SFP: 'True Grit'

Dec 1, 2010 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

Skip Lievsay with Avid MC Mix and computer at Sony 
Pictures Studios

Skip Lievsay with Avid MC Mix and computer at Sony Pictures Studios

“Craig generally limits his work in the early stages to the big sounds, and Joel and Ethan also like to have backgrounds, so he will make appropriate backgrounds for all the scenes in the movie,” Lievsay adds. “It helps them in their choices and judgments about takes and performances. They also like having gunshots and explosions wherever they’re called for.”

Craig Berkey and his Wacom Cintiq display

Craig Berkey and his Wacom Cintiq display

Berkey says that the backgrounds were a particularly challenging component of the overall sound design, as so much of the film takes place outdoors; the film was shot mostly in the high country of New Mexico and in Texas. “Joel and Ethan love a full ambient track, which is nice,” he says. “They want you to be immersed in the atmosphere of wherever you are.”

Working primarily from his own extensive library of winds, Berkey “spent a lot of time going through and making sure that they’re all interesting winds and fit together from scene to scene. In some cases, you want to have a progression of different types of winds that go from a warm, blustery thing to a very different kind of environment—in this case, [the main characters] are heading up into the mountains and it becomes colder and colder, so you want to be able to communicate that somewhat through the winds. Sometimes I end up EQ’ing things, but the key is picking the right winds to start with, so I spend a lot of time listening and making mental notes about which elements would work together, because sometimes when you start putting too many winds together, they lose their character and they become a big mush because they don’t have the sonic room around them to continue their signature. When we’re doing this, I’m mixing at the same time and I’ll put it in against whatever dialog track I have.” Berkey mostly uses plug-ins for his signal processing work, including Altiverb reverb, and McDSP and Avid filters.

When it came to gunshots and explosions, Berkey again relied on his own sound library material, but for horses, Lievsay supervised FX recordist/editors John Fasal and Jay Wilkinson for a couple of sessions outside of L.A. at a movie horse ranch in Palmdale and a horse hydrotherapy pool in Los Olivos—the latter for a key scene in which a horse swims across a river. “One thing we learned,” Lievsay says, “is that when the horse goes fully underwater, they dog paddle like dogs and there’s no sound—the only sound is they breathe through their nose, and they’re constantly blowing their nose out to make sure they don’t drown. It was one of those things where we had to do it to find out.”

Again, with the mix going through a progression, Lievsay and Berkey added elements and made adjustments as they went along in close consultation with the Coens. “Early on,” Berkey explains, “we end up with this first temp mix and then we keep adding to and conforming that mix, and Joel and Ethan listen to it with each cut giving us notes as we go along. We’re starting the final now, but I’ve been getting notes the last few weeks that say things like, ‘Maybe the backgrounds are a couple of dB too hot in this scene,’ or, ‘Could you add a crowd murmur here?’ They’ve been listening to our mix in 5.1 in a theater in New York, so when we get to the final mix, it’s about adding some new music cues, but they’ve heard every sound, they’ve listened to the mix and they know everything that’s there and have made notes on it that we’ve executed. Essentially, our mix starts about four months before we finish the final.”

Is it fair to say that the Coens, who work so brilliantly with words and images (True Grit was shot by the great Roger Deakins), are also quite sound savvy? “Oh, yes,” Berkey replies without hesitation. “They’re very particular, but they also like to leave room for us to put in interesting sounds and be creative. They definitely understand that sound matters.”

Acceptable Use Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus

Mix Books

Modern Recording and Mixing

This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95

Mastering Cubase 4

Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95



Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine takes you straight into the studio, with new product announcements, industry news, upcoming events, recent recording/post projects and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

MixLine Live

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine Live takes you on the road with today's hottest tours, new sound reinforcement professional products, recent installs, industry news and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the The Wire for the latest press postings.