Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Randy Thom, keynote speaker at Siggraph

Randy Thom, the brilliant sound effects designer from Skywalker Sound, offered the first keynote of the conference. A protégé of Walter Murch, who “went to school” on Apocalypse Now and earned Oscars for The Right Stuff and The Incredibles, Thom offered an enlightening discussion on “Designing a Movie for Sound.” In fact, he used the openings of both Apocalypse Now and WALL•E to illustrate two innovative approaches. Early collaboration is essential in achieving a cinematic result and so is experimenting with how the visual and the sonic can work together. On Apocalypse Now, when director Francis Ford Coppola made Willard (Martin Sheen) a passive observer, he opened up the possibility for experimentation with sound. Thom even crucially suggested that animation is currently utilizing the best strategy for successful integration of sound design more than live-action. Early collaboration with the director is offering inspiration to animators for finding the right balance between visuals and sound, and the most appropriate combination of dialogue, music and sound effects. The latter, he said, was key.

[via events.animationblogspot.com]

Thom delivers sound ideas at Siggraph

"One emerging difference that's very important ... is the directors of animation more and more often are asking me and other sound designers to get involved very, very early in the process, and do speculative sounds to help animators get inspired."

"This idea that sound is something you do at the end of the process -- that it's sort of a decoration you apply at the end of the movie -- is false. I think it's bound to make a better movie if you start thinking about sound and start experimenting with sound as soon as you start the project."

He urged the assembled graphics designers and animators to remember, "When you're writing the story, think about what your characters might hear that could tell the audience something about who the characters are. Create moments to feature those sounds."

He also warned that if the characters are always talking, "neither they nor the audience will get a chance to hear the objects, places and events that will make your film more cinematic."

[read the full article - via variety.com]
[Twitter realtime results for Randy Thom during #siggraph]

The following video podcast is up now on ACMSIGGRAPH's Channel:

A message from Randy via Sound Article List:

"My SIGGRAPH presentation went very well. There were more than 3000 people in the audience. Gulp! My long time co-supervisor and in-his-spare-time theater sound design and calibration specialist Dennis Leonard worked with the team in New Orleans to create an amazing sounding 5.1 system for a room that large."

"The audience was mostly computer graphics and animation professionals, but included lots of students interested in those areas too. They were very receptive to the ideas I presented about treating sound as a full collaborator, getting sound experiments started as early on a project as possible, and integrating visual and sonic experiments from the very beginning of the project. I had done video interviews with Francis Coppola and Walter Murch talking about the sound on Apocalypse Now; and Andrew Stanton and Ben Burtt talking about Wall-E, and I used excerpts from those interviews in the presentation."

"I made the point that one emerging difference between sound for animation and sound for live action is that animation directors are increasingly interested in getting sound involved early, whereas nearly all live action filmmakers are stuck in this dumb old notion that sound is a decoration you apply to a film just before it's released."

"Basically the presentation was about integrating visual experimentation and sonic experimentation as soon as either of them starts. That's literally what happened on Wall-E. Ben Burtt started doing sound experiments at the same time the animators started imagining what the robots in the movie would look like. Walter didn't start playing with sound quite that early on Apocalypse Now, but he did start while they were still in principal photography."

"I also talked about the sound design opportunities on Apocalypse increasing exponentially when Coppola re-wrote John Milius' original script. Milius wrote the Willard character as more active, aggressive. Coppola decided he should be more passive, like a lens through which we experience the war... basically an observer. That turned the movie into a playground for sound design, because an observer is also a listener. So, even though Coppola may not have anticipated that outcome exactly in terms of sound, he opened the door nonetheless."

[Randy Thom - Scene Unseen Interview]

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