Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2016) - full transcript

An exploration of the history, artistry, and emotional power of cinema sound, as revealed by legendary sound designers and visionary directors, via interviews, clips from movies, and a look...

Before we were born,
you're looking at darkness.

Sound is the first sense
that gets plugged in.

Six months, seven months
into the womb.

It's hearing the mother's heartbeat.

It's hearing her breathing.

It's hearing Dad
shouting from the garage...

It's making sense of the world.

You have emerged
into a kind of consciousness

using only sound.

And then you're born.

Sound affects us in a deeper way
almost than image does.

It goes deeper.


And yet, we're naturally,
seemingly oblivious to that.

Film sound
is an illusionary art,

as if you're just hearing
the natural sounds...

...happening in the world on screen.

It's subliminal

and a purely emotional way
of thinking about a movie.

It's stealthy, sound work.

It's flying under the radar.

It's understated.

But what sound adds
to the picture

is so exhilarating
that I just was hooked,

and pretty much never looked back.

You're depressed, it's not working,
then the sound design comes in...

The feeling of scale
that the sound was giving...

And I think that sound, in many ways
is more tied to imagination.

If you're born to be artistic,
sound is going to be part of the deal.

It's part of being human.

Movie is sight and sound.

You only express it
with sight and sound.

People always talk about
the look of a film.

They don't talk so much about
the sound of a film.

But it's equally important,
sometimes more important.

I am not an animal.

The point is to convey an emotion.

Everything is in service of that.

And sound is half of the experience.

I've always been of the belief that

our ears lead our eyes
to where the story lives.

When designing sound on a film today,

like "Saving Private Ryan",

you're bringing together a rich
complex orchestration of sounds.

On every film I've worked on
with Steven Spielberg,

he gives a gift of
here's a scene, here's a moment,

and I'm counting on sound
to help tell the story. Here you go.

What strikes me most about,

especially the opening
of "Private Ryan",

is that it was designed to use sound

to tell a part of the story
it's not showing you.

So a scene like that
fully takes advantage

of how a soldier takes in war,
which is a pretty narrow point of view.

Move. Move.

Sound got to handle the scale of it.

We spent a lot of time
on that first 25 minutes.

It was weeks and weeks
of just balancing all the sound effects

that Gary and his crew provided.

I kind of came up with
a certain pattern or rhythm

of cutting these machine guns
for the background battle.

So that there was
some form to this battle.

There's always a rhythm.
Even to chaos, there's a rhythm.

Point of view is great for sound

because it allows you
to go inside the head.

So I designed a sequence,

where when an explosion
hits near Captain Miller,

all the sound goes out.

That came from an actual veteran

that told me
that was how it affected him.

So it put you
deep inside his experience.

If you look at it,
it never has, until the battle is over,

a wide shot, that gives you a grand
scale "Longest Day" style of D-Day.

It doesn't do it.
It's all very intimate.

And very importantly,
there's no score.

John Williams would've done a beautiful
score with a whole different feeling,

but without score
it tells you this is real.

When the score comes in,
the score is often used...

I think of it as like a life raft.

You have an emotional moment
and the score comes in.

It just gives you
something to hold onto.

These different
elements of sound in movies -

music, sound effects and voice,

are similar to the instrument groupings
of an orchestra.

But film sound work
wasn't always like that.

You know, with dozens of sound editors
editing thousands of tracks.

It ultimately took people
like Ben Burtt on "Star Wars"

and Walter Murch
on "Apocalypse Now",

to get us
to the full immersive soundtrack

that the audience has come
to expect in movies today...

...created by a team of sound artists,
a circle of talent.


But when it all started,
movies were silent.

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go

The invention of the phonograph

was a monumental step
for humanity.

We could now capture sound forever.

Edison originally developed
the motion picture camera

because he wanted images
to go along with his phonograph.

So the audio came first.

But picture works
at one speed.

Sound is at another.

They had no way to put it in sync,

which is why
the whole project was abandoned.

They were just so eager
to put sound to movies

because everybody knew
this would elevate the experience.

Films were projected
with a full live orchestra.

They could be projected
with people talking behind the screen.

There were actually people
that travelled around

doing sound effects
live to silent films.

There's films like "Wings"
when it played in New York,

and its big premieres,
it had performers on stage

doing live sound effects
for airplane engines,

and using percussion instruments
for the boom of artillery and explosions.

They could do wind,
galloping horse hooves...

There just wasn't technically a way
of capturing and recording the sounds,

and attaching them
to the movies yet.

Until 1926.

Warner Bros. did "Don Juan"
with John Barrymore.

It actually had
a synchronised music track,

which was mechanically connected
to a projector.

Then in 1927, they actually
recorded dialogue on the set,

and so "The Jazz Singer"
had spoken portions of it.

♪ Toot, toot, Tootsie, goodbye

♪ Toot, toot, Tootsie, don't cry

Warner Bros. Theater
in New York City,

where "The Jazz Singer"
is now playing,

is sold out
for many weeks in advance.

What struck people most
was Al Jolson's speaking voice,

not his singing voice.

That he spoke
was revolutionary to audiences.

That's what they wanted to hear.

Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

You ain't heard nothing yet.

Wait, I tell you.

You ain't heard nothing.

It was a gigantic sensation,

so Hollywood
was faced with what to do now.

They had developed a way
of shooting movies without sound,

and that involved
certain freedom on a set

to be in a noisy place
because it didn't matter.

Suddenly, there was this revolution
when they had to start

entombing the productions
in sound stages,

so all sound was blocked out
from the outside world.

All right. Here we go. Quiet.

- Quiet.
- Quiet.

Roll 'em.

But the microphone's
ranges were so short,

the actors couldn't even move.

She's got to talk into the mic.
I can't pick it up.

Don't you remember,
I told you,

there's a microphone right there,
in the bush.

It was very limiting.


But despite
the limitations, audiences loved sound.

And I think it's because even
in the sound of a human voice,

we carry emotion.


Nein, nein, nein!

It's alive!

But the addition
of the voice was not the only thing

that changed in movies at that time.

Filmmakers began to realise

that sound effects were also
an important part of cinema.

They discovered that you
don't get all the sound effects you want

by just hanging a microphone
out over the set.

The sounds aren't there.

So this is where slowly
the idea of the sound editor evolved -

to add sounds after the fact.

There's fire, explosions,

barnyard animals.

Cars and...


Different from buses,
different from trains.

With a bit of wind in the background
and this rain...

As sound editors,
we create a sound world

independent of what got recorded
at the time of shooting.

But it isn't probably till
you get to "King Kong",

that you could actually call
it sound design.

Many techniques
we use to manipulate sound today

were pioneered on that film.

The bulk of it is all about
characters that don't exist

so Murray Spivack had to get creative
to find the right sound.

I went to the Selig Zoo at the time.

I got all the roars I needed.

I then slowed those down
to half speed,

and I played the tiger growl backwards
against the lion roar forward.

And it gave me
a sort of an uncanny roar.

These sound design tricks
are still used today.

And that was a big step forward.

But Murray Spivack operated
outside the system.

He was locked away
in the music department,

and no one knew
what he was doing.

I think they felt the studio would say,
"Don't bother with all that,"

if they knew the kind of effort
he was putting into it...

...because the studios
had their own collections

and their own stock sound effects.
They would repeat them.

They wouldn't change them
over the years.

Each studio had its own ricochet...

...and face punch and explosion.

If they worked successfully, they'd be
kept and used over and over again.


They were just expected to get
something in there and on budget.

But some of
the biggest innovations in film sound

actually had their roots in radio.

Who knows what evil lurks
in the hearts of men.

"The Shadow"or"The Whistler"-

any of those shows
were fun to listen to.

The sound brought it to life.

Doors opening and closing,
and footsteps.

Come in.
We'll go in the kitchen.

It's not Marlo playing
chef again. What is it this time?

I remember lying on
the floor in front of the radio console.

I thought, "When I grow up,
I'm gonna make footsteps like that."

Your imagination could dramatise
what you were hearing.

I just thought it was really great.
It was great for your imagination,

great for your creative spirit,
and so forth.

An innovator here
was Orson Welles.

He was very adventuresome
in sound perspective.

Now the smoke's crossing
6th Avenue,

5th Avenue...

A hundred yards away...

So when he did "Citizen Kane",

he brought those techniques
in sound from radio to film.


By being as aggressive
spatially with sound

as he was with his depth of focus
on camera.

Charlie, what time is it?


In New York?


This idea that
every space has its own signature.

The sound energises the environment.

Now in complete control
of the government of this state.

And you can use even
very refined elements of reverberation

to help you tell your story.

But this was
a new innovation for sound in film.

The norm from the 1930s to the 1960s

was to emphasise music
over sound effects.

Why don't you say it, you coward?
You're afraid to marry me.

You'd rather live
with that silly little fool

who can't open her mouth
except say, "Yes", "No"

and raise a passel
of mealy-mouthed brats just like her!

You mustn't say things like that
about Melanie.

Who are you to tell me I mustn't?!

But if you run music
all the time in the film,

it has a cumulatively
counterproductive effect.

Constantly injecting steroids.

But if you want unrelieved tension,

don't use any music at all.

Hitchcock got the power of sound.

He actually essentially
dictated a sound script.

And he really incorporated
the use of the sound

into the concept of the film.

Hearing their
breaths and feeling the impacts

and the hits, they kept you very
connected right with the characters.

That was a scene
where it worked really well,

just having effects on their own.

David Lean focused on sound.

Stanley Kubrick focused on sound.

But the studios weren't
encouraging of that kind of thing.

The Hollywood studio
system often had a built-in approach

to film sound
that was controlled and traditional...

...parallel to filmmakers
making the same kind of movies

over and over again.

♪ Pillow talk

♪ Girls, girls, girls, girls

♪ Beach Blanket Bingo,
that's the name of the game

It was looked upon
as like a factory.

And that tends to restrict
the adventuresomeness,

especially in a studio environment.

So the Hollywood films
I'd seen as a kid growing up

didn't make me want
to become a filmmaker.

To my way of thinking,
they were corporate creations.

But when I was 10,

I learned that there was such a thing
as a tape recorder.

And I understood intuitively
what it did and how it did it.

Enemy tripod machines now in sight.

I would record from the radio
onto the tape recorder.

"War of the Worlds"
by H.G. Wells.

And then cut the tape into pieces,
and then rearrange the pieces

and tape them in a different order
than they were recorded,

flip them upside down
and play them backwards,

and hear what that sounded like.

And then I came back from school
one day and turned on the radio,

and I was disoriented for a moment

because I heard something
coming out of the radio,

that sounded like
what I had recorded the day before.

And it was a record made in France
of musique concrète

by Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer.

That was a revelation to me,
that there were people in the world,

French people,
doing what I was doing.

And they were making records of it.

And so I suddenly saw what I was doing
had a broader application.

I loved Ingmar Bergman films
at age 15,

and I loved Kurosawa...

...because the imprint of the personality
of these filmmakers was very strong.

In 1963,
I went to a university in Paris,

studying for a year
right at the height of the New Wave.

I saw Jean-Luc Godard's film

and I could tell that rules
were being broken.

♪ Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa
Patricia, Patricia

And that got me excited.

I got injected with the film bug,

and went to USC.

I met Walter Murch in film school.

He was a graduate student;
I was an undergrad.

It was very easy to make friends.
That was part of the fun of being there.

It was only
when I got to film school

that I realised
that you have to do to sound in film

the very kinds of things that I was doing
with these random sounds

that I recorded back in the early '50s.

Walter was coming up
with different sound ideas

and running tracks backwards.

Basically, that's all he was doing,
creating soundtracks.

But it was
an unusual time to go to film school

because television was killing film.

President Kennedy has been shot
in Dallas, Texas.

The '60s were
a time when we were focused

on what we saw on television
and the news.

I think it was a most powerful
civil rights protest.

Full of unrest
and politics, Hollywood felt out of sync.

I want to hear nothing more
about this troublemaker.

It was rock and roll
and musicians like The Beatles

that were capturing
culture's imagination...

...more than film.

And that year
was the absolute bottom

of a number of films
produced in Hollywood.

The model on which
they had built their studios

was not working anymore.

There's not enough jobs.

But kind of a life raft that was extended
to us young film students

was a fellowship by Warner Bros.,
which George won.

And George met the only other person
on the lot, who had a beard,

who was Francis Coppola,
who was directing "Finian's Rainbow".

We had both been film students,
long hair,

everybody else on the crew
was over 50.

So at the end of "Finian's Rainbow",

Francis wanted to make a movie
on his own called "Rain People".

And he said, "Do you know anybody
who knows anything about sound?"

And I said, "Oh, I got
the perfect guy, Walter Murch."

"Rain People" is a road movie,
much like "Easy Rider".

Our two guys in "Easy Rider"
were travelling west to east.

"The Rain People"
was travelling the other way.

So we built this truck,

and just went across the country,
making a movie.

And it was the Nagra, which was
smaller, lighter sound equipment

that actually started the ability
to shoot movies on the street.

If we can make a film
out of a shoe store in Nebraska,

why do we have to be in Hollywood?

So we moved to San Francisco.

Francis, George and me
were all in our late 20s...

and we formed American Zoetrope.

One of the dreams or goals of Zoetrope
was to break down the barriers

between picture editing
and sound editing and sound mixing.

Then I could let
my musique concrète demon

out of the bottle completely,

which was a whole new direction.

So immediately after finishing
the mix on "Rain People",

George and I got together
to write the screenplay for "THX 1138".

And we got financing from Warner's.

I would cut picture during the day,
then Walter would come in at night,

and cut the sound.

I took it upon myself to record
every sound effect for the film myself.

"THX" had a very eerie,
strange soundtrack.

Based on the dismal
performance of the film, commercially,

Warner Bros. cancelled
the development advance

that they had made to Zoetrope.

They claimed that this was
a personal loan to Francis.

And he owed them
all this money back.

The equivalent today
would be 3 million.

Bankrupted our company,

made it so I couldn't work
in the business for a while.

It was the end
of the road for Zoetrope.

And in that state, Francis was offered
to direct this sleazy gangster film

that 12 other directors
had turned down...

...which was "The Godfather".

But he wanted to invest the film

with the sensibility of the European film
and art that had influenced all of us.

And he pulled all of us into it.

When I was a kid growing up,

one of the composers who was doing
the most advanced thinking at the time

was John Cage.

He was proselytising
that everything is music.

Even the sound that the audience
makes in the theatre is music.

And even the sound
of the lid of the piano going down

is a kind of music.
He made us pay attention.

So in "The Godfather", the moment
leading up to Sollozzo's death,

it is accompanied by this screechy
John Cagey sound.

What you're actually listening to
are Michael's neurons

clashing against each other

as he's making the decision
to actually kill these people.

And the murder of a dream he had
of having nothing to do with the family.

It's not technically music,
but it conjures up emotion and meaning.

Obviously, it became a big hit.
And that bailed Zoetrope out.

We were able to keep going after that.

This one time
I'll let you ask me about my affairs.

But the soundtrack of "The Godfather",

as it was released in theatres in 1972,
was virtually identical

to the soundtrack of "Gone with
the Wind", released in 1939.

You will promise, won't you?

It's a mono film with just
a single speaker behind the screen.

Is that... is that all, Ashley?

So sound in film didn't really change.

But contrast that
with the music industry,

which was adopting
all of this new technology,

things like the LP, which,
by the late 1950s had stereo sound.

Stereo spread the music
across two different speakers...

...surrounding you
and immersing you in the music.

The Beatles, in particular, were testing
the boundaries of the medium.

I remember when I played "Revolver"... was a visceral feeling,
you could feel the sound in your body.

♪ Turn off your mind,
relax and float downstream

And the song "Revolution 9".

♪ Nine, number nine

George Martin brought this ability
to mix and create sound design,

that would then be melded
with rock and roll.

"Revolution 9" was fascinating to me

because it was just like
musique concrète.

As we come out
of the hippie '60s era of rock music,

we brought that sensibility to cinema,
and thought,

"Why can't movies be in stereo?"

It was in that over-heated environment

that Dolby came along

from the music industry in the mid 70s,
and took the lid off.

Providing stereo sound
in more and more theatres.

I remember a nameless film executive
at one of the distributors in Hollywood,

who actually hit his desk and said,
"Goddamn it,

"it's good stories and comfortable seats,
that's what sells movies, not sound!"

But then in 1976,
with "A Star Is Born",

Barbra Streisand
had the imagination to say,

"I want to do this vast stereo sound
with my film,"

and just to tell the studio,
"We're gonna do it."

♪ With one more look at you

That all-enveloping sound

and especially
coming from the audiences,

to involve you as an audience member
into the concert.

♪ Leave a troubled past
and I might start anew

On "A Star Is Born"
Barbra Streisand insisted on,

and in fact
got an extraordinary amount of time

to do the sound edit
and sound mix.

In fact it was something on the order
of magnitude of four months,

at a time when it was more traditional
to have seven weeks.

The deal with First Artist was that

the artist was responsible
for anything over 6 million dollars.

I spent the 6 million dollars
on the movie.

But then when I got into sound,
I spent another million dollars.

♪ Are you a figment of my imagination?
Or I'm one of yours

When Warner Bros. saw the film,
they liked it so much

that they didn't make me
pay the million dollars.

I thought it was wonderful.
I was willing to spend it.

There is a degree of reality
that you can get from stereo

that's never possible
with a mono soundtrack.

And bless Barbra Streisand
for recognising the value.

It wasn't just the way
films were played in theatres

that was changing.
It was the way they were recorded, too.

I was a teenager in the '70s,
and I saw the film "Nashville".

And I think that was probably the film
that turned my ears on

to what was possible
in a movie with sound.

When they come into the airport,

that's an incredibly beautiful
piece of sound.

Barbara Jean,
ladies and gentlemen.

There's airplanes that come in and out
and obliterate what people are saying.

There's a reporter on a microphone.
There's a marching band.

And thank you,
Franklin High School band.

I think you kids get better every year.

All right twirlers, let's twirl.

You're woven through
that entire tapestry

and the sound is what's pulling you

and telling you
where you're gonna go next.

Jim Webb obviously had worked
with Robert Altman on many of his films.

He was the master of multi-track,

just ahead of their time
and pushing the limits.

Before that, they recorded one track,

but now we don't shoot
two tracks or three tracks.

We have about
eight, ten, sixteen tracks.

Other members
of Chamber of Commerce

understand reportedly earlier on...

You know, everybody had a mic.

No matter how many people
were in the scene,

they all had microphones
and were on mic all the time.

All the other friends,
members and...

She's fallen somewhere down...

It was amazing, how the story
was driven by the sound

in a way that I don't think had happened
before then in American films.

My generation,
you know, Francis and George

and Marty and Brian and my whole
group that I sort of grew up with -

very sound-conscious generation.

So between
the technological and creative advances

of the early 1970s
sound was taking route

in a new American Renaissance
of movies,

in a way that had
never been heard before.

Oh, I understand.

But heading into the late '70s,

even bigger breakthroughs
were on the way.

Most directors
spent a lot of time with their cameramen

and actors.

I just take the same amount of time
and spend it with the sound designer.

But when I started my next film,

Francis was doing "The Conversation"
and Walter was busy on that.

So I called Ken Miura at USC
and said,

"Do you have anybody else
like Walter?"

He said,
"Yeah, I got somebody here."

My mother tells me that
as a toddler I loved to act out to music,

that if she put a record on,
I would not only dance around the room,

but I would assume characters,
I'd be a cowboy

or I'd be
some kind of pirate or something.

But when I was about
six years old, I had a serious illness

and I was in bed for a few weeks
and very weak.

But my father had access
to a tape recorder.

And he brought that home.

I began recording television shows

by putting the microphone up to the TV

and recording
the Saturday morning cartoons.

There were two television stations

and one of them had the Warner Bros.
package of syndicated film.

I loved recording Errol Flynn movies
in particular.

They ran the Cagney gangster movies.

And Bogart films.

So I got very familiar with the sounds
of Warner Bros' classic library.

The other channel
pretty much showed MGM.

♪ Somewhere over the rainbow...

♪ Singing in the rain,
just singing in the rain...

As the other children were
developing a love for certain music,

I was listening to explosions.

So I began collecting things I liked.

And I'd seek after a movie
just to record the battle scenes

and just listen to them.

I think the thousands of hours
I spent doing that as a kid,

unknown to me,
that was building up an inventory

of how sound in movies
was part of the experience.

I started making my own little movies.

In those days you couldn't record
live sound while shooting super 8 films.

But I could generate a soundtrack
after the fact

by taking sound effects I had extracted
from movies and television shows

and putting them in my movies.

I first met Ben Burtt
at USC Film School.

We kind of were kindred spirits.

Whereas a lot of the students were
into all the Antonioni and the arty films,

we kind of liked the traditional
Hollywood fun films and serials.

Rod Flash.

We wrote this movie

called "Rod Flash Conquers Infinity".

Ben and I dressed up
in these knock-off Flash Gordon things

that we got at an army surplus store
in Hollywood.

We were making
the voyage to the planet Extraneous.

We discover a dinosaur.

And of course
we have a pretty girl in a cape.

And Ben did the sound on that one.

So I was just finishing at USC Cinema,

and Gary Kurtz who had represented
George Lucas, came down to school,

looking for a student
interested in sound

who they could mould
into their own ways.

I went out to the studio
and met with the two of them.

And they outlined the film
they were gonna make.

They had artwork on the walls
done by Ralph McQuarrie,

concept art for the film.

I was astounded by what I saw.

This was the film
I always wanted to work on.

This had spaceships and monsters
and weapons like lightsabres.

It was called "Star Wars".

So I leap at the chance
and the initial discussion was,

"Would you like to help collect sounds
for a Wookiee?"

This is still about a year away
from principal photography.

I put Ben on in the beginning
because I knew

I had to figure out a way
of making these characters real.

And I knew it depended on
how we developed these languages,

and that's what Ben spent
the better part of a year doing.

We were trying to find an animal

that had enough
vocal expressiveness

in its sounds that we could use it
for the Wookiee.

So there was a young bear
named Pooh.

And we spent an afternoon
with this bear in a pen,

coaxing it to say different sounds.

The way they got it to make sound
was to show it bread. It loved bread.

The bear would...

Then you'd give him the bread
and then he'd be like...

George wanted to know
before they filmed the movie

how would the Wookiee sound.

Well, you said it, Chewie.

This is not the way that most filmmakers
worked at that time.

I knew the sound
was part of the foundation

of what the movie was gonna be.

So everything had to have been
figured out way ahead of time.

So I proceeded to work my way
through the screenplay of "Star Wars".

I read through it,
made some notes, broke it down,

and I realised there were
hundreds of things in the script

from Darth Vader's breathing,
and you had the Death Star,

you had TIE fighters
and a whole library of things in there.

I said, "Well, do you want sounds
for the rest of these things as well?"

The answer was, "Yeah, sure.
Just spend some time."

And so I operated out of my apartment
for many months

coming up with expeditions
to go out and gather sound,

while George was off in England,
busy shooting the movie.

I was still based in LA.

He wanted me to go out
and record real motors

and real airplanes,
and real rusty doors.

This hum of a projector,

a buzzing sound
behind the television set.

I tried to go to factories
and a scuba shop.

I just started recording everything
I could get my hands on.

And to populate
the universe of "Star Wars"

with the sounds of things
that we would hear as real.

We didn't wanna follow
the conventions of science fiction

that were current at the time

which was things like "Forbidden Planet"
or "War of the Worlds",

using electronic music technology.

We didn't use synthesisers
or anything like that.

We used real sound effects.

So a year or so
went by of me collecting

and when they returned from filming,
I got a note saying,

"We'll take the tapes
and deliver them to Northern California."

They were doing the picture editing
in George's house.

So I started to cut my sound effects
into the editor's cuts of the movie.

But R2-D2 took a long time.

There were many versions of that
over months that were failures.

You have to actually make him talk

and make you understand
what he's saying.

And R2 had no mouth at all.

What Mission?
What are you talking about?

We were very worried
that it would be incomprehensible.

What eventually happened was,

as George and I
were talking to each other,

we would say, "R2 comes up
to this point in the movie and he goes..."

And suddenly we realised
we were talking with expressive sounds.

They had the intonation of meaning.

We were verbalising a sound
that worked for us.

And that led down the road
of doing just that.

I could do a vocalisation
and play something on the keyboard...

...and you could sort of
work two things together.

What mission?
What are you talking about?

I've just about had enough of you.
Go that way.

You'll be malfunctioning within a day,
you near-sighted scrap pile.

We were not sure that audiences
would comprehend this at all though.

I didn't know.
I was nervous, as anybody would be.

I thought maybe
this was probably the end.

I'd go back and become a science
teacher somewhere in the East.

You got to remember,
my first film was a failure.

I thought,
the ultimate honour would be

if we could be invited
to a "Star Trek" convention.

I could sell T-shirts.

Maybe we'd have a table there
to hand out posters or something.

That to me would have been
the peak of my career.

When the film was finished,
Fox didn't really know what they had.

I sat in a meeting with a Fox executive
with Gary Kurtz

and the Fox Executive said,

"We like your movie, Gary,
but we think it's a sleeper.

"We think it's gonna open very slowly."

I sat in the Coronet Theater
in San Francisco

for the opening show there,
70mm print.

I was sitting actually
in the middle of the audience

and this guy sitting next to me
as the plane comes overhead...

And this guy goes,
"Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit."

And two weeks later,
there were lines around the blocks

across the country
waiting for "Star Wars".

The award goes to
Mr Benjamin Burtt, Jr.

Thank you very much.

I would like to, of course,
thank George Lucas

who had all the great ideas
and provided all the inspiration

for the things in "Star Wars".
Thank you very much.

It is the imaginative director
who will say,

"Let's take the next step
in the sound story."

George Lucas and Gary Kurtz,

Barbra Streisand on "A Star Is Born",

Francis Coppola, Stanley Kubrick,

those are the key players who will say,
"Yes, I'll do this."

"Star Wars" was a revolution.

It was that soundtrack
that changed everything, 1977.

In people's minds,
it was a time when sound was cool.

And it created this era
driven by the filmmakers.

At that time,
David Lynch and Alan Splet

came out of AFI
and were a partnership.

These really great minds
were doing experimental things.

I believe the source of everyone's
creativity comes from within.

And Alan,
he was a born soundman.

Very interested in music,
especially classical music.

And he was a joyous experimenter.

The trick for the human being

is experiencing
this deepest level of life.

The unbounded
infinite ocean of consciousness

at the base of all matter and mind,

where sounds play a huge role
in the abstract cinema.

You wanna bring people into a world
and give them an experience

and you could get lost in there
for years.

So it was in the air -
breaking the mould,

and trying things
that seemed crazy

and seeing if they worked.

The '70s was a really good time
of filmmaking.

There was no more experimental
or chaotic film in all of history,

that so changed the way film sound
was done and presented

as "Apocalypse Now".

During the shooting
of "Apocalypse Now",

Francis heard a record by Tomita

which was "The Planets"
by Gustav Holst in 4-track.

The idea was that you put speakers
at each corner of your room,

you sat in the centre
and you were surrounded by the music.

Francis heard it and thought
this is how I want the film to sound.

But all of us working on the sound -

Richards Beggs, Mark Berger
and myself, we'd only work in mono.

None of us had even worked
on a stereo film

let alone this whole new
6-track surround format.

We were exploring the unknown
going into this whole new continent

where we move objects
all the way around the theatre

which had never been done before.

If you're breaking new ground

then people who are interested
in new ground

come because
they want to participate in it

and more ground gets broken.

I spent about half my time
on "Apocalypse" in the mix,

sitting there watching Walter Murch

and Mark Berger
and Richard Beggs and Francis,

figuring out what this movie
was going to sound like.

Working on "Apocalypse Now"
was my film school.

Ultimately, we wound up
spending a year and a half

editing the sound
and nine months doing the mix

which is just unheard of.

Just about everything
that could go right or go wrong did.

The whole "Apocalypse Now"
experience was like dropping acid.

♪ This is the end, beautiful friend

What you have
at the beginning of the film

is Captain Willard
in his Saigon hotel room hallucinating,

regretting what he's done in the war.

Everything that you see and hear

is being filtered
through his consciousness.

♪ Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

And that decision is what allowed Walter
to do what he did with the sound.

To tell the story
more from the point of view

of this character
in this crazy situation in Vietnam.



And it frames the whole movie.

The most interesting sound
is designed into the script

and is designed into the scenes.

So I wrote out a script
for the sound treatment of the film

to guide the mix.

Walter decided
that it was more efficient

if each editor be responsible
for one whole layer of sound,

so that the helicopters
were edited by one editor

and the background voices
were edited by another editor.

Les Hodgson
was in charge of atmospheres.

Les Wiggins
was in charge of munitions.

Pat Jackson
was in charge of the boat.

So that there was a consistency.

To treat each sound editor

as the head of an instrument grouping
in an orchestra.

You are the lead violin.
You are head of the woodwinds.

You are head of percussion.

You are head of the brasses.

And as Chief is dying, Pat Jackson
changed the pitch of the boat

so that the boat sound is going down.

I think the biggest lesson
I learned from "Apocalypse Now"

sitting there was figuring out
from moment to moment

what sounds to use
and what sounds not to use.

Those kinds of decisions
are the essence of film.

And the exhibitors are going to play
the picture on our terms,

with our sound,
the way we want them to show it.

The film did run
in this 6-track surround format.

And as things have evolved
over the next 30, 40 years,

that format is now the ground standard
of how you mix a film.

The soundtrack is at least
as important as the film.

And the director of the soundtrack
of the entire movie is Walter Murch.

In a way, Walter Murch
is the father of us all

in this modern era of film sound.

"Apocalypse Now"
marked the culmination

of over 50 years
of film sound development.

And its repercussions
can still be felt today.

But the next big challenge for sound

was how to work
in the crazy new digital world.

I always thought that
animation was such a visual medium.

But when I started putting
just the right sound effects

it just made it a thousand times better.

February of 1986, we formed Pixar.

I had been working
on animating these desk lamps.

So I made this little one
and a half minute short film,

called Luxo Jr.

And of course we wanted Ben Burtt
to do the sound,

but they told us he was busy.

And they say, but there's this young guy
that's been working with Ben.

He's really, really good.

Let's give this new guy a try.
His name's Gary Rydstrom.

But I want Ben Burtt.

I think all of my early opportunities

were shows that people
wanted Ben Burtt,

is how it works in the world, right?

We'd like Ben Burtt, please,
he's not available, who else you got?

Now, Luxo Jr. was
definitely a huge step forward

for animation.
And it had a very real look to him.

And Gary kept looking at it going,
"I wanna ground this in reality."

I had this digital workstation
called the Synclavier,

where I could take real sounds,
load them into the computer

and manipulate them
on the keyboard.

Like scraping metal,
the screwing in of lightbulbs.

Harsh, boring sounds.
And the springs...

You record sounds you don't know
what they're going to be for,

but they're interesting.

And later on, you'll find little titbits
that have a little vocal quality.

It's sad or happy.

And next thing you know,
he brought me down

and he showed me
a first pass of Luxo Jr.

And the characters came alive.

He crafted their voices
and he gave them weight.

Gary got it.

He took the medium
of computer animation to new heights.

And pretty much everything Pixar did,
Gary did the sound for.

I thought this is cool,
I'm part of something really big here.

George Lucas and Ben Burtt,

Francis Coppola and Walter Murch,

David Lynch and Alan Splet.

Great directors connected
at the hip to a sound person.

One of mine
was with John Lasseter...

...and another was
with Steven Spielberg.


Welcome to Jurassic Park.

We're gonna make a fortune
with this place.

I think Gary Rydstrom's
greatest contribution to "Jurassic Park"

was presuming
what dinosaurs sounded like.

To make them extraordinary,
but also natural.

And the first time
I ever heard the T-Rex,

I did literally fall off my chair.

Talk about innovative,

it was just unbelievable the sound
that he did on "Jurassic Park".

So we just asked him
to do sound for us

on the first computer animated
feature film.

♪ You've got a friend in me

I just appreciated
how Gary was making sure

that the sounds he used
supported the emotional intention

of the narrative
of whatever was going on.

Say, what's that button do?

- I'll show you.
- Buzz Lightyear to the rescue.

- Whoa.
- Wow.

Hey, Woody's got something like that.
His is a pull-string only.

We wanted to have one thing
that both Woody and Buzz had

that you could tell
Woody's was older and cheesier.

And Buzz's was new and high-tech
and that was a sound system.

I had an old Casper doll.

There's a record in there
that he is... Come on, Cas.

See that's like, "I love you."

He's sounding awesome these days.
Oh, come on, Casper.

Reach for the sky.

Gary loved that idea.

We were innovating
with computers so much

and creating new tools for animation.

Therefore, he was at the same time
using computers for the first time,

in really clever ways
to do sound design.

You know,
it's mind-blowing to think that just,

I don't know,
even many people around the industry

were still cutting sound
at that time on mag.

Up until the early 1990s,

we were cutting one track of sound
at a time on mag film.

But by the mid 1990s,

sound editing migrated
to computer systems like Pro Tools.

Now we could see the waveforms
we were editing,

but more importantly,
sound editors could finally hear

how all their tracks played together.

It was a very exciting time
for all people in visual and sound.

So all of a sudden I get this call.

The Wachowskis said, "Remember
that really great script called 'The Matrix'

"that we used to talk about
on the mixing stage? It's green-lit."

And the fact that the movie
was about this digital reality

that was coming through a wire,

I thought there was some parallel

to trying to do all
of the sound design in the digital world.

And it was a chance
to apply this technology,

that was still sketchy,
but allowed for all these possibilities.

One of the first sounds
that I developed

was the sound of Neo
perceiving himself being digitised.

Did you...?

In the digital world,
everything is zeros and ones,

just little boxes basically.

I wanted to get that feeling across
to the audience, the jaggedness.

Computers did allow us

to do some very fun creative work
on "The Matrix".

There would not have been
time otherwise.

And I've always had a love hate thing
with technology.

Computers suck.

Part of me just wants to live
in the woods and carve sticks.

I have seen the future, this is it,
it definitely does not work.

But another part of me
just loves all these fancy tools.

These days there are
so many tools to manipulate a sound

that now pretty much in sound,
if you can think it, you can do it.

But ultimately
it wasn't about the technology.

It's the contribution of dozens
of sound people.

A circle of talent
who collaborate behind the scenes

to help tell the story.

The human voice - it's the great
possession of the individual.

It can have all sorts of nuances,
and it's unique.

If you listen real close,

you can hear them
whisper their legacy to you.

Carpe diem, seize the day, boys.

When you're recording
production sound,

what you're really trying to capture
is the performance.

You have my permission to die.

Peoples' voices
are really complex instruments.

With a boom microphone,

you're about maybe 10 inches away
from a person's mouth.

It's an enormous sense of intimacy
that you get.

On "Funny Girl",
we filmed it to a pre-recorded track.

♪ For whatever my man is,
I am his...

Willy leans towards me
and says, "What do you think?"

I said, "It could be better,"

because I believe
in working in the moment.

I have to do it live.
And he said OK.

So they put a boom like this,
because it had to be close up.

♪ When I know I'll come back

♪ On my knees someday

♪ For whatever my man is

♪ I am his forevermore

And I thought, that's the kind of feeling
I'd like to get into "My Man".

As a director I can hear the truth

when an actor
is indicating something or...

...feeling it.

- What are you, a demon?
- I'm not. You know me.

- You spit on the Torah.
- I love the Torah.

You spit on it.
To spit on everything on everyone.

On nature itself.

In God's face, in my face,
in Hadass' face...

As a production sound mixer,
one film that I'm very proud of

is a film
that Patty Jenkins directed.

It was called "Monster".

It was about the serial killer,
Aileen Wuornos.

You don't have to do this.

- Get down.
- You don't.

We captured
every little breath.

Oh, God. Oh, God.
My wife. My wife.

And my daughter is having a baby.

Oh, God. Oh, God. I'm sorry.

That was one of those moments

where literally the hair stood
on the back of your neck

at the end of the performance.

But just all those things
that you battle as a sound mixer.

You're dealing with wind.
That is never our friend.

There's many, many things
that are required

for things to look right on camera
that are noisy.

I know the ships can sail
into the triangles not necessarily...

Let's see who's guilty of putting me
in this dreadful pickle.

And if you're hearing those,
that takes you out of the story.

That's why we edit the dialogue.

My mom is Kay Rose,

and she was the first woman
to win an Oscar for sound.

She could hear clicks and pops
that shouldn't be there,

take it out, fill it with ambience,

and it would be very smooth.

"Ordinary People" was a movie
my mom and I worked on

and it was one of the hardest
sound jobs we've ever done.

The movie is about a family
affected by the death of their older son.

The surviving son
goes to a psychiatrist.

Uh, hi. Yeah. Come in.
It's OK. They all do that.

They chose an aluminium warehouse
near an airport

for these very intimate scenes
with the psychiatrist...

Sit down.

...which was awful.

I had a fairly strong idea
about sound,

but I had not directed a film before
so I needed help,

and she did just a great job.

It took weeks to try to get out

the little clicks and pops and planes
for ten minutes of production dialogue.


You wanna tell me about it?

The silence
was meant to illustrate pain,

the disconnect between people.

You can go upstairs
to that room of yours

and clean out the closet,

because it really is a mess.

The dialogue department

we're the queens of the soundtrack.

Jake, my Jake!

Everything falls apart without it.

It's the thing that everything
has to work around.

You don't want to lose a moment
in a film saying to your friend,

"What did he say?"

That's why sometimes
we need to shoot ADR.

ADR stands for...


...automated dialogue replacement.

It's dialogue that's re-recorded
in a sound studio.


You pick out some lines
that might be really low to hear.

The actors have to come in,
re-record, and then we, as editors,

have to cut it to try to match
those peoples' mouths.

So Beth Bergeron hired me
on "A League of Their Own".

One of the scenes that I cut
was when Tom Hanks is yelling...

There's no crying in baseball.

Her crying on the set
was actually really kind of soft.

Are you crying?

And so in order to get her crying again,
you had to get Tom Hanks as well.

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.

Because they're overlapping
each other.

All right.
Listen, listen, listen.

Rogers Hornsby was my manager,

and he called me
a talking pile of pig shit.

So that way when they mix,

they could then bring up her crying
when they need to.

- And did I cry?
- No. No.

No. Because there's no crying
in baseball.

I loved working on that film.

But our job is also to add
the background people,

and that's what we call group ADR.

Most people might not realise
that that whole opening of "Argo",

the assumption is,
"Oh, that's all recorded on set,."

But the truth is
all of that's reconstructed.

We had over a hundred
Farsi-speaking Persian extras.

We were micing the crowd
from right in the middle of it,

and from behind windows,
from the rooftops.

After a few hours of this,
everyone was like hugging,

and a few people were crying,
and we found out that

some of our voice talent had
actually lived through the revolution.

And all of that emotion
that we were recording,

it became part of the DNA of the scene.

When people ask me
about working on "Selma"

I tell them it's the first film
that I worked on

that really meant something.

When they're on the bridge,

they're running for their lives
so they don't get killed.

You want the audience to feel the pain.

When I had people running by the mics,

it's more real
because it's got movement.

It's got cloth movement.
It's got feet.

They're turning their heads
and they're doing efforts,

and so it just sounds more real.

It was so important to me
to work on this film.

It allows me to relive some of the things,
as I was a child...

...that speaks to
what people went through,

what we're still going through today.

I'm just really proud
that I was able to work on it.

Surrounding the voices in the movie

is a whole world of sound effects

created and cut by the sound editors,

and it consists of three distinct parts.

♪ Highway to the danger zone

I got hired to do "Top Gun"
with George Watters.

So I spent a week in San Diego
recording jets with John Fasal.

But the jets themselves
are not that interesting.

They sounded kind of wimpy.

So I created a library
of mostly exotic animal roars,

lions and tiger roars
and monkey screeches.

And that wound up being the thing.

It gave them a cutting, sharp feeling.

It's the most labour-intensive
editing process I've ever experienced.

It took forever,

which the studio was very frightened by
and didn't understand.

And so at one point
in the middle of this process,

there was an executive from the studio.

He came over to fire me, and he said,
"This movie isn't about the sound.”

But months later, we were nominated
for an Academy Award.

And I will say that he sent me flowers,

and the note said,
"I guess it was about the sound."

She's also a civilian contractor

so you do not salute her,
but you better listen to her.

People who say, "Well,
you know, it's a big action war movie.

"A guy should do the sound."

It's like, why?
Has he been in a war?

This idea of one gender
being better at it than another,

I think is kind of silly.

It's experience.

You're sitting in front
of this big piece of equipment

and it looks very complicated
and technical.

It's like you peek into the cockpit
and there's all that equipment.

It's like you want to have
some big guy

who looks like he was
in the Air Force in there,

'cause if anything goes wrong,
that person will... get a screwdriver.

I don't know,
because the job consists of

pushing little buttons
and turning little knobs,

and that's not particularly
a macho endeavour at all.

But if you don't see anybody
like yourself doing something,

then that doesn't seem like
a place you could fit in.

Foley is a subset of sound effects.

We're called Foley artists.

And truly what we do
is custom sound effects.

We're really like performers.

Getting into their mindset.

We really give them character.

It's that detail
that you don't really think about

that makes it come alive.

There's a famous story
where Jack Foley...

...heard the director of "Spartacus"

bemoaning the fact
that the armour they were wearing,

sounded like tin pots.

They were saying, "We'll have
to go back and reshoot the picture."

Huge cost.

Jack said, "Wait a second."

He runs out to his car,
he grabs some props,

some big set of keys etc.,
comes in, and works his magic.

Which is kind of fun, because that's
what Foley really is for us. It's magic.

The last subset of sound effects
are ambiences,

atmospheric beds of sounds

that editors
lay underneath everything else.

I think
on any film, like "Lost in Translation",

building the world and the atmosphere,
the sound is such a big part of it

that you don't realise
until you're working on it.

Picking up all these little details

and adding these layers that makes
you feel like you're really there.

There's this whole other world
that it brings -

it's really half the movie.

It's a bed of sound in the scene

that sets you in that environment.
It could be traffic.

A bed of Cicadas.

The sound of a room...

...or birds.

It has to be evocative.

When I was
11 years old, I had a mild case of polio.

So as a reward for getting better,

my mom drove me
to Yosemite National Park.

Once I went through that tunnel
and it opened up,

and I saw Half Dome and El Capitan,
I said, "Well, this is it for me."

I don't wanna look at this.
I wanna be in it.

The sound of those falls
rushing past me as I climbed up.

The power of water.

I like to use that in film.

I was working
on "A River Runs Through It",

and the sound designer just said,

"Look, I just need you to go out
and record sounds."

I knew every stream
within a hundred miles.

When I heard it back in the film,
I could feel the moisture of the stream,

and I could hear the presence
of this volume of air.

That hit me so heavily,

I thought to myself,

"This is me with my father fishing
as an eight-year-old boy."

It brings me to a really peaceful,
important time in my life.

Everything has emotion,
and therefore spirit.

Ang really wanted the wind

to have its own character
in this movie.

Wind sound was
very expressive for the characters.

How much they're quiet
about their feelings.

How much repression they endure.

That's the art of sound.

That ability to interpret expressively
things that are happening.

The final element
of the soundtrack is music.

It has a direct connection to emotion.

The great thing
about music is

it's there that you, as an audience,
can connect on a human level.

It has a way of inviting you in.

The way in which he records them,
the way in which they're executed

is extremely lavish and epic really.

I love that Hans doesn't give up,

and he just keeps trying to make it
better and better. He's obsessed.

Looks who's here.

I think the heart has to
come first and then the intellect follows.

Hey, guys.

- Daddy.
- Hey, how are you?

Your job is to come up
with the unimaginable for them.

You think about people's
favourite movie moments

and it's usually a score element.

"Black Panther" was set in Africa,

and music is so important
in setting that up.

So my composer,
he was the first person I called.

When I write music
for any of his projects,

I'm always pushing myself
to another kind of level.

Music is what ties
the whole thing together.

Experimenting in contemporary music...

...but also not being scared

to bring in the classic,
really heroic theme.

And how do we tie that together
in one consistent piece of music?

We're going to write something new,
create something completely different.

Then we watched it
and it was like, "This is perfect."

And a song can do in three minutes

what a really great movie
needs hours to do.

It's the collaborative
effort of all those people...

...that make that soundtrack what it is.

And the very last step is to provide
that to the sound mixing stage.

Re-recording mixing
is a key component of film sound.

You take all the elements
from the sound editors

and you finally bring them together
like a conductor would.

You may turn up the music
to enhance the emotion.

You may turn up the
sound effects to add a visceral punch.

Or you may turn them both down
to focus on a line of dialogue.

I'm glad it's you...

Mixing also involves thinking about
where sounds are placed on the screen

and how they move.

We used this panning
technique everywhere in "Roma".

Like what components could go
from that side to that side,

left, centre, right.

Have the voices move that way
when the camera pans that way.

Alfonso was constantly trying to get us
to keep things moving.

"Roma" is filled with a lot of
foreground/background sounds.

The film is very aural.

There are a lot of sounds going on.

The dance between the elements
is what I consider cinematic.

This is what the core of mixing is -

taking all these components,
creating a place for them all.

So it's just really
building the tracks slowly...

...having everything play

At one point you go, "OK, we got
a movie. "Sounds like a movie."

When you feel those goosebumps
then you've done it right.

The circle of talent
is a collaborative group of people

that spend hours and hours
and days and days in the trenches

that are doing all the work.

And if people have to try
and find meaning in what they do,

it's the group of people
that you're working with.

But it's easy to lose sight of that.

Because I had public success
so quickly in my career,

you come to work every day
thinking you're an Oscar-winning genius.

Thank you very much.

But you can't put that
kind of pressure on yourself,

that each time you do something
it's going to shake the world.

And it led to
a nervous breakdown.

It finally came one day.
I couldn't work anymore.

I was just sitting at the console
crying to myself.

Didn't know why. It was because
I had invested too much in it.

One of the main things
I would always try to do

was get home for dinner
with my family.

I have to appreciate my wife, Peggy,
on all the years,

she's dragged me back
out of my world of make-believe.

Don't lose your foot.
Plant it in something outside.

Those are good things.

You get to the point
where you realise

that you want to be happy
doing the work you're doing.

The pleasure is on...
what happens on a daily basis.

You come on any given Tuesday

and you're working with making
pass-bys out of bicycle rattling.

If you can enjoy that and see that
for what it is for a daily task,

then that's where
the pleasure will lie.

I love what I do.
It's very tedious.

It's very time-consuming.

But when I can play something back
and I can feel it, I was like, "Oh, man."

You know, it's just...
it's really satisfying.

I just couldn't believe
I was getting paid real money

to have so much fun.

I always say
I would hate to have a real job.

Pinch myself every day.

Even in my early sound career,

I remember how magical it felt to me.

Movies were a place to have emotion
that was safe.

Of all the ways,
all the things I can do in movies

or have done in movies,
sound is still the best way

to experience emotion
working on a movie to me.

So the creation of
the sound film made sound an art form.

It's been very valuable

in the evolution
of human’s relationship

to the cosmos.

The work you all do
make massive contributions

to the telling of the story.

And I love all your cleverness
and ingenuity,

and I love the sense of fun.

It makes these moments eternal.

You know how to whistle,
don't you, Steve?

Come on, men!

I'll be right here.

Run, Forrest, run!

Hold on!