Designing 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…
If you made it to the Designing Sound mixer we held during the AES conference in New York last year, you may have met Neil Benezra. Neil is a Brooklyn based sound designer and mixer, and he’s just shown up on the cover of the latest issue of CineMontage (the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild Journal). We’re always happy to see members of our community being recognized. Why not go give it a read? ;)
Image by Alisha Vargas. Used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.
Guest Contribution by Richard Gould
…and a hold-over from last month’s “Voice” theme
I didn’t realise it until recently, but I’ve been a sound designer for most of my life. I may have only discovered the term “Sound Design” a few years ago, and I may have just graduated from studying the craft of sound design itself, but like most of us, I’ve been designing sounds since I was a kid, I just didn’t know it. True, I wasn’t sitting behind a console discussing aesthetics with directors, nor was I packing up my gear for a field recording session, but just as I might find myself today making sounds for non-existent worlds, beings and spacecrafts, I was doing the same thing when I was six years old.
I would run through the woodland up in the valley near my house, only it wasn’t a woodland, it was an alien landscape on a distant planet, or a medieval forest where a beastly dragon placed me in mortal danger. I could see these creatures, I could hear them (and I wasn’t afraid to let others hear them either). I was using the two most powerful tools in my sound design toolbox to realize the sonic sources of these worlds; my imagination and my voice. As I grew older however, I had less and less time to go up to the woodland, less time to visit these other worlds, and as a result, my first career as a sound designer came to an abrupt end around the age of eleven.
Andy Wooding has a new interview with one of our former Featured Sound Designers, Coll Anderson, up over on FilmDoctor.co.uk.
I don’t know if there’s a difference. They both involve a certain level of verisimilitude and so you can’t really say there’s a difference. People will say ‘documentaries are real and fictitious films are about telling stories’ but documentaries are really about telling stories and fictional films often want to feel super real. So there’s a huge cross over between them. When you insert a camera into a situation, that situation is no longer real. It changes. It changes the dynamic. There’s a square box capturing it. We go to great lengths to show ‘oh the truth of the square box’ but it’s not true.
Head here to read the full interview.
Photo by Aditya Laghate. Used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.
Guest Contribution by Joel Raabe
At night in the darkness, I often hear voices in my head. Though it’s strange to admit, as I drift off to sleep after a long day of cutting dialogue or mixing the latest program, indistinct voices emerge and converse in the surround field of my theta wave brain. The wash of leftover phonemes from the work day somehow eases me to sleep, a bizarre lullaby panning through my mind.
As sound artists, we spend much of our lives with people we’ve probably never met, famous actors and fantastical creatures. These characters lodge in our brains as we rely on their patterns and personalities to guide us through editing and storytelling. I often wonder, how much of own voice ends up projected in these characters? Is it our job to color them or should we mostly stay out of the way, mechanically fulfilling our sonic duties in service to the director, producer, or sound supervisor?