People Just Like The Sound Of Movies
If you are making an independent film on a miniscule budget
it is inevitable that some aspect of your movie will be compromised due to your
lack of funds. The ultimate challenge for an independent filmmaker working with
a shoestring budget is to some how make their movie look and sound like it
deserves to be with the big boys at the major film festivals.
While certain things have to be eliminated or kept to a
minimum with a low budget film production such as special effects, makeup and
lighting it is important to understand that the sound aspect of a low budget
independent film should never be compromised. Try sitting through a two hour
movie that has a constant hum in the soundtrack and you will know what I mean.
People will watch just about anything on the screen, but they will not listen to
anything that assaults their sense of hearing.
The film industry began as a visual medium in which artists
could be seen acting out stories on the silver screen, but in recent decades it
would seem that the general movie going public is more interested in the way a
movie sounds than the way it looks.
Advances in sound technology have moved forward as fast as
the advances in visual technology, but in the race for which aspect of a film
production people enjoy the most, sound is in the lead. Here is the proof: if
you shoot a film with poor lighting, no costumes, no makeup and no special
effects it could be regarded as an artistic style of independent filmmaking
called cinema verite. You can even scratch up the negative in the name of
artistic license and people will still watch your independent film. On the other
hand, if you add some static noise to the soundtrack of a movie, mess up the lip
sync of the dialogue or add errant sounds with no explanation then people will
just think you are not an accomplished independent filmmaker technically. They
will shun your independent film.
The movie going public has been spoiled ever since the
first sound movie The Jazz Singer was made in 1929 on Stage 5 of the
Warner Bros. lot in Hollywood . They have come to expect that when they see a
movie they will not only see life up on the screen but they will also hear it
too. There is a certain level of technical quality they expect when they see a
movie. However, when it comes to hearing a movie, things are quite different:
their standards for sound quality are much higher than their standards for
visual quality. The eyes have a higher threshold for pain than the ears do, and
the brain of a typical human being cannot handle uncomfortable noises for very
The sound of a low budget independent film should be
either real or surreal, but it should not be bad. A film audience will not
reject flaws in the visual esthetics of a movie as easily as they will reject a
film for its poor sound quality. For instance, if the dialogue tracks of actors
voices are too low it brings to the attention of the audience the fact that the
actors voices were recorded. This can negatively affect their suspension of
disbelief. When this happens they are reminded that they are watching a movie,
and not experiencing real life. It will ultimately affect their opinion of your
low budget independent film negatively for certain.
The sound of a movie can determine whether or not it will
be a success. The Star Wars movies owe much of their success to
the sound designers and technicians who worked very hard to create alien sounds
that complimented the visuals perfectly. They made those movies sound
believable, literally, and that is a very hard thing to do in general when it
comes to science fiction films.
The tools that are necessary to record, design and mix
sound for movies have made great strides in terms of advancements. Only three
decades ago there were only a handful of skilled sound recorders, designers, and
mixers that provided the sound for movies. This was because the equipment was
very expensive to purchase. A person who wanted to do this kind of work for a
living would have to invest a large amount of money to buy a vast amount of
equipment that filled up a lot of space. You would usually have to rent or buy a
place to set up shop. On top of that you would probably have to take classes to
learn the skills of sound for films. Nowadays, things are much different.
Advances in sound technology have made everything smaller,
easier to learn and definitely more affordable. A small, inexpensive digital
sound recorder and microphone can now be used to record sound for a small
independent film that is indistinguishable from sound that was recorded on a
much bigger and much more expensive Nagra reel to reel sound recorder.
A good digital sound recording package can be purchased now
for less than $1500. Also, a person can buy a home computer setup with a sound
design/mixing program for under $1000. Thirty years ago you would have to spend
about $20,000 to buy comparable equipment. You can even learn the necessary
skills using computer program tutorials on your home computer. The best part
about it is the fact that you can literally do all the sound work on an
independent film production entirely by yourself.
If you are planning to make an independent film and enter
it in film festivals you should make sure that the sound quality is as good as
the best movies currently on the film festival circuit. You cannot settle for
sub-par when it comes to sound quality on your low budget independent film. If
you do, your audience will notice it immediately and this will cause them to no
longer suspend their disbelief. When this happens you can be sure that they will
become annoyed and head for the exits.
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