Today’s update comes from Case Barden the Producer of Broken Leg:
Yes, we’ve reached picture lock on Broken Leg, but “Is the film done?” The answer is “Not quite”. We’ve moved on to sound design. Broken Leg is now in the hands of our sound editor who will be dedicating nights and weekends to our film over the next three months.
For the most part, a sound editor's job is to be invisible. The audience should never notice any sound flaws because hearing an airplane fly overhead, or God forbid, the director yelling “cut!” would be distracting. The sound editor starts by doing an “audio clean up” which entails taking out any distracting sounds. Part of that is choosing which microphone to use for each shot in the film.
Broken Leg's on-set sound mixer, Tommy Schaeffer, used two types of microphones: a boom (a mic on a stick) and lavs (small mics hidden on the actors). The boom mic usually has better sound quality but if a car drove by in the background during a take, it might not be the best choice. In this case the sound editor would blend the audio from both sources to obtain the cleanest sound. The goal is to ensure you hear and understand what the actors are saying. It’s a somewhat tedious process depending on the quality of the sound captured on set. Lucky for us, we had Tommy a.k.a. QSG (Quintessential Sound Guy) on the boom.
From here, the sound editor's job becomes more creative by adding sound effects. Sound has a strong subliminal effect on the audience. The movie’s world can be made much larger with well-placed sound effects. For example, the audience could hear a massive car crash and the camera whip-pans to reveal the fiery wreckage. On set, the car crash never happened; it would already be pre-laid out with carefully placed flames. But, while watching the movie it doesn’t feel that way. During Broken Leg's party scene, the background actors mimed talking so Tommy could capture Sarah and Luke's lines. To make this scene bigger and more believable, our sound editor will add party noise and chatter. A good sound editor will choose sounds that make the movie-world believable and a great sound editor will choose sounds that truly enhance the visuals. It takes a good ear.
The director will pass along creative notes during this process to guide the sound editor. Once all the audio is cleaned up, sound effects are added, and the music is placed, the director will join the sound editor for the “final mix”. This involves sitting down in a sound editing suite (all designed for a quality sound experience) and watching the film. As they go, they'll adjust the volume levels of the dialogue, sound effects, and music. Big studio movies will mix for a couple weeks, but mixing Broken Leg should take about five days. Once the final mix is done, the audio files are exported, and sent back to the editor who will sync it with the final color corrected picture. Then the movie’s done!
Let’s introduce our sound editor with a little story...
Back in January, Kieran and I went to the Sundance Film Festival. We were on our way to see The Spectacular Now (a great heartfelt drama about growing up), edited by my friend Darrin Navarro (Hi, Darrin!), when we came across a lost couple. They were searching for the same theater as us so we showed them the way. While waiting in line we hit it off and became friends. The guy, as it turns out, was the sound editor for the film we were waiting in line for. We started talking about Broken Leg and how we were in search of a sound editor. He expressed interest, he watched the film last month, and signed on.
And that's how Ryan Collins became our sound editor.
Ryan Collins is a talented sound editor/re-recording mixer who lives and works in Los Angeles. When not at the Sundance Film Festival meeting wonderful filmmakers, Ryan can be found in a very dark room playing with sound effects and synthesizers for days at a time. Throughout Ryan's career, he has been fortunate enough to work with such directors as Gus Van Sant, Steve McQueen, Peter Farrelly, and now Kieran Thompson. And his favorite president is Andrew Jackson or “Old Hickory” to his friends.
See Ryan's credits on IMDb: http://imdb.com/name/nm3281808/