Oct 14, 2003
Assignments for Next Week
Handouts for this Week
Lesson for This Week
Sound and music are two more tools in your aresenal, which you
can use to help tell the story that you've figured out through
scene analysis that you'd like to tell. Tonight we will beging
dealing with these issues, with a discussion of sound.
We will take a look at a scene from THE
ENGLISH PATIENT, a film directed by Anthony
Minghella and edited by Walter
Murch (the same duo behind 1999's THE
TALENTED MR. RIPLEY). The scene involves the interrogation
of the Willem Dafoe character, Caravaggio, by a Nazi officer, Muller
(played by Jorgen Prochnow). We will discuss the role that sound
in both the interpretation of the scene and in the execution of
the editing process. Murch, who often edits and mixes the sound
in the movies that he cuts picture for, is quite articulate in
interview that we hand out tonight.
The interview that is being handed out deals with how Murch approached
the editing of the scene from a character's point of view. Once
he decided who changed and why, it was an easy next step to creating
a beat that emphasized that change.
The fascinating thing about his analysis is that it is quite possible
that, after putting the scene together, the audience won't get Murch's
underlying analysis. But because he's analyzed the film in a way
that works within the context of the entire film, it will ring true
nonetheless. The audience will respond to the dynamic between the
Willem Dafoe character and the Nazi major whether they see Murch's
reasonings or not.
In this way, we discover that a true and consistent analysis will
not only help the audience understand what the characters are doing,
but will never introduce a false character moment that will pull
the audience out of their experience.
Comments on Sound
|The variable optical soundtrack has traditionally
been placed on the left side of the film, whether stereo or
mono. Click on the image to see a description of all of the
© British Broadcasting Corp.
Technically, sound is placed onto the film in any number of ways.
The most common over the last several decades has been the optical
soundtrack, as shown on the left.
The soundtrack is mixed down from the combined dialogue, music
and effects tracks (called the DME) to the
minimum number of channels necessary to place on the film. A print
is created from this mix. Up until this point, all of the sound
has been on tape or digital drive formats. Now, it is sent through
a machine which takes these analog or digital sound waves and converts
them into optical/visual waves. An optical negative is
created which is sent to a lab and developed.
During the finishing process at the lab, this optical negative
is printed onto the print film of the images which has been created
from the cut negative (more on this process in a few weeks), resulting
in a positive print of the film with both a picture image and the
optical sound track.
Modern digital soundtracks have changed the placement of the track
appreciably. Some of the sound is placed on the frame lines or on
separate CD-ROMs which are locked together with the film using time
code. However, there is always a soundtrack placed near the sprockets.
To see a description of all of the various soundtrack formats click
here. The article will pop up in a new window. Click on the
close button to come back here.
Finally, Randy Thom in an
article on the Filmsound web site, makes the point that music,
dialogue and sound effects can "each do any of the following
jobs, and many more:
- suggest a mood, evoke a feeling
- set a pace
- indicate a geographical locale
- indicate a historical period
- clarify the plot
- define a character
- connect otherwise unconnected ideas, characters, places, images,
- heighten realism or diminish it
- heighten ambiguity or diminish it
- draw attention to a detail, or away from it
- indicate changes in time
- smooth otherwise abrupt changes between shots or scenes
- emphasize a transition for dramatic effect
- describe an acoustic space
- startle or soothe
Note that an excerpt from this
article appears in this week's handouts.
While I think the last point is almost too specific, the list is a
great one so long as you realize that the creation of sound is all within
the purview of the editorial process -- both traditionally and conceptually.
You can't work with sound design without accounting for it in the editing
room. Thom mentions that what was great about the sound design of APOCALYPSE
NOW began with the script, since it gave the characters "the opportunity
to listen to the world around them." You need to do the same in
the editing. This week's description of the silence in THE ENGLISH PATIENT
is particularly apt here for it is not only the characters who need
to be aware of the world's sound, but the audience as well. In your
log lines I keep asking you to be aware of the atmosphere and the setting
of your films. Sound and music is but one part of this.
- Interview with Walter Murch,
editor of THE ENGLISH PATIENT
- What is fascinating to me about this interview is how Murch, after
researching the feelings and backgrounds of prisoners of war and the
Germans' view of weakness. It caused him to edit the scene in a particularly
effecting way, altering the script and making use of sound and music
in the process.
- Designing A Movie For Sound
- Randy Thom has designed sound for some of Hollywood's biggest films
-- the STAR WARS series, for instance. In this article he talks about
what sound can do ("Sound may be the most powerful tool in the
filmmaker's arsenal in terms of its ability to seduce") and how
to edit a film with sound in mind.
- The Roles Of Sound
- Acccording to Tom Holman, sound in film has both a narrative and
a grammatical role to play. You've probably all worked with him
in 507. Here is an excerpt from one of his books.
Assignments for Next Week
- Recut Scenes 76-79 from ROSWELL
- Using my recut notes, rework the scene. In addition, using the
CD disk of music cues that I've supplied, add music to the scene.
You may use one of the cues, more than one of the cues cut together,
or you may choose to spot the music in more than one place in the
scene. I ask that you try out more than one piece of music and that
you stick to the music from this CD. We will be discussing music
next week -- the aesthetics of the choices, the possibilities of
spotting it (that is, where the music begins and ends), as well as
the technical means of cutting it into the Avid and working it. For
this week, import the file off of the CD. I've given the TA a copy
of Toast Audio Extractor which is usually used for saving the files
off of a music CD and placing it onto a location on your hard drive
(other people use Quicktime). After you've done that, then bring
it into the Avid using the Import... command under the FILE menu.
Import it into a new bin (you can call it "Music"). Then use the
keyframing and rubber banding techniques in the Avid in order to
adjust the volume.
- Read Chapters 12 and 12A
- These chapters talk about preparing for sound and music.
- Log Line #2
- Once again, you will be creating a log line based on an actual
movie that you have seen (don't use the same film you used for your
first log line). It can be recent or old. Give it plenty of thought
and try to desribe the core of what makes the film special. Go back
and re-read the notes I gave you from your first log line. What was
missing from your log line back then? Did you miss detail? Did you
work just enough details in to "sell" the story and the
uniqueness of the film to me? Go back over the
notes from the last log line and see what it is that you missed out
(Page will open in a new window. Close it to return
to this page.)
Nazarian's article "Post Audio FAQs"
- This Frequently Asked Questions article includes many articles
on sound in film, as well as an excellent bibliography. The article
is posted on Sven
Carlsson's Film Sound site, which also has a great glossary
of sound terms right there on the home page.
- The Motion
Picture Sound Editors
- association has a site which has current news, lists of awards
and a series of links. Not very much in the way of papers or source
material, though. A bit out of date, though the links site has some
very interesting technical sites on it. A small, but interesting,
set of discussion groups of which a few are open to the public.
Lines by Rob Tobin [WARNING -- This link may be down from time
- A student from a year or two ago, James Masi, gave me this link
to an excerpt from a book by Rob Tobin. In it he talks about creating
the "objective" and "subjective" storylines.
This is actually a great way of describing the two levels that you
should put into your own log line. I've been talking about how you
need to talk about your characters, the setting and what they do.
I've also talked about how you need to describe what the characters
want and do. Tobin's description is actually a much more succinct
and clever way of talking about it.
Changing Face of Audio Post-Production
- Bob Grieves, a well-known sound editor in Los Angeles, writes an
article for the Editor's Union newsletter. He makes some good points
about decentralizing the work. He also his concerns about how the
art of sound editing might deteriorate, become a service. His point
here is a good one -- sound is so powerful a force in the editing
process that is a shame when it is relegated to what I call "see
a door, hear a door." -- filling in the obvious.
- A comprehensive site which not only has a glossary, but it has a
series of articles by Randy Thom, Walter Murch and a number of other
sound theorists. Well worth the trip.
- Editing sound on SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
- Two interesting articles by Elizabeth Weis provide some insight
into the creation of a complete soundtrack. The article "Creating
Sound For Jonathan Demme" describes the work on SILENCE OF
THE LAMBS. The article "Sync
Tanks" is a general overview, with some very nice quotes
from New York sound editors and sound supervisors, of the sound post-production
- An excellent series of questions and answers with some of the best
sound designers in the field -- dealing with questions about foley,
micing, how you make sound underwater, and more.
Sound of Sound
Altman's general overview of the history of sound in film is worth
Magazine's Audio Articles
- Jay Rose writes a column for DV
Magazine on a variety of sound issues. This link will take you to
the listing of his columns.
theory of sound in motion pictures by Walter Murch
- A highly theoretical article, but fasincating nonetheless, It is
a transcript of a speech that he gave to sound mixers, editors and
enthusiasts (if that word makes sense in the context of sound), in
which he discusses the complexity of the sound experience.
- There are various ways of obtaining surround sound in theatres and
on DVD. This scholarly paper explains the differences between them
all with some diagrams on where they are located on the film.
- Lisa Baro's North
Beach Post's web site.
- Lisa gives a lot of valuable information on post-production (and
on-set production) sound. Her manifesto for this San Francisco based
audio company states:
This very, very opinionated web
site was designed for my current and future clients. They're usually
new or first time do-it-yourself guerrilla filmmakers, trying to make
do with low to no budgets. They usually function as writer/ director/
producer and sometimes editor. They either shoot on 16mm, or record
on miniDV or BetaSP and then transfer to film. Many new directors
come to me with no idea what audio post is about and this site tries
to address this.
Optical Sound Works
- The Web Site "How Stuff Works" has an interesting set
of pages on how the optical soundtrack works, and how it evolved to
its present state. This page has a cool Flash film which gives you
a sense of why light shot though this optical soundtrack can turn