Another amazing work by Walter Murch, with the sound and picture editing on the remake of Touch Of Evil. Really interesting techniques applied in both sound and picture. And as usual in Walter Murch articles… you can’t miss this!
Orson Welles’ 1957 film noir masterpiece, Touch of Evil, has recently been re-edited and released to enthusiastic reviews–many revolving around the film’s meticulously re-worked sound track, and the real, behind-the-scenes drama that deeply affected Welles’ life and career.
The re-editing project grew from a 58-page memo Welles had sent to Universal studios just prior to the film’s original release. Welles had been absent for the final editing of the film, and Universal had finished it in ways that disturbed the director enormously. The memo, and nine pages of “sound notes”, describe in exquisite detail the ways Welles most passionately wanted the film to be re-edited. Unfortunately, Universal implemented only a very few of Welles’ suggestions, aborting the director’s vision of a film into which he had poured his soul, in the hope it would revitalized his doomed Hollywood career […]
- Walter Murch edited picture and sound on an Avid Media Composer. He exported his sound files in Avid’s Open Media Format (OMF) format and sent these to his editors.
- Sound editors Richard LeGrand and Harry Snodgrass imported Murch’s OMF files into Digidesign Pro Tools audio workstations. They used Pro Tools plug-in software both to process certain segments of the audio and to clean up pops, clicks, snaps and other noise.
- Their primary cleanup tool was the DeClicker from Steinberg www.steinberg.net/
- For processing, they used the d2 equalizer from Focusrite www.focusrite.com and the Lexiverb from Lexicon www.lexicon.com
- They laid their finished audio back to Tascam DA-88s which they took to the mixing stage to create the final analog master.
- To re-record the sound of the radio news broadcast, they used Sennheiser CM-50s and a CM-60.
There is an extensive interview at Parallaz View, with Murch talking about all the info about Touch of Evil.
What does Touch of Evil mean to you as a filmmaker?
It had a large indirect influence on me because the filmmakers who influenced me directly were the French New Wave – Godard, Resnais, Truffaut and Rohmer. But it turns out that as young men they were all heavily influenced by Orson Welles and particularly by Touch of Evil, which came out in 1958, just as they started making their own film, and was much more warmly received in Europe than it was in the United States.
In addition, when I went to film school in 1965, Touch of Evil was only seven years old and was studied directly by all of us because of Welles’ use of composition, camera angles, sound, and staging. It’s a tremendous piece of filmmaking.
Do you find Welles’ sensibility to sound unusual?
It was very unusual then, and it’s still unusual today. I’m just flabbergasted when I read his memos, thinking that he was writing these ideas forty years ago, because, if I was working on a film now and a director came up with ideas like these, I’d be amazed – pleased but amazed – to realize that someone was thinking that hard about sound – which is all too rare.
Do you think that we are culturally trained to have more ability to manipulate the visual for artistic purposes rather than sound?
Not really. If you think about classical music, for example, that’s all about the manipulation of sound for creative purposes. Arguably, the creation of music is on a parallel with, if not even superior to, our abilities to manipulate the visual. It’s when the two are combined that the visual tends to highjack the sound and co-opt it to its own agenda. It’s a fascinating subject to think about. The remarkable thing about Welles’s films is that you can turn off either the picture or the sound, and the films are still understandable. If you listen to just the sound, you’re listening to a radio play – with all of the complexity and overlapping dialogue and overtness of a radio play. On the other hand, when you look at the images, you see what a genius he was at visual storytelling. Usually with directors, it’s one or the other, but not with Welles.
What about the overlapping dialogue technique?
The rule book says don’t overlap dialogue. But in Touch of Evil, there’s sometimes three levels of dialogue going on simultaneously. The result is that you can’t quite catch everything because things are stepping on each other. On the other hand, it gives you the sense that events are really unfolding in front of you, because real life is full of overlaps. When you combine that level of overlapping, as Welles does, with one continuous scene that it is unbroken for five-and-a-half minutes, moving from room to room with actors choreographed in complex staging, you get staggering results. I am referring to the sequence where Hank Quinlan [portrayed by Orson Welles] interrogates Sanchez [portrayed by Victor Millan] at Marcia Linnaker’s [portrayed by Joanna Cook Moore] apartment and then plants the dynamite in the bathroom.
Where are you in the re-editing process?
Well, I’ve been editing the film on an Avid, which also allows me to run eight sound-tracks simultaneously and to mix them all digitally. And so that’s what I’ve done to this point. Those decisions have now been transferred to a hard disk, and that’s been sent to Los Angeles, and they [Universal Studios] will then take what I’ve done on the Avid and will open it up in a ProTools digital workstation. They will then be able to refine what I’ve done even more. I’ve given them a basic landscape to work from. Then we have the final mix and the final print out of the lab. Then we’ll be done!
Full Article here.