Sound design for “Crushing Violet”

546: Production Sound & Sound Design

I am now reaching the end of my 3rd semester at USC, and it is crunch time for the sound design on our semester film "Crushing Violet."

I am studying production sound and sound design on this advanced USC production in our course called 546. In 546, three movies are produced with 1 director, 2 producers, 2 cinematographers, 2 editors, 2 production sound/post-sound designers (me!) and 1 or 2 production designers. We have a full crew for this 12 minute film.

I wrote about our Principal Shooting weekends here and location scouting here.

Post-Sound Design includes editing the sound we recorded on set, editing the various backgrounds we develop for each scene and editing the sound effects and foley/adr. This allows us to be very creative in how we make a storm sound or a car or a dance. Our particular project deals with fantasy and very intimate scenes, which means we get to create what the audience hears during these moments.

Editing sound for "Crushing Violet" on ProTools in the basement of the School of Cinematic Arts. They have special sound rooms we can reserve for our advanced projects.

Editing Backgrounds

For each scene we cut at least four types of backgrounds. We always gave a "room tone" for any scene located inside and slight traffic sounds for any scene located outside. Room tone is that slight hum you hear when sitting in a space. Sometimes it's the air conditioning or simply the various sounds of a room. Traffic can consist of heavy New York City traffic or quaint distant traffic. "Crushing Violet" takes place in a private high school that is far from the main road, so we kept the traffic low. We then added sounds of nature, keeping in mind that this school is located on the east coast. Then we added backgrounds of students in a courtyard or hallways. In addition to these many types of backgrounds, we added various weather sounds.

It may seem like a lot of additional sounds to pretty simple scenes, but the truth is that these sounds create a space and feeling for each location. It brings in the audience - makes them feel like they are in the space with the characters. It adds dimension.

Background Mixing

After cutting/editing these backgrounds to the picture, we then mix them all together. USC has an incredibly nice mixing board used by the professionals - I believe it is worth $200,000. I am very happy to know how to use it now! In the mix, we take the various sounds, blend them, and send them around the space. In one scene, I made the sound of rain come from the left of the room - it sounds so cool!

Dialogue/Production Sound Mixing

Editing the dialogue, or recorded sound, from the production can either be incredibly hard if you did not focus while recording dialogue on set, or very easy if you did. Luckily, my sound partner Ian Becker and I were very focused on recording great production sound. This made dialogue editing much easier and allowed us to be more creative.

We had to ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) a few of the actors lines because of writing, performance, or sound issues. Luckily we had very little we had to replace, and for the most part, it was easy to add into scenes. I lucked out and had the toughest scene of dialogue replacement. When we finally mixed the scene together, I spent an hour working on it. I had to add reverberation to the new recorded dialogue and play with the high tones and low tones of their voices. It was pretty intense, but sounds great!

Effects/Foley Mixing

Our final edit and mix is the FX (effects) and Foley. In each scene, the sound of footsteps was a major sound design; therefore, we Foley'd all of those footsteps -- which means we went into a sound studio with various types of floors (brick, cement, wood, etc.) and recorded ourselves walking on them in relation to the picture.

Joe Della Rosa, director, looks on as our producer, Josh Eiserike records his footsteps in our Foley session. He turned out to be our best Foley walker. He was able to watch the video and match the actor's footsteps exactly!

Ian Becker, 1/2 of the Crushing Violet sound crew, keeps track of our various Foley sessions.

Josh with Alex Fine, "Finkelstein" in Crushing Violet. Alex came to record some ADR and we got him to stay and record his footsteps as well.

We needed the sound of a hat being taken off of someone's head, so Josh and Alex did it!

We have our final mix on April 30th where we put all of these mixes together -- background, dialogue, and fx/foley -- with our music. After that day of mixing, the movie will be done!

Our premiere screening is the night of May 9th at Norris Theater on the USC Campus. I will post more about the event as detail become available.


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