Archive for the 'Film Sound' Category

Sound SPEED!

March 19, 2011

The two days just flew by. Loads learned, and so many new tools acquired for future film projects!

When we go and see a movie, we go to the “pictures”.  Now when I go to the movies, the experience will be twice as rich when I realize there is twice as much to think about.

Thanks Claes for a great workshop. I think the rest of the group would agree, you did a great job and we learned a lot. You really know your stuff!


Night Clubs and Grand Pianos

March 19, 2011

You’re watching a movie. The scene is taking place outside a night club. We are in line watching and listing to a conversation between three people waiting to get in. We hear: cars going by, people laughing and shouting, the people in line are talking and the music from the club inside is muffled and low. Only the low end frequencies of the load pumping music are getting through the exterior wall. Every time the bouncer lets people in, the door opens and the sound waves run free, we hear the music more and more clearly as we get closer and close in line, until eventually we are let in and the sound of the music goes from a very low muffle, gradually into a very big, crisp, loud sound with a full dynamic range.

This is a technique we went over in studio using: A 4-band EQ, some simple reverb and some fades from the edited, low-end-freq music tracks to the original, crisper and louder music.

On a somewhat related topic (amazing sound editing and close attention to tone, and dynamics) check out the trailer for the excellent excellent film Pianomania, I saw recently at the Salem Film Fest:

Film Leaders

March 19, 2011

We’ve all seen an Academy Leader. Did you know it has many purposes? (other than adding that great nostalgic film feel to a ‘reel’ screening)

An Academy Leader signifies the start of a reel. There are two main versions.

One of the standards, starting at 8, with cross hairs behind the number and hand rotating clockwise, counting down every second, at 24 frames per second, (or whatever frame rate the film might be in) we see:

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and on the ‘2’ we hear a *beep*, what is called a TWO MARK, always at 2 seconds before the First Frame Of Action (the very first frame of the film). After the TWO MARK, we neither see nor hear anything until the FFOA.

In another version, NINE and SIX are spelled out to avoid confusion if the film is being viewed in a different orientation. The *beep* is heard on the three (3) in this version and, there is often other information provided in this format.

The Academy Leader allows anyone working with the film to keep the picture in sync with the audio, it communicates technical information about the film and reel and in combination with the TAIL MARK AND POP one can verify whether, at the end of the film everything stayed in sync or not.

If the sound and picture are synced up on the two pop in the leader, but off by 7 frames on the tail, you know you’ve got 7 frames where the audio is out of sync with the video. That’s when the detective work begins…

Check out an Academy Leaders:


March 19, 2011

In the CDIABU Sound Studio, Claes Nystrom walked us through a couple projects he has worked on. In Pro Tools we saw how a pro sound editor would go through each track of audio to compress, equalize, de-ess, cross fade and smooth out the sounds effect, the dialogue and the music on a project before creating a mix to organize by stems and then finally into a fully mixed Printmaster.

Claes always says “Dialogue is King”–well, in the piece we are studying, The Lifter Upper, has very little dialogue, (actually only about 3 lines). So in this case, the music was a driving force in telling the story–along with the creative sound editing and mixing. Well, Claes happens to be a very talented film scorer as well.  After we had listened to the audio tracks individually we went over how to best mix, and edit the sounds to tell a story,we layered some of his compositions down to help the story flow. What a difference.

It’s easy to get very technical about everything with EQs, low pass filters, noise reduction parameters, and threshold dials which is why it’s important to keep in mind that before one starts on a project what the goals are before on gets lost fiddling and tweeking sounds.

Stage one : ART and IDEA

Stage two: CRAFT and EXECUTION

This editing and mixing is all execution and craft. If you know what you want before you jump in, and you know how to execute, the hard part is almost done. You just need to do it.

In the sound studio


Soaking up the knowledge

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing

March 19, 2011

Having worked with Sidney Pollack and Oliver Stone among many other large Hollywood players, Claes continues to re-iterate how lucky he has been to work with such amazing minds. Claes got his break somewhere along the line at a small production company in LA and was given the chance to move up and work on projects he says he never would have been possible if he had worked his way up in any other larger post production sound company. In his 6 years working in this industry he has scored dozens of trailers, been re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor for features, shorts and television. In 2001 The Cinema Audio Society nominated him in the category of  “Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing” for his work on No Way Out : Fall of Saigon.

Sound for Film — DAY 2!

March 19, 2011

At 10:00am we will move into a professional recording studio and manipulate some waves on the board, use ProTools create some stems for our Printmaster! Catch you on the other side.

Make the cut

March 18, 2011

Music composing and editing has always been a daunting idea to me. I’ve never been that talented musically but, “by breaking down your needs into tonality, rhythm and dynamics” before tackling your project for the score you are working on (original or not) you are able to take it step by step, make smooth, nicely toned edits that work for the content of your scene. Tone, rhythm and dynamics are the three kings of film scoring. If the tone feels right go with it. If the rhythm is off, or the dynamics of your music don’t work and you’ve painted yourself into a corner and you can’t edit the picture (it’s in picture lock)–and you have officially gone nuts because, A. you are an editor and you can’t seem to find any possible way to edit your way around the problem and/or, B. you are on a deadline: hide it. Find a way to hide it. Don’t fix it–because you have already proved that impossible (or at least given your time frame). Don’t keep trying to fix it. Hide it. Fade it out. Cover it up. Or, flat out lose it! Cut it out. You’re an editor. You cut.

Jack Foley began what is now known as Foley art in 1927.

March 18, 2011

Ever wonder how they get all of those sounds into a movie? Well if you did wonder, you were like me. Most people just take the sound effects for granted or don’t even think about them, assuming they were recorded on set and just inserted into the movie. We’ll it’s not that simple. Foley artists look to recreate the realistic ambient sounds that the film portrays.

Check out this short clip for a humorous look at the profession.

Check out this sequence for a more substantial look.

We watched this one in class. Amazing stuff. Wall-E!  Walla, Walla!!?

The sound mixer hears it all

March 18, 2011

Ever heard of a “group walla!”?

Before I tell you what it is…it reminds me of getting on the Chinatown bus in NYC to Boston. In the summer there is always a very sweet Chinese woman selling bottled water to people before they get onto the bus: “Wallah, wallah, one dollah! Wallah? Wallah, wallah one dollah.”  I learned today that her voice comes through at about 85db, perhaps 90db if she is raising her voice a little bit. Did you know that when you go to the movies, everything you hear is between ~40db (that’s quiet) to an absolute maximum 105db (total exploding raucous calamity), but most of it hovers around 85db, just about the level that we are all used to. The level of a human voice.

A group walla is when a group of actors are put together and are asked to speak in the background, to be recorded for background conversation in a scene. The resulting banter can often be quite hilarious, not that you’d ever hear it in the movie you are watching, because of how mixed down it is. But, the sound mixer hears it all. Sound mixers hear everything.


sound board


March 18, 2011

When we get back from lunch we will jump into some hands-on exercises and start working with some juicy sound waves!

Until then, chew on this little tidbit that Claes Nystrom threw out there:

“A musical score suggests the untold and substantiates the obvious.”

Dialogue, Music and Effects

March 18, 2011

After getting the basics of film sound recording, editing, scoring and mixing — and a background on Claes! (you can check out some of his work here and we are moving onto more in-depth detailed workflows in the post production process of sound editing.

The main stems of the workflow are: Dialogue, Music, Effects that all get mixed down to the Printmaster–but more on that later!

“Let’s imprint once and for all that ‘dialogue is king’, and that no sound ever takes precedence over the
overall story, no matter how proud it may make us feel. It’s not about us, it’s about the movie.” Claes Nystrom

Hollywood Film Sound for Desktop Filmmakers — Day one!

March 18, 2011

Claes Nystrom: Knows his db's

“Films are 60% audio and 40% picture”
-Stanley Kubrick

Claes Nystrom is giving a workshop on sound for film here at CDIABU.

What are the differences between the Sound Editor and the Sound Mixer in a movie?
How can I improve my storytelling through sound?

Technological advancements in film and film sound mean:
Crews are shrinking
Roles are expanding
Competence is increasing and spreading
Workflow linearity is constantly changing, and becoming more efficient.
Might one person one day handle all post production tasks single-handedly?

All the more reason to understand as much as possible from pre to post, is what I’m thinking.

“We don’t mix for total reality, we mix for hyper-reality” Claes Nystrom

It’s going to be an exciting two days.

Stay tuned!