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Black Cab – breaking through noise

Eu morava em Londres e estava na faculdade de música e produção musical na LCCM enquanto trabalhava de garçom ou o que quer que houvesse nas agências de emprego freelance; tocava em bares diversas noites da semana e ainda arranjava tempo para fazer o áudio de curtas-metragem… fora a composição e produção da trilha, e a mixagem de tudo… abaixo uma explicação em inglês mais detalhada dessa maratona, que escrevi em 2010.


Phil Deguara and I used to work together at Hugo’s Restaurant on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, just around the Queen’s museums in London. He knew I was a musician and that i was coming up with pretty good quality recordings of my tunes, so he asked me if I could try to do the sound for the short film he was producing. On that conversation I realised that I had never again worked with film audio, something I had already done a few times before in Brazil. I jumped into it like “yeah, I actually know how to do it! I’ve done it before!”. That was  how I restarted my career in sound designing, this time in London. 3 films later, Jean-Claude Deguara (Phil’s brother and film director) came up with this film that was to be shot all inside a cab.

The film was shot over the course of one night. I had two microphones and a portable digital HD recorder. One mic was set up in the driver’s cabin and the other was mostly handheld by me, squeezed in on the cab floor along with Johnny [Deguara, the director] fighting for a place with the two actor’s feet. The recording was filed with uneven noise, because we were actually filming whilst driving through London’s busy West End, i.e. every take had a different noise intensity and shape.

To break through that, a lot of cab noise had to be recorded separately, and a careful work of frequency hunting and treatment had to be done on post-production. By treating the noise on the dialog tracks there was room for the cab noise to be balanced in and evened out across the scenes.

Then there was the two environments – the driver’s cabin and the passengers’ seat. Both were recorded in good quality, but the scenes alternated back and forth while they were talking. I had to make a choice as in how to place the sounds of each perspective. All that was done on the mix.

Then there was the thin layers of sound that disappeared amongst the cab engine and all the filtering, and that are virtually “invisible” to our usual attention, but make a big difference in the end. These noises are heard loudly when we move our heads in the pillow and feel as present as if it was inside our ears. So.. the clothes noise for each character was recorded in studio, a normal procedure for big productions, but one that i hadn’t experimented until then. So I actually went in the studio with a selection of clothes to perform the movements of each actor throughout the film. All this added sizzling to the sound and brought the action right forward; everything became present.

The noise was tamed, the dialogs were clear and well placed and the action had presence. Then I just had to build the final scene: cutting some meat, wooshing a knife through the air and recording the actors screaming. The screaming part was done in my land lord’s backyard on a Saturday afternoon, the neighbourhood was shocked. We had people looking out the windows and all. It was pretty good fun.

After all was done and mixed, I had to think about the music. But that I can talk about in another post.

Here you are then, Black Cab, the film. Hope you enjoy it.