MPSE Wavelength

Summer 2020

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I find this is true for a lot of filmmakers—many of them are visual thinkers. And, just in general, as human beings—unless we're blind—we're much more visually oriented than we are sonically. And so we have all these words to describe exactly what something looks like, but we don't have as many words in our vocabulary for sound. To describe sound, I've found a lot of times when you're spotting a movie or on a dubbing stage, many times the director or editor struggles to describe what they want, because they don't know how to describe it. SL: Tremors. Which I remember had all of those jeeps and trucks we recorded. RLA: I remember the jeep had a bent drive shaft, so if you drove it over a certain speed, it started making this bumpy wobbly sound, because they had lifted it up on something in production and bent the drive shaft! SL: That film had all that great creature stu› by John P., our glorious sound designer. RLA: Fabulous. SL: John Pospisil. How would you describe him…? RLA: A genius from another dimension. SL: Right…? It's interesting that no one has actually SEEN him in years, but we still communicate with him over the internet. I think he's been absorbed into the electronic ether... RLA: Well, it could be that he's forsaken his physical body. SL: He's evolved beyond the need for physical form. RLA: Right. Exactly. SL: Edward Scissorhands. I remember the blueprint shears sat rusting in my backyard for several days before we recorded them so they'd sound a little more interesting. RLA: Right! Actually, the problem with many objects is that the stock version is too good. It's like the thing about recording a Rolls-Royce. It's so quiet, you don't hear it. So it doesn't sound powerful. It doesn't sound interesting. There's a lot of stuff that, when it's brand new, it's perfect. Like with scissors, they are so quiet, you don't hear them And that's how it's designed. You don't want it rubbing and having friction, so we have to screw it up to give it character. That was really smart, leaving it out so it got a little rusty. Like a metal gate—if it's perfectly lined up, it just goes 'click,' but you wanted to have a creaky clunkier sound. SL: Batman Returns. We made all new stu› for that. John P. made a new Batmobile. RLA: In fact, I just recently emailed him and I said, "I see that they're talking about Michael Keaton coming back. So get all your old effects out!" Remember, we had the penguin radar on the Batmobile? Instead of just the 'beep beep,' it was a little penguin 'quack!' SL: Yeah! And I remember I had to track down a bunch of penguin recordings. RLA: Right. Again, it's not like we have a lot of penguins here in Southern California! SL: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Another favorite of mine … although I remember we did have problems. RLA: The biggest disappointment for me was because it was so musical. SL: Well, it WAS a musical … and Danny Elfman was running the dub... RLA: The first dub, for some reason, Tim wasn't around. SL: He was away directing Ed Wood. RLA: That's right! Danny was put in charge of the dub, so it was mixed at ear-splitting levels. Rock and roll levels. And then they played the first six reels back when Tim came in, and it was incredibly loud—in your face. It's one thing when you're dubbing, but then when you run six reels in a row? That led to a rift, and so Danny didn't score Ed Wood. But somehow they kissed and made up. But, still, I remember when he first started, Danny said, "Well, this should be like those MGM musicals, where once the music starts, you don't hear any sound effects! Except maybe some taps when they're dancing." SL: I was your e›ects recordist on that one, and we recorded A LOT of stu› ! RLA: And it was all in the pre-dubs. It was interesting. That's what we tend to do. We make it sound so that if you play the effects pre-dubs, everything's there. It's like the real world. And when I say 'the real world,' of course, it's stop-motion skeletons and things. But I mean if there were skeletons walking around in the real world, that's how they would sound! One of my favorite parts of filmmaking is making the M&E. Because, generally, the dialogue tends to really predominate the mix—I mean, I understand why, I'm not complaining. But when we're making the M&E, particularly when there's no M(usic), just the E(ffects)—it's interesting. I love watching the movie and it's like a world where no one talks! They might scream, or have a vocalization like a grunt, but I mean basically, it's just the sound effects and maybe the music. And I really enjoy that, because after hearing all the screaming people and all the yelling from the actors when that's all over, listening to just the M&E—I find that very satisfying. A similar thing, when we're doing the pre-dubs, and sometimes we'll play the reel back with all the effects pre-dubs, I love it. When I create something, half the time, I do it for me, because I don't know if anybody is ever going to notice it, and the director may not use it—but I still do it. And that's one of the reasons why I'll work late at night or on the weekends. If I ask the producer, "Do you want to pay me double-time

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