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Entries in Servos (2)


8mm Film Camera

I was recently given a box of old photography equipment that a friend found in their grandparent's basement.  When I was asked if I wanted the box, my first instinct was to take a pass.  I have a ton of stuff already filling my basement, why bring in more.  Then for some unknown reason I changed my mind and decided to go get the box sight unseen.  Turns out I made a pretty good choice.

Once I got the box and had a chance to go through it, I found a bunch of old leather cases completely covered in dust.  This is a bad thing for me as I am quite allergic to thick layers of dust.  Immediately my head felt like it swelled five hat sizes and I was sneezing up a storm.  Once I got the dust cleaned up a bit my sinuses calmed down and I was able to take inventory of the prizes I had acquired. 

There was one old SLR camera, a Super-8 camera, an 8mm Camera and an ancient 8mm projector.  Since I already had both an SLR and a Super-8 camera, my interests immediately focused in on the 8mm items.

The Canon Zoom 8 has a lot of bells and whistles for a camera made in 1959.  It has a great lens with a zoom of 10mm-40mm.  It can do stop-motion, and a whole bunch more.  It also makes some great sounds.  

It turns out the camera makes some interesting clicks while running.  Since it is impossible to see the footage coounter while also looking through the viewfinder, the gear mechanisms were designed to make a little click sound for every 50 frames that travel through the film gate.  Not an overly annoying loud click but just a soft click.  Just loud enough to be heard while holding the camera up to your eye.  As the camera runs off of manual winding instead of batteries the maximum number of frames in a single wind is 600, so you get 12 clicks per full length shot.  Also if you let the mechanism unwind fully it slows done oven the last few frames, causing them to be over exposed.  To avoid this exposure problem the camera has a little bell that dings right before this slow done occurs.  So when running the camera through a full wind-up you get a great little collage of sounds, starting with the whirling of the cameras gears spinning, plus the click every 50 frames and the for the finale you get a tiny bell crescendo followed by mechanical jamming sound at is abruptly stops.  Take a listen:

It is possible to run the camera with the door to the film compartment open so the mechanism can be heard in much more detail.  Running the camera this way bypasses the 50 frame click but lets the bell ring a little clearer at the end.  Here is a full camera wind with the door open this time:

When I was in film school we learned to shoot on Bolex manual wind 16mm cameras.  They had a great system with a handle that popped out so it was possible to crank the camera up to a full wind in one continuos motion.  It made a great sound while you cranked it too.  Sadly the wind up mechanism on the Canon Zoom 8 is not nearly as elegant.  In order to wind it up you flip out a small flat piece of metal and turn it in a series half turns.  It takes a while to work it all the way to a full wind and is very inefficient in terms of wrist power.  As a result it does not make an iconic sound at all like the Bolex did.  Way fewer actual gear sounds and many more figeting sounds as the camera is cranked.

 Finally here are a few of the old-timey clicks the camera makes.  A few shutter movements recorded with the camera in stop motion mode, followed by the film compartment door opening and closing.  


Keep a look out for a future post on the sound of the 8mm projector, as it has some great sounds as well.



Flashlight Servos

One of the things that sound editors are seemingly always in need of is servos. They are needed for just about anything sci-fi or futuristic, and even lots of scenes that are supposed to be happening around us in present day.  Mechanical grinds and whirs, hydraulic lifts, robotic movements these are all great ingredients to build the sounds of the servos in the movies and TV shows we all love. A lot of these sounds come from everyday house hold appliances recorded and then processed into huge sounding robot movements.

Recently a small SFX company called Rabbit Ears Audio released a whole collection of household servo/small motor recordings.  It includes audio of just about everything you can plug-in in a kitchen (blenders, mixers, coffee grinders, juicers ect) as well as a thorough run through of everything in the toolshed (circular saws, dremel, drills ect) and a real robot called a "Maker Bot".

This is a great, invaluable collection that has come in very handy on one of the series I am currently working on.  In the show there are a bunch of new massive, 10 story high, robot characters and I have spent a lot of time coming up with sounds to make these creatures really come to life. While the Rabbit Ears collection has been great but I have been on the lookout for more sounds to build the robots out of and recently I hit the jackpot with this little wind-up powered flashlight.

The sounds it makes as you wind up the crank has a lot of definition and depending on how fast you crank it you can get a wide variety of characterization from it. Here is a little section of the recording session I did with the flashlight.

Flashlight servos by azimuthaudio

I used these recordings as a base to build the sound for a sequence where one of the robots chest opens up and a giant weapon comes out, then this weapon powers up with a visual glowing. Currently I can not show a clip as the episode will not air for several months but I think you can still get an idea of the sequence. Here is an audio evolution of the how the flashlight sound was integrated:

Flashlight EVO Final by azimuthaudio

The first sound is the raw flashlight servo edited to match the timing of the animation.  Next up is the servo processed by pitch-sifting it down a bit, adding some modulation and GRM Tools "Warp" plug-in.  The final sound is the full sound effects mix including all the other sounds that went into the this sequence.