Alright Puffins, it’s time to meet Richard Hughes – who’s going to tell us all about how he gets the perfect whooshing and farting noises for the Diary of Dennis the Menace Audiobooks by Steven Butler.
How did you come to be making whizzing, popping, whooshing and farting noises for audiobooks?
Music! I’ve been playing in bands since before I could really play any instruments, and this lead to an interest in recording, producing and mixing the ‘music’ we made… mainly because we didn’t want to inflict it on anyone else!
I then learnt to use Pro Tools (a very special music tool) and then learned again properly in my first sound engineering job as an audiobook producer and editor. Ten years ago I’d spend time adding little effects and noises to compliment the subject.
I actually feel quite at home with the weird sounds and bizarre noises of audiobooks!
Where and how do you start when creating the FX for something like this – ie, are you bound by the illustrations, or can you go with your gut feeling about the sound design?
With Dennis, it’s always very much about the images – there are so many weird and fantastic illustrations that I always see how these can be turned into a whizz popping audiobook; creating pictures for the ears! Dennis riding a rollercoaster may only have a few separate speech bubbles; but you can quite often get carried away . . . Do we really need to hear the creaking of the wheels as they go round? Etc..
How do you create the overall ‘sound’ or ‘feel’ of the books?
It very much depends on the book! Dennis will always have a cartoony feel –the illustrations are so wonderfully silly that you can’t help using boings, splats, whooshes and clangs throughout. It is so much fun!
And how do you create the actual sounds? Do you just get the FX from a library?
We’re very lucky to have the enormously talented author Steven Butler reading these, as he brings each and every one of these characters to life superbly. We can then play around with the voices, sticking them in the background or making them sound distant.
What do you enjoy most about mixing all this together?
The end result! Without a doubt this is the most satisfying aspect!
Favourite created FX?
The carnival soundscape in Dennis 3! This was quite a simple set of effects, but the end result just felt so real! It’s a good example of how a little background noise of a fairground, and children chatting can completely put you in that place. Not to mention Stephen’s incredible acting!
And what odd things were used to create specific sounds?
Probably one of the weirdest things we had to create was the sound of sandcastles exploding – it’s one of those effects which sounds different in your mind to how it actually sounds (ie, quite wet). So you have to start thinking outside the box…
This one ended up being a few different noises – salt shakers, a tiny rockslide (of pebbles… a pebbleslide?), sand being shaken on a board, and a whooshing noise (made by the swipe of a bamboo cane) to really capture the idea of a sandcastle collapsing suddenly. And then of course, we had to add in the sound of Dennis’s sister Bea farting repeatedly (which is what caused the sandcastles to collapse), and then the sound of angry and upset sandcastle-builders reacting to it all, and then really it felt like you needed to hear the sound of seagulls, and then the waves in the background… And before you know it, you’ve spent an hour on a single scene again!