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Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Documentary Sound – A Discussion with James LeBrecht

JamesLeBrechtDesigning Sound: Would you mind giving our readers a little bit about your background and how long you’ve been working in audio post?

James LeBrecht: I’m the owner of Berkeley Sound Artists, and we’re located in the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley. We’re kind of a small company. I think the term “boutique shop” would sound little bit pretentious, but we’re kind of the right size to feel personally involved in projects. We primarily focus in sound design and mixing, and our prime emphasis is in documentaries. I started the company in 1996, thinking that maybe we’d be doing a lot of multimedia work, CD-ROMS, etc.…and we did do some of that. We did some work for a now defunct educational software company called Theatrix. But very early on Patti Tauscher, who worked with me for many years, she came to me and said, “I met this guy. He’s got a documentary, and I think we should do the sound on it.” So we wound up doing this film for Steven Olsen, and it immediately became apparent to me that…here’s a niche that people weren’t really focusing on. A lot of houses do documentary work as “fill-in” work. Some people are really kind of dedicated to it, but that’s our prime focus. Plus, being in what is known as the Fantasy building…

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Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 | 2 comments

Constructing Reality for Nonfiction Film

Western_FinalMix

Photo courtesy of Seth Emmons

Guest Contribution by Lawrence Everson

The relationship that documentary cinema has with truth, realism and subjectivity has long been a lively debate. Likely since its origins as a medium (do a quick Google search about Nanook of the North‘s impact and also its staged shots, for example). Documentary sound design is an often overlooked aspect of the craft that inhabits a particularly interesting and sometimes invisible corner of the debate. In narrative films, sound design largely fabricates fictional environments, but in documentary cinema we as sound editors, designers, and mixers are often tasked with designing a reality for, well, reality, as it were. But whose reality? And what even IS documentary reality in the end? Where is that line drawn between immersive world-building that makes a film come alive, versus blatant misdirection and manipulation of the audience? Is it possible that the realities we build can ultimately be more real than the reality of the moment a scene was shot? (And is recording documentary sound on a commonly mono shotgun mic plus lav even a particularly accurate way of capturing reality?) Is the emotion of a scene more true than the literal fact of a scene?

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

You Should Really Check Out the Freelancers Union…

This is not specifically sound focused, but I thought this would be a relevant post considering so many within our community are freelancers. The Freelancers Union just recently came onto my radar. It is an advocacy group here within the U.S. to support all of those people who don’t have a staff job. In my mind, the most interesting thing about this organization is that they are organizing group health and retirement plans. If you’re a freelancer, this really is something you should check out. Membership is free; the only fees you can incur come with signing up for any of the benefits packages. They even have this handy tool to help you identify what benefit packages are available in your area. If fit one of these descriptions (and I’m quoting here), “freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contingent employees and the self-employed,” I encourage you to check this out to see if it fills any of your needs.

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

Tonebenders Interview with Mark Levinson

Since we’re in the middle of our documentary month, I though it would be worthwhile to point out the latest episode of the Tonebenders Podcast. It’s about a month old now, but if you should really give it a listen if you haven’t already. In it, Timohty Muirhead interviews Mark Levinson, director of the recent documentary Particle Fever. Did you know that Mark has also worked extensively as an ADR supervisor? You should probably listen to it now…good thing I’ve embedded it below.  ;)

 

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Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 | 3 comments

Documentaries

docCrew

Image by flickr user ryantxr, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

When we start talking about sound design most people will automatically think about it in relation to action or sci-fi films; maybe horror or animation. Occasionally, you’ll find people talking about the use of sound in a drama…frequently in those cases, the idea of employing hyper reality. It’s a far more rare occasion to find people talking about the use of sound in documentary. The most common concerns with sound for docs is dialog intelligibility and noise reduction. Those are important, certainly, but the contributions that sound can make to a factual narrative can be profound. There’s also a lot of work going on in the doc community, and we’re going to try and shed some light on it this month.

Guest contributions from the community are a big part of what makes this site special, and we know a lot of you have some connection to this month’s topic. If you’d like to contribute to the discussion this month, or are interested in taking part in next month’s theme (psychoacoustics)…then contact [shaun {at} this website].

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