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Welcome to the The Dig It Post by Grammy© Award winner Tom Efinger.

Gravitational Mix

Creating sound for an outer-space movie can be an incredibly creative and challenging endeavor. There are a lot of decisions to be made about how you are going to address certain aspects of the sound editing and design. It really is anything but straightforward.

Gravity, the recent blockbuster by director Alfonso Cauron, has certainly taken the art form to a whole new level. The meticulous directionality of the Gravity soundtrack, and the attention to each small sound detail, are amazing to experience in a 7.1 surround, or Dolby Atmos theater. Paired with a score that is sometimes gentle, sometimes raucous, and that rides the ambient line between tonal design and music; and you end up with a unique and riveting sound experience.

Dig It Audio had the chance to flex some creative space muscle on the sound design and mixing for Europa Report. At a fraction of the budget of a big film like Gravity, Europa Report shows what smart indie filmmaking can achieve with big ambitions and somewhat modest means; and actually the sound challenges between these two films are quite similar. This is the first article in a three-part series that will detail the specific challenges concerning dialogue, FX and music in these space movies. This first article will cover the dialogue challenges. The second will offer insight into FX, and the third will be about the music. Since Dig It was solely involved in the sound work for Europa Report, the focus will be more on this film, but I think the comparisons will prove to be useful.

When you are doing a movie where spacesuits and spaceships are concerned, you have some very interesting decisions to make right up-front. Even the treatment of dialogue requires careful planning. In the case of Europa Report, we were fortunate to have excellent location dialogue, recorded by location sound mixer Christof Gebert. Because the film is set mostly inside a spaceship, and was shot with up to eight small HD cameras, covering all angles simultaneously, the majority of the dialogue was best captured with lavalier microphones. There were also plant microphones and camera-mounted microphones, but unless the actors happened to be close by, they were not as useful as the lavaliers.

Before we edited the first word of dialogue on Europa Report, the sound team sat down to have an in depth discussion about what we were setting out to do. The main topic of conversation was how we would choose to effect the sound of the dialogue in different instances in the movie. The primary instances were: ship to suit, suit to ship, suit to suit, and then the sound perspective from inside the suit, and the perspective from outside the suit. Each one of these should or could potentially have a different sound treatment. Since it is easiest to effect all the sounds on one individual track similarly, the dialogue editor Paul Bercovich started to set up groups of tracks, where each group was routed through a group master that could have its own unique processing for each instance. He also set up the initial settings for intercom processing or “futzing” for each group in his dialogue edit tracks. So, from the very beginning, we were able to listen to the dialogue with an approximation of the various levels of futzing we would be using later in the mix. This is, of course, very helpful as you can really see how the “futzed” dialogue will stand up to music or large effects sequences as you build those tracks.

In Gravity, I noticed that the actors wore ear-mounted microphones with a small stiff wire that brings the mic head to the side of the cheek. In a brief video by SoundWorks Collection, with Gravity sound designer Skip Lievsay, he says that they were able to use a good deal of the dialogue recorded during location shooting in the final mix of the film. I am confident that is because of those special microphones, which are always in the right position regardless of the actors’ movement. Although I normally preach that the “Boom” sound is best, these actor-worn microphones do offer certain advantages. Besides the fact that they are always well-positioned, they also can make it much easier to record ADR that matches production, since the “miking” is so consistent. Another advantage is that the dialogue for each actor is greatly separated from the others, so you can separately effect or pan the dialogue for each actor as you wish.

There is also a big creative advantage to doing sound for a space movie, where the cast wears helmets, in that you can be very flexible with ADR. As I just mentioned, it is much easier to match the ADR with these actor-worn microphones, and since moving around in spacesuits provides a great deal of opportunities for the actor’s mouths to be “off screen,” you can alter dialogue as much as you want. This was something that the director and producers of Europa Report took full advantage of. I know we recorded more than 400 lines of ADR for the movie. There were several details of the story line that they wanted to clarify, and we experimented with various bits of dialogue to see what would work best. This option can also have a significant effect on the picture editing. If you know you have a line that you want to change, you can simply use the camera angle that puts that actor’s face off-screen. Then you can change the dialogue at will.

As I mentioned earlier, the first pass of dialogue futzing for the intercom effects was done in the sound editing. We then made quick mixdowns of this first pass of futzing, and these mixdowns were passed on to the sound effects team, so they could hear and work with this first round of processed dialogue in their edit sessions during the FX edit. The final treatment of the dialogue, however, is saved for the mix. In the video with Skip Lievsay, about the sound for Gravity, he talks about how they realized that the amount of futzing they used on the dialogue affected the emotional detail of that dialogue. The more futzed it was the less the emotion came through. He says that they tweaked the futzing a little more or less to make sure they were keeping the emotional content strong in certain areas. We had a similar discovery when working on Europa.

The way I thought of it was that the more we futzed the dialogue the more distance we felt from the characters. At times that can really work to your advantage. For example, when the crewmembers are working on remote parts of the ship during a spacewalk, it can be a nice effect to feel distanced from them. In some ways it even makes them feel more vulnerable to the forces beyond the safety of the ship. But we also realized the same kind of emotional effect as they did in Gravity. We originally had all the dialogue that took place in the spacesuits processed with a moderate degree of futzing. We were using a Speakerphone setting that both filtered and distorted the voices. Because we wanted to feel more connected to the characters, we decided to apply no futzing, only a small tight helmet reverb, to any shot where we were in close POV on the actor’s face or POV from inside their helmet. We also lightened up the futzing effects in the instance of suit-to-suit communication. Meaning when we were on the close helmet POV of any given actor, and they were hearing someone speaking to them from a spacesuit, the effect was less, providing more intimacy in the sound between the astronauts in suits, than in their communications to and from the ship.

Another decision point concerning dialogue is about panning. In Gravity, they chose to be very active with dialogue panning, in the video, Skip says that they wanted the dialogue to float around with the characters in space. This is a choice that works very well in the design scheme for the film. I chose to be more conservative in the panning of dialogue for Europa Report. I chose to pan dialogue in selected places where the effect of the panning would be most effective. Also, because Europa is supposed to be a found-footage kind of film, we were very conscious of not pushing the surround specifics too far. We felt that we could get away with a certain amount, but wanted it to be subtle and mostly unnoticeable.

If all of this is not enough, we still had one big direction from the director and producers; and it would mean an entire additional treatment on the dialogue tracks. One of the major concepts in Europa Report is that the data transmission equipment on the ship has been badly damaged. The direction was that they wanted to apply “glitching” moments where the video signal would just break up, or cut out entirely. They wanted us to cut the audio or glitch the audio in those places, and they also wanted the dialogue to be additionally degraded or “glitched” in other areas as well.

In order to tackle this task, we enlisted the skills of sound editor/designer Abigail Savage. She took each section of dialogue that needed to be glitched, and copied it three times onto three different tracks stacked together. She then processed each of the three with progressively more degradation. The first was mildly distorted. The second was moderately distorted, and the third was completely distorted. This worked perfectly in the mix, as I could use the three faders on those tracks to create more or less degradation depending on which of the three I brought up at any given moment. It allowed us to craft these moments in real time in the mix and take specific direction as to what words we wanted to hear more or less of, and it was easily changeable on-the-fly. The end result was great. We could alter any glitching moment by choosing the appropriate track, and we could experiment with what worked the best.

As you can see, the challenges with the dialogue alone, on Europa Report, were huge. Not only did it take a creative team to pull it off but also an organized one. I think we all felt that we had done some of our best work on this project. I will follow up this article with two more. Stay tuned for the next installment of Europa Report vs. Gravity with a discussion about the FX design and editing.—By Tom Efinger

By Thane Boulton at 2:57PM on January 15, 2014

Mixed Emotions

As sound designers and mixers we are immersed in technology and spend a great deal of time trying to create intricate sound effects and soundscapes with the tools that our computer age has given us. But at the core of sound for film is the question: How does it make the listener feel?

I will often say to a director, “Tell me how you want this to feel—and I can translate that into sound”.

This is true for a moment, a scene, or an entire film. In many ways, it is like painting the background with emotionally charged elements. And that is why I find sound for picture so interesting—there are so many different ways that you can paint the backgrounds. While picture is somewhat more literal, sound is incredibly subjective. Many different sound approaches could potentially work for a given scene.

Creating emotion with sound is in some ways simple and in some ways complex. The simplest example I often use is to describe a scene where a couple is sitting quietly eating dinner at their kitchen table. There is a window nearby and whatever sounds we choose to put in the background can greatly alter the mood or feeling of that scene; if we put a large angry barking dog outside, then the scene will feel ominous and tense. If we put children playing and laughing outside then the scene will feel joyful and hopeful.

We can effectively dial emotion through our choice of what I call “design effects”.

I think this also raises the question: What is sound design? I have heard it defined as making a sound, or sounds, from a literal source and altering it to such a degree that it becomes a new sound. I think that is certainly sound design, but I think the term can and does mean so much more. I think it also refers to the creation of new original sounds from sound generators and synthesizer modules. And I think it is just as valid to say that the overall sound concept for a film is sound design, and that that concept may include how sound transforms and changes throughout the film. It can be a critically important tool to alter the trajectory of the sound as you move through a film. I think that, ideally, the overall sound design is a collaboration between the director, the sound designer and sound editors, the composer, and the re-recording mixer. All the elements come together at the mix where we strive to create an emotionally compelling soundtrack.

We recently completed work on 'May in The Summer,' an Arab/American dramedy from writer, director and actor Cherien Dabis. In this film, which takes place in Aman Jordan, we really wanted to convey that, although Aman is a relatively safe city, the military strife in the region and the cultural differences of the Muslim population from the main characters, of western sensibility, were palpable. We inserted several recordings of call to prayer throughout the film to highlight the Muslim presence, and took advantage of opportunities to highlight the SFX of military helicopters and fighter jets to add a sense of tension and potential danger lying on the outskirts. We also started the film with a very noisy and frenetic soundscape. This mirrored the protagonist’s state of mind at the beginning of the film. Then towards the end of the film we transitioned to a very open and ethereal soundscape as the protagonist finds some clarity during a trip to the desert. We really wanted to highlight the emotional movement from confusion to clarity.

Another recent project was 'The Europa Report.' This was a tricky film as it presents itself as a found surveillance footage documentary, yet it becomes very dramatic in the later scenes and needs to move into a bigger sci-fi kind of space. We kept the design and the mix rather subtle to begin the film. But as the stakes go up so does the sound. The Sound Designer, Rich Bologna, made some very cool sounding tones and drones. We were able to really let those rip as we got into the bigger action sequences, amping up the tension, danger, and suspense. He created a lot of his design from scratch, so he was able to go for a very precise design aesthetic. This job actually had multiple layers of sound design. We had one FX editor do all of the technology sounds, like beeps and bleeps, and we had someone else doing all of the intercom voice FX. The result is an immersive experience into the world of the space ship and the world of the planet Europa. If you can pull people in with rich and complex soundscapes at first, then it becomes easier to mix up the bolder design FX elements as you move through a film.

I think it’s fun and challenging to think about sound design and mixing in terms of the emotional space. Anytime you can take a step back from the technology, and get to a basic feeling of what you are trying to achieve, the more it will add clarity and purpose to your design.—Tom Efinger

By Thane Boulton at 2:27PM on October 19, 2013

Transitional Thinking

Dig It just recently completed the sound editing and mixing for the documentary film What Is Cinema? by Chuck Workman. The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival. Chuck has been an editor, director, and producer for the past 40 years. He is an Oscar winner for his short film Precious Images, and he has edited the archival sequences for 14 Academy Awards shows. His credits go way further should you have the urge to look him up. Needless to say, he is a real pro and takes his editing to a high art form.

What Is Cinema? is a very interesting film that deals with that very question through interviews with renowned directors and an artful selection of archival clips. It was a fairly straightforward mixing job as films go. It was mostly three main elements: interview, archival film clips, and music. There were a handful of sound effects sprinkled in here and there, but not a lot of effects or sound design. Because Chuck also had to attend some of the color correcting sessions, the plan was for me to mix unsupervised for part of the time and then to review and mix with Chuck for the final passes. We started the mix working together though. We both felt that it was important for me to understand what he wanted in terms of the style of the mix, before he left me to work unsupervised. As we worked through the first few scenes, I was able to get a feel for how he liked his music to voice levels and what the feel of the piece was supposed to be.

Once I had a good sense of what he wanted he left me to plow on ahead as he tended to the color sessions. This can often be a great strategy as it also allows the mixer to really work fast. If there are no conversations and no input then you can just do what you feel is right and cover ground quickly. My plan of attack on a piece like this is to EQ and ride levels for the voice or voices for a given scene first, then set a level for the music, and then go back and make small fader riding adjustments to all the elements to make sure they are in balance throughout the scene.

When Chuck came back to join me for the final mix and review passes, he said something I found very interesting. He said that he thought the levels for the music and voices were feeling good and he might have a few notes pertaining to them, but that mostly he was interested in really working the transitions in and out of the archival clips and between scenes and sections of the film. That comment really rang true for me, as I have always felt that a really good mix has to flow in a way that makes sense and works for that given project. That does not mean that some abrupt and even jarring hard cuts might not be appropriate. It just really depends on the moment or specific transition. So we spent some careful time working the transitions. We experimented with different fade combinations and also trimmed or extended the regions at those cuts to make sure that we had found the best solution for each one.

We were on a very tight schedule to finish this feature length mix in just 20 hours. As soon as the audio files were created they would be rushed over to the picture house to make a DCP that would then go to Toronto. Fortunately we were able to execute the plan with the efficient work flow we had laid out at the start. We were both confident that we had done a thorough job and come up with a solid mix for the film.

By Thane Boulton at 9:32PM on September 24, 2013

Cake & Icing

Prospective clients often ask, “How much does it cost to do sound for a film?" That's like asking how much it costs to buy a car. The answer is: You can probably find some old junker on Craigslist for $500, or you can spend $500,000 on a Bentley Coupe.

The range is really that broad. So, what that means is that there are many different levels of detail and finish when it comes to a soundtrack.

I want to specifically address the area of independent narrative feature films, and what is appropriate for a typical low budget indie film. For the sake of this conversation—let’s just say that the low budget range is a total film budget of $100,000 to $1,000,000. I think it’s also important to define an acceptable level of finish. I always consider an acceptable level of finish as: a properly sound edited and mixed soundtrack, that can stand up to any other film on the top tier festival circuit (Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, etc.), sound good in any movie theater, and meet the industry standards expected for purchase and distribution.

Here’s where I begin my analogy. If you are supposed to bring the cake to a party, then you have to bring cake. In film sound, I think of the cake as the absolutely base minimum that is required to meet the acceptable standards. That base minimum is: well edited production dialog and production sound with adequate tone work, a complete ambient or backgrounds pass, essential hard effects and Foley effects, and a well balanced mix with proper Dialog EQ that meets typical level standards.

It’s very hard to skimp on the cake. If these elements don’t exist, the project will not be up to a professional standard. I always tell my clients that if I can’t give them cake for the time and money allotted—then I can’t take the job.

But what we all want is icing. So, what is the icing? The icing consists of any other layers of sound that add to the detail and mood of the soundtrack. The most simple example I can make entails what I call Design FX. Let’s say you have a scene with a couple eating dinner at their kitchen table. The mood is quiet and they are not speaking to each other. If you put the sound of a large angry barking dog in the background you will add tension to the scene. If you add the sounds of children laughing and playing in a nearby playground you will add a sense of hope or innocence.

The scene can exist without either of these effects being edited in, but the effect is clearly not the same. So, design effects are not required to have a professional sounding film, but they add so much to most any project. Foley effects are another area that can be very basic to very detailed. You can get away with a bare minimum of Foley, but a fully buffed out set of Foley tracks adds intimacy and texture to otherwise flat moments in a soundtrack.

I think you get my point: All films need cake—but the icing is optional and can exist in many layers and with endless creativity in design and execution. Personally, I have a hard time letting the cake go out the door without at least some icing. We always provide the cake and then squeeze on as much icing as we have time for—even on the most basic of soundtracks.

So, what does it cost to do sound for a narrative feature film? In my mind it takes roughly 10% of the total budget of a film. A $500,000 film should allot about $50,000 for sound edit, sound design, and mix. That budget should allow for cake and a good deal of icing. This formula needs to be adjusted up or down for much higher or lower total budgets. For example, a film with a $100,000 budget would still need about $30,000 to get cake and a touch of icing. A film with a $3,000,000 budget would need about $150,000 to have cake and icing. It’s definitely open to interpretation and the specific needs of any given project, and when pressed to meet lower budgets you can skimp on the icing.

But we'd rather you didn't.—Tom Efinger

By Thane Boulton at 6:04PM on August 22, 2013

The Sound of Genius


The film Beneath </strong>is the latest directing effort of writer, director, actor, and producer Larry Fessenden. Larry is a tried and true film maker; his acting credits include roles in movies like Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead, Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, and The Brave One with Jodi Foster and Terrence Howard. He has directed several films, too: The Habit, Wendigo, The Last Winter, and Beneath are some of his main titles. He has also produced more films than you can shake a stick at. Larry is a real craftsman and his knowledge as a filmmaker informs every aspect of his films. What's more, Larry Fessenden is an accomplished musician—who has the kind of ear and creative instincts that lead to great and compelling sound in movies.

Larry, you and I go way back.  It might be fun to mention that we went to high school together and dabbled in film, theater and music back then.  And now we recently finished the sound editing and mixing on Beneath, the third feature film, with you as director,  that I have had the pleasure to work on. We have worked on about 12 to 15 feature film projects together with you as producer. I should also mention that the sound designer, Graham Reznick, who is someone we have both worked with extensively in the past several years, played a huge role in the sound for Beneath.

LF: I always like to tell people who I introduce to DigIt that you taught me to play the saxophone back in ninth grade when I was trying to figure out the instrument on my own. And I've watched DigIt grow over the years. These are my favorite relationships in show biz, the on-going ones. 

Sound has always been a profound part of a movie for me. Before you could rent video, back in the bad-old 70's, I would record movies off the TV and listen to them on cassette over and over and develop a relationship to the rhythm of the sound effects, talking  and music—and I gained an appreciation for the potency of those elements playing together, even without picture. 

I met Graham through Ti West and quickly came to understand his obsessive love and command of sound design. I immediately got him on to my project THE LAST WINTER, but he ended up being relegated to foley editor of the wendigo footfalls—of no small importance mind you. But in any case I hoped to work with Graham eventually and finally Beneath came along. Of course in the interim we have been at maybe half a dozen mixes together on the films I've produced.

How much do you think about sound when you are writing or working with the script prior to shooting?

LF: The way I work, I generally preconceive a film as I write the script. Even if I don't write the original draft, eventually I get the script into a program where I can start breaking the whole story into beats, then individual shots. Somewhere in there the sound starts taking shape as well. A sense of place and the atmosphere are hugely important to a film, and I'm thinking about that stuff from the start. Also, like a lot of filmmakers, I start listening to music and gathering tracks that take me to that place where the film exists. So even at the start when I dream about my film, that dream has a full 5.1 mix.

Do you shoot differently when you are working towards a special sound moment?

LF: Every shot you take has an effect on the viewer, that is why the choice of lens, shutter speed, frame rate, exposure and movement all matter. At the same time, when planning a shot, I am often hearing how it will play as well. Often on set I bemuse my crew by making the sound of a shot: "Camera zooms in like this." And then I'll make a zoom sound. Then cut—and so on. Ti West does this too. It's because film is rhythm, and rhythm suggests sounds. 

On set I will occasionally assert that there will be sound design on a shot, and there is no need for sound, but the reality is it's always good to take sound. At the same time, slating for sound can be infuriating and disruptive and I can get very impatient when trying to be spontaneous or candid or off the cuff. I am a big fan of tail slating, but so often people forget to call it. All of this speaks to having a crew that is working in sync with each other.

What were some of the specific challenges for sound on this project during the shooting?

LF: There were many. First of all, there was the acoustics of the water. You could literally hear people talking on shore even when you were in the middle of the lake. When the camera was low to the surface of the water the fan in the camera would echo and make all sorts of noise. And there was no hiding six lavaliere on the scantily clad teens either. We generally boomed from a little rubber raft and we had a lavaliere hidden in the boat so we had some choice in perspectives. Of course, it being summer, we had a lot of lawn mowers mowing throughout the day, and did I mention we were near a small airport? Then there were the dog walkers who were very pleasant except for the one who put a cowbell on his pooch. Took twenty minutes to hunt them down. Every day at 5:00 the local shooting range started up. You can still hear some of the shots on the soundtrack.

How did you begin to discuss the sound design with Graham, and how did that conversation evolve?

LF: Graham was actually on the shoot taking stills and he ran second unit the last week, so we were always talking about the sound, delighting in gathering creeks and noticing the noises of the lake and the boats and all the specifics of the location. Our sound man was excited to spend a day recording wild material for us, but as happens with low budget productions, someone in the ranks forbade him from doing the task to save money, and when I found out it was too late. This is always a tragedy. We recorded sounds months later in the country with the boats on dry land, but Lord, do it while you're on set and in the moment. I was on another movie long ago and the sound guy said he would record lots of great wild tracks for us as soon as the shoot wrapped. He couldn't have known his brother was going to murder their father, but that's what happened so he never got to record the wild sound, he had to go home.

Thus, do it while you're there on location, don't delay. There may not be a "later".

Graham had a wonderful reaction to the edit of the movie. He saw in my cutting and temp-audio that I wanted a heightened sound design. What we did was we sat down only once and "spotted" the film, took notes with time code on every single sound event we imagined in our heads. We were remarkably in synch in how we heard the film, where we wanted to play with perspectives, reverbs, drones, where the music would dominate and where the sound design would dominate. Some scenes were specifically shot with the sound in mind, as for example where the boat creeks fall into a nagging rhythm throughout the first voting scene. We established motifs throughout the film that form a subliminal substructure to everything the viewer hears. I always say, there is one picture that an audience responds to in a movie, but there are myriad sound tracks that are having a profound effect on the viewing experience.

Graham took the notes and went into his lab and built a great many tracks on his own—and then we watched it and made refinements in preparation for the mix. With some collaborators, I am more controlling, but with Graham, I felt in safe meticulous hands.

We had some fun mixing this show for sure.  I find that we're usually working with some very set ideas that you have going in, but we also leave room for experimentation. Can you comment on that?

LF: The great thing about genre films is you are working with subjective reality, and you are trying to put the audience in a place beyond their normal experience. Sound can be a critical method to transport the viewer. When we get into the mix room, no matter how much we've put in place, there are still opportunities to experience the film anew, and once the dialogue is refined and smoothed out, the real mix begins. Everything from choosing the reverbs that work in the room, to placing sounds in the 5.1 mix, to finding new enhancing sound effects comes up in the mix. No matter how much preparation there is beforehand, the mix is the time you are seeing all the elements together for the first time, and you want to be responsive to the fresh experience and keep crafting the material. For me, the best approach to all aspects of filmmaking is to show up with a plan and be prepared to verge from it if the spirit moves. Often the mix is the time that the music stems are first made available, and a lot of the mix is dealing with the balance between music and the sound design. For me, a good wind sound and a creek are as potent as a symphony orchestra. It's all about crafting each moment.

What is your favorite aspect of the finished sound design and mix?  What came as a surprise if anything?

LF: With sound, you can give weight, you can give immediacy, or existential indifference. In film school they often talk of the Kulachov theory of picture editing where they have an actor's face staring and when you cut to a soup bowl the actor seems hungry, but when you cut to a coffin he seems sad and so on. Just think of all the things you can do with sound, just watching that same face and listening. That's what I like about sound. It is a primary storyteller, every bit as much as picture. Of course on set all you care about is getting the image, sound gets trounced.

In Beneath, we tried to find aspects of telling a very traditional (dare I say clichéd?) story and find unexpected ways to present the material, as with when the first girl dies, we let the sounds drift away and we enter a dream state as the characters grapple with the strange reality that has just befallen them. Throughout the movie we delved into subjective points of view to indicate how the mind grapples with shock.

Do you find that directing the sound finishing is a difficult challenge or is it relatively easy after all the pressures of production?

LF: It is relatively easy only in that you are in a studio with your latte and pretzels, not off on location sweating it out. But there are the same restrictions on time that plague any endeavor with a budget. The thing about the mix, is it is truly the last stop on the long journey creating a film. If you are doing things right, it's even after color correction, so this is the last chance to unify the film and make every beat flow to the next to create the impact, legibility and subtlety you are after. It is the end of the line, and therein lies tremendous pressure and the start of letting go.

By Thane Boulton at 9:07AM on July 22, 2013

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In This Month's Dig It Post

Atypical Score

I just got back from a work trip to Baton Rouge Louisiana. I was hired to go there to mix Universal Soldier 4, directed by John Hyams and starring Jean Claude Vandam, Dolf Lundgren, Scott Atkins, and Andrei Arlovsky.



For the Birds

Directors tend to hate birds. It's a curious thing. Not that the particular form of our species called “director” has a personal vendetta against all winged creatures. It's just those damned birds! In the middle of some big dramatic moment, in New York, in the winter, inevitably during the best take: birds.



Trial & Error

Mike Birbiglia's new film Sleepwalk With Me recently had a great run at Sundance, winning the Best of NEXT Audience Award, and I wanted to take this opportunity to use Sleepwalk to discuss a fundamental element of sound design: trial and error.



Right Where He
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In 1997 Dig It had the pleasure to work on Todd Solondz's second feature film Happiness. In 1997 Dig It had the pleasure to work on Todd Solondz's second feature film Happiness. They sent me the script to read before we talked further about the project.



Complexity and Punch

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Musical Prowess

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Closely & Carefully Positioned

This film is not only a very important piece of documentary film making, but also has a very high production value....



Authenitic Ambience

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Analog in a Digital World

My focus was to take the recordings from the original event and turn them into a fully featured 5.1 soundtrack that could match the power and richness of the film footage and performances.



Swashbuckling Entertainment

Franz Waxman (1906-1967) scored 188 films for Universal, MGM, Selznick, Warner Bros and other studios in the 30 plus years he worked for Hollywood.




The Multi-Track Audio Challenge

When the Drum Is Beating is a great new documentary film from Director Whitney Dow. It is a film about Haiti and features a band called Septentrional Orchestra.




Cake & Icing

Prospective clients often ask, “How much does it cost to do sound for a film?" The answer is...



Effective Subtlety

The Conrad Pope soundtrack for Director Tom Provost's horror film The Presence was released this month to coincide with the Lions Gate DVD release of the film in the US.




The Sound of Marilyn

The film, My Week With Marilyn, deals with Marilyn Monroe’s relationship with Sir Laurence Olivier and other royalty during the filming of The Princess and the Showgirl.




Ambient Violence

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Post Apocalyptic

We teamed up with Glass Eye Pix to provide dialog edit, ADR, VO, Foley, and full mix. Graham Reznick was responsible for sound design and Jeff Grace for score.




Quality not Quantity

How many location tracks does it take to make a movie? This question has been answered by the available technology for decades.




5.1 Mixing 101

There are quite a few advanced articles out there on specifics of 5.1 effects mixing with elaborate track counts and talk of multiple premix stems. Which is all well and good, but I thought it might be helpful to give a primer on mixing for film and video in 5.1.




Texture & Punch

An inherent challenge of shooting in any working bar or restaurant is dealing with the noisy equipment that inevitably lives there.




The Curious Case of VO

It is often the case that the temp VO for a film project is recorded in bits and pieces throughout the picture editing stages...




Nobody Walks

This project posed some interesting challenges in audio post, especially with the production sound.



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