(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime
The Pitch: Film may be considered a visual medium first and foremost, but let’s not forget how sound innovated the art of motion pictures and continues to advance cinema to this very day. The documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound talks to some of cinema’s most influential filmmakers and expert sound designers to ensure you remember how important sound is to the movies. Learn about the history of sound on film, meet the most revered professionals in the field, and find out how all the audio you hear in cinema can be categorized into three different parts: voice, sound effects, and music.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Whether you’re a seasoned cinephile or an up-and-coming film fanatic, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is fundamental viewing that will help you understand and appreciate the importance of sound on another level. Surely you’ve appreciated the art of a film score or the blasting of sound effects in a blockbuster, but have you ever truly sat down and appreciated the variety of sounds that bring a story to life in front of your eyes? Making Waves will make sure you do exactly that the next time you watch a movie, whether it’s a quiet indie drama or a big booming blockbuster.
Making Waves explores sound on film in a variety of ways. First, for the uninitiated, there’s an abridged history of sound in the movies, from the innovation of audio accompanying short film reels to the invention of stereo sound and everything in between. It hits all the major milestones that are necessary to understand the evolution of sound in cinema, all so you can appreciate the innovative efforts from some of the most respected sound designers in the industry.
Here’s where we get into individual sound designers like Walter Murch (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars, WALL-E), Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan), each taking audio on the big screen to a new level in a variety of ways. Not only do we hear from those sound designers themselves, but there’s an endless roster of other Hollywood sound designers who discuss what drew them to the profession, praise the work of their colleagues, and reveal some of the secrets of sounds that went into movies like The Matrix, Top Gun, Argo, and more.
Finally, perhaps the most informative and fascinating part of the documentary is the breakdown of how sound fits into three different categories in a movie. As the documentary illustrates, it helps if you think of overall sound in the movie as an orchestra. But instead of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion, sound is divided into voice, sound effects, and music. Voice includes everything from dialogue recorded on set to group automated dialogue replacement (ADR), which is to say large crowds chanting or dozens of soldiers grunting and screaming in a battle. Sound effects can include the roar of a dinosaur or a jet engine or simply footsteps on a hardwood floor, not to mention the subtle sound of ambience that lingers in the background of every single scene. And finally, there’s music, the score or the soundtrack that must work harmoniously with all other sounds at the same time.
All of these pieces combine to bring the images in front of you to life in a way that 24-frames per second never could on their own. Hearing the many fine and famous examples of remarkable sound in cinema that Hollywood has produced over the years, along with compelling commentary and insights from some of the most brilliant minds in film and sound, makes for a documentary that will have you wanting to crank up your surround sound and immerse yourself in cinematic sound.
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September 16, 2020