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Feature Design make.believe
Feature Design make.believe

An audio logo that echoes in our subconscious

Nagahara:Some sounds are etched in our subconscious and move us more than visual images do—when we know intuitively what product or company it is, just by hearing the sound a product makes or an audio logo. Sony knows the power of sound, and besides our other design resources, we can develop sound design internally.

For the audio portion of our animated logos, Nobuhiro asked me to create "the sound of light" and "the sound of the two elements of make and believe." Not very easy tasks. Manabu and I brainstormed about approaches to take in sound design.

It was insightful to consider the dot as a spark. To imitate a kind of ignition, the attack should be sharp, preferably with a serious edge. For the two elements of make and believe, it seemed simplest to combine two contrasting sounds.

Fujiki:We had to strike the right balance. Simply playing chords for the words would overwhelm the sound at the point of ignition. What could we add to single tones to link them? We sampled the sound of tapping or striking all kinds of things and created material on a synthesizer, until we had considered nearly 100 sound sequences.

In the end, we expressed the elements of make and believe with a set of sounds that includes both treble and bass components. We took a simple, pleasant treble component, added a bass component with impact as an accent, and layered this over the sound of the dot in the animated logo. A distinctive tone is used for the treble component, something between the tone of a musical instrument and the sound of striking crystal glasses. In audio logos, just playing single tones on a piano or synthesizer is not unusual. This time, we sought something different in sound design—something that's simple but lingers in your memory.

Dedicated mastering

Nagahara:The audio portion of traditional animated logos can be in stereo, but 3D animated logos deserve surround sound. People generally have fairly exacting standards in sound. Once you have been enjoying 3D video in surround sound, you'll find it very strange if the experience is interrupted by a passage in stereo. Instantly, the 3D video realm collapses and you snap back to reality—the spell is broken.

To create a surround-sound version of the audio logo, we set up a special production environment in the design office. In brief audio sequences, it's difficult to create the effect of surround sound. After trying various effects, such as rotating the stereo images, we decided it would be more natural and consistent with the original stereo sound source to have the stereo images simply spread out.

Fujiki:Mastering was done in a studio at Sony PCL. Here, audio logos are tested not only on home AV equipment but sometimes also on the huge speakers used at event venues and movie theaters. This reveals any unexpected flaws that might have been missed after testing on regular home audio equipment.

The surround-sound environment in Sony PCL studios has been painstakingly arranged, as demonstrated by THX certification. Many 3D movies, surround-sound DVDs, and SACDs have been mixed here. When I think of all the finishing touches lavished on the sequence, using powerful mixers and low-noise, full-range speakers, it seems a little extravagant. But because the audio logo will be played all around the world, we couldn't compromise.

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