Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Let's Hope it's not a "Real Bomb"

"Director Mike Figgis spent longer at LAX airport than intended. He'd arrived in Los Angeles, along with half the acting and directing world, for what is known as 'pilot season', when the big studios try out new scripts, directors and actors in a two-week frenzy of auditions and career make-or-breaks. When Figgis was being grilled by airport immigration, he was asked the purpose of his visit. Unthinking and tired after a long flight, Mike replied: 'I'm here to shoot a pilot.' After five hours in an interrogation cell (yes, really), he finally made it into town."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cubs 4, Dodgers 2

Mark Hendrickson started the season looking better than ever, but now it looks like he's becoming the pitcher he was last season, when he was pulled from the starting rotation. Today he gave up 4 runs and 9 hits (including back-to-back homers) in only 5 innings worked. Chad Billingsley pitched 3 perfect innings (including 3 strikeouts) and looks ready to replace him in the starting rotation.

Tomko's move to the pen looked good with one perfect inning.

The Dodgers left a total of 16 men on base in the game.

There were a lot of vocal Cubs fans in the stands, and for the first half of the game, they were making a lot more noise than the Dodger fans.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


OK, I had already decided on that title before I saw the film, but it's appropriate.

There's something amiss in SHREK 3 from frame 1. The humor isn't quite right, the story doesn't flow, and the characters aren't on target.

The writers are new. And it shows. The characters just don't work the way they did in the first two films. The first film was pretty good at wrapping it up in the end, and the second even more so, so in the third installment, a lot is done to undo what was done in the first two, then redo it so they end up in the same place. Which is not entertaining to watch.

Puss 'n Boots is the newest of the old characters and manages to stay somewhat fresh until he is forced to trade places with Donkey. Most of the new characters in this film are one-dimensional and exist only as cliches or cheap jokes. There are a few moments of humor that rise above sitcom moments (Gingerbread Man's life flashback) but most of the film is terribly written. About the best thing I can say about the movie is that the third act is the best part of the film, but the climax is still weak and confusing when Shrek beats Prince Charming yet again. At least Eric Idle's Merlin is humorous.


No Surprise that Jordin won, although I don't know for sure since I only padded Tivo by 2 minutes and the show went 9 minutes over!

Cutting Clive Davis's annual address to the stockholders would have let the show come in on time. Or that horrible Beatles medley. But the climax of the show was when Melinda was voted off two weeks ago. Since then, it's all been a letdown.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


A reader asks:
It seems like sound is always piggybacked onto picture. Thus, it seems as though the sound editor does not have an opportunity to respond to the picture edit and say: "this does not work for sound." Is there much reverse motion in the work-flow and why is it that the work-flow puts sound after picture?

Well, the answer is, yes, and no.

Picture locks first because it's a part of the cultural assumption that visuals are more important than sound, but it's also practical. Generally a picture change means changing hundreds of sound tracks, so it's easier to lock (or "latch") picture before locking sound.

However, on a big feature with a long schedule, it's typical for there to be several temp dubs. After each temp dub, the picture editor then goes back and re-edits picture with the stems from the previous dub, so s/he can see and hear whether the new changes are working. Most of the time it should be clear to a good editor when picture needs adjusting.

Even without temp dubs, good editors do more than cut picture. In fact, I've often said the most important sound editor is the picture editor. Especially in today's environment, editors are expected to cut temp music, temp sound effects, temp VO, temp ADR (and even record much of it in the editing room), as well as temp visual FX. By the time the real sound editors come on the movie, the picture editor has already established much of the mood and pacing of both the music and sound design.

However, it is extremely rare that a sound editor would ask a picture editor to make a picture change. It's usually pretty obvious if it's necessary (to jam in an added explanatory ADR line, or an off-camera sound effect for something you didn't' shoot) and the picture editor will usually cut in a temp sound that needs to be matched in length by the real sound editors.

One area where it is more likely to change is for music. Occasionally, a composer will ask to fix an edit because it doesn't work with a consistent musical tempo (although more often than not, the change still won't happen). Probably the most famous example of this was John Williams asking Spielberg to re-edit and extend the climactic scene in E.T. so that he could include a complete statement of the musical theme when the bicycle starts to fly. Since a change like that impacts so many people (sound editors, visual effects, negative cutter), even then, it's pretty rare, but it does occasionally happen.


Blake won the first round, and gave the best performance of the night.

Jordin narrowly won round 2, mostly because Blake picked a terrible song.

Jordin slam-dunked round 3, a song that was assigned to them, and was much more in her style than Blake's.

If people vote on the whole season, or even the whole night, I think Blake has a chance.

If people only remember Jordin's last two performances, she will win, which is much more likely.

Dodgers 3, Brewers 2

The Dodgers had another close one at the ravine tonight, with Ben Sheets pitching a great game for the Brewers, but Randy Wolf pitched better for the Dodgers and got the win, giving up only 2 earned runs and getting 4 strikeouts.

Tony Abreu was called up for a start at third base, and in the first play of the game he threw a routine grounder over Nomar's head for an error. He went 0 for 3 at the plate. But he also made a number of good plays as well. Still, one has to wonder why he's there at all, when they already have two 3rd basemen, and one is already a minor-league call up.

Russell Martin hit his third homer and Furcal kept his hitting streak alive.

Broxton pitched a perfect 8th. Saito allowed a hit in the 9th but kept his save streak alive as well, hitting 14 this season and 24 consecutive. The Dodgers maintain a half game lead over the Padres, an game and a half over Arizona, and 2 1/2 over the Giants.

Tomorrow Penny pitches for the Dodgers. The need to continue to win over a good team to stay in first.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cinema Audio Society Quarterly

The new issue of the Cinema Audio Society Quarterly Magazine (with four articles by yours truly) is now available for download here.


A student asks:
I'm off to buy a new set of headphones. Any suggestions on make or model?

Sony MDR-V600 (better and cheaper) or Sony MDR-7506. They are so much the industry standard that people using other headphones are sometimes looked at as unprofessional (although there are a few other models that are pretty good too). They can be used for any purpose from production mixing through dialogue editing and provide excellent insulation from exerior noise.

PLEASE do not use ear buds or other cheap headphones designed for use with MP3 players. They are deliberately cheap and do not insulate well.

Richard Schickel's Asinine Opinion

Richard Schickel argues that only the elite should be allowed to criticize, and that Blogging is nothing more than "talking."

"Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise." (The poorly conjugated verb is his, not mine.)

Arguing for a purely elitist critical world is the equivalent of a totalitarian society in which the definition of art is determined by a few powerful people (like Stalin or Hitler). Criticism is the ultimate democracy. As the then-future governor once said, "Opinions are like a-holes. Everybody has one."

Some of us ARE one. Schickel needs to catch up with a new century. (Perhaps the 20th would be enough.) He argues that one of the purposes of criticism is to open a dialogue across the ages, then implies that the web is somehow inferior at this, when it is by definition more appropriate than traditional print criticism at opening dialogue.

He argues that film critics must have "credentials" other than "loving film" in order to write. One of my favorite film critics is James Berardinelli. He was trained as an engineer, has no formal critical training, and loves movies. His reviews are not "for print, with its implication of permanence" but instead are on the web, where criticism is, more than ever, the dialogue that will last through the ages.

Worst of all, Schickel argues that "Opinion — thumbs up, thumbs down — is the least important aspect of reviewing" in an article that is nothing but... HIS OPINION! He doesn't even understand his own writing.

If anyone should have his critical license revoked, it's Schickel.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I'm beginning to wonder exactly why the world thinks it continues to need superhero movies. I mean, they can be fun, to an extent (like the first two SPIDERMAN movies), but mostly, they're just stupid.

SPIDERMAN 3 falls much more into the stupid category than fun. The first half is entertaining enough, but it changes gears too quickly and bogs down with plot. What is it with superhero movies that they can't be satisfied with one coherent plot, and instead they insist on three unsatisfactory, incoherent plots? (See BATMAN & ROBIN, for example.)

Attempting to explain the plot of SPIDERMAN 3 in less than its running time is almost impossible. Spidey splits into his own evil double, which then moves into someone else. That would be enough for most movies, but he also learns the man who killed his uncle is still alive, and has become a super-villain made of sand. That would be enough for TWO movies!

BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE! Now how much would you pay?

His old best friend has inherited the role of Green Goblin and is back with a vengeance, literally, trying to kill him.

Please, when you're writing a movie, try to stay focused.

Then there's the problem of tone. Bill Campbell's humorous cameo I can forgive, but the whole "Spidey walks the streets of New York as a gigolo" montage was just stupid and stopped the movie. Instead of being comic relief, which could have helped, it turned it into camp.

Stick a fork in this franchise.

Friday, May 18, 2007

540 Projects

540 Students:
Assignment 1

All students should have received an e-mail from me.
If you have not, please contact me here.

Please post a proposal for your final project here, including a brief description of your proposed sound design.

Remember that the scene should be 3-5 minutes long and include DIA, MX, FX, BG, and Foley. If you choose an already existing scene, you should not attempt to reproduce the sound design of the scene exactly as in the film. The point of the assignment is to be creative and create an entirely new sound design. Consider it a blank slate.

If you are in doubt about your choice, you should list more than one possibility and I will try to guide you towards a good choice. If you choose something obscure or if you choose one of your own films, you must bring in a copy of the scene to the next class so that I can look at it before I approve it.

Click on “Post a Comment” immediately below to post your assignment. If you do not see it, try clicking here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 4

The Dodgers pulled off another win tonight against the Cardinals, in a closer game than it probably should have been. Betemit is showing more talent as a pinch-hitter than a third baseman, with his third PH home run, this time a 3-run shot.

Furcal went 1 for 3 with a walk, increasing his BA by 80 points in three days.

Tsao, Beimel, and Broxton got holds and Saito is now 13 for 13 in save opportunities this year.


The one person who should not have gone home, the woman who I had predicted to win since the earliest rounds of the contest, is the one going home, Melinda Doolittle. I can understand why she lost, she's the least marketable of the three, but she's by far the most talented. Regardless, she has a huge career ahead of her.

Between Blake and Jordin, it's a tossup who will win. I prefer Blake, but a lot depends on how they sing next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


At this point, A.I. has become a bit boring for me. I like all three of the finalists, and could be happy with any of them winning. Melinda deserves it the most based on sheer talent, but any of the three could have a big career, and probably will.

I think it's a tossup as to who will go. I think Blake is the weakest of the three, but he's the only guy left and may make it to the final based on that. I think Jordin will go if that's the case, but it's very close between the three of them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tomko Bombs

Brett Tomko gave up 8 earned runs in 2.1 innings of work, losing to the Cardinals. The bullpen did well, shutting them out for the remaining 6.2 innings, but it was too little too late.

Furcal had his second straight 4-hit game. Ethier got 3 hits, Kent and Betimit hit home runs, and Betimit scored twice.

Attendance was a paltry 35,000.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Brad Penny gave up a walk and a hit to the Reds with only one out in the first inning, but he ended up going 6.1 strong innings with only one run, and retiring 17 consecutive batters at one point. Beimel gave up two runs in relief, but Penny got his fifth win, keeping his record perfect, thanks to the Dodgers offense of 7 runs. Gonzo got 3 hits, 3 runs scored, and a walk. Pierre got 2 hits and 2 RBI, Furcal got 2 hits, a walk and an RBI, and Nomah got 2 hits and an RBI. It was a great team effort. A lively crowd of over 51,000 enjoyed the game to the end.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


MIX Magazine has a fantastic issue out right now titled IS YOUR JOB KILLING YOU? (and subtitled OR JUST MAKING YOU DEAF?) about how difficult it is to work as an engineer. Although it's aimed primarily at people in the music industry, it really applies to all of us in sound, including editors and mixers in the film industry. I strongly recommend it as reading for everyone thinking about a career in post sound.

Among the topics it covers are:
  • Maintaining control over your life and the long hours of the business
  • Controlling sound levels to protect hearing
  • How to survive working on the road
  • How to maintain a relationship when working long hours
  • Studio ergonomics and health

Dodgers Shut Out Reds

The first inning looked shaky from Randy Wolf, but he pitched himself out of baserunners and a high pitch count well enough to pitch 7 shutout innings and accrue 11 strikeouts against the Reds. Bronson Arroyo allowed two runs off a Russell Martin hit in the bottom of the first, and then pitched five shutout innings, but those two runs were all the Dodgers needed. Broxton pitched a good 8th inning and Takashi Saito, who has changed his entrance music to "Bad to the Bone," allowed a single and a walk, but then retired the next three batters for his 11th save this season and his 21st consecutive save over two years.

A crowd of just under 50,000 enjoyed not only the game a but a nice fireworks show afterwards.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sync Production Sound

A reader asks:
What is sync sound? Why has America been using it for so long and Asian cinema hardly uses it? One of the excuses they give is that their environments are so noisy and another is that it adds about 25% to the budget of the movie.

"Sync Sound" simply means that the sound is in sync with the picture. In this case, they are implying "Sync Production Sound," which is sound recorded on the set, in sync with the camera. (There is also "Post-sync Sound," where Dialogue and Sound Effects are all supplied in post-production in the form of ADR, Foley, and Cut Effects.)

Sync sound of any kind began in the US. The film industry in general became strong in the US long before it did in any other country. (That's not to belittle French cinema, who really created the art, but they did not market or expand their business the same way that Hollywood did.)

In the late 20s and early 30s, almost all US film went to sync sound. As a result, scripts became more like plays and Broadway musicals. So for almost 80 years, American audiences have been trained to hear the sound quality of production sound as normal, and when we notice that there is ADR (post dialogue) and Foley (post sound effects for movement), it seems phony and manipulative.

Even in early film, the international market was very important, and although there were different models for dealing with foreign distribution, most countries wanted (and still want) dubbed versions of the films. Since the US had practically a stranglehold on the market for decades, most foreign filmmakers growing up in other countries saw all films dubbed and heard that as normal. (Truffaut talked about this regarding his films.) As a result, it was normal for them to record all dialogue in post-production. This allowed them the freedom to shoot wherever and whenever they wanted and not have to worry about getting good production sound.

However, I find both of the arguments in your question to be untrue. "One of the excuses they give is that their environments are so noisy." If we can get good production sound in Los Angeles with dozens of freeways and several airports, I'm sure they can shoot in Asian and European cities and get good production sound. (Many American productions have done so!)

Also the idea that it is cheaper to do in post is ridiculous. Even if you plan on recording the dialogue in post, you still have to record production sound so that the people performing the lines have a reference for sync. If you have that same crew record it correctly in production, you're done, period. If you re-record the dialogue in post, you have to pay actors to come in and redo it, you have to rent the studio, you have to hire someone to record it, you have to hire an editor to put it in sync (because almost no actors can do ADR in sync) and you spend more time in the re-recording mix trying to make it sound "real." Plus, you have to spend more time mixing in Foley and backgrounds to replace what was also lost from production. On top of that, most actors give a better performance in the field, surrounded by real people and a real location, as opposed to being in the sensory deprivation tank of the ADR stage, where the actor is wearing headphones, looking at a video monitor and staring at their own lips to make sure they are in sync.

Recorded well in the field, every line of dialogue will have the proper perspective, will have the accompanying movement and background sounds, and is likely to be a much better performance. Recorded in post, even under the best of circumstances, it is very difficult to make it sound real.

Truffaut eventually changed late in his career to using production sound on movies like SMALL CHANGE. However, in what many consider to be his best film, THE 400 BLOWS, every line of dialogue is recorded in post-production. Considering that the main character is a child actor, it's an even more amazing performance to know that he had to do it all in post. So it certainly can be done, but it's rare when it's done well.

On the other hand, in many countries, dubbing is all they have ever heard, and when you play an American film without dubbing, they hear the sound quality a "far away" and "muddy." So a lot of it is simply what you're used to. We had a group of Vietnamese filmmakers visit USC a few years ago, and they couldn't believe all the trouble we went to in order to get good production sound when "you can just do it all in post much easier." There was no way to change their attitude. And I don't see most countries changing any time soon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Lakeesha is going home, rightfully so.

The only other thing we learned watching tonight's show is that Barry Gibb can't sing any more. Too bad.


I had thought that Barry Gibb night would be a lot better, since most f his songs are pretty well-written, but both the singers and the judges apparently could not get the originals out of their heads.

Lakeesha made a huge mistake in changing the tempo on "Stayin' Alive." Slowing down the tempo on a known song is always a mistake. And Blake didn't need to contemporize either song. He seemed a bit shocked when the judges pointed that out. I do have to admit that they tend to contradict themselves; they've told him some weeks that he's "made the song his own" and other weeks that he didn't need to change the original.

Jordin keeps getting better, and Melinda is great as always, although her first song choice wasn't great.

Normally I'd think Blake was safe, especially being the only guy left, but if voters listen to the judges, he'll be going home. Lakeesha should really be the one going.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

SUMMER 540 Intermediate Sound

CNTV 540

Learn the skills necessary to record, edit and mix
dialogue, music and sound effects for feature filmmaking.

This course will prepare you for work as an editor on Pro Tools or as a re-recording mixer.
It will also discuss the aesthetic considerations of the sound editor
and re-recording mixer with hands-on mixing experience!

This class is ideal for 581 directors considering doing their own Sound design.

Not Registered? Come to the first class on Thursday, May 17th!

Thursday Afternoons
Starting May 17th
7:00 - 10:00 PM
Dub B
Contact me here.

Or you can download the syllabus here. Click on 540 Public Files, then "540SyllSummer2007CORR."

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Finally got around to watching Part II of the Brando doc on TCM that I earlier reviewed and recommended.

Part II is not as good, but still interesting. There was not as much material critical of his later (lazy, sloppy) work as I would have expected, and they glossed over almost all of his personal problems in a few quick sentences. But it's still worth watching.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Burbank Chorale to Perform Bernstein's Psalms

With a performance at Carnegie Hall notched into its musical belt, the Burbank Chorale brings a stronger experience to patrons of its upcoming local concerts.

Exploring new material and new venues is part of the group's focus, board President Kyrian Corona said.

"It's all a part of our vision for this performing-arts group to try new things, expand our horizons musically and geographically and bring this experience back to our core audience to enrich their experience," she said. "The better we get, the better it will be for them. It all comes full circle."

With that in mind, the chorale's May concerts are titled "Leonard Bernstein and Friends," and feature Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" and choral selections from his "West Side Story." Aaron Copland's "At the River" and "Stomp Your Foot" and Eric Whitacre's "Cloudburst" are also on the program.

Bernstein was commissioned to write "Chichester Psalms" for a choral festival in 1965 in England. The festival is coordinated each summer by the choirs from three cathedrals — the Cathedral of Chichester in Sussex, England, and its neighboring cathedrals, Winchester and Salisbury, Corona said.

"We will be singing all three of them," she said. "The text is in Hebrew, so it's very challenging. The composition expresses the rhythmical fire and verve typical of Leonard Bernstein, along with a tremendous harmonic sophistication, which makes this a very challenging piece."

The program will be balanced with Aaron Copland selections — such as "Simple Gifts" and "Stomp Your Foot" — and Eric Whitacre's "Cloudburst," in which the chorale emulates the sounds of a thunderstorm, she said.

"It's an Americana program with music from America's favorite composers," she said.

Leonard Bernstein & Friends
Sunday May 6th - 4:00 pm

St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Glendale
1020 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91202

Tickets are $10 in Advance/$15 Door/$5 Seniors & Students
For advance tickets, contact me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Roger Ebert Returns to the Public

Roger wrote about his decision to return to public life, even though he is still recuperating. He includes photos of what he looks like now, after a tracheostomy.

I've known Roger (via e-mail) for a number of years, and he's quoted me a few times in his columns and books. He's a very nice, very smart guy, who changed the face of film criticism forever. (Some people still don't know he was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer.)

He's been recovering from a series of medical problems that has kept him out of the public life for quite a while now, and it's left a pretty big hole in film criticism. (Anyone try to watch his show without him? It's almost painful.)

I understand what he's going through. During my own serious illness, I made it a point not to be seen by anyone. It was actually pretty easy, because I got sick just before Christmas, so many people never knew what happened, since they were on vacation or out of town anyway.

Why is it that we don't want people to see us sick? Vanity? Or some prehistoric fear that we'll be more likely to be taken advantage of (eaten) in a weakened condition?

For me the conscious reasons were twofold. Self-preservation is definitely a part of it. I was seriously concerned that if anyone saw me that sick, that I would never find work again. Unfortunately, I had to be on stage at the MPSE Golden Reels to present George Lucas with the Filmmaker Award in late February that year, and I still looked terrible. I was about 30 pounds lighter, walking with a cane, and had a hugely inflamed lip from a staph infection. It was very, very clear from the reactions of people who saw me that I had definitely changed permanently, in their opinion. A lot of people did not even recognize me until my name was announced. I made sure no photos were taken of me that night.

The other reason is vain, somewhat. I knew there was a chance that if I had a recurrence of pneumonia in that weakened condition that I would not survive, and I did not want people to remember me that way. *I* don't even want to remember me that way.

But there is a downside to that attitude. No one seeing me in the hospital meant no visitors. The only person, other than my wife, who visited me in the hospital was the music editor friend who took over the job I was doing when I got sick, and he only saw me when I was unconscious. For a month in the hospital, I saw no one, not even my family, and it was pretty depressing.

Even at home I shunned people for months. One USC faculty member and one friend stopped by in the first month I was back. They both were stunned when they saw me. One cried. So, that didn't exactly cheer me up, either, but at least there are a few people who know how really sick I was. Now, I appear to have had a complete recovery, and I get the impression that there are some people who think I was exaggerating how sick I was in order to get some time off. Believe me, there's nothing worse than being sick at home with nothing to do for months. I'd much rather have been working.

To make a long story short, (is it too late for that?) I wish Roger the best in his recovery, and I sincerely hope that his transition back into public life is an easy one. Like me, he has a loving wife, and for me, that was the only reason I made it through.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

AMERICAN IDOL 6 Results (Down to 4)

My predictions were wrong, I'm glad to say. Phil has finally gone home, along with Chris. You probably know I can't stand Phil. I don't like Chris's music, but I can see why he has pop market potential.

This week's results, by the way, show just how little effect Vote for the Worst really has. In the one and only week that they picked Phil, he gets voted off.

So we are down to the final four. At one point I predicted 4 of the final 6 would be black women. 3 of the final 4 are. And they deserve to be there.

Blake has grown on me quite a bit. I think he has huge potential, not only as a performer, but, like Eminem, as a producer. He deserves to be the last man standing, but not the winner. Melinda should, and probably will, win.

I think Lakeesha will probably go home next, probably followed by Jordin (or maybe Blake).

I look forward to the final show.


Turner Classic Movies is running an absolutely fantastic documentary about a man who almost overnight changed the face of acting in America. I haven't seen the second part yet (each half is 90 minutes), but the first is outstanding, with a lot of new interview material and excellent research into his early life. I highly recommend Tivoing it. The show will be rerun in its entirety on May 12th.


It would be hard to pick a night I care less about than Bon Bon Jovi night. Strangely, though, I thought everyone gave better performances than I had expected.

It's also tough to make predictions when they are combining votes from two weeks, and last week's show was significantly more heavily voted on than this week, since it was a special event week.

Phil was better than ever, dammit. I want to see him go, but I don't think he will.

Jordin's first bad week was in a genre she was not meant for, but she was good enough last week to come back. Her humility will work in her favor.

Lakeesha was better than I expected, especially on the big parts, but I think she's probably toast anyway. Last week I predicted she would go home, and tonight I still agree.

I didn't like Blake's performance but give him props for taking a chance, and singing the hook well enough will allow him to come back next week.

Chris was significantly better than I expected. I don't know if he's in trouble.

Melinda proves week after week that she's the best on the show and will win.