Monday, October 19, 2015

One Does Not Simply Record Nat Sound

Sound is important. Like really important. I think it is one of the most underrated fields in contemporary cinema, simply because if it is done well you shouldn't even notice it. That's sort of the point; no average viewer walks out of the theater complimenting the foley artist, they are the unsung heroes of a great film. If the sound design is believable and helps immerse the audience in the story world, then it has done its job. Sound design and foley has always really interested me, and after talking about it in class today it made me really excited to have some kick-ass sound in our horror short Dollhouse. But more on that later.

I wanted to focus more on some awesome sound design goodness. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a really intense and creative sound design Led by David Farmer. The sound design has a lot of one-of-a-kind "original" sounds you would expect from a fantasy epic. Movies like LOTR pose a particular challenge because of the fantasy element in the story; it's hard to foley sounds for fictionalized,mythical creatures. It take a lot of creativity to be able to make these crazy, fantastical sounds from everyday objects and even human voices. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the video that I wanted to share that goes in depth about the sound design of LOTR (damn copyright laws), but here is the next best thing that still gives you an in depth look at the creativity behind the sound design. It also goes into a little bit about ADR and the challenges they faced with changing frame rates throughout the film, but that's all just bonus. It says that about 98% of LOTR Fellowship used ADR. Ouch. 

Here's the video:

 The creativity and skill that goes into the sound design of a film really blows my mind, especially on such an ambitious project like LOTR.  Not only are you responsible for every sound on screen (thats every footstep, every arrow shot, every armor clink), but to also be able to use everyday objects to produce fantasy sounds with limited digital manipulation is no easy task; it requires an in depth understand of the physics of sound as well as the overall "vision" of the sound in the film. For example, the voice for the tree character (specifically an "Ent"-thanks wikipedia) was created by building a resonant chamber with specifically calculated bends and turns to produce a very hollow, echoed sound when spoken into. With relatively little digital manipulation, the sound team was able to create a really cool, unique sound. 

As far as our sound design for Doll House, I see the potential for a lot of cool opportunities. I think when used effectively sound can be one of the scariest elements in a film because it forces the viewer to imagine what is/could be making that sound, resulting in a personalized mental image that hopefully scares the shit out of you. Unlike a visual image, it lets your sub-conscious make decisions, bringing out what each individual finds terrifying and bringing it to life. For most of our "spooky scenes" I think creaks and moans from the hardwood floor will really play well with our location, paired with an intense score to really bring out the tension and helplessness in the scene that will (hopefully) makes the audience squirm in their seats. That being said, I think silence also plays an important role in a horror film, helping to highlight the visual element and making your imagination run wild within the frame. I delicate balance is needed, and I am excited to help Sam with the sound design after we wrap production and my duties as AD are essentially over. 

Its going to be a challenge, but in the end I think sound design will really help set Doll House over the edge.

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