Pixar, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’

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Walter Murch sound mixing in Apocalypse Now

I bet most of you when watching the Academy Awards go get a snack or phase out when they give the awards for sound mixing and sound editing. Most of us have no idea what those words even mean and it seems like something that should be left for the technical awards given out separately. Well, the new documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound may have you humming a different tune- or perhaps hearing one!

This fascinating documentary goes through the history of sound production in movies from silent films to the multi-faceted process of sound in digital films. I will admit even as a rottentomatoes approved film critic who has reviewed over a thousand films, most of the information in this film was new to me, and I am now in awe of these talented men and women who create the sounds of the movies I love.

Sound editor Ai-Ling Lee working on Deadpool

Directed by sound editor and professor at USC, Midge Costin, Making Waves breaks down the elements of sound in easy to understand steps while also telling the history of this essential cinematic art-form. It starts with the groundbreaking sound design in King Kong by Murray Spivack. Then goes into the dynamic sounds created to make radio shows come alive and how those shows influenced people like George Lucas (heavily featured), Francis Ford Coppola. Along the way we meet sound designers like Ben Burtt (Star Wars) and Walter Murch (The Godfather Part II).

One thing I learned from watching Making Waves is I had no idea how influential Barbra Streisand was in this field. When making A Star is Born in 1977 she offered up over a million of her own money to record the film in a new 6 track stereo sound that would surround the audience in the sound. And then in Funny Girl she did the performance live so the emotion of the songs could come through in a more raw way. I thought that was fascinating.

Greg Hedgpath working on Selma

Making Waves then spends the second half of the film going into the various processes of sound in modern film including dialogue, production recording, ADR, sound fx, foley, ambience, music and final mixing of all the components. This might sound dry but it includes so many interviews including Steven Spielberg, Hans Zimmer, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Coogler, and of course many who work in the field of sound.

For animation fans, there is even a whole segment dedicated to Gary Rydstrom of Pixar fame, and how he came up with the sounds for Luxo Jr and the voice boxes of Woody and Buzz in Toy Story (among many other projects for Pixar).

Cece Hall cutting soundtrack for Top Gun

If you are like me and want to learn about all aspects of film then Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is a must watch. It will challenge you to look at film in a new way and arm you with a wealth of knowledge about an underappreciated but vital element of any films success. I definitely recommend seeking this film out and watching it.

Making Waves: the Art of Cinematic Sound arrives in theaters in LA/NYC on Oct 25th with a nationwide rollout in 50+ theaters soon after.

What is a movie where the sound stood out for you? One that always sticks out to me is any Hayao Miyazaki film such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor TotoroI would love to read your thoughts in the comments below. 

★★★★

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel is a rottentomatoes approved film critic and podcaster. She loves all things animation and does a monthly podcast on classic Disney films and on obscure animation at Rachel's Reviews. She also is the founder and lead host of The Hallmarkies Podcast. She grew up with mainstream classics like The Little Mermaid and The Simpsons but also loves indie and anime fare like Song of the Sea and Your Name. Most important to her is discussing all kinds of film and TV shows with her friends and all of you. Follow Rachel on twitter at @rachel_reviews and on her blog rachelsreviews.net