The sound of the stars - A first look into the sound for movies

Hi everyone!

I can see a lot of visits on my website and even some new followers! Since I am not savagely spamming my blog, I take it as a good sign. This tells me that you all do like it and I want to keep posting so that you can keep on visiting.

Today I am fresh from the set, and I’d love to write about this place, one of the places where a sound engineer often operates. This magical and fascinating place is however oftenly avoided by a lot of sound engineers because there is that misconception that it offers a low creative challenge. Nothing is more wrong than that!
It doesn’t matter if it is a movie or a TV series, a sound engineer will have to make some decisions, specifically technical, which will reflect highly on their creative implications. It’s never just about placing a microphone and pressing “REC”. On the contrary, it’s about taking an intellectual path that leads to an understanding on how to place that microphone, where to point it at and which movements to make while at it. Its understanding what you want to capture, analyzing the environment and the sounds in it in their biological or mechanical intimacy until you discover all the interesting nuances essential for the staging.

One of the fundamental operations is the analysis of the sound field and all the sounds that exist in it, evaluating which ones characterize it and which ones distort it, then eventually report everything to the needs of the director.
In my very personal way of working, the main points that I take into consideration are:

  • Nature: As in establishing the nature of the sound that I find interesting and the source it originates from.
  • Texture or individual sound: I usually establish if the sound of interest needs to be captured in a wider context (like the sound of a forest) or if it’s better to capture it with a different level of detail.
  • Sound scape: I analyze and understand the sound of interest then conceptually translate it to its belonging sonic spectrum, giving it a context and optimizing the recording techniques.
  • Randomness: I analyze how random the single components of the sound of interests are, during a given time-span.
  • Direct sound/Environment ratio: I evaluate my recording needs and consequently try to understand how much direct sound vs environment the staging needs, and in which ways I can record better in this balance.

Once I have understood all those elements and I have done all the technical analysis (theoretical and poetical), it’s time for me to find all the sound sources I need, understanding the better ways to capture it and operate all the technical decisions that involve my choice of microphone, then place it putting in mind the level and duration of every take (for this last element I am referring to all those context where there is no director, like when recording environment and effects), in the most transparent way possible, to avoid any contamination.

However, during the whole take, the sound engineer should always pay attention to all the elements that compose the sonic scene. Every nuance can determine or condemn the sublime elevation of the audio-visual opera, compromising a good job. Every time something unexpected happens, it’s fundamental to take note of everything, like the happening of undesired noises or a poor interpretation of a dialogue.

At the end of the day, there is only one rule to respect:
Listening with the eyes and drawing with sounds.

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