straight down the line

Donnie Rawlen Goes to the Docks to Write

First off, I had a terrible time coming up with ideas for this Sound Effects Story assignment. I didn’t know how I wanted Donnie’s character to develop quite yet, so I didn’t want to make much official. I started off thinking that I would just try to put the audio track down from my short story, “Six Slingers and a Singer”, but decided that wouldn’t fit in a minute in a half, so I would try something different.  Then I realized I should work off of what I already have down for him, specifically his career as a writer, and his location of San Francisco.  I thought to myself for a while about how to incorporate those both into an audio story, and how it could work. I immediately thought of the sounds of pen on paper, and the sounds of the waves under a dock in San Francisco–“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding being my inspiration–and began to work with that song in mind.  But, that song is a bit too jovial sounding, so I needed to noir-ify it.

Queue the rainfall.  But I also wanted to have some sort of dramatic opening, so I searched for and found a clip of a lightning crash.  Mentally, my mind was still present at the location of my bumper, so I wanted Donnie to walk a bit.  I decided he’d be sitting in a shack to do his writing, considering the rain, so I found a nice door creaking sound.  I then thought of specifically how he would sit down, so I found a clip of a wooden chair being dragged across a wooden floor, and cut it down so it sounded like a chair just scooting out.  I couldn’t find a good clip of a pen writing on paper, but I did have the leather-bound journal and pen I photographed for Donnie’s bag contents, and had picked up an audio recording device from the store for use in taking notes (this class was the final tipping point that sent me to the store, finally). So, I went to my desk, put the recorder on my desk, pressed record while the journal and pen were in-hand, placed the journal on the table, flipped to a new page, and started writing random things.

I uploaded that recording, and moved it to end at the 1:30 mark.  Then I pressed play on my project and noticed there was a lot missing. No one wants to listen to something as simple as someone walking into a shack to write, or at least I wouldn’t.  So I found the recording of an older car starting up and cutting the engine. “Sweet,” I thought. But I only had the lightning crash at the beginning, which faded into an awkward silence of a car ride. I then picked out a few more sounds I thought I might use–continuous rainfall, rainfall on a windshield, seagulls for the bay, and a car door opening and closing.  I plugged those in, focused on a section of the car engine, and copied and pasted it a few times to make it sound like a car ride.  I still had “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” running through my head, but I’ve got a knack for some jazz saxophone, so I found a jazz sax recording to use for the car ride.

Then I realized that the car doors didn’t have a key component (heh, no pun intended) so I found some key jingle and put that in around the car door/engine starting area.  I felt pretty accomplished at that point but realized the audio levels were all wrong, so I futzed with them a bit.  I really wanted to add some tires squealing to the mix, but I’d already done that for my bumper, so I tossed that idea out. Plus, the engine sound wasn’t too heavy duty, so I didn’t want that to sound weird.

For aesthetics, I changed the levels of the ambient noises (rainfall, seagulls, dock waves) and lowered their levels for when Donnie was riding in the car and when he entered his writing shack.

I played it back in full again, multiple times and realized “going down to write” wasn’t the most thrilling idea, so I wanted to throw in a little noir mystery.  After I got a police car siren, I set a fade on it so it would sound like it was moving away from Donnie.  (Was he the reason for the police presence?) But, he needed to write (Why?). Enough chit-chat, I’ve said too much. Here you go:


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