COMMENTARY: The History and Power of Sound Design in the Film Industry
Last week at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, Making Waves: The Art Of Cinematic Sound premiered after nine years in production. Director Midge Costin takes audiences on a journey from the era of silent films to today’s blockbusters, with a painstaking ear to shifts in sound design trends and the influence of developments in technology. Making Waves feels like a 90-minute deluxe Hollywood backlot tour led by the scientists of cinema. It begins with the notion that sound is the first sense humans develop in the womb and ends with an encyclopaedic guide to each function of the sound design department. Making Waves was a showpiece of this year’s festival, and it’s sure to become a classroom staple.
At pivotal points in cinema history, sound design pioneers Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars), and Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park) were artists with the passion and skills to move the medium forward, working against a studio system that did not value sound as a cornerstone worth funding or time. They and their contemporaries had to prove sound design’s worth by creating visceral experiences that could persuade even the most resistant gatekeepers. A handful of tricks disclosed in Making Waves changed the game forever.
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