Skip Lievsay is one of the most talented men in Hollywood.
August 22, 2015 11:01 AM   Subscribe

"It is a central principle of sound editing that people hear what they are conditioned to hear, not what they are actually hearing. The sound of rain in movies? Frying bacon. Car engines revving in a chase scene? It’s partly engines, but what gives it that visceral, gut-level grist is lion roars mixed in. To be excellent, a sound editor needs not just a sharp, trained ear, but also a gift for imagining what a sound could do, what someone else might hear." [via The Week, print edition]
posted by Shmuel510 (22 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some things you can't un-hear, like when you realize the sound of a samurai cutting someone in half is tearing cardboard.
posted by idiopath at 11:12 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking of lions: all those lion roars in The Lion King? A guy named Frank yelling into a garbage can. King of the Jungle = A GUY NAMED FRANK WITH A GARBAGE CAN
posted by Brocktoon at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's all fake???

*canned collective gasp*
posted by Sys Rq at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Great article! Thanks for posting it. I've passed it along to my brother, with whom I have regular discussions about sound design and Foley work.

We share an affinity for a particular kind of Foley footstep effect, that gritty 1970s man's shoe. So textured, so enjoyable to the ear.
posted by theatro at 11:19 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


To wit: A GUY NAMED FRANK WITH A GARBAGE CAN
posted by pmdboi at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Interesting article about an interesting guy. Having heard Douglas Trumbull talk about his sfx work, I can see how it would be inspiring if it hit you at the right time and place.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:15 PM on August 22, 2015


This is a good and very welcome article about one of the best there is. Skip Lievsay is one of my heroes. But it brings up an interesting point:

"Like some of his contemporaries, Lievsay does both sound editing and mixing."

These are really not mutually exclusive things that people do "both" of. Most audio editors are "mixing" as they edit - even if they are "mixing" in subtle ways (layering many sound files to create one effect or ambience, etc). The separation between the two is not what it used to be in the days before unlimited Pro Tools tracks. It varies from film to film, but there is much more of a spectrum in post audio than just "sound editors" and "sound mixers."

The Academy Awards, and the Editor's Union (which only allows "sound editors" and "sound mixers" as credited positions), get it weirdly wrong in an antiquated way: what Lievsay does (and others in his role) is not just sound editing, it's not just sound mixing, it's sound design. As in, designs the soundscape of the film. That can be sort of confusing because "sound design" can also mean "sound effects design," meaning the person who designs a specific sound effect - but in Lievsay's case it means the design of the audio for the entire film. In video games, this role is called... "Director of Audio" or "Audio Director." Similar to... Director of Photography. Someone who, under the guidance of the film's director (or, game's director), supervises and directs the audio and those who are creating the sound scape - much like a DP supervises and directs the camera operators and the electric / grip teams. This is not a credit that is allowed in union films, because of a weird hangup of the Director's Guild not wanting anyone but the film's director to use the term "director" in their credit (except... "Director of Photography," "Art Director," etc). Likewise, "Sound Supervisor" is not entirely accurate, because that can imply supervisor in a more managerial, and not creative, sense (like, "post production supervisor"). And even further, "Supervising Sound Editor" does not necessarily imply the creative design role.

Walter Murch, who practically invented lush cinematic soundscape sound design, used to be credited as "Audio Montage." Which makes sense, but is harder to place, for those not in the know. I don't know what Lievsay would think of all this (and I'm guessing he probably doesn't think about it that much), but I personally feel very strongly about it, as a filmmaker and sound designer. The fact that the role is a hard one to define means that it's almost always a fight (over time, budget, etc) when dealing with producers who don't understand its importance. There's no reason the role has to be as "invisible" as the article indicates - it just needs proper credit. Maybe not every film needs a "Director of Audio," but more films should.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:30 PM on August 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


Audio Director as a credit should definitely be a thing. That the DGA still can't accept other "___ director" credits isn't a "weird hangup" to me, it's straight ego.
posted by dogwalker at 12:40 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


That Guy Named Frank is the #1"Credited Actor based on Box Office" (though not always using a garbage can). I am tickled at how his first role for a cartoon was Fred in "Scooby Doo", and after a couple decades doing dogs and other animals, they finally let him do Scooby too.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Audio Director as a credit should definitely be a thing. That the DGA still can't accept other "___ director" credits isn't a "weird hangup" to me, it's straight ego.

I should just fully disclose I did not hear this first hand. But I did hear it from a director who was going to give me that credit (NOT at my request, FWIW), and then allegedly got a talking to.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 1:04 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cool!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2015


And, yet, they all still drop in the same, old, overused red-tailed hawk screech whenever there's a need to sell "wilderness" or "eagle flying" or "all alone" or whatever. Anymore, whenever I hear that screech in a movie, and it's not used for comedic purposes, my opinion of the movie goes down a notch or two.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:20 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I talked to a guy who does sound design for a TV show about old guns, a couple of months ago, and this business of providing a sensory experience that will seem real and satisfying to people, although it is not real at all, is very much what he said he does. In particular, the show does a lot of slow motion video of the working of the mechanism of antique weapons, and of their firing, and you can't just slow down the real sounds that this make proportionately; it's just too far from what people expect to hear.
posted by thelonius at 4:31 PM on August 22, 2015


We can't stop here! This is Zipf Dangbats country!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:53 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Audio Director as a credit should definitely be a thing. That the DGA still can't accept other "___ director" credits isn't a "weird hangup" to me, it's straight ego.

I should just fully disclose I did not hear this first hand. But I did hear it from a director who was going to give me that credit (NOT at my request, FWIW), and then allegedly got a talking to.


There's a bunch about this in the great documentary Casting By about casting directors. The DGA rep (then-president Taylor Hackford) comes off as a massively petty asshole.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 PM on August 22, 2015


Remember that scene in "300", that, "we will fight in the shade" part? I was sitting in while they were editing the sound for that... each and every arrow hit was planned, inserted, tweaked... probably about 50 people in the room (a full theater setting with at least 25 computers used as each instant was aurally designed).. It took hours to create the sound for minutes of film... Sound Editors are talented, hard working people...
posted by HuronBob at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am tickled at how his first role for a cartoon was Fred in "Scooby Doo", and after a couple decades doing dogs and other animals, they finally let him do Scooby too.

Well, only because the original voice of Scooby died. Didn't mean to harsh your tickle. Welker's an insanely talented voice actor. (Hell, he's practically every monkey in every Hollywood film since 19somethingorother, including the Nazi one in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Abu in Aladdin and all the crazy-ass ones in Jumanji.)
posted by Spatch at 11:42 PM on August 22, 2015


Thorzdad, for me it's one of a small set of door hinge squeaks that I got sick of in one video game or another, that if I hear them in a movie or a tv show, I shake my head a little. Stock sound libraries must be a lot cheaper than hiring a sound recordist, but after a while, familiarity breeds contempt.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:43 PM on August 22, 2015


To wit: A GUY NAMED FRANK WITH A GARBAGE CAN

what is the problem that's how i look and sound when i eat
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:09 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, a few months ago, I realized I was way weirder than anyone I knew.

Some friends and I were watching some cinema masterpiece like Naked Gun or Robocop. A scene was established with a crane shot with the camera about 60 feet above and away from some crime scene. As the protagonist approached the scene there was some unremarkable background atmospheric audio, then they tore the crime-scene tape to get through some door. BUT the sound of the tear was awkwardly audible to a greater extent than the footsteps, car engines and idle chatter anything else in the shot. I flipped out and joked about the thoughts going through the sound mixers heads in post like "no, the tape represents so much to this scene, we must make it louder!" Literally no one else noticed.

It's nice to know other people care and make this stuff their job.
posted by midmarch snowman at 2:33 AM on August 23, 2015


YAY! I'm glad that people have posted about Frank Welker, because seriously, he is not some guy named Frank with a garbage can, he is the guy named Frank with a garbage can.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 1:15 PM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]




« Older You coulda been getting down to this sick beat   |   World Jollof Rice Day, you say? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments