Welcome one and all.......

So this is my Blog (Graham Donnelly). It is a mixture of things in which I enjoy, despise, love and create.

I often post reviews of movies, games and other relevant media content on here. I also upload links to some of my own work and invite reviews and criticisms (as long as they re constructive).

I have been known, on occassion to rant and vent through here, I tend to use my blog to voice opinions that I have about situations or works. The reason I do it on here, is so that I do not add to the unnecessary reams of comments on larger well known sites (youtube, facebook etc).

Also keep in mind that this is a personal blog and all views and opinions expressed within are mine, I do not expect everyone to agree or disagree. It is what it is.

Hope you enjoy.....

Graham Donnelly

Monday, 28 November 2011

Technology and Art

So I have been evaluating my hardware/software needs and desires and looking at what is important for my work/art.

There is a sea of great tools out there that allow us to produce absolutely astonishing results, unfortunately these tools come with a hefty price tag. One that I cannot reach, I might add.

I love the tools that I have, and they allow me to create pretty much anything that I want, however there is always bigger and better stuff out there. I can't help but feel that I need to own it. I know this is probably just my geeky obsession and gadget drive kicking in, but I can't help but feel that my work could be even better if I had better tools to compose with. I feel that if I was painter that only had four colours and one brush I could achieve decent results, if I had a selection of brushes and endless amounts of colour then would my work become better? This is the question.

Am I so caught up in the amazing (expensive) technology and hold this idea of better tools = better product over my own head as an ideal that comforts me in my time of (gear) poverty?

I have recently become enamoured with the idea of creating my own Sound Library, inspired by the recent releases from some of Hollywood's finest. I have now tasked myself to complete at least two libraries in the new year. This gives me time to organise and prepare.

I am looking to complete my second gun recording (as the first was inside and the flutter echo was intrusive) and I wish to record some animals, maybe an english bird library. What do you guys think? are there any animals that you would be interested in hearing (bare in mind my UK location)??

Anyhow, these sound library recordings which I will be undertaking in the near future, will require me to have decent equipment to record with. I have decent equipment, but now I want the best....

Renting this equipment is a great way to try out many products. However, this also means that I have to travel to the company to collect and also pay on a daily basis. This is something that I do not mind doing for some projects, but I reached the point now where I wish to own my own Schoepps mic's and Nagra. I love impromptu recording sessions, just walking out of the house with a microphone set up and seeing what you get. This is great and achievable on a Zoom H2, but doesn't quite deliver the quality of a schoepps and nagra, nor does it carry the directionality.

On top of this, I have a massive itch to upgrade my computer and software, this also comes with more expense, and is something that I have to do yearly in order to keep up to date and competitive. I work full time in low paid job and all of these things seem out of reach, I may be able to save up for one of these things in a couple of years and by then there will be something better out there, so this leads me to my question, are we just slaves to technology in our journey to achieve our art?

Answers on a postcard.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Audiomachine = Audio Awesome!

I was forwarded a link to an artist tonight from a visual effects artist who I have been working with.

She had previously asked for some advice on background music for her show-reel, I made a couple of suggestions based on her initial idea and sent them off to her.

Today she responded stating that she had chosen to use two tracks from audiomachine and did I like the them? Well, honestly I had never heard of them... so I decided to check them out.


This band/musician or collective of musicians have struck an excellent and powerful mix of epic strings and orchestral tones, alongside electric guitars with an almost power ballad/indy rock style. It is awesome. So much so that I felt I should share this with the world, just in case you have not heard them before!

Although knowing me, I have probably only just stumbled on a well established gem.

I'm going to follow up this written post with a couple of audio examples so you can see for yourself....

Give it a go. The songs are truly powerful, emotional and exceptionally well produced.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Visual FX Shorts Complete with Renewed Faith

Last Friday I was approached by two MA students studying at Bournemouth Unversity. They both asked me if I would be interested in completing some sound design for their projects.

After taking a look at their projects, I became very excited. Not only does each short differ in feeling, emotion and character but they were both made with great detail and quality. I was excited to work on these shorts as they were inspired by two very well known film franchises, in which I have viewed many times.

The deadline was short, but manageable for both projects and so I began working on the first one almost instantly. Today I finalised the projects and have sent the files to the students. So they are complete.

I am not posting the shorts up for a few days, as I am waiting for the final versions to be sent to me.

I wanted to write this mini-blog to celebrate the fact that there is great talent out there in the world that can often be overlooked. The last few months I have been frustrated and angry at the lack of jobs and state of the industry as it stands at present, but today, I am thankful that, although the job market is thinning and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to gain work, people still find time to create and learn. Building upon talents and crafting new skills.

So to all, like minded creative individuals out there, stick with it…. we CAN make it.

The shorts will be posted on my website soon, and I will link in here at somepoint.

And for those who would like to check out my site anyway here is the link:


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Music Vs Sound Effects

I have been contemplating the balance of Music vs Sound effects in current film quite a bit, and after reading an Interview with Tim Neilson at Designingsound.org I was compelled to write a little about this issue and my opinions on it.

My last post commented on the current quality and growing importance of movie scores, and I stick to what I said, I love them, and they are paramount in drawing out emotion and really creating a sense for certain scenes. However I do also believe that the over use of music within a film destroys subtle and powerful effects that can be created using good sound design and effects editing.

Most of the projects that I work on are small and usually self motivated, however I am a firm believer in fine detail and think that nothing should be overlooked when painting the picture in sound. I pride myself on ensuring that everything is correct and present, no matter the prominence of the audio. This refers to simple things like room tones in each shot, the subtle layering of wind inflections or additional audio, like an off screen leaky tap or air conditioning unit. These small and often considered 'insignificant' areas of audio really give the image or scene a depth that allows the viewer to believe that they are are in the same space as the characters, hopefully these fundamental sounds will be overlooked by the audience and not accented to draw attention to them, as this would defy the point of them.
The idea is to generate a plausible space or atmosphere through subtle qualities in audio. Two of the last projects that I worked on involved a lot of open spaces and some confined ones, it was my job to apply all audio and effects to these spaces, which I did, with great detail. I included great wind inflections, creaking doors, room tones, air con hum, birds and distant traffic etc, you get the point. Anyhow, I felt that I delivered a great soundscape with awesome detail and was truely pleased with myself (this happens on rare occasions) and the other members of my team praised my work. Then the music or score was completed and added to the film, I was not present upon this session, but did have the files sent over to me.

When I reviewed the film, my heart sank. The score had been designed to continually run throughout the entire movie, to create a build up and sense of urgency. Needless to say that all of my time and effort had quite simply been destroyed in one foul swoop. The frequencies within the score masked pretty much all of the nice subtleties within my work and even some of the diagetic louder audio also. I did protest this point to the director and tried to explain that some scenes would have more impact without music, however I left the meeting without a victory, which is often the way.

Anyway, I digress, my point is that some of the greatest and most powerful movie scenes have been achieved through detailed sound design and quality editing with no music present. Think about the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan (thanks again to Tim Nielson for reminding me of this), this has to be one of cinemas most impacting scenes, and yet there was no score in it at all. Just great sound design, the audio team worked miracles in that film and that particular scene is one of my favourites.

I can also remember watching the DVD extras on the latest Rambo movie and seeing the audio team working through the final war scene. The audio team wanted to drop all the music from that scene as it would have given the scene a very realistic and powerful feel, a great way to finish the movie. Sylvester Stallone, however, insisted the music be prominent as without it, he felt that the scene would appear too horrific. A bad call in my opinion. It is decisions like these that make me ask the most asked question in sound design, How important is audio in film?

I applaud directors and producers, who fully understand and appreciate the vital role in which sound has become, it is these directors who end up with a healthy balance of music and effects, and these films tend to stand the test of time and be remembered. I wish all directors would consider the power of sound and effects at the early stages of production and try to utilise it more instead of relying on music to generate the atmosphere or emotion, what's the saying 'There are many ways to skin a cat'.

Please don't get me wrong, I appreciate that some scenes work extremely well without any sound apart from music, the gears of war 2 trailer springs to mind, but it is important that music is used to accent or achieve an emotion when necessary, music should not be added for the sake of it or used to mask other audio (or lack of it) out of pure laziness or ignorance.

Get the sound guys in early, speak to them and I am sure that anything you desire can be achieved.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Movie Scores

I have always been a fan of movie soundtracks throughout my existence, but it is now that I am really enjoying them.

From an engineer point of view, the production quality has become outstanding, the dynamics and balance of the tracks seems to have really progressed within the last decade. Artists and composers are now becoming household names and this is exciting. I will admit that I am not the greatest fan of classical music, although I do listen to some every now and again. There is something more to a movie score, something bigger than a cracking composer, instrumentation and technical prowess.

It is the connection with the listener, the power that the tracks bring, completely grabs the listener and evokes powerful emotions.

Well-known composers like Hans Zimmer have grabbed the attention of younger audiences through movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and the score for that particular movie is extremely well regarded and, yes is a personal favourite of mine also. However the composer who has grabbed me and had a massive impact on movie scores, is Steve Jablonsky. His three scores for the transformers movies are truly fantastic.

I was driving out of London last week in rush hour and it took me almost three hours to get out of the city center, in this time I had listened to Rage Against the Machine and system of a down. These albums were just adding to my already enraged state and so I slapped the original Transfromers movie score into my CD player and all of sudden my mood became a lot more relaxed and my journey seemed epic.

Turning into a roundabout whilst listening to the build up in the track 'Autobots', made me feel heroic, each turn of the wheel and junction seemed like I was on a mission of great importance and I was the hero.

In the words of Optimus Prime...

"I am writing this to any surviving Autobots out there..... Listen to some movie scores to really add some drama to mundane tasks"

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Latest Sound Design vid

This is the first of many posts and uploads of my sound design work. It is basic and short. The original trailer that was released through Apple Trailers, contained only music and so I decided to add some additional flavour to it through the use of sound.

I do not own the copyright for any of the images (video) or music/score. I created all of the additional sounds and mixed them into the trailer to give more dynamics to the piece.

All sounds were sourced through royalty free websites or generated by myself through audio software. The vocal of the female was actually taken directly from the movie Avatar, as this vocal was unique.

I do NOT aim to gain any monetary return from this project, it is merely a tool in which to display my work and ability.


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Punk Rock Love??

So I have been listening to the Casualties at work on YouTube and Something caught my eye.

The comments, they are rediculous. If I was a weaker man I may have posted some replies, but every video had the same argument over and over again.

So I thought I would vent here instead, that way I am not adding to the madness.

The argument is over Punk and its meaning and who is, and who isn't a sellout. Yes, that age old argument!

Who Cares? is the question that you have to ask yourself.

I have been a lover of punk music since I can remember and I love it because it changed my life, my mindset and made me a better person.

I love the passion, the messages and the education in which this music offers. It opens your mind to issues that are often greatly overlooked and they open these issues up with truth and honesty. Freedom of information delivered through music.

Punk, however is not the only music to offer this, and people claiming to be 'DIE HARD' anarchist punks etc, should probably look towards reggae and hip hop as these genres also offer similar insights. However most of these self proclaimed punks won't even tolerate the thought of listening to anything but punk. This is where they miss the point.

The point of punk is to do your own thing and not be constricted by ideals or labels, get your message out in anyway that you are comfortable doing. BE YOURSELF.

If you enjoy punk music, great! maybe we could one day have a discussion on your favourite bands etc. However I will not tolerate an intolerance to other Punks or genres as this defies the ethics and reason that was initially intended from the early music.

if you disagree, fair enough. We all have our opinions.

I love punk, always will. I have my favourite bands and my own understanding and interpretation of it. No one will change that.

As Johnny Rotten once said:

"All of a sudden there was a sea of leather Jackets and Mohawks. They claimed that they were punks, but they had completely missed the point. The point was individualism. It was like a fuckin' monkeys tea party"

(this is paraphrased from memory)