In the 1970s Robert Altman and his sound guru Jim Webb challenged the orthodoxy of Hollywood movie sound. By mic’ing dozens of characters inside Altman’s ensemble, the audience’s attention was partially pulled off of just one principal character or storyline. Altman’s dreams of concurrent, over-lapping aural action has, in recent years, started to reach its full potential due to the advent of Dolby Atmos and its principal boundary pushing practitioner: re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay.
Atmos’s ability to place specific sounds in specific speakers (including the ceiling) spread throughout the theater is still viewed in Hollywood as a tool for creating the spectacle of a spaceship flying overhead, but for the auteurs looking to use the tool in new exciting storytelling ways, they often find themselves in Lievsay’s mixing room.
For example, with longtime collaborator Alfonso Cuarón, Lievsay has been granted the time and palette to change the audience’s relationship to the screen through sound. In “Gravity” Lievsay took dialogue and principal sound effects off-screen (the powerful speakers in the front of the theater) and moved them throughout the array of of speakers spread throughout the theater.
“The very traditional use of sound is to think of it almost like a proscenium in a live theater,” said Glenn Kiser of the Dolby Institute. “Our focus is on what’s happening under that proscenium on the stage, and really the work that Skip is doing is really kind of shattering that and encouraging a much deeper engagement with the senses by, a much more passionate use of sound to fill the entire space and put the audience in the space that the story is happening and give them the experience of being in that space with those characters, having the experience that they are having.”
In “Roma” Lievsay took the wealth of sound Cuarón’s team collected on location to place us in 1970s Mexico City. Gone is Cuarón’s trademark immersive moving camera, relying instead of Lievsay’s dense and sophisticated mix to pull us into the screen and put us in the location — sound, in complete sync with the camera, moves us through space.
“We saw something he did with his reverb, which is like magic, all of the sudden you snap and he does this thing, and it’s in the room, all of the sudden we’re there,” Benny Safdie told IndieWire about working with Lievsay on “Uncut Gems.” “He manipulates people’s voices to …read more