“Before we were born, you’re looking at darkness. Sound is the first sense that’s plugged in.”
This piece of wisdom comes from Walter Murch, sound editor for films such as “Apocalypse Now” and “THX 1138.” He goes on to explain that sound is how we make sense of the world.
But it can be taken for granted in the film industry, can’t it? When we think of the last movie we saw, we don’t typically think about the sounds we heard, beyond maybe a memorable line or two of dialogue. We don’t think about which sounds were diegetic or which were added in later—we take it for granted. But without it, the entire experience would feel flat.
It’s been said that the typical moviegoer only notices the sound design of a film if it’s been done badly. But for those who have worked in the industry, watching a film with good sound design is like listening to a symphony. In director Midge Costin’s “Making Waves,” we hear from many of those designers (including Walter Murch) with the praise of many well-known filmmakers to back up their credits.
Costin herself has over 20 credits as sound editor for various productions, and, with her documentary, we begin to see the magic. The film gives us a tour of the world of sound, starting with its history—even before talkies came into play—and detailing the collaborative, crazily imaginative process by which a film gets its soundtrack.
There are many pieces to consider: the atmosphere, the dialogue (and the choice between on-set sound or ADR), foley, musical score (or lack thereof, in some cases)—and then, of course, mixing it all together. Costin explores the idea of a “circle of talent,” which emphasizes team effort and the importance of all of these little pieces to create the whole.
The documentary covers the creation of new material when everyday sound bytes won’t do the film justice. It explores the rhythm of background sound and how every little blip adds to the world that the film has created. Besides the fascinating lengths that sound editors take to achieve a desired effect, the film also gives a certain nostalgia to its audiences with clips from “The Jazz Singer,” “The Birds,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Matrix” and countless other favorite films.
“Making Waves” is fascinating and informative, and it gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at this under-credited part of the film industry.
“Making Waves” will be shown on Jan. 20 at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.
January Special Events
Central PA Open Screen
Thursday, Jan. 2, 7 p.m.
Down in Front! presents
“The Pumaman” (1980)
Friday, Jan. 10, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m.
3rd in the Burg $3 movie
“The Goonies” (1985)
Friday, Jan. 17, 9:30 p.m.
“Making Waves” (2019)
With post-screening discussion
Monday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.