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Industry pros gather to discuss sound design for film and TV

By Mel Lambert

The third annual Mix Presents Sound for Film and Television conference attracted some 500 production and post pros to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, last week to hear about the art of sound design.

Subtitled “The Merging of Art, Technique and Tools,” the one-day conference kicked off with a keynote address by re-recording mixer Gary Bourgeois, followed by several panel discussions and presentations from Avid, Auro-3D, Steinberg, JBL Professional and Dolby.

L-R: Brett G. Crockett, Tom McCarthy, Gary Bourgeois and Mark Ulano.

During his keynote, Bourgeois advised, “Sound editors and re-recording mixers should be aware of the talent they bring to the project as storytellers. We need to explore the best ways of using technology to be creative and support the production.” He concluded with some more sage advice: “Do not let the geek take over! Instead,” he stressed, “show the passion we have for the final product.”

Other highlights included a “Sound Inspiration Within the Storytelling Process” panel organized by MPSE and moderated by Carolyn Giardina from The Hollywood Reporter. Panelists included Will Files, Mark P. Stoeckinger, Paula Fairfield, Ben L. Cook, Paul Menichini and Harry Cohen. The discussion focused on where sound designers find their inspiration and the paths they take to create unique soundtracks.

CAS hosted a sound-mixing panel titled “Workflow for Musicals in Film and Television Production” that focused on live recording and other techniques to give musical productions a more “organic” sound. Moderated by Glen Trew, the panel included music editor David Klotz, production mixer Phil Palmer, playback specialist Gary Raymond, production mixer Peter Kurland, re-recording mixer Gary Bourgeois and music editor Tim Boot.

Sound Inspiration Within the Storytelling Process panel (L-R): Will Files, Ben L. Cook, Mark P. Stoeckinger, Carolyn Giardina, Harry Cohen, Paula Fairfield and Paul Menichini.

Sponsored by Westlake Pro, a panel called “Building an Immersive Room: Small, Medium and Large” covered basic requirements of system design and setup — including console/DAW integration and monitor placement — to ensure that soundtracks translate to the outside world. Moderated by Westlake Pro’s CTO, Jonathan Deans, the panel was made up of Bill Johnston from Formosa Group, Nathan Oishi from Sony Pictures Studios, Jerry Steckling of JSX, Brett G. Crockett from Dolby Labs, Peter Chaikin from JBL and re-recording mixers Mark Binder and Tom Brewer.

Avid hosted a fascinating panel discussion called “The Sound of Stranger Things,” which focused on the soundtrack for the Netflix original series, with its signature sound design and ‘80s-style, synthesizer-based music score. Moderated by Avid’s Ozzie Sutherland, the panel included sound designer Craig Henighan, SSE Brad North, music editor David Klotz and sound effects editor Jordan Wilby. “We drew our inspiration from such sci-fi films as Alien, The Thing and Predator,” Henighan said. Re-recording mixers Adam Jenkins and Joe Barnett joined the discussion via Skype from the Technicolor Seward stage.

The Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage.

A stand-out event was the Production Sound Pavilion held on the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage, where leading production sound mixers showed off their sound carts, with manufacturers also demonstrating wireless, microphone and recorder technologies. “It all starts on location, with a voice in a microphone and a clean recording,” offered CAS president Mark Ulano. “But over the past decade production sound has become much more complex, as technologies and workflows evolved both on-set and in post production.”

Sound carts on display included Tom Curley’s Sound Devices 788t recorder and Sound Devices CL9 mixer combination; Michael Martin’s Zaxcom Nomad 12 recorder and Zaxcom Mix-8 mixer; Danny Maurer’s Sound Devices 664 recorder and Sound Devices 633 mixer; Devendra Cleary’s Sound Devices 970, Pix 260i and 664 recorders with Yamaha 01V and Sound Devices CL-12 mixers; Charles Mead’s Sound Devices 688 recorder with CL-12 mixer; James DeVotre’s Sound Devices 688 recorder with CL-12 Alaia mixer; Blas Kisic’s Boom Recorder and Sound Devices 788 with Mackie Onyx 1620 mixer; Fernando Muga’s Sound Devices 788 and 633 recorders with CL-9 mixer; Thomas Cassetta’s Zaxcom Nomad 12 recorder with Zaxcom Oasis mixer; Chris Howland’s Boom Recorder, Sound Devices and 633 recorders, with Mackie Onyx 1620 and Sound Devices CL-12 mixers; Brian Patrick Curley’s Sound Devices 688 and 664 recorders with Sound Devices CL-12 Alaia mixer; Daniel Powell’s Zoom F8 recorder/mixer; and Landon Orsillo’s Sound Devices 688 recorder.

Lon Neumann

CAS also organized an interesting pair of Production Sound Workshops. During the first one, consultant Lon Neumann addressed loudness control with an overview of loudness levels and surround sound management of cinema content for distribution via broadcast television.

The second presentation, hosted by Bob Bronow (production mixer on Deadliest Catch) and Joe Foglia (Marley & Me, Scrubs and From the Earth to the Moon), covered EQ and noise reduction in the field. While it was conceded that, traditionally, any type of signal processing on location is strongly discouraged — such decisions normally being handled in post — the advent of multitrack recording and isolated channels means that it is becoming more common for mixers to use processing on the dailies mix track.

New for this year was a Sound Reel Showcase that featured short samples from award-contending and to-be-released films. The audience in the Dolby Atmos- and Auro 3D-equipped William Holden Theatre was treated to a high-action sequence from Mel Gibson’s new film, Hacksaw Ridge, which is scheduled for release on November 4. It follows the true story of a WWII army medic who served during the harrowing Battle of Okinawa and became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The highly detailed Dolby Atmos soundtrack was created by SSE/sound designer/recording mixer Robert Mackenzie working at Sony Pictures Studios with dialogue editor Jed M. Dodge and ADR supervisor Kimberly Harris, with re-recording mixers Andy Wright and Kevin O’Connell.

Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, and can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

All photos by Mel Lambert.

 

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