We’re getting very close to the end of 2012 and there’s been lots of brilliant sonic experiences in the cinema throughout the year. One that really stood out, though, was the latest adaptation of Wuthering Heights by the English director Andrea Arnold with wonderfully textured soundscapes created by the French sound designer Nicolas Becker. Nicolas has worked as a foley artist for several years and among his collaborators are prominent directors like Roman Polanski, Danny Boyle and David Cronenberg. During the last few years, though, he’s been much more of a sound supervisor and designer. In this interview he discusses working methods, how music inspires him and the exquisite sound world of Wuthering Heights:
Designing Sound: Could you describe your sound design philosophy? What’s sound design for you?
Nicolas Becker: I don’t have a particular sound design philosophy but I think each film should be taken as a prototype, fitting the entire sound process to each film. Working with conceptual artists was and still is very important for me in my approach. For them the artwork itself is not the only target, building a process, designing a trajectory that makes sense with the meaning and the artistic field of the artwork is their main concern. In the movie business the way the budgets are made, and the way the films are made is very industrialized; very normalized.
Great interview at Thirteen with Alan Howarth, talking about scoring and creating sound for horror films, his early influences and experiments, anecdotes from works with Hip-Hop artists, and more.
RC: What’s the craziest contraption you’ve used to capture a wild effect?
AH: When I was developing sound effects for The Hunt For Red October I wanted to record underwater sounds, I rented a hydrophones for the take, but it sounded too tinny for my needs. So I wound up using expensive studio mikes with condoms stretched over them to make them waterproof. It worked great. I went recording in swimming pools and off Long Beach [California]. I got some great tanker ship propeller effects from an underwater perspective that got used for the submarine propeller cavitations effects.
The craziest place? Recording effects for Star Trek, I was recording sounds for starships and shuttles at the Skunkworks for Lockheed. I was in top-secret facilities recording hypersonic wind tunnels and advanced aero devices. A few times they would allow me to be in the hallway, but not in the room were the sound was being made. I would hand them a mike on a long cable and one of the Skunkworks guys actually went into the area.
Thanks to Matteo for the link!
[Written by Tim Walston for Designing Sound]
… And don’t let it get away! One of the things I love most about sound design is the challenge of creating something new. What am I going to make for that on the screen? What the heck does this sound like? How am I ever going to make the sound I hear in my head… come out of these speakers? What do I do if I have no sound in my head yet?
Sometimes we just have to experiment, to explore. This sonic exploration is pure creative impulse, not an exact science. Once you decide on a path to try, you should follow it and see where it leads. Sometimes you achieve your goal, and sometimes you hit a dead end. If so, then you have to try something else. People I admire, cleverer and more experienced than me, have complained: “Why couldn’t I have just [followed the correct approach] first – and saved all the hassle and days of failed experiments!” We all laugh, and then we shake our heads because we’ve all been there. The thing that some people in the non-creative parts of this business don’t understand is that, sometimes, sound design is a journey. It’s an evolution. And sometimes it is possible to never be done. Sometimes it’s only finished when they wrestle it out of your hands and send it off to the mix stage. Times up – it’s now or never!