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Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 | 1 comment

Inside Look at the Creation of Movie Sound Effects

New article of Mix Magazine dedicated to sound effects, featuring sound editors Harry Cohen, Christopher Assells and Jon Title.

From the clang of a sword to the roar of a monster to the rev of a car engine, Hollywood directors depend on sound designers and sound effects editors to craft the sonic elements that help add impact and interest, set the mood or ratchet up the terror of a scene. Working with Foley artists, re-recording mixers, composers and others, the creators of film sound effects have challenging jobs that require imagination, creativity and technical abilities, not to mention a great ear.

There are two primary job titles for those who create and edit effects—sound designer and sound effects editor—though the differences between the two job descriptions have become blurred over time, and both are essentially involved in effects creation.

To learn more about the techniques used to create effects for films, Mix spoke with three pros at Soundelux (Hollywood), all with sound designer and sound effects editor credits to their name. Harry Cohen has worked on such titles as Inglourious BasterdsStar TrekRobin HoodThe Green Lantern and The Perfect Storm. Chris Assells has credits on films like Fright NightThe Green HornetWall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Gladiator. Jon Title’s filmography includes Final Destination 5RedBlood Diamond and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Continue reading…

Vía musicofsound

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Posted by on Aug 16, 2011 | 17 comments

Tim Nielsen Special: On the Art of Economy

[Written by Tim Nielsen]

I want to write a series of relatively small ‘thought for the day’ type articles on a variety of topics. In the first, I want to expand on something that came up in the introductory interview, when I said that my main advice to people entering into their careers should learn when to stop.

One of the things that I love and admire, not only in sound, but in filmmaking and art in general, is economy. And I do not economics. but by economy, I mean simply:

“To achieve the maximum effect for the minimum effort.”

My favorite example of that statement is found in the movie Harold and Maude. I’m going to spoil something, so if you haven’t seen the film, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. There is a shot in that movie, I haven’t counted the frames, but I’d be shocked if it was longer than 20 or 30 frames total, that is the best example I’ve ever found. Harold and Maude are sitting near a garbage dump, and she’s describing how glorious seagulls are. There is an insert shot, so short that most people miss it, to Maude’s arm, where you can make out what appears to be a tattoo. A number. And when you realize what the shot is, a concentration camp tattoo, and you understand that Maude survived the concentration camps, the entire movie changes. What was a wacky story of an eccentric old weirdo becomes something a whole lot more powerful. Suddenly Maude makes sense. In one shot, she goes from crazy old lady to concentration camp survivor, and her actions, her very being, suddenly explained.

But for something so powerful, something so important, Hal Ashby made the decision to keep the shot on frame for such a short duration that many people miss it. I can’t think of a director today who would have taken one of the most important pieces of information for truly understanding the film, and letting most viewers miss it. Hal Ashby was an editor before he became a director. And he must have somehow known the exact length of the insert that a percentage of the people would get it, and a percentage wouldn’t. Regardless, the insert itself is such a great reminder in general of how much can be done with so little. One little shot, a second or so in length, can change your entire experience watching this film. I’ve seen the film at least a dozen times. It’s certainly in my top ten of favorite films, and Hal Ashby one of my favorite directors.

One of my favorite books of all time is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Seemingly a children’s book written by an adult, it’s really a book written by a child for adults who have lost their way. I had never read it as a child, a good friend gave me a copy while at USC film school, along with the Graham Greene novel The Power and the Glory, and Graham Greene was also a master of economy, and quickly became one of my favorite authors. But Saint-Exupéry also wrote one of the most beautiful books every written, Wind Sand and Stars, about his time spent in the desert after his plane crashed. And in addition to those two brilliant books, he’s also the author of one of my favorite quotes, and really the idea behind this post:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I wish I had found that quote, and understood it, long ago in my career. So to all of you starting out, memorize those words.

In sound, what I’ve found after years of editing, is that after I’ve completely cut a scene, after I believe I’ve added everything that’s needed, I’m able now to go back and delete about half of what I’ve cut. In every case, the result is a much more defined track.

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 | 0 comments

Coll Anderson Special: Documentary Sound

It’s still June and the gifted Coll Anderson is still the sound designer of the month here at Designing Sound. Among many other things, Coll has done a long list of impressive documentaries and doing an interview focused on this part of his work was an obvious choice.

Among many award winning documentaries, Coll has worked on Restrepo (2010), Catfish (2010) and the Academy Award winning The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003). For this interview, he shares some thoughts on all these films and about the general collaboration with documentary filmmakers.

Designing Sound: In the interview earlier this month, you mentioned how you really love documentary filmmaking. Could you elaborate on that?

Coll Anderson: I became interested in making films through the School of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard (I knew a girl who went there, go figure…). VES has really strong roots in documentary film making and through the people who I met there I fell in love with these films that studied life, real life… Sure we can all understand that having a film crew around affects the life of any subject and thus “document” is a bit of a misnomer, but the work of people like Dick Rogers, Robb Moss, Ross McElwee, not to mention the filmmakers of that community, naturally has an affect on you, and regardless of its ultimate truth, I started to love creating that seamless believability of documentary film in its most Wisemanesque form.

DS: It seems like there’s generally way more focus on documentaries now than, say, 15 years ago. Do you feel the focus on documentary sound has changed during that period, as well?

CA: Sure, ever have to deliver a fully filled M&E for a doc…?  Viewers become more sophisticated, more aware, every year.  That just naturally feeds into the stories documentaries tell. It becomes so important to keep the interaction between viewer and film on a subconscious level and sound is to me the plane where that connection happens.

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Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 | 3 comments

Sound Doodle, New Sound Manipulator by Andrew Spitz

Andrew Spitz, know as  founder of Social Sound Design and blogger at { sound+design }, where he showcases a lot of cool projects, such as his latest creation, called Sound Doodle, a very cool app for experimenting with sounds in many ways.

Sound Doodle is a free desktop application for Mac that takes the act of doodling, and brings it to the world of sound. The interface elements are designed so that you can mold your sound by doodling.

You have very basic editing features to crop, change playback direction and speed, loop, etc.

The routing allows you to draw the order that your sound travels through the effects modules.

To mix, each of your effects is visualized by a node.  As you move your mouse over the nodes, you hear more or less of that effect.

There are four effects, where you change the parameters by drawing. The four are: stereo multitap [tapz], reverb [verbz], granular synthesizer [grainz], and a 5 bank comb filter/resonator [rez].

Here’s a walk-through video of the app:

You can download it for free at { sound+design }

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