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"Sound Effects SUCK" - Danny Elfman..... Rackmount Synthesizers
Old 27th August 2008
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charles maynes's Avatar
 

"Sound Effects SUCK" - Danny Elfman.....

take a look- it is part two of a two part interview, but Elfman's insight is rarely appreciated by most Sound Editors....

Film score monthly article, pt 2
Old 27th August 2008
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Good stuff, reminds me of some of the things said in making the album Dark Side of The Moon. They made a point in songs like Us and Them to leave space in between chords and notes to let the music breath, to ebb and flow. This lack of sonic space also reminds me of the use of over compression and smashing mixes with look ahead brick wall limiting. It seems that we are trying to fill all the voids these days both sonically and musically to often detrimental effect.
Old 27th August 2008
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Elfman did some of the music for "Army of Darkness", which I mixed FX on. I like his music, but IMO he isn't a very effective film scorer. To me he is a good composer of themes, which work great for titles and motifs, but he should leave the actual scoring of movies to others.

I am of the school that believes that in most cases soundtracks should be integrated, meaning that all the elements should be complementary to each other and at times indistinguishable in their role. That means collaborating and handing off to whatever element is the most effective for advancing the story at a given time. I also do not generally like self-conscious soundtracks that draw attention to themselves because in doing so they tend to destroy the suspension of disbelief. When I go to movies, I don't want to be aware of individual film making elements or the mechanics of the process or manipulative devices, I want to get totally lost in the story and forget that I am watching a movie.

Many of Elfman's cues totally hog the sound track. They seem to be written in such a way that they must dominate in order to work. He needs to be in the spotlight, and film scores are an inappropriate medium for that sort of mentality. He should concentrate on concert music.
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
Elfman did some of the music for "Army of Darkness", which I mixed FX on. I like his music, but IMO he isn't a very effective film scorer. To me he is a good composer of themes, which work great for titles and motifs, but he should leave the actual scoring of movies to others.

I am of the school that believes that in most cases soundtracks should be integrated, meaning that all the elements should be complementary to each other and at times indistinguishable in their role. That means collaborating and handing off to whatever element is the most effective for advancing the story at a given time. I also do not generally like self-conscious soundtracks that draw attention to themselves because in doing so they tend to destroy the suspension of disbelief. When I go to movies, I don't want to be aware of individual film making elements or the mechanics of the process or manipulative devices, I want to get totally lost in the story and forget that I am watching a movie.

Many of Elfman's cues totally hog the sound track. They seem to be written in such a way that they must dominate in order to work. He needs to be in the spotlight, and film scores are an inappropriate medium for that sort of mentality. He should concentrate on concert music.
I remember Warren Hamilton showing me the tricks of "Elfman-Proofing" my effects to make it past his wall of sound-

IT is funny that there is no mention of his scores doing the same thing he criticizes the effects for- but I think that is due to his influences who did typically broad and busy cues, that did not playwell with DIA or FX....
Old 27th August 2008
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I found a lot of that interview disingenuous and self-serving. Elfman has made a great many films and I can't believe he doesn't understand the sound cutting and mixing process better than he lets on. SFX cutters cover all the possible sound making sources in a movie so that they are AVAILABLE to the director and mixers on the dubstage--they do this work because they would be thought very odd (and then unemployed) if they didn't. The dub stage is not when anyone wants to be searching for sfx or making sound design elements, so the tracks are loaded up. What Elfman is doing here is blaming directorial decisions he didn't like on support people who have no "voice" in an arguement with a famous composer like him (another Hollywood tradition--blame those who can't talk back). Did he sit in on all the days of the mixes of those films and make his case for each scene? I can see how he would like that moment in "Lawrence of Arabia" where it goes from SFX to pure music--what composer wouldn't? But that statement gives away his true feelings, which is that he doesn't see movie soundtracks as being collaborative and as working well when all the possible elements are present in a mix. If he complains this much about some SFX, I wonder what he thinks about dialog?

Philip Perkins
Old 27th August 2008
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Charles, this isn't particularly related but I'm reading about some of your recording projects in Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound 3rd edition - David Lewis Yewdall. Awesome stuff!
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacobfarron View Post
Charles, this isn't particularly related but I'm reading about some of your recording projects in Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound 3rd edition - David Lewis Yewdall. Awesome stuff!
Thanks Jacob,

Dave has been a mentor of mine for a while.... I am glad they were entertaining, but he really is the Hunter S. Thompson of the trade.... His stories are really something, and I am very happy they have made it to print! He really is one of the legendary Los Angeles sound guys....
Old 27th August 2008
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He says he's never had a better dub than edward scissorhands, I can see why; the musical score is basically one of the stars of the movie (I really love that score btw, the best danny elfman has ever written I think), but it's kind of silly to expect every movie to be that way.. I also understand why he loves to work with tim burton. Although he propably didn't like the way planet of the apes turned out..
Old 27th August 2008
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The Elfman is 100% right on all points. Go to Blockbuster and rent Lawrence of Arabia.

Stop the constant foley and sound fx madness!!!
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
The Elfman is 100% right on all points. Go to Blockbuster and rent Lawrence of Arabia.

Stop the constant foley and sound fx madness!!!
Music rules.... bring back silent films!
Old 27th August 2008
  #11
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I almost forgot to add Elfman brought back "Mickey-Mousing"....
Old 27th August 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
I found a lot of that interview disingenuous and self-serving. Elfman has made a great many films and I can't believe he doesn't understand the sound cutting and mixing process better than he lets on. SFX cutters cover all the possible sound making sources in a movie so that they are AVAILABLE to the director and mixers on the dubstage--they do this work because they would be thought very odd (and then unemployed) if they didn't. The dub stage is not when anyone wants to be searching for sfx or making sound design elements, so the tracks are loaded up. What Elfman is doing here is blaming directorial decisions he didn't like on support people who have no "voice" in an arguement with a famous composer like him (another Hollywood tradition--blame those who can't talk back).
I agree, the sound designers he speaks of are doing their jobs. That would be like me complaining Elfman uses too many voices in one cue. Hitchcock, as far as I know, used less "sound effects" on purpose as an artistic direction. A lot of directors want to hear everything they see, even if they won't admit it.

Am I reading the date of the article correctly as 1995? I wonder what he would say now?

Personally, I'm a big fan of the old Hanna/Barbera directed Tom & Jerry shorts. Scott Bradley favored instrumental sound effects over "real" sounds, and he inadvertedly set a few standards for cartoon effects.
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurfyou View Post
I agree, the sound designers he speaks of are doing their jobs. That would be like me complaining Elfman uses too many voices in one cue. Hitchcock, as far as I know, used less "sound effects" on purpose as an artistic direction. A lot of directors want to hear everything they see, even if they won't admit it.

Am I reading the date of the article correctly as 1995? I wonder what he would say now?

Personally, I'm a big fan of the old Hanna/Barbera directed Tom & Jerry shorts. Scott Bradley favored instrumental sound effects over "real" sounds, and he inadvertedly set a few standards for cartoon effects.
Carl Stalling predated the HB cartoons, using similar techniques by nearly 20 years...

just FYI
Old 27th August 2008
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danijel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
Music rules.... bring back silent films!
There are countless records of theater-going public complaining about SFX abuse in nickelodeon theaters
Film theoreticians were unanimously against SFX as well, and pro music, and pro musical effects instead of real SFX.

No wonder SFX almost disappeared around 1920 and film went music-only for 7 years.

Maybe history repeats if enough young directors read the Elfman article?
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danijel View Post
There are countless records of theater-going public complaining about SFX abuse in nickelodeon theaters
Film theoreticians were unanimously against SFX as well, and pro music, and pro musical effects instead of real SFX.

No wonder SFX almost disappeared around 1920 and film went music-only for 7 years.

Maybe history repeats if enough young directors read the Elfman article?
From what year was that-

FX were horribly difficult to technically manage on the re-recording consoles of the time- And to take such a pov would be very restrictive creatively. the console Gone With The Wind was re-recorded on, I believe had 18 channels. And there was no automation, or punching. The whole reel went down as a performance. So the tuning of fx that we take for granted today was out of the question then.
Old 27th August 2008
  #16
think about having to record on to mag track every SFX we do today. Then splicing the whole thing together on a gazillion mag tracks all running chain driven on a gazillion dubbers, adding the dialogue tracks and the music and trying to mix this stuff without automation...


"thems was the good'ol days...."


cheers
geo
Old 27th August 2008
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
think about having to record on to mag track every SFX we do today. Then splicing the whole thing together on a gazillion mag tracks all running chain driven on a gazillion dubbers, adding the dialogue tracks and the music and trying to mix this stuff without automation...


"thems was the good'ol days...."


cheers
geo
Imagine doing it on a Vita-phone system- or with optical tracks!
Old 27th August 2008
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
Carl Stalling predated the HB cartoons, using similar techniques by nearly 20 years...

just FYI

To clarify, I was speaking of the MGM Tom & Jerry shorts, directed by Hanna & Barbera and scored by Scott Bradley. (Most definitely NOT the Hanna Barbera-produced cartoons of the later period.) These MGM shorts were roughly the same time period as the WB shorts scored by Carl Stalling. Stalling borrowed heavily from Raymond Scott, whereas Bradley borrowed heavily from the MGM score library. Both used instrumental and real sound effects, but I like Bradleys combination. Not to discount Stalling's work, it is brilliant. Anyway, don't want to distract too much from the original post....
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
From what year was that-
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
think about having to record on to mag track every SFX we do today. Then splicing the whole thing together on a gazillion mag tracks all running chain driven on a gazillion dubbers, adding the dialogue tracks and the music and trying to mix this stuff without automation...
Oh, and imagine having to perform all that live behind the screen with air as your summing buss!

Sorry Charles, I forgot to mention I'm talking about live SFX of the early XX century. My thesis was on live SFX from that period. You wouldn't believe how lively the 'foley scene' was. In bigger cities, almost every theater had it's sound-effects man along with the pianist.

Here's a great little article about that tradition:
http://www.amps.net/newsletters/newf...Spring2003.pdf (under title 'I'm the Sound Effects Man').

P.S. just look at the pictures!
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
think about having to record on to mag track every SFX we do today. Then splicing the whole thing together on a gazillion mag tracks all running chain driven on a gazillion dubbers, adding the dialogue tracks and the music and trying to mix this stuff without automation...


"thems was the good'ol days...."


cheers
geo
At least it gave directors less of a chance to tweak things to death.
Old 27th August 2008
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurfyou View Post
To clarify, I was speaking of the MGM Tom & Jerry shorts, directed by Hanna & Barbera and scored by Scott Bradley. (Most definitely NOT the Hanna Barbera-produced cartoons of the later period.) These MGM shorts were roughly the same time period as the WB shorts scored by Carl Stalling. Stalling borrowed heavily from Raymond Scott, whereas Bradley borrowed heavily from the MGM score library. Both used instrumental and real sound effects, but I like Bradleys combination. Not to discount Stalling's work, it is brilliant. Anyway, don't want to distract too much from the original post....
those were solid tracks- The HB stuff was always done on the cheap, but the MGM stuff was top notch- the WB sound I thought was always better though....
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
Music rules.... bring back silent films!
It's funny you say that because my personal most awe inspiring movie experience was watching Joan of Arc with just background symphonic music. The music was composed AFTER the composer watched the movie. He specifically wrote the symphonic piece for the movie for free, no money exchanged, just art for the sake of art. It was absolutely breathtaking, amazing; words can't even describe the experience, it was magic.
Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
think about having to record on to mag track every SFX we do today. Then splicing the whole thing together on a gazillion mag tracks all running chain driven on a gazillion dubbers, adding the dialogue tracks and the music and trying to mix this stuff without automation...


"thems was the good'ol days...."


cheers
geo
That's the way it was when I started. It wasn't so bad, there weren't as many tracks as now and you had much more time to mix a film. The editors also were very diligent about how they laid out the tracks. When it came time for fixes there was a lot of discussion about how long it would take to match in and out and whether the fix was worth it. That was a great way to differentiate between inconsequential nit-picking and making meaningful improvements. The nice thing about those mixes is that there were a lot more spontaneous moments because you had to fly by the seat of your pants and not try to micromanage every little sound moment. However, I prefer the current mixing process and tools, but I think sometimes films get the life mixed out of them these days.
Old 28th August 2008
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Well, I find that a lot of composers over-compose, and want to fill up every second of the movie with un-necessary music.

They think they HAVE to punctuate every dramatic scene with sappy strings, every punch and gunshot or crash with trashy cymbals and loud, brash trombone hits. LAME.

I would say, the most annoying thing in movies today is the overuse of music.
And in an action film you want and need the SFX. Pure and simple.
If he doesn't like that, he shouldn't take on gigs doing music for those types of films.
Old 28th August 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
It's funny you say that because my personal most awe inspiring movie experience was watching Joan of Arc with just background symphonic music. The music was composed AFTER the composer watched the movie. He specifically wrote the symphonic piece for the movie for free, no money exchanged, just art for the sake of art. It was absolutely breathtaking, amazing; words can't even describe the experience, it was magic.
So much of of this is very subjective....

I really dont think there is a "right" or "wrong" way to do it- I think it should be the directors choice as to the path he thinks is best for the story-telling.....


I am an effects guy though....
Old 28th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
I think it should be the directors choice as to the path he thinks is best for the story-telling...
Yep, that is the correct answer.

Old 28th August 2008
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
Yep, that is the correct answer.

BC-

I wanted to say that I am glad to hear you had a great experience- four scores do that for me personally-

1- Lawrence of Arabia
2- Witness
3- Where Eagle's Dare
4 Patton
Old 28th August 2008
  #28
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In general SFX are largely overdone. Too much FX and little S.
Also I was once in a seminar where sound engineer Steve Parr showed how the (abstract sound) singing of a parting soul moving from center front low to center back high. Where does that leave composers who have to present their work in stereo?
Old 28th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
BC-

I wanted to say that I am glad to hear you had a great experience- four scores do that for me personally-

1- Lawrence of Arabia
2- Witness
3- Where Eagle's Dare
4 Patton
Cool, I'll have to check those last two out.

You should already know mine...

Old 28th August 2008
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well, lots of producers/dirctors etc etc in the video side dont care much about music. usually temp score it from movies that have "the battle scene". the "kidnapping scene" and the composer then has to kinda copy it. sure there is a spotting session.. but temp rules imo.

well, i work in a more video prominent studio and audio is so low in the chain nobody knows much about it. but they sure know every godamn actors name no matter how obscure is the flick.


also to the dubbers credit.. batman was very action heavy/explosion heavy non stop after the 2nd half. i mean, wow...it seem it could have ended in the middle. the action just kept going and going.
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