Thursday, April 18, 2024
Subscribe Now

Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

HomeAwardsSound Editing

Sound Editing


By Sam Molineaux-Graham
Few people walk away from a great movie andcomment on the quality of the sound editing. Yet the underscore ofsound effects, dialogue and foley is one of the most important elementsin a well-made and successful film.
A good sound edit guides the audience emotionally, helps to tell the story and adds realism to what you see on the screen.
�It�snot about big sound effects, car chases and big explosions,� sayssupervising sound editor Karen Baker Landers, who, along withco-supervisor Per Hallberg, has worked on more than 50 films in her20-year career. The duo has completed work this year on The BourneUltimatum, American Gangster and Things We Lost in the Fire. �Howcomplex something is doesn�t necessarily make it good. It�s all abouthow something moves you emotionally when you�re watching the film.�
BakerLanders cites writer and director Steve Kloves� Flesh and Bone as herfavorite sound-editing job. The sound supervisor on that movie wasScott Hecker, who later won accolades for his sound editing on Road toPerdition. �It�s a very subtle piece. It�s mostly atmospheres andwinds, but it complements the visuals amazingly,� she says.
Oftenit is subtle choices, such as pulling sound out of the scene for amoment or presenting an unexpected aural dimension, she says, that cantruly elevate the impact of a film upon an audience.
Baker Landerswon a BAFTA for her work on Ray, where subtleties like experiencing ahummingbird from a blind man�s point of view gave the audience anintimate insight into the world of the performer Ray Charles.
Andin her work on director Susanne Bier�s Things We Lost in the Fire,released last month, she plays with sound to convey grief in HalleBerry�s recently widowed character: In a scene where Berry is taking ashower, instead of hearing the familiar sound of the shower, BakerLanders chose to highlight water drips coming off the character�s faceto play the scene as the character herself would experience it to putthe audience inside the character�s head for a moment.
�If you�removed by emotion, you might not see that was a conscious choice, but ifyou sat with someone like myself and my crew you�d see that�s how weplay with the sound in those types of ways,� she says.
The job ofa supervising sound editor encompasses more than just creating bigsound effects, as many people think. The job also entails overseeingthe dialogue tracks and foley (sounds recorded in postproduction for aspecific purpose, such as footsteps and door slams), creatingbackgrounds and atmospheres, as well as meeting with the director andfilm editor to make sure everyone is on the same creative page.
�It�sa collaborative process, and without that close collaboration, with thedirector and with your own sound crew, it wouldn�t get done,� saysBaker Landers.
Technically, there�s more to sound editing thanmeets the eye. But the technical aspect of the job is all so often seenbut not heard.
�If the dialogue has been cleaned up because theoriginal dialogue tracks were awful, people wouldn�t know that,� shesays. �You should never notice good dialog/ADR editing,� saysSpider-Man 3 supervising sound editor Paul Ottosson, who cites thetension-building opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West as hisall-time favorite sound-editing job.
If a scene shot on locationhas a bad sound quality, or an inappropriate sound finds its way intothe recording just as an actor is reading his line, it�s up to thesound editor to fix it, he says, either by finding the same line fromanother take or re-recording the line altogether in ADR and editing itso it fits seamlessly.
�Sometimes we will have to edit togetherthree or four performances of an actor�s takes to get one goodperformance that the director likes,� says Ottosson. �We will tightenup a delivery, or put in a longer pause or breath in a sentence tochange the delivery. We will clean up a word if the actor stumbles on aword. Sound editing makes a huge difference on most movies.�
Ottosson,who was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA for his work on Spider-Man2, agrees that even though sound is a vital part of most movies, it canbe a difficult discipline to judge if you�re not a sound connoisseur.�There are a lot of things to consider to make a good educated choicewhen you vote on best sound editing,� he says.
In many regardsit�s easier to vote on other categories like acting, cinematography,the visuals and music than on how it sounds, yet those disciplinesoften depend on the sound being good as well, he notes. �As any art,some of this is subjective to the viewer.�
It goes without sayingthat editing sounds for big action movies, that are more busy visuallythan, say, a period drama can be incredibly challenging; and even morework goes into animated movies that have no production sound, meaningevery sound has to be created in post from scratch.
However, �alot boils down to the detail and creative work� of the sound editor,says Ottosson. �Sometimes just as much effort goes into a non-actiondrama, but a novice might have a hard time understanding orappreciating that.�
The single most important thing, he says ishelping the director tell the story with the sound, understanding whatthe scene is about, the movie itself and conveying the charactersconvincingly. �You need to be able to pay so much attention to thosekinds of details.�
Last year, the Academy finally guaranteed thesound editing award, which previously was an honorary award that may ormay not be handed out each year. Now, the award is in line with soundmixing and almost every other award category by allowing five, asopposed to up to three, nominations.

Written by Sam Molineaux

- Advertisment -


Beowulf and 3-D

By Henry Turner Beowulf in 3D is a unique experience, raising not just questions about future of cinema, but also posing unique problems that the...