Founded in 1999, The Los Angeles Film School and its division, The Los Angeles Recording School, offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in majors pertaining to the media and entertainment industry. Audio, both for music and production/post production has deep roots at the schools, having been a core part of the curriculum from the beginning. Today, the schools’ facilities train students in the latest tools and techniques used by the pros with a focus on hands-on learning.
The LA Film School’s Los Angeles campus operates five different programs: Film, Computer Animation/VFX, Audio Production, Music Production and Entertainment Business. There are also online courses available in Digital Film, Music Production, Entertainment Business and Graphic Design for students who live outside LA. One of the successful hallmarks of the school is that students are given gear packages, allowing them to shoot original material, so they graduate with unique content on their demo-reel and plenty of real-world experience.
With the school’s emphasis on audio, sound production and post production classes dive deep into the art of sound design and mixing. “My approach to the art form is basically to make audio its own thing, not always necessarily linked to film but almost as an art form in itself,” said Andres De La Torre, Sound Design Instructor, LA Film School. “One of the tasks my students undertake is to produce audio dramas, so they delve into storytelling only with sound. That’s the approach I try to take, so they can figure out how to best utilize the art form inside a film.”
The sound department is keenly aware that audio post production commonly gets squeezed in terms of budgets and time in the real world, since it is always at the end of the chain. To ensure that they have time for creativity, students are taught to work as efficiently as possible. One of the keys to getting a great sound mix is to streamline the process of finding and placing unique sounds to picture.
Laying Sound Effects to Picture
Initially, SFX (sound effects) were stored on local network hard drives at the school and students could access them in the editing labs. At one point, De La Torre and the staff copied sound effects to flash drives and handed those out to students so that they could do their homework. “It was never ideal, because it was a fixed set of old SFX that everyone was sharing and it was nearly impossible to add sounds that people were capturing to a master library,” said De La Torre. The department wanted a better solution for storing and accessing sounds, one that was centralized and could be accessed from anywhere, and they wanted the library to constantly grow as students added the best captured sounds each year. To create a centralized library that could be accessed from anywhere, they turned to Soundly, a cloud-based sound library and editing tool.
SFX from the Cloud
De La Torre noticed that the sound of projects changed almost overnight once students had access to a larger library with a fast, online search tool. Sound mixes had become more creative, richer and more interesting than before. In addition to the high-quality SFX available from the Soundly cloud library, the Soundly search tool also lets students search the vast Freesound.org library. The Soundly application allows the students to edit and customize the precise part of a SFX that they need which saves precious time and space in their projects. “They simply set markers on the portion of the sound they want and drag the sound directly into their Avid bins, or directly onto the Pro Tools timeline, says De La Torre. “If they wish, they can change the pitch, reverse the sound, normalize the gain, convert to mono, all in the Soundly application, which saves loads of time from having to edit it in Pro Tools. Once we show students the “Spot-it” function in Soundly, where sound is instantly copied to the Pro Tools timeline wherever the cursor is parked, they realize there’s no faster way to work.”
Students in the LA Film School Film classes receive a laptop with programs such as the Adobe Creative Cloud, Avid Media Composer and Final Draft. Many students work at full or part time jobs in addition to going to school, so the laptop allows them to do school work from home. With access to the Soundly library in the cloud, they can work on their projects from anywhere.
“The Soundly interface was a big hit with the students,” says De La Torre. “Everyone knows Spotify, and Soundly is essentially Spotify for sound effects. Because it’s so familiar, they are up and running with it right away. I’ll show them a couple things, how to pitch things down from Soundly, how to look for information that might be important, like sample rates. This allows me to use Soundly as a teaching tool as well.”
With access to other sound libraries, such as Freesound.org, Soundly gives De La Torre the chance to explain the concepts behind Creative Commons and user license agreements with regards to rights and fair usage of SFX. “Sound effects are just like any other piece of creative work,” explains De La Torre. “You can’t use any sound effect you find professionally. I tell my students to be careful, especially with sounds they find online.”
The Los Angeles Film School and Los Angeles Recording School encourage students to be bold and think outside the box. Using Soundly, Da La Torre noticed that students were less intimidated with sound and more prone to experiment with multi-layered sound textures. “I have a quick challenge that I do with the class: in 20 minutes, they have to create a one minute atmosphere, for a planet or something that is not a physical reality. I show them possible worlds from video games, science fiction movies, etc., and they have to come up with a complete ambience for the place,” says De La Torre. Because it’s quick, the first thing students do is open Soundly, find whatever they can to match their imagination, and then start layering the sounds. “I might show the class four images, and they each have to pick one, but they can’t tell the others. When we’re done, everyone else has to guess which image the sound belongs to. They explain their process and what they layered, and some really go outside the box, thinking really creatively,” comments De La Torre. “They can start in one place, and thanks to the editing power in Soundly, they can end up in a very different place, playing back a Tiger growl at super slow speed for instance.”
The Los Angeles Film School is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and is VA Approved.