Supervising Sound Editor Tim Nielsen Asbjoern Andersen


Tim Nielsen is a Supervising Sound Editor with over 20 years of experience working in television and film. His credits include Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance - and in this interview by Doug Siebum, he talks about his work and the role of Supervising Sound Editor:
Written by Doug Siebum, photos courtesy of Tim Nielsen and Skywalker Sound
Please share:
 

DS: Hi Tim, thanks for agreeing to do an interview. Today I want to talk about the topic of “supervision” and what it means to be a supervising sound editor.

TN: Great, I suppose you’ll get a fair number of different answers, as there is quite a wide variety of “supervision”.
 

DS: How did you find your way into doing sound and more specifically, sound for film?

TN: I was a graduate student at USC in Los Angeles. I had never given sound a second thought. I’m not particularly musical, I don’t play any instruments really. I wanted to be a cinematographer, I thought. But while at school, Gary Rydstrom came and did a lecture, and held a screening of Toy Story, that had just came out. Immediately I was drawn to the power and imagination of sound. That summer I applied for, and was accepted as, Skywalker’s first official intern. That lead to a job as a supervising assistant fairly quickly after graduation.
 

DS: How did you progress from being a sound editor to being a supervising sound editor?

TN: My first supervising job was Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. The post production supervisor that we worked with in New Zealand on Lord of the Rings, and who became a friend, asked me to help out on that film, heading up to Vancouver and taking over the Supervisor duties. After that it was a mix of some supervising and editing back and forth for a few years before most of my work became supervising and sound design.

 

DS: What percentage of your time on a project is spent dealing with clients, administrative work like hiring people and dealing with budgets, and creative work such as sound design or cutting sound effects?

I would say the workload is probably something like 80% creative and 20% administrative for me. But there are of course some shows that tend to flip that ratio!

TN: It can vary quite a bit from show to show. Often I’ll have a co-supervisor, and often that person will handle quite a bit of that job as well. But a fair amount. The hiring doesn’t take long, we crew up the film as soon as we are able, once we have a schedule. Once the show is up and running, I would say the workload is probably something like 80% creative and 20% administrative for me. But there are of course some shows that tend to flip that ratio!
 

DS: How do you set up a schedule?

TN: We always work backwards from the release, and therefore the end of the deliverables and final mix. We’ll compare the budgets of other shows we feel are in the same family. So if we’re scheduling an animated movie, we might look at other animated shows we’ve done. Often the client will have a budget already in mind, and we’ll use those numbers to figure out how much time we can break that down into for various crew members and departments. But it’s always timed up to the release date. And often the clients already have a rough schedule in mind, there may be temp mixes, or early needs for the picture department.
 

DS: How do you know how many weeks is enough time? Does the company help you with that?

TN: Well it’s always really an educated guess. We’ll try and read the script at least. But we never really know for sure. But with 20 years experience you get a pretty good gut instinct of what a given show will take.
 

DS: Do you find the work or does the company assign clients to you?

TN: A mixture of both. I have some relationships with clients and companies, and also the company is always looking for projects to bring in. Rarely, but sometimes we’ll interview for jobs. It’s really quite a mix of all of the above.
 

DS: How did you find your team? Word of mouth? Assigned by the company?

TN: As the supervisor, it’s really up to me to hire who I want, crew is never assigned. I have a regular group of people that I tend to work with, but we’re a small enough company that I know everyone in the company as well. When putting a show together it’s a blend of your regulars, and if schedules don’t allow, then it’s finding out who is available and picking the people you feel are the most right for the job.
 

DS: How often do you check in on the progress of your team members?

TN: Constantly. We all meet at least once a week, often on Monday mornings for a debrief about the coming week, make sure everyone knows what everyone is doing. Technologies like instant messaging allow fairly constant communication. We usually have lunch together, or at least some group of us. So that constant communication is really vital to a well run show. Everyone needs to know what I’m doing, and vice versa.
 

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Sci-Fi Beams Play Track 1139 sounds included $149 $99

    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

    34 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597442399
    Add to cart
  • Metal Smash – What do you get when you go to the junkyard with the best Schoeps Microphones money can buy.

    Every effect is also recorded with a sub sonic microphone to add depth to the smashes. Great complicated crashes with extra metallic details.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597355999
    Add to cart
  • The sounds presented in this pack were recorded during the shooting of a short film taking place by the ocean. We shot in different places, in the marina, on a boat, in an industrial harbor area, in a wharehouse of boat maintenance.

    Even if some sounds of the pack are not fully in the theme, I voluntarily left them because they were recorded at the same time and in order to serve the film.

    The most represented sounds in this pack are those recorded in the marina, the wind blowing in the masts of the boats, at the seaside, as well as a detailed recording of the zodiac boat.

    Sounds were recorded using Sound Devices 633, in 24bits 96Khz, Schoeps CCM 21 mic in ORTF, with an extra CCM 41 for the center (LCR), and using an extra contact mic to record the motor of the zodiac boat.

    All the sounds are raw (No EQ, No Compression, No Fx).

    This pack contains 40 sounds, 80 files, for the ambiences.

    It also contains 15 sounds, 39 files for the zodiac boat.

    All embedded with detailed metadata on Soundminer.

    Add to cart
  • Welcome to “MOTION MODE”, an intense collection of sounds to induce movement and evoke excitement in your production.

    You will find whooshes, transitions, noises, granular textures, movements, stutters and hits with a powerful Sci-fi feel.

    Special attention was put in the dynamics of the sounds to ensure the creation of an energetic pack aimed to enhance atmospheres, add movement and enrich musical compositions.

    If you liked some of my previous libraries like “Dodge this” and “The Transition” you are gonna love this one.

    29 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
    Add to cart
  • Huge deep and textural organic whoosh by’s. These are un-altered but a total blast. Want more fun, just (again) compress and pitch to fit, and hell, maybe add a little distortion.

    A great collection of organic sliding whooshes. They sound great, have lots of movement and are almost always complicated movements not just simple whoosh by’s.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
    Add to cart


Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

DS: How much do you interact with the picture department?

TN: Quite regularly. They are often asking for sound effects, and we like to get as much in front of them, and into the Avid early on, as possible. We need that feedback before we hit the final mix stage, especially for special sound design. And if we do temp mixes, those mixes are usually loaded into the Avid, which allows the filmmakers to live with our sounds a bit, and give valuable feedback. And as time with the director can often be difficult to get, the picture editor is the one we’ll interact with more.
 

DS: How do you negotiate a budget?

TN: Like one would negotiate anything else, with back and forth communication with the client. It’s not in their best interest for us to take on a project we know isn’t funded enough for us to do the quality of work that is expected of us. I’ve found myself from time to time, having to turn down projects, simply because I didn’t believe I could do the project justice. But we get creative, find new solutions and workflows, and do our best to work with our clients to find the appropriate budget for the project and the expectations.
 

Supervising Sound Editor Tim Nielsen in his studio

DS: How do you plan out the overall sound of a film?

TN: First is just to watch it without taking notes, without thinking about it. I need that first impression of the project. Is the film working? What is the film about? Forgetting sound, but just to get my head wrapped around the project. Then a second viewing taking notes, things that I have questions about, things that seem clear from the project that will dictate sound requirements. List of things we’ll need to record or design. Sort of a roadmap through the sound of the film. At that point I’ll be thinking about which scenes and reels a certain editor might be best suited for, which things I want to tackle directly myself. And then we’ll have a sound spotting session with the director, picture editor and sometimes a producer or two. That’s where they will convey their wishes about the sound, their ideas or concerns. That conversation can be in vary basic and wide terms, or very focused, depending on the clients, and how far along they are in the picture edit. Occasionally, and this should happen more, we’ll have a script before shooting, or during, so we can be thinking about the film even that early on. But once the project starts, it’s a constant juggling of resources, time, money… we’ll adapt often to the needs of the film, and so there is a never a plan at the very beginning that isn’t constantly modifying itself as we go along.
 

DS: How do you assign people on your team to different jobs or specific sounds? Are you more inclined to give them a reel or are you more inclined to assign a specific subject to cut?

TN: Editors working with me always are given reels. I feel like it’s very important that a single voice be in charge of a larger piece of the movie in that way. Of course I may also have them doing specific scenes, but I want them to have that overall say in their work too. I may take a few specific things within that reel, but mostly it’s theirs to cut. We’ll sit and spot it together, I’ll make clear what things I’ll be doing, or what sounds I intend to make, and then it’s just quite a bit of back and forth. But I always allow them their own first pass. I want to hear their ideas, often they have ideas that surprise me and things that I didn’t think about. After that first pass, we’ll do a lot of back and forth as we hone and polish the reel to what the film needs, and what the clients are expecting.
 

DS: How much input do you give on the mix? Or do you leave it largely to the re-recording mixer and director?

My job doesn’t end with the mix, my job ends once the mix is delivered.

TN: A lot of input. If it’s something these days that I’m not mixing, I’m still present in the room the entire mix, and I always have ideas and suggestions and questions. That’s my job. My job doesn’t end with the mix, my job ends once the mix is delivered. But my job as the supervising sound editor continues all through the mix, and it’s very important to me to be there. I love the collaboration with the mixers, they bring to it their expertise and experiences. But I would never just sit back and not be involved. By the time we hit the mix, I’ve often been on the project for months, and I have a very good idea of how it should sound, how the clients are expecting it to sound, etc.
 

DS: What’s the difference in supervising TV and film? Do you have a different approach?

TN: There isn’t really any difference in the larger picture. Budgets are smaller and schedules are tighter. Crews are smaller. You have to sometimes get a bit creative and inventive to figure out how to make the money stretch as far as it will go. But it’s still storytelling, and there are still schedules and budgets and clients and all the rest. So really there isn’t that much difference.
 

DS: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add?

TN: I think your questions really covered it all!
 

Thank you Tim Nielsen for sharing some insight into the world of sound supervision.

You can find Tim Nielsen on IMDb here, on Twitter here, and at Skywalker Sound here.

 

Please share this:


 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Sci-Fi Beams Play Track 1139 sounds included $149 $99

    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

    34 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597442399
    Add to cart
  • Animals & Creatures WINGS Play Track 1444+ sounds included From: $99

    We are extremely proud to present our first library, WINGS – a one-of-a-kind sound library.

    From tiny insects to small birds, from fairies to dragons, WINGS offers a creative palette with a diverse range of sounds to choose from.

    With over 1400 files (more than 4 GB for the 192 kHz version ) we’re confident you will find the perfect sound.

    When purchasing WINGS you get 2 packs, our Design category that includes 180 files and the Source category that offers more than 1200 sounds. Featuring the very best of our foley sessions.

    All single flaps have been careful edited, allowing for unique speed or rate adjustments.

    Pick your preferred version at the introductory prices below:

  • Roomtones & Ext. Ambiences Eerie Forest Play Track 30+ sounds included, 154 mins total From: $85

    Eerie Forest is a collection of subtle ambiences recorded at night in dense forests in the regions of Transylvania and Moldova, Romania over two trips in Spring and Autumn 2017. The library features soft wind, distant hum, vegetation rustles, dogs barking at various distances, church bells tolling, a variety of owl species and other birds like ravens and woodcocks. All these elements are not foreground, but rather washed-out, echoey and atmospheric.

    Eerie Forest is not suitable for foreground sound elements as the recordings are very soft and subtle. Make sure you check out the demos before you purchase.

 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Sci-Fi Beams Play Track 1139 sounds included $149 $99

    BEAMS is a comprehensive toolkit for beam sound design. Sounds are separated into activation oneshot, activation/deactivation mechanism, and active loop categories. Each category contains subcategories for small, medium, and large beams. You can design anything from the smallest spy-watch laser cutter to a planet destroying column of chaos. As a bonus, you’ll also get a diverse collection of burning ignition sounds as source for beam environmental destruction.

    34 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597442399
  • Metal Smash – What do you get when you go to the junkyard with the best Schoeps Microphones money can buy.

    Every effect is also recorded with a sub sonic microphone to add depth to the smashes. Great complicated crashes with extra metallic details.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597355999
  • The sounds presented in this pack were recorded during the shooting of a short film taking place by the ocean. We shot in different places, in the marina, on a boat, in an industrial harbor area, in a wharehouse of boat maintenance.

    Even if some sounds of the pack are not fully in the theme, I voluntarily left them because they were recorded at the same time and in order to serve the film.

    The most represented sounds in this pack are those recorded in the marina, the wind blowing in the masts of the boats, at the seaside, as well as a detailed recording of the zodiac boat.

    Sounds were recorded using Sound Devices 633, in 24bits 96Khz, Schoeps CCM 21 mic in ORTF, with an extra CCM 41 for the center (LCR), and using an extra contact mic to record the motor of the zodiac boat.

    All the sounds are raw (No EQ, No Compression, No Fx).

    This pack contains 40 sounds, 80 files, for the ambiences.

    It also contains 15 sounds, 39 files for the zodiac boat.

    All embedded with detailed metadata on Soundminer.

  • Welcome to “MOTION MODE”, an intense collection of sounds to induce movement and evoke excitement in your production.

    You will find whooshes, transitions, noises, granular textures, movements, stutters and hits with a powerful Sci-fi feel.

    Special attention was put in the dynamics of the sounds to ensure the creation of an energetic pack aimed to enhance atmospheres, add movement and enrich musical compositions.

    If you liked some of my previous libraries like “Dodge this” and “The Transition” you are gonna love this one.

    29 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
  • Huge deep and textural organic whoosh by’s. These are un-altered but a total blast. Want more fun, just (again) compress and pitch to fit, and hell, maybe add a little distortion.

    A great collection of organic sliding whooshes. They sound great, have lots of movement and are almost always complicated movements not just simple whoosh by’s.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1597183199
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.