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The Art and Technique of Postproduction Sound by Elisabeth Weis
The credits for John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) include Wyatt Earp as technical consultant but only one person responsible for all of postproduction sound (the composer). The credits for Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp (1994) list the names of thirty-nine people who worked on postproduction sound. The difference is not simply a matter of expanding egos or credits.
"An older film like Casablanca has an empty soundtrack compared with what we do today. Tracks are fuller and more of a selling point," says Michael Kirchberger (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, Sleepless in Seattle). "Of course a good track without good characters and storyline won't be heard by anyone."
With soundtracks much more dense than in the past, the present generation of moviemakers has seen an exponential growth in the number of people who work on the sound after the film has been shot. What do all those people add both technically and esthetically? "When I started out, there was one sound editor and an assistant," says picture editor Evan Lottman (The Exorcist, Sophie's Choice, Presumed Innocent). " As editor for a big studio picture in the early Seventies I usually cut the ADR [dialog replaced in postproduction--EW] and the music as well." Today an editor on a major feature would either hire a supervising sound editor who gathers a team of sound specialists, or go to a company like C5, Inc., Sound One, or Skywalker that can supply the staff and/or state-of-the-art facilities.
Sound is traditionally divided into three elements: dialog, music, and effects (any auditory information that isn't speech or music). Although much of the dialog can be recorded during principal photography, it needs fine tuning later. And almost all other sound is added during postproduction.
How does sound get on pictures? The following is a rough sketch of the procedure for a major Hollywood feature production. But it is not a blueprint; exact procedures vary tremendously with the budget and shooting schedule of the film. Blockbuster action films, for instance, often devote much more time and money to sound effects than is described below. The process certainly does not describe how the average film is made abroad; few other cultures have such a fetish for perfect lip-synching as ours--so even dialog is recorded after the shoot in many countries.
6/24/04 7:55 PM