Sound seminar from the inside Asbjoern Andersen


Back in November, a huge number of sound talents from all over the world came to Denmark – why? To attend ‘Sound From The Inside’, a two-day sound seminar on sonic storytelling, featuring 4 of the world’s most requested sound designers.

It was a seminar quite unlike anything else seen or heard in Denmark ever before, and it was a huge success.

In this special interview, sound designer Peter Albrechtsen – one of the driving forces behind the seminar – shares the highlights from the seminar, how it all came together against all odds, and how others can arrange similar events around the world:

 

Hi Peter, how did the idea for the ‘Sound From The Inside’ sound seminar come about?

It’s an idea I got together with a great colleague of mine, Rune Palving, who, like me, also teaches, on top of doing sound design for movies. Rune and I talked about how interesting it would be to do a sound seminar where the main focus was on sound designers from our generation – we’re both born in the 1970’s. And, instead of having just one speaker, then to have four different people talking about their individual perspective on film sound, but also discuss sound between them.
 

What were some of the things you wanted to cover – and how did you decide on whom to invite?

We brainstormed on who we would like to have there, and Frank Kruse from Germany, Gisle Tveito from Norway, Nicolas Becker from France and Tim Nielsen from Skywalker Sound were some of the very first names we thought of. All of them are amazingly talented sound designers, but they’re also very different, and that was important for us:

All of them are amazingly talented sound designers, but they’re also very different, and that was important for us

We wanted to show the many, many different ways of utilizing film sound in creative ways – also in many different types of movies, feature film, documentaries, art projects.
 

What sort of planning did it take to make it a reality?

I actually never thought it would become a reality. We wanted four of today’s most requested sound designers in the world to meet one weekend in Copenhagen – that’s a tough task with today’s constantly moving and expanding postproduction schedules.

A year ago, though, Tim Nielsen, who I’ve known for several years, started organizing a holiday to Scandinavia in November 2016, and with a lot of luck it turned out the three others were available for one weekend that same month. Everything clicked and no one had to cancel in the last minute. It was unbelievable.

We were also helped enormously by Tina Sørensen from the professional education department of the Danish Film School. She has specialized in organizing seminars with all kinds of international filmmakers and she’s a genius at handling all the practical issues that an event like this entails.
 

There were a lot of international sound people attending the seminar?

Yes, it was terrific! There were people flying in from all over Europe and even from the US and Brazil. Half of the 135 attendees were from outside Denmark!

The seminar in Copenhagen became the place to go for international sound people and we could suddenly all meet in real life. Such a lovely experience.

During the last few years, it’s amazing how the social networks like Facebook and Twitter have brought together the global sound community with a lot of advice, sounds and articles shared across all the different platforms. The seminar in Copenhagen became the place to go for international sound people and we could suddenly all meet in real life. Such a lovely experience.

I don’t see this kind of communal spirit happening in many other parts of the movie business. It’s extraordinary and very heartwarming, actually. I wish for many more opportunities like this in the future.
 

The panelists at Sound From The Inside:

 
Sound designer Nicolas BeckerNicolas Becker is a French sound designer and Foley Artist who’s worked on movies like Gravity, Enter the Void and all of Roman Polanski’s films since The Pianist. Recently Becker was the sound designer of this year’s Cannes Jury Prize winner, American Honey.
 

 
Sound designer Tim NielsenTim Nielsen is a Supervising sound editor and sound designer at Skywalker Sound in California and has recently been the sound designer of the highly acclaimed animation movies, Finding Dory and The Little Prince. He has previously worked on movies like There Will Be Blood and The Lord of the Rings.
 

 
Sound designer Frank KruseFrank Kruse is based in Berlin and for the last 10 years a close collaborator of director Tom Tykwer. Also the sound designer of Rush and the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour.
 

 
 
Sound designer Gisle TveitoGisle Tveito is a sound designer based in Oslo and have worked closely with acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier on all his movies, Reprise, Oslo August 31 and Louder than Bombs. Tveito is also the sound designer on other recent Nordic festival favorites like Force Majeure and Blind.
 

 

What were some of the highlights from the 1st day?

The first day featured talks from Gisle and Tim. Gisle talked in depth about his ongoing collaboration with director Joachim Trier. Very inspiring to hear how they approach the creative process – and how much fun they have, even though Joachim’s movies are often quite melancholic and dark.

Video Thumbnail

The trailer for Oslo, 31. august, featuring sound design by Gisle Tveito


Gisle makes up his own rules for each project and for Joachim’s debut feature, Reprise, Gisle decided not to use any EQ! Gisle also talked about one of my favorite film sound scenes in recent years, from Joachim’s second feature, Oslo, 31. august.

It’s a scene at a café where the main character listens in to different conversations, and it’s really all about using the ears and how the imagination works when you listen. Gisle discussed stealth recording and how a scene like that needs planning already from the script stage. Gisle had an interesting idea of how to be part of the script process – he gets the script and removes all the dialogue and then sees what’s left. This makes him look at the film in a different way, and not just think about the words.

After that, Tim talked about several of his projects. Having just heard about Gisle’s very close collaborations with his directors, it was quite thought-provoking to hear how hard it can be to collaborate closely with the director and composer on a big Hollywood blockbuster. Some directors don’t even hear any sounds before they’re at the mixing stage which can sometimes make the creative dialogue a bit difficult for the sound designer.
Tim has also had some great experiences, of course, and he highlighted and showed a couple of clips from the terrific animation movie ‘The Little Prince’ as a truly wonderful collaboration with the director, composer and the sound department all working closely together.

Video Thumbnail

Tim Nielsen was supervising sound editor & sound designer on ‘The Little Prince’


There’s really a lovely interplay between the different layers of the soundscape in that film. Tim then showed the opening sequence of one of my favorite films of recent years, There Will Be Blood, in which he cut the ambiences.

He deliberately used some very rough, edgy sounds as those worked very well with the grittiness of the images

It’s a very special opening because there’s very little dialogue and the music and the ambiences really set the mood of the whole thing. Tim said that he deliberately used some very rough, edgy sounds as those worked very well with the grittiness of the images – at points even using recordings with a bit of distortion or wind noises in the microphone. A fascinating insight into a fascinating film.
 


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And what stood out in particular from day 2?

Nicolas started out the day and talked about his extraordinary approach to film sound. He’s the only sound designer I know who started out as a Foley artist and then moved into sound design. This means he has a very physical approach to sound and he talked a lot about the very special sound effect recording sessions that he does – to him, every movie is an experimental film, no matter if it’s a big Hollywood movie or the art projects he does together with Philippe Parreno.

Video Thumbnail

The trailer for Gravity, a movie with sound design by Nicolas Becker


In Gravity, he experimented with recording sounds through his body by placing the mic under his arm, for example, and then used his body almost as a microphone in itself to get these very special sounds in the film where it feels like you experience the sonics of the world through the spacesuits.

In Gravity, he experimented with recording sounds through his body by placing the mic under his arm

In the unique soccer documentary – ‘Zidane’ – he got hold of a full grass carpet which he put inside the Foley studio to record the very unique football sounds in that film.
And for Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, which he also sound designed, he made the art department build the main house in the story with proper materials in such a way that it sounded natural and could be used for all the foley recordings.

Actually, during the two days there was a lot of focus on how much fun it is to record sound effects and how it’s a big inspiration for all four sound designers.

Frank did the last talk of the day and started out going to his ongoing collaboration with Tom Tykwer – they’ve worked together on every movie since ‘Perfume’ in 2006. Tykwer is an extraordinary director in many ways, not least because he himself writes the music for his movies. Because he’s not able to do this during the stressful postproduction, he often writes it before the film is actually shot, and Frank talked about how the sounds of the music sometimes inspired his sound design — and how great it was to avoid temp music and cut sound effects to the actual score from the very beginning of the process.

Video Thumbnail

The trailer for Citizenfour, a documentary with sound design by Frank Kruse


Frank showed several examples from Cloud Atlas where the music and sound were tightly interwoven, and Frank played around with sound to glue the different layers of the multi-plot story together. Frank then talked about the Ron Howard movie Rush which is another of my recent favorite sound movies.

Hearing just the sound design elements of one of the racing sequences were like music on its own

Frank had brought the stems of the mix and hearing just the sound design elements of one of the racing sequences were like music on its own. The sounds were dynamic, detailed and very musical – really beautiful and inspiring work. And Frank ended with discussing Citizen Four, the very intense documentary about Edward Snowden which has a very low key sound design but is also very powerful.

As Tim said during his talk, “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
 

Overall, what was were some of the key takeaways from the event, from a sound perspective?

Tim’s words are actually a quote from the author of ‘The Little Prince’, and a very fitting headline to a lot of the discussions during the weekend: There was a lot of talk about going to great lengths to find the right sounds for a specific scene, and how important it is not to clutter the soundtrack with unneeded sounds.

These four very experienced sound designers all agreed that, for each new project, there was always a moment of fear: How do I create the best sound for this movie?

Both days at the seminar ended with a panel debate with all four sound designers attending, and it was really interesting to hear them share thoughts and tips for how to strengthen the creative process. There’s really not one way to achieve the perfect sound for a film but it’s actually constantly changing. And these four very experienced sound designers all agreed that, for each new project, there was always a moment of fear: How do I create the best sound for this movie? A lot of experience doesn’t remove this special anxiety.

And it can actually be a very positive energy – just doing the same safe tricks for each movie would be terrible.
 

Further reading:

Want to know more about the sound for The Little Prince, Gravity – and how Peter Albrechtsen does sound for documentaries? Check out these dedicated features below:

In-depth: The story behind Tim Nielsen’s brilliant sound design for The Little Prince

Inside the Creative Mind of Documentary Sound Designer Peter Albrechtsen

The Sound Of Gravity

 

Any lessons learned getting the seminar off the ground, or tips/advice for others who’d like to do something similar in their part of the world?

There’s more and more of these kinds of sound seminars around the world, and that’s really terrific as it means that film people get better and better at communicating about sound — something that can be damn hard. School of Sound has been there for a lot of years now, and there’s several events focused on sound design popping up around the world – as a matter of fact, The Sound of Story event took place in Brighton the same weekend as our event in Copenhagen.

It takes a lot of time to organize these things, and if someone wants to arrange stuff like this then it’s a great idea to start out very early – a bit like when doing sound for a movie, actually.

For me, it was also important to prioritize the social aspects of the event, and it was so great to feel how the people attending the seminar also got to talk with each other and not just listen to the talks. Saturday evening there was a barbecue party for everyone which was such a joy to be part of. No matter how often we sound people talk online and connect on Facebook the very best thing is meeting in real life. That’s when you really listen.
 

A big thanks to Peter Albrechtsen and the team for the story behind ‘Sound From The Inside’!

 

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