A sound editor's job is to bring a sense of equilibrium between the various sounds and their volumes & frequencies for the best audio experience a viewer could hope for. He has to work closely with the sound designer, music director, editor, and director to find the right balance for a particular scene.
He has the responsibility of making sure that the visuals on the screen have the corresponding sounds they make. If an actor is waiting for a train in a station, the sound editor has to include the sound of the approaching train, various noises created by the hustle-bustle of the station along with the sounds created by the movements of the actor as well. Sometimes, they could be as minute as the actor stroking his coat to remove a speck of dust or lint.
Growing technological innovations in the process of movie production have transformed the way filmmakers create a movie, and the department of sound editing is no exception. From making edits using magnetic tapes during the advent of filmmaking itself to the Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) that most of the current sound editors work on, it has come a long way and promises to go much further with every experiment.
The latest Darren Aronofsky feature Mother! is a great example of such an experiment as the background score has been driven solely by the efforts of a sound editor. Sound designer and the supervising sound editor of the film, Craig Henighan, devoid of any music, incorporates noises of the surroundings into the background, to create a sense of paranoia and uneasiness felt by the titular character, played by Jennifer Lawrence. The decision of not including any music was taken by the original music composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and the director, which could be taken as a brave attempt at breaking the paths of traditional sound production for a film and entering new frontiers in the department.
Starting with the arrow that rips through Rickon Stark and ending with the brutal and, some might call, satisfying death of Ramsay Bolton, the sound effects in the Game of Thrones episode 'Battle of the Bastards,' accompanied by the gut-wrenching music of Ramin Djawadi, offer a crisp rendition of sound editing that would be written in the annals of the department, long after the completion of the series.
Swords of the warriors and the footsteps of their horses, along with myriad other objects find their voice in this epic production. The elegant sound mixing makes us feel the wrath, fear, and violence that is characteristic of any battle.
Another great example of sound editing that does not involve anything that is larger than life, is David Fincher's directorial venture 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. When Daniel Craig takes up the job of digging into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, an incident that had happened almost 40 years ago, he enters the harsher part of Sweden.
We could observe a visible change in the sound effects when he enters the cottage that he is allocated. The cold wind, so characteristic of the Scandinavian regions, is heard by the viewer and experience by Craig. Closing the door behind him, we observe that the wind suddenly dies away. We feel what the character is subject to and hear what he hears. Diegetic sounds like these form a major aspect of the narrative of this film, which makes us feel that we too are part of it.
Most of the viewers may not be able to appreciate the hard work of the sound editor, but they sure will sense that something is missing if they watch a movie with a sub-par sound expert. The job description of a sound editor includes not making the audience realize that anything is amiss, without grabbing too much attention to the sounds he creates.
- Open Face Team
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