How is the breath of the wind recorded so that it evokes more horror than the sound of rockets, who are the foley artists and why do they carry suitcases full of shoes to record sound for the film? All these questions are answered by sound engineer and VGIK graduate Evgeny Goryainov. One of the authors of the book “Shoot Your First Film! ", Which is being prepared for publication in the publishing house" Bombora ". "Knife" publishes a fragment about "from what rubbish" whole soundscapes grow before our eyes and why some artists use sounds to record tracks in the style of Cubism, while others prefer the subtle technique of the Impressionists.

A film sound engineer is a person who is responsible for the technical and artistic aspects of a film related to sound.

Sound engineering is, of course, the profession of an artist in the broadest sense of the word. A sound engineer constructs a whole universe of thousands of sounds and their relationships in the process of creating a movie.


Cocktail party effect

There is no absolute silence in a movie. As in life. There is always a huge number of sounds around us that we do not pay attention to. There is such a concept - "the effect of a cocktail party."

Imagine that you are at a party: many tables, many people, everyone is talking. A young man and a girl are sitting at the next table, and it is very important for you to hear their conversation.

The human brain has the ability to filter out all sounds around and select exactly what you need to hear, to a certain extent, of course. But, one way or another, this mechanism works. And in order for the sound to appear in the cinema, we need to record it. The microphone is not as selective as the human ear.

For example, if you pick up a microphone, put on headphones, all sounds come into the microphone at the same volume level. And it is no longer possible to single out something important. The task of the sound engineer is to bring the sound that exists on the screen, in the film, as close as possible to how the human ear hears it in life, in a specific situation. The microphone, unfortunately, is a very imperfect device, but we have no other.

In order to restore this history of a cocktail party in a film frame, we will need to separately record the sound of noises around, the sound of conversations and separately record the conversation that interests us. This is necessary so that all these sounds exist separately and in the mix (the process of creating a complete sound picture) we could make something louder, something quieter, something further, something closer.

This is actually how cinema is created - even loud scenes at a disco, for example, are filmed in complete silence. But at the same time, the actors keep in their heads that they need to speak with the right message, try to shout down conventionally sounding music, which in fact does not exist.

And then, already at the stage of post-production, music is added and processed in a certain way, so that the viewer has the feeling of a disco space.

Sound engineer as artist

Making sound in cinema is akin to fine art for me. If we are talking about a sound solution, depending on the artistic tasks set by the director, it may have features of cubism, and maybe impressionism. Of course, Impressionism is closer to me - with small strokes I create a sound picture of a film.

In general, a sound engineer, in my opinion, should be interested in and inspired by painting in his work. Once Svetlana Nikolaevna Proskurina, an excellent Russian director, before starting work, introduced me to her new film with the help of Anselm Kiefer's reproductions album. She just showed the pictures and said that the sound solution of specific scenes in the film should have the same feeling as from these pictures. This conversation later helped us a lot in the work on the film.

For the sound engineer, the soundtrack of a film consists of several layers or layers. The first is speech. She, as a rule, always exists in the cinema, and in several forms. Intra-frame speech is actually what the actors say. Offscreen speech is, for example, the hero's internal monologues, the author's commentary, the narrator's comment, if it was conceived according to the script.

The second is music. She can also be in-frame and off-screen in the film. If you have a person walking in the frame and playing a melody on the accordion, this is intra-frame music, we see its source. If the hero moves away, then the character of the sound of the music also changes.

Off-screen music is music that sounds like it’s out of nowhere. More precisely, from behind the scenes. We can say that this is a director's technique that gives one or another emotional coloring to the scene.

The world sounds around us. And besides speech and music, there is the chirping of birds, the sound of leaves, the forest, the sound of the sea, located ten or one hundred meters from us ... These are backgrounds. The third layer of the sound picture.

For a feature film, backgrounds are typically recorded during filming in the same locations where filming takes place. They shot a shot or the shift ended, everyone was released, and the sound engineer with his assistants stayed and recorded the sea, forests or something else.

Two approaches can be distinguished in the production of a soundtrack for a play picture. They historically exist parallel to each other and in their pure form, as a rule, are now very rare, most often combined in one film.

There is an approach called “clean soundtrack”, when the soundtrack and speech of the actor, recorded on the set, remain in the film. And there is another approach, which is called "scoring", when on the set during the filming we record a technical or draft phonogram, and then the actor listens to it in the studio and re-sounds all his lines. And then a very important and interesting block begins - the creation of synchronous noise.

We recorded a rough soundtrack, and then the actors came to the studio and completely re-voiced themselves. But when we filmed them, they didn't just talk. They also walked, rustled with papers, clothes, touched each other with their hands. And all these sounds also need to be restored with maximum accuracy.

There is a special creativity in the creation of synchronous noises, in which not only the sound engineer participates, but also the artists of synchronous noise, they are also called foley-artists, named after the pioneer of recording and recreation of noise effects Jack Foley. Such an artist has a huge baggage of any props, for example, dozens of pairs of shoes: men's, women's, children's, sneakers, shoes ...

And in the studio where synchronous noises are recorded, there is a huge number of different textures: wooden floor, parquet, Red Square paving stones, on which the artist walks in these shoes, recreating the sounds of footsteps. Synchronous noise artists are really real artists, because they need to move with different emotions, with a different message.

For example, you can take a cup off the table in completely different ways. You can be angry, but you can gently. And the emotion inherent in this sound will be transferred to the screen.

All sounds exist on separate soundtracks, and the more there are, the more interesting and multifaceted the sound picture of the film is.

In a large full-length fictional picture, there can be up to a thousand of such tracks. For one scene of a chase, there can be up to 15 different wind sounds, or even more.

For example, at the beginning of the scene we use a little bit of this wind, then a little bit of this, then a little bit of this, then a little bit of this, then the rustle of grass, which also adds up to the noise of the wind. It is always such a very complex multi-factor story.

Get ready for a movie with a sound engineer

In ideal conditions, the sound engineer is attached to the picture during the script writing phase. In my practice, this has always yielded very good results. When the script is ready, the sound engineer and director can discuss specific things before filming.

I had a picture in which one of the main characters was a guy who lives somewhere in a province in the south, and this guy was played by a Moscow actor from a Moscow theater. And we had to discuss and come up with features, shades of the southern dialect at the stage of the script.

The sound engineer is always present at the choice of objects for shooting, because from a visual point of view, for example, this space may suit us, but not from a sound point of view. Especially when it comes to filming somewhere on location or in real-life interiors with extraneous sounds or poor acoustics.

Further, at the stage of the preparatory period, the sound engineer must work with the director on the director's script. We must understand what kind of sound we have in each frame, what kind of music is, how many people are in the frame, how the scene is technologically solved.

If the script says that an orchestra is playing in the scene, then in the director's script in the “sound” column it should be written what kind of orchestra it is, what kind of instruments it is, whether it really plays or pretends to play, and then we put the sound on post-production stage.


Filmmaking is a dialogue

During the filming period, the sound engineer or someone from his team is engaged in recording sound directly on the set. Sound recording includes recording of actors' lines and recording of specific backgrounds and effects.

There is a whole sound team working here: a sound engineer and two sound engineer assistants with pointed microphones on special long sticks called "fishing rods" or "booms". Also on each character, as a rule, there are lavalier microphones. During the shooting, they are not visible, because they are hidden under the clothes with the help of special tricks, and it is important that the clothes do not rustle.

In this regard, the question of choosing the costume of the characters is also in the area of ​​responsibility of the sound engineer. Therefore, on set, dialogue is important between the sound engineer and the costume designer. Cinema is a collective affair, everyone should meet each other halfway, and, as a rule, costume designers meet halfway and offer some solutions.

For example, you are shooting a historical film, and there is a task to attach a lavalier microphone with a sufficiently voluminous transmitter to the suit. In this case, the costume designer may suggest that you sew on a special pocket in which you can place the transmitter.

Sound and editing

After the movie has been shot, the editing process begins. First, the sound, which is recorded on a separate device, is combined with the image in the editing program. If the shooting technology is built correctly, it will automatically align.

Nowadays, cinema uses several methods to synchronize separately recorded sound with an image. But the simplest and most familiar to everyone is the cracker. When we have two clapper plates in the frame, we see an impulse in the sound graph. By combining this sound with a clapperboard, we get a sound synchronous with the image.

Timecode technology is also common. This is technical information, a set of numbers that simply match in the description of an audio file and a video file, and then these files are synchronized in the editing program. The issue of sound and image synchronization during filming is also the task of the sound team. The director of photography will not think about what we have with the time code, whether we have connected the camera to a sound recorder.

The sound synchronized with the picture begins to exist in the editing program. Further editing takes place. And after the editing is completely finished, work begins on the sound. If the director wants to make some more edits and some editing scenes do not suit him, work on the sound does not start.

You need to remember forever: work on the sound begins when the editing is finalized. In international technology, this is called a Lock Picture - a picture in which not a single gluing will move anywhere. This is due to the fact that work on sound is being carried out simultaneously in several directions.

Speech is done separately, scoring, backgrounds, effects separately, synchronous noises are written separately. If suddenly something changes in the image, then we will have to make these changes in all these five sessions. And if there are a lot of sessions, technologically the work can get up at all.

Be a co-author

For the result to be good, the sound engineer and the director must have the same cultural context. It is necessary that the sound engineer understands what cinema is about in general, what is the director's philosophy, what is his author's view, what features. And for this you need not relax and force yourself to read books, watch films, be in context.

If these two people, both the director and the sound engineer, are co-authors, then a very good result is obtained. The most important thing is to match the cultural level of the director and the entire crew.

Of course, it is also very important for a director to understand the basics of the profession of a sound engineer and especially to remember that a microphone is not a perfect device.