Last night I got together with CK and Sterling to work on sound. CK has been writing chunks of music for the score, while Sterling has been working on sound editing and sound design. We wanted to coordinate their efforts and bounce around a few ideas.
Sound editing and design has to do with fixing existing sounds recorded during production and adding new sounds that enhance the visuals. Sterling has some real challenges. For instance, we shot several scenes at a garage on a busy street with a lot of traffic in the background. That background sounds different in every shot within a scene – a particularly loud and snorting truck was passing in one take but not another — so the second you edit together several shots, the background sounds jump around right along with the editing cuts. Sterling has to smooth all that stuff out, so that there’s a consistent background sound for the scene – easy when there’s no dialogue, and really hard when there is. It can be slow, painstaking work. He has to make footsteps sound like real footsteps, and also has to insert sounds that are supposed to be there but aren’t, like a car engine starting at the right moment, or background noises in a hospital, or birds chirping outdoors. There’s an amazing variety of sounds available in sound libraries – a hundred different versions of a faucet drip or a creaky door – and Sterling has to find the perfect sound to go with both the visual moment and the mood we’re creating in a scene.
Sometimes sounds become music – that whooshing wind might be part of the sound design and/or part of CK’s score. Some of CK’s music is more straightforward – writing a song that will be heard on the radio in the movie, or will ride over a scene – and some is much more subtle, a light underscore for a bit of action where the music enhances a feeling of what we’re seeing on screen, an increase in tension, or a breath of tenderness. What kind of music would Character X be listening to on the radio? How could music help us transition from one scene to the next? What are the themes that carry through the whole movie? How does this music help us show what this character is going through? Do we need any music here at all?
So the three of us spent the evening going through the movie scene-by-scene, talking about all these things in detail, listening to what we had that worked, figuring out what we needed to add or change. The computer crashed and came back. We ordered out for Thai food. We worked awhile longer until we couldn’t focus anymore. We’ve got miles and miles still to go, but it’s thrilling to see passages come together with visuals, sounds, and music fully in place and supporting each other. Synergy.