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Essa Hansen @EssaHansen
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Long #sounddesign thread! First half will be obvious stuff to people in #filmsound #audiopost #postproduction, but maybe interesting to outsiders. Second half is about rhythm and the importance of silence.

#soundeffects #filmmaking #fieldrecording #WinterSoldier
Viewers often think all sound is recorded magically on set. Nope! 90% of the sound is added in during post production. Ambiences, crowds, foley (footsteps, props, cloth movement), sound effects. Not just for films with lots of visual effects.
The focus of on-set recording is to capture clean dialogue, and often even that may be replaced later if it’s too noisy, the line needs to be changed, or director wants a different performance.
Sound post usually takes place while the picture is still being edited, so we’re always working w/ a moving target. The story's evolving. Choices are being made! Much like in #writing, scenes are cut, moved, shortened, lengthened. All about tension, pacing, and emotional beats.
It’s interesting to see what's cut out because it’s superfluous: shots hanging too long, a joke not funny enough, a character-building moment hitting too weakly. Things also get added: an emotional moment, a joke that IS funny enough, a longer shot to provide resolution.
Dialogue lines may be cut, changed, or added offscreen, for clarity, to give critical info, or avoid confusion. Dialogue on set is noisy & dialogue recorded in booths is too clean. A dialogue mixer has to try to match the two so the audience doesn’t notice new lines/words. Tough!
For a fascinating look into the picture editing side, this is a long but excellent article by Jeff Ford, a masterful storyteller, responsible for editing Winter Soldier, Civil War, and Infinity War. There’s a lot of great story craft here.
The sonic POV transition moment Jeff talks about in the article is in the first minute of this clip from #WinterSoldier:
Also note the small sonic details and tension of Cap’s quiet scene afterward (no music!!). This is similar to the famed “show don’t tell” writing advice. Music would tell us that we should feel tense. Sound can show us that we ARE tense.
When the music does begin, it builds to what we already sense is coming: a dramatic end to this quiet exchange. When that moment comes, the music doesn’t do a cymbal crash—it bows out & we get a great rhythmic sequence of sound effects, helped by the picture edit.
Pauses & moments of silence are just as important as the sound effects themselves. It’s natural to want to cut complex layers of sounds and fill in every spot with something cool. Too often this just creates a wall of sound and the story points are lost.
Esp. true w/ action. In this fight scene with Winter Soldier, every hit is clear and interesting. Which brings me to advice I learned from Gary Rydstrom: take any opportunity to have a sound that’s different than what we’ve been hearing already.
e.g A hit on a new metal. A different punch. Body fall w/ more gear. Glass debris if it’s all been wood. Low frequencies if we’ve been hearing high. CHANGE keeps us engaged & the brain interested, whether that’s mixing up punches in a fight, or evolving ambiences over a scene.
(Fun fact: When the police run through the apartment above, we were able to place the sound of their footsteps moving through ceiling speakers in ATMOS theaters.)
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