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The Secrets of Hollywood Sound Design

Jonny Elwyn

Trying to add some production value to your film? Add it to the soundtrack with these insights on how to create a blockbuster sound mix.

Although Walter Murch is best known as a film editor he is also a legendary sound designer of films like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Parts 2 & 3 and Cold Mountain to name just a few. One of Walter’s many theories is that the brain can’t really absorb more than about 2.5 layers of sound at any one moment. So when sound mixing its best to isolate and emphasize the specific (2.5) sounds you want the audience to experience, rather than blasting everything at once. In these great sound design and mixing videos hopefully you’ll see some of that same technical and artistic understanding at work.

The Sound of Man of Steel

If you’re curious about just how much work goes into a Hollywood blockbuster sound mix then this episode of The SoundWorks Collection will give you a pretty decent idea. Featuring interviews with “re-recording mixer Chris Jenkins, re-recording mixer Frank A. Montaño, supervising sound editor and designer Eric Norris, supervising sound editor and designer Scott Hecker, and dialogue supervisor Kira Roessler.”  It just goes to show that it take a whole team of people to record, edit, mix and finesse every sound effect and note of music. What’s great about this particular episode is some of the insights into the creative ways the sound recordists conjure up a sound from often unlikely elements.

Sound Design for Animation

With animation sound design, nothing comes for free as you have to ‘design everything from the ground up.’ In this second excellent SoundWorks Collection video you can listen through layer by layer all of the individual elements in a scene from Pixar’s new film Monster’s University. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the detail of a scene not only from the choice of sound effects but also the skill of blending them all together to create a harmonious mix rather than a muddy one.

Creating Mixes and Submixes

In this quick tutorial Michael from Film, Sound Colour demonstrates how he sets up and utlizes submixes inside both Logic and Adobe Audition. Submixes essentially allow you to group sound effects into layers and then control those layers as a group. For example – dialogue, music and effects. Understanding and using these will make your more complex mixes much easier to polish.