Soundtracks for feature films (and really many aspects of) ‘big studio’ feature films of the past decade or so have become, (generally speaking), incredibly bombastic and over-the-top. Soundtracks have grown bigger in multiple ways: the density of sound coming at you, (AKA the continuous ‘wall of sound’) to support frenetic action, the layered explosions, gunshots and intensity of big, hyper reality sound can be overwhelming and have you leaving the theater exhausted and sometimes even worried about your hearing.
Now, the silent movie The Artist being the polar opposite is certainly not what I’m suggesting movie soundtracks should be like – as I heard the person 2 rows in front of me snoring throughout most of that movie.
A sound supervisor and re-recording mixer who, in my humble opinion, has offered a wonderful alternative approach to the modern feature film soundtrack and how to use sound (and the lack of big, dense, layered sound and even minimal sound) to help tell the story the filmmaker is wanting to tell, is a man named Skip Lievsay. Even when you hear Skip talk, he is a quiet and understated speaker… but his soundtracks are completely engaging and refreshing.
I talked with him recently about his latest film mix, Gravity at the AES show in his hometown of New York City. It’s already creating quite a bit of Oscar buzz, much like some of his other films No Country For Old Men and True Grit. If you haven’t seen Gravity in the theater yet – do so now! (If you have the chance to see it in Dolby Atmos – better still!)
Skip prefers to mix virtually in Pro Tools (or as they say ‘in-the-box’), and says that in doing so offers he and the director the most flexibility and choice at any point in the process and is his ‘home platform’ where he is most comfortable. He creates incredibly compelling and engrossing soundtracks that draw you into the story, not distract you or overwhelm you. There is magic to his minimal approach, subtlety and nuance and I’m a huge fan.
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