone piece, even personal projects). Requests for equipment to support such projects must be made in advance to the Chief Engineer. As a rule, equipment and facilities tend to be more readily available early in the semester. Requests must include (a) a project summary; (b) a detailed equipment wish list; (c) crew list; and (d) desired loan dates.

As in the regular semester, instruction, scholarship, and maintenance, regulate equipment use over breaks, vacations, reading recess, interims, and summer. Exceptions follow the same guidelines enumerated above.