Film sound is not quite a Black Art, but it can feel that way sometimes when you read the magazines or are introduced to terms such as walla, BGs, pull-down and EDL. The level of precision and technical detail is intimidating at first glance, for sure, but at its core, film sound editing is an art. And as with all art, once the details are mastered, the true fun begins.
David Lewis Yewdall, M.P.S.E., has gone a long way toward demystifying the technical aspects of motion picture sound so that the art comes to the forefront in his wonderfully thorough and engaging book Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound. Yewdall, a veteran of more than 140 films during the past 25 years, is first and foremost a filmmaker; he just happens to tell his version of the story with sound. His passion for the role audio plays in the filmmaking process is evident in nearly every paragraph, beginning with his description of staying home from junior high with an illness and discovering his father’s office 11/44-inch tape machine, to his seminal role in the development of soundtracks for such big films as Escape From New York, The Thing and The Fifth Element.
After a brief discussion of the importance sound plays in the storytelling process, Yewdall walks the reader through the production of feature films, from the planning stages, through the shoot, to the edit and finally the re-recording stage-all from a sound perspective. Complex technical processes are broken down into simple frameworks and explanations, and the text is liberally sprinkled with illustrative, and sometimes downright funny, stories from the trenches. Yewdall talked with hundreds of people in all aspects of production and post-production in assembling the book, and many of the interviews are included, from production sound mixers to picture editors to colleagues and peers in the sound-editing community.
Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound is a must-read for all students of sound, whether in film school, recording school or already working in the craft. More than that, it’s a must-read for all students of film, and no doubt, a few directors and producers out there would benefit from a read.
The text comes fully illustrated with photos and accompanying diagrams and examples. An audio CD-ROM is included, loaded with examples from the text of everything from 40Hz tones to car-by recordings and Foley effects.