Hi Bryan, what’s your overall approach to trailer sound?
My approach is really from several angles at once:
First I realize that it is my job to make the film makers happy and to make a trailer that is exciting or captivating for the audience. You only have a short time to tell your story and draw them in so the vision needs to be clear. You can’t leave it up to the mixer to figure out, you have to lay it out so that it sings on its own.
That said I take the music and the story into very strong consideration. I try hard to compliment the music and express the sonic story as much as possible. Working with music is an art in itself that involves both pitch and rhythm but telling the story within that context can be very tricky… especially if you want it to be exciting. Clarity is key.
What makes for a great trailer soundscape?
Soundscapes can tell sorts and reveal concepts that music can’t because it is based on sounds that are grounded in life, unlike music. Music is great at expressing feeling and emotion on a subject level. but sound design is rooted in life experience. The sound of a train of in the distance, a jet fighter ripping by or even ring of a gunshot.
We all can relate to those ideas because we all have been collecting those sonic images our whole lives… through life, through cinema and in our dreams.
A great soundscape is one that pushes what is familiar into a new experience
I think what makes a great soundscape is one that pushes what is familiar into a new experience. One that makes you collect all of the sonic images that bring to life all the images.
What are your favorite tools for trailer sound creation?
Having great sound source is key and knowing what will and what will not work is very important. I am all about processing chains.
I have saved templates that specific processing chains I like to use for certain things, I have racks that I have saved in Soundminer and lately I have been doing a lot of that same thing with Patchwork. That is a great plug-in that allows you to stack processes from top to bottom and left to right with an overall dry/wet control. I use Waves TransX quite a lot.
I like the GRM stuff, Soundtoys, Melda and a host off odd ball processors. I am always looking out for different processes and tools for shaping sound. Lately I have been having lots of fun with Reaktor. The Twisted Tools stuff is great and Meltedsounds Whoosh is endless fun.
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The past few years have seen a lot of sound designers creating their own libraries and releasing them independently of any publishers. What does this mean for sound designers such as yourself?
I am a big fan of Independent sound libraries because they make it easy to expand your possibilities at what is usually a very reasonable cost. Most of the independent libraries are recorded at a high quality and you know when go for something that for example Frank Bry has recorded that it is going to have all of the character you need it to. But there are a lot of great independent library makers out there and they deserve a lot of credit for making our lives a lot easier.
Have you considered making your own indie trailer SFX library?
Here is one I get asked quite a lot. The short answer is no. As I work on a trailer I am essentially coming up with a whole pallet of sounds that fit the style of the whole trailer campaign, from the first teaser until the featurettes. Some trailers campaigns have 15 different trailers to them and for each one there has to be a consistent style to them that makes a connection with the feature film. The reason why I have not considered an indie trailer sound library is because those sounds really belong to the life of the trailer.
Right now I am focused on making the best tracks I can.
What are the three most important things to get right when doing sound for trailers?
First you better get the music ironed out correctly. It amazes me sometimes how poorly the music editorial can be on some trailers. Second is the Dialogue.
Clean, understandable dialogue seems like a given but it is one of the hardest challenges in trailer audio.
Having clear, clean, understandable dialogue seems like a given but it is one of the hardest challenges in trailer audio.
Last is the sound design and sound effects editorial and how it relates to the music and dialogue. I think it is obvious but worth mentioning is that having a skilled mixer to make the trailer come together is vital. Their choices on what to play and not play ultimately shape the product into what it will be. My goal is to give them as little to think about as possible.
How has sound for trailers evolved during the time you’ve worked with it, and what trends do you see in trailer sound – and trailers in general?
Trailer sound has changed in dramatic ways. Trailers are now big business with composers, vendors, producers, editors and studio creatives all having a deep interest in how the get made. Trailers are all over the internet with websites dedicated to trailer content, websites dedicated to trailer news and trailer music companies being listened to like pop music on the radio.
I think if you went back 15 years or so you would find a very different trailer world. The industry has evolved but so have trailers. The visuals have gotten better, the audio and the audience for them has grown. I like artistically stylized trailers, what I don’t care for are commercials that are trailerized. I understand there is a market out there for that it is just not what I am personally in to.
So yeah I have been a part of it for a long time and I have seen a lot of changes. I hope that the industry continues to change for the better.
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