Post Magazine

December 2011

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OUTLOOK Listen UP! 2011 has been a budget-conscious year. With financial restrictions, risk aversion and time restrictions, audio post pros have felt the pressure to do more with less. For those stu- dios and engineers that have survived the economic downturn, it was a time to prove why they're still in the biz. These four audio post pros — spanning the industry from films, television and games — share their 2011 experiences, and give us an outlook for 2012. RANDY THOM Director of Sound Design Skywalker Sound San Rafael, CA Skywalker offers six mixing studios, a picture and sound editing room, a large Foley/ADR stage and complete audio and video transfer services. They've won 18 Oscars and boast dozens of nominations in both Sound and Sound Effects Editing. Thom is currently working on Dr. Seuss's The Lorax and has lent his talents to Rio, Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon. STRENGTHS: "Sound is getting involved earli- er on projects. Sound design has traditionally been thought of as something that only happens in post production. Directors and producers are beginning to think about sound earlier. Not only in terms of workflow, but also in terms of storytelling and encouraging sound designers to collaborate with production designers and animators. We talk a lot about collaboration in the industry, but not very much of it actually happens. So, when it does happen, and happens early enough so that each craft can have an effect on all the others, I think it's a great thing." WEAKNESSES: "It's a shame to see the mid-level budget proj- ects become fewer and fewer. At Skywalker Sound, we love to work on the widest variety of movies possible. We love the cross-fertilization that happens when a large variety of movies are in the building here because everybody, we think, gets the best out of it. It seems like every year the number of mid-level budget films diminishes. That is a weak- ness in the film industry and it impacts sound also. The funding for movies tends to go to 'sure thing,' movies with lots of tie-ins, or to movies that cost so little they really don't constitute much of a risk. It's almost a risk-aversion that's driving a lot of filmmaking." OPPORTUNITIES: "Getting involved early on in a movie has been an exciting opportunity. For example, we did How to Train Your Dragon, and each dragon had to growl and harrumph and hum very expressively, almost as if they were speaking. We were able to start 42 Post • December 2011 slightly before animation began, by making speculative sounds that these dragons might make and submitting those to the directors and the animators. That would give them ideas as to how the characters might look. Like any collaboration, everything isn't always a go down some dead-end streets. Inevitably you have to make a bunch of wrong decisions before you figure out what the right decision is. It's a very complex process. Early collaboration, I think, is just great." THREATS: "Time pressure is a big threat; the pressure to finish projects more and more quickly all the time. It's a threat because on each new project, no matter how long you've been working in your craft, you need to make mistakes. If you want to break any new ground or do anything new and interesting, you need a certain amount of time to experiment, to try a few crazy ideas that might not work. I rarely know firmly how I'm going to approach a given project at the begin- ning. As an artist, you're always just trying to figure it out. So the more The Lorax is currently on Skywalker and Randy Thom's audio plate. time we have to do that, the better the product is going to be. Having time pressure as your main concern is bound to make the project sparkle a little less than it would otherwise." OUTLOOK FOR 2012: "We are using more digital technology all the time. For the last decade, there have been quite a few hold-out mixers who only wanted to mix films on very traditional consoles. I've noticed recently some of those very mixers using Pro Tools and other digital audio workstations in the mix, and I think that's good. "It's never a good idea to hold too tenaciously onto any kind of work methodology. I think we all need to be as open as we can to new stuff. So, digital audio workstations, and the use of plug-ins, are solidifying their presence everywhere and I think that will continue over the next year." AUDIO BY JENNIFER WALDEN

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