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Sound for Film Takes Center Stage

By Steve Harvey. The annual ‘Mix Presents Sound for Film & TV’ event at Sony Pictures covered a lot of ground for the hundreds of pros in attendance, including editing for animation, mixing dialog, building an immersive room, women TV & film composers, and more.

Culver City, CA (November 19, 2018)—Mix magazine’s Sound for Film and Picture symposium at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, CA, attracted more than 550 audio post professionals to this year’s fifth annual event. The full-day program extended from the opening keynote by award-winning film and game sound designer Scott Gershin to the final fade of the last clip in the Sound Reel Showcase—a reminder of the traditional Oscar “bake-off”—that evening in the William Holden Theater.

Gershin kicked off the day with a history of sound that came to focus on the worlds of games and virtual reality, reflecting his recent move to Keywords Studios in Burbank, CA, where he and his former Technicolor team have set up Sound Lab to offer sound services for movies, broadcast, streaming, video games and immersive entertainment. On interactive platforms, “audio is no longer post production, but is actually a production tool, woven into the script,” he said. What sounds play, or don’t play, can be used to focus the player, he added.

The first Mix panel in the Burt Lancaster Theater, “Sound Editing for Animation,” highlighted the topsy-turvy world where dialogue is recorded first, and production often stretches over years. The story constantly evolves and last-minute changes are inevitable, panelists reported.

Indeed, the young lead on The Boss Baby went through puberty during production, reported sound designer/supervisor Paul Ottoson, making later recordings tricky to match. As the panel also revealed, the director and crew will often record temp dialogue, bringing in the celebrity voice artists later.

Eileen Horta, who supervises voice recording, said of the process, “It gives you the time to be very creative; you get to play a lot.” She added, “You have a huge impact,” since subsequent animation is based on those recordings.

Asked to provide advice for anyone getting into the animation world, supervising sound editor Geoffrey Rubay said, “Don’t call them cartoons,” to laughter from the audience.

“Mixing Dialogue: The Audio Pipeline” took a deep dive into the process, from capture of production dialogue through delivery to the editor to mixing on the stage. “Dialogue is the key to the whole track,” said re-recording mixer Andrew DeChristofaro.

“There’s always resistance to ADR, but I’ve seen magic happen,” he said, citing a scene from Unbroken, where the team played director Angelina Jolie an example mix of production dialogue, then one of the looped dialogue that convinced her to record ADR. “You went from watching it to being there with them,” DeChristofaro reported.

Mathew Waters stressed communication between departments. As a re-recoding mixer on Game of Thrones, he has worked with the production sound team for years. “But they have also worked with the costumers,” he said, in response to problems with the dialogue tracks caused by the outfits or lav mic placement. “Everybody loves to do great work, so they love to hear feedback.”

Avid, in the Cary Grant Theater, held S6 console demos throughout the day between panels, which included “The Sound of Streaming Content” and “The Future is Female,” in which leading female composers in TV, film and video games discussed their projects. Each played a clip and offered insights into their scores.

Ronit Kirchman, composer for USA Network’s The Sinner, talked about a key hypnotic metronome sound. It became part of the score “because it holds such a metaphorical weight in the show,” she said. Kirchman created “17 or 18 different metronomes” from which the production could choose before delivering a multi-layer sound to the stage that could be manipulated as needed.

Inside the Audio of Doctor Who

Joanne Higginbottom recounted how, for spotting sessions on animated series Samurai Jack, executive producer Genndy Tartakovsky would “do absolutely everything with his mouth—footsteps, gunshots, a motorbike. At the same time, he would do the musical moments, too.” That meant Tartakovsky had to pick whether something was a sound effect or musical moment, ensuring one wouldn’t step on the other. Higginbottom would record the spotting sessions, put them into Pro Tools and frequently created a literal translation of his musical ideas, she revealed.

The final Mix panel, “The Business of Immersive,” offered advice from industry experts on building a Dolby Atmos mix room. The increasing trend is for smaller rooms, according to George Adjieff, CEO of Westlake Pro, often around 600 to 800 square feet—or even smaller. A significant challenge, especially in those rooms, he said, is ceiling height, allowing no space for acoustic treatment. “It doesn’t matter what speakers you put in there if the room isn’t treated properly,” he added.

Retrofitting rooms is especially tricky in older buildings. “A lot of the rooms I deal with have crazy ceiling treatments. You have to sacrifice some aesthetics” to get these new formats into older rooms, suggested Formosa Group engineer Eric Beam.

Jeremy Davis from Sony Pictures’ post services warned that “you have to architecturally consider the ceiling because it has to support speakers, and wires. There’s a whole set of considerations that you’ve not had before.”

On the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage, the Cinema Audio Society offered a program including the always-popular Parade of Carts & Bags, each detailed by their production sound mixer owners. An afternoon panel session discussed the return of 3D ambisonic recording methods and their place in cinema sound.

In the Anthony Quinn Theater, the Composers Lounge, sponsored by Soundworks Collection, offered a succession of informal living room-style presentations, including “The Sound and Music of First Man” and “The Sound of A Star is Born” (to be featured in January’s PSN).

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Dolby’s demos in Sony’s new Theater 1 included mixer and supervising sound editor Will Files playing back tracks from his latest project, Venom. Yamaha/Steinberg showed off its new Nuendo 8.3 and related software in another of Sony’s Dolby Atmos sound design suites. In another of Will Files’ rooms, Meyer Sound demonstrated an immersive Acheron speaker system and temporarily installed its new Bluehorn System in yet another room.

The event’s sponsors also included Audionamix, Formosa Group, iZotope, RSPE Audio Solutions, first-time exhibitors Sound Particles and Tonsturm.

Mix Sound for Film & TV •