An Interview with Award-Winning Animator and AudioBlocks Member Peter Spence

Finding Sound Effects for 360° Video: How an Award-Winning Animator Uses AudioBlocks

It’s a bold new frontier for filmmakers with the rising popularity of interactive, 360° films—but how does 360° video change the traditional role of sound editing? We interviewed animator and long-time AudioBlocks member Peter Spence about his experience creating his digital 360° short “DO NOT Press The Red Button” to find out.

Based in Oslo, Norway, Spence is an industry veteran, and his work in the animation and visual effects field has earned him a number of accolades and awards, including a Norwegian Amanda Award—comparable to the Academy Awards—in 2011 for his VFX work on “Twigson Ties the Knot.”

His most recent animation project, “DO NOT Press The Red Button,” finds him exploring the creative opportunities and challenges of 360° video. The short has been enthusiastically received by online audiences and, as of this writing, has surpassed 100,000 views on YouTube.

VideoBlocks: What was the inspiration behind “DO NOT Push The Red Button?”

Spence: Gadgets and mechanics fascinate me. Whether it was playing the board game “Mouse Trap” as a kid, or building fantastic marble machine runways at home with my father. The motion and imagination that can be put into these creations are just wonderful fun. It seemed the perfect place to create a 360° video with all this action happening around the viewer.

My goal was to make a video that would get people up off their seats and moving around. I actually had to slow down some of the action in the middle, as it was too fast to follow. My test subjects were spinning around in circles!

VideoBlocks: What was your approach to sound editing the short?

Spence: Having built the rough props and seeing what would work, I could then set the simulation going and get the timing for the sound effects. From there I scoured the extensive AudioBlocks library for sounds that matched the scenery.

VideoBlocks: Did working in 360° complicate your process?

Spence: The main difference from traditional sound editing was that I needed to add sounds for absolutely everything in all directions. I was also restricted to how much stereo adjustments I could use. As the viewer is free to look in any direction, no single sound could really dominate the edit.


VideoBlocks: Do you think that sound editing for 360° films requires a different philosophy?

Spence: It requires a subtler restraint, as the viewer would be quickly overwhelmed if all the audio effects were turned up to the maximum. Adding the AudioBlocks music track helped balance the experience. Creating 360° videos is more like a theatre experience than traditional film. To steer the audience, subtle visual tricks have to be used instead of jump cuts. The audio has to match that.

VideoBlocks: What are your favorite tracks to work with and how did you discover them?

Spence: My favourite tracks are the ‘whoosh’ sound effects. There are so many to choose from, and it’s great to close your eyes and listen through them to find the one with just the right speed, weight, and acoustics. Often I know in my head how I would like a sound to be, and suddenly hitting the exact one is a fantastic discovery. “Snow Plow Hydraulic Movement Rumble” was one of those!

To learn more about Spence’s creative process, check out his behind-the-scenes video on YouTube.


Download Peter Spence’s favorite tracks and more ►

(Images published with permission courtesy Peter Spence and Putty Studios)

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